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Posts Tagged ‘Christian publishing’

Stores Need Digital Marketing Materials

Today was a newsletter day. With Mail Chimp, I can watch as customers open the emails and click on things. They love publisher videos (book trailers) and they like it when we include bold, professional graphics promoting new books.

And we can’t get enough of them.

But I’ve said that before.

The latest trend, if you haven’t noticed, is that publishers, instead of producing Facebook-ready and Twitter-ready graphics with a cover of the book and a link to the author website have migrated toward quote cards. Haven’t heard of them? They’re basically quotes set against a photographic or textured image that are totally made for Instagram.

You can add images to Twitter.

You can add images to Facebook.

But Instagram exists solely for pictures.

It’s nice that at least they’re quotations from books — we are in the business of reading still, last time I checked — but Instagram, like spellcheck, auto-correct, Tumblr, 140-character limits, and the erosion of attention spans known as YouTube is simply another contributor to the whole loss of language we’re experiencing right now.

We’re moving from literacy to orality.

So many bloggers have just given up using their ten fingers on a keyboard and are simply making podcasts. Less work. Less attention to editing. Less quality, if you don’t mind me saying so.

We’re moving from words to pictures.

And the pictures are not worth 1,000 words, either.

Reading separates us from the animals. It’s what makes us distinct. And we’re losing it…

…Back to my original theme. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you also can’t envision it with nothing but a quote card. This is not a good move. The social media/IT/communications/publicity people have got Instagram on the brain and they’ve forgotten their true purpose: To show people books coming to market.

 

Christian Publishing Companies Took an Enormous Loss on Family Christian Closing

In a presumably recent article dated “June 10th, 2017” World Magazine recounts the end of the Family Christian Bookstores closing in this article:

The news earlier this year that Family Christian Stores would close its more than 240 retail shops startled many of its customers. But it didn’t surprise anyone familiar with the company’s recent history. Despite receiving forgiveness for more than $80 million in debt two years ago, the company still couldn’t pay all of its bills.

The article later goes on to say:

Family Christian lost about $16.6 million over about 17 months during the bankruptcy, according to court documents.

That’s a million per month. The story continues:

In February Family Christian representatives called both Baker and Tyndale publishing groups. Lewis said they asked Baker Publishing for more time to pay invoices and for a 15 percent price discount, and Baker said yes.

But others, including Tyndale, had gone as far as they could to help the struggling retailer. “They asked us for humongous increases in the discount at which we were selling to them, and we just said, no, we’ve already given you our best deal,” Tyndale CEO Mark Taylor said…

…“This is the second time in three years that we’ve taken a big hit in bad debts because of Family,” Taylor said. (He declined to name the dollar amount of Tyndale’s loss.) Lewis said Baker Publishing expected to lose between $350,000 and $400,000.

Basically, Christian publishers bailed out Family not once, but twice.

Furthermore, the article doesn’t mention that many of those same publishers — in 2016, the year in-between the two crises at Family — took similar losses on the closing of Send the Light Distribution. Nor does it mention the many write-offs which a part of everyday commerce in dealing with individual bookstores that have closed in the Amazon era.

In this writer’s opinion, those losses might be represented by authors who were never signed, books that were never fully marketed, and development of new projects that were possibly curtailed. It’s entirely possible that publishing company staff were let go in belt-tightening at these various companies.

It’s a big loss for us all.

Mainstream Bookstore Notes “Thousandfold” Increase in Bible Sales Over 15 Years

The Saturday print edition of The Toronto Star profiled Squibb’s Stationers in Weston Village noting “it’s Toronto’s self-proclaimed oldest bookstore.” The article by reporter Jackie Hong coincided with the stores 90th anniversary.

Toward the end of the article…

Besides building friendships with customers, [co-owner Suri] Weinberg-Linsky said she’s been able to see trends come and go over the years, many of them unexpected — fountain pens have become a hot commodity again, no one buys ledgers anymore and Harry Potter’s popularity still shows no signs of slowing down — but the most perplexing relates to the explosion of sales for one book in particular.

