Posts Tagged ‘Christian publishing’

Another Way to Present Historical Fiction

As a smaller store, we don’t get access to the promotional posters or window clings promoting new book titles. So we have to be creative when we receive publisher catalogues, particular the opening pages which devote a full 8 x 10 image to a single forthcoming title, which we post on the wall near our entrance.

The problem is print catalogues are disappearing. We only get them if we beg for them, and honestly, from a distributor perspective, perhaps we don’t buy enough to justify receiving them.

I was recently re-examining a Spring 2017 Baker Books catalogue (the last one we received) when I came across this page showing a rather unique way of introducing Historical Fiction which I wanted to share here in case you missed it too.

The timeline is brilliant and will really resonate with readers intimately familiar with this fiction genre.

Perhaps Baker has more of these we can post or link to in a future article. (I’d love this as an in-store poster!) Click the image below to see full size.




Student Editions Build on Familiar Titles

This week in our store we’re featuring books with “Student Edition” in the title. These are not all of them, just some that were grabbed to make a quick display.  Many of our authors create student editions of their books for middle school or high school kids to better understand the concept of their bestsellers.

I split the shelf for this to render better on Facebook; left to right:

  • Mark Batterson (he has 3 others, all done with his son Parker),
  • Haley DiMarco (actually all her books are student editions; I’m not sure how this ended up on the shelf!),
  • Kyle Idleman (4 titles available),
  • Joyce Meyer (Battlefield for Teens, book spine is facing out, I should have swapped it out with Haley for the picture we posted on our store Facebook; not surprising there’s also a kids edition of Battlefield),
  • Lee Strobel (a total of six titles available and those same six titles also have a kids edition),
  • Lysa TerKeurst, and
  • Scot McKnight.

Not showing are

  • Christine Caine,
  • Max Lucado (he’s done 14, not all are in print)
  • The Story Bible, and
  • 3 titles by Mark Hall of Casting Crowns.

Great summer reading idea for the teen guy or girl in your customer’s family of sphere of influence.

The advantage of student editions is that these are editions of books with which adult readers are already quite familiar. Out of all the Christian books published for young adults, I would guess these probably represent about 2%, 3% or perhaps 4% at most.

Did I miss any?


Author’s Personal Story Confronts Loss, Grief and Depression

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

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

Publisher Info:

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

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

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

This is her story…

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


Huntley Street: Share Your Playbook

As soon as the customer says, “They’re offering it on 100 Huntley Street, but I don’t want to send a donation just now,” I reply with, “Okay, but it will probably be on backorder for a couple of weeks.”

It just goes without saying that the both the demand Crossroads Christian Communications has for the book, and the wider demand that they have created by giving the book publicity have wiped stock out at distributors on both side of the border.

If the book in question is an International Trade Paper Edition (ITPE), then it means that there is really only one source for Canadian stores, and that’s the Canadian distributor.

So why can’t Huntley Street publicize their feature books ahead of time so bookstores can order? It would be nice to have a heads-up. Obviously, stores being unable to meet demand for the product works in their favour. “Oh, it’s going to be 3 weeks? Maybe I’ll send them a donation after all.” But the donation in the example above is $50, and the ITPE lists for only $17.49 in Canada.

But there’s no guarantee that the ministry organization actually has sufficient stock, either. One customer, who obviously avails herself of most of the book offers from Crossroads, said to me in all seriousness, “It’s taking a lot longer to get the books since Lorna took over.” I think she believed that CEO Lorna Dueck runs down the shipping department and packs books once the show is off-air.

Nonetheless, it does, at the very least, show that people are still reading and that people are still interested in books. Huntley Street gives its key broadcast offer titles very high exposure, including a daily teaching feature. Overall, with everything considered, the program is a Canadian Christian retailer’s best friend.

So why do the distributors themselves run out? I think they’re simply being cautious, thinking in terms of long-term sustainability of their companies. There’s no guarantee that a given title is going to perform well. It’s a gamble for them at wholesale just as it is for us in retail. I’m sure they could share examples of titles which simply didn’t perform all that well after a 100 Huntley appearance.

Ministry organizations buy books like this in what is called the premium market. There is the trade market and the remainder market, and this one is a bit of a hybrid. The premium books are sold much, much cheaper, but are usually new titles, just off the press. The authors accept greatly reduced royalties in exchange for the publicity and exposure that the ministry organization has to offer through its channels. Radio and TV are still the most popular customer-type of buyers for premium books, but there’s really nothing limiting the possibilities. Many author contracts also include reduced royalty provisions for bulk sales to organizations where promotion and publicity is not necessarily going to be a factor.

