Posts Tagged ‘Canadian authors’

Author’s Personal Story Confronts Loss, Grief and Depression

Prince Edward County, Ontario’s Andrea Calvert has just released Not Alone: How God Helped Me Battle Depression through Word Alive Press. She’s also the daughter-in-law of some close friends who shared some of her story with me. I’ve been following her on Twitter and also just became aware of her blog, Inspiring Life Chats, where she’s been writing for nearly a year.

The 118-page paperback is just the right size for those who find themselves in the aftermath of a traumatic loss that is causing stress and depression. Priced at only 11.99 CDN it’s also affordable to give away to someone in the middle of such a situation.

Publisher Info:

Angry and hurt, Andrea didn’t want to have anything to do with God. How could she when, one day shy of her eighteenth birthday, she had to watch her mother being wheeled into the operating room of Toronto General Hospital to receive a liver transplant? How could a God that “loved” His people allow them to suffer so badly? Why did she have to spend so much time in and out of hospitals, watching the strongest woman she knew endure test after test? Watching this happen, Andrea came to the conclusion that no god would do that.

Then, on April 27, 2011, it was time to say goodbye. After ten long months of waiting for a second organ donation, Andrea’s mother made the decision to let go-it was the hardest thing Andrea had ever dealt with up to that point. The loss of her mother led her into a downward spiral of depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Andrea lost years of her life and still battles to this day with keeping her depression under control.

Jesus reached down and opened Andrea’s eyes at the darkest point of her depression. Searching for a way to deal with her pain, she called out to Jesus, who answered her prayers and called her back into His loving arms. What He has done in her life is nothing short of amazing-Jesus gave her purpose again!

This is her story…

ISBN 9781486616107 | 11.99 US / 11.99 CDN | Anchor Distributors and Spring Arbor (US), Word Alive (Canada)



Canadian Christian Statesman Brian Stiller is an Authority on all Things Evangelical

As Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Brian Stiller has a big-picture perspective unlike anyone else on the planet. His two most recent books have confirmed this: Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century (Zondervan, 2015) and An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Baker, 2016). Simply put, Brian Stiller is a walking encyclopedia on all things Evangelical and he gains his information not from typical research but through firsthand, on-the-ground observation and involvement. We’re talking both frequent flyer miles, and the recognition of Christian leaders on every continent.

This time around he’s with InterVarsity Press (IVP) for From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity (248 pages, paperback).

So…about that title. Brian Stiller argues that if we see Jerusalem as the birthplace, and thereby global center of Christianity, that center point moved up into Europe and then back down and then, around 1970 that center started shifting to the global south. The impact of this is huge; it means that North American and Western Europe are no longer setting the agenda for Christianity. It also means that one particular nation, rocked by the link between Evangelicalism and the election of a particular leader and now trying to consider if it’s time to rename the group entirely, simply cannot be allowed to dictate that change when one considers all that Evangelicals, quite happy with the term, are doing in the rest of the world.

Disclaimer: I am blessed to know Brian personally. His wealth of knowledge impacted me when I sat in the offices of Faith Today magazine, and Brian rhymed off the names of organizations founded in the years immediately following World War II, and then how, as these maverick, dynamic leaders passed the baton to the next generation, these organizations entered a type of maintenance mode, with lessened radical initiative. As Director of Youth for Christ Canada, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (this country’s counterpart to the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global World Ambassador for the WEA, he has truly lived four distinct lifetimes.

But that’s not the topic for this book. Rather he looks at five drivers which have characterized the growth of Evangelicalism globally. These are:

  1. An undeniable increase in emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The fruit of years of work by Bible translators.
  3. A shift towards using national (indigenous) workers to lead.
  4. A greater engagement with legislators and governments.
  5. A return to the teachings of Jesus regarding compassion and justice.

Beginning with the first of these, Brian doesn’t hide his own Pentecostal/Charismatic roots, something I haven’t seen as much in his earlier books. A final chapter looks at the influence of prayer movements, the role of women in ministry, the trend in praise and worship music, the challenge of welcoming refugees, and the constant spectre of persecution.

The book compresses decades of modern church history into a concise collection of data and analysis. It is an answer to the question, “What in the world is God doing?”