“In the last 15 or so years, Bible sales have increased probably a thousandfold,” Weinberg-Linsky said. “We don’t go one day without selling at least one Bible . . . Honestly, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you why.”

From our perspective this is interesting on several fronts. First it confirms our observation, supported by anecdotal evidence, that stores like Chapters in Canada and Barnes and Noble in the U.S. are increasingly becoming the default Christian bookstores, especially as such stores close in many markets. B&N has always had a good handle on what “Religion – Christianity” books to stock, but Chapters was always hit-and-miss until about two years ago when their core inventory in this category seemed to undergo positive transformation.

Second however, it raises concerns that, much like shopping online, the customer is not afforded the benefit of experienced sales help in what is a very personal purchase. Most mainstream store associates can’t articulate the nuances of differences between the NLT, ESV or CEB translations, let alone describe the features in various devotional or study editions. Of course this places the onus on us to make sure that even casual part-time staff are well trained in this area. I’m happy that Squibb’s is seeing these sales, but I hope that each Bible is a ‘good fit’ for the intended recipient. Christian bookstores also need to encourage first-time Bible buyers to get in touch by email if there’s anything about their Bible they’re not understanding, and also see if they are connected to a local church or home fellowship.

Finally, on a more positive note, the experience of Squibb’s in Toronto shows that the Bible is very much in demand. In my own small-town store, we easily have about 800 units of Bible product representing at least 550 SKUs. It would be really tempting — especially with shelf space at a premium — to sit back and rest on our existing inventory, but we are always topping up products which make connections with customers. Currently, that includes the value lines of NLT, NIV and Message Bibles and just about anything that’s giant print.

Top Ten Books – Part Seven – Thomas Nelson

Let us know if there’s a publisher you’d really like to see here.

Thomas Nelson Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 5/1/17 *

  1. Jesus Always – Sarah Young
  2. Magnolia Story – Chip Gaines
  3. Is This the End? – David Jeremiah
  4. When God Doesn’t Fix It – Laura Story
  5. Jesus Calling – Sarah Young **
  6. I, Isaac Take Thee, Rebekah – Ravi Zacharias
  7. With – Skye Jethani
  8. How’s Your Soul? – Judah Smith
  9. Uninvited – Lysa TerKeurst
  10. Twelve Extraordinary Women – John MacArthur

When you flip the list over to Ingram demand instead, you get:

  1. Jesus Always – Sarah Young
  2. Magnolia Story – Chip Gaines
  3. Attitude 101 – John Maxwell
  4. Don’t Settle For Safe – Sarah Jakes Roberts
  5. 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story – Ed Henry

*Regular price trade books. Some titles are hardcover in the U.S. but available in ITPE in Canada. Because of the rolling data system Ingram uses, I’m not sure if accessing the data following a weekend may have skewed results. We can check again on Tuesday.
**We didn’t list the various editions of this book that followed from that point.

Thomas Nelson Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 5/1/17 *

  1. Jesus Calling – Sarah Young (53%)
  2. Uninvited – Lysa TerKeurst
  3. Jesus Always – Sarah Young
  4. Is This The End? – David Jeremiah
  5. You’ll Think of Me – Robin Lee Hatcher
  6. This Life I Live – Rory Feek
  7. Let the Journey Begin – Max Lucado
  8. Magnolia Story – Chip Gaines
  9. Strong’s Concordance Large Print Edition
  10. The Gospel According to Paul – John MacArthur
  11. Jesus Among Other Gods – Ravi Zacharias

*Excluding discount product, study guides, mass markets, audio products and Bibles.  For CBD we had to change the threshold to 50% to make the list make sense. Even then, we were making an exception for #1, which really did belong at the top of the list. So eleven titles are listed.

