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Review: Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey

This was not the book I was expecting. It was also the book I almost set aside without finishing. Where the Light Fell: A Memoir (Convergent Books, 2021) is the sometimes gut-wrenching story of the early life of one of today’s most popular Christian authors. It is not a pretty story.

Raised in an ultra-conservative Bible Belt family by a single mother, it’s a story of hardship on every level. Having read nearly half of Yancey’s two dozen books, I thought I knew some of the backstory, but nothing prepared for me for these revelations.

After reading the first forty pages just before turning out the lights for the evening, I set the book down and that night, sleep just didn’t come. It would be a week before I would pick up my copy and continue, and with some of the worst of the timeline behind me, I more eagerly continued to the end.

But the end was not what I expected. I knew of Yancey’s work with Campus Life magazine and co-editing The Student Bible, and co-authoring three books with leprosy doctor Paul Brand. But only two of those three surface for a fleeting mention toward the end. The focus here is on earlier times; younger days.

I’m sure he would agree with me that the memoir is a story of family dynamics, and from the outset it appears that the mother-son relationship will dominate. However, in later chapters — and this isn’t really a spoiler — it becomes more about the relationship with his brother Marshall Yancey, and the contrast between two boys who share so many things in common at the beginning, and then arriving at entirely opposite places. In a different world, it might be Marshall’s autobiography people were reading.

Over the years I’ve introduced dozens of people to the writing of Philip Yancey. If pressed, I often say that the draw for me is that as journalist and not a pastor, I am struck by the way he wrestles with scripture and theology.

Now I understand why. I understand why it’s necessary, why it’s imperative for him to fully work out anything he’s going espouse in print. He places a high value on raw honesty and transparency. He’s not always interested in providing the right answers as he is in the process it takes to arrive there. Only then will the answers suffice.

Living one country removed from the U.S., there’s so much of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s America that never touched my own experience. Still, our family’s yearly car trips to Florida meant driving through the southern states, and particularly in the years before the interstate highway system was completed, there were snapshots in the book — especially those portraying extreme poverty — that brought flashbacks to things I’d seen from the backseat of my parents’ car.

The guest speakers at Yancey’s summer camp were not entirely unfamiliar names, and the names of the Christian magazines his mother subscribed to also resonated. But my contact was fleeting whereas he was immersed in that milieu, and it had repercussions on every choice with which he was confronted and how he and his brother saw the world.

For those for whom this is a foreign experience, the book is a necessary tool for processing Evangelical history in the post-war, mid-20th century. No wonder that on book tours, he had said, “I truly believe this is the one book I was put on earth to write.”

It was on such a book tour years ago that I got to meet my favorite writer. I shook his hand and thanked him for all that his books have meant. He had just released What Good Is God? and the publicist had handed me a complimentary copy and I waited until all the purchasers of the book had left and then asked him if he would autograph mine. Being last in line, if I had known things about him that I now know, I might have extended our conversation by a few extra minutes discussing the Christian world which I got to see from a bit of a distance, and that he lived in every waking moment.

I also find now, I’m longing for a part two. How that upbringing shaped those experiences working for a mainstream Evangelical magazine like Campus Life or a publisher like Zondervan, with whom his books were released. Perhaps part two consists of re-reading some of those classics — What’s So Amazing About Grace, or The Jesus I Never Knew or even Soul Survivor — through the lens of what’s been revealed here in Where the Light Fell.

For those familiar with Philip Yancey’s previous works, this is a must-read. For those who have completed other recent books which deal with the history of Evangelical Protestantism in the United States in the past century, again a must-read.

Just be prepared to recognize this as the story not just of one person, but of a mother and two sons, because that’s the essence of what you’ll find.


Thanks to Martin Smith of Parasource, for arranging for a review copy. Retailers: This title is hardcover only from Parasource or Penguin-Random House Canada at $37.00 Canadian list.

What My Customers Are Buying

This list reflects what’s going on in Cobourg, Ontario. Nothing more. It may not resemble your store anymore than this ECPA list for May resembles my store. But I thought I’d share it with you.

The one thing we’ve noticed is that unlike the list we did about six months ago, this one reflects a much higher percentage of backlist titles. Christian publishing generally has a stronger backlist than its secular counterpart, and frankly I’m thankful because without that, we would have nothing to sell.