I know of no better title on the subject simply because I know of no one more qualified to write it. This is an excellent overview for the person wanting to see the arc of Evangelicalism since its inception or the person who is new to this aspect of faith and wants to catch up on what they’ve missed.

For both types of people, this is a great book to own.

► See the book’s page at the IVP website.

Zombies and Exodus and Mess! Oh My!

I was not familiar with non-fiction author Danielle Strickland until this week. Fortunately, with the help of the internet, I learned that this Canadian author has written for Monarch, NavPress and IVP (a rather impressive list) and in addition to 2014’s A Beautiful Mess had two books issued in 2017, The Zombie Gospel: The Walking Dead and What it Means to Be Human, and The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You.

On Twitter she calls herself an author, speaker and social justice advocate. According to the biography on her website,

Danielle Strickland is currently based in Toronto, Canada. Danielle loves Jesus and she loves people.  Her aggressive compassion has loved people firsthand in countries all over the world where she has embraced, learned, cared, evangelized, taught, and exhorted individuals and crowds to surrender to the boundless love of Jesus.

Danielle is the author of 5 books… She is host of DJStrickland Podcast, ambassador for Compassion International and stop the traffik. Co-founder of Infinitum, Amplify Peace and The Brave Campaign. Danielle is a mom of 3, wife to @stephencourt and has been affectionately called the “ambassador of fun”.

Her denominational background is Salvation Army and her husband, Stephen Court, is also a writer who has done three books about the organization’s history, and prolific SA blogger.

In July of last year she released The Ultimate Exodus. A page at NavPress explains the title:

God didn’t just say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” He also said to the Israelites—and He says to us—“Let go of what enslaves you, and follow me to freedom.”

The Ultimate Exodus opens our eyes to the things that enslave us, and it sets us on the path of our own exodus. Danielle Strickland revisits the story of the Exodus to see what we can learn from a people who were slaves and who learned from God what it means to be free. We discover as we go that deliverance goes much deeper than our circumstances. God uproots us from the things we have become slaves to, and He takes us on a long walk to the freedom He created us to enjoy.     (ISBN 978-1-63146-647-2)

A page at IVP describers her unauthorized look at a hit television show, released in October:

What can zombies teach us about the gospel?

The hit show The Walking Dead is set in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by mindless zombies. The characters have one goal: survive at all costs. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much the show can teach us about God or ourselves. Or is there?

Author and speaker Danielle Strickland didn’t expect to be drawn to a show about zombies, but she was surprised by the spiritual themes the show considers. In The Zombie Gospel she explores the ways that The Walking Dead can help us think about survival, community, consumerism, social justice, and the resurrection life of Jesus. After all, in the gospel God raises up a new humanity—a humanity resuscitated and reanimated by the new life of the Holy Spirit.   (978-0-8308-4389-3)

Update (April 28): I just heard Danielle give the first of three weekend sermons at Willow Creek ( and she is a most powerful, gifted speaker. I hope you get an opportunity to hear her.





Ontario Author Probes the Forces Behind the Sexual Revolution

As you read this, Ann Gillies in the middle of a busy seven weeks of touring which takes her through B.C., Alberta and Ontario. She’s presently in Calgary as a chaplain coordinator for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team where last week she spoke in chapel at the Billy Graham Canadian headquarters in Calgary.

Ann is an ordained minister with Anchor ministries and also an affiliate of Vision Ministries. Her first book was Deep Impact: Integrating Theology and Psychology in the Treatment of Complex Trauma.

Publisher Marketing:

In Closing the Floodgates, psychotherapist Dr. Ann Gillies has written a blockbuster of a book exposing the biased, unscientific, and corrupt methods used to promote the sexual revolution of the last sixty years. In her powerful and compelling analysis, she shows how the truth of scientific fact has been overturned in the interest of pleasure and personal feelings, and how a determined minority is using social engineering to reconstruct our social and moral worlds by redefining gender, sexuality and the family. She draws an alarming picture of the consequences: identity confusion among the youth; sexual abuse and victimization of children; soaring rates of suicide and sexually transmitted diseases; the embedding of false, unhealthy, and immoral teaching in the school curriculum; and the loss of freedom of speech and parental rights.

