In 1817, James and John Harper open the modest printing establishment of J. & J. Harper, Printers, in New York City; which means this is an anniversary year. A BIG anniversary year!
To celebrate, the company has created a special website 200.hc.com which is divided into five sections. Of special interest to readers here is the Timeline page, which includes histories of divisions added through mergers and acquisitions, such as Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. As you’ll see however, Thomas Nelson goes back a long time too, with a history that’s not so shabby. And Zondervan isn’t exactly a new kid on the block.
I’ve sold this Max Lucado devotional several times. The author has instant name recognition. Each of the 365 devotional readings has a scripture verse, a story and some practical application at the bottom. A little light for some perhaps, but exactly what others are looking for. I’ve especially sold it to men. The cover has more of a masculine feel, I guess; especially in a market where so much is geared for Becky, the stereotype female customer. I’ve had good feedback from people who bought it for their husband or someone in their teens, 20s or 30s.
However, each time I’ve sold one of these for an adult, I’ve had to hand-sell it. The reason: Thomas Nelson makes no allowance in its book categories for students or young adults, which is the target market. That category designation isn’t available I suppose. But for every copy I’ve sold, we’ve had other customers who passed. Or the two who were buying it for a student, but got me to put some type of sticker over the offending word, Juvenile.
This is true of other Thomas Nelson products, but I don’t remember this particular problem with other publishers. It’s counterproductive. Better no category. Or Devotional.
Have you had a similar experience with this or other products?
As a supplement to the September 16th story we announced that Augsburg-Fortress had picked up Westminster John Knox and Abingdon. Here’s how other trade lines fared in the weeks that followed; use the archives tabs to find the stories.
September 24: Baker Books Declares Open Market in Canada
September 26: Foundation Confirms Distribution for NavPress and Gospel Light
September 30: STL Announces Consolidated Shipping and Brokerage
October 6: Thomas Nelson Soliciting Canadian Stores Directly
October 10: Tyndale Assigns Canadian Distribution to Foundation
October 17: Harvest House Signs with Foundation Distributing
October 21: David C. Cook Cooks Up Drop-Ship Deal with Baker
October 28: Baker Books Locks in with David C. Cook
November 6: David C. Cook Confirms Moody and Kregel Trade Lines; Jettisons Others
November 12: David C. Cook Confirms Broadman & Holman Distribution
November 12: Upper Room Books Signs with Augsburg Fortress
5 Ways to Get Customers As Excited About Books as You Are
by Paul Wilkinson
There’s a saying that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink;” to which the response is, “True, but you can put salt in its oats to make it thirsty.”
Getting customers — and people you would like to see return as customers — into the books you stock is always a challenge. These days, it seems like there are so many things competing for our attention. But there are some things you can do:
YouTube – I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. Let a customer listen to N.T. Wright or Francis Chan, and they will literally hear those authors in their heads as they are reading. I’ve directed many customers to an obscure clip from Chan titled “Balance beam” many times. These links create familiarity and intimacy with the authors and drive customers back to get their books. Of course, there are also book trailers. I wish the publishers would help us find out about them better, and have something to direct our customers to find them.
Magazines – Most stores say their magazine program is dying or has already died, but these resources were great for allowing people to read excerpts and reviews of current products. We’re currently doing a giveaway program with Faith Today magazine from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, to help people who want to be better connected stay in the loop. Our regional Christian newspaper, The Christian Herald, contains book reviews in each and every issue. For stores still playing the magazine game, Relevant, Christianity Today, various women’s magazines and Focus on the Family are examples of periodicals that can drive sales, though with Focus you’re competing with their in-house product sales.
Church Libraries – Many stores see the local church libraries as competition, but nothing could be further from the truth. Besides being among your best customers, they get people excited about books, authors and series, and I like to encourage some of the local church librarians to make sure the library is frequently mentioned in the announcements or the bulletin. With one or two churches, I’m going to take some pictures of the library myself, send them to the church office, just so they have an image to go with a mention in the weekend announcement slides, and mid-week e-mail blast.
