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Posts Tagged ‘Christian book marketing’

Foundation Folds Distribution into Anchor Distributors

October 22, 2019 2 comments

Canadian stores will consolidate ordering through Anchor/Word Alive

This is major news for Christian booksellers in Canada. Earlier this week we heard rumours of this, but today we received the official announcement. Rather than comment further, I want to run the press release exactly as it was sent to industry news outlets. I’m sure the finer details will play out over the next few weeks.

Bob Wood, Bob Whitaker, Pat Chown, (back) Jeremy Braun, Karen Fulton, Director of Operations Anchor Distributors

Foundation Distributing Inc. and Anchor Word Alive Inc. combine to improve efficiency and strengthen the Christian product supply chain

New agreement moves distribution of Foundation vendors to Anchor Distributors

ORONO, ON – October 22, 2019 – Pat Chown, Claire Prodger and Bob Wood, owners of Foundation Distributing Inc. (FDI) are pleased to announce an agreement moving all distribution and operations to Anchor Distributors in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, effective December 1st.

“We see this agreement as one that will aid current and new retailers in Canada in being more competitive against the growing online giants.  It allows for more cohesive marketing opportunities.” — Bob Whitaker, president of Anchor Distributors 

“Sourcing more product from a single location can provide better fill rates, save time, reduce freight costs and simplify day to day business. This agreement will strengthen the Christian Product supply chain and provide efficiencies that will benefit retailers in Canada.” — Pat Chown, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Anchor Distributors’ mission is to serve retailers by providing Christian and Inspirational resources to the market.  Anchor Word Alive and FDI share this mission and we’re working for a seamless transition. The 72 Hour Sale, 2 Day Sale and other sales and marketing programs will continue uninterrupted.” — Claire Prodger, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Bob Whitaker is a straightforward, forward-thinking person of integrity. There’s a common mission and purpose shared by the entire Whitaker, Anchor Word Alive team that made us confident this was the right path forward. This agreement is a progressive step for the Canadian market.” — Bob Wood, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Our customers in Canada are vital to the lifeline of our mission and business and this exciting change will allow us to continually improve to serve them better.” — Jeremy Braun, managing director for Canadian operations – Word Alive.

Anchor Word Alive Inc. is a Canadian subsidiary of Anchor Distributors (“Anchor”), which is a division of Whitaker Corporation established in 1970.

Tim Challies on Amazon’s Control Over Christian Publishers

An article released Friday by Canada’s Tim Challies on the influence that Amazon now has on the Christian publishing market has been making the rounds, and I wanted to wait a few days before responding. You can find The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given To Amazon by clicking this link.

He begins dramatically,

A few days from now, or maybe a few months, or even a year, Amazon will pull a book from its site. One day it will be there available for purchase with all the rest, and the next it will be gone. One day people will be able to order it and have it shipped to their homes, and the next day it will have ceased to exist, at least as far as Amazon is concerned. This will inevitably be a book that Christians have embraced as orthodox but that the culture has rejected as heretical…

We’ve seen some of this already, so it isn’t prophetic. He then sets the stage defining the challenge for the future:

…[W]e inadvertently handed Amazon a near-monopoly over the sale of Christian books. We did this with the good-faith assumption that they would continue to sell whatever we published. But times have changed and are changing and it seems increasingly unlikely that Amazon will continue to sell it all. It seems increasingly likely that they will cede to cultural pressure—pressure that exists both within and outside of the company—and begin to cull their offerings. And then what? It’s not like these books cannot be sold by the Christian retailers that remain. But will publishers even be willing or able to publish them if they cannot be sold at the world’s biggest marketplace? Will you and I even be able to find out about them if Amazon isn’t recommending them to us? And will we be willing to pay a premium to have them shipped to us from smaller retailers with higher prices and no ability to offer free shipping?…

In a way, this is nothing new. Spin the search engine wheel and you’ll find many articles from the past accusing Christian publishers of only selling things that will do well at Family Christian Stores or LifeWay. But now FCS is gone, and LifeWay is phasing out its physical presence in America’s cities and towns.

