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Abingdon to Destroy Entire Print Run of Devotional by Clinton Pastor

This story by Joseph Hartropp appeared yesterday at ChristianToday.com in the UK and summarizes various other reports.

…United Methodist minister Rev Bill Shillady is the author of Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, a collection of devotionals he had written to Clinton from April 2015 to December 2016.

In August, just before the book’s release, CNN revealed that in one devotional entry Shillady had copied paragraphs of material from a blog post by Rev Matthew Deuel.

Shillady then apologised for not giving Deuel the due credit, in what he said was an unwitting error, and Deuel agreed not to pursue any public prosecution. But the book’s publisher Abingdon Press has now announced that it is pulling the book from publication and pulping any remaining copies after it discovered further evidence of plagiarism beyond that found in August, according to CNN.

Brian Milford, the president and publisher of The United Methodist Publishing House, which owns Abingdon Press, said that after an ‘extensive review’ the publisher was ‘alarmed to discover other content unattributed by the author.’

He added: ‘Abingdon Press has zero tolerance for plagiarism. Consequently, we have discontinued sales, will remove existing copies from all sales outlets, and will have them destroyed along with our existing inventory.’ The publisher didn’t share who the other plagiarised authors were.

In a statement on Tuesday Shillady said he deeply regretted his actions. ‘I was wrong and there is no excuse for it,’ he said…

continue reading at ChristianToday

Publisher’s Weekly (PW) reported that sales of the book have not exactly been brisk:

Strong for a Moment Like This has sold about 3,000 copies since its Aug. 15 publication, according to NPD BookScan…

In a July 26th PW article, there were higher hopes for the title:

“Based on the response we’ve already received, we’re looking at a second print run,” said [Abingdon executive director, marketing and sales Tamara] Crabtree, who declined to reveal the initial print run. “This is a strong book telling the story of the 2016 presidential campaign through the lens of faith.”

At 11:00 PM last night, Christian Book Distributors (CBD) was still selling the eBook. 

Hillary Clinton’s own book is due out on Tuesday.

Independent Christian Authors Can’t Rely on Spring Arbor

Product needs to be placed with Anchor, Send the Light and International Distributors

In light of yesterday’s column about changes at Ingram Content Group, Spring Arbor is no longer a reliable choice for indie authors who want their product available to bookstores at a reasonable trade discount. If we’re talking several titles, or your self-publisher represents several artists, this make things a little easier, especially if physical books exist already and are not just sold print-on-demand.

Since not everybody gets picked up by Baker, Cook or Zondervan, Advocate Distribution is a strong alternative.

Since not every author gets picked up by Baker, Cook or Zondervan, Advocate Distribution is a strong alternative.

Most American stores have an account with Anchor Distributors or Send the Light Distribution. If you have several books to offer, Send the Light’s Advocate Distribution Solutions can provide fulfillment on a contract basis.

If a writer wants to ensure Canadian trade distribution from a domestic supplier the situation complicates. Historically, even if you have a great product, David C. Cook Canada, Foundation Distributing, and Augsburg-Fortress Canada are more interested in acquiring major U.S. publishing brands than they are in going to the bother of adding independent titles. If you’re a Canadian author, Foundation and Word Alive support homegrown authors but only to the extent your book is published with either Castle Quay or Word Alive Press. (Essence Publishing, in Belleville, Ontario has no distribution at all; stores often sources the Canadian-made product through Spring Arbor.)  In those cases, the words I was taught to repeat while working for the company that later became CMC Distribution (now part of Cook) continue to echo in my mind: “The market for Christian books is the U.S. market. Secure your U.S. deal and the book will fall into Canadian distributors’ hands automatically.”

But what if your U.S. distributor has no Canadian counterpart? Then it’s back to Send the Light and Anchor.

In the interest of efficiency, Canadian stores are reluctant to deal with too many suppliers. In the 21st Century, a new generation of bookstore owners have streamlined their bookkeeping and database processes. If the title is really hot and the indie publisher or author takes credit cards, they’ll place an order, but there is always the predisposition that independent product is somehow inferior to what the major publisher have on offer and sometimes, when it comes to packaging, marketing and editorial quality control, they are right. American store owners tend to be more entrepreneurial, but the rules of efficiency still apply.