While a few readers may find the level of detailed academic content challenging at times, Dr. Gillies is able to make professional findings understandable and real for the average person. For all the necessary research and statistical reporting, this is a gut-level book. In a time of culture wars, when the truth about gender and sexuality is under attack, this book sets the record straight. It issues a rallying cry to parents and others concerned for the future of the family and western society to be informed and take action before it is too late.

-Dr. George R. Slater, author of Along Comes God and Bringing Dreams to Life.

The book is available from Anchor/Word Alive and was published by Word Alive Press. ISBN 9781486612208 $23.99 CDN.

• For stores with in Ingram login, more endorsements from across Canada are shown there.

Brian Stiller’s New Book, In His Own Words

by Brian Stiller

It all started in Jerusalem, the home place of Christian witness. It then moved out into Asia and Europe, and in time elsewhere, but Europe continued for centuries to be the center of gravity. But then, in the twentieth century, the witness of Jesus broke out in new ways. It spread down through Africa, and a renewed form of faith infused Latin America and took hold in Asia. That center of gravity that once hovered over Jerusalem shifted westward, then south, with it now being around Timbuktu.

Today in every corner of the world, to over two billion people, Jesus has gone global.

Each book has a story. This one began years ago as I traveled, working with colleagues internationally, speaking at churches and staff conferences in various parts of the world. But it particularly took hold of me when in 2011, after stepping down as a university and seminary president, I was invited to immerse my life in the Christian community as global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.

Be it in my home country of Canada or in visiting abroad, I was asked to speak on what I was seeing globally. In study and research, reflection, conversation, and observation, I saw particular forces (or as I note, drivers) at work, growing and reshaping the church. I tested these with missiologists, seeking to fairly and accurately identify what is at work today in our global Christian community.

Many factors impinge on and free up the gospel witness. Much has been written, as is indicated in the bibliography. My interest was to get to the heart of the drivers creating such remarkable growth. As Patrick Johnstone has noted about this period, “Evangelical Christianity grew at a rate faster than any other world religion or global religious movement.”1 In 1960, Evangelicals numbered just under 90 million, and by 2010 that had reached close to 600 million. I wanted to find out who and what they were. I also wanted to see what, within my lifetime, has engaged and continues to engage the reshaping of the church to which I belonged.

My life has been lived in the convictions and practices of an Evangelical community. Raised in the home of a Pentecostal church leader, after university—and for more than fifty years—I served in various Evangelical ministries, all the while building friendships and partnerships with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestants. However, I know best this Christian communion. In general, my writing concerns itself with the Evangelical world, although occasionally statistics will encompass the entire Christian community.

A number of labels are used to describe this Christian world of “Evangelicals.” I include Pentecostals, as their history and theology is family in the Evangelical community. In some cases, to give emphasis, I use terms such as Evangelical/Pentecostal, or Evangelicals and Pentecostals, as in some countries, Pentecostals make up more than half of Evangelicals.

The shifting force of faith, in a world most often described in materialistic and commercial terms, is a factor that no longer can be denied, be it by a country leader, academic, or social observer. Each year, as more and more people in the Global South embrace Christian faith, the center of density of Christian populations pushes further south, leaving the real (and emblematic) city of Timbuktu toward places never before imagined.


Canada’s Brian C. Stiller is former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada former President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and is now Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance.

978-0-8308-4527-9 | 248 page paperback | IVP Web-page & Reviews | in Canada: Parasource Distribution

Author’s blog and source for this article: Dispatches From the Global Village

Kitchener, Ontario Author/Illustrator Releases First Orthodox Graphic Novel

Most of us have recited “He descended into hell” at one point or another even if our churches don’t frequently recite The Apostles Creed. Kitchener, Ontario’s Michael Elgamal has illustrated this and other “descents” in a 54-page self-published graphic novel, Anastasis: The Harrowing of Hades. He calls it “the first Orthodox Christian graphic novel.

Here’s the publisher synopsis:

Anastasis: The Harrowing of Hades is a full-colour Christian graphic novel that explores what happened to the Old Testament souls in Hades, the emotional build-up to the fateful crucifixion and the consequences of Christ’s enigmatic descent into hell. You will find this book packed with Biblical references, writings from the Church fathers (Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Ephrem the Syrian and more) and gripping storytelling. The hand-drawn illustrations pay homage to ancient Christian iconography and the resurrection narrative.