Why publish something which retail won’t carry? That’s been a challenge, but now that in many parts of North America there is no retail (in the traditional sense) indie-published books compete with those from the larger, established publishing houses. The online behemoth is in many respects now calling the shots. Brick and mortar retail stores don’t matter as they once did; we’ve lost our influence.

What is new is the people to whom that power has been ceded. While dealing with a different aspect of this, Tim Challies correctly notes that, “Amazon is hardly a company founded by Christians or run according to Christian principles. To the contrary, it is a company founded by worldly people and run according to worldly principles.”

And beyond the social issues Tim mentions, it bothers me that Amazon has no filters. A Jehovah’s Witness title, New Age title or an LDS title is just as likely to turn up in the search results as something from Baker, Zondervan or David C. Cook. Already, I’ve heard stories of people who unwittingly bought inappropriate books based on search engine results. This in and of itself highlights the value of Christian bookstore buyers and proprietors.

So what if those Christian publishers said to Amazon, “Since you now advertise as ‘the world’s largest bookstore,’ it would be nice if you would carry our titles exhaustively instead of selectively” or even dared to suggest that, “If you won’t carry everything, we won’t sell you anything at all.” If A-zon called their bluff on that, it would be devastating both to authors and consumers, since if a book’s A-zon listing doesn’t appear in search results, the book, for all intents and purposes, ceases to exist.

Again, to read the article at challies.com, click this link.

 

Reasons to Avoid Political Discussions at the Store

This article needs to be seen by all bookstore employees.

Ever since Donald Trump began his bid for the Republican nomination, much of our evening news feed, and many of our personal conversations have been preoccupied with politics. Discussions seem to be unavoidable.

With an election looming here in Canada this fall, the debates underway for the Democratic nomination in the U.S., and the recent election of Doug Ford in Ontario, political mindedness is sure to escalate. It’s easy for politics to creep into conversations at the Christian bookstore.

Here are some things to keep in mind.

First of all your store is an oasis, the type of place where some people go to get away from these types of discussion.

That’s important because the main focus of conversation should be about Jesus. That’s our distinctive; what sets us apart from the gas station, the clothing store, the grocery supermarket.

It’s also important because two Christians can have totally opposite views. We see this in the U.S.; there are Christian Republicans and Christian Democrats. There are Republicans who simply can’t support the President because of character issues. There are people who believe that Donald Trump is God’s man for the hour; a fulfillment of prophecy. There are people who think he’s the devil! It’s complicated.

Despite this, Christians are going to have opinions on social issues. Things like gun control, reproductive rights, immigration, LGBTQ subjects etc. are going to come up and it’s important to see these things from a Christian perspective…

…But here again we run a risk when we make these discussions political in nature. Only Jesus can change hearts and minds on key issues. Furthermore, nobody knows for sure that electing a particular Premier/Governor or Prime Minister/President is going to be an instant cure related to a perceived social ailment. It might be a small part of a larger agenda, but not necessarily a guarantee that anything would ever happen after the election.

It’s also important to remember that any statements you make reflect the store. This is true of each and every employee as well. If you take a position that doesn’t resonate with the customer, they’re going to say, “Well, Janet at the bookstore said that…” and that could be a form of negative publicity with that customer’s friends.

You also need to know, even if you’re speaking with one of your best personal friends, that someone else may enter the store and overhear the conversation and that person may miss the preamble or context that brought you to where you are in the discussion. And again, that person might say, “The people who run the bookstore think that…;” when in fact it was a comment by a part-time employee.

On that subject, remember that the conversation might be a trap. Someone may be trying to force someone to say something that is incriminating in the broader marketplace. I nearly made the mistake in early May of telling a customer I wouldn’t order something for her particular fringe group, and I had to walk it back and say that more accurately, I didn’t think our suppliers made what she wanted, but if she went to a particular website and found something suitable, I would bring it in for her. You don’t want to be the next headline-making legal case.

