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Women’s Night Brings in $5,000 in 2½ Hours

by Marja Fledderus,
Manager, Family Christian Bookstore, Burlington

We had a fun time recently hosting a Ladies’ Night at Family Christian Bookstore. We have been looking for ways to boost business and to continue to build great relationships with our customers. We thought a ladies’ night in early November would be a simple and effective idea. Our initial approach was to decide on a date, decide on what we wanted to do, and then to advertise. We picked early November: after Remembrance Day, but before the Christmas rush. We decided that quality refreshments were a must. We invited a live musician (one of our customers). And then we focused on promotion. We advertised in the following ways:

  • We created an image (see below) that would be design for the entire advertising campaign.
  • We used this image in the following ways:
    • a bag stuffer at cash: just a business card sized card to pop into each bag – focused mainly on female shoppers.
    • a Facebook “event” notification, which we boosted locally for a total cost of $17.95.
    • as part of our twice monthly emails that we send to our customers on our mailing list – we included it in 3 separate emails.
    • printed into poster sized images which we hung in our store in key places

I feel the best promotion we did, though, was training staff to “talk it up.” Giving staff phrases to use, and conveying the overall excitement to them creates a buzz that pays off in huge ways. They are at the front lines, after all, talking to customers daily. The spiel we gave staff went something like:

“We are having an exclusive after hours shopping evening for Ladies coming up. We’re going to have live music, refreshments, and great deals – plus it’s going to be such a fun atmosphere! Bring friends or whoever you like – ladies only. No guys and no kids!”

Words like “exclusive” and “after hours” sound corny and overused, but the really do work in creating excitement and a sense of being valued. We used the same words in our Facebook event, in our emails, and on our signs so that the message was loud and clear: exclusive, women only, after hours, fun.

Our results for the evening: 75 women signed up, 150 women attended, we did just over $5000,00 of sales in 2.5 hours. We also had a great time: the atmosphere was warm and friendly, the refreshments were delicious, our live musician was acoustic and added wonderful ambiance. It was a fantastic night, and a great start to our season.


This is a trade blog for retail industry owners, managers and associates. However, if a search engine brought you here because you’re looking for a Christian bookstore, the store is located at 750 Guelph Line in Burlington:

Website:  familychristian.ca

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A Book for Christians in the Margins

I promised we would return to take another look at this book. Official street date is tomorrow. I’m guessing about 50% (or more) of your customers sometimes feel like they just don’t fit in at church. For whatever reason.

Show them this book! (I had a lot of fun doing this review!)


I could probably give you a number of reasons why Brant Hansen shouldn’t have a book with W Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, let alone two books.1 He’s not a pastor. Not a professor. Not someone who’s made it in the field of sports or business or entertainment and coincidentally happens to be a Christian.

He’s a radio announcer.

That’s it. But Blessed are the Misfits, his second major book release confirms what listeners to The Brant Hansen Show2 and The Brant and Sherri Oddcast podcast3 have known all along: There’s a heck a lot of us out there who feel we just don’t fit in.

The subtitle of the book — which appears above the title, meaning it’s actually a surtitle4 — is Great News for Believers Who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something.5 Insert deep breath here.

Brant not only sees himself as a misfit, but he’s even been diagnosed with a few things just to make it official. The radio show and podcast contain frequent announcements to new listeners that the show may take some time to figure out.6

Brant’s life story would make a book like this interesting enough; but the fact he also does the requisite research, includes Bible quotations and writes well simply adds to the appeal.

I see myself and others I know quite well in the pages of this book. People

• who are introverts
• who deal with social anxiety; mental health issues
• who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar)
• who feel they are failures
• who are lonely
• whose personality type is melancholy
• who feel they are just different; they don’t see the world like everyone else does

As I wrapped up the final pages of the book, I thought of a song recorded eons ago by The Altar Boys, a Christian band.

To all the hearts who have been broken;
To all the dreamers with abandoned dreams;
To everyone in need of a friend;
You are loved, You are loved.
To all the rebels wounded in battle;
To all the rockers that have lost that beat;
To all the users all used up now;
You are loved, You are loved.7

Henri Nouwen has called the capital-C Church “the community of the broken.”8 When you think of the misfits at your local church, take some time to also look in the mirror. I see myself repeatedly in these pages.9

Have you ever been to a concert only to find out that the performer is also an official representative of Compassion, Inc., or some other similar charity and you feel like you’ve been ambushed somehow?10 Brant is actually a spokesperson for CURE International; which means there are frequent references to CURE hospitals doing amazing things for kids whose situations looked hopeless.

