Christian Retailing

Taking stock of trends for 2013 Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 14 January 2013 03:39 PM America/New_York

Part 2: Winners of the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards ponder the near future

Continuing our look at trends expected as the calendar turns to 2013, we have invited the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards winners to examine the particular categories in which they won: Bibles, Christian Education and Teen Nonfiction. Refer to our January issue for trends in audio, children's books, fiction, gifts and marketing. 

BIBLES // Looking beyond the market's core consumer

ChipBrownBY CHIP BROWN, senior vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, Bibles, curriculum and popular reference, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

In the January 2012 issue of Christian Retailing, I wrote about “Consumer Centricity,” “Digital Shift & Technology Leverage” and “ Decentralization and Informality.” At Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, we continue to deliver products and programs aligned with those trends, but in 2013 are adding the focus of the shifting demographics in the church, with the goal of increasing traffic and purchasing in our CBA partners’ stores to help them grow their consumer base. 

We are mindful that the "core consumer" demographic we all cherish in CBA is shrinking, and we want to help our CBA retail partners successfully acquire and cultivate the next generations, which are growing in size and spending power. Although many in these next generations have left the church, they are interested in spiritual matters, and research shows that even non-Christians are purchasing Bibles. They are especially drawn to Bibles that don't necessarily look and feel like Bibles. So, while we continue to develop a full portfolio of outstanding traditional text and "notes" Bibles in traditional and innovative bindings, we are also further investing in groundbreaking new titles such as the Quickview Bible (the New International Version with hundreds of high-quality info-graphics). 

Both generation X and the millennial generation grew up in a multimedia world where information was given in smaller "chunks," often with highly visual content, which they now easily share via social media. At times they want their Bibles and other products like this, and everything we have brought to market like this has done very well. The Book of Revelation is our first of many graphic-novel Bibles and sold in its first month as many copies as we'd hope to see sold in its entire first year. Other titles like this are The Story and The Story: Going Deeper and the forthcoming 2013 titles Ignite Bible for teens (July) and NIV Live (the first celebrity-cast-dramatized audio, April). 

Some “Gen X” consumers want to be led to understanding and unlock the eternal truths rather than merely doing in their life whatever a Bible's notes system says. The Archaeological Study Bible and Jewish Contextual Bible (September) take this approach. 

“Millennials” have the highest number of volunteer hours per person of any other cohort. They are passionate about making an impact on the world. Where the Gen Xers accept and adapt to their situations, Millennials want to change it for the better and be a part of a movement. What’s Your Mark (March) delivers on this desire by looking at the “mark makers” in the book of Mark, and contemporary “mark makers” in the world today, showcasing Jesus Christ as the ultimate mark maker in conquering death to give each of us an opportunity at everlasting life. The book challenges the reader to consider the mark they can make in their everyday lives and is already shaping up to be a huge campaign several months before it pubs. Millennials also want to be a part of the product development and promotion, which we’ve done with the new Mom’s Devotional Bible by hosting an online devotion contest that has created an “ownership” of the title by thousands of young mothers who will be looking for this title in CBA stores this March. 

At Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, we are seeing all consumer demographics desiring to engage the Bible and Bible content in new formats, and we are focused on developing Bible engagement products for all ages and stages, in the formats they want. We believe products and programs should be designed so current CBA shoppers can easily find products for themselves, but also for their “next generations” friends and family members. We are very interested in partnering with our CBA partners in 2013 to explore physical (print) and digital product bundling to deliver the most people possible into CBA stores to find the resources they need to engage the Bible and lead biblical lives. 

Zondervan's six 2012 Retailers Choice Awards included a win in the Bibles: Children's category for NIV Youth Quest Study Bible.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION // Market for home education products expected to grow

 CraigFromanBY CRAIG FROMAN, assistant editor, New Leaf Publishing Group

The publishing landscape has changed dramatically in the last five years. The increase in self-published books, bookstore closings, e-books and more have forever altered some publishing traditions that existed intact for more than 500 years. A part of the dynamic trends that have seen an increase in sales, even as other titles have collapsed, has been in the area of Christian education. 

Many trends were recognized in the category of Christian education publishing last year. It has truly become a thriving growth market, where many other categories and genres of Christian publishing have become either stagnant or weak. Also, in the past many secular fields of study that seemed “neutral” to the faith were allowed to be studied alongside Christian materials. Now as the market expands, so has the desire for all education books to include a biblical worldview. 

Looking ahead, research shows an expected growth of nearly 10% in the homeschooling market alone. This single growth trend will surely have a significant impact in the area of Christian education publishing. As competition for this market expands, an increasing number of higher-quality materials will find their way into the marketplace.

Families are choosing private Christian schools and homeschooling as viable options for their children. This has occurred for several reasons, including the desire for more regular religious instruction, a biblical worldview that embraces creation rather than evolution, safety issues and academic excellence. 

We have an imprint dedicated to creation-based homeschool resources, reference titles, apologetics and quality children’s literature. This imprint is called Master Books. We have considered ourselves a supplemental Christian education resource provider for many years, and now we are focusing our product development on curriculum, specifically unit studies and full-year curriculum titles for all ages. 

The homeschooling market is a growing market in many ways. Conservative estimates state that there are about 2 million students being home-educated in the United States alone, and within five or so years it could double. 

While Christian education products have been part of the mission of our company since 1975, in the last five years the homeschool market has emerged as a core focus of our publishing and marketing. Every season that we release new books, we make sure that a growing number of these products will meet the needs of Christian schools and homeschool families. 

In 2013 we are adding more specific curriculum packages to our product line, which now includes both books and DVDs of the highest quality and at the best price in order to serve families better. We are also developing our current line of resources into focused curriculum choices. 

Retailers selling Christian education products will want to make sure their community is well-informed of their product choices, and learn to know the “seasons” that families are looking for new curriculum. This is usually March and April (with tax refunds) and then often June through July or August (as they look to the upcoming season). Also, know that many who love books often search for the best children’s gift books in November and December. Make sure these are visible, and that gift cards or gift certificates are available for grandparents and others wanting to support their family’s educational choices. 

New Leaf Publishing Group won the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards in the Christian Education category for Big Book of History.


TEEN NONFICTION // Helping teens on their journey to adulthood

AnnetteBourlandBY ANNETTE BOURLAND, senior vice president and group publisher, Zondervan, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

It’s always been said that the issues teens face never change. In every teen’s life, he or she will encounter the angst of fitting in, figuring out the opposite sex and deciding what to do after high school. After living through my own teen years and now publishing for teens, I can safely say the issues are the same from decade to decade. However, the way teens (and their parents) choose to tackle these stages of maturation changes dramatically due to society and the social “norms” that continue to develop.

To put it bluntly, the topics that are front of mind for teens and their parents are bullying, sex and money. These subjects are covered in a variety of positive and negative ways, but the fact is teens are the ones who need to make their own decisions and be courageous enough to stand up for what they believe is right. While parents are still the No. 1 influence on teens and how they gather advice, teens complain of parents who are too busy (mostly with electronics such as smartphones and Facebook) and not available to talk to. This leaves parents buying and passing along materials for their teens as well as teens looking to teachers, coaches, friends and recommended resources in an effort to figure out life.

Alarming stats regarding bullying, sex and money underscore the need for teens to have solid guidance as they navigate the world. In November 2011, 19% of all teens reported they have been bullied in the last 12 months (Pew Research Center). Social-media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior have grown to 95%. When it comes to the s-word, sexual content can be found in one-third of all G-rated films, more than half of all PG-rated films and four out of five R-rated films. 

“Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners and engage in riskier sexual activities,” said Ross O’Hara, researcher at the University of Missouri (The Washington Times). 

In addition, when it comes to money, only half of all parents regularly set aside money for savings, which translates to fewer teens practicing sound money management skills (TIME). The cumulative effect of recession and slow growth in the economy leaves teens unable to find employment coupled with not knowing how to check the accuracy of a bank statement. All of these points influence what teens and parents are looking for as they shop in your store.

Personal study and spiritual growth are highly ranked reasons for teens to purchase nonfiction books. Young adults seek books that will help them be better people as well as outline tasks in accomplishing specific goals. Teens want books that focus on self, not necessarily on God or helping others. Readers are asking, “What can I do to get ahead?” One sign of this shift in preference is higher sales demand for “self help” nonfiction dealing with purity, money and college preparedness. 

Besides developing better life skills, teens have always wanted to express themselves. One notable trend in publishing is journals, interactive books and “not your mother’s devotionals” geared for young adults to wreck, tape, tear and finish however they deem fit. Customizable products allow teens to be themselves, share themselves and work out their thoughts and beliefs. Each teen becomes an author (and star) of his or her own book.

And speaking of stars, we’ve all witnessed the tremendous sales of Through My Eyes, Young Reader’s Edition by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. Sales of celebrity-driven books continue to thrive amongst teens. Young adult readers avidly seek out role models to emulate. Today’s teens specifically appreciate reading about accomplishments, humanitarian efforts and a person’s ability to overcome adversity. The celebrities teens choose are typical (Jesus, President Obama, Gabrielle Douglas) as well as atypical (comic book writer Alan Moore, manga artist Yumi Tamura). This generation is drawn to social innovators, scholars, historic leaders and even really great graphic novel illustrators as noted above. Spirituality as a specific topic is only of modest concern to teens you’ll meet on the street. Even among Christian teens, their role models are virtually no different than other teenagers (Barna Group). 

In conclusion, opportunities abound in helping teens as they journey through to adulthood. Whether it’s reaching the teen or the parent who frequents your store, both are seeking relevant and solid materials. This generation of teens sees Christianity not in a box and set aside for Sundays, but as a way of life. Teens expect to see a Christian live each moment as Jesus would … He is, after all, the ultimate role model.

Zondervan won six Retailers Choice Awards last year, including the Youth/Teen category for Through My Eyes: Young Reader’s Edition by Tim Tebow. 

Introducing fresh voices Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 14 January 2013 03:43 PM America/New_York

New Christian authors speak on issues from homelessness to history


Title: Blessings of the Burden: Reflections and Lessons in Helping the Homeless
Genre: Religion and Society
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

BlessingsOfTheBurdenBook description: Filled with personal stories from almost two decades of firsthand experience working with the homeless, Blessings of the Burden is a passionate plea for greater community involvement in confronting the social problem of homelessness. The book explores Burt’s own journey from apathy to advocacy, and includes an interview with a formerly homeless man who now directs an organization that fights homelessness in Cape Cod, Mass. Burt offers his analysis of the 12 main reasons why homelessness is such a problem and provides an example of how one community developed an innovative, cost-effective approach to the issue.