Finally, although our goal is always to point people to books on major issues, we sometimes find that there are very few Christian books on some of these subjects. Shane Claiborne is outspoken on gun control and the Unplanned DVD (when it releases) makes a point about abortion; but on the subject if immigration, much of what is written is from a secular perspective or from an academic perspective. On our store’s “Gender Issues” shelf there is a disclaimer which states that author positions on LGBTQ subjects may vary from book to book.1

You want people to be engaged, but at the same time, I think Christian bookstores need to exercise caution in political discourse.


Postscript: I know that in the U.S. “Christian Voter Guide” booklets are distributed in church lobbies and by the front door of Christian bookstores. People there wear their political loyalties on their sleeves and if the store is freestanding building, they will put election signs on the front lawn or in the window. However, we don’t have such guidebooks here and I don’t think political partisanship works well in a Canadian context. My advice would be: Don’t do it.


1Back in the ’90s when the abortion issue was quite heated (as it is now) I offered a customer $100 if they could even find a book on the abortion issue in my store. (There was one, by Chuck Colson, but only I knew that!) The point is that when people say “Christians are all homophobic” or “Christians are against a woman’s choice with her body” I would emphasize that 99% of the books in the store are not even remotely touching on these issues.

How They See Us: Literary Hub Looks at Christian Publishing

The Quiet Revolution in Evangelical
Christian Publishing

The article begins:

How does one begin to describe the world of evangelical Christian publishing? It’s an industry whose target consumers make up a percentage of annual book sales ($600 million) that’s smaller than annual worldwide sales of Garfield merchandise, but still occupies a powerful place in its target demo’s consciousness. It’s replete with its own set of niche presses, academic imprints, literary agents and Big Five-funded publishing houses that exist apart from the New York City’s publishing scene. It’s an insular economy whose power players are nestled into the suburbs of cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Nashville, Tennessee; where book proposals are evaluated not only by their sales potential, but by their broadest theological implications. Here we have a sect of the publishing world where women have held much of the buying power, but proportionally, precious little social capital in their own homes and in their churches.

Author Kathryn Watson spends the rest of the article continuing this theme, looking at the women authors in the field.

Continue reading the whole article at Literary Hub.

Bookstores Automatically Filter Out Fringe Bible Translations

I ran this on my personal blog a few minutes ago, and thought it was a valuable object lesson for readers here. .

Every once in awhile I find threads on Twitter which I think are worthy of being preserved somewhere more permanent. Twitter has a 280-character limit, but you can create threaded posts in the style of a longer essay. The writer may have envisioned something temporary — a kind of Snapchat prose — but the words deserve greater attention.

Thomas Horrocks resides in Bloomington, Indiana where he serves as pastor of Stoneybrook Community Church of God and also as a chaplain in the Indiana Army National Guard. He’s co-host of the Sinnergists Podcast

I think you will agree that this story is a prime example of why we do what we do and how it can be of benefit to our communities to not have certain types of merchandise.

If you want to read this on Twitter, go to this link.


Okay, everybody. Time for a mini rant. As you may or may not know, I pastor a small church comprised of mostly older people, all of whom are wonderfully devout but basically none of whom have had any formal theological training. This probably describes most churches to be honest.

Today at my midweek Bible-study, one lady, who deeply loves the scriptures, brought to me a new translation of the New Testament that she obtained. It is called The Pure Word and bills itself as “an Unparalleled New Testament Translation From the Original Greek.”

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Naturally, having both an interest in Bible translations and the things my congregants want to show me, I asked if I could look at it a little closer. I started reading the preface and, folks, this thing is A. Train. Wreck.

Here’s the first paragraph

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“Never before has such a pure and genuine translation been completed.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

This is the kind of thing I would write if I was writing a parody. But wait, it gets worse.

They employ a methodology they call “monadic hermeneutics” in which each they assert that each word has “an accurate, single definition.” They, of course, base this  the Psalm that says “every word of God is pure.” They explain:

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“Each word…was intended to have a single specific meaning, never open to personal interpretation.” Somehow these translators, and no one else ever, were able to “bypass personal interjection and cultural influence” and determine these “unambiguous and clear meanings.”