While we don’t have conclusive details on what took place over the three days Christ spent in the tomb, this book is an honest take on what might have transpired and what it means for us today.

As both a writer and a illustrator, Elgamal’s goal is to tell and retell stories of ancient Christianity. At his website,, illustrations convey narratives known more widely among Orthodox Christianity, and probably little known by Evangelicals.

The book is available from Ingram, ISBN 9780995993006 $15 US, paper.


Hot Apple Cider Brand Expands With First Seasonal Title

October 2, 2017 1 comment

Canada’s most popular Christian anthology brand has released its first seasonal title. Here’s the info from That’s Life Communications:

Christmas with Hot Apple Cider: Stories from the Season of Giving and Receiving is an eclectic collection of true stories, short fiction, and poetry.

You’ll delight in stories about:

  • An immigrant family puzzling over unfamiliar North American customs
  • Grandparents passing down a family tradition to a young grandchild
  • An octogenarian remembering the day receiving a Christmas gift was nothing short of a miracle
  • A Jewish woman sharing her childhood longing for the joy of Christmas
  • An Old Order Mennonite teen experiencing Handel’s Messiah live at Massey Hall
  • A writer struggling to create a meaningful presentation about the innkeeper
  • A teacher witnessing the joy of a simple gift at a Nigerian orphanage

The book features work by 55 writers from across Canada who survived a rigorous competition to be included. As you discover a fresh appreciation for the holiday season, you might even be inspired to share your own stories.

With 62 heartfelt accounts of the true meaning of Christmas, this anthology is sure to fill even the grouchiest Scrooge with holiday spirit.

Canadian retailers: Order from Parasource Marketing and Distribution.

An Apologetics Toolbox in a Book

There is so much going on in this book. I feel like I’ve been handed an impossible task, somewhat akin from being dropped off a metropolitan core for a few days and told to write a review of the entire city. Every person. Every business. Every park and school.

Canadian Pastor Mark Clark has set himself to answer ten of the major objections to faith raised by outsiders, skeptics and seekers. It’s a tough assignment, even if you’re leaning heavily on the writings of Tim Keller and C. S. Lewis. Not as tough for Clark however as it would be for you or me, in part because this is his own story; the book is as much testimony as it is apologetics text.

I think that’s what make this one different. Until his later teens, Clark was camped on the other side of the border of faith. Partying. Drugs. Disbelief. So he has those still there clearly in view as he writes this; these are the type of people who made up the nucleus of Village Church when it was founded in 2010. Today they are in three locations on Canada’s west coast with satellites launching in Calgary and Montreal. Mark is part of a new generation of pastors and authors who really does his homework before speaking and writing and his passion and energy rock the house each week.

The ten “problems” form ten chapters:

But to say just that is too simple. Each one of these breaks down into several other subsections. These issues are complex and we’re given a look at each through several different lenses.

Overall, the book stands somewhere between academic apologetics textbook (for its thorough treatment of each of the issues) and biography (for the times Clark references his own story.) It is the latter that makes this book what it is; an apologetics resource which wears a face and a name, and that makes it accessible to all readers.

I know I say this a lot — I choose my review books carefully — but this is definitely another of those “go back and re-read” and “keep handy for reference” titles.

The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity | Zondervan | 272 page paperback | September, 2017



Eric Wright Completes Mystery Trilogy

I’m not accustomed to the place where I grew up figuring into books in my store, but there it was, a Toronto reference to a character “driving down the Don Valley Parkway.” But the story gets even closer to home because author Eric Wright is also a customer at my store and his daughter and her husband attend the same church as we do.

After a series of non-fiction works, Wright switched to fiction and while the three stories have quite different settings, they are linked through Toronto reporter Josh Radley. Here’s how our local paper introduced Rust Bucket, the latest book in the series:

The very real issue of human slavery is told through the fictional adventures of protagonist Josh Radley in Eric E. Wright’s new novel Rust Bucket.

Interviewed recently from his home, Wright pointed out this is the third story in a Josh Radley trilogy, following The Lightning File and Captives of Minara.

In The Lightning File, Radley is a reporter for a Toronto paper.

“In the course of it, he gets fired, so he goes on to work freelance,” Wright said — and this freedom gives him ample scope to get involved more deeply in the adventures he encounters.