Personally, I like my books to be books and my charity appeals to be charity appeals; but trust me, you wouldn’t want this book without the CURE stories.11 They are a part of who Brant is, and therefore they deserve the space they get to act as mind-stretching illustrations of the points made in various chapters.

The solution to feeling excluded? This is important because Brant is not speaking to solutions here so much as he’s saying to his fellow-misfits, “You’re not alone.” His personal revelations of classic awkwardness aren’t enumerated here as self-deprecation, but rather I see Brant in the pages of this book as a positive role model for people who feel they just don’t fit. There is very wide swath of people covered in this book. He comes alongside people who are hurting.

That we are also Christians makes the struggle all the more complex in one way, but our identification with Jesus also means that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.”12

We need to remember that Jesus was a misfit, too.


1 Click here for my review of Unoffendable, click here for a sample segment.
2 Link to Brant’s website. The show may have a different music mix in different markets.
3 Specific link to the podcast. Warning: Sherri’s laughter is infectious.
4 This is the type of distraction Brant lives for.
5 Spellcheck wants to change Strugglers to Stragglers which might work as well.
6 As true as this is, the part about “listener uniforms” should be taken with a grain of salt.
7 Listen to the song at this link.
8 I can’t prove this is an actual quotation, but Nouwen did say that we are all “wounded healers.”
9 The title of this review, We Have Met the Misfits and They is Us is a reference to the Pogo comic strip.
10 Like that time you’re friend invited you over for the evening, and it was actually an Amway meeting.
11 Learn more at cure.org
12 Hebrews 4:15 NIV
13 There is no corresponding sentence to this footnote. Brant actually only uses one footnote in the book and then in typical ADD fashion, abandons the form.

Thanks to Kimberley at HarperCollins Christian Publishing for an advance copy of Brant Hansen’s book.


Review bonus: The Misfits Tour! (They should pay us for including this.)

Date City Info
11/27/17 West Palm Beach, FL Journey Church
11/28/17 Vero Beach, FL Christian FM
12/2/17 Hagerstown, MD Word FM
1/4/18 Lynchburg, VA The Journey
1/5/18 Louisville, KY WAY FM
1/6/18 Cincinnati, OH Star 93.3
1/11/18 Hazel Green, AL WAY FM
1/12/18 Tallahassee, FL WAY FM
1/13/18 Panama City, FL WAY FM
1/18/18 Indianapolis, IN Shine FM
1/19/18 Chicago, IL Shine FM
1/20/18 Ft. Wayne, IN Star
1/25/18 Riverside, CA KSGN
1/26/18 Bakersfield, CA KDUV
1/27/18 Visalia, CA KDUV

By the way, does anyone else think it strange that an introvert wants to go on tour where everybody will be looking at him?

Taking the Show on the Road

You’ve bought the right merchandise. You’ve created eye-pleasing displays. The staff have had a product knowledge refresher. You’re offering some great loss leaders. You’ve done the requisite catalogues, newsletters and social media.

Now if only you could get some people in the store.

Today we feature two stores which are living out that great Biblical truth, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” On second thought, maybe that’s not in the Bible. But you’ll recognize the concept; this the “book table” idea on steroids!

Longtime Oakville Christian bookstore, Good Books is setting up shop in Orangeville,  Saturday December 2 to Sunday December 10 at The Centre Fellowship Church. As the map at right indicates, this is hardly a convenience for some local churches, but rather represents reaching out into a more distant market, the distance representing at least a one hour drive.

Meanwhile, Christian Books and Music in Victoria, BC is starting a six-day, four-location tour that would leave some musicians envious. The map below shows the relative distance of the four towns (we had to add one which doesn’t show on the basic Google map) and this should start to give you some insight into the costs involved in putting the merchandise and staff on the road. The schedule is printed below.

A tour of this nature must begin with establishing contacts in each location, many of which are probably existing customers of your store when they visit your community.

Next, you need to consider potential locations, which probably involves visiting in person.

Finally, you need to determine if the proposal is cost-effective (or if you’re willing to do it even if it isn’t!)

Key to balancing this type of tour is knowing how much merchandise to take with you and how much to leave at the store for your regular shoppers. This is both an art and a science!

…We’re in this business because we believe Christian products can change lives. This type of tour represents the highest level of missions outreach in some cities and towns which are probably most appreciative.


Thanks to Tim for a great story lead today.

 

Church: Misfits Welcome!

Brant Hansen’s second major book release is important enough I’m eventually going to devote another column to it here, but if you’re a retailer who hasn’t ordered it, I’d encourage you to have this one ready-to-ship to your store for the November 28th release. The full title is Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They’re Missing Something (Thomas Nelson paperback, 9780718096311).