ISBN: 978-0-802-86860-2
Retail price: $18
Release date: March 31

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? This book emphasizes the importance of the homeless. Using the construct of Matt. 25, Burt claims that we can better understand and utilize the law of loving those most in need. In doing so, we become better human beings, better people of faith. Blessings aims to inspire readers to become involved with the homeless and advocate for their needs, making a difference in their communities.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? As a general trade book written for an audience of general Christian readers, congregations, social workers and church study groups, the Christian retail store is a very important market for this author.

Title: Confessions of a Scholarship Winner 
Genre: Study Aids/Financial Aid
Publisher: Worthy Publishing

ConfessionsOfAScholarshipWinnerBook description: Ellis was awarded a full scholarship all the way through her Ph.D. education, and the book reveals how she managed to get that kind of a scholarship offer. Raised by a single mother, Ellis appeared to have everything stacked against her with years of living below the poverty level, imperfect grades and sub-par SAT scores. Yet she discovered the secrets to effectively presenting herself as a unique and desirable scholarship candidate—and she shares her secrets for scholarship success. 

ISBN: 978-1-617-95157-2
Retail price: $14.99 
Release date: April 16

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? This first-time author and the incredible journey that led her to share these experiences with the next generation sets this book apart. When Ellis’ father lost his battle with cancer when she was only 7 years old, her family fell below the poverty line and struggled through years of emotional and financial turmoil. On the first day of high school, Ellis’ mom informed her that she could not financially support her after graduation; she needed to find her own way to pay for college. As a student with decent grades and average test scores, Kristina realized that she was going to have to sell herself to scholarship committees if she wanted to stand out from the crowd. That’s when she devised the plan that led to her receiving several of the most selective and prestigious scholarships and grants that paid for 100% of her education at a top-tier university.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? The Christian retail store is very important to me as an author. It represents a community of believers I’m thankful to be a part of and who are seeking growth both in their faith and everyday lives. ... Even though I’ve grown up in a digital world, I’ve been a frequent customer of my hometown’s Bible Book Store for years and I know how valuable physical Christian retail stores are to readers. The Christian retail store has the ability to influence every customer that walks through their door. You can’t pick up an e-book and feel its pages. You can, however, pick up a physical book in a store and directly experience the book with no need for any aiding device. Best of all, when you buy your book via a Christian retailer, there’s no wait on shipping or freight charges. I’ve noticed that local Christian retail stores are fighting hard to build and retail local loyalty, doing more events in their communities to drive awareness through author signings, good promotions and really connecting with their customers.  The customer experience of purchasing through a Christian retailer is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed throughout my life, and one that is unmatched.


Title: Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible
Genre: Christian Living
Publisher: Concordia Publishing House

BrokenBook description: American Christianity today is broken. The devil has cooked up seven specific lies that are being passed off in many of our churches as truths. Broken examines these seven counterfeit “Christian” rules and helps readers, under the cross of Jesus, find the truth.

ISBN: 978-0-758-63101-5
Retail price: $16.99
Release date: December 2012

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Broken doesn’t just tell readers what the seven lies are. Rather, it walks them into the reader’s living room and demonstrates how they ruin lives. Honest and defining, the book stands on the foundation of Scripture and exposes the ways the devil twists hearts, minds and hands away from true theology. The lessons aren’t easy to learn, but are vital to the survival of the church. 

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Absolutely! The Christian retail store is where people can go to pick up my book, get a feel for it in their hands, flip through the pages and see the marvelous artwork. It’s where the reader first connects with my book—and, therefore, with me. 


Title: Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home
Genre: Family
Publisher: Crossway

GlimpsesofGraceBook description: The day-to-day life of the average housewife is filled with countless tasks that can feel mundane and ordinary, causing women to wonder if they’re missing out on bigger and better things. Eager to encourage such struggling homemakers, Furman—pastor’s wife and mother of three—highlights the reality of God’s grace in all of life, especially those areas that often seem boring and unimportant. Filled with personal examples and anecdotes, this theological reflection on what it means to be a wife, mother and homemaker challenges readers to see and cherish the gospel’s extraordinary impact on ordinary life. Glimpses of Grace aims to inspire a renewed gospel-cheerfulness among women faithfully serving God in and through their homes. 

ISBN: 978-1-433-53605-2
Retail price: $14.99
Release date: May 31

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? It reminds women of the gospel’s extraordinary power in ordinary life, helping homemakers see and savor the miraculous in the mundane.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Where I live in the Middle East, the Christian retail store is close to nonexistent. That is why I have great joy in recommending one Christian retail store to my friends in our city. It’s my go-to source for Bibles, books and even music. I feel it may be impossible to underestimate the privilege it is to access a store dedicated to providing Christian resources.


Title: The Skinny Budget Diet: Weigh Less, Save Money, Look Great
Genre: Health
Publisher: Siloam (Charisma House Book Group) 

TheSkinnyBudgetDietBook description: The author shares the strategy that was created in the kitchen of a 300-pound wife and mother who couldn’t afford another expensive weight-loss plan. There was no more room in the family budget for ordering diet foods and supplements through the mail, no money to buy ongoing weekly support and no way to pay for a high-priced weight-loss surgery. Goff had to find a budget-friendly way to lose half of her body weight and keep it off for good, so The Skinny Budget Diet was born. 

ISBN: 978-1-621-36001-8
Retail price: $16.99
Release date: Jan. 8

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? It is about the direct connection between managing one’s finances and maintaining physical health.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Yes, Christian retail is important to me because the reason we strive to maintain physical health is to worship God. 


Title: Unholy Hunger
Series: “Lure of the Serpent”
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Kregel Publications

UnholyHungerBook description: Evelyn Barrett wants to die. As long as her daughter’s murderer dies with her, she is ready to go. Why did this man—this stranger—destroy her family? Why has he not been brought to justice? Why is she forced to live a life of anger and grief? Amid a million questions she cannot answer, Evelyn knows one thing for sure: This murderer must be punished for his crime. Perhaps the harder lesson is this: the ultimate truth—of crime and verdict, of life and death—cannot be swayed by a mother’s revenge. In this first book of a new series, a woman will be brought to her limits before she finally recognizes the movement of the Holy Spirit and reconnects with the source of true peace.

ISBN: 978-0-825-44291-9
Retail price: $13.99
Release date: January

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Unholy Hunger doesn’t espouse only one theme. It’s gritty, but uplifting; it’s heart-wrenching, but will also make readers laugh at times. The protagonist is crass, but tender. Since we often experience a myriad of emotions and thoughts in any given day, I wanted readers to experience the same during their journey of this particular read. I also believe this story stands out from others because in this day and age, when society is apt to point the blame at any number of circumstances when tragedy befalls us, I decided to point readers toward the origin of all tragedy and evil—the devil himself. I believe in calling things out for what they are. You can’t finish this book without seeing the world a bit differently, without having a better understanding of what we’re up against as we navigate our lives.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Certainly. For the same reasons an all children’s-programming network is important to parents trying to protect the vulnerabilities of their children, the Christian retail store is important to protect the believer’s vulnerability from the plethora of sliding-scale fiction out there. I sometimes feel unsure when shopping for fiction, not knowing what I’ll be exposed to in secular stores. When I shop at Christian retail, I can take confidence that I won’t pick up anything that will make me have to scrub my brain afterward.


Title: The Heiress of Winterwood
Series: “Whispers on the Moors”
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

TheHeiressOfWinterwoodBook description: In 1814 Darbury, England, Amelia Barrett, heiress to an ancestral estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s infant baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father, Lucas, a sea captain she’s never met. Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.

ISBN: 978-1-401-68835-6
Retail price: $15.99
Release date: April 9

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? The book is beautiful, poetic and captivating in its rich detail of historic England.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Absolutely! The book has a strong Christian message, and it’s important for Christian retail to get behind it.


Title: Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches 
Genre: Christian Living?
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

DirtyGodBook description: This is a book on the kindness and grittiness of Jesus through the theological lens of grace. It’s about the Jesus with dirt under His fingernails, the Jesus who dropped down to planet Earth like an atom bomb, and changed history from a manger. There’s one overarching point: “Having gotten grace from Jesus, we ought to give it to the world.”

ISBN: 978-0-849-96451-0
Retail price: $15.99
Release date: January

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? This book is a theologically accurate, and relevant, treatment of grace for a new generation. It’s non-emergent truth delivered in an emergent tone, and its strength is fivefold: (1) the message is simple: Having gotten grace, give it; (2) Jesus is presented in a way that emphasizes His humanity and every-day-ness; (3) it has a clear, visionary call to action: Live grace in the world; (4) it is filled with compelling stories; and (5) study guide questions are available to facilitate small group study.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Absolutely. From my childhood, I’ve shopped in Christian retail. I used to ask my parents to drop me off in our local Christian bookstores, and I would spend hours poring over books. I believe in Christian retail because I think it beats to the heart of the local community.

MichaelKReynolds_GoldMICHAEL K. REYNOLDS

Title: Flight of the Earls
Series: “Heirs of Ireland”
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: B&H Books 

FlightoftheEarlsBook description: The first in the “Heirs of Ireland” series, Flight of the Earls launches the reader into the heart-wrenching history of Irish immigration by opening up the fictional Hanley family’s struggles on a barren potato farm. The book is also a coming-of-age story about how God calls each person to serve in his or her own distinct way.  

ISBN: 978-1-433-67819-6
Retail price: $14.99
Release date: January 

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Each book will be spiritually themed around a different person of the Trinity, although at a subtle and foundational level. Flight of the Earls is centered around fatherhood and explores the generational impact of earthly fathers and the desperate need for connection with the heavenly Father.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? On the publishing side, for a debut novelist there is so much to learn in terms of levels of professionalism, growing your craft and internal workings of the industry. But, you won’t hear me complaining! The journey is invigorating and thrilling at the same time, and I realize each day how blessed I am for this precious opportunity to serve God through my writing.

CarrieRocha2_EddieDonlanStudioDCARRIE ROCHA

Title: Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make 
Genre: Personal Finance
Publisher: Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group) 
Book description: Personal finance blogger ( and money-management expert Rocha shows readers how to overcome financial stress with straightforward advice when debt-reduction programs and budgets fail to help.