The personal shocker for me was the absence of anything by Karen Kingsbury on this list. Our customers in our market — and I can only speak for myself — won’t pay the price for first edition hardcovers, even though we adopted an “Our Price” sticker program on hardcovers for the past six months. By the time Karen’s books convert to trade paper it seems that lately she’s lost all momentum for that particular title.

We’re grateful for Baker Books and HarperCollins Christian Publishing giving us International Trade Paperback Editions (ITPEs). Frankly, woe to Waterbrook (Penguin Random House), FaithWords (Hachette), and Howard Publishing (Simon & Schuster) if they don’t wake up and smell the coffee and realize what they’re losing in this market. Remember though, it’s literary agents who often insist that Canada be considered part of the U.S. market for royalty purposes, so aim all your attack on the publishers; there are cases where they were helpless, but there are just as many cases where they could advise the lawyers they’re killing their sales up here.

We also saw a general decline in fiction sales. Children’s Bible story books are a strong category as are Children’s picture books. Devotionals are strong, but spread out over too many titles to make our list (other than #11) Other book categories aren’t seeing anywhere near the action we see with things like boxed cards, DVDs, and the whole gifts-under-$10 category.

If your store does a local market chart, please consider sharing it with our readers.

Christian Publishing News Updates

■ Ever wondered how Warner Press got its name? Christianity Today invites you to meet Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.” 

■ Knowing what we sell: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel” and addresses some concerns that I think booksellers should be aware of, even as we sell Bill Johnson’s books and Bethel Worship’s music.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. Make sure your staff know what customers are asking for. Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither. This one is Gaynor.  

■ Wanda Brunstetter has officially passed the 11-million mark in book sales. Rush-To-Press reports on the Barbour Publishing author: “Brunstetter is undeniably one of the most prolific authors in both the Christian and mainstream markets with a published book list that exceeds 100 titles. A number of her works have frequented the nation’s most prestigious bestseller lists including the NY Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, ECPA, and more. Most recently, The Hope Jar, book 1 in her Prayer Jars series, has remained on the ECPA fiction bestsellers list 8 months straight since its August 2018 release.” Two more titles will release simultaneously in June.

■ Literary agent Steve Laube sits down with Publisher’s Weekly to discuss the changing landscape of Christian book marketing. “Publishers continue to brace themselves for the loss of even more Christian retail outlets this year, but the strongest impact of store closings could be leveled at authors in the category. The shrinking footprint of Christian retailers is already leading to a new normal where writers are also expected to have a marketing team behind them…”

■ Are you selling as many funeral bulletins as before? Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

Tribute: In one of his best articles yet, Carey Nieuwhof asks who will replace Eugene Peterson and others like him when that generation passes from the scene. Seven important things that people of Peterson’s ilk have in common.

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) But why that title? “Smith called on early memories of struggling for breath and how he needed oxygen to keep him alive. The vital importance of breath came into focus for him as a young child when he was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchial pneumonia. He was placed into an oxygen tent, similar to an early 19th-century iron lung device, which kept him alive while his parents fervently prayed for God to save his life. This harrowing experience set a course for Smith, giving him an acute perspective of the fragility of life and how God’s presence, His very breath, can restore what’s been broken.” Read more at NewReleaseToday.

■ Clean presentation: If you want to see what a webpage should look like which is promoting a series of books, you can’t do better than this one at Christian Book Discounters in South Africa.

■ Another one going off the rails? Highly respected for his work in founding anti-pornography ministry XXXChurch.com, author and pastor Craig Gross has launched Christian Canabis and recommends weed as an aid to worship. No it’s not a month-late April Fool’s story; it appeared Monday in The Christian Post. The quote: “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

■ Who the cool kids are reading: You won’t get an actual schedule of speakers for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival until a few weeks before the event, but there are clues here and here and here. (Why promote when you can tease?)

Veggie Tales is back in the hands of the original creative team. “Brand-new episodes of VeggieTales are on the way, courtesy of a partnership between Trinity Broadcasting Network and Big Idea Content Group. Each episode will remain true to the classic VeggieTales brand to deliver clever storytelling, Biblically-based lessons, and memorable songs.” 

First there were Christian T-shirts and now… leggings? Would you sell these in your store? That’s Psalm 23 in case you missed it. We found this one at Zazzle.com.


■ I hope you find this update useful. Here’s a few graphics we created in a hurry to meet specific needs on our Facebook page this week. Feel free to steal them or adapt them. If you really, really need something and can’t create these yourselves, feel free to email me and ask for a favour!