Hendrickson Publishing Acquisition of Rose Publishing

The press release cited below is actually dated February 17th, but the thing I find interesting about this story is that Rose/Legacy Publishing is located in Carson, California, which if I remember correctly is on the border between Los Angeles County and Orange County, and Hendrickson is at the opposite end of the country in the Greater Boston Area.  Will Rose eventually be relocated to the east coast? Guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

I like both companies. Even in a small(er) store like ours, the re-order rate on the Legacy kids devotionals, the Rose pamphlets and the June Hunt booklet series is high. And Hendrickson always offers good value titles.

Gretchen Goldsmith, President and CEO of Rose Publishing, announced that she has sold her ownership of the company to Hendrickson Publishers. Effective immediately, this significant and exciting change allows Hendrickson Publishers to play a role in shepherding the continued legacy of Rose Publishing forward into the future.

Goldsmith and John Ribeiro, Executive Vice President and CFO of Rose Publishing, will continue to be involved with the company in various capacities, and look forward to working with the team at Hendrickson Publishers to ensure their products continue to thrive. Goldsmith chose Hendrickson Publishers due to their commitment to the message of the Gospel, their integrity as a publisher, their promotion of basic easy-to-understand Christian material, and their love for Rose Publishing’s products.

“Rose Publishing and Hendrickson Publishers are complementary organizations with similar goals and values,” says Goldsmith. “I anticipate this relationship will strengthen the mission of each as we move forward with shared vision for the future.”

“She is a true visionary,” says Ray Hendrickson, President and CEO of Hendrickson Publishers, of Goldsmith. “Her cumulative wisdom and understanding of the Christian publishing market will serve us well as we transition, and we look forward to learning much from her and the Rose Publishing team.”

The Rose Publishing name, brand, and mission will continue under the leadership and vision of Paul Hendrickson, General Manager at Hendrickson Publishers. (This includes the two additional imprints Aspire Press and RoseKidz.) He does not anticipate that production of current Rose Publishing, Aspire Press, or RoseKidz products will slow down during this transition.

For those who don’t know, the Hendrickson family also has a little business on the side called Christian Book Distributors. If you’ve never heard of it, keep reading, because sometimes their advertising pops up on this free WordPress blog. (And on my store’s blog as well, which is a more serious issue!)

 

Top Ten Books – Part Six – NavPress

Though their sales and marketing is now merged with Tyndale, the publishing arm of The Navigators is still very much a distinct imprint.

NavPress Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/23/17 *

  1. Trusting God – Jerry Bridges
  2. A Compact Guide to the Christian Life – Karen Lee-Thorp
  3. Respectable Sins – Jerry Bridges
  4. Real Life Discipleship Training Manual
  5. Crushed: Why Guys Don’t Have to Make or Break You – Jessie Minassian
  6. When Man Began to Call on God – T.W. Hunt
  7. The Story of Me (book 1) – Stan Jones
  8. Before I Was Born (book 2) – Carolyn Nystrom
  9. Backwards Beauty – Jessie Minassian
  10. The Cry of the Soul – Dan Allender

*Doesn’t include a host of NavPress study guides and the many titles in the Becoming a Woman of… series by Cynthia Heald. We didn’t count pocket books, but #1 right now on this list was Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Missional People by Michael Frost.

We don’t usually do this in such detail, but if you flip the list over to Ingram demand instead, you get:

  1. Calm My Anxious Heart – Linda Dillow
  2. Growing Strong in God’s Family – Nav Staff
  3. Wounded Children, Healing Homes – Jayne Schooler
  4. The Discipline of Grace – Jerry Bridges
  5. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Home – Donald A. Whitney
  6. What’s the Big Deal (book 3) – Stan Jones
  7. Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning

…and so on! A very different list.