It gets worse. They also capitalize any word “which pertain[s] to God’s Attributes and Characteristics, God’s Works, Works of the Holy Spirit in us, or Works of Angels (as opposed to works of man.)” This they determined, of course, without “personal interpretation.”

“So,” you’re probably asking, “How does this work out in actual translation?” Great question.

Here is their translation of John 3:16, which they insist is “the original Greek to English translation,”

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These people claim they are “Unveiling the Original Meaning After Nearly 2000 Years” and that they are “re-implementing the full and original Greek…as it was understood during the first century” and that this “is commonly recognized as the most accurate…in the world.”

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Now, anyone who has received any kind of training in Greek or Biblical interpretation knows this is all absolute malarkey. But the good-hearted people in our pews may not know this.

These people are preying on our peoples’ desire for certitude and easy answers and using it to slip in genuinely debatable interpretation under the guise of The Original Word of God.™

We need to be teaching our people that the work of translation and interpretation is messy and that there things that debatable, things that are ambiguous, and things that are unclear, otherwise we end with this (below), but for real.

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End of an Era: LifeWay to Close All 170 Retail Stores

Breaking Story

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours. 

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.”

As the story broke in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that campus bookstores operated by LifeWay at seminaries would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See photo above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

[Last updated 8:42 AM 3.21]

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

Zondervan to Differentiate Sections of Its Brand

Baker has Baker Academic. InterVarsity has IVP Academic.

Now Zondervan, which has always been a leader in scholarly and high-level Bible reference publications is going to clarify what readers of its Zondervan Academic Blog have long-known, by making Zondervan Academic a distinct publishing imprint. The academic division’s tag line has been: “Equipping biblical scholars since 1931.”

The official media announcement was posted on March 11th.

“As a leader in Christian higher education and digital learning, Zondervan Academic seeks to show the breadth and diversity—both theologically and globally—of Christianity in its broadly evangelical expression,” says Katya Covrett, executive editor. “As a publisher of textbooks, reference books, and monographs, we consider ourselves both a broker of ideas and an equipping partner for our readers, wherever they are teaching and learning.”

…Upcoming titles in the Zondervan Reflective imprint include Clay Scroggins’ How to Lead in a World of Distraction (September 2019), a follow-up to the bestselling How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge. Lead titles this fall for the Zondervan Academic imprint include The New Testament in Its World by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird and America’s Religious History by historian Thomas S. Kidd (both November 2019).


In the same announcement, the publisher launched Zondervan Reflective,

…a new imprint featuring the familiar voices of Christian leaders, pastors, and leaders in ministry like Andy Stanley, Clay Scroggins, J.D. Greear, and Peter Scazzero. Books in this imprint aim to spur readers toward insight and responsible action in their personal lives and in the public realm. Zondervan Reflective focuses on deep, yet applicable content, and will address topics related to leadership, the intersection of faith and culture, and growing and exploring a reader’s ministry.

Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and Vida are part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. The parent company also publishes faith-interest books under the HarperOne imprint.

The Newest NIV Study Bible is Actually a Rebranding

I hate to say, “I told you so.”

At the time of its original release, I said the name, “NIV Zondervan Study Bible” would be too easily confused with the flagship “NIV Study Bible.” Time and the marketplace proved this correct.

So when the time came to convert the Bible to the new Comfort Print font — a change still in progress involving every Bible product sold by both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan — they decided it was a good time to change the name to “NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.”

They also moved D. A. Carson’s name to the top which is both in keeping with what is seen on academic books in a series, and also creates resonance for the all important Reformed/Calvinist market, which Zondervan would love to lure from the ESV back to NIV.

The other bonus was that with comfort print, people who formerly needed large print can get away with the regular edition. The large print version of the older title was simply huge. So they’ve effective killed two birds with one stone. I actually proved the truth of this yesterday with one satisfied (I hope!) customer.