In Rust Bucket, he puts off urgent cancer treatment in order to pursue the story of a beached freighter that contains not only an alarming cache of explosives and drugs but also a human cargo bound for enslavement in factories, farms and brothels.

The press release for Wright’s book said that an estimated 24-million people worldwide are exploited by unethical businesses of all kinds. The human cargo in the freighter Josh Radley investigates includes a tribal girl from Pakistan whom Josh and his wife happen to know.

As it happens, Wright and his wife lived in Pakistan for 16 years, while he worked as a missionary teacher.

“Although we normally think of Pakistan as a Muslim country, there’s a minority of Christians who need ministry,” he said.

“I started an extension training program and, in the course of that, I learned more about their culture.”

The slave-labour problem seems to be much more widespread than one would like to think, Wright said. “Probably not as much in Canada, although criminal elements are realizing — you sell cocaine, you sell it once. With human beings, you can use them again and again and again, and it’s very profitable for business owners and brothels. There was a lot of it in Pakistan, landlords taking advantage of poor people who were sort of enslaved.”

His dedication is “to all those who struggle to end human trafficking as well as the victims of this horrific crime.” …

…continue reading the second half of the story at Northumberland Today

For order information visit

We previously covered releases of other books by Eric Wright here including Riptide and Captives of Minara.

Toronto Area Author’s Story Is Known Worldwide

Known simply as “The Girl in the Picture” which is also the title of a previous book published by Penguin, Kim Phuc’s story gets another telling when Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace releases October 3rd from Tyndale House.

Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!

These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames—before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived—but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant—and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.

~from the release sheet page at

Canadian stores should pre-order the biography from Foundation Distributing


Soul Coats: Restoration – How It Was Marketed (Part Two of Two)

On December 7th we introduced you to Calgary author Rohadi Nagassar who shared the story about his book Soul Coats: Restoration, an adult colouring book based on scenes and scriptures from the Bible. At the time I asked him if he would at a future date share his reflections of being an independent author and publisher in Canada trying to get his product into stores. If you missed it, here is the link to Part One.

Some bookstore owners and staff are going to find this assessment hard to read. I could have edited it in a few places, but at each juncture I felt it was important to hear the heart of someone who has done his best to try to work with all of us, and recognize the weaknesses of a system that we are all somewhat complicit in. So what follows is Rohadi’s story in its entirety.

Here’s a story about a new indie publisher taking a publication, in this case my adult colouring book, into the book market abyss for the first time. The story weaves around early mistakes, exposes the scene between publishers and distributors, and highlights how that relationship informs what booksellers purchases, and ultimately what customers buy.

First, let’s go back to late 2015. The rush of adult colouring books stormed the market. Around Thanksgiving I got the idea to create a bible version since at the time there were only half a dozen related titles available in a market selling millions of books. When popularity swelled during Christmas I took a serious look at whether the idea was viable. Step one I bought all related adult colouring books and looked inside. What I saw surprised me—they were terrible. Photocopied or Photo-shopped images printed onto pages to make a colouring book. Even the ‘top’ books were merely using fonts and stock images converted to illustrations. The market generally reflected one kind of book: attempts by big publishers to quickly appease market demand. Some found success taking a utilitarian route. One such book sold 1/4 million units, not because it was beautiful, but because it was both practical, and had the backing of the most critical piece to book success: Distribution.

Despite my disappointment with the quality, it meant opportunity: the market had room for a premium book that focused on beauty. After all, adult colouring revolves on creativity and artistic expression. A beautiful book would stand on its own against the competition (faith based or otherwise). Long story short, I pulled the trigger and turned around production of a book, from concept to printing to bookshelf, in about 5 months. Soul Coats was available well in advance for Christmas, but there was a problem that wasn’t immediately obvious to me as a newcomer to the book selling world, that critical piece to book success: Distribution.

Little did I know at the time, beauty and quality are not major selling points to distributors or bookstore owners, and therefore book buyers. Make something of lasting value that will stand the test of time is a good mantra for any product, but that product (book) still needs to be marketed well, and in the book industry, distributed well as well. In fact, the latter is more important in my estimation. A below average book with great distribution will sell more copies than a beautiful book with great marketing but little distribution.