To repeat, 100 Huntley Street is a Canadian Christian retailer’s best friend. But the relationship works two different ways. For every book like the one pictured in the example above, there are program guests whose self-published books are either not available to trade stores, or are available with great difficulty. You have to live with the realities of both types of publicity. 

Finally, somewhere out there is someone who can access Crossroads’ upcoming guest list and see that this reaches retailers at least two weeks ahead so retailers who are keen to respond can order and receive product.


Zombies and Exodus and Mess! Oh My!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can zombies teach us about the gospel?

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

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

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





Customers Asking for Large Print Actually Need 5 Characteristics to Line Up

When it comes to typeface readability, this is my favorite Bible in our store and offers great value and a compact size. ***

She hated to admit it, but it was time to move up to a larger print Bible. She thought that meant simply getting a bigger font size, but the first few Bibles I showed weren’t working for her. The problem was, to have better readability there were five factors or characteristics of the Bible that needed to line up. Bigger font size can easily be defeated by not having the others in place.

There’s no industry standard for large print. Buying a Bible online becomes very difficult at this stage because descriptions might say, “Font size 9.5” but as you’ll see below that means almost nothing when other factors are introduced.

Be sure to share this article with your entire staff.

Font Size – For my money, “large” should be at least 10.0 and “giant” should be at least 12.0; 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.” Nonetheless, we keep a font size chart posted in our store at all times. 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 question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move to “Comfort Print.” * Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like 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.  I find with Comfort Print that some customers who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with large print. You can also explain this to customers in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – Wikipedia’s turn: “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. You should also introduce the issue of white space which is related. Always show a customer both the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified).

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.** This blog itself defaults most days to a greyer type than I would prefer. If you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop, look at the difference when, without shifting to bold face, we simply use black.

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, customers holding Bibles up to the light aren’t giving them a fair test. Your Bible area should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context the person would read them at home. It is possible the customer needs a better quality reading lamp.

*We looked at comfort print in detail in this September, 2017 article.

**Some customers have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. Be sure to ask about this and use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

***Click the image for this Bible and with the added background, it will render as 500px-width for a relatively blur-free application on your store’s Facebook page.

Let us know if you’d like to see a consumer version of this article (i.e. with references to “customers” removed) to use on your store website, blog or newsletter.

More Facebook Graphics You Can Use

These are all sized for Facebook (500px width) unless where indicated, and to repeat, I prefer to use graphics which contain the book cover image.

For this one we used a graphic created by the publisher, but wanted to include the book cover. So we changed it up a bit. Not great, but remember, the goal is to get these posted within 5 minutes so that social media isn’t consuming your entire day. Also, social media like Facebook and WordPress don’t reproduce high resolution images, so don’t overthink this. (And avoid backgrounds using a solid red colour; they don’t work well on those platforms.)

The font style at the top was intentional and appeared in a campaign that also included “Coming Soon.”

We really liked this because we got to add our own graphics. We chose “New from Beverly Lewis” at the top, and “Now available at [store name]” in the gutter at the bottom. This one is 750px, so you’ll need to resize, but it’s easier working with the larger image and then sizing it down to 500px.

Revell ran this as an advertisement in the current issue of Christian Retailing Magazine. We cropped out the copy at the bottom because it would have rendered very small. We decided to leave the dates in however, because that’s part of the story. If you run this today you can call it “49 days until The 49th Mystic” and offer pre-orders at a special price. (You’ll have to make this smaller again if you use it on Twitter so that there’s full impact without clicking through.)

This was done in a hurry, but I wanted to show at least 3 of the designs of Stoneware Coasters from Carson Home Accents (Anchor/Word Alive). You could also take a picture of the packaging as well.

We didn’t make this one; it was on someone’s blog and the artwork is rather crude, but we used it to serve as a talking point for the many faith-based films currently showing. Eventually, each of these will be a DVD for sale in your store, so promoting the movies showing this season never hurts. Maybe you can do better and send it to us to share!

Zondervan always has a number of these. If your author is a photographer, I suppose it’s an even better idea!

I had an interesting reason for including this Bethany House image. We haven’t actually ordered this book, and you can bet the book tour isn’t passing through Canada. However, knowing that I already have a graphic in my files will sometimes influence my decision to buy a copy or two. Backwards, I know!

Lastly, these don’t always have to be about frontlist titles. Zonderkidz ran this one rather recently, and the scripture citation adds ministry value to your store’s Facebook page.

…No time for all this? Then link to book reviews that don’t have referrals to the competition, or link to publisher marketing pages for titles you wish to promote.  