NavPress Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/23/17 *

  1. Trusting God w/ Study Guide – Jerry Bridges
  2. Calm My Anxious Heart – Linda Dillow
  3. Pursuit of Holiness w/ Study Guide – Jerry Bridges
  4. What’s the Big Deal (book 3) – Stan Jones
  5. A Praying Life – Paul Miller
  6. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (updated) – Donald A. Whitney
  7. How to Stay Christian in College – J. Budziszewski
  8. The Fruitful Life – Jerry Bridges
  9. Before I Was Born (book 2) – Carolyn Nystrom
  10. The Practice of Godliness – Jerry Bridges

*Excluding discount product, study guides, mass markets, audio products and Message Bibles.

We’ll do one more of these this week, probably Thomas Nelson. I don’t carry B&H or Crossway in my store as I consider them denominational publishers. Past that we’re getting into more obscure imprints.

Top Ten Books – Part Five – InterVarsity Press (IVP)

We continue our look at what’s happening in real time with various publishers. I wish we had the time to do this every quarter or even every month. It makes for interesting discovery. I’d also like to put together a list from the three major Canadian distributors (Parasource, HarperCollins and Foundation) of ITPE titles. Are my suppliers reading this?

Today a publisher I had the privilege of working for in (technically) two different cities: Toronto and Markham before their absorption into the R. G. Mitchell family.

IVP Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/20/17 *

  1. The Soul of Shame – Curt Thompson
  2. Sensible Shoes – Sharon Garlough Brown (fiction)
  3. Know Why You Believe – Paul Little
  4. Hearing God – Dallas Willard
  5. The Road Back to You – Cron & Stabille  (Enneagram)
  6. The Seven Deadly Virtues – Todd Outcalt
  7. The Gift of Being Yourself – David Benner
  8. Barefoot – Sharon Garlough Brown (fiction)
  9. Keeping Place – Michel Jen Pollock
  10. The Fight – John White

*Items #1 and #2 on the list were actually the little booklet My Heart Christ’s Home. (See note on the list below as well.) We don’t count pocket books but the mass market edition of Basic Christianity was #8.) There were not as many study guides showing on this list as we expected. So eliminating the aforementioned titles, #10 was actually #13; quite a difference from the list to follow.

If you switch the list from Spring Arbor Demand to Ingram Demand, #1 is Strengthening the Soul of Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, but the titles which follow are similar to what’s above.

IVP Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/20/17 *

  1. Knowing God – J. I. Packer *
  2. Too Busy Not to Pray – Bill Hybels
  3. Discipleship Essentials – Greg Ogden *
  4. The God Shaped Brain – Timothy Jennings (preorders)
  5. Impossible People – Os Guiness
  6. Sensible Shoes – Sharon Garlough Brown (fiction)
  7. The Road Back to You – Cron & Stabille  (Enneagram)
  8. Know What You Believe – Paul Little
  9. Barefoot – Sharon Garlough Brown (fiction)
  10. Hearing God – Dallas Willard
  11. Delighting in the Trinity – Michael Reeves (IVP Academic)
  12. The Good and Beautiful Community – James Bryan Smith *
  13. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook – Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

*Lots of explanations needed here. For IVP, we changed the discount threshold to 50% for various reasons. The exceptions are indicated by an asterisk, and we added 3 additional titles for the purists who wanted the usual 44% discount at CBD to apply. Missing also are a host of study guides. (You can ask for a recent rank order list of those from Parasource anytime or check your print IVP catalogue for the ranked list on the inside back cover.) For that reason, #13 here is actually #40 on the overall CBD list. Also, FYI, #1 on their list was the 5-pack of the My Heart Christ’s Home booklet, which should always be in stock at our stores.


For your personal devotions, check out IVP’s Hard Sayings of the Day page. 

For a window into a whole different world of InterVaristy Press check out what’s happening at IVP UK

For the top selling study guides at IVP, check out their Bible Study page  (their amazing LifeGuide Finder has mysteriously vanished off their website.)