Thrift Shops – Someone made a point of tracking me down when Bibles for Missions opened a store in my town, to inform me that this would spell certain doom for my bookstore. Quite the opposite. People get a couple of titles in a 4-book set and come to us hoping to find the rest. I don’t have room to start a used department, so I see the thrift store as complementary to what we’re doing in the retail bookstore. Besides, the book departments at Value Village or The Salvation Army are testimony to the fact that book reading is alive and well.
Excerpts Online – I recently asked an author for 6 or 7 paragraphs from his recent book. You would think I had asked for a share of his royalties. Publishers and distributors and literary agents couldn’t make it happen. I just don’t have time to transcribe from each and every book, or I would; and I can’t copy and paste excerpts from fuzzy .pdf pages. Christian publishers are totally dropping the ball on this one and they don’t get it. Fine. I understand that budgets don’t allow for printed samplers anymore. But it costs nothing to post sample chapters and then let retailers know where the heck they’re buried online. It’s the bookstore equivalent of handing out samples at the grocery store or Costco. Give me a little bit on a toothpick, and if it tastes good, I’ll probably throw the package in the shopping cart.
It’s not just you that’s waiting forever for shipments from HarperCollins. Stores across Canada are being affected. And the article which appeared Tuesday at Publisher’s Weekly doesn’t begin to address the problems we’ve experienced with damaged books — some setting a new all-time low for the severity of the damage before the books were packed — as well as package shortages, wrong titles shipped, and shipments disappearing into thin air.
These are excerpts:
Canadian indie bookstores are facing long waits for HarperCollins titles this holiday season, causing frustration and missed opportunities for sales. Since HC closed its Toronto-area warehouse this spring, distribution to Canadian stores has been provided by Indiana-based company R.R. Donnelley. Although booksellers were promised 48-hour shipping, they claim to be waiting two weeks or more to receive their orders.
Kelly McKinnon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, said an order she placed with HC on Nov. 13 didn’t arrive in her store until Nov. 27. The shipping issue, she noted, is impacting the bottom line; while her overall store sales are up this fall, her sales of HC titles are down 20%…
…Two other B.C.-based bookstores, Mosaic Books and the indie chain Black Bond Books, expressed similar frustrations. Michael Neill, co-owner at Mosaic Books, said sales of HC titles at his store are “way down,” with orders typically taking 10 days to arrive. One order, placed on Nov. 10, didn’t arrive at the store until Nov. 26…
…David Worsley, co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, said shipments to his store have been taking eight or nine days, and arriving piecemeal. “HarperCollins has mastered the art of shipping orders containing six boxes over three days. Box one of six and five of six on Monday, boxes four of six on Wednesday, the rest on Friday.” …
read the whole article at this link.
There are a number of ways this writer feels changes could be made for the better:
- Invoices in package. What the company is spending on postage alone is obscene. On Tuesday we received four separate envelopes at international first class US postage. Separate invoicing is also the norm with Hachette and Penguin Random-House, but with our Christian market suppliers, invoices with shipments is much more common and much easier on the environment. Also my bookkeeper has so many packing slips and invoices that need to be matched up. It’s often only at month-end we realize a shipment is missing.
- Consolidate backorder releases. There’s no need for all these small parcels to be going out piecemeal. Items can be merged into a single shipment on a single invoice.
- Ditch UPS. Their contract is part of an international arrangement HarperCollins has with United Parcel Service, but the so-called “Cadillac” of couriers irritates me on so many levels that it would need to be the subject of another article. We get many deliveries as late as 4:30 PM (at which point they should really be doing pick-ups) and despite dozens of requests to lay the boxes flat, they always leave the boxes lying on their sides.
- Have a random checking stage and remove warehouse employees who have too many errors. The formula of pick-check-pack has obviously been replaced with pick-pack which results in wrong titles, wrong quantities and books which were obviously in warehouse cartons that had been dropped or fell off the forklift truck. In one study guide shipment we got six out of thirty-six books that would never pass even as remainders, but they were all in different parts of the box. There’s no way this should have been missed unless it was deliberate, which, I have to say I do suspect.
- Find ways to make good on the disasters of the past year. I’ll leave that to HarperCollins’ imagination.
This article was updated at 9:00 AM with point 2 above added.
