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Moody scales back publishing program PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:31 PM EDT

Fiction and nonfiction affected in ‘reader-centric’ move

PaulSanthouseMoody Publishers announced in July its decision to reduce the number of titles the company will release each year, including fiction under the River North imprint. The publisher also plans to continue the acquisition of fiction, though fewer titles will be published.

Moody has published from eight to 12 fiction titles annually and will now focus on publishing three to four a year. Debbie Keiser’s position—associate publisher at River North—has been eliminated.

“We’re neither shutting down fiction nor selling our line,” said Paul Santhouse, vice president of publishing at Moody. “We’ve simply reduced the number of titles we release each year, which is why we’re no longer staffing fiction with a full-time acquiring position.”

“Many of our fiction authors contribute profoundly to the lives of our readers and the strength of our line, and I hope to continue partnering with them for years to come,” Santhouse added.

Newly appointed Audience Development Director Holly Kisly elaborated on the recent changes.

“We are reducing all title releases per year, not just fiction,” Kisly said. “And as the overall count is reduced, so will fiction. Now, why we are reducing is critical. A reader-centric publishing strategy focuses on real and accurate reader content, quantity and timing needs. Our new goals are intended to help Moody Publishers become more of a forward-thinking and well-positioned publisher.” —Johnson

Agency’s special marketing programs raise awareness of Christian products in Canada PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:28 PM EDT

Graf-Martin Communications had ‘strong retailer encouragement’ at development stage of consumer promotional campaigns

Canadian marketing and publicity agency Graf-Martin Communications has launched Spark, a new digital street team platform, and relaunched two of its consumer outreach programs, Nuts about Books and Resourcing Leaders. Graf-Martin offers all three services to new and current clients to augment and support public relations and marketing campaigns.NutsAboutBooks

“We’ve developed, refined and rebranded all of these programs because we know that as times change, we need to connect with consumers in new, strategic and creative ways,” said Ellen Graf-Martin, Graf-Martin Communications’ founder and president. “Our clients want to expand their reach across Canada, and we’ve created simple ways to do just that.”

Graf-Martin’s clients—including Baker Publishing Group, David C Cook, Ten Thousand Villages, Sony Pictures, Pure Flix, World Vision Canada and Focus on the Family Canada—have enjoyed access to these signature programs, but now the programs are being made available to the broader industry.

The communications agency has had “strong retailer encouragement in our development of these programs,” Graf-Martin told Christian Retailing.

In May, the agency piloted its new Spark digital promotion strategy to help launch across Canada films like God’s Not Dead. Unique to the Canadian faith marketplace, Spark Digital Street Teams give products or organizations the opportunity to create “online fireworks.”

Nuts about Books is a program made up of over 250 active bloggers who have been key to the agency’s successes in spreading the word on hundreds of product launch campaigns.

“No one else was hosting a uniquely Canadian, faith-friendly blog program available to all publishers, so we happily set out to fill the gap,” Graf-Martin said. “Nuts about Books is a staff favorite. We know our bloggers by name, we know their blog statistics and engagement levels, and we’re intentional about tracking them regularly.”

Graf-Martin Communications’ key influencer network, now named Resourcing Leaders, connects with 250 national leaders and influencers monthly or bi-monthly. The heart of the program is to see key Canadian church and ministry leaders well-resourced, while giving profile to excellent Christian curriculum, books, films and other media.

“In general, our experience is that much of the promotional and advertising activities that happen stateside simply don’t cross over the border, meaning that the burden to drive consumer awareness and push consumers into stores falls primarily on the shoulders of the retailer,” Graf-Martin said. “The Canadian distributors do some marketing efforts, but they’re also limited in what they can reasonably do at a broader level. Budgets are just tight everywhere. Our creation of these programs has been designed to help fill the gap—scaling the resources so that any publisher, distributor and so forth can access them, create product awareness and drive sales to retail.”—Johnson

Social-media leader Facebook tests ‘Buy’ button to benefit advertisers, small businesses PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:26 PM EDT

Veteran Christian retailer says many questions must be answered before she would take advantage of the new service

Facebook-IconFacebook is testing a new feature to help businesses drive sales through the site in News Feed and on Pages.