 

 

Bookstores Automatically Filter Out Fringe Bible Translations

I ran this on my personal blog a few minutes ago, and thought it was a valuable object lesson for readers here. .

Every once in awhile I find threads on Twitter which I think are worthy of being preserved somewhere more permanent. Twitter has a 280-character limit, but you can create threaded posts in the style of a longer essay. The writer may have envisioned something temporary — a kind of Snapchat prose — but the words deserve greater attention.

Thomas Horrocks resides in Bloomington, Indiana where he serves as pastor of Stoneybrook Community Church of God and also as a chaplain in the Indiana Army National Guard. He’s co-host of the Sinnergists Podcast

I think you will agree that this story is a prime example of why we do what we do and how it can be of benefit to our communities to not have certain types of merchandise.

If you want to read this on Twitter, go to this link.


Okay, everybody. Time for a mini rant. As you may or may not know, I pastor a small church comprised of mostly older people, all of whom are wonderfully devout but basically none of whom have had any formal theological training. This probably describes most churches to be honest.

Today at my midweek Bible-study, one lady, who deeply loves the scriptures, brought to me a new translation of the New Testament that she obtained. It is called The Pure Word and bills itself as “an Unparalleled New Testament Translation From the Original Greek.”

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Naturally, having both an interest in Bible translations and the things my congregants want to show me, I asked if I could look at it a little closer. I started reading the preface and, folks, this thing is A. Train. Wreck.

Here’s the first paragraph

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“Never before has such a pure and genuine translation been completed.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

This is the kind of thing I would write if I was writing a parody. But wait, it gets worse.

They employ a methodology they call “monadic hermeneutics” in which each they assert that each word has “an accurate, single definition.” They, of course, base this  the Psalm that says “every word of God is pure.” They explain:

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“Each word…was intended to have a single specific meaning, never open to personal interpretation.” Somehow these translators, and no one else ever, were able to “bypass personal interjection and cultural influence” and determine these “unambiguous and clear meanings.”

It gets worse. They also capitalize any word “which pertain[s] to God’s Attributes and Characteristics, God’s Works, Works of the Holy Spirit in us, or Works of Angels (as opposed to works of man.)” This they determined, of course, without “personal interpretation.”

“So,” you’re probably asking, “How does this work out in actual translation?” Great question.

Here is their translation of John 3:16, which they insist is “the original Greek to English translation,”

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These people claim they are “Unveiling the Original Meaning After Nearly 2000 Years” and that they are “re-implementing the full and original Greek…as it was understood during the first century” and that this “is commonly recognized as the most accurate…in the world.”

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Now, anyone who has received any kind of training in Greek or Biblical interpretation knows this is all absolute malarkey. But the good-hearted people in our pews may not know this.

These people are preying on our peoples’ desire for certitude and easy answers and using it to slip in genuinely debatable interpretation under the guise of The Original Word of God.™

We need to be teaching our people that the work of translation and interpretation is messy and that there things that debatable, things that are ambiguous, and things that are unclear, otherwise we end with this (below), but for real.

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Ingram Determines What is a Bookstore and What Isn’t

Ingram’s annual minimum is a slap in the face to small, independent bookstores. It’s another way of saying, ‘we don’t see you as a legitimate bookstore and we are the ones who will set the standard and make the determination of your legitimacy and entitlement to trade discounts.’

I really try to keep the personal rants to a minimum, but this is one of those, so feel free to move on.

I have mentioned before that several years ago we received communication from Ingram International informing us that because our wholesale purchase the previous year were less than $5,000 US net, we would be placed in a short discount category.

They no sooner did this than it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas before I had quite willingly padded my orders to meet the 10-unit minimum on iPage for trade discount, I no longer had any incentive. Instead, I started placing orders one book at time. (They do this for Amazon and Chapters, so I figure there are built in efficiencies at their end unknown to us in Canada. One time my single book arrived in a Chapters box.)

My account would never come close to $5,000 annually again. Furthermore, with the deals offered by Canadian suppliers, plus the fact their distribution rights are enshrined in Canadian law, there is no compelling reason to order a Christian book from Ingram (i.e. Spring Arbor) unless you are on the west coast and facing some delivery time issues for that book’s customer.

