Posts Tagged ‘religion book marketing’

Christian Publishing News Roundup

Every Wednesday for almost a decade, I’ve published something which is now known as Wednesday Connect; a roundup of the top faith-centered news and opinion pieces from the week(s) before. This week we had 40 items, including a number of publishing-related stories, so I’m sharing them here.

🎬 The writers of God’s Not Dead have just wrapped a $6M film which “focuses on anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who spent years working for Planned Parenthood before switching sides.” (For those having a déja vu, a decidedly lower-budget version of this story released in 2011 under the same title.

📖 After being adrift for 49 days, this Indonesian teenager found strength in prayer and reading his Bible.

📖 One of the first people to ever hear the original Living Bible read aloud (long before any print edition), Mark Taylor reflects on it and its successor, the New Living Translation.

📖 While standing in the Jordan River, Francis Chan talks about his new book, Letters to the Church. (3 minute video.) 

📖 Audio Book Excerpt: 16 minutes of Andy Stanley’s newest — and most controversial — Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (1): R. T. Kendall explains the background behind his newest book, Popular in Heaven, Famous in Hell.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (2) ‘Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (Fortress Press). Click to read an excerpt.

📖 Translation Topics: One of the best articles I’ve seen on the issue of committee or single person translations.

Some may chide the single-translator editions for being the product of only one person. The negative comments I’ve heard against them have been that with a committee translated Bible, two heads are better than one and three heads are better than two, and so on. I don’t disagree with this, but a committee ultimately has to reach a consensus which may not allow for the best or better translation of a phrase. Sometimes the single translator has greater liberty to do what may be best—as in the case of commentaries—whereas a committee’s hands can be tied…

…There are certainly drawbacks to single-translator editions, but there are also strengths. Furthermore, if you want to revive your Bible reading habit, or make it richer, pick up a single-translator edition. There are often nuances in the text, especially for those who don’t read original languages, that committees aren’t able to represent.

🎹 New Music (1): Well Done, a new song by The Afters. (I really like this one!) 

🎹 New Music (2) / Kids’ Korner: I Give you My Heart by Hillsong Kids from the new album, Can You Believe It.  [Thanks to for the leads on new songs we use here from time to time.]

🎬 The latest film from Pure Flix has grossed $4.5M at the box office, and a high profile actress is giving visibility to a sequel where the original left out the faith component. Read about Unbroken: Path to Redemption

🎬 Also from Pure Flix, though absent anything particularly faith-focused in the trailer I watched, is Little Women, opening this weekend. Watch the trailer for yourself.

click here to read the full list

click here to read the list from the previous week

Shortening the Distance Between the Sales Floor and Management

As a long-time observer of this industry, I’ve been asked many times over the past decade about store closings, probably a key barometer as to the health of our industry. On those occasions, I’ve often remarked that in some regions, it’s been the large market stores which have taken the greatest hits. The major cities lose key stores while many small(er) town stores seem to limp along as always.

I was thinking of that in light of the Sears closings this weekend. Again, a massive chain that some employees felt put too much distance between upper management and what was being discussed on the sales floor. (See the Toronto Star interviews with staff published Saturday.)

We must be listening to our customers.

Before writing this, I completed an order with one of several remainder sources we use. It wasn’t anything special, and there weren’t any key titles I was after. Instead it was a topping up. We had a slow year, so I don’t need to top up anything necessarily. However, without exception, each of the 30 lines on that order was based on some interaction we’ve had with customers. One or two of this, one or two of that, but all of it entirely launched with feedback and inquiries from shoppers; many of which make us aware of where we’re either missing or light on product sub-categories.

Here’s the sum of this:

I believe every customer conversation produces fruit for store buyers.

Buyers, owners and managers: Let your sales staff be your eyes and ears. You need to know what’s being requested. You need to avoid the isolation which comes with having an office. Maybe that’s why the small(er) town stores survive, because there is no upper management; owners are serving customers themselves.

If those buying the product aren’t on the sales floor, they need to keep their office door open so that sales associates can stick their heads in the door and say,

  • A woman was just asking if we’re ever getting ________ back in.
  • We just had a phone call wondering if we carry books by ________ .
  • Did you know we only have ___ copies of the ____ translation in stock right now?
  • I just unpacked a shipment from _________ and immediately sold two copies of _______, I think we’re out already!
  • On Sunday at all three services at ________ church, the pastor recommended that everyone get _______ .
  • I just did a look-up and confirmed that ________ is going to be going out of print; it’s one of our bestsellers; can we get more right away?
  • A customer just walked in talking about a new song Christian stations are playing by ________ .           …etc.