The point for authors — many of whom follow articles at this site — is that if your custom publisher tells you that your product is automatically listed in the database at Spring Arbor, that’s no longer good enough. Personally, I would go the Advocate Distribution route*; your book (or CD) may even end up in a Spring or Summer flyer distributed to stores across the U.S., a possibility that Ingram Content Group does not offer.


*In a random survey of some of Advocate’s top titles, all were available at Amazon. I don’t mention the A-zon factor here because of long-running concerns as to whether or not this avenue of book distribution is sustainable over the longer term.

 

 

To Attract New Players to Our Industry, We Need Fixed Canadian Pricing

exchange rate Jan 6

While some stores were replaced, 2014 saw significant store closings in Winnipeg, West Toronto, Windsor, Belleville, and a major announcement regarding an Ottawa closing in just a few weeks. When stores close, the industry as a whole in Canada is poorer. Yes, some consumers are simply buying online, but not every customer from a closed store immediately commences shopping websites. Our interviews with customers has shown that not only do some not have computers, a few don’t even have credit cards.

So store closings affect everything from supplier efficiency to the word-of-mouth promotion generated when lots of people are reading lots of books.

But today’s potential store owner isn’t the same as those who got into Christian bookselling 90, 60 or even 30 years ago. There is a much greater awareness of business principles, not to mention basic mathematics, and at the end of the say much boils down to this question:

Who would want to invest in a physical inventory that has a true wholesale value that fluctuates up and down with the U.S./Canadian dollar exchange rate?

Right now, prices are on the part of the parabola that curves upward. But it’s happening at time our industry has undergone intense price competition. A 10% difference earlier in the year could be overlooked by customers conscious of the U.S. pricing, but as the graph above shows, when you factor in the 2.55% your bank is charging you for currency exchange, the 20% difference is insufficient. Watch for conversions to 1.2500 to happen before the week is over.

But this time around that’s not going to go over well with customers. It’s a different retail climate. It’s going to kill business, and seriously temper the enthusiasm of retailers to do the typical January restocking.

Much of the situation is tied to the copyright act, to royalty contracts and what happens in the larger book industry. Canada is a foreign market where it suits the purposes of publishers — i.e. allowing us to have International Trade Paper Editions (ITPEs), but not allowing us to have SuperSaver pricing — but overall is considered part of the American domestic market.

Our prices therefore follow the U.S. prices.

But this situation does not have to be. Suppliers can easily negotiate special pricing on a greater number of titles than we’re seeing now, where the occasional hardcover gets cut-rate pricing where this no ITPE. Suppliers can also negotiate lower pricing on a wider range of titles, thereby creating a Canada-wide equivalent to the SuperSaver price system.

You see this happening in the U.S. now where a number of Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, and FaithWords titles are currently available for $5.00.

That would be a start. But we need more.

We need our suppliers to start negotiating for an entirely fixed price system for the Canadian market.

If just a few independent publishers can make this happen, the large, multi-nationals will be forced to reconsider the market share they will be losing. And here’s where I want to be very bold: If those same large corporations see the Christian part of the industry as a microcosm of the whole, it could just be a change agent that begins a process where literary agents are forced to reconsider their tactics.

While our industry is just about dollars and profit, and while it involves a calling to serve that overrides financial considerations, the point is, from a fiscal viewpoint, new players would have to be crazy to enter this industry the way things are right now. Nobody would sign on for this if they fully understood the risks.

And here’s the bonus for the Canadian suppliers: They would earn 100% loyalty, no store would buy around from U.S. distributors or large U.S. retailers offering titles below Canadian wholesale.

There are two ways you can rattle the cages of your suppliers: One is the old fashioned route of making calls and writing letters and emails. The second is more straightforward:

If it’s not genuine bargain that allows you to sell titles at prices competitive enough to win back U.S.-buying customers, then don’t buy it. Not one unit. Not one title.

Just say “No.”

 

Congratulations to Tyndale Publishing House on 50 Years

As the story goes, Ken Taylor wrote Living Letters on a commuter train to read to his kids in their nightly family Bible story time.  Armed with yellow lined paper and a copy of the NRSV, he restated the text in words they could relate to. 