Categories with Short Shelf Lives

Even in the Christian bookstore market, where our core message is unchanged in 2,000 years, certain book genres have a short shelf life, such as:

  • Family life books on coping with technology. I write this just as a new one is releasing. I know the author (Andy Crouch) and am looking forward to stocking it. But in this category, anything five years or older is probably out of touch with whatever is trending, though the principles may still apply. Good luck if the book references “your AOL account.” Most of these fall into the marriage or parenting sub-category.
  • Prophecy titles. I don’t read a lot of these, but I notice some of them turn up on remainder lists after only twelve months. I suppose you only have to get it wrong on a single page and then they stone you. Okay, we don’t actually stone writers, but having the print copies turn up at 99-cents on CBD is probably just as painful.
  • Personality-based books. Have you noticed all the Duck Dynasty product that’s reduced right now? Also many times that “rising” Hollywood celebrity or sports star fails to achieve the fame that publishers promised when pitching the books. Or the book has sales potential in the U.S. that never successfully makes the border crossing, except maybe in Emerson, Manitoba, which doesn’t have a lot of bookstores.)
  • Youth Ministry texts. Remember that game where you pass the Life Saver on a toothpick? Well, if you wanted grow your youth group, it probably worked in the 1950s (at least in the more progressive churches of that day) but today it might even have liability issues. Even a year later, these books only work when student pastors take the ideas and modify them.
  • Too good to be true trends. You didn’t think the adult coloring book thing would last forever, did you?

Did we miss any?

More to Cover Art than Just the Cover

One of the distinctives of the Christian book market is the ongoing strength of our backlist. I would venture that our per-capita rate of perennial titles is higher than any other book genre.

The downside of this — and I have been recently made aware how guilty I am of this — is that our vast libraries of books are often spine out rather than facings. (It was interesting to note last week that in the new Amazon retail stores, all books are face out, without exception.) The picture above, for something we did on Facebook called “Tozerama,” shows how many of our stores’ shelves appear, and how our customers have to turn their heads sideways to read titles.

So while we often “judge a book by its cover” and consider the sales potential of a title when the sales rep shows us the planned cover art, in many of our stores it’s the spine of the book that makes it stand out, especially months later when it has left the “New Releases” section.

So when Tim Underwood posted the link to this story on Twitter today, I knew it was worth sharing with readers here. Do you think that publishers in the Christian market consider how we shelve our books?

Click to read The Overlooked Art of Designing a Book Spine at medium.com.

 

HarperCollins Timeline Integrates Its Christian Publishing Divisions’ Histories

In 1817, James and John Harper open the modest printing establishment of J. & J. Harper, Printers, in New York City; which means this is an anniversary year. A BIG anniversary year!

To celebrate, the company has created a special website 200.hc.com which is divided into five sections. Of special interest to readers here is the Timeline page, which includes histories of divisions added through mergers and acquisitions, such as Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. As you’ll see however, Thomas Nelson goes back a long time too, with a history that’s not so shabby. And Zondervan isn’t exactly a new kid on the block.

Title page from the Collins King James Bible, circa 1839.

Top Ten Books – Part Four – Tyndale House

Are you enjoying this series? I hope so. Lists like this represent a very brief snapshot however. You always need to know the time frame by which the list is compiled. On Ingram’s Bestseller page, you’re seeing the one day before. It’s a great look at the Top 100 in real time. But on their Top Demand page, you’re seeing “a rolling 12-month period.” I suspect CBD’s listings are being constantly updated in real time.

Today’s publisher is the iconic, independent Tyndale House Publishers.

Tyndale House Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/11/17 *

  1. Without Warning – Joel Rosenberg **
  2. A Child’s First Bible – Kenneth Taylor
  3. Kingdom Woman – Tony Evans
  4. The Four Seasons of Marriage – Gary Chapman
  5. Heaven – Randy Alcorn
  6. A Tale of Three Kings – Gene Edwards
  7. Ready to Wed – Gary Smalley
  8. Jesus on Leadership – Gene Wilkes
  9. War Room – Chris Farby
  10. Land of Silence – Tessa Afshar

*Spring Arbor demand list; excluding study guides, mass markets and Bibles. On Ingram list, Tale of Three Kings was #1, followed by Without Warning, Child’s First Bible, The First Hostage (Rosenberg) and Kingdom Woman. Sometimes the lists are closely similar while other times they diverge greatly.