That type of interaction is gold. It’s on the same level of why major retailers are willing to invest or pay to get customer preferences and profiles.

You want your staff to collect email addresses, right? Well, it’s winter; it’s a slow time; get them to start collecting something else! Train them as spies! Get them to gather information in the field and bring it back into command central where it can be decoded into valuable purchasing decisions.

Sound like warfare? It is!


Thomas Nelson Pursues Charismatic Market

In a Monday press release, Thomas Nelson unveiled “Emanate Books, its new charismatic Christian publishing imprint” and went on to announce:

Emanate Books will bring twelve titles to market in its first year, beginning with “The Azusa Street Mission and Revival” from Fuller Theological Seminary professor Cecil M. Robeck.

In early 2018, Emanate will publish two new titles from pastors at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. “Hope for Your Marriage,” the first marriage book from Clayton and Ashlee Hurst, will release in January 2018. Then, in March, Emanate will release “Our Champion,” a memoir that chronicles the triumphant journey of Pastor Craig Johnson’s family as they learn to embrace their son’s battle with autism…

…Joel Kneedler, former associate publisher with W Publishing, will serve as publisher of Emanate Books. “I am thrilled to publish books for this audience,” he said. “The way ‘charismatic’ has been defined in the past is vastly different from how those within the movement see it today. It is our goal to help move the conversation into the twenty-first century. The global reach of HarperCollins offers Emanate Books a distinct advantage in reaching readers wherever they may be by working with our partners in Africa, Asia, Australia, Brazil, Europe, and Latin America.”

Emanate Books marketing manager Cody Van Ryn commented, “Emanate Books will be home to both timeless and fresh voices from the charismatic community.  We’re eager to share our engaging authors and content with readers in new and interesting ways, all with the goal of helping people grow in Christ.”

Thomas Nelson’s existing roster is currently light on Charismatic authors but does contain one notable product, The New Spirit-Filled Bible. At sister imprint Zondervan, there is The Life in the Spirit Study Bible as well as books by Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala. Neither imprint is known for its strength in publishing for the Pentecostal/Charismatic market, a situation that Emanate hopes to correct.

An earlier version of the Nelson press release appeared online on June 8th.

What’s New? For Stores Without Sales Reps or Catalogues, the Answer is Elusive

I think largely at our suggestion, Anchor/Word Alive started a new release page. It’s one of four windows in the carousel when you arrive at their home page. When first opened, it featured new releases for January and February, a 60-day window, just as STL had.

It still does.

It was never updated.

If they are going to impose a $250 net minimum order for Canadian accounts to get the 3% freight offer, stores need to be able to know what is available to fill out those orders. Remember, all the major publishers — Nelson, Baker, Tyndale, Cook, Zondervan, IVP — are already covered here so we really need to know $250’s worth of products which are unique to Anchor/Word Alive.

That’s easy if you’re dealing with a normal supplier. But with the intracasies of their backorder system — which we’ve already covered here — it gets much more complicated. Even the owner or manager of the largest stores reading this may have reason that they need to pad out an order to get particular items through.

…However, the problem is more systemic. As Parasource prepares to wrap up — and presumably is going with it — one of my key backup sources for knowing about new releases is going to be gone.

The Forthcoming feature at Ingram is probably the most accurate, but in order to make sure I covered July, for example, I need to read it by June 29th, or the data disappears.

CBD — normally a great source of information — is rather random in how it applies its ‘Sort by Publication Date’ feature. You get a mixture of forthcoming titles and things already in their warehouse.

The rundown sheets (Book 1, Book 2, etc.) at Parasource are also helpful, but as the company grows, there are pages and pages of .pdf forms, and no way to refine the data if I just want to look at books, or Bibles or giftware.

I know the Top 100 stores in Canada probably see sales reps regularly, but even there, I would suspect there are titles which get lost in the presentations.

I just want to know what’s new.

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 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.

Checking out the Competition

I try to get to Chapters at least once every 60 days. I think it’s important to track the titles that our suppliers are recommending to them. Things have improved there greatly. While we’ve written about the problem some customers could experience because there are not the same filters as one finds in a Christian store, and about the discernment customers need to have in that environment; though things are definitely improving.

Three things dominated at Chapters’ store in Markham.