The target market for this is people

  • who are introverts
  • who deal with social anxiety; mental health issues
  • who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar)
  • who feel they are just different; they don’t see the world like everyone else does

and the people who love them because they’re a family member, close friend, co-worker, fellow-student, etc. It will require you to do some promotion to help connect the book to its target audience.

I’m about 65% through the book and will post a full review here and at Thinking Out Loud when it’s closer to the release date.

Here are some resources to help you promote the book on Facebook and Instagram. These are sized 500px x 500px; ready to post for FB and ideal for Twitter.

 

Kitchener, Ontario Author/Illustrator Releases First Orthodox Graphic Novel

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

Here’s the publisher synopsis:

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

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

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

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


 

Both New and Existing Christian Retailers Filling the Family Christian Stores Void

Publisher’s Weekly has a great article profiling new stores which are opening in the wake of the Family Christian Stores closures; some in the very same locations.

Nearly eight months after Family Christian Stores—the largest Christian retail chain in the U.S.—began closing the first of its 240 outlets and going bankrupt, other booksellers have begun to fill in the gaps left by the retailer’s absence. With stores in 36 states across the U.S., Family Christian initiated its closures in February, and the last store closed in May…

Later in the article they also look at the impact on existing stores which weren’t part of the chain.

…In addition to making room for entrepreneurs to open new stores, FCS’s closure has affected existing bookstores as well. Lifeway Christian Stores expanded into four new locations that were previously occupied by Family Christian. The chain, which has over 170 locations, already overlapped with over 140 former FCS outlets, and it has no plans for expansion in other locations, a Lifeway spokesperson told PW.

Sue Smith, manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Mich. and president of the CBA (the Association for Christian Retail), said Baker’s sales increased 20% following the chain’s closing compared to the same time in 2016. Three FCS locations shuttered in Grand Rapids in April, followed by several more along the West Michigan Lakeshore. Baker, which is independently owned, was able to tap into FCS’s church customer base, and it now stocks products such as communion ware and curriculum…

click here to read the article in full with pictures of the new stores

Photo: Publisher’s Weekly on Twitter

Do Customers Help Choose Book Covers?

I haven’t received one lately, but a few times I’ve been sent a survey link to ‘help’ a publisher choose the best image for a forthcoming title. Art departments invest much time and energy in this process to ensure the highest possible response to physical product in stores and also online purchases.

The cynic in me however thinks this is just part of an overall marketing strategy to cause some potential readers who are on a select mailing list feel invested in the project and build traction.  If so, it’s a brilliant marketing move, and one others could consider. Perhaps the cover has already been chosen at this stage. Eventually, they chose something a little different, though the mountains and the automobile were seen in the choices above.


While we’re at it, here’s another example in our ongoing list of “Christian Title Shortage” images. The MacArthur book was released in 2012 by David C. Cook. I guess it wasn’t considered a potential source of title confusion. It’s a reminder to bookstore buyers to always read the listings carefully. This is why I like to see images before hastily copying an ISBN.

Hot Apple Cider Brand Expands With First Seasonal Title

October 2, 2017 1 comment

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

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

You’ll delight in stories about:

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

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

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

Canadian retailers: Order from Parasource Marketing and Distribution.

Time of Year Books

There are points on the calendar where the time is right to give someone a particular book. With the first month of school now history, many kids in Junior High and Middle School face various challenges and some are no doubt frustrated.

The book pictured on the left is new from Revell. But the market is limited to guys which represent 50% of all possible readers, but only about 25% of the kids who really read at that age. (Though in the case, need to know may spark greater interest.) It’s been packaged and branded similar to the author’s Manual to Manhood. If boys do struggle with reading, this book promises 100 topics in “bite size” portions.

The book on the right covers both male and female students, but was published by Concordia in 2010 in a genre where advice can become easily outdated after more than 5 years. However it’s shorter (128 pages and also lower priced) which should appeal to kids who are mostly non-readers. (I especially like its cover design, though many schools now use whiteboards.)

But both are timely and will resonate with students having a tough school year.

Review: God’s Crime Scene for Kids

If you think apologetics isn’t for kids, J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene would have you think differently. The former book was spun off into a kids edition and earlier in the year, some friends surprised me with the news that they were suspending their usual Sunday School curriculum for one quarter, and instead take the 13 weeks to look at Cold Case Christianity for Kids.

That was enough to make me take a second look when a package arrived containing a copy of God’s Crime Scene for Kids.

While the first book (in either the adult or children’s series) looks at the evidence for the resurrection, the second looks at creation, or the evidence for what some call intelligent design. Can my friends’ 9-12 year-olds absorb that?