This week however, I actually had reason to place a ten-unit order through iPage, and when the confirmation came through, I was reminded again of how things have been since June 15th, 2015; over three and a half years now. The letter we received at the time read:

Dear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.

Sincerely,

Ingram Content Group

Again, playing the freight-cost card is illogical because of the aforementioned single-title drop-ships they do for Amazon and Chapters.

It also doesn’t make sense that publishers like Oxford University Press or Wiley Canada don’t mind my occasional purchasing and are quite happy to grant us trade discount.

This time around, however, four of my titles were from Carpenter’s Son Publishing; a Christian publisher which is locked into Ingram Publisher Services. It occurred to me that they are probably unaware of the policy and unaware how it diminishes the amount of ordering stores like ourselves are willing to do in order to encourage their authors and increase their authors’ visibility.

It occurred to me that well organized information campaign with Ingram Publisher Services might accomplish more than trying to shake the monolith. I mean, for starters, how do you argue or appeal your case with a company for which you have no real contacts; no names; no faces? How many stores reading this have had even so much as an email from anyone in the marketing department at Ingram? How many of you can name your credit representative?

So over the next few weeks I will be tracking down those IPS publishers and hopefully beginning a dialogue as to why their Canadian Christian marketing and distribution should be placed with Parasource, or Foundation, or Word Alive.

At the time we received the original letter from Ingram I wrote,

I missed it by $448 net. Less than 10%. A target I didn’t even know I was supposed to aiming for.

Last night I found out the hard way that my store was one of the ones that didn’t buy $5,000 from Ingram last year. $4,552 was close, but no cigar.

The company has removed all accounts falling below this annual purchase rate to a 30% max. short discount on book product. But they’ve done it such a way that stores are unlikely to take the steps to remedy the situation; effectively terminating those accounts, albeit perhaps over a long, drawn-out period of time.

1. There was no warning. The letter went out on June 8th [2015] to take effect on June 15th. This shows the low view they have of their customers.

2. There was no way to remedy the situation. The period the numbers were based on was January 1, 2014 to December 31st, 2014. For nearly six months we had failed to meet a target we didn’t know existed.

3. Offering to buy the difference to pull this year’s balance up is futile because that product would all ship at a short discount.

4. The situation is confirmed as irrevocable; there is no room for appeal, even for those of us who missed by less than 10%.

In the Fall of 2015, I wrote:

Here’s another way of looking at it: You buy a $10 book for $6. Your gross profit is $4. A supplier changes your discount by 10% and that book now costs $7. Your gross profit is now $3. In other words, you’ve been cheated out of 25% of your former profit margin.

So why does Ingram want to purge small stores from their roster when they already had a mechanism in place requiring minimum orders? It’s a question really requiring deeper investigation, and we’re working on it. Clearly, Ingram was the friend of the independent bookstore as well as gift stores which dabbled in books as a sideline. For our part, our purchases with them would have been much, much stronger in 2014 were it not for the service offered by Send the Light Distribution. We gave STL a “first pass” on our import titles and then used Ingram only for titles unique to them, and rush orders that STL did not have in stock at the time.

But it wasn’t enough. Neither was 30 years of goodwill and a perfect credit history.

There was no appealing their decision.

There’s a rule in pet ownership that you don’t scold a pet for something they did a day ago. You deal with it at the time. If any stores impacted by the new decision had been told ahead of time that, “In June of next year we’re going to change your terms if you don’t meet the $5K minimum, you need purchase only $421 more by the end of the year;” I know we would have put an order together in minutes. But to be punished in June for something we did the year prior… well, as stated, I wouldn’t do this to a dog.

The decision was arbitrary.

The decision was heartless.

Then in March, 2016, I wrote this:

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system.  I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.’” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season [2016] purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

I concluded:

I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.

If anyone has a list of the Christian companies using Ingram Publisher’s Group, it would save us some time. I want to continue to fight this on behalf of other stores which may get cut off from full trade discount in the future.

Plagiarism: Zondervan Authors Ann Voskamp and Christine Caine

October 18, 2018 2 comments

Plagiarism: The challenge is deciding when it’s deliberate copying, and when it’s a case of ‘great minds think alike.’ (left: Ann Voskamp; right: Christine Caine)

I noted the situation involving Christine Caine at the end of another story a few days ago, but because of Warren Throckmorton, I discovered the case involving Canadian writer Ann Voskamp. Both write for Zondervan.

