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Posts Tagged ‘Christian publishing’

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.

 

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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.

Book Trailer Makes Me Want to Read This

I would (and will) stock this title based on the creativity and clarity of the book trailer. Take 3 minutes to watch this. Well done, IVP!

Krish Kandiah, PhD is the founder and director of Home for Good, a UK charity finding homes for foster children and young refugees. An international speaker, he teaches regularly at Regent College and Portland Seminary and is the author of several books.

Kandish encourages believers to allow their questions about faith to draw them closer to God. He also includes personal stories of his own faith journey, making God Is Stranger relatable and accessible for any reader grappling with questions about God and the Bible.   – Publisher marketing

352 pages, paperback; 9780830845323

 

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

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.