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Posts Tagged ‘religious publishing’

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.

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Fresh Fiche Weekly

For some of you, this is like a picture of an old friend. If you’re new to the business, you’re thinking, ‘What the heck is this?’

If you’ve been around Christian bookselling for awhile; time to gather the younguns around the screen — already halfway to recreating the experience — and unravel the story of using a fiche reader to look up products for customers.

The Spring Arbor microfiche arrived in the mail weekly. As I remember it, Title (sets; usually 3 – 5 sheets) was weekly, Author was every other week, Music and Video were monthly, and I had a long wait for Category coming once every quarter. Actually, the Category sheets were one of my favorites.

Believe it or not, a small store like ours didn’t think we needed that data with great immediacy. So we shared a subscription with another store. They got them first and mailed them to us. Then we took our set and sent it off to one of our other stores. (We were a chain of three stores at the time, and libraries were always selling off fiche readers cheap.)

The ability to search online made the fiche redundant, as the ability to order online made the Spring Arbor Telxon unit redundant. But we’ll save that one for another day, since the kids probably won’t believe we placed a suction cup on our phone to place orders.

 

Christian Book Shop Talk Enters Year 10

After a week off, we’re back just in time to celebrate the 9th Birthday of this blog. After blogging at e4God and USAToday, I came to WordPress and actually started seven blogs, all within the space of several months. This is one of three which is still regularly updated with new content.

It’s been great to connect with all of you in this forum. I don’t get to trade shows so this is my only opportunity to start conversations, which customers in my store will tell you is something I love doing. Those of us who own, manage or staff Christian bookstores walk a rather unique road which has all the drama of owning a business, all the glitter of the entertainment industry (with books, movies and music) and all the importance of ministry calling.

Canadian readers continue to dominate the stats (unlike my other two blogs) at 58%, but the U.S. is gaining at 37%. Moving forward you may see articles where I explain how things work here and you’ll wonder why I’m doing that since everyone here already knows, but I want to also be able to represent us to the larger readership, which includes executives and international sales directors of American publishing houses.

I also want to take a moment to thank the people at various Canadian distributors who share information beyond what I could expect to hear as a retailer, especially given the size of my own store’s market. I appreciate having a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes, even if it’s followed by, “But you can’t blog what I just told you.” Sigh!

So Happy Birthday to Us. Thanks to all of you who drop in periodically, subscribe, leave comments, or contact me directly with both joys and sorrows.

This blog is available to all of you who wish to write longer-form articles than what you’re able to say in other forums, and hardly anything posted here has ever been deleted, so the material stays accessible for a longer time frame. Or feel free to pick a month and go back and see what was occurring and what issues were important 3 years ago, or 5 years ago or 7 years ago. If it’s something where you need to be anonymous that’s fine, as along as I can authenticate that it came from someone in the industry.

Finally, if you see an article in other media that you think stores should read, let me know so that we can run an excerpt with a link.

~Paul Wilkinson

 

 

 

 

 

An Example of Losing “Sweet Spot” Pricing

We’ve written four times previously about the idea that there is a key pricing point for certain items, and once you get beyond that you’ve lost the customer. I also noted this seems to apply more with low-price staples than with high end Bibles. Most recently we mentioned Rose Pamphlets, when their price crested above $5. I wasn’t entirely correct on this; we noticed that some customers don’t care, but if you buy 3 or more in my store and the price reverts below $5 anyway.

This time around it’s the God I Need to Talk to You About… series of booklets from Concordia. This series has about 24 titles, and we have them in two places and customers seem to locate them in both. Sometimes they come in asking for them. However recently three factors converged to put them at $2 CDN each.

  • Change in distributors
  • U.S. List price increase
  • High Canadian dollar

These little booklets aren’t that big. I think $2 is too high, so we modified them to $1.79 in our store, with a slight discount if you buy 4/$6.99. (Down from 5/$6.99.) Any more, and we can’t do it, especially with the online competition from Christian Book (who actually sometimes run advertising on this blog because we’re using a free WordPress service.)

…There are times you get to add a little to a MSRP and there are other times you need to subtract to keep the product moving. This is an example of the latter. In a foreign market environment, I think we need to think in terms of DSRP (Distributor Suggested Retail Price) as a reminder that just as they chose a number, we can choose one as well.

In today’s example, hopefully the dollar will respond, or the publisher will hear about the situation and make concessions to the Canadian distributor.


I created the graphic to reintroduce the series to my Facebook customers. A bit of glare perhaps, but feel free to steal it. You can probably do better!

Another troubling question: Why did Parasource choose $2 and not $1.99?

Save you looking: Word Alive says $2.49, so the CDN price may already be a concession. That’s still way too high for what you get.

Last call: Ingram has some 6-packs left at the old 99 cents US list price.

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.

When White House News Leads The National

Some days it’s hard to tell if you’re watching a Canadian newscast or have accidentally switched to a U.S. channel. Several times this month, a story pertaining to the White House and the American President have led The National on CBC. I am quite sure they agonize over whether to choose developments there over Canadian or overseas stories, but clearly we can’t get enough of the continuing developments south of the border.

As a bookseller, whenever a product is presented to me that would be considered “U.S.-interest” I instinctively pass. It’s hard to sell a book with the U.S. flag or the Capitol building on the cover, certain Joel Rosenberg fiction titles notwithstanding.

This time it’s different.

I think there might be a considerable interest in these parts for a book releasing by Baker in early October, Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope and Why Christian Conservatives Support Him by Stephen Mansfield, who has considerable experience writing the biographies of U.S. Presidents. My reading has been constantly interrupted, but the introduction alone is probably the most succinct summary of Trump’s rise and conquering of the White House I’ve seen in any media, print or electronic.

This is a faith-focused story, not about the faith of the man himself — another book is tackling that topic for a January release — but an understanding of how Trump was able to galvanize support from the Religious Right after eight years of President Obama. In that sense, it’s a summary of how things work in a land where Evangelicalism is inextricably linked to politics.

And in that, there are many parallels and many lessons for us in this country.

I’ll have more to say to about the book when I finish it, but if you’re a Canadian store considering this title, don’t be too dismissive because it’s someone else’s political story. Order carefully, but my bet is that this is a story that some of your customers will want to read.

9780801007330 | 208 pages | hardcover | October 3, 2017

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 YourMusicZone.com — and presumably YourChurchZone.com 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.

Christian Publishing Companies Took an Enormous Loss on Family Christian Closing

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

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

The article later goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a big loss for us all.

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

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

Toward the end of the article…

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Books – Part Seven – Thomas Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Books – Part Six – NavPress

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and so on! A very different list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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