With his trademark illustrations, J. Warner Wallace offers entirely new analogies to help kids see the trail of evidence leading to a creator. There are more pictures than the adult edition, but these images help bridge the distance between ostensibly difficult content and a child’s imagination. There is also a website with supporting videos for each chapter hosted by the author.

Let me suggest an analogy of my own. Parents often ask me about the difference between the NIV Bible and the NIrV Bible for children. I explain that for easy readability, the latter uses shorter sentences and a reduced vocabulary, but when it comes to people names, place names and the storyline itself, there are some things that can’t be dumbed down or tampered with.

Similarly, Wallace tosses out terms like causation and reasonable inference like they were after-school snacks, but only because he’s convinced that in the context of the book they’re holding in their hands kids can grasp these concepts. (A cat named Simba bears some of the responsibility for keeping the story accessible to young minds.) He gives kids credit for being able to understand more than we might estimate.

Which brings me to my conclusion: I think God’s Crime Scene for Kids isn’t just for kids. I think there are adults who struggle with the idea of understanding apologetics who would never read Wallace’s longer, adult book. Furthermore, I think there are people reading this who can think of one friend to whom they could say, “I got this book for your kids, but I want you to read it before you pass it on to them.”

I think the presence of a book like this could open a lot of doors to discussion that would cut across all age lines.


Related:


The full title is God’s Crime Scene: Investigate Creation with a Real Detective, David C. Cook, 2017; 144 pages, paperback.

A copy of the book was provided by David C. Cook in Colorado Springs, CO

Keeping Store Income Steady

In the past twelve months I’ve had the same conversation with people working for three different Christian charities. Basically it’s been, ‘While we appreciate one-time donors, we can only plan when people set up a plan for monthly giving. That we way we know ahead of time what’s coming in.’

In Christian retail we have no such advantage. While we’re for the most part not charities, we can often feel as though we are. Sales volume can swing wildly up and down. There are good days and bad. Yesterday was the latter in my store. $132 all day. Including taxes. Not enough to pay staff, rent and keep the lights on.

So what can we do?

  1. Keep store awareness high. We always talk about the ‘newsletter jinx’ — the days we do a mass email campaign are usually among our worst, but then days and weeks later people ask about an item they saw in our newsletter.
  2. Schedule frequent sales. You can overdo them, but sales do attract attention. At R. G. Mitchell, the thinking was that sales should start the day following a holiday (i.e. Thanksgiving.) This was a period they identified as a potential drop-off that needed to be offsetting promotion.
  3. Give people a reason to drop in. We just had a rare opportunity to be a ticket outlet for a concert. The response wasn’t huge, but it caused people to visit. A small group had a luncheon and then arranged for everyone to come to our store to pick up the study guide they’re using. All but one bought something additional. A local author decided not to do direct sales through his own network for health reasons, and told everyone the only way to pick up a copy was at our store. We promoted the special Canada edition of Our Daily Bread and told people they wouldn’t see it in most of their churches and encouraged them to pick up a free copy.
  4. Don’t fret daily numbers. You’re better off looking at weekly and monthly stats. You can’t let a few slow days induce panic.
  5. Change displays frequently. Your regular customers need to be confronted with things they haven’t seen before. That does not need to necessarily be new, it just needs to be different. Trading some merchandise between feature areas helps, or even taking two shelf sections and doing a simple left-to-right transfer will get peoples’ attention, costs nothing, and takes only about an hour.
  6. Minister to the needs people mention. Listen. Recommend resources. Refer to qualified counselors. Pray with people. With at least 20% of our clientele on any given day, I am the only ‘pastor’ they will speak with that month. If needs are being met, people will come back and/or tell their friends.
  7. Be honest with church staff. Let your colleagues in ministry know that you’d appreciate anything they can do to generate store visits or any ideas they have. Be candid with local church leaders about the struggles and challenges of doing Christian retail.

 

New Comfort Print Font Will Improve Readability

Like many other stores, I received this notification/reminder from HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada about the conversion taking place among all the Thinline Bibles in the NIV, KJV and NKJV product range issued by the publisher. Although the image below is not as sharp as I would have preferred, the difference in readability is unmistakable:

If there’s any takeaway from this it’s this: Font size doesn’t tell the whole story. Consider what you’re reading right now (if you’re not reading this on a mobile device). This is the typeface for this article. This is the same typeface in bold face. This is the same typeface enlarged one size.

The size differential certainly helps, but the change in the the thickness of the type is all that’s needed to bring much greater clarity. And doing that, instead of going to large print, will keep the Bible at a reasonable size in the customers’ hands.

A website, ComfortPrintBibles.com is under construction but will be finished by the end of October. The video below can be featured on your store website or Facebook page, or embedded in your next store newsletter.