Even that’s too complicated? Simply take a picture of a staff member holding a book. 

Conversely, in a larger store environment, have a designated media person and challenge them with ideas like a weekly slide show of new products (like Family Christian in Burlington does) or have them set up a store blog with reviews and lists of new arrivals and then link to it on Facebook and in your newsletter (like House of James in Abbotsford does). 

Finally, don’t expect people to be attracted to your social media if it’s nothing but store advertising. Regularly include updates of Christian events happening in your area.




Canadian Christian Retailers Facebook Group Launches

In the wake of concerns over direct-to-consumer marketing by Parasource, Canadian Christian bookstore owners and managers can now continue the conversation at a new* Facebook group, Canadian Christian Retail Insights. Administrators for the page are Lynda Schoffro of The Gospel Lighthouse, Canada’s largest Christian retail chain, and Tim Underwood of Graf-Martin Communications, who is also a frequent contributor of story leads to us here at Christian Book Shop Talk.

Lynda writes,

We need to learn to carve out our niche in the industry by drawing customers into our brick and mortar stores. There are many things that the online shopping environment cannot provide and it is through this channel that we can grow stronger. In our industry, we have the advantage of having customers who are intentional and faithful to us. If we give them the experience they are wanting most of them are sure to choose the experience over the short term gain. One of the ways we can do this is by having well-trained staff who can engage and minister to our clients. Providing them with excellent and well thought selections when it comes to book titles, Bible selection, music, movies and more. I believe that we can be better at this by combining our efforts. Learning from each other and sharing in an open environment for all to learn from each others experience and knowledge.

To do this, we need a platform to communicate… I think that a Facebook group where only retailers are members would be a good way to communicate. I hope that you will feel free and confident enough to share your ideas with all of us.

There are many ways we can learn and grow, including:

  • Sharing book reviews (our favorites or new titles). We all love to read but it’s sometimes hard to find the time. A personal take of what the book means to someone can go a long way when recommending.
  • New product information
  • Display/ Creative in-store ideas
  • Product selection that sells well in our stores – we are all trying to find something new and great to offer our customers. It can be daunting when you start searching the internet for new ideas or walking the floor at the Gift shows. It would be great to offer ideas from experienced buyers.
  • Trade show information — maybe even having something of our own
  • Graf-Martin Communications will add new content to the page every week, including new book trailers, information about book launch teams, faith films coming to your area etc. This content (movie & book trailers) can also be shared on your store’s social media, making it easier for you to find content to share…

Lynda also outlined further the role Tim or Graf-Martin would play:

I’ve also been connecting with Ellen Graf-Martin and the Graf-Martin Communications team about how to better resource our frontline staff to be experts in our field. Her team has a genuine passion for Canadian Christian retail and a desire to keep us in the loop on new titles, faith/family-friendly films and other news pertaining to our customers with the goal being to educate and equip us. We’ve been talking about the best way to communicate this not only to our store, but to all Christian retailers across Canada – at no cost to us.

The Graf-Martin team has offered to send a newsletter once a month by email. The newsletter will contain key reviews from Canadian Christian bloggers, links to media interviews being done by authors, movie trailers, ARCs of new titles and opportunities for free movie tickets. They’ll also be sending content that we can share through our own store newsletters and social media pages.

Again, to join the group, visit Canadian Christian Retail Insights.

Unless something major is breaking, we’ll assume that readers here are also following content there. Christian Book Shop Talk will also continue to be a window into Canadian Christian Retail for our many industry insider friends and subscribers in the United States and abroad who follow this blog.

*The FB page was actually created a year ago, and already had 26 members before this week’s announcement or re-purposing. With this new membership appeal there are now already 45 members.

Report Card: A Self-Evaluation for Store Owners and Managers

In the course of any given week, we each wear many different hats. Here’s a look at some. This article is open if you think anything significant needs to be added. Please share this with your staff and people at other stores who might miss this. Send them this short-link:

A Self-Evaluation for Store Owners and Managers


Sales Assistance – Owners and managers can’t stay locked in back rooms. We need to be experiencing customer contact and also model for our employees how to serve and sell.

Customer Service – Problem solving responsibilities fall to us. We need to have fair policies in place, but also know our stores are supposed to be places of grace, so we know when to make exceptions.

Human Resources – More than just hiring and firing, it’s scheduling, setting wage rates and adjusting wage rates due to merit and in the interest of employee retention. In a Christian environment it can also mean caring for the spiritual nurture of staff in our care.

