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Christian Booksellers Market Books and Promote Doctrines

“With the purchase of as few as twelve copies, you get an extra 8% discount, a poster for your store window, an in-store shelf-header and an extra copy for you or your staff or for a giveaway. Plus, all copies are returnable after nine months.”

Sounds like a great deal doesn’t it?

You can just hear bookstore owners, or maybe yourself, saying, “Okay, I’ll take twelve copies.”

But I haven’t told you what the book is, have I?

If it’s an end-times book, which eschatological model does the author follow? If it’s a book on marriage, where do the authors stand on the role of women in the church and home? If it’s about engaging the culture, does the author envision Christians being active in the public square, or distancing ourselves because we are citizens of another kingdom? If it’s about the first handful of chapters in Genesis, does the writer take it literally or see it as allegorical?

Meanwhile, the books arrive and the copies, with their in-store shelf header and window cling are given store space front and centre. Face it, retailer, you are now endorsing this book and in so doing, you are promoting its viewpoint or core doctrine.

And in giving it that front-of-store end-cap, it means that other books aren’t appearing as prominently. The marketing materials and extra discount assured that the title received prime real estate.

I had to find an image for this article that didn’t reflect any particular titles we carry, hence this one, found on Reddit.

So who do you want to promote?

We have enough reasons right now to curtail visibility of certain authors, so I don’t need to give you more. We also don’t want to completely censor every viewpoint on marriage, the book of Revelation, immigration, and gun control which disagrees with our own. We want there to be room for pacifists and just-war theorists alike. As booksellers, we should want to create room for discussion.

We also don’t want to automatically be suspicious of extra discounts. Honestly, my store survives on extra margin points and/or free shipping.

But we don’t want to be investing our money in things with which we passionately disagree. We might have a few authors we don’t like, but we would rather place them on a lower shelf past the store’s halfway mark than to give them the coveted end-cap when customers walk in the door.

We also don’t have the time spend on hours of research. Ultimately, we have to trust the doorkeepers of major Christian brands — Baker, Tyndale, D.C. Cook, Harvest, etc. — to do what’s right.

However, I think we need to know what we’re promoting, and we need to know that by giving certain titles and authors prime space, we are in fact promoting viewpoints which will affect the spiritual formation of our customers.

We also need to recognize that the vibe our store gives off is noted by customers in ways we can’t imagine, and that each product choice reflects the spiritual atmosphere which shoppers perceive.

We’re advocating for theological positions whether we like it or not, and while we’re not all theologians, scholars or academics; we need to endeavour to make the best choices we can.


This article was written in a relative vacuum, and does not reflect any particular current promotions on offer of which I’m not aware.

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