**Title is hardcover in the U.S.

Tyndale House Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/11/17 *

  1. Without Warning – Joel Rosenberg**
  2. Deep Extraction – DiAnn Mills
  3. Heaven – Randy Alcorn
  4. The Coming Apostasy – Mark Hitchcock + Jeff Kinley
  5. One Year Book of Devotions for Boys
  6. Life Recovery Workbook
  7. Maybe It’s You – Candace Calvert
  8. Bread of Angels – Tessa Afshar
  9. Sisters of Sugar Creek – Cathy Liggett
  10. Counter Culture – David Platt

*Excluding discount product, study guides, mass markets, audio products and Bibles. On a search for Tyndale Kids, the #1 title is One Year Book of Real Life Encounters With God (2003) followed by a number of OYB children’s titles.

**Title is hardcover in the U.S.

Top Ten Books – Part Three – Zondervan

We’re continuing to explore two different types of Top Ten lists. Our goal is to feature standard trade paperbacks and hardcovers. We probably wouldn’t be doing this series if publisher websites were more forthcoming about bestsellers and had a separate section for new releases. As it stands, they are mostly selling what’s new, which is why the CBD and Spring Arbor lists provide a healthy balance. In both of the first two lists below there are three (different) titles which I’ve never stocked.

Zondervan Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/9/17 *

  1. Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? – Rick Warren
  2. The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp *
  3. The 21 Day Financial Fast – Michelle Singletary
  4. The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
  5. Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family – Kara Powell
  6. Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know – Wayne Grudem
  7. Boundaries – Cloud and Townsend
  8. If I’m Found – Terri Blackstock
  9. Unglued – Lysa TerKeurst
  10. No More Faking Fine – Esther Fleece

*US edition is hardcover. List omitted Bibles, video, low price, and curriculum study guides. Item 10 here is actually #25 when all are included.

Zondervan Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/9/17 *

  1. Keep It Shut – Karen Ehman
  2. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi
  3. If I’m Found – Terri Blackstock
  4. No God But One – Nabeel Qureshi
  5. The Broken Way – Ann Voskamp *
  6. Upon a Spring Breeze – Kelly Irvin
  7. Who Made God? – Ravi Zacharias & Norman Geisler
  8. Listen, Love, Repeat – Karen Ehman
  9. Let’s Be Real – Natasha Bure (pre-orders)
  10. Made to Crave – Lisa TerKeurst

*US edition is hardcover. List omitted Bibles, video, low price point (Case for Christ mass market would have been #3) and curriculum items; as well as a very large number of items CBD currently has on sale at discounts higher than our cutoff which is 44%. (We consider many of their 45+% titles to be blowouts, and their $5 price point to be unfair competition.) Item 10 here is actually #63 on their full list, but their listings are skewed with so many specials.

Zonderkidz Top Five at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/9/17 *

  1. Beginner Bible
  2. Jesus Storybook Bible
  3. Case for Christ for Kids
  4. Tiny Bears Bible
  5. Little One, God Made You Special (board bk)

*Does not include low price items, Bibles, high discount items and a very large number of Beranstain Bears!

Zonderkidz Top Five at CBD – accessed 4/9/17 *

  1. Jesus Storybook Bible
  2. Found – Sally Lloyd Jones
  3. The Ultimate Boys Book of Devotions
  4. Jesus Storybook Bible (new padded cover deluxe edition)
  5. Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing – Sally Lloyd Jones

*Does not include low price items, Bibles, high discount items and a very large number of Berenstain Bears! Item 5 here is actually #45 on their list.

I wonder if anyone ever interviewed Jan and Mike Berenstain and asked, “So, how did the bear family get their name?”