One was the new packaging of the KJV Bibles. I suppose that if there’s one market where I would not want to encourage KJV purchases, it would be selling the most difficult-to-read translation to a broad cross-section of consumers. Wouldn’t it be better to steer customers in the general marketplace toward the NLT, Message or NIV? However, I got thinking about this more and decided that Chapters stores probably have a strong market demand for KJV that most of us neither understand nor experience in our stores.

Second, was the shelf of Joyce Meyer titles, which I suspect do well there:

Third, and not surprising was the C. S. Lewis collection. I liked the uniform look of the HarperOne covers and saw a few things I need to add to my own store.

Rating My Four Key Suppliers

Allow me to say at the outset, this is entirely subjective. Your experience may be different, and if it is, feel free to respond in the comments section.

Order Turnaround

  1. Word Alive (especially considering the U.S. origin)
  2. Parasource (I hate abusing the rush service, but it really helps and they never ask questions)
  3. Foundation (some orders take several days to process, but if we really need it rushed, they come through)
  4. HarperCollins (a factor of geography more than anything)

Conversion on U.S. Dollar

  1. HarperCollins (as low as 1.25 on some items right now)
  2. Parasource (especially w/ respect to Baker/Bethany House)
  3. Foundation
  4. Word Alive

Everyday Discounts or Help With Special Orders

  1. HarperCollins (but we buy non-returnable)
  2. Parasource (always willing to work with us, even when the church is asking us for help but they’re order isn’t exactly huge)
  3. Word Alive (at least with respect to special Canadian pricing on selected items)
  4. Foundation

Invoicing and Statements

  1. Foundation (consolidation of orders on a single invoice just makes sense)
  2. Parasource (2nd, but see next category)
  3. HarperCollins (separate packing lists and statements are a bit of an environmental disaster; not to mention the postage mailing the invoices from Pennsylvania)
  4. Word Alive (impossible to figure out sometimes)

Online Accounting

  1. Parasource (it urgently needs an upgrade on the search side, but it’s the best we have for this category;  the online statements and invoices make it a clear #1)
  2. we don’t use this function from other suppliers if such exists

Fill Rates

  1. HarperCollins (a bit of a no-brainer since the warehouse and the printer are one)
  2. Parasource (impressive considering the learning curve since the Augsburg acquisition)
  3. Word Alive (rated 3rd because the database is so limited; too many “extended catalog” items)
  4. Foundation (running just a tad too lean for our liking)

Condition of Merchandise; Accuracy of Picking

  1. Parasource, Foundation, Word Alive all tied (computers eliminate errors in the pick/check/pack/ship process)
  2. HarperCollins (you never know what you’ll find inside the box)

Special Discount Offers

  1. Foundation (telesales; at least one email per day, but they all get opened)
  2. Parasource (the current restock offer is an example of deals which are equitable for all accounts)
  3. HarperCollins (those quarterly extra 3% offers have low minimums and can be split among many orders)
  4. Word Alive (none offered)

Product Line Awareness

  1. HarperCollins (for stores like ours, they have 3 lines – HarperOne, Zondervan and Nelson – it’s always been the same; plus we always get a complete sales presentation for each cycle)
  2. Parasource (didn’t hear about Destiny Image, and the gift lines come and go, but overall we know their product range; really miss print catalogues, though)
  3. Foundation (a basic core list of publishers is represented but there’s also a rotating list of extras including overstock from Book Depot which often duplicates HarperCollins titles; new release order forms are often lacking author info)
  4. Word Alive (this rating could change as their new online “New Releases” section has been fixed and is now working properly)

Website/Social Media Marketing Support

  • This category includes HTML support for Facebook and store home pages. Everything we receive we get from the Twitter feeds of the individual publishers; not from the Canadian distributors

Blog Support

  • We sometimes link my personal blog in our customer newsletters, social media or even the website. The number one thing we’re looking for is book excerpts we can quote or link to. Very difficult to find however when it comes to review copies for the blog or sample copies for the store:
  1. Parasource and Harper Collins tied for # 1. (Both companies always willing to provide review copies for the blog if requested; and those manuscript editions are great collector’s items and make us feel special… In 17 years I’ve only ever received three things from Foundation, the book How to Smell Like God which I didn’t read, a used copy of The Gospel of John board game, and a defective copy of the ESV Study Bible which I received basically because I heard everybody was getting one and I shamelessly begged)

Doesn’t Market to Our Church Customers

  1. Word Alive (at least not to our knowledge; Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, maybe)
  2. HarperCollins (true they’re part of Your Church Zone and have that Church Source program but we’re not seeing much direct impact)
  3. Parasource (only rated 3rd here because I know this is a major issue for other stores where they’re concerned)
  4. Foundation (in the past they would refer VBS and curriculum inquiries to the nearest stores including ours, but they kinda invade our territory every summer when they do a 6-week book shop at the Pentecostal Camp that totally misses what that market requires.)