Here’s how we covered both yesterday at Wednesday Connect:

♦ Another plagiarism case: Zondervan has reached a settlement with Carey Scott, the author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life (Revell, 2015) whose work was borrowed by popular author Christine Caine in Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny (Zondervan, May 2016), which has sold over 150,000 copies to date. 

“About two weeks before Caine’s book Unashamed was set to launch, I received a promotional email that contained a two-minute book trailer video. Some of the wording at the beginning of the video sounded very familiar, and after some digging I discovered that the first 30 seconds of her personal narration on the promo video came directly from a paragraph on page 55 of my book,” Scott told Publisher’s Weekly. “There are several examples of direct copying and substantial similarities.”   …

♦ … But sadly, not the only plagiarism case involving Zondervan: A quotation in Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way was attributed to her father but, “matched almost word for word the writing of author Cynthia Occelli on her social media pages.” In another case, she apologized for when she “lyrically paraphrased” a nine-point list by another writer. But that post was later deleted. Why? In this Occelli case, World Magazine notes:

The problem: Some readers probably missed Voskamp’s apology, submerged as it was in a long scroll of a post concerning a family trip to Israel, a Tim Keller talk, a Mister Rogers quote, Instagram photos from fans raving about her books, and more. The item’s burial was too bad, because this was a teachable moment about likely dangers at a time when internet files can be copied and mislabeled so readily, with unclear attribution.

For his part, Throckmorton — a college professor — noted”

In academia, we will continue to enforce high standards of plagiarism. However, it is jarring to realize that our students will enter a world where plagiarism matters less when they work in media organizations which promote Christianity than in places which do not identify as Christian. [Italics added]

Of course, sometimes a similar idea, concept, metaphor or simile will occur to two people at the same time or at a different time. In a more recent article, Throckmorton looked at a particular Christine Caine quotation that she may have borrowed from Joel Osteen,  Decide for yourself:

Caine:

Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried when you’ve actually been planted. You will bring forth life!! (Twitter account, 2015 and 2016)

Osteen:

It’s easy to feel like we’ve been buried, but what’s interesting is the only difference between being buried and being planted is the expectancy of what’s going to happen next.

When you put a seed in the ground you don’t say, “I’m burying this seed,” you say, “I am planting this seed,” because you know it’s coming back.

We all face difficulties but you have the seed of almighty God on the inside. He breathed His life into you. When you go through disappointments, you’re in tough times… you might feel like you’d been buried, but the fact is, you’ve simply been planted.  (2009 sermon)

When you go through disappointments and you’re in tough times, you may feel like you’ve been buried, but the fact is, you’ve simply been planted. That means you’re coming back! (2011 book)

Being gracious and giving her the benefit of the doubt, if Caine heard or read Osteen say that, I can see where she might remember the imagery, but not the source. (Personally, I like the concept and can see myself using it 2-3 years from now and not remembering the where I heard it either.)

On the other hand, she might well remember where she got it, and should give proper attribution.

With Voskamp, what’s most disturbing is that the apology has been deleted. Maybe it would crush her followers too much to be reminded that like all of us, she’s not perfect.


We’ve covered plagiarism here before:

  • Last September, Abgindon Press removed and destroyed copies of a book advertised as containing the devotions used by Hillary Clinton after the author was found to have copied significant paragraphs from another writer.
  • In November, 2013, radio host Janet Mefford brought charges of plagiarism against Mark Driscoll…
  • A few weeks later, Mefford suggested that major publishing houses try to protect their authors from the negative publicity associated with such charges. (In the wake of this, Driscoll’s multi-site church empire came crashing down; he is now, 5 years later, mounting a comeback with the publication of a new book.)

Is Word Alive in Breach of Contract With Distributed Lines?

October 17, 2018 2 comments

Note: In keeping with principles outlined in Matthew 18, the concerns noted in this article have been expressed to the company in question many times.

I’ve only held a Canadian distribution contract in my hands once. I was working for Mainroads Music Group and there was a question about the royalties payable to the band DeGarmo & Key. So you can see that (a) it wasn’t a publishing contract, and (b) it’s been awhile.