ISBN: 978-0-764-21087-7   
Retail price: $13.99
Release date: December

PocketYourDollarsWhat makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Taking a different approach to financial change, Pocket Your Dollars aims to make a lasting impact because it starts on the inside. The book identifies and helps change five underlying attitudes about money that sabotage good intentions. Although a quick Internet search will turn up thousands of free budget plans, more than 60% of U.S. households still live paycheck to paycheck—because most families have not yet addressed the issues underlying their debt.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? Yes, God has frequently used Christian retail stores in my life. From when I was a young Christian to more recently as a wife and mom, I’ve stepped into Christian retail stores with a heart’s desire to receive God’s wisdom in a particular area. Time and again He has connected me to a product—book, music or artwork—that speaks His truth to me. Now, as an author, I greatly value the personal touch and support they can bring to selling my book to those who enter their store. 


Title: Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors 
Genre: Pastor’s Resources
Publisher: Judson Press

BeyondTheStainedGlassCeilingBook description: The reality of the stained glass ceiling is familiar to most women called to the pastorate. Despite being more likely to be seminary-educated than their male counterparts, female clergy occupy less than 10% of leading Protestant pastorates, and those who do hold such pastorates are generally paid less than male clergy. In light of such statistics, pastor Christine Smith explores how to overcome the challenges in breaking through the stained glass ceiling—and goes a step further. She shares lessons learned and best practices of the success stories—those women who are currently serving in solo or senior pastorates. 

ISBN: 978-0-817-0-1727-9
Retail price: $17.99
Release date: January

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling gives voice to some of the unspoken hindrances to women becoming senior pastors.  Furthermore, it provides insights and encouragement to women called to become pastors, as well as strategies to increase opportunities for those who want to support them.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? The Christian retail store is extremely important to me as an author because it opens the opportunity for a broader audience of Christian readers to learn about my book and read about an issue that directly impacts the church.


Title: Moms Raising Sons to Be Men
Genre: Parenting
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Book description: The mothers of boys have a special calling to shape future godly men. Speaker and mom to two sons, Stoppe shares relevant guidance, biblical examples and practical insights to help a mom partner with God as she communicates with, guides and nurtures her boy’s heart, mind and character.

MomsRaisingSonsISBN: 978-0-736-94977-4
Retail price: $12.99
Release date: March

What makes this book stand apart from the crowd? Understanding that moms are the architects of the future, Stoppe explains, with practical advice, the important role mothers play in boys’ lives. She considers the role of motherhood in sons’ lives an inspirational and special calling.

Is the Christian retail store important to you as an author? If so, why? As a pastor’s wife, Stoppe knows the value of finding quality resources to support ministry. A Christian retail store is absolutely necessary to supply these resources and get the right books into the right hands.

Historic store celebrates new look Print Email
Written by Ann Byle   
Monday, 14 January 2013 03:59 PM America/New_York

BBHExteriorBothSignsMichigan’s Baker Book House now serves its customers from a ‘completely new’ retail operation after total reconstruction

Baker Book House, the premier independent Christian bookstore in Grand Rapids, Mich., welcomed guests to its Grand Opening events after nearly 12 months of renovations. While the soft opening in November brought about 250 guests into the store to talk with best-selling author Ted Dekker, the Grand Opening featured a ribbon cutting, author visits and other events throughout January.

“We have recreated everything,” said Manager Sue Smith. “From carpeting to lighting, from adding event space to installing a fireplace. The store is completely new.”

What began as a remodeling project to replace dated and worn carpeting, wall coverings and display units became a total reconstruction of the store that included moving the entrance, adding a café and revamping every aspect of the 28,000-square-foot space.

Smith and Assistant Manager Debbie Butgereit started by approaching Dwight Baker, president of parent company Baker Publishing Group. After getting approval to remodel, they began researching costs and architectural firms. They came back to Baker with the grander idea of reformatting the entire store. 


Baker Book House moved to its present location at 2768 East Paris Ave. SE in 1980, and had been backwards ever since. The main entrance was at the back of the building, far from the busy street and customers’ eyes. Warehouse space was located in the front, presenting blank walls and a shipping bay to passers-by.

“We had three years of sales increases, which showed us that the store still had a role to play and that consumers in West Michigan were still interested,” said Dwight Baker. “We would have to double our investment over a simple remodel, but the limits of the current structure became that much more salient. We decided to do it right and get the store to face the road.”

The first step in the lengthy process was talking to staff members and customers about their likes and dislikes and what the store could do to improve staff and customer experiences. The staff needed better lighting, so more windows were planned to allow in natural light. Additional storage space on the retail floor meant employees weren’t running to the warehouse for stock nearly as often. The architects also consulted with shipping and receiving, warehouse staff and buyers for their input.

They asked customers as well. Used book buyers were adamant that nothing should change. They love wandering through the packed stacks of used books, loved the smell, wanted nothing to do with carpeting. Planners listened: the used book section, while in a different location in the store, still carries 100,000 titles and is still bare-bones when it comes to décor. Customers also wanted a café, so the store invited ICONS Cafe to set up shop.


The 12-month renovation wasn’t without rocks in the road. Managers had to figure out how to allow customers to shop while construction crews demolished much of the building. Inventory was cut, though no section was cut completely. About 95% of the used book section was stored in Baker Publishing Group warehouses, and gift and music sections were cut in half.

Parking was a problem as well, especially when giant construction vehicles took up much of the space. Employee morale took a dip, too. It was a constant challenge to keep spirits in a positive mind frame. All lived with constant noise and dust, intermittent Internet, smoke alarm and phone disruptions—and customer irritation when books weren’t on the shelves.

“We also had to learn how to make decisions in a hurry,” said Smith. “One day the construction crew said, ‘You have two choices: keep the used book section open, but it will take considerably longer to complete the project, or move all 100,000 books in five days to cut five weeks off the process.’ We moved those books!”


Baker Book House is well known for its used book section and its theological/academic section often tapped into by the area’s many pastors, seminary students and church leaders. The store designed those sections for optimal ease of use. One of its other goals, however, was to appeal to the children of those adults looking for just the right book.

The store’s train table had long been a popular spot for young guests, and Butgereit, assistant manager who is also the children’s buyer, wanted to keep that feel while offering even more. 

“We want the kids to feel at home and happy in the children’s section, but it also fits our bigger goal of being a family bookstore,” she said. “We want parents to feel comfortable letting their kids roam around the section. It’s definitely more shopped by the kids now, but we wanted to get the kids to interact with the product. I’ve been happy with the progress so far.”

One struggle that Christian bookstores, including Baker Book House, face is getting young adults into the store and into the YA section. Baker has placed the section near the music department, a big YA draw, and provided higher shelving to set it apart. Butgereit is careful to differentiate books for middle readers, ages 8-12; young teens, ages 13-16; and older teens, ages 16-19. The separation isn’t necessarily for the kids, but for parents who want age-appropriate books.


Creating a new bookstore is much more than choosing carpet and furniture colors, studying traffic-flow patterns and curtailing costs. Every decision comes back to the basic question: Who do we want to be? It was an ongoing discussion among Baker’s core staff.

“What we saw happening is that the church sees us as a resource for books and other materials, and the community sees us as a place to connect with others in the church,” Smith said. “Customers think of us as a bookstore first. We put our primary book space at the front of the store and created a visible, well-stocked academic section because so many pastors and students live in Grand Rapids or visit here.”

Smith calls it the store’s “book” image, which mandated an academic bargain section, the huge used-book section and a robust online business. In addition to books, however, the core staff was eager to create a community feel to the new store. A 20-by-28-foot community room with conference table and audiovisual equipment will be available to rent for churches and community groups; a 16-by-16-foot fireside room is available for informal gatherings or just sitting awhile; and the café offers catering and food for purchase.

“Our goal is making the store a welcoming place for the community, but also the best place to buy books and gifts,” said Smith. “Every decision we made about the new store was based on who we believe Baker Book House to be.”

Cost overruns and delays were no surprise to either Baker or Smith, but both feel the renovations were worth the ordeal, in part because the store needed the remodel to reach a new generation of customers, but also because the community needs to see a business improving, not closing. 

Store hours increased to 7 a.m.-11 p.m., the café offers snacks and light meals, Wi-Fi is free, the conference room is for rent, and the bookstore walls will display a rotating exhibit by local Christian artists. 

ChildrensDepartmentA new event coordinator—a position created to accommodate author and artist visits and other events, room rental and artist exhibits—will help organize the new vision to reach as many people as possible. 

“We’re thrilled about the new Baker Book House,” Smith said. “We want to thank the community for staying with us for so long. We really feel this new store is our gift to them.”

Dwight Baker said he sees the store as “the public face of our business.” 

“This reconstruction says that we’re here for the long term,” he added. “The community has been supporting the store for decades; we owe this store to the customers. I think it’s going to be a community center for the faithful.” 

To remodel—or not Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 14 January 2013 04:02 PM America/New_York

SueSmith2Sue Smith, manager of the newly reconstructed Baker Book House, offers advice to retailers considering a similar store transformation:

  •  Let yourself think outside the box. Now the store not only looks better, but lives better.
  •  Ask first, then listen. Ask what staff and customers want and need, then listen to their answers.
  •  Communicate with customers about changes. Let them know what sections will be gone for awhile; let them know when the renovation will be done.
  •  Keep the renovation in perspective. The mess is temporary, and in the end, the store will be vastly improved. 
  •  Decide early exactly what you want your store to be, then make all decisions based on that definition.
  •  Know your customers. What kind of furniture will appeal to them? Do they use the store as a study spot? Offer them tangible benefits such as Wi-Fi and coffee.
  •  Separate the store’s children’s space with lighting, flooring, bright colors and shelving that allows youngsters to access books.
  •  Position the teen/young adult section near, but not in, the children’s section.
  •  Brainstorm unique ways to bring customers into the store.
  •  Step out in faith. Plan well and trust God.
Health books help readers renew vim and vigor Print Email
Written by Ken Walker   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:25 AM America/New_York

HarvestHouse-SettingBoundariesWithFoodFrom foods to fasting, authors consider what it takes to walk in divine health

With a series of church-based workout groups already inspired by her best-selling “Body Gospel” DVDs, fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner launches her writing career in January with the multi-city Witness to Fitness publicity tour.

A 28-day exercise and eating plan, Witness to Fitness (HarperOne) includes a foreword by Bishop T.D. Jakes and endorsements from such figures as NBA star Grant Hill and recording artist Kirk Franklin.