Sales Reps

  1. For us, a total tie for #1 between Mark Hildebrand at HarperCollins and Norm Robertson at Parasource; each of whom I would happily call friends (and they’re listed that way only because it’s alphabetical!)



Post 2,000 at Christian Book Shop Talk!


This is my 2,000th article here at Christian Book Shop Talk. That’s a lot of comings and goings of publishers, distributors, stores and sales reps. A lot of new policies and ways of doing business to consider. A lot of ups and downs for the Canadian dollar. Perhaps mostly, a lot of rants and raves! I thought today, in honor of the occasion I’d share with you a thing I just posted to our store Facebook page. I don’t do this sort of thing often, but some customers have a sense of ownership and are often asking, “How’s the store doing?” I can give them sales numbers if they really need them, but I also like to share my heart for our street-front ministry.

This approach, and the content of what follows is not without controversy. I know some of you would not do this with your customers. I accept that. But it’s something that’s been brewing for a long time that I needed to share with my store community. Your store newsletter or Facebook page may just contain hours and sale items. Decide what approach works best for you.

-•–•- State of the Bookstore Address -•–•-

sotuEach year, the President of the United States gives a State of the Union address to a joint session of the Senate and Congress. Today I want to do something similar for our bookstore family.

Christian bookstores tend to reflect the character of the person who owns them as well as key staff and managers. Because I’ve always worked for Christian organizations (100 Huntley Street, Inter-Varsity Canada, Canadian Bible Society, Muskoka Woods, Cobourg Alliance Church, Northumberland Christian School, etc.) for me, Christian service has never been a Sunday thing or a one-week-per-night thing. I am somewhat immersed in mission. I’ve always been passionate and perhaps even a bit intense about things like Christian service, the Bible, spiritual authenticity, spiritual maturity and simply knowing Jesus.

For me, it matters to know the full arc of the Bible’s story. It matters to know how to present this to outsiders and overcome their objections. It matters to know the rules for proper Biblical interpretation. It matters to know the stories of those spiritual pioneers who went before us and the biographies of those contemporary saints who serve us today. It matters to know what Christian experts say about the standards for marriage and parenting and extended family life. It matters to better understand the nuances of my brothers and sisters in other tribes of the broader church. It matters to be able to access the tools which help us dig deeper into God’s Word. It matters to be able to discern practical application of the scriptures in our neighbourhoods and workplaces. It matters to know the words and melodies of the songs used to sing praises to God both today and in times past. It matters to have a window into what God is doing in the Church around the world. It matters to have the materials to communicate the Christ story to our children, teens and young adults.

That’s a lot of ‘matters.’ But honestly, some days I feel like I’m the only one. There are times like I feel like that nobody else gives a care in the world for these things.

Increasingly, we have days that are greatly dominated by non-book transactions. Don’t get me wrong, the mugs and the movies and the T-shirts and the jewelry and the cards help pay the bills. But I wonder sometimes if it’s true that I’m ‘the only one’ as noted above or if I should just take a cue from our friends at Chapters/Indigo and just remove vast sections of the books in order to spread out the giftware?

For me, the books matter. We have over 1,000 items in our store which would be considered Bibles in one form or another. If that’s true of Bibles, I can’t imagine how many books we have. However, having this great choice is useless if people don’t take the time to browse. Having an awesome selection is ineffective if people only want to read material by some fringe teacher they saw on a late night Christian TV channel. Having a selection of books at all is ill-advised if all your customers are buying is non-book commodities.

Sales were up slightly in November. It’s important that you know that. I’m not writing from a standpoint of financial discouragement. It’s about our mission. It’s about enhancing the Christian lives of the constituency we serve. That’s why we’re there.

If you’re a regular reader — and perhaps you had to be to read this today — obviously this isn’t directed at you.

If you’re a shopper for non-book things, we do still need you. However, I hope you’ll consider diving into a good book. I hope you’ll consider developing what BIll Hybels calls a “chair time.” If you’re a parent, I hope you’ll model reading for your children.