June is a good time to start raising the profile of a book to wholesale buyers in order to hit the shelf for Christmas. The problem you, as publisher/author, have to overcome or your book is dead, are the gatekeepers of the book industry. Distributors, wholesalers, and bookstore owners, as I discovered, have little interest in the best books, rather they want the books that have the best chance to sell. Makes sense, but doesn’t quality have any value?

Not in my experience.

So what has value? Success seems to revolve around one thing: Volume. For new publishers and self publishing authors distribution is the critical lynch pin to success and getting your book picked up by all the potential distributors will open the door to success. The few wholesale book distributors have a monopoly on serving the physical bookstore, but getting your book there is almost impossible.

For Soul Coats, only one distribution source, apart from shipping out of my garage, was available–Amazon. That’s a problem. Only the consumer, happy to pick up their books at their lowest price, likes Amazon. They are the ‘enemy’ to bookstores, and the bane to publishers who have little control of the never ending fees to sell books on the platform. That means a physical store will never carry your books if it’s distributed by Amazon. But if you want the cheapest method to distribute books, and for some the ONLY method, Amazon is the answer.

This is a critical problem to the book industry: gatekeepers reject books, those books go to Amazon, Amazon’s product offering strengthens, which means booksellers miss books that are not pushed by major publishers. Gatekeeping does serve a purpose to filter through the glut of books, but also creates a system where wholesale books are streamlined by highest margin/profit, not quality. This is why so many books are from the same publishers who push the same authors.

The non-Amazon book industry is faced with the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’. Risk carrying an unknown title, sell less because ultimately the end consumer has been trained to purchase what’s familiar. Don’t add new titles, distributors become purveyors of a monotony of near imitation books. This strategy is proving to be less and less successful for the town bookstore. But that’s not because people aren’t buying books, those numbers seem flat. Consumers are changing their behaviour to shop in a place where they can find both cheapest price and the most titles they simply can’t find at their local store.

Amazon, for their part, will take anything from anybody who wants to pay to store and ship (they are particularly well suited for eBook self-publishers where fees are less and marketing opportunities great compared to physical books).

Despite a cycle in the book buying industry that’s resulted in steady closures of local bookstores, there still exists a stubborn inflexibility from both distributors not named Amazon, and booksellers. The inflexibility by booksellers in both sourcing and selection means they’re caught in a cycle that’s both unchanging and very difficult to survive in. The environment sees bookstores continuously feature a handful of titles from a handful of the same authors, by an even smaller handful of publishers, of which includes an almost exclusive American voice. What bothers me is how many bookstores, and of course customers, don’t really care. What should bother bookstore owners is this environment doesn’t seem to be working for them either.

Booksellers without a connection to their customers will simply listen to what the distributor has to say and in turn will simply push what they’re told can sell—again—the same authors from the same big publishers. To be fair, booksellers want to make money, and face extreme pressure from online selling, which means books that make the shelf are the ones with the highest chance of selling. But that’s not leading to a growth in the local bookstore bottom line. There needs to be a different system (or at least a softening to how books are selected).

So what could be a recipe for success?

To the bookstore owners who are attuned to the needs of their customers and are curators of quality titles (and hopefully more Canadian titles) over salespeople for publisher to top ten lists, I want to browse your stacks. Anybody can go to Chapters to find the top 1% of books, but it’s quite different if the local bookstore begins to cater to a specific niche market, not merely ordering titles, but becoming a leader in guiding customers to find exceptional books. That creates a space for a relationship with customers, something Amazon can’t replicate.

One of the critical pieces of any good business model, is the creation of tribe (customer base) around strong brand. A bookstore is not merely a glorified library or showroom for Amazon. Make it a centre of attention for readers in your community. Think about unique attributes your bookstore can provide a target ’tribe’. (And no, being the last Christian bookstore in town isn’t an attribute.) Is the store a central hub place to foster community building? Does it offer value beyond making hard to find titles available for people who can’t order online? Consider items that enhance the whole reading experience and turn people into advocates for the things your store brings to the community and readers. Increasing the value offered to customers beyond books is a central focus to survive and thrive (adding a coffee machine isn’t the answer).

Those are some ideas, and some cautions in case you’re thinking of publishing a physical book that you hope hits the big time. And if you’re looking for the best faith based adult colouring book on the market, contact me for wholesale pricing. And yes, it will come from Amazon, Parasource won’t take any more colouring books….