“People are finding out that it’s not just about what you eat, but keeping your body moving,” said Suzanne Wickham, senior director of publicity for HarperOne.

For the HarperCollins imprint this is the first specifically Christian fitness title, which symbolizes the expanding appetite for such material in the Christian market.

As evidence of this trend, Seattle-based author Cherie Calbom—known as “The Juice Lady” and a nutritionist to celebrities such as George Foreman and Richard Simmons—cites the proliferation of best-selling health titles, increases in organic food sales and media interest in natural foods.

“The consumption of whole foods, fresh vegetables and green smoothies has been the path of healing for thousands,” said Calbom, whose The Juice Lady’s Big Book of Juices & Green Smoothies (Siloam) releases Jan. 8.

IVPBooks-EatWithJoyAn imprint of Charisma House Book Group, Siloam has also published Dr. Don Colbert’s “Bible Cure” series, which has sold more than 3 million copies in English and 300,000 in other languages. Colbert has written other New York Times Siloam or Charisma House best-sellers, as has pastor Jentezen Franklin with his 2008 book, Fasting, and related titles.

“There is so much published material in the health and wellness genre that reflects New Age-driven perspectives or other beliefs,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales at Charisma Media. “Siloam has been successful because Christians want health advice and appreciate sound, practical teaching from a biblical point of view.” 

Dr. Scott Morris, a physician who is unusual in that he is also an ordained Methodist minister, founded the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn. Morris aims to help believers examine their health with such books as God, Health, and Happiness (June 2012) and the  ongoing “40 Days to Better Living” series, both from Barbour Publishing.


Jeff Crosby, associate publisher and director of sales and marketing at InterVarsity Press (IVP), identified general market titles such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Harper Perennial) as paving the way for Christians to take a closer look at their food choices. 

Siloam-TheJuiceLadysBigBookOfJuicesFilms such as Food Inc. and King Corn have illustrated some of the vagaries of our food system; concern about abusive agricultural practices and justice have also played a role, Crosby added.

“Additionally, the aging baby-boomer population and the fact that people are living longer has caused the church to ask, ‘How do we care well for this segment of our community?’ ” he said. “Books such as Eat With Joy (March) and Health, Healing and the Church’s Mission (July 2012) naturally arise out of that.”

Group Publishing Executive Editor Amy Nappa applauds first lady Michelle Obama for making childhood obesity one of her causes. 

“News reports have shocked us with the levels of obesity,” Nappa said “The costs of healthcare issues related to poor fitness are on the rise.”

The negative results of a lack of activity are alarming enough to make the public interested in doing something different, said Paul Gossard, editor at Harvest House Publishers, where one of the latest health titles is Setting Boundaries With Food by Allison Bottke (August).

“In the Christian market, I think the last several decades have helped us understand again that God is interested in our bodies,” Gossard said.

“Positively, this has helped Christians understand that reasonable attention to our bodies can support our spiritual lives and our usefulness to others.”

Kim Bangs, editor at Regal Books—which publishes the “First Place 4 Health” line and recently released a half-dozen trade titles on health and fitness—sees the secular arena’s emphasis on advertising of weight loss and diet programs playing a major role. 

“Christians are realizing that they can’t live up to their God-given potential and fulfill their mission—whatever that may be—unless they are healthier,” Bangs said. “When Christians make a decision to change their lifestyle and manage their health, I believe they desire resources that are biblically based as well as sound from a medical perspective.”

TyndaleMomentum-IfYouHaveACravingFIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE 

Just as salvation testimonies inspire fellow believers, first-person experience is a central aspect of health and fitness titles. 

In Setting Boundaries With Food, Bottke wrote about nearly tipping the scales at 300 pounds before taking control of her eating habits. Pastor Steve Willis spearheaded his West Virginia church’s participation in a fitness effort, which led to Winning the Food Fight (Regal, 2012) and the launch this month of his 12-week Food Fight Boot Camp to combat obesity. Willis is also known for his role in ABC’s Emmy-winning mini-series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Another pastor, Steve Reynolds, lost more than 100 pounds before writing Bod4God (Regal, 2009). The book inspired churches to start “Losing to Live” programs and sparked Reynolds’ follow-up, Get Off the Couch (Regal, November 2012)

Popular health entries of past and present, including Reshaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure (B&H Books, 2011) and If You Have a Craving, I Have a Cure by Sheri Rose Shepherd (Tyndale Momentum, January)—demonstrate the value of the authors’ success story.


Publishers believe retailers can capitalize on the health and fitness boom in various ways. Some of their suggestions are:

  • ?Create a health-and-wellness product section.
  • ?Include a health tab on the store’s website.
  • ?Bring in a guest chef, cook or nutritionist to prepare healthy dishes for customers at a special event.
  • ?Sponsor a weekly fitness class in the store or local church, or a walking group that starts and ends its walk at the store—and providing a free water bottle with a store logo for participants. 

Perez said that endcaps and special table promotions are best in the January-February and April-May timeframes. 

Since Christian books have long dealt with such issues as divorce and job loss, Wickham said retailers have strong potential to also minister in the health area.

“People are starting to realize it’s smart to pray to God for healthier bodies,” she said. “So why not go to Christian authors for inspiration as to fitness and diet issues?”

Year in Review: Recalling the happenings of 2012 Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:34 AM America/New_York

‘Christian Retailing’ editors, writers reflect on what mattered and why

ChristineDJohnson_2012BOOKS // Fiction marks a first-printing milestone; heavenly nonfiction still tops


Nonfiction titles including the formerly self-published To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary C. Neal (WaterBrook Press) and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo (Thomas Nelson) continued their celestial sales in 2012. Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling also remained a lead best-seller, making way for her new devotional, Jesus Today (both Nelson).

Thomas Nelson drew media attention in a different way upon choosing to pull David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies from publication after it reached New York Times best-seller status. The decision was made after alleged historical inaccuracies came to light.

Pastor Rick Warren tailored his top book for a generation that was too young to read it when it was first published. In November, Zondervan released The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, marking the 10th anniversary of the original title.

In fiction, Dee Henderson was back with her first novel in six years, Full Disclosure, under new publisher Bethany House, and William P. Young put pen to paper for his second work of fiction, Cross Roads, following The Shack. FaithWords planned an astounding 1 million-copy first printing.

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn is seeing big sales for FrontLine (Charisma House Book Group)—700,000 and counting. At press time, the prophetic message for America had been on the New York Times best-seller list for 45 consecutive weeks and on USA Today’s list for 44 weeks. 

Lynn Austin won her eighth Christy Award for Wonderland Creek, while Anne Elisabeth Stengl took home the Visionary award for Veiled Rose (both Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group) after winning the First Novel category last year—a first in Christy history.

BIBLES // NavPress’ The Message marks 10th year, King James continues to excel


Zondervan looked to former President Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school for years, to join his lessons with the text of the New International Version (NIV). The result, NIV Lessons From Life Bible, includes in-depth studies and prayers and quotations from the president. 

Modeled after USA Today, Zondervan’s NIV QuickView Bible aims to help a visual society understand the Bible through infographics that present its most significant stories and facts. Zondervan also published The Book of Revelation in graphic novel form with illustrations by Chris Koelle and a new translation from the Greek. 

NavPress marked the 10th anniversary of The Message with the advent of The Message Study Bible, adding Eugene Peterson’s insights to his colloquial translation.

Aiming to equip believers to stand firm against their enemy, The Spiritual Warfare Bible came to market in August. The Charisma House product features the New King James Version along with tools such as spiritual warfare declarations and prayers,  and warfare lessons from Bible figures.

Thomas Nelson released the King James Study Bible, describing it as “the most comprehensive King James Version study Bible published in 50 years.” B&H Publishing Group launched the Holman KJV Study Bible with the tag line “The Only Full-Color KJV Study Bible.”

October saw the release of Crossway’s English Standard Version (ESV) Global Study Bible. Published in partnership with international Bible societies, it was quickly made available in 20 countries. Containing notes and maps dealing with global issues, the Bible features contributions from more than 100 scholars and teachers from 20-plus countries and more than 25 denominations. Aiming to deliver Global Study Bible content to 1 million people, it was launched with a “Buy One, Give One” campaign, where for every print edition purchased in North America, free digital access is given to a person in need. 

Tyndale House Publishers’ most significant Bible release in 2012 was the Chronological Life Application Study Bible (LASB), adding to other best-sellers wearing the LASB name. A Twitter campaign saw NFL quarterback Drew Brees and actress Patricia Heaton—both Tyndale authors—tweeting about the new Bible.

Thomas Nelson issued in October what is sure to be a Gaither fan favorite, The Gaither Homecoming Bible. Original poetry and insights from Bill and Gloria Gaither are included, as are exclusive devotionals from 60 Homecoming artists. And Nelson’s The Voice released in the full printed Bible in April along with several digital formats. The Newsboys and Gungor supported the release with readings at their concerts.

Hendrickson Publishers celebrated a well-loved theologian with the publication of The A.W. Tozer Bible, released in Tozer’s favorite version, the King James.

EricTiansayDVD // ‘Courageous’ leads field of 2012’s faith-based films with strong sales


Like its predecessor Fireproof, Courageous provided a significant boost to the home-viewing section of Christian stores. 

The 2011 faith-based cop drama from Sherwood Pictures and Provident Distribution sold more than a million copies in the first 90 days—just as Fireproof did. Courageous was also the best-selling DVD in the country its first week.

Another Provident-distributed DVD, pro-life drama October Baby was a surprise hit in theaters—an independent film that topped $5.3 million and debuted at No. 8 at the box office—and saw strong sales with its September DVD release. 

The continued rising tide for Christian movies was again showcased at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)   with CBA’s inaugural Resonate Film Festival featuring 14 films, including Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell; God’s Not Dead: The Movie; and VeggieTales: The League of Incredible Vegetables

Among the more significant releases from Pure Flix were Apostle Peter and the Last Supper, featuring actor Robert Loggia as the elderly apostle, reflecting on his life to two jailers as he awaits execution. Bruce Marchiano portrayed Christ in the film as well as in The Encounter: Paradise Lost, also from Pure Flix. 

Another notable release was Seven Days in Utopia, featuring Oscar winner Robert Duvall as an eccentric rancher who helps a young golfer find direction. Released through Provident, the film was based on the Zondervan book Golf’s Sacred Journey by life coach David Cook.