Some people consider themselves deep thinkers, but struggle with staying focused when they hold a book in their hands. They like to be challenged and engaged, but their ADD kicks in every time they —look over there, I think that cat is chasing a squirrel– so they have probably already seen the advantage in reading story collections and anthologies.
It’s ironic then that in presenting this assembly of transcripts from the Breakpoint radio program with Charles Colson to you I should be proposing the writing of a man who was such a voracious reader to people who struggle with that very same discipline.
Because of who Colson was, it should come as no surprise that many of the short articles in the book are related in some way to politics and political systems. That was his passion, and that is where he truly speaks with authority.
Other themes in My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues That Matter Most include Christian apologetics, biomedical ethics, public life, culture, crimal justice, contentment, homosexuality, and several other topics. Within each theme there are at least a dozen transcripts, some longer, and some that were edited, though at times the subject ends up being political- or economic-related. This of course creates a bit of a liability when you are an international reader because so much of this concerns the American political system and key figures in the U.S. government. Even so, in those articles there are principles to be extracted and some of the stories have ended up on the front pages of newspapers in Sydney, London or Toronto despite their origin.
Then there is the richness in terms of the quality and quantity of the writers Colson quotes. He was a huge fan of C. S. Lewis and G. K Chesterton, and to continue the list here would be to leave out others. If you want to know what makes people great, look at who they read and whose quotations they have memorized.
My Final Word clocks in at 240 pages total, released in August from Zondervan. In the foreword, longtime Colson associate Eric Metaxas suggests that there is sufficient material here to make the book suitable for small group discussions, and if all your group members are not always in touch with such issues, these radio transcripts will certainly raise awareness.
Full disclosure: Because of the nature of this anthology, I have not yet read every section, though I do prefer not to review a book before I’ve read every last word. I do intend to finish it however — it’s perfect nighttime reading for me — and I would encourage readers to keep a pen, pencil or highlighter handy to underline key sections and mark page numbers of passages to which you wish to return. I’m also reading the sections out-of-sequence, starting with ones which resonate more, and then, as I get more into the rhythm of the book, finding the others to be of equally interesting. In that sense, it’s a great reference resource on the topics listed above.
Chuck Colson was a very, very wise man.
Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada for a copy of My Final Word as well as the other three titles that formed part of our all-review weekend here at Christian Book Shop Talk. Reviews featured here were published earlier at Thinking Out Loud.
I’m not a huge fan of plot contrivances in fiction, or some types of literary devices in non-fiction, so when it became apparent that Lisa Harper’s commentary on the Book of Acts was using the story of the adoption of her daughter as a motif, I was a little skeptical.
But in fact, author Lisa Harper really had won me over by the second chapter.
Believing Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts is for certain a book about the fifth book in the New Testament, but it’s a different kind of approach, and if you can buy in to its premise, you will enjoy this immensely. So Peter, Phillip and Paul share the spotlight with Missy, a little HIV-positive girl from Haiti who has rocked the author’s world.
Granted, I’m not a frequent reader of women’s interest titles, but this is a story that offers surprises at every chapter. Not knowing much of the Women of Faith speakers, apparently this several-years-long adoption process resulted in Harper, who has reached the half-century mark in life, becoming a single mom. She’s very candid about the challenges that brings.
So how exactly does Ms. Harper bridge the 2,000 year gap between the early church and an orphanage in Haiti? The answer is: Very well. I don’t want to be the spoiler king, but this is a book like nothing else I’ve read before. What’s really happening here is that upfront you’re tracking the story of Lisa and Missy, meanwhile a solid theological lesson is sneaking in the back door. This is an author that knows her way around Bible reference materials, word-study books in particular. (Or conversely, you’re following along with the chapters in Acts and seeing touch-points of relate-ability you never considered.)
All of which to say that with Believing Jesus we have something that you could give to that woman in your church or small group that perhaps has never read a Christian book before. Maybe even one who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith. With its Facebook and Instagram pictures of the journey from Haitian orphanage to America, it’s also a great gift to a woman who has become a new parent through adoption, a single parent, or someone who has had a child later in life.