But I’m fairly certain that the rights owned by Canadian distributors such as Parasource, Foundation and Word Alive are stated on a piece of paper which says more than just ‘we agree to buy the books at a certain discount and then sell them to Canadian stores.’ I’m fairly certain that there is a sense in which these companies are also publisher representatives. They agree to do some actual advertising and marketing to both the consumer market and trade market; and publicity to everyone from book reviewers to influential pastors to college professors. They are quite literally representing the publisher in what is for them part of their international sales.

As a retailer, I really need them to be able to perform this function. I need to know (a) what backlist is still performing well and (b) what new titles have entered the warehouse this month, or are about to. On the latter, I’m looking for (a) basic title, author and pricing information, and (b) reasons why I should get excited about this title, including everything from subject matter to a jazzy cover design; as well as (c) factors which might drive customers to look for it such as television appearances and tours, or reviews in major media.

When I think of Word Alive Distribution (now a division of Anchor Distributors) my major focus in on four key lines:

  • Faithwords (a division of Hachette Book Group)
  • Group Publishing
  • Charisma House Publishing
  • Lighthouse Christian Products (giftware)

and while there are many more companies carried in the warehouse, these are four for which I’d like to know ahead of time what is being released. (If the company has acquired any key product lines since, honestly, how would I know? As you’ll see below, I wouldn’t.) They are also four for which I believe the contract would specify some marketing expectations.

I get absolutely nothing in the way of information about these companies, or any others they distribute.

In fact, since the takeover, I have never received anything even remotely resembling a marketing email.

Furthermore, the “new releases” section of the company website is still — this after at least half a dozen emails to inform them — stuck in the period from September, 2017 to February 2018. (We’ve noted elsewhere on the blog how to ‘trick’ the URL into yielding more recent information.)

So what would make the difference?

We’re a small store in a small market. So this is subjective. But here’s what I’m seeing from my other suppliers.

Foundation

  • Marketing email for new products and specials average every 3-4 days from our much-appreciated telemarketing representative Debbie Tindale.
  • A monthly email highlighting “don’t miss” key titles and promotions
  • Link to a monthly online “book” featuring key publishing releases the following month
  • Print catalogues available on request
  • Flyers available on sign-up commitment

Parasource

  • Marketing emails for specials and forthcoming products average every 2-3 days from the sales manager, Martin Smith and his staff.
  • “Margin builder” clearance specials several times each month
  • Print catalogues available on request
  • Flyers available on sign-up commitment
  • Review books on request where possible

HarperCollins Christian Products

  • Meeting three times a year with Mark Hildebrand with visual presentation to go over upcoming releases in the following cycle
  • Marketing email at least once a week highlighting “news” items such as author appearances and drop-in titles or bestseller performance
  • Frequent phone calls to respond to any concerns or questions
  • Print catalogues delivered in person
  • Review books on request as well as a few additional titles to examine

Word Alive / Anchor

  • no email contact at all
  • no phone contact at all
  • no marketing enclosures in shipments
  • no catalogues sent
  • no review books

I should add that the situation is also an insult to the various authors — many of them Canadian — who may have signed with Word Alive Publishing (expecting access to bookstore sales) who I’ll also highlight here with a bullet:

  • Word Alive Publishing authors

noting that the only time we’ve run with a Word Alive title in the past 12 months was because of contact with the author’s mother in law. (The title, Not Alone by Andrea Calvert was here mentioned in this article and continues to perform well in my store.)

The same could also be said for

  • Whittaker House

which is rather pathetic considering this is their own publishing imprint. Generally speaking, if I find out about a Whitaker product it’s in spite of not because of their efforts.

I would expect that this situation is a blatant disregard for expectations set out in the distribution contract.

…This blog is seen by industry people on both side of the border. If you’re considering distribution of a product line, take a look at the four Canadian distributors listed above (three really, since HarperCollins doesn’t distribute beyond its own imprints) and decide which works best for you.

If you are one of the publishers mentioned at the top of the article, pull out that contract and see what expectations were placed on both parties at the time the contract was signed, and then call about ten Canadian retailers to review the distributor’s performance.

An Author’s Second Title May Come with Publisher Restrictions

Most items on the Steve Laube Agency blog are written for aspiring writers, but bookstores can gain great insight into the publishing process by studying the topics covered.

Ever had that feeling that a new author’s second book just wasn’t up to the first one? Or that it contained a lot of repeated material.

Or have you ever asked yourself why Max Lucado, who a generation ago was know for his Chronicles of the Cross series of books on the life of Christ, seems to turn up on the themes of fear and anxiety so often of late?