There Be Dragons followed the journeys of two childhood friends—one whose faith lead him to found the Catholic organization Opus Dei, the other spurred to conflict by his anger. Directed by Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission), the drama was released through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. 

There was also a plethora of Christmas-themed films. Released by Image Entertainment and distributed by EMI CMG Distribution, The Heart of Christmas tells the story of a 2-year-old, whose struggle with Leukemia sparked a worldwide outpouring of support for his family who gave him one last Christmas in October. 

The movie was inspired by the song “One Last Christmas” by singer-songwriter Matthew West who was moved by a true story he received in a letter. West, who was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the song, is featured in the film. 

An uplifting story from the late Thomas Kinkade, Christmas Miracle (GT Media/EMI CMG) showed the real meaning of the season when eight strangers are forced to take refuge in an abandoned church during a snowstorm.

In Christmas Comes Home to Canaan, also from GT Media, Daniel Burton (Billy Ray Cyrus) learns to love again when he meets Briony Adair (Gina Holden). The film is the sequel to the Hallmark Channel’s highest-rated movie of 2009,
Christmas in Canaan.

RhondaSholar08GIFTS // Toys and Fair Trade grow category’s sales, while companies raise T-shirt prices


While gifts appeared to be an overall bright spot in 2012, a few areas stood out. 

T-shirts continued to sell well despite rising retail prices. Some vendors’ decisions to raise prices to absorb increased costs has some worried as they remember a decade ago when shirts rose to $18.99 before the market collapsed. Customers are looking for quality shirts with clear graphics and are tiring of the logo “take-offs.”

Dicksons continues to do well with the “Full Armor of God” line that debuted in 2010 with a figurine to fill a void in the men’s gift category. Based on the outstanding response, the company added pocket stones with each of the six components of Eph. 6 and a display with an assortment that includes a key ring, bookmark, auto visor clip and ink pen.

Some stores continue to cut back on music and limit books to best-sellers to make room for toys and games. Five years after venturing into partnerships with general-market toymakers Melissa & Doug, Fisher-Price and Playmobil, New Day Christian Distributors reported 665% growth in toy and gift sales.

Kerusso celebrated its 25th anniversary with the publication of a gift book, Change Your Shirt, Change Your World by Vic Kennett and Friends, with proceeds benefitting Compassion International. 

DaySpring achieved its goal of sending no solid waste to landfills. By mid-year, the company had not incurred any expenses on its cardboard recycling, but instead had made money on the endeavor.

For the second consecutive year, Lighthouse Christian Products received Family Christian Stores’ Business Innovation Award, for excellent product design and for helping to serve Family’s direct-import need. Evergreen Enterprises, a home and garden décor manufacturer, won the award for its service and distribution. Other retailers praised vendors such as P. Graham Dunn for producing quality art at affordable prices and for its customer service.

Gift companies that promote humanitarian efforts were in line with Exotic World Gifts’ support of artisans with Fair Trade items and Jedidiah Clothing’s partnership with World Vision to fight poverty and injustice. CBA gathered Fair Trade suppliers into a designated area on the floor at the International Christian Retail Show.

Despite the sad news in April of Thomas Kinkade’s sudden death, sales of his products at galleries and retail outlets spiked in the months following. Companies like DaySpring debuted new, Kinkade-inspired items with sales expected to continue through Christmas.

One framed-art product that did exceptionally well in several sizes, price points and décor styles is Carpentree’s Prince of Peace. Painted by then 8-year-old Akiane Kramarik, the image is the one Colton Burpo identified in Heaven Is for Real (Thomas Nelson) as the Jesus he saw in heaven. Licensed by Art & SoulWorks and framed and distributed by Carpentree, Prince of Peace is expected to continue its sales momentum, Marketing Manager Sherry Morris said.

INDUSTRY NEWS // Family Christian buyout, Obamacare rullings top newsmakers


Two of the biggest stories of 2012 came near year’s end—the contrasting healthcare rulings involving Tyndale House Publishers and Christian-owned-and-operated Hobby Lobby Stores and sister company Mardel Christian & Education.

A Nov. 16 federal court ruling stopped enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate against Tyndale, which filed a healthcare lawsuit against the government Oct. 2. Tyndale specifically objects to covering abortion pills.

But, unlike Tyndale’s healthcare ruling, the court did not show favor to the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ruled Nov. 19 that the Oklahoma City-based stores must provide the “morning after” and “week after” pills under new federal healthcare rules that begin Jan. 1. If they don’t, the companies will face significant fines.

Another big story broke in mid-November—the announcement of Family Christian Stores’ management partnering with a group of Atlanta-based Christian businessmen to acquire the company from its private equity owners, with plans to give 100% of its profits to benefit Christian causes through its nonprofit, The James Fund.

Terms of the Nov. 13 transaction—involving the nation’s largest Christian retail chain—were not disclosed. Family reported that while its ownership structure and financial purpose had changed, its operations will continue in a largely “seamless” way, said Cliff Bartow, CEO of the company.

In another sign of a changing Christian retail industry, Covenant Group expanded its membership with the addition of the 18-outlet chain Berean Christian Stores.

With the addition of Berean and two other independents, Covenant now has 20 dealerships, representing 52 stores—an increase of more than 60% since fall 2011.

LifeWay Christian Stores President Mark Scott retired in September following months of significant health issues. Scott’s position was filled by Tim Vineyard, vice president of LifeWay’s technology division. LifeWay Christian Resources CEO Thom Rainer was named as acting president of the retail division until trustees can review and affirm the change in February.

CBA promoted Curtis Riskey from executive director to president during an October board meeting. Riskey served as interim executive director after the resignation of longtime President and CEO Bill Anderson in October 2009. He was appointed as executive director in March 2010 with CBA adopting a new management model. 

In September, HarperCollins’ new Christian division, comprised of Zondervan and the newly acquired Thomas Nelson, announced its leadership team, featuring 12 executives from both publishers. Mark Schoenwald leads the division as president and CEO. 

HarperCollins Christian Publishing also formed a single fiction team headed by Daisy Hutton, formerly vice president and publisher of fiction at Thomas Nelson.   

Germany’s Bertelsmann media company and British publisher Pearson agreed to merge the book publishing units Random House and Penguin Group last fall, forming the new Penguin Random House company, said to be the world’s largest publisher of consumer books. Bertelsmann owns Random House, the parent of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Meanwhile, in a decision in favor of the federal government that could start an e-book price war, Denise Cote, federal district judge in Manhattan, N.Y., approved a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in a civil antitrust case that accused the companies of price-fixing digital books. 

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association President and CEO Mark Kuyper said that the decision could have “a very negative impact” on e-book retailers. 

NatalieGillespieMUSIC // Christian music expands reach with high ticket sales, top honors


Christian music hit some significant milestones in 2012, from eye-popping concert ticket sales to top positions on mainstream music sales charts, prompting TIME magazine writer Tim Newcomb to declare in a Sept. 17 online article titled “Christian Music’s Moment: How TobyMac and Lecrae Conquered the Countdown” that Christian music is “no longer a style, but simply a lyrical perspective.”

Winter Jam, Casting Crowns and the Rock & Worship Roadshow landed in the top 100-grossing tours for the first half of the year, with more than $14 million in tickets sold. Ticket sales have become such a hot property that a Vancouver-based Christian music promoter, LMG Concerts, filed a lawsuit against Salem Communications, alleging that Salem is running a monopoly in the Christian radio market.

Chris Tomlin, Kirk Franklin, Laura Story and Le’Andria Johnson garnered GRAMMY awards in the Gospel and Contemporary Christian Music categories.

Jason Crabb took home top honors as Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year at the 43rd annual Dove Awards, held for the second year in Atlanta and broadcast on the Gospel Music Channel. Natalie Grant took home her fifth Female Artist of the Year award. Needtobreathe received three Doves, including Group of the Year. 

Casting Crowns and Laura Story won the Billboard Music Awards in the Christian categories.

At mid-year, Christian album sales were down only 0.5% compared with the same time period in 2011, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while overall album sales saw an almost 4% downturn. At the same time, Christian music track sales were up 8.8%. 

Casting Crowns learned that its self-titled debut album had gone double-Platinum, becoming one of only eight Christian music projects ever to receive that status.

TobyMac’s latest release, Eye On It, became the first Christian album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard’s Top 200 sales chart in 15 years and only the third Christian album ever to hit the top spot.

Christian rap artist Lecrae followed right behind TobyMac in September, hitting No. 1 on the iTunes chart and No. 3 on the Billboard chart with Gravity. Lecrae also concurrently placed in the first, second and seventh slots on iTunes’ hip-hop chart for the deluxe and regular versions of Gravity and his album Church Clothes.

Before going solo, TobyMac was part of the groundbreaking act dcTalk, and his bandmates have now become part of Christian music’s musical mash-ups. In August, Audio Adrenaline announced it was coming out of its five-year retirement and naming dcTalk’s Kevin Max as its new lead singer. Max joins longtime Audio A members Mark Stuart and Will McGinnis in the new lineup. Three years ago, Newsboys frontman of 20-plus years, Peter Furler, left that band and was replaced by former dcTalk member Michael Tait. 

Christian artists scored some major media appearances this year, as Third Day celebrated the release of Miracle with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Amy Grant sat down with Katie Couric, while Mandisa appeared on Good Morning America and talked about her 120-pound weight loss on The Doctors.

The Year Ahead: Taking stock of trends for 2013 Print Email
Written by Production   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:43 AM America/New_York

Winners of the 2012 Retailers Choice Awards ponder the near future

ToddHoytAUDIO // Demand is still strong for audiobooks despite looming ‘digital cliff’

BY TODD HOYT, chief executive officer, eChristian

Much has been made recently in the national news regarding the “fiscal cliff” in front of us as a country. The automatic cuts in spending and increase in taxes has created such a “cliff” that if we go over it, there will be irreparable damage to the U.S. economy. 

Much has been made of a “digital cliff” ahead of us as well. The digital cliff represents the thinking that physical products will cease to exist and that the world will only consume digital products and negate the need for physical retail stores. 

In retailing, sales data continues to show a migration from physical to digital. This is true in books and true in audio. But there is more to the story beneath the surface. 

Audiobooks have some similarities to the issues that face print: cannibalization of physical sales, medium- to higher-priced retail titles facing severe pressure and declining retail shelf space. How do we as a publisher and you as a retailer work to address these important issues? 

