Posts Tagged ‘Christian book publishing’

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.


Posting this tomorrow morning at Thinking Out Loud, and thought I would share it with you guys first…


When another volunteer decided to step down after many years, I offered to collect used books in our area for Christian Salvage Mission. I’m in the book business after all, so I believe in the power of Christian literature to transform lives. I haven’t been as successful at this as I could be however, because we now also have a Christian-operated thrift shop in town. Still, I try to inform customers of things we can take that the thrift store might not.

Sometimes the books that people drop off are excellent collections. I immediately recognize the authors or the publishers, even though the books may have sat on home library shelves since before I was born. Others are more recent; titles I would easily recommend.

But sometimes, in the middle of a great grouping of books there is the odd Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist title. (I recognize that some readers will sense my concern about the first two, but not necessarily the third.)

How did those books end up on these peoples’ shelves? Was a friend persistent? Or did the individuals not realize what they were getting into?

At this point, as a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a copy of The Book of Mormon somewhere in my library. My parents got it in a hotel room while as a family we were in Salt Lake City. I have read some small sections of it. If I die tonight, and someone is going through my collection, they might well ask the questions I am asking here.

Generally, though, I worry that the average, church-going, pew-warming, tithe-giving Christian may not have sufficient filters with which to process the origins of some books, and thereby see the books through a more finely-tuned discernment lens. Do people check to see what the publisher imprint is? Which group claims copyright? Where follow-up pages (with phone numbers or websites) lead?

I should say that I have an unfair advantage. I’ve spent so much time in the industry that when I see Pacific Press®, Deseret Book Company, or a reference to the Watchtower Society, I immediately know who I’m dealing with.

But it’s not just the publisher imprint. Many of the books out there use a similar style of artwork; even the titles themselves sometimes are just a plain giveaway, especially the outreach materials which are produced for giveaway…

…At first, I had no specific conclusion to this, other than to say that this is a reality and people need to be more careful what they allow to come into their homes.

But then it occurred to me that while I didn’t write this with any agenda, Christian bookshops offered the type of vetting process that is needed. One pastor once told me, “You and your wife are gatekeepers for the people in our town.” That’s an honor. It’s also humbling. It’s a huge responsibility.

As long as the Christian bookstore owner, or manager, or buyer knows what they are doing, they can insure that only titles of the highest orthodoxy are presented for sale. Even if they don’t, the distribution networks for such stores simply don’t carry materials from marginal groups. And the Christian publishers generally don’t produce such products in the first place.

To the contrary, when you buy a book online just because the title looked interesting, or it was “recommended for you,” or because “other customers also purchased,” or maybe just because it was in the religion section and you liked the price; you really, really don’t always know what you’re getting into, unless you are savvy about publishing.

When a Christian bookstore closes, we lose a certain level of discernment; we lose some badly needed filtering.



Emotionally Healthy Bookstore

Emotionally Healthy series

I always find it interesting when we get interest in backlist titles that is characterized by two things (a) There isn’t any media that we know of driving the sales, and (b) The people making inquiries seem to have more than six degrees of separation.

Such is the case right now with the Emotionally Healthy series of books by Peter Scazzero, published by Zondervan, pictured above. Full disclosure: I haven’t sold or stocked the leadership title, but I’m starting to wonder if we should carry that one as well.

We’re in a small town, so significant numbers are, well, significant. But I never know if, like the picture on the cover of the first book, I’m seeing all the demand we’re going to get, or if we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

(The image above is sized for Facebook, so feel free to use it on your store’s page.)


2015 Awards for Small(er) Christian Publishers

Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award is accepting nominations for the 2015 award.

Award_SealThe Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award honors books produced by small publishers each year for outstanding contribution to Christian life. Nominations are accepted in 14 categories: General Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Biography, Christian Living, Devotional, Relationships/Family, Bible Study/Theology, Christian Education, Children’s Book 4-8 years, Children’s Book 8-12 years, Young Adult (12+ years), Gift Books, and eBook Exclusive.

  • Books must be published by a small publisher or independently published author with annual revenues of $400,000 or less.
  • Nominated books must be Christian in nature and intended for the Christian marketplace.
  • All nominated books must be printed in English and for sale in the United States.
  • Any small publisher or independently published author can nominate titles for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award.
  • Each book can only be nominated for one category.
  • Nominated books must be published in 2013 or 2014.
  • Nomination fee is $45.00 per title.

To view the complete eligibility guidelines and to nominate your books, visit Nominations must be received by November 15, 2014.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is the sponsor of this book award.

reblogged from Marketing Christian Books

Another Voice Steps into the Hell Discussion

This is another book review which appeared previously at Thinking Out Loud on July 18th.  The title is due to be released any day now from David C. Cook.  This title is very timely, but was already underway before the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s book began.