Book Author Who Opposed the Popular Jesus Calling Books Says 10th Anniversary Edition Has Been Edited
Heresy hunter Warren B. Smith begins:
What if you are a major publisher like Thomas Nelson and you suddenly discover that your mega best-selling book Jesus Calling was inspired by a channeled New Age book? And what if you find out that some of the “messages” your author “received” from her “Jesus” weren’t really from Jesus because they contradict what the real Jesus Christ says in the Bible? And what if your best-selling author has introduced a host of other problems in her book that your usually sharp editors had somehow overlooked? What do you do given these issues are already in the pages of ten million previously published books? If you want to be fair to your readers, you deal honestly with these problems as they are brought to your attention. However, if you are more interested in protecting your product rather than in protecting the truth, you do everything in your power to make these problems disappear. One thing is for sure. Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have made some of their problems suddenly disappear in recent editions of Jesus Calling—most especially in a special 10th anniversary edition of Jesus Calling released on September 30, 2014.
Perhaps taking their cue from the missing eighteen-and-a-half minutes from Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes, Sarah Young and Thomas Nelson have been systematically deleting controversial material from Jesus Calling. Adding, subtracting, cutting, pasting, and completely eliminating problematic words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs, Young and her editors do not hesitate to put words in the mouth of their “Jesus,” even as they take others away. But like the Watergate tapes, the missing evidence and their in-your-face tactics are doing more to expose their problems than cover them up.
He then reiterates his objections to the original book in the rest of the piece. You can read the entire article at the Stand Up For The Truth website.
It’s hard to find articles online critical of the book, since everyone is on the sales bandwagon, especially in some markets where the book has been #1 for much of the past few years. So I don’t have other corroboration of Smith’s claims.
Still, the book’s theological liabilities have not escaped notice. I’ve been following the discussion thread at Ryan Dueck’s blog for over four years now, and not surprisingly, the book did not fare well with Canadian blogger Tim Challies, who called it “a very dangerous book.” We covered those links here before, also noting two years ago that the genre in which it is written is not entirely new; and also linking to that rare occasion where author Sarah Young did an interview with Christianity Today.
On a personal note, I should say that a good 80% of my own sales on this book over the past two years have been to the local Spiritualist Church. Until recently — and I’m not sure why it changed — we did not acknowledge sales of the book on our Top books chart, and also, prior to 2012, a book closely associated with it, God Calling was available in our store only by special order, even though the book is published by, among others, Baker Books.
For it’s part, Thomas Nelson is marketing the anniversary release as an “Expanded Edition.” Nowhere on the company website are words like “revised,” “edited,” or even “updated” used.
So, if anyone can send us third party verification of what Warren B. Smith has written, we’ll add the link here.
In 2010, David Gregory’s futuristic The Last Christian introduced a world where core memory transplants were a medical possibility. In 2012, James Rubart’s Soul’s Gate broke down the wall between the visible realm and the spiritual realm. And based on the cover and a few things I was able to grab online, Ted Dekker goes all sci-fi in the 2014 young adult release Hacker, which involves hacking into the most sophisticated computer ever produced, the human brain.
But Colleen Coble? Somehow, I found it a stretch to imagine the historical fiction writer delving into a complication from a transplant that I doubt most mystery writers have even considered:
“Cell memory is really true,” says Colleen Coble, whose new book, Seagrass Pier (Thomas Nelson, July), features Elin Summerall, a heart transplant recipient who has violent flashbacks she soon realizes are memories of her donor’s murder. Coble has experience with the phenomenon: “A friend had a transplant and aspects of her personality changed from that moment.”
Seagrass Pier, the second (sic *) book in her Hope Beach series, pits Elin against a stalker who wants to put a permanent end to her flashbacks. Though others discount her story, Marc Everton, an FBI agent on leave who doesn’t know he’s the father of Elin’s daughter, believes her.
The book is a return for Coble to contemporary Christian fiction, which she says is her real love, and a sign of how much Christian fiction has evolved in the past five years. The early days of prairie stories and perfect characters are over, Coble says. “There is a huge ability [now] in Christian fiction to write imperfect characters, to write about all of us. There really is no forbidden topic; we don’t have to shy away from anything.”
Continue reading this story at Publisher’s Weekly.
Colleen is quickly emerging as one of Christian fiction’s most prolific writers with a strong back catalog and many new series titles already scheduled.