My wish for you this Christmas is that you’ll have a favorite Christian author and a favorite Christian book category.

Worldwide Shortage of Book Titles Continues

September 13, 2016 1 comment

It sounds like a headline from Christian news satire site, The Babylon Bee, but the reality, as first reported here several weeks ago, has been noticed by Christianity Today at this article. There really are three books in current release with the same title, Unashamed.


img-091316The confusion continues this month as the 2008 title about surviving an affair, Torn Asunder by Moody Press is being joined by a 2016 title from Eerdmans on helping children survive divorce.

Or is it? It was due out the first week in August. CBD doesn’t list the Eerdmans title, but Ingram does as well as the publisher website. But unlike the Unashamed confusion, this one is an academic book, publishing at $34.00 and probably won’t be stocked in too many retail outlets…

…Most retailers can handle books with similar or same titles. A bigger challenge comes when old books are released under new titles. Go to the popular online Christian book site and type “previously published as” (and its variants) and you’ll see just a few of these.

October’s Great Day, Every Day by Max Lucado is a reissue of Every Day Deserves a Second Chance. The original, despite the bright yellow cover, never reached its full potential in the market and turned up on overstock and remainder lists for several years. But I suppose every book deserves a second chance.

(Couldn’t resist.)

upper image: Christianity Today

Previously noted here in May: Two different CDs have similar titles, Where the Light Gets In (Jason Gray) and Where the Light Shines Through (Switchfoot).

Will the Jesus Calling Magic Happen Again?

jesus-alwaysOnly about three weeks away from releasing, HarperCollins Christian Publishing is deeply committed to the official follow up to Jesus Calling with an unprecedented one million copy first printing for Jesus Always by Sarah Young.

In our store, initial acceptance of the first title was slow. We monitored the U.S. statistics but weren’t seeing anything like what transpired there. Of course, conservative Evangelicals chose to keep their distance from this one because the format was different.

We posted something to Facebook to see if we could get a clear guesstimate of what the initial interest will be. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about it so far, but it tends to be customers more on the periphery who gravitate to this. Our regular customers aren’t fans. 

But don’t hedge your bets on this too long. It may be a million copy printing, but there are many different markets competing for those copies: Gift stores, airport newsstands, mainstream book market retailers, big box stores; just to name a few.

Don’t Miss This One

Saving the SavedMost of you know that I like to run reviews closer to the release date, and then copy those reviews with extra trade info here at Christian Book Shop Talk. But I wanted to briefly mention this one in case you haven’t ordered it yet. 

I spent my Labour Day reading Saving the Saved by Bryan Loritts, releasing in paperback through Zondervan in October. I rarely binge read like this, but like the cliché says, I couldn’t put it down. The subject is countering the belief in performance-based faith, but it also serves as a commentary on Matthew’s gospel.

This would be a great first Christian living book for someone to read, but also applicable to the rest of us who’ve been on this journey awhile. A good mix of personal stories and material from other sources. Loritts is the son of Crawford Loritts who is a pastor and frequent conference speaker whose name some customers will recognize.

The bright cover will cause people to pick it up, but you can’t sell what you don’t stock! Before I was halfway through, I’d already clicked a few copies into an order.

Thanks to Mark H. at HarperCollins Christian Publishing for this one! Really appreciated.    9780310344995

HTML is Your Greatest Need

I’ve said it before but I’ll be more concise this time:

If each of your suppliers isn’t emailing you once a week with graphic images for use on your store website, Twitter, Facebook, and newsletter, something is wrong.

You need those. More than anything else.  Here’s a couple on the house:

Beginner Bible 3D relaunch

I think many may not be aware that this is a relaunch of a familiar product with 90 3D images. I’m not sure if the older edition will continue to be available.

Cold Case Christianity - God's Not Dead 2

I like this one because it ties a backlist title into a current bestseller. (Wallace appears in the movie.)

Nabeel Qureshi books

While Answering Jihad wasn’t as strong, Seeking Allah… did very well, as I suspect this one will.

Top 25 Modern Worship Songs

Maranatha! Music did a great job with this graphic. We’ve done particularly well with Top 25 Songs of Grace, it’s a bit more mellow and makes a great gift for anyone. But the whole series is great value for customers.

Ben Hur movie

This is an example of a graphic element which allows you to be current knowing that the payoff is several months down the road when the DVD releases.

I hope this inspires you to seek out graphics like this on your own. Following your major publishers and record labels on Twitter is a big help if you need a source for these.