Soul Coats: Restoration – How It Was Made (Part One of Two)

December 7, 2016 1 comment

This is part one in what will ultimately be a two part series. For several days now I’ve been corresponding with Calgary author Rohadi Nagassar about his book Soul Coats: Restoration, an adult colouring book based on scenes and scriptures from the Bible. I asked him if he would share the background story on his book, which follows; and then at a future date to share his reflections of being an independent author and publisher in Canada trying to get his product into stores. I hope you’ll take the time to read this.


Thanks Paul for letting me share my story about making my ambitious first publication, Soul Coats: Restoration, an adult colouring book based on scenes and scriptures from the Bible.

We don’t have to go too far back to get the back story: October 2015. I’m sitting at a Thanksgiving party with friends when one woman starts chatting about the fun she’s having colouring. “Colouring?!” I had heard about the growing trend of adult colouring over the Summer but didn’t think much of it. In curiosity I asked her, “are there any Bible themed colouring books?” The response was ‘no’.

I didn’t believe it at first, when a craze hits there’s always a (or many) faith version at some point. Out of curiosity I checked Amazon and discovered there were only a couple faith based adult colouring books. That’s where I left the conversation until Christmas.

The Christmas buying season arrived and adult colouring books were a HIT. The sales of adult colouring books literally ‘saved’ the softcover print industry. For the first time in years softcover book sales increased, by double digits to boot. Colouring books were the reason. The volume of books sold was staggering, the top title alone sold over a million copies that year.

Suddenly my entrepreneur ears were pricked. A MILLION copies? Maybe there’s an opportunity here?

So I checked Amazon again for faith based colouring books and still only found a handful. It was time to take my preliminary research further to see if a book project would make business sense. Step one: order all the Christian adult colouring books I could find.

Soon after they arrived and I was blown away….at how TERRIBLE they were.

I was half expecting beautiful productions of scenes and inspirational images. What I saw instead were rip off stock images converted to illustrations, repetitive floral patterns, cats (for some reason cats, umbrellas, and lighthouses in ‘inspirational’ faith-based colouring books), and heavy use of fonts. Someone basically took a computer and bashed out a colouring book for utility over beauty. A lot of uninspired productions, but here’s the thing, these books were still selling hundreds of thousands of copies. I couldn’t believe the numbers, which made me think, “there must be a market for beauty in an art book.”

Since the existing books paled in comparison to the best colouring books on the market I knew there was an opportunity to create a beautiful book that would not only rival the best faith based books, but would be a work of art challenging the best adult colouring books on the market. With that in mind I set out with two objectives: (a)sell books; (b) those books needed to be beautiful and follow a narrative.

soul-coatsThe only problem? I’m a writer, not an illustrator. I can’t even draw.

Thankfully, I knew (or knew people who knew) a number of people who were talented illustrators. Through relationship I found seven, six of whom were/are based in Calgary. So not only was I differentiating in creating a quality book, it was going to be a local Canadian production as well. After I laid out a storyboard of God’s restorative narrative, including all potential scenes for my Bible themed adult colouring book spanning scenes and scriptures from Old to New, I pulled the trigger. That was January 2016.

Projects like this take months, sometimes years, but I knew the colouring book had to come out ASAP to beat the big publishers from getting their multiple versions out. Four months was the deadline.

April came and passed.

Courageously, the team of illustrators, came through at the end and the final book went to the Canadian printer in May. Early June the (currently) only adult Bible colouring book spanning the entire Bible was released— Soul Coats: Restoration. Constructed to match the best adult colouring books on the market, art that was unique (no cliché scenes) and professional, was the key piece to set the title apart. It remains exceptional in my eyes.

Take a look inside by visiting my book walk-through: (also embedded below)

To add to the experience I even created a free downloadable reflective guide for every scene.

The whole project was a huge learning curve, but a fun one. The creation of a book title like this was exciting to complete. But as an indie publisher, the real work still remains—marketing.

Creating an exceptional title is one thing, getting people to notice is another.

In part two, I’ll share some of the struggles publishing without a major name, and how to navigate distribution from wholesalers to bookstores.

Rohadi Nagassar