*Note to retailers: Publisher’s Weekly’s story has an error. Seagrass Pier is actually book three in the Hope Beach series. Readers might want to start with Tidewater Inn (July, 2012) then move on to Rosemary Cottage (July, 2013) and then read Seagrass Pier.
One of the blessings of doing Thinking Out Loud is that increased readership has led to increased generosity on the part of several Christian publishers. I probably got more books in the year after the blog started growing than in 36 previous years on the retail side of things.
Unfortunately, not every book gets reviewed there, but I wanted to mention several.
Before we begin, you’ll notice four books for men in this list. Men’s books don’t sell well in the Christian marketplace, so this emphasis is a bit of a surprise especially when you consider that all four are from HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Hopefully the men’s-interest market can sustain all this activity happening at the same time.
The Hope Quotient – Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson) — More than just a motivational or self-help book, this California pastor has packed this book with charts and graphics as well as supporting scripture references and comes at a time when many people feel hope is lacking. The HQ test allows readers to test their own Hope Quotient.
Rare Bird – Anna Whitson-Donaldson (Convergent) — The real life memoir of a mother whose 12-year old son was washed away in a nearby creek following a freak rainstorm. This book releases in September from Convergent. To get a taste of this, check out this post on her blog, The Bridge: One Terrible Night. Releases in September.
Small – Craig Gross (Nelson Books) — The founder of XXXChurch.com writes celebrating the ordinary and the insignificant. While the book is general in nature, Gross incorporates story from his rather unique ministry. This book is releasing in August, and unlike the others listed here, I’m already one-third of the way in, so we may end up doing a full review on this one. (Trivia: This is a must-gift book for anyone who serves their local church as a greeter!)
Overrated – Eugene Cho (David C. Cook) — I didn’t list this one on another version of this article at Thinking Out Loud earlier in the week because I intend to do a full review on it. If you had a market for Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma, this book by the founder of the One Day’s Wages charity will fit into that same social justice/social concern category. This book connected with me on a number of different levels. September release.
7 Ways to Be Her Hero – Doug Fields (W Publishing) — The author of the classic Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and teaching pastor for the last 22 years at Saddleback is back with seven steps men can take to improve their ability to be a husband. He’s already got my attention with Step #1: Don’t Say Everything You Think. Oh, oh!
The Dude’s Guide to Manhood – Darrin Patrick (Nelson Books) — The chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals names twelve different characteristics that can be developed in any man of various stages in life.
Be The Dad She Needs You To Be – Kevin Leman (Thomas Nelson) — One of the foremost experts on family dynamics, prolific author and speaker Leman really needs no introduction as he delves into the relationships between fathers and daughters. There is much practical advice here; fathers of girls might want to keep this book handy.
The Good Dad – Jim Daly (Zondervan) — The President of Focus on the Family comes into many of your homes via radio each and every day, though often while the Dad in the family is at work. (I’m betting at least 70% of Focus listeners are female). The book is somewhat autobiographical as Daly didn’t have the benefit of great role modeling.
Love Well – Jamie George (David C. Cook) — The subtitle is Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck and encourages the reader to move beyond the paralyzing effects of fear shame and hopelessness. This book releases in August.
Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul – David Robert Anderson (Convergent) — This book is releasing through the “edgy” imprint of Waterbrook/Multnomah, so it is no surprise that it deals with going through that period of life when lifelong faith assumptions start to unravel and beliefs about God, faith and church are in flux. The Connecticut Episcopal pastor deals with times we experience a “shift in our spiritual foundation.”
Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story – Craig von Buseck (Baker) — That this book is in hardcover adds to the mystery here. The book is subtitled, The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music. In this case, we’re talking about the original American music form, Negro Spirituals.
Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick (Waterbrook) — After getting downright giddy about Furtick’s first two books on this blog, you would think I would have done anything to get my hands on an advance reader copy of his third book. But alas, I’ve allowed myself to become jaded by all the online attention being given to Furtick’s $1.75 million (U.S.) home. I may get to this book yet, or read it privately without doing a review. I guess I’m just too disappointed in how this author’s journey is playing out, and it’s unfortunate because I had high hopes.