The original advertising from a few years ago highlighted many of the Reformed/Calvinist contributors. I’m sure they would argue this isn’t, strictly speaking, a Reformed product.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

And a comparison chart showed the main differences in chart form:

NIV Study Bibles compared


Appendix One: People who feel they are in the market for larger print in a Bible are actually looking at five factors:

Font Size – To meet expectations, “large” should be at least 10.0 point and “giant” should be at least 12.0 point; but the key phrase here is “at least.” Ideally, I’d like to see “large” at about 11.5 and “giant” at about 14.0.” Also, generally speaking large print books are much more generous in font size — as well as the other four factors listed below — than large print Bibles. Some readers who have purchased large print books before question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles with smaller fonts. If you’re in a store and they have a font size guide posted, that gives you the language to express what you’re looking for, but don’t go by online guides, as they are sized at the whim of your monitor settings.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move — started last year and continuing throughout 2018 — to “Comfort Print” on all their Bible editions. Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like the clean look of a sans serif font (think Arial/Helvetica) such as Zondervan was using on its Textbook Bibles. But others like the look of a serif font (think Times New Roman) instead. But Comfort Print is a great innovation and I find when it’s available that people who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with Comfort Print’s large print. You can think of this in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – This one is actually quite important, and we’ll leave the definition to Wikipedia: “In typography, leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/ LED-ing) refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.” One Bible publisher which I won’t name is notorious for using a large font but then crowding their lines of type together. The issue here is white space. If you look at the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and compare to the History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified) you see the advantage created by white space.

Inking – Some Bibles are not generously inked. There are sometimes also inconsistencies between different printings of the same Bible edition, and even inconsistencies between page sections of a single Bible. Text should be dark enough to offer high contrast to the white paper. Furthermore, some older adults have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. If that’s the case — and you don’t always know ahead of time — use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

Bleed Through – On the other hand, you don’t want to see type from the previous or following page. Bible paper is usually thin paper, which means the potential for bleed-through is huge. On the other hand, holding Bibles up to the light isn’t a fair test. Rather, the place where you check out the Bible should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context you would read them at home. It is possible that an individual simply needs a better quality reading lamp.


Appendix Two: An edited list of features from the publisher marketing includes:

• 28 theological articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung; over 60 contributors.
• 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes
• 2,560 pages!
• Hundreds of full-color photos
• Over 90 Maps and over 60 Charts
• Book Introductions
• Cross-references and Concordance
• Single-column, Black Letter


Note: This is a news article. Zondervan didn’t supply a review copy — I already have the original which I traded for the large print I desired — and did not sponsor this blog article.  

Retailers: The graphic which heads the article is proportioned for store Facebook pages.

with files from Thinking Out Loud blog

 

LifeWay Announces an Unspecified Number of Store Closings

January 18, 2019 3 comments

An unknown number of the 174 LifeWay Christian stores in the U.S. are set to close. On Tuesday employees received an email from company president and CEO Thom Rainer:

…We prayed and hoped that our investments in and commitments to the LifeWay stores would prove fruitful. That just has not been the case. To the contrary, we not only continue to see an erosion in the brick-and-mortar channel, we have seen an accelerated rate of erosion in recent months. It was our hope that greater traffic would result in greater sales, and that with our expense reductions and product cost savings, we would be able to offset sales declines. That hope has not been realized with the declines we have seen since September…

…In simple terms, a strategic shift is required for moving more and more of our resources to a dynamic digital strategy… We will be transitioning many of those resources from our LifeWay stores to digital channels. The good news is that we will be better prepared to meet the future. The challenging news is that some of our stores will have to close…

Stories Wednesday at Baptist News and Thursday at The Christian Post contained the above excerpt and credited both Rainer and director of communications Carol Pipes as saying that the company “will have a smaller footprint for our brick-and-mortar stores.”

LifeWay is the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.) with both retail stores and the creation of curriculum products for adults and children. It also operates a research company and provides business services to churches. The retail division is notorious for banning authors and musicians who disagree with its ultra-conservative, cessationist, complementarian theological stance.

In recent years the SBC has been concerned about a decline in membership and baptisms. A reasonable estimate is that there are currently about 15 million members.


Appendix: Authors banned at LifeWay, circa April, 2015; authors listed were both not-carried in inventory and not available to order.