In the case of audiobooks, the good news is that consumer demand is strong and growing, and audiobook consumers tend to remain among the most active and repeat customers. While the 2012 Audio Publishers Association Sales Survey shows a slight decline in physical sales units, the revenue from CDs is still 53%, more than half of the  audio market. There is and will continue to be a demand for CD audiobooks, and the revenue is healthy. The number-one consumer of audiobooks is the commuter, and most commuters tend to listen through their car CD player. 

So, here are some ideas:

Selection. As mentioned, audiobook purchasers tend to consume quite a few audiobooks (and regular books, for that matter). Stock and display a variety of genres and price points that are
similar to the print books your store is successful with. 

Suggestive selling. The primary reason that a book consumer has not purchased an audiobook is because they hadn’t thought about it. Many people want to read more, but cannot fit it into their day. Listening while driving, exercising or relaxing is another way to engage more of the great content from leading Christian writers. 

Sale. Running promotions and sales is a surefire way to attract customers to this category. Retail audiobook pricing has come down in the last several years. In fact, christianaudio has more than 20 titles from popular authors (John Maxwell, John Piper, Stormie Omartian, Beverly Lewis) that start at just $5.98, and most retail-priced titles range from $15 to $25. 

Service. Nothing is more important than a knowledgeable salesperson. Most audiobook publishers are willing to sample audiobooks to accounts specifically so salespeople can better understand the distinctives and unique qualities of audiobooks. 

Sound. When I am in Christian stores, I tend to hear music from leading Christian artists. Have you ever considered playing an audiobook or audio Bible? Playing a dramatized audio Bible or The Screwtape Letters or the latest releases from Karen Kingsbury, Francis Chan or Max Lucado would show the variety available and introduce a captive audience to another reason to come back into your store. 

Audiobooks need to be a part of your overall strategy to retain your customer, grow sales and become a destination. 

Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling took the Audio category for eChristian in last year’s Retailers Choice Awards. 

MarilynLargentCHILDREN’S BOOKS // Communicating powerful truths to the younger generation at their level

BY MARILYN LARGENT, vice president of sales, David C Cook

A young boy wants to give Jesus a gift. But how can he do that when Jesus is in heaven? In Ronnie Wilson’s Gift, children learn that helping others in need is a way of serving Jesus Himself. It’s a truth kids hear in other forms—but perhaps it makes its biggest impact through story.

We were thrilled to win the 2012 Retailers Choice Award for Ronnie Wilson’s Gift by Francis Chan and Jim Madsen. It’s no coincidence that this story is touching so many children and their parents. After all, Jesus Himself communicated truth through story!

From a retail perspective, modern-day parables continue to sell well in the children’s market. The demand for high-quality illustrations is high, and publishers and retailers alike are seeing how children learn through visual art—such as Jago’s and Cory Godbey’s stunning illustrations—as well as the written word.

This is one of the reasons graphic novels continue to soar in both the Christian and general markets. At Cook, we see great sales of The Action Bible, which won a Retailers Choice Award in 2011. Graphic novels are especially popular among boys—a hard demographic to reach. 

We also see a trend in emphasizing the whole of Scripture for kids, not just singled-out Bible stories. Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz) and Michelle Anthony’s The Big God Story (David C Cook), for instance, show how God’s plan of redemption has been evident from the beginning of time. Books like these help children see their place in God’s story from the Old Testament through the New Testament and beyond.

We’re also watching as authors of adult books, such as Chan, Kay Arthur (Harvest House Publishers) and Sheila Walsh (Thomas Nelson), take their message to young people. One thing that’s so important to these authors is that their message is not “dumbed down,” but rather is put in language that engages kids. In fact, that’s a clear difference we’ve seen in children’s books over the years: Publishers and stores realize that kids need and deserve thoughtful books that are at their learning level, but are still powerful in the truths they communicate.

One of the great things about being involved in producing books for children is that we see how these parables, visual representations and straightforward ideas speak to adults as well. We come to see that children are really the ideal readers for stories with ultimate meaning—and we often learn the most through the eyes of a child.

So, as you put books into the hands of little ones, be encouraged with the truth that you are making a difference in their lives. These are not just stories, drawings or cute thoughts. Jesus said we are to receive His kingdom as little children. The simple yet profound words and illustrations of kids’ literature today remind us that often faith starts in the pages of a children’s book.

David C Cook published Francis Chan’s Ronnie Wilson’s Gift, which received the 2012 Retailers Choice Award for Children’s Fiction.

DavidLongFICTION // Experiencing a new British invasion with Regency and Victorian drama

BY DAVID LONG, senior acquisitions editor, Bethany House

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a publisher, seeing the rise and success of a new category of fiction, will eventually try to find an author of their own to fit that category. So it has been since the days of Jane Austen and so it is still. In fact, things have changed so little that, all these years later, it is still Miss Austen we’re all chasing. 

Or if it’s not Austen exactly, then perhaps best-selling author Julie Klassen or the popularity of Downton Abbey. A new British invasion is headed this way in the form of new Regency and Victorian fiction, and upstairs-downstairs stories set in the shadow of World War I. Klassen continues to be the category’s runaway voice—her newest novel, The Tutor’s Daughter, will arrive on shelves soon—but expect to see more fiction to warm an Anglophile’s heart. In 2013, Bethany House will be debuting Julianna Deering’s Rules of Murder, an Agatha Christie-esque mystery series set in and around an English estate. 

Mystery and suspense are growing in popularity on this side of the pond as well, particularly in the category of romantic suspense. The best-selling success of authors such as Irene Hannon, author of Lethal Legacy, and Dani Pettrey, whose debut, Submerged, spent its first four months as a best-seller, cemented romantic suspense as a rising genre, even before Dee Henderson’s return, when her novel Full Disclosure put the genre on the New York Times best-seller list for the first time. 

Beyond contemporary romantic suspense, contemporary romance will also see some growth in upcoming seasons. With historical romance and Amish fiction plateauing, readers are seeking new voices in other categories. Bethany House was thrilled to launch best-selling author Becky Wade last summer, and in May 2013 she’ll return with Undeniably Yours

Historical romance may be slowing, but it’s not vanishing. In particular, Bethany House is excited for upcoming releases from established best-sellers such as Karen Witemeyer, Tracie Peterson and Mary Connealy, as well as more fiction from such new voices as Regina Jennings, Elizabeth Camden and Jen Turano. And we couldn’t be more thrilled by Lynn Austin’s return to biblical history with Return to Me, the first in her “Restoration Chronicles” series. 

The challenges of the current market mean publishers are all trying new avenues, hoping not just to follow trends, but to start them as well. We’re among a number of publishers hoping that speculative faith fiction can reach a new generation. Fantasy author Anne Elisabeth Stengl has won two Christy Awards for her work, and the debut of Patrick W. Carr’s A Cast of Stones will make a splash in spring 2013. 

The biggest trendsetters often arrive unexpectedly. We can’t be certain what will be the next Harbinger or Shack or who will be the next Beverly Lewis or Karen Kingsbury, but 2013 will arrive with countless great books. Wonderful stories with the power to change lives—that’s one trend that’s never going away.

Julie Klassen’s Bethany House novel The Girl in the Gatehouse received the 2012 Retailers Choice Award for Fiction: Historical Romance.

SherryMorrisGIFTS // New features, nostalgia mark offerings in framed art, plaques and more

BY SHERRY MORRIS, marketing manager, Carpentree

A preview of the new year offers a host of fresh and fun looks in gifts. Retro patterns, new shapes, textures, a fresh color palette and unexpected embellishments are just a few of what buyers can expect to see this spring.

In framed art, expect to see everything from photography to wallpaper looks to traditional art styles. With high-end looks, framed art trends include dimension-creating channel cuts, innovative decorative mat cuts and deckled edge mats. Watch for vintage patterns and design elements. Patterns like the chevron, ikat (a dyeing technique) and polka dots will add visual texture. 

Individual elements like crowns and angel wings, found in general market designs, are a match made in heaven for the inspirational market. Barn-wood looks and wallpaper florals will add a touch of nostalgia to this spring’s gift lineup. Glittered prints and jeweled art on canvas and burlap are forecast to shimmer with glitzy eye appeal. Fun typography products, reminiscent of hand-drawn calligraphy, extend a homemade or crafty feel to framed art and other gifts. 

Burlap and canvas will continue to hold a place in consumers’ hearts as a lower-cost gift alternative. Usually featuring trend-forward designs, younger customers will relate to these items. 

Color trends include unusual pairings like gray and tangerine or yellow, which is a nod to gray as one of the new neutrals. Spring’s palette promises choices from romantic to theatrical or muted to bold and daring. Distressed paint will be on everything from metal to wood.

New colors and styles of metal products also make their debut this spring. Metal embellishments melded with framed art products create something entirely new. 

Distressed metal flowers can be found on plaques, framed gifts, chalk or magnetic boards and photo frames. Hammered or galvanized metal forges ahead as a new finish that retailers will see going forward. Expect to see plaques in unusual shapes that will update a familiar wall-decor gift item. 

A survey of general gift market publications indicates that interest in Made in America products will continue to be on consumer’s minds. Retailers may want to offer signage or special store sections to tout Made in America gifts.

From trendy to traditional, the forecast for spring looks bright with sales potential. Retailing energy comes from inspiration. Inspiration comes from new products that invite customers to shop. Spring trends will offer plenty of both.

Carpentree was presented with a 2012 Retailers Choice Award for its Prince of Peace wall décor.

JenniferDeshlerMARKETING // Boost sales with product promotions and partnerships 

BY JENNIFER DESHLER, vice president, marketing and publishing process, gift, children’s and new media, Thomas Nelson

The year 2012 brought challenges and opportunities as store traffic decreased and online shopping and e-book purchases increased. But research shows that consumers still want the community that exists with retailers, and that allows us to think creatively about initiatives that can increase interaction and sales.

When thinking about new marketing and promotion opportunities, here are a few key components to consider:

Traffic: What areas of your store are most highly trafficked? For many, one is the gift section at the front of the store. Why not do a test and move several of your top gift books there as well? The impulse nature of that area will also likely lead to increased gift book sales.

What about your children’s section? Consider having publisher-supplied coloring sheets for top brands and conduct coloring contests for prizes. 

Maybe create a scavenger hunt that parents can do with their kids—a fun way to introduce them to new titles or ancillary product around which you’re trying to generate buzz. 

For grade school readers, post signage that lists the titles that have Accelerated Reader (AR) points, as parents are interested in purchasing books that accomplish the reading point requirements most schools have established through the AR program.