I just finished reading Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) by Brian Jones, published by David C. Cook. The timing of this book — despite indications that it began as a project long before the current furor — does make it a kind of response to Love Wins even if not directly so. While the Rob Bell book uses its first two chapters to ask enough questions to somewhat undermine a belief in everlasting punishment for those who don’t believe, Brian Jones takes his first couple of chapters to state categorically that he now believes in the certainty of hell as traditionally understood, and as literally taught in the Bible.

He uses his unwavering belief in a physical hell as the premise for what he wants to go on to talk about, which is the need to communicate the existence of hell to our unsaved family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. It refutes Love Wins only in the sense that Jones’ dogmatic certainty stands in stark contrast to Bell’s questions and uncertainty.

The point Jones really wants to get to is taking the message of salvation to those whom life puts us into contact with. Just as last summer’s Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick gave us the phrase “audacious prayers,” so does Hell Is Real… give us a phrase, “apocalyptic urgency.” That urgency runs through all 266 pages.

However, don’t start constructing placards or buying TV airtime right away. The hallmark of this book is the balance of the approach between said urgency, and finding appropriate times and places to work with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in a person’s life. The key to this book isn’t the first part of the title so much as the parenthetic part, But I Hate to Admit It. Many of us have a natural reluctance to engage our friends and contacts in a faith conversation, much less a debate.

Unless people come to you with specific questions or a specific outpouring of the heart on a matter of need, sharing the message of — to use a $50 word — propitiation is delicate. Too aggressive an approach and you create barriers that can set the conversion process back indefinitely.

In many respects for those who have decided that Bell simply asks to many questions and undermines too much of what church leaders have always believed and taught, Hell is Real represents the next step in the discussion. In other words, after all is said and done, where do we go from here? What is the practical application of all the debate?

Brian Jones would say the “hell part” of the equation is necessary to create the apocalyptic urgency needed to make evangelism effective.

Brian Jones is senior pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia, a rather edgy east coast church.

Cambridge Debuts FlipBack Edition of KJV

This doesn’t turn Bible publishing on its head, but definitely turns it on its side.  Phil at UK Christian Book Shops Blog had this item in his July 4th News Roundup:

Cambridge Bibles publish first English Language flipback®

CONGRATULATIONS to Cambridge Bibles on becoming the publisher of the first English language flipback®, the Transetto: a new, ultra-compact edition of the King James Version Bible that breaks with tradition by opening vertically rather than horizontally. Published, of course, with the much-publicised 400th KJV Anniversary in mind, the Transetto is available in special trade packs of nine copies plus one free if you request the POS display tower: orders via Lion Hudson.

For those who are beginning to feel that they’ve already seen more editions of the KJV this year than their sanity can handle, don’t panic: more English language flipbacks have just emerged hot off the press from Hodder:

Click here for many detailed photos of the Bible at Bible Design Blog

Detailed page view at New and Interesting Bibles Blog

Calling Your Music Supplier to Order Books

Here in Canada, where most things are ordered from distributors, we won’t notice much of a difference. But for American stores, who order directly from publishers, contacting EMI Christian Music Group to order titles from Byron Williamson’s publishing house, Worthy Pubishing going to take some mental adjustment. But hey, as an industry, we’re fairly flexible, right?

Christian Retailing reports:

The Sky is Not Falling by Charles Colson and a study of the faith of teen pop star Justin Bieber lead the nine September releases that will mark the debut of Worthy Publishing…

…Joining Cathleen Falsani’s Belieber! Fame, Faith and the Heart of Justin Bieber in the first Worthy list are Stephen Arterburn’s Walking Into Walls, John Townsend’s How to Be a Best Friend Forever and Bill and Gloria Gaither’s A Homecoming Family Christmas.

Not a bad collection of authors.

While the story stresses the efficiencies of EMI-CMG’s distribution, and their belief it’s a good fit…

Bill Hearn, president and CEO of EMI CMG, said that adding books to the company’s distribution service was “a natural extension” of its founding as “a platform to support and develop communicators of the gospel.”

…the cynic in me wonders if this is just a quick solution to keep the numbers up and keep sales reps working in a very tough music market.

Tale of Two Generations: Steve & Cameron Strang

It’s a study in contrasts.

On the weekend, the hometown newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel did a piece in its Sunday paper showing the two different approaches to publishing of Strang/Charisma founder Steven Strang versus that of his son and Relevant Magazine founder Cameron Strang.