Source

James MacDonald to Shutter Walk in the Word

Today at our parent blog Thinking Out Loud we have an unusually high number of publishing related stories on our weekly roundup feature, Wednesday Connect. You need to click through to the highlighted links provided in order to read the stories in full.

📻 After months of personal controversy, James MacDonald surprises his staff with the decision to shutter the broadcasting component (radio and television) of the popular Walk in the Word program. Julie Roys was anonymously sent a recording of the staff meeting.

In a surprise announcement to staff on Wednesday, MacDonald said he had decided to remove Walk in the Word from all “traditional” broadcast mediums and exclusively focus on digital delivery, like podcasts. MacDonald said the reason for the change was primarily pragmatic. “Traditional broadcast is a dying thing,” MacDonald said in a live announcement to staff

📻 …Dee Parsons believes the ‘radio is a dying medium’ argument by MacDonald takes the focus away from the controversial lawsuit and the issues which sparked it. 

BreakingIs James MacDonald prepared to drop the lawsuit?

♦ Also from Julie Roys: Is it just about terminology? Or is there more? Beth Moore’s assertion that “reading the Bible isn’t the same as spending time with God‘ has sparked a firestorm, not dissimilar from Andy Stanley’s late last year.

♦ Changing standards? Are we allowed to use term ‘badass’ in a Christian book title? Eerdman’s did. Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity.

♫ The title song from the new Passion album, Follow You Anywhere. There is however a one month gap between the release of the album online (available to consumers now) and the physical CD (early February).

♦ The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey has refiled charges against the publisher, Tyndale House, for “for appropriation, publicity given to private life, and financial exploitation of a person with a disability.”

♦ In the Twitterverse: January is a time for “best books” lists, but this short Twitter thread gives a very short “best Bibles” list with reasons for each of the three choice. (Maybe not the three you’re expecting, but if you’re open to change in a new year, this might help.)

♀ Women’s Workshop: Laurie Pawlik, author of Going Forward When You Can’t Go Back, releasing next week from Bethany House; this article about six female Bible characters who, in different ways, said ‘yes’ to God. Sample: “… I noticed that these 6 female heroes of the Bible—our Biblical sisters—didn’t waste time wrestling with ‘Why me?’ Instead, they threw themselves into ‘Yes, Lord.'”

Ingram Determines What is a Bookstore and What Isn’t

Ingram’s annual minimum is a slap in the face to small, independent bookstores. It’s another way of saying, ‘we don’t see you as a legitimate bookstore and we are the ones who will set the standard and make the determination of your legitimacy and entitlement to trade discounts.’

I really try to keep the personal rants to a minimum, but this is one of those, so feel free to move on.

I have mentioned before that several years ago we received communication from Ingram International informing us that because our wholesale purchase the previous year were less than $5,000 US net, we would be placed in a short discount category.

They no sooner did this than it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas before I had quite willingly padded my orders to meet the 10-unit minimum on iPage for trade discount, I no longer had any incentive. Instead, I started placing orders one book at time. (They do this for Amazon and Chapters, so I figure there are built in efficiencies at their end unknown to us in Canada. One time my single book arrived in a Chapters box.)

My account would never come close to $5,000 annually again. Furthermore, with the deals offered by Canadian suppliers, plus the fact their distribution rights are enshrined in Canadian law, there is no compelling reason to order a Christian book from Ingram (i.e. Spring Arbor) unless you are on the west coast and facing some delivery time issues for that book’s customer.

This week however, I actually had reason to place a ten-unit order through iPage, and when the confirmation came through, I was reminded again of how things have been since June 15th, 2015; over three and a half years now. The letter we received at the time read:

Dear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

Again, playing the freight-cost card is illogical because of the aforementioned single-title drop-ships they do for Amazon and Chapters.

It also doesn’t make sense that publishers like Oxford University Press or Wiley Canada don’t mind my occasional purchasing and are quite happy to grant us trade discount.

This time around, however, four of my titles were from Carpenter’s Son Publishing; a Christian publisher which is locked into Ingram Publisher Services. It occurred to me that they are probably unaware of the policy and unaware how it diminishes the amount of ordering stores like ourselves are willing to do in order to encourage their authors and increase their authors’ visibility.