And a whole lot of other people related to those words, too.  When nobody was interested in a publishing deal, Ken formed Tyndale House Publishers which turns 50 this year.

I have a threefold relationship with the company that’s identified in my internal systems simply as TYN. 

  • I’m a longtime consumer.  We share the same values and I respect their product integrity. Readers of my two other blogs will note that when I need a go-to translation for a scripture, my preference is NLT.
  • I’m a blogger. Tyndale, Nelson and Zondervan have been most generous with print review copies, and though I haven’t done much with Tyndale product in the past year, I appreciate the opportunity that exists.
  • I’m a retailer. At this point, I’m prepared to say; “Two out of three ain’t bad.” I don’t let the politics of retail cloud my admiration for the company’s products, though I really do wish a lot of things were different right now.

So congratulations to Mark Taylor and the rest of the gang at Tyndale.  I most sincerely wish you all God’s best in the years to come.

The picture above is from a photo history of the company.  Click this link and then click the small boxes under the timeline.  See also the company’s 50th Anniversary press release.

Not All ITPEs For Sale in Canada

Actually, the headline/picture combination is somewhat misleading.   The particular paperback edition — pictured at right — of Philip Yancey’s What Good Is God is rather a representation of the sale of foreign rights more than an ITPE (International Trade Paper Edition) produced by the North American publisher.    Hachette sold the rights in this case to Hodder & Stoughton.

But it’s a good time to ask how long, in a tough economy, the North American Christian publishing industry can continue to support the practice of first editions in hardcover.   With authors like Yancey, David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll switching in 2010 to Hachette, where first edition hardcovers are de rigeur, the prospect of affordable Christian books just got far worse for both American and Canadian customers, since Hachette won’t do ITPEs for Canada.

(And I know this after spending the equivalent of several hours in 2008 consulting with one of the Hachette Book Group VPs in New York concerning the vast potential of increasing Joyce Meyer’s sales in Canada should they switch the paradigm; consulting for which I agreed to be paid in product — plus a few advance reader copies — neither of which was never shipped.)

But Christian publishers are not exempt from extreme profit taking.   I have taken much abuse both on and off my personal blog, Thinking Out Loud, for suggesting something is seriously wrong when a book designed to help people out of financial catastrophe — Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover — persists year after year in hardcover at $24.99 U.S.  You want to help those people out Dave?   Tell your literary agent hounds to back off.

Beth Moore — the Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer — is equally locked in hardcover.    Because her customers and bookstores already pay through the nose for her Lifeway product, they figure her clientele have no bargain sense.   (Perhaps they should get Ramsay’s book!)   But I’ve already dealt with the issue of Moore and Meyer in this post.

On the other hand, Ramsay’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, is usually fairly consistent at doing trade paperback conversions after the first edition has celebrated its first anniversary in hardback.

As long as U.S. publishers are convinced that Christian consumers will shell out the bucks, they’ll keep churning out the clothbound editions.   Of course, this also allows them to cut massive deals with Amazon, thereby continuing to erode the sales base which built their respective customers.

But someday, when the present book-selling model breaks down, publishers will start asking some hard questions that they will then wished they were asking now.

To My Suppliers: 364 Days’ Notice

Thanks for all the little incentive items, guys; but if you want to really hit a home run next Christmas, here’s the thing that will do it:   Every supplier who does electronic invoices, credit notes and statements should send each participating account a gift card valid for a black ink toner cartridge at Staples or Office Max.   Seriously.   Or at least a package of copy paper.

Forum: Non Supportive Churches

November 8, 2010 3 comments

I just spent most of the morning running the numbers, and have now come to realize that the fate of my store over the next six months rests entirely with one very large Evangelical church that orders everything through U.S. online sellers.   I’ve known this, more or less, for several years; but I’ve been reluctant to spell it out because I know most people don’t understand the dynamics of running a specialty-retail store in a small market, and will accuse me of over-reacting.

I know some of you will argue that it’s foolish to lay blame at the doorstep of one particular church, but in fact, the numbers support the notion that if this church were to give us back the business they took away from us three years ago, we would be in an entirely different situation today.