Has the cynic in you ever questioned how a successful book becomes a brand and wondered out loud if perhaps the author might like to have written something else entirely for their sophomore project?

Today on Steve Laube’s blog, Dan Balow explores this in a piece titled, “Same Message, Different Readers.”

…Applying a generally similar message with more targeted material has been a successful publishing strategy for many publishers.

But if you are an author who wants to go an entirely different direction with your next book, it can be somewhat dissatisfying, creatively speaking.

A successful book can be a blessing or even a curse, as excellent sales “brand” you a certain way. You will be expected to repeat the success, and more than likely, you will be required to do something “same, but different.” Frequently, this means to write a similar book to a more focused audience.

A very small number of authors can write whatever they want, and their readership follows them to whatever they write. The bulk of successful authors are known for something relatively narrow.

If this makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to take a deep breath and get over it.

Authors are in the business of creating a consumer product and it makes no business sense ignoring the consumer when deciding what to write. They are the eventual buyer and consumer, making the entire publishing process work.

In fact, once the needs of the reader begin to mean little to you, consider finding another way to express your creativity and message. Publishing without a reader-focus is destined to fail…

…Read the whole piece by clicking here.

Evangelical Books Exist in Europe, but Not in Mainstream Bookstores

The “Christendom” section, with part of the “Religie” shelves showing on the left. Beyond the Bibles, not many recognizable authors or titles. A basic “Sunrise Edition” Good News Bible runs €29.95.

We’ve become accustomed to bestselling Christian titles being available in Chapters, but not too many years back, that wasn’t the case. The selection was, to put it mildly, horrible, but gradually they caught up, no doubt learning lessons from how Barnes and Noble in the U.S. has become the default source for Christian books in cities which have lost a dedicated store.

On Monday I wrote,

If our visits this time around to European bookstores taught us anything, it was that the category we know and love as “Christian Living” is relatively absent on The Continent. I’ve read — and you’ve have read — statements like, “Max Lucado’s books have been translated into 70 languages” (a number made up here for convenience) but the favourite author of many wasn’t to be found on the shelves there.

It turns out that’s not entirely true, though I needed to investigate this after we returned.

In Scheltema, a large five-story bookstore in downtown Amsterdam, the sales associate closest to the religious shelves told me about De Fakkel — it means ‘The Torch’ — which had only closed a few weeks earlier. He estimated them to be a chain of 14 stores, but I couldn’t help but think as he was talking that this is a situation similar to Canada; it’s often the largest cities which take the hit when it comes to store closings.

He then pointed out that he really wouldn’t know where to begin picking up the slack. He was smart enough — and I respect him for this — to recognize the various denominations each have their own particular interests, and that De Fakkel can do a better job of this as insiders, so he’s chosen not to expand the Christian book section at this time, preferring to handle requests as special orders only. Still, I think he’d be safe with a dozen or so proven titles; or perhaps a former employee of De Fakkel’s Amsterdam location could advise on a few.

So when we returned, I investigated the De Fakkel website. There, I did finally see the books that I also carry in my store, but I couldn’t help but notice as I scrolled through the bestseller pages — presumably listed by sales rank — that it was dominated by Children’s books. Fiction was also high, though a dedicated Amish Fiction section yielded only 15 titles. Other categories, such as Theology, were dominated by Dutch national authors, which explained why so much was unfamiliar in the other stores I visited. I suspect it was the same in Germany in Switzerland, where again, I didn’t see the familiar authors from North America.

I also need to point out another exception, the ubiquitous Timothy Keller; appearing in every store I visited in all three countries which had a religious section. The man certainly gets around. Partly this might be due to the efforts of Penguin Random House who had other titles in English in a couple of stores. I didn’t see anything much beyond C. S. Lewis — and only one store this time, not like last year — which would have come through HarperCollins. Scheltema had three Joyce Meyer titles, which would have been supplied by Hachette Book Group.

Unlike Scheltema, the Christian bookstore chain offers music, DVDs and gifts, but one needs to scroll many pages deep into the music bestseller lists before finding anything familiar. The DVDs showed many more familiar titles, some in translation, but many in English. (God’s Not Dead was a bargain at only €4.99!)

I’m so sorry I didn’t get to De Fakkel, and that we missed it only by a few weeks. It would have been interesting to talk to their staff and see the products firsthand, instead of on the website.