It occurred to me that well organized information campaign with Ingram Publisher Services might accomplish more than trying to shake the monolith. I mean, for starters, how do you argue or appeal your case with a company for which you have no real contacts; no names; no faces? How many stores reading this have had even so much as an email from anyone in the marketing department at Ingram? How many of you can name your credit representative?

So over the next few weeks I will be tracking down those IPS publishers and hopefully beginning a dialogue as to why their Canadian Christian marketing and distribution should be placed with Parasource, or Foundation, or Word Alive.

At the time we received the original letter from Ingram I wrote,

I missed it by $448 net. Less than 10%. A target I didn’t even know I was supposed to aiming for.

Last night I found out the hard way that my store was one of the ones that didn’t buy $5,000 from Ingram last year. $4,552 was close, but no cigar.

The company has removed all accounts falling below this annual purchase rate to a 30% max. short discount on book product. But they’ve done it such a way that stores are unlikely to take the steps to remedy the situation; effectively terminating those accounts, albeit perhaps over a long, drawn-out period of time.

1. There was no warning. The letter went out on June 8th [2015] to take effect on June 15th. This shows the low view they have of their customers.

2. There was no way to remedy the situation. The period the numbers were based on was January 1, 2014 to December 31st, 2014. For nearly six months we had failed to meet a target we didn’t know existed.

3. Offering to buy the difference to pull this year’s balance up is futile because that product would all ship at a short discount.

4. The situation is confirmed as irrevocable; there is no room for appeal, even for those of us who missed by less than 10%.

In the Fall of 2015, I wrote:

Here’s another way of looking at it: You buy a $10 book for $6. Your gross profit is $4. A supplier changes your discount by 10% and that book now costs $7. Your gross profit is now $3. In other words, you’ve been cheated out of 25% of your former profit margin.

So why does Ingram want to purge small stores from their roster when they already had a mechanism in place requiring minimum orders? It’s a question really requiring deeper investigation, and we’re working on it. Clearly, Ingram was the friend of the independent bookstore as well as gift stores which dabbled in books as a sideline. For our part, our purchases with them would have been much, much stronger in 2014 were it not for the service offered by Send the Light Distribution. We gave STL a “first pass” on our import titles and then used Ingram only for titles unique to them, and rush orders that STL did not have in stock at the time.

But it wasn’t enough. Neither was 30 years of goodwill and a perfect credit history.

There was no appealing their decision.

There’s a rule in pet ownership that you don’t scold a pet for something they did a day ago. You deal with it at the time. If any stores impacted by the new decision had been told ahead of time that, “In June of next year we’re going to change your terms if you don’t meet the $5K minimum, you need purchase only $421 more by the end of the year;” I know we would have put an order together in minutes. But to be punished in June for something we did the year prior… well, as stated, I wouldn’t do this to a dog.

The decision was arbitrary.

The decision was heartless.

Then in March, 2016, I wrote this:

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system.  I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.’” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season [2016] purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

I concluded:

I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.

If anyone has a list of the Christian companies using Ingram Publisher’s Group, it would save us some time. I want to continue to fight this on behalf of other stores which may get cut off from full trade discount in the future.

Christianity Today Top Books of the Year

December 11, 2018 1 comment

During book awards season, at least, the answer to “Do I need more books?” is always yes. That applies whether you’re someone who likes to read a reasonable amount—or someone who also likes to read a reasonable amount, but more. —Matt Reynolds, Christianity Today books editor

If they’re the top books of 2018, I’m not sure why CT calls it the 2019 Book Awards, nor am I clear why in the Discipleship/Christian Living category a book by Russell Moore is a runner-up (what they call Award of Merit) but in another article it’s their Book of the Year.

For the most part, these are books from publishers you can easily access for retail in Canada. Nothing too esoteric, which often happens with book awards. (Reviewers often live in a different universe than you or I.) It was also a great year for Baker Book Group imprints and IVP.

Read on…