Placement: We cannot say enough about strong in-store product placement. At Thomas Nelson, we regularly see how merchandising and unique displays generate interest and increase sell-through. 

Our J. Countryman spinner has been an industry leader, with an average of six turns and 60% increase in sell-through compared to stores without the display. 

Our yearlong KJV400 campaign, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011, offered dedicated retailer solutions, including merchandising, online and print advertising resources, with an anniversary product offering that allowed the campaign to be shared directly with consumers through retailers.

Social media: Being engaged with customers online is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. Ask publishers to send you quote images [quotes with illustrations] from their books that can be posted on your Facebook page, as these have proven successful in increasing “shares” and new “likes.” Use the tools of Facebook and Twitter to provide information about store updates, coupons, exclusive online promotions and limited-time offers. 

Create an online book club and ask authors to participate. Social media outlets should be seen as a place to test ideas that are challenging to implement in-store or on your store website, and as a gathering place for building community around your brand.

Local partnerships: While online engagement is highly effective, being a part of your local community builds in-person relationships that can’t be matched or substituted. 

Consider starting or participating in a book drive that benefits low-income families, or join in with community yard sales and offer one- or two-day sale tables to move clearance inventory and meet potential new customers. 

Cause marketing: Retailers can create loyalty and relationships by supporting a local or national cause. 

Whether giving books away to those in need (Superstorm Sandy left many schools and families without books), donating a portion of proceeds from specific books or gift items to a national charity, or building your own team to participate in a race or food drive, the efforts will have a double impact.

The year 2013 will bring new adventures for retailers and publishers. We are excited to be on the journey alongside you!

Thomas Nelson won four Retailers Choice Awards last year, including the award for its KJV400 Bible marketing campaign.

Fiction Focus: Looking for a hero Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 05 November 2012 01:12 PM America/New_York

Fiction that draws on heritage of the American West appeals to men and women

Cowboys and Indians may be the stuff of Gunsmoke and Bonanza reruns, but readers may be hard-pressed to find Westerns in the Christian retail market—that is, Western fiction in the traditional sense.

The committee that oversees the Christy Award—the well-recognized honor given to writers of fiction from a Christian worldview—only offered an award in the Western category in 2002 and 2003.

“There simply weren't enough entries to have a viable category, especially compared to the other categories, so we moved westerns into historical,” said Donna Kehoe, executive director of the awards program.

The late Stephen Bly was dominant in the category then and was a Christy Award winner. His wife and other family members helped to finish his last novel after his death, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, released by Greenbrier Books in March.

Western fiction does seem to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence of late. A touch of romance seems to have enlivened the category—for female readers at least.

Zondervan-BetrayalCOWBOY CRUSHES

Charlene Patterson, acquisitions editor, fiction for Bethany House, finds Western a “difficult category to describe.”

“Some people define Westerns as primarily male-focused, with gunfights and sheriffs and battles with Indians, along the lines of the movies Open Range or 3:10 to Yuma,” Patterson said. “Others define Westerns as anything set on the Western frontier, like Love Comes Softy or Tracie Peterson’s current series, ‘Land of the Lone Star.’ We don’t think of ourselves as publishing Westerns at Bethany House, but we do publish many historical romances with a Western setting that defines the story.”

The Baker Publishing Group division doesn’t expect to publish many classic Westerns in the future, she said, because “they haven’t proven popular with our readership.” Instead, it is opting for “historical fiction with cowboys, ranches, frontier settings and, of course, romance will continue to be among the core type of book we publish.”

Two of the house’s relatively new, but increasingly popular authors in this genre are Karen Witemeyer, who, Patterson said, “uses frontier Texas settings in her books, and readers respond well to her rugged heroes and strong heroines,” and Mary Connealy, who is gaining a following for her “romantic comedy with cowboys.”

In Connealy’s fiction, “you’ll find everything from ranches to Indians to gunplay to rowdy cowboys in her stories, though they are underscored by humor and sweet romance,” Patterson noted.

Robin Lee Hatcher (Betrayal, Zondervan) observed that “women had a great deal to do with the settling and civilizing of the West. Romances are about hope for the future––and it was hope for the future that drew so many to begin again in the West.”

“The American cowboy has always been a strong romantic figure and history gives us endless tales of the resilient women who tamed the west alongside them,” said Regina Jennings (Sixty Acres and a Bride, Bethany House). “Expansive settings, determined characters and perilous journeys provide all the elements needed for a hearty romance. Besides, assumedly any bachelor living in town in the 19th century was either on his way to the altar or being stalked by mothers with marriageable daughters. In contrast, the elusive cowboy who wandered into civilization represented an unknown that sent hearts a-fluttering. He’s tough, he’s lonely … but he values his freedom. What woman could resist such a challenge?”

Abingdon-ShatteredSilenceBRAND OWNERSHIP

When it comes to Westerns, branding doesn’t just refer to the practice of claiming cattle as the rancher’s own. An author’s ownership of his or her own brand may mean name recognition and higher sales, though some authors have chosen to stray off the ranch.

Abingdon Press has published two Western romance series by Shelley Gray (“The Heart of a Hero”) and Margaret Daley (“The Men of the Texas Rangers”), two authors who have written other types of fiction as well. Gray is known for her Amish fiction, while Daley has written romance and romantic suspense.

“Westerns have had limited popularity in recent years, so many writers have had other genres that have helped pay the bills,” said Ramona Richards, senior acquisitions editor, fiction, at Abingdon Press. But, she added, “specializing does help build the brand, and I am hoping to acquire writers in the future who specialize in this brand.”

Patterson of Bethany House believes strongly, though, that branding is key in Western and other fiction.

“Most of our historical writers stay within their genre and within similar story settings, which is something we encourage,” she said. “A brand is a very important thing. Readers want to know what they are getting when they pick up a book, and strong branding makes it easier for booksellers to make recommendations to their customers.”

BethanyHouse-OverTheEdgeSIX FEET UNDER

When Sherri Shackelford (Winning the Widow’s Heart, Love Inspired Historical) started writing five years ago, she was told the Western was “dead and buried.” But she believes that “the popularity of Christian fiction, especially Christian romantic fiction, has created a vast new audience for the Western.”

Darlene Franklin was “part of Moody’s reentry into fiction” with the six-book series “Texas Trails,” with books written by Franklin, Susan Page Davis and Vickie McDonough. With its stories spanning four generations of a Texas family, the series was published under new imprint River North.

“With the explosion of Christian romance in recent years, more and more authors are writing Westerns than ever before,” Franklin said. “Love Inspired, in particular, remains hungry for new voices with their expanded Historical line and the addition of Heartsong (formerly with Barbour).”

Abingdon Press is also seeing a significant number of authors who want to contribute to the genre, Richards said.

Perhaps Witemeyer (Short-Straw Bride, Bethany House) best sums up the state of Christian Western fiction.

“There are fewer new authors for true, non-romance-centered Westerns,” she said. “The market for these stories has been shrinking since the days of Louie L’Amour and Zane Grey. However, in the realm of Western romance, there are new authors being added all the time.”


One critical element of the Western genre is setting.

“Setting is key,” Witemeyer said. “Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado—places known for their cowboy heritage. Harsh landscapes that cause their own hardships for the characters add to the flavor of the novel. Horses, boots, guns—all necessary ingredients. However, the most essential element is a cowboy hero who follows the cowboy code: honor, chivalry, integrity.”

Victoria Bylin (Brides of the West, Love Inspired Historical) also believes a good western needs a strong hero.

“I want the hero to be brave, principled and strong in the face of danger,” she said. “In some ways, this is a statement of the Christian faith, and it’s why westerns fit so well in the inspirational market.”

Davis also sees setting as crucial, “whether it’s an accurate picture of a particular area and moment, or a representation of the average American’s idea of the West,” she said. “Personally, I need historical accuracy before I’ll dub a book a ‘good’ Western. But action is nearly as important as the setting. A slow-moving Western won’t make it in today’s market.”

Abingdon’s Richards points out that in a Western, “the West really must be a distinct third character, and an author should understand it as much as she/he does the hero and heroine.”

“Setting is often a villain in these stories as characters band together against the harsh elements,” Shackelford said. “There's a sense of wildness surrounding the Western genre—untamed people against an untamed land.” 


As with any category, retailers familiar with the authors and the works themselves can build sales as they recommend Westerns to customers looking for a new read.

“Don’t separate out the westerns and send them to a little corner of their own,” Davis said. “There are many fine historical novels out there that happen to be westerns. Present them as the newest good book, not the latest western.”

Erica Vetsch (A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas, Barbour Publishing) offered several suggestions for stores, including posting author-comparison lists and appealing to women looking for a gift for their husbands, fathers or sons.

“Offer a classic movie night at the store,” Vetsch said. “Show a movie like Shane or She Wore A Yellow Ribbon or El Dorado, then over some refreshments, talk about some of the new western fiction in the CBA [market] and encourage the patrons to talk about favorite westerns, books and movies.”

Frontliners should take note of the two different kinds of Western readers before making their recommendations.

“Readers of straight westerns are a different breed than readers of western romance,” Witemeyer said. “With such a large percentage of Christian readers being women, the level of romance in a book might be a bigger selling point at first. However, if readers get hooked on the western settings and rugged heroes found in romance, they might be more open to the grittier storylines of the straight westerns.”

Overall, growing readership for the category may mean emphasizing the universality of its themes. Henry McLaughlin (Journey to Riverbend, Tyndale House Publishers) said he believes the genre can capture new readers “by exploring universal themes such as good and evil, right and wrong through interesting characters; themes that apply across all genres, by keeping the stories exciting through plot twists, character growth in responding to challenges and making the stakes as high as possible, including physical death or spiritual loss.”

Davis also believes the category has broad appeal.

“Western fiction resonates with many, many people,” Davis said. “Most Americans view the West as a vital part of our heritage, even if they are only familiar with it through films and television. Many of us can identify with one of the iconic western characters—the intuitive scout, the loyal cowpuncher, the troubled drifter, the determined pioneer. I don’t think this genre will ever go away.”

Fiction Focus: Appealing to the ‘Christian geek’ Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 02:32 PM America/New_York

BandHBooks-DemonUmbrella’ speculative fiction category covers the gamut from sci-fi to steampunk

Frank Peretti has been credited with starting today’s trend in Christian speculative fiction with This Present Darkness (Crossway, 1986), with names like Tosca Lee, Stephen Lawhead, Mike Duran and Jill Williamson following his lead, building the category that includes supernatural fiction as one of its offshoots.