With the feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the “Buy” button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business without leaving the page they’re on and without leaving Facebook.

Facebook is taking steps to make the payment experience safe and secure. None of the credit- or debit-card information people use on Facebook will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases.

The current test is limited to a few small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States.

The opportunity could be beneficial for small businesses—including Christian retail stores—that have a page on Facebook.

“This represents a tremendous opportunity for savvy small businesses to generate sales in real time,” Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, told CNN Money. “This is an opportunity for innovation.”

Donna Baker of Dightman’s Bible Book Center in Tacoma, Washington, is tentative about using the button for her business.

“In theory, this Facebook idea sounds great,” Baker told Christian Retailing. “Anything to compete in the marketplace is appreciated. However, there are a lot of questions that must be answered first to know if this is really a good idea. Will Facebook be making a commission on the sale, and if so, how much? Will a purchase give the customer an option to go to the store web page? Will there be options for the customer to pick up their item at the store? If it is to be mailed, how will postage and handling be figured? Will the customer’s credit card be processed by Facebook or by the store?”

Previously, the social-media giant made another e-commerce attempt with Facebook Gifts, but it ended in less than a year. —Johnson

Central Minnesota’s Bethany Book & Gift store celebrates 75 years in business PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ken Walker   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:15 PM EDT

Christian retail location was once the namesake of Bethany College of Missions—which spawned Bethany House Publishers

As central Minnesota’s Bethany Book & Gift observes its 75th anniversary, co-owner Mike Woodard finds it exciting to play a role in such a storied history.

“It’s interesting to think about the path the store has taken with different names and locations,” Mike said of the outlet, which originated in 1939 as the Gospel Art Store. “It’s adapted to changes but has always been a light for Christ in our community.”

DebMikeWoodard-BethanyExteriorAlthough Karen Gehrls and her husband, Tim, sold the store to Mike and his wife, Deb, eight years ago, Karen is thrilled to see it reach this milestone.

“I used to go to the store when it was in (founder Alice) Frei’s house,” said Karen, who still fills in when the Woodards are short-staffed. “I never dreamed that one day I would be co-owner of it.”

Located two hours north of Minneapolis, Bethany Book changed hands a couple times before becoming a namesake of Bethany College of Missions—the same group that founded Bethany House—when the college purchased it in 1970.

A year later, the newly graduated Gehrls went to serve a one-year internship at the store, but remained in the area and purchased it in 1978.

The couple ran the bookstore for 28 years before selling it to the Woodards in 2006. Deb had started as a clerk in 1988 and gradually took on management responsibilities. She calls it “pretty unique” for an independently owned store to reach this milestone.

Still, keeping up with the demands of the store in Baxter and a second business she and Mike acquired two years ago leaves Deb straining to find time to celebrate.

“Maybe it should be more of a big thing, but I’m so overwhelmed with the daily to-do’s that I can’t give it too much attention,” she told Christian Retailing.

A July anniversary sale featuring 20% to 40% discounts and several major prize drawings were the only direct ties to the historic occasion. No one knows the exact date the business began.

“We hoped we would generate some new traffic and that folks will remember to come back during the Christmas season,” Deb said of the summer sale.

After moving out of Frei’s home, the store was located in nearby Brainerd until spring 2002, when it moved to a more visible location in Baxter.

Two years after the Woodards’ purchase, Bethany Book would move again to a 3,000-square-foot home in a new shopping center, just across from a Costco and two blocks from Walmart.

After they acquired it, Tim, a real-estate appraiser, found himself with more demands on his time than he could accommodate. Finally, he joined his wife full time.

With help from four part-time staffers, the Woodards are a team. Mike applies his business expertise to handling books, taxes and government regulations. Deb oversees ordering and customer contact.