Buying – One of our most important functions. It may involve setting min/max levels for core stock, adding new releases, but also evaluating the sales performance of key departments and setting their overall inventory levels. Meeting with sales reps is time consuming but provides valuable input on new lines, and opportunity to send feedback with them to publishers.

Purchasing – This means overseeing all of the component supplies and services which keep the store running; from getting tissue for the restroom to choosing an electrician.

Physical Plant Maintenance – From sweeping to vacuuming to spreading salt on the sidewalk outside; you may not actually do this yourself, but you need to see that it gets done. Includes everything from safety checks of fixtures to setting heating and air conditioning levels to getting the garbage bins emptied. Also involves sensitivity to potential liability issues.

Merchandising – What’s the first thing people see when they walk in? Changing displays, end-caps and even shelving arrangements is necessary. One manual says the overall colour scheme should be changed every two years, though that’s rather daunting. Front-and-center displays should be changed every quarter, at the very least.

Marketing – This is basically anything that’s happening outside the store to draw people inside. Includes social media such as the store website, store Facebook, store Twitter, store blog and store email newsletters. Next is flyers; choosing them and doing the buying for them. Then there’s the often overlooked store window. (A drawback in our industry because books fade in sunlight; usually our windows contain giftware. Also, publishers no longer provide as many posters and window clings.) Finally there’s advertising in print and online newspapers and on Christian radio.

Outreach – This involves setting up book tables (or arranging stock consignments when it’s not practical to send staff) and also having a presence at community events. It can also include donating prizes for fundraisers, especially with churches and Christian organizations which do business with the store. If you have the gift of speaking, it might also involve speaking to a church group about your store or about recent books. (You might also want to visit some local churches on a Sunday morning periodically, or after each pastoral change.)

Financial – This involves working with the accountant or bookkeeper to monitor bank balances, oversee sales reports, make remittances to governments and suppliers and generally insure the store is hitting the numbers needed in order for the business not to be stressed financially. In periods of crisis, it may lead to some tough decisions as to who gets paid and who needs to wait.

Standards – Increasingly businesses are needing to devote some time and attention to WSIB and provincial standards, seeing that mandatory notices and policies are posted in staff rooms, that staff have completed basic safety training modules, etc. This also includes things like insuring exterior signage conforms to municipal standards, etc.

Product Knowledge – With an exhaustive list of things like this to do, when you do you get time to read? Ultimately, the stores that succeed are owned or managed by readers; people who love books and authors and want to share that passion with customers. If we lose that, we’ve lost a lot.

Christian Growth – More often than not, we can’t take our customers and staff past the level where we are ourselves. It’s therefore incumbent upon us to not let our own spiritual growth and formation get lost in the weeds of administrating and giving leadership to a small Christian organization. And prayer… lots of prayer.


Remembering James Sire

You never forget the books that marked your entry into this business, and for me, acting as Warehouse Manager for InterVarsity Press (IVP) in Canada, one of those books was The Universe Next Door by James Sire.

Sire was also a longtime (30 year) editorial director at IVP who introduced the world to authors such as Francis Schaeffer (How Shall We Then Live), Rebecca Manley Pippert (Out of the Saltshaker) Calvin Miller (The Singer) and Os Guinness (The Dust of Death). Dare I say it was a golden era for IVP? Sire is credited with raising the profile of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s (IVCF) publishing arm to the point it could attract top authors.

Sire died on Tuesday; he was 84. In addition to Universe, his own books with IVP included the classic Scripture Twisting (1980) to the more recent Apologetics Beyond Reason (2014).

There’s a full tribute to James Sire at the IVP website, as well as this article in Christianity Today.


Price Matching Amazon

Below is an amended version of some suggestions offered in a longer article at CBA Online. I didn’t want to steal the entire piece, so I encourage you to read it there, including the full introduction.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; right? Some of you are immediately thinking that if you start cutting prices you won’t survive. I would argue that if you don’t respond you won’t survive. We can’t pretend what we jokingly refer to in our store as “the A-word” doesn’t exist. Perhaps instead of worrying about our stores “showrooming” for them, we should see them as “creating awareness” of products for us.

Click the title below to read the article in its original form, with the full introduction.