Cameron Strang, 34, whose publishing offices are in a rented building near Orlando’s Lake Ivanhoe, has achieved his own level of success and influence in the world of young evangelicals. The readership of the 200,000 circulation Relevant magazine is a coveted demographic that has fostered a profitable consulting business for Cameron Strang’s Relevant Media Group. One of his clients is his father’s company, which is struggling to adjust to the shift in advertising from print to Internet.

“We have done so well for so long, it was jolting for me to see that it wasn’t working in the same way it was,” said Steve Strang.

While the father feels the angst of uncertainty, the son feels at home with upheaval. Adapting to new media, new technologies and new platforms is the secret of Cameron Strang’s success.

“With this audience, if you’re stale, you’re dead,” Cameron said.

At this point, Cameron’s company is a $2.5 million business, while Steve’s is about 10 times that size. Advising his father’s company is, in some ways, payback for the wisdom, support, and financial backing Steve Strang provided Cameron when he first came up with the idea of a magazine for a generation of evangelicals far different than their parents.

The article offers one new revelation:

In February, Steve plans to change the name of his company from Strang Communications to Charisma Media. The name change is part of the rebranding strategy that Cameron’s company has been involved in, but it’s also Steve’s concession that after he steps down as CEO, Cameron won’t be there to take his place.

And ends with one analogy familiar to both book publishers and church planters:

Cameron compares his company, with 24 employees, to a speed boat that can change direction quickly and his father’s company, with 130 workers, to a cruise ship trying to change course.

But there’s much more as well.  You can catch Jeff Kunerth’s Orlando Sentinel article here.

Consolidated Sales Data Hard to Find

But changes to data reporting are coming.

An article in Publisher’s Weekly highlights the problem of getting accurate sales data for religious books, when there are so many sales channels and so many different definitions of “religious” or “spiritual.”

Here are some highlights from the first paragraph, and three paragraphs in the middle of the article.   You can read the whole piece here for a limited time.

Counting religion book sales is an exercise in balancing data and definition. No one source has all the numbers; the category “religion” can contain everything from fiction and history to memoir and self-help, and more. But because publishing is a numbers-driven game, everyone would love better data for these changing economic times, preferably with good news.

Within publishing, there’s religion publishing, and then there’s evangelical Christian publishing, a subset of a subset. “We’re a bit more drilled down than the religion category,” says Michael Covington, who is information and education director at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the group’s stats guru. ECPA has historically been able to do a good job of capturing data from Christian retailers, but the success of Christian publishing and its expansion into the general market has brought growing pains to the industry. Covington estimates that two-thirds of Christian products are now sold outside Christian channels: in Wal-Mart, at, in general market bookstores.

Covington, who met with Lubeck and Jordan recently, says more information is always helpful. ECPA is now working on its own refinements of data collection for and from its member publishers. It is testing a new model that aggregates sales data from publishers into seven channels, so publishers can learn more about what is selling where. The seven channels: Christian retail; Internet sales; general trade; mass market; international export; wholesalers; direct to consumer; and all other. He says data grouped in this way will better show backlist strength and channel exclusives and near-exclusives, enabling publishers to gamble less, or smarter, with frontlist. “This isn’t data anybody’s seen before,” Covington says.

Some Christian publishing veterans argue that their size in the market as a whole is underreported because industry statistical tallies are so fragmented and incomplete. “My frustration is there is no one place to get an accurate picture of sales,” says Jonathan Merkh, v-p and publisher at Howard Books, a Christian imprint of S&S. Nielsen BookScan, which collects point of sales data that by its estimate includes 75% of retail sales, doesn’t include sales from Wal-Mart, where Christian books do well, nor does it include some Christian retail chains. Religion numbers from Bowker are also partial; it counts published books in an annual tally, and its PubTrack service focuses on sales in the Christian market. “If they all were counted by one source, people would be surprised at how well this category is doing,” Merkh argues.

The Christian Bookstore: Analogies

This is a repeat from October 2008 of one of my favorite items on this blog.   Feel free to print this for your staff room or employee bulletin board:

  • The Christian bookstore is like a supply depot in a war. And once in awhile, like David, employees find themselves on the front lines of the battle.
  • The Christian bookstore employee is like a bartender. People have issues and questions and want a place to talk and someone to listen.
  • The Christian bookstore employee is like a pharmacist. Like pharmacists in the UK, sometimes store staff are the ones to make the diagnosis and suggest something that might help.
  • The Christian bookstore is like a welcome center for people new to your community, or people seeking a faith connection for the first time. It is the gateway to the next section of their journey.
  • The Christian bookstore is a melting pot. People from a variety of denominations sharing an element of their spiritual life in one room, often at one time. The church without walls, without labels, the way God sees it.