“He and I complement each other,” Deb said. “We joke about how I buy stuff and he pays for it.”

Together, the couple strives to keep their business fresh and offering unique items. If Walmart or Target stock it, they aren’t interested, Deb said.

With book sales declining steadily the past two years, a 2012 acquisition that boosted customer traffic is Character Plus. The 40-year-old business started in the Twin Cities to produce personalized name plaques and other items with scripture on them.

When the couple running that business offered to sell so they could retire, the Woodards decided these gift items would make a good addition and provide another revenue stream. They ship items internationally via website orders and deal with Christian stores nationwide.

Mike oversees manufacturing, with the display prompting squeals of delight from customers who recognize the plaques from childhood. Deb said it isn’t often this kind of specialty line lasts for four decades.

“We had a lady in the other day, who shops here once a year, who said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you could still get those,’ ” Deb said. “She bought three and called back later and ordered another one. A woman just called and ordered four for her great-grandchildren.”

Bethany Book has a cadre of loyal customers, including Shelly Thelen. After deciding to follow Christ in 1996, Thelen went searching for Christ-centered music for herself and her children.

“Deb showed me Supertones Strike Back [by The Orange County Supertones], and my son and I loved it,” Shelly said. “That was my first purchase, and I keep coming back. The staff always welcomes me, and the atmosphere is pure family.”

Dona McEnelly sees the store as an inviting, comfortable place with knowledgeable, helpful staff.

“I know I can find quality cards, books, music and many more things,” McEnelly said. “Sometimes it’s a great place to go when I need a little pick-me-up and an encouraging word. We are blessed to have them in our community.”

For the Woodards, the feeling is mutual.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of customers who appreciate us being here,” Mike said. “Their positive feedback is very motivating.”  —Ken Walker

Church Store Connection encourages networking PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 03:09 PM EDT

Pastor and author Charles Stanley challenges church store staff at annual luncheon organized by Geni Hulsey

Church bookstore managers and staff—and those considering starting a church store—gathered during ICRS at the Church Store Connection Center for a time of education, networking and fellowship.CharlesStanley-ChurchStoreConnection

Dr. Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta and founder and president of In Touch Ministries, brought a message to church-store personnel.

“I know you are the ones that make it happen in all of these bookstores, and I am very privileged to be able to speak to you just for a few moments,” he said. “I’ve been a pastor for 57 years, and I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve been in a lot of bookstores. I’ve written a few books. When I think about the whole issue of books and bookstores, I think about all of the bookstores I visit.”

Stanley said he has one ultimate goal in life, “to get the truth of the gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Stanley urged church store staff to perceive each person who walks into their store as “very important,” he said. “It’s your responsibility. You need to be filled with the Spirit of God—just as much as any pastor.”

The bookstore should be a “happy place,” he advised, adding that it all boils down to “how big your heart is.”

“You’re not just a store manager, you are a missionary, chosen by God,” he said.

Two church-store workshops also were offered. The “Back to Basics” session was led by a panel of church-store experts, including Rachel Savage of The Chapel Store in Melbourne, Florida; Janet McKinley of The Bookstore at First Baptist Church, Atlanta; and Jeanne Terrill of New Hope Church in Manvel, Texas.

Susan Chipman and Carolyn Bilger, both of Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, presented the “Café Conundrum” workshop with advice on operating  a café or coffee bar.

“The retail business is a completely different business from the restaurant business,” said Chipman, director of retail services. “You need to have someone owning each part of that because they are completely different.”

Geni Hulsey, church bookstore consultant and the event’s organizer, said the purpose for the center was to give church stores an opportunity to connect.

“Operating a church bookstore and issues within the store are different from an independent store or a chain store,” Hulsey said.

Sixty church-store staff registered for the event, but more than 80 attended the luncheon. Vendors, including Send The Light Distribution, Rose Publishing and 1Eighty Apparel, have been supportive of sponsoring the Church Store Connection Center. —McCabe

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