How to Make Amazon Price-Matching Work for You


  • …Sue Smith, store manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and current CBA chair: Don’t send away empty-handed a customer who is standing right there. “I always say to my team that it’s not about the transaction in front of you,” she explains. “It’s about the next one, and the next one, creating an experience where you are inviting them to come back again.”
  • Erik Ernstrom, manager of business intelligence at Parable, agrees that trying to price match is vital, without giving away the farm. Plus, he notes, making a sale even at a discount provides the opportunity to sell something else such as a case and highlighters for a Bible purchase.
  • “Take a 50 cent hit and upsell,” agrees [Christian Supply’s Zach] Wallington. “That’s something Amazon won’t do.” It’s also part of the appeal of the Get It Local program to suppliers…
  • When it comes to showrooming—when in-store shoppers use their phones to price match online deals—Baker Book House’s staff is encouraged to engage shoppers who are on their phones by asking if they can help and telling them that the store can match anything they might find.
  • One independent retailer who found he couldn’t price match an online Bible deal “shifted gears and discussed Bible cases, tabs, and other stuff, which she did purchase from me,” he says…
  • “You have to play the game,” says Smith. “Call the publishers and see if you can get a discount.” Many times suppliers are willing to work with stores as much as they can because of the potential additional in-store sales.”
  • An additional card that indies can play against Amazon is the community buy-local one. If you have a good relationship with a local church, Ernstrom says, you might be able to point out that your store not only supports it by resourcing its members, but sometimes indirectly employing them and making it possible for them to tithe.
  • Good merchandising is another effective anti-Amazon strategy because it can counter the perception that the online retailer is cheaper on everything. Actually, it’s usually only the top 150 or so frontlist items, notes Wallington.
  • “You always have to have things on sale; if everything is full price you’ll never win,” says Ernstrom. “You have to have sales throughout the store—every section, every endcap. If they get the impression everything is full price, they’re going to think they can get it cheaper somewhere else.”

Read “To Price-Match Amazon or Not to Price-Match:” Part 1 in the December issue of Christian MARKET, and Part 2 in the January issue.

The one thing I would hasten to add to this is:

  • Amazon has no built-in spiritual discernment. There are no filters; no vetting of what might be included in their religious, inspirational or Christian categories. It would be relatively simple for a customer who is just browsing to end up with Mormon or New Age content. (We recently had a case where a book ended up in a church library for just that reason: No discernment.)

and also:

  • The Christian store offers the opportunity to physically examine the product before purchase.
  • Your store offers simple over-the-counter returns or exchanges in the case of duplicate gifts, product not desired, or factory defects in printing or CD/DVD manufacturing.
  • Christian store associates can offer better informed suggestions of other products the customer might appreciate; rather than the “other customers also bought” generated by an algorithm.
  • Conversely, as we get to know our customers well, we can warn customers off titles which are not as suitable to their doctrinal position as something else might be.
  • Whether it’s on sale, or even full price, we don’t change prices every hour. There is a measure of price stability in our stores.
  • We’re customers of the products we sell. We read the books, we listen to the music, we watch the movies. We’re better informed. Many of us have had our lives changed by Christian books and music.
  • You never know who’ll you meet at the Christian bookstore. It’s a social gathering place, not like the isolation of purchasing online.
  • We support local events by creating awareness; we hang posters for church events; we sell tickets for Christian concerts; we donate prizes for Christian fundraisers.
  • Our profits are poured back into Christian causes. Our employees give to their local church and provide volunteer help or lead small groups.
  • We support and display books by local and regional authors.
  • We have products that online vendors simply don’t carry.
  • We refer people in the broader community to local churches, and refer Christians for Christian counseling.

We have a lot to offer. I would suggest that owners and managers go through both lists above at your next staff huddle, so that everyone is on point and passionate about what we can offer. You may even wish to post this list; there’s a store website version of many of these points that some of you have used. I don’t know which store I ‘borrowed’ it from, but it’s on mine and I’ll post it here if enough people ask.

The graphic at the beginning of this article is part of an infographic that is available for free distribution from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. I’ll post the full infographic here tomorrow, but if you want to jump the gun, click this link.

Tim Challies’ 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Best Sellers

Oakville, Ontario blogger Tim Challies has a large following among those in the New Reformed movement. When I first saw this 12-minute video, posted mid-December, I found myself wanting to write a long explanation of how, as booksellers, we are conscious of the objections people have to certain types of writing and are processing our responses to some titles long before the wider Christian populace even know the books exist.

But while I wanted to address each of the five books covered here and why my own store does or does not carry them, I decided instead to simply present this without comment. Tim Challies is a fellow-Canadian and I suspect that many of us who are booksellers will agree with more of this than disagree. What matters is how each of us individually responds to titles containing things that are problematic while some of our best and most loyal customers are asking why the titles are not stocked, or not visible.

Also, although Tim is a Calvinist, I consider him a little more balanced than some; I think all he’s doing here is presenting what his particular audience wants to see.