After we were done taking pictures, we discovered the Joyce Meyer books were in a “Spirituality” section shelved alongside New Age authors. Needless to say, in Germany and surrounding countries, interest in Martin Luther runs high.

Next week, I’ll share with you another store that we almost got to see, and why I found the fact that we didn’t get in significant.

I also want to look at the secularization of Europe in general, and what it might mean for us as Christian booksellers. You’ll also find this topic on my regular blog today, including this paragraph which sums up the present situation:

The historic churches and cathedrals seem to survive on a blend of tourism and mid-week organ concerts. Because of the architecture, these buildings are museum-like in their connection to the past, but not the present. Their relevance or impact on day-to-day life for Europeans is minimal, except as a geographical point of reference, hence, “Meet me in front of the cathedral.” 

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?

 

Top Ten Books – Part Two – Baker

As we said yesterday, there’s a real dearth of data available for stores that want to manually check their inventory to make sure they’re not missing something, or possibly not giving enough profile to a title that’s doing well elsewhere.  Today we’re looking at Baker (the imprint, not the entire publishing group.)

Baker Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/6/17

  1. Grace is Greater – Kyle Idleman
  2. Replenish – Lance Witt
  3. Grieving with Hope: Finding Comfort as You Journey – various
  4. Simple Christianity – John MacArthur
  5. The Mystery – Lacey Sturm
  6. The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross – Arthur Pink
  7. Growing Young – Kara Powell
  8. Resolving Everyday Conflict – Ken Sande
  9. Forgiven and Set Free: Post-Abortion Bible Study – Linda Cochrane
  10. Good Faith – David Kinnaman

Baker Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/6/17 *

  1. Grace is Greater – Kyle Idleman
  2. Imagine Heaven – John Burke
  3. 50 People Every Christian Should Know – Warren Wiersbe
  4. Switch on Your Brain – Caroline Leaf
  5. Play the Man – Mark Batterson (preorders)
  6. A Visual Guide to Gospel Events – various (Baker Academic)
  7. The Invisible War – Chip Ingram
  8. Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling, 4th edition – David Kruis
  9. So What’s the Difference, updated and expanded – Fritz Ridenour
  10. The Real God – Chip Ingram

*trade book titles (not downloads) at 44% discount or less

It’s interesting that only the #1 title repeated on both lists; compared to yesterday’s where many were consistent between CBD and Ingram’s Spring Arbor demand list.

Top Ten Books – Part One – David C. Cook

I often rant that given that the book industry is a subset of the larger entertainment business, our suppliers need to give us better information about what is selling in the form of charts. Since that’s not forthcoming anytime soon, I’ve taken it upon myself to do some Top Ten lists. For Ingram this is easy because you can go into “View Publisher’s Titles” and then rank them by Spring Arbor stores’ demand. With CBD, we simply eliminated all their downloads and high discount items (cutoff was 44%).

We’ll cover major publishers here, so Cook, Baker, Bethany House, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, B&H, etc., as well as others you request by email. I think these lists can be more helpful than the full CBA list, because it can help in doing inventory checks or filling out orders. (I wish I’d done more of this while new year restock offers were in effect.)

David C. Cook Top Ten at Spring Arbor – accessed 4/6/17

  1. The Action Bible
  2. Forgotten God – Francis Chan
  3. Jesus is Alive – Cuddle and Sing – Debby Anderson
  4. Action Bible New Testament
  5. Baby Bible Storybook for Girls
  6. Jesus Loves Me – Cuddle and Sing – Debby Anderson
  7. Crazy Love – Francis Chan
  8. Cold Case Christianity – J. Warner Wallace
  9. It Hurts to Lose a Special Person – Amy Ross Mumford
  10. The Picture Bible

David C. Cook Top Ten trade titles at CBD – accessed 4/6/17

  1. Jesus is Alive – Debby Anderson
  2. Cold Case Christianity – J. Warner Wallace
  3. Bible Knowledge Commentary – Walvoord & Zuck (2 vol.)
  4. The End of Me – Kyle Idleman
  5. Jesus Loves Me – Debby Anderson
  6. Forgotten God – Francis Chan
  7. I am N – Voice of the Martyrs
  8. Forensic Faith – J. Warner Wallace (pre-orders)
  9. Living Crazy Love – Francis Chan (workbook)
  10. Sacred Search – Gary Thomas