It’s just enough to tip the scales.    Like the state of Florida in a presidential election several years ago, the mathematics ends up with this church holding the deciding vote.

A kind of variation on noblesse oblige.

So I wrote them and told them that I’m willing to match each and every online price they are being offered.   I won’t make much money; but if I can win back the relationship, I’ve won half the battle.   I’m even prepared to lose money on a few transactions.

But it’s a gamble, because I don’t think they’re prepared to even give that.

And so the fate of a store which services hosts of people from other churches — not to mention the unchurched — hangs in the balance of what happens in one very large church.

Phil Vischer, Vegetable Animator, Nails It

October 29, 2010 1 comment

I write this blog daily with the assumption that many readers are also trade people who subscribe to the Monday and Thursday updates from Christian Retailing magazine.   So I try to avoid redundancy with what they cover.

But this one is too good for anyone to miss.    Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, tells it like it is.   Times are tough right now, but maybe, ultimately, in the greater scheme of things, that’s better.

Do not miss this.   You’ll need 24 minutes and turn your speakers up loud.   And thanks, CR for posting this.

“The party that was the CBA in the 1990s may have ended, but our call to ministry has not. The world’s need for the gospel has not… Welcome to the new CBA.   We travel light…   We’d rather see the Holy Spirit moving with us than Wall Street.”

To hear Phil’s St. Louis ICRS address, Click here.

Major Criteria in Choosing A Supplier

October 18, 2010 2 comments

I think we should all reconsider our priorities when deciding where to do our wholesale shopping.  Normally, we ask questions like:

  • What is the breadth of products available?
  • What are the terms?
  • What are the shipping arrangements?
  • What is the turnaround time?
  • What about returns?

But I think we’re all missing an important one:

  • Do they have good people?

In other words, are their staff intelligent, insightful people?  Are they compassionate and understanding?

Often times the answer is “no,”  although it often takes many months to find this out.   Many of our suppliers simply did not do well in the hiring process.  Many others don’t offer ongoing training.

…I believe in our industry we’re dealing with a number of “bests”

  • We have the greatest products by the finest authors and artists
  • We have great staff at the retail level in many of our stores
  • Our customers — a lot of them good ‘church people’ — represent the nicest people in our communities

No, the weak link(s) in our industry is (and has always been) in the supply chain.

Suppliers and Distributors:  Don’t rush to fill that vacancy.   By waiting an extra week you might find yourself the ideal candidate who isn’t even on your radar right now.   Don’t settle for anything but the best.

Lifeway Continues to Walk Tightrope Between Principle and Profit

October 13, 2010 3 comments

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Only in the case of Lifeway Christian Resources, it goes:  Love the profit to be made from the sale of each book, hate the theology.

This time around, Christian musician Shaun Groves has brought the issue of Lifeway’s “warning” notices back to the surface.    In a must-read piece, he begins with the story of trying to purchase Donald Miller’s latest at Lifeway, seeing the consumer advisory notice, and electing instead to purchase the book across the road at Barnes and Noble.

LifeWay warns Miller’s readers to exercise discernment because it believes his books to be inconsistent with historical evangelical theology in some way, yet instead of refusing to sell them, LifeWay chooses to profit from what it alleges to be heresy(ish). That seems a bit like Nancy Regan going into the crack business. “Just say ‘No.’ First one’s free.”

But more odd is how LifeWay is defining “historically evangelical theology.” Actually, I’m not sure how they’re defining it.

What definition both condemns Donald Miller as a heretic but approves the writings of Joyce Meyer and John Hagee?

Yes!   Finally!   Someone is saying what needs to be said here.   Groves goes on to ask,

Is “historical” Christianity the stuff that happened after Constantine…or after Calvin…or is it after D.L Moody?

And what historical evangelical theology is communicated by paintings of cottages printed on mousepads, and t-shirts that print scripture pulled from context across an American flag, or keychains or romance novels minus the sex?

Again, you’re encouraged to read both the boldness of Groves’ analysis and also the humility of his conclusions, by clicking here.

Where does this leave the rest of us?

My take on this is that ultimately, we in retail either trust our publishers or we don’t.   If the name Baker, or Nelson, or Zondervan, or Harvest House appears on the spine and the title page, you need to trust that both their acquisitions department and their editorial staff believe the product is worthy of their endorsement.

But if you can’t trust those publishers, then don’t carry any of the products.   That’s right.   Don’t carry any of them.   Not one.   In fact, better to just limit yourselves to just the products in your own publishing family:  Broadman, Holman, Lifeway… and nothing else.

Though I’m not sure about the last one.    As a conservative Evangelical, the prospect of Beth Moore teaching the Bible — i.e. to a mixed audience — may be a bit un-Biblical.   Maybe they could start by reconsidering their own products.

Or consider the other possibility.

The publishers themselves tell Lifeway, “Hey, you don’t trust us, fine your account is closed.”   Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that would never happen for a dozen reasons, but mostly because it’s way too radical. To which I respond: Is it any more radical than sticking disclaimers all over your product?

Related post 8.23.08 at Thinking Out Loud

STL Provides Exclusive Distribution on 150+ Imprints

This week I had a second meeting with Terry Draughon, Vice President of Christian Market Sales for STL Distribution, who was doing a sweep of Canadian stores in my area.    He said that Canadians have responded well to the service the company offers and the numbers of us using the company is growing.   Ironically, he also said that parent company Biblica is looking to sell STL because it is the only division of their larger portfolio which, with the closure of the UK division, is not international.    Maybe they should take another look at their Canadian sales!

What I gained from this particular meeting concerned their publisher services department; companies for whom STL provides exclusive order fulfillment.   In other words, these are publishers — some small, some medium-sized — who choose not to do their own warehousing, and STL handles credit, shipping and returns.

Counting the names on the list he gave me, that group of publisheres is now over 150 imprints, representing over 130 different companies.

U.S. accounts receive a 45% discount on most publisher services items with international accounts receiving an additional discount.   Furthermore, the company tracks all the bestsellers among the publisher services sector of the company on a separate online chart, which is frequently updated.

My prediction:  Some time in the next twelve months a larger or more recognized publisher or two will decide that this is the way to go; in order to streamline costs and focus on product development and marketing.

To All The Blog Book Reviewers

This is an open letter to all of you who do book reviews for Tyndale, Waterbrook, Nelson, Bethany/Baker, Cook, etc.    Including myself.    (If Zondervan has a program, I’d really like to be part of it.)

You’re doing a fabulous job.   Your reviews on your blogs are accomplishing what they are expected to do:  Create awareness of new titles among a demographic that reads social media and may not catch publicity on any other promotion avenue.

You’re also doing something else:  You are reminding people of the power of books.   You’re forcing them to confront their own dearth of reading.   You’re causing a few to venture back into the bookstores.   (I know this because years ago, bloggers did that for me; they inspired me to read more, for which I am grateful.)

You’re also accomplishing something else:  You’re growing as a person with each book you review.   It colors your thinking and gives you additional perspective.   And who knows… chances are a few weeks after the formal review, you might just find yourself quoting the author once again, or comparing similar titles down the road.

But lets not let our heads swell too much, okay?

I’ve been at the this “recommending books” game longer than most of you; only I did it for years in the pre-internet environment that was the local Christian bookstore.   (Remember those?)

And guess what?

Your recommendations don’t make very much difference in the larger scheme of things.    What your readers are actually going to purchase (or, in the case of e-books, download) is determined by these factors:

  • What their pastor suggests they purchase — this is a huge factor
  • What their denomination sanctions — publisher imprints matter
  • What the televangelist or TV preacher is promoting
  • What is mentioned or quoted in other books they are already reading

I know this because after years in a retail environment — you don’t want to know how many — of recommending titles and then being met with indifference or blank stares, I have learned that in the broader scheme of things, I am a nobody in terms of influence.

Oh yes, there are some successes.   Some people will catch the passion I have for a title and make the leap from curiosity to credit card.   But I am not match for the four forces listed above.

My advice?

Keep reading.   Keep blogging.   Keep recommending.   As with the offer of salvation itself, you are responsible for putting the message out there.   Don’t lose the passion.  Don’t be concerned about the results.

But don’t sign up to be a referrer or affiliate of any big online book vendors, either.

The rewards of reviewing books online lie elsewhere.