Jeff Gerke, who founded a company that specializes in what’s come to be known as “spec-fic,” said that it is “an umbrella term that encompasses science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction, paranormal, time travel, superhero, urban fantasy, horror, alternate history, steampunk and pretty much anything else weird.”

The head of Marcher Lord Press said that “at least two subgenres” are added in the Christian market: End Times fiction and spiritual warfare fiction.


“Both speculative and supernatural fiction ask the reader to suspend disbelief and engage with story elements that are outside the range of standard experience,” said Amanda Bostic, acquisitions editor at Thomas Nelson. “In spec, that may include the more fantastical elements of travel to alternate worlds, interaction with unknown species or the currently popular dystopian stories that imagine a future where society is vastly different than the one we know. Supernatural fiction involves a very specific suspension of disbelief in that the unseen in the spiritual realms becomes seen.”

Along with angels, evil beings, science fiction, fantasy, spiritual warfare and allegory, Julie Gwinn, marketing manager for fiction at B&H Publishing Group, observes that spec-fic may include “even the manifestation of spiritual gifts in the form of ‘powers.’ ”

Author Steve Rzasa (Crosswind, Marcher Lord Press) further explains the distinction between speculative and supernatural fiction.

“Supernatural fiction brings to mind works that take place in the here and now, but pull back the veil to reveal the workings behind the face of our world—angels and demons, yes, and all manner of spiritual warfare,” he said. “Supernatural answers the question, what could be happening that we don't see? Speculative answers the question, what if?”

ThomasNelson-SoulsGateGAINING GROUND

Speculative fiction has “massive” readership in the general market, said best-selling author James L. Rubart (Soul’s Gate, Thomas Nelson), who is hopeful it will grow more in the Christian market.

Author Kat Heckenbach (Seeking Unseen, Splashdown Books) notes that the genre appeals to readers from all walks of life: “You may think it’s the guy that dresses up as a Star Trek character at a science fiction convention—and you’d likely be right. But it’s also businessmen, homeschool moms, teens. The readers of spec-fic span so many demographics.”

John W. Otte (Failstate, Marcher Lord Press) agreed that there is a wide range of readers.

“While it may seem like this is a genre that would appeal mostly to men, I was involved with a blog tour and the participants were mostly women,” he said. “But the one demographic that this seems to appeal to most is young adults. If you go the Teen Fiction section in a bookstore, most of them would fall under the category of speculative fiction.”

With a middle-American mom as her protagonist, novels by Sharon Hinck (The Restorer, Marcher Lord Press, first published by NavPress) were “targeted at the core CBA readership of adult women,” she said. “I’ve had great response from this demographic, as they enjoyed an imaginative story and identifying with the main character. However, I soon learned that a strong secondary readership of teens enjoyed the books. After several book tours, lots of emails from readers and various speaking events, I’ve found many homeschool families seem to embrace speculative fiction—all ages in the family.”

Although early pioneers of spec-fic may include G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Madeline L’Engle, Bostic sees This Present Darkness as the starting point of the genre in the Christian market, but said its growth is hard to quantify.

“It’s difficult to put an exact figure on the growth since most reports don’t break out either speculative or supernatural as their own categories, but the number of titles that include these elements is a clear indicator of the interest in the genre,” she said. “The fact that supernatural fiction delves into the mysteries of our faith and can so easily be infused into other genres is a large part of the reason these novels have been of interest to readers for the past 35 years.”

MarcherLordPress-ThroneOfBonesHowever, Gerke has observed that some Christians—and not just readers—wish to avoid this category.

“In Christian publishing, there has been a resistance to speculative fiction by Christian authors,” he said. “I think this is due to the suspicion, in certain corners of Christendom, of magic. Publishers and bookstore managers—and the people who shop at those stores—may have had negative reactions to such things, especially as they had been presented in the ’60s and ’70s, so Christian novels that ‘seem New Age’ to those folks are looked down upon and effectively boycotted.”

While certain authors seem to “get a pass for some reason,” he said, “their popularity has not resulted in a warmer welcome for other books like those from different authors.”

Rather than the “bonnet and buggy” crowd, the reader who prefers Christian speculative fiction may be described “the Christian geek,” Gerke said. “I like to define the target readership for Marcher Lord Press as Christians who would go to Comic-CON if given half a chance. Christians who shop at Christians who watch Big Bang Theory. It’s essentially the Christians who love the same things their secular counterparts do—Star Wars, The Hunger Games, etc.—but who prefer to see it coming from the Christian worldview and perhaps without the objectionable content.”

In business now for four years, Marcher Lord is releasing its first hardcover Dec. 1, Vox Day’s Throne of Bones. Book one of a series, Throne of Bones is “the Christian answer to the epic fantasy of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones,” Gerke said, referring to the novel on which an original HBO series was based.

“There is a market for this type of storytelling, and to make it work in CBA, we need to add biblical truth to these stories as the underlying thread that holds it together,” B&H’s Gwinn said.


Works in this genre have often come from independent publishers or small presses, and fans often find each other online through blogs such as Where the Map Ends, The Anomaly or the Lost Genre Guild.

A former software developer, author Kerry Nietz (Freeheads, Marcher Lord Press) believes the genre has grown significantly in the last few years “because the delivery mechanisms—both POD [print on demand] and e-books—have become so much more accessible.”

The category seems to have a strong future, particularly considering the draw it has for today’s youth. Heckenbach, who teaches a creative writing class for homeschoolers teens, can attest to its popularity.

“All eight students are Christians, and six of those eight prefer to read and write spec-fic. I've found that pretty representative of the Christian teen writers I know in general.

“What is going to happen to the Christian market when all these teens grow up and flood the market with their manuscripts? I'll tell you what—those same once-teens-now-adults will also be taking active roles in publishing and marketing, and our footing will solidify because the demand will be taken more seriously by some real out-of-the-box thinkers.”

Inspiring devotional sales Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 02:38 PM America/New_York

DavidCCook-TheSameLoveHow deliberate development and thoughtful selling ensures this mainstay reaches readers

As the calendar turns to 2013, Christian retailers know sales of devotionals will likely hit their high point. Stores have additional opportunities to recommend devotionals to shoppers seeking gifts for Christmas as well as tools to re-ignite their own Scripture study. Store personnel who know the offerings and employ trusted sales techniques position their stores for the highest possible devotional sales throughout the year.

Many publishers see spikes in devotional sales for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduation, as “a lot of devotionals are bought as gifts, and gifts are a year-round need,” said Barb Sherrill, vice president of marketing at Harvest House Publishers.

Mike Scalzo, manager of the Family Christian Store in Altamonte Springs, Fla., observed that often a customer comes in looking for a gift and ultimately purchases a devotional as at least part of the gift.

“In my opinion,” said Ken Flanders, owner of The Olive Branch in Dublin, Ga., “there are two main reasons a customer comes in for a devotional book—other than people who read them regularly and are just looking for the next one. One is that they are hurting or know someone who hurts and they want something to help. The other reason is they are looking for a gift for someone and they want a devotional that’s entertaining in some way, whether it’s a sports devotional or has some other unique flair.”

Publishers continue to think strategically about what customers really want in devotionals. Marketing Manager April Kimura-Anderson reports that Tyndale House Publishers has “noticed an increased interest in devotionals that inspire people to slow down so they can experience God in intimate and deep ways. People are looking for a counterbalance to the constant demands of our instant, always-on culture.”

Bill Westfall, vice president of sales at Barbour Books, has seen customers connecting with all types of devotional titles.

“Some are author-driven, some are classic titles that have a proven track record, and … themed titles have done well, especially if they are targeted to a specific audience such as women and mothers,” he said.

Other publishing approaches are brand development, targeting niche readers, tie-ins to other media and best-seller reissues.


Among titles by notable authors is the Game Plan for Life: Chalk Talks Devotional (Zondervan, August). Author Joe Gibbs is a three-time Super Bowl champion coach and three-time NASCAR champion team owner. A companion to the Game Plan for Life NIV Bible, Gibbs’ devotional is designed for men of all walks of life.

For women, two new titles are offered by well-known authors. The Women’s Devotional Guide to the Bible by Jane Syswerda (Thomas Nelson), co-author of Women of the Bible, builds on the same five-day prayer-and-study approach used in Women of the Bible and provides Bible study strategies for busy women.

In the Stillness of Quiet Moments by Emilie Barnes (Harvest House Publishers) attempts to capture “two aspects of a woman’s day—her stillness and her quite moments,” which Barnes says are fleeting in the daily bustle of life.

Banking on her best-seller Unglued, popular women’s nonfiction author Lysa TerKeurst sees her Unglued Devotional: 60 Days of Imperfect Progress (Zondervan) release in December. TerKeurst has a strong platform as a national speaker and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Worship leader and best-selling recording artist Paul Baloche has penned thoughts and prayers that complement his album of the same name. The Same Love: A Devotion released last month from David C Cook.

Author Jim George also has quite a following. His Harvest House title A Man After God’s Own Heart Devotional, which released in October, speaks to the key areas of every man’s life and to his purpose.

Franklin Graham is another name that sells books. Graham’s new 31-day devotional, The Sower: Finding Yourself in the Parables of Jesus, gives step-by-step instruction as well as daily inspiration for following in Jesus’ footsteps. Written with Donna Lee Toney, the hardcover from Worthy Publishing (EMI CMG Distribution) released last month.

Best-selling author Melody Carlson’s Devotions for Real Life (Revell/Baker Publishing Group) released last month. Carlson has career sales of more than 5 million copies.

ThomasNelson-JesusTodayDevoBRAND BUILDING

Publishers often use a multi-pronged approach to brand development by creating related books and companion products for an already successful title. Numerous releases this year extend existing brands. A prime example is a set of devotionals which build on the popularity of the Jesus Calling franchise by missionary Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson).

The phenomenon began in 2004 with the publication of Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. After years of journaling her own thoughts and questions, Young had begun listening to God with pen in hand and writing what she believed He was saying to her. Sales indicate that readers are evidently drawn to her approach because the first devotional quickly appeared on major best-seller lists.

Young’s second and third devotionals, Dear Jesus: Seeking His Light in Your Life and Jesus Lives: Seeing His Love in Your Life, hit the market in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Since then, Thomas Nelson has created a Facebook page and an app for Jesus Calling because “today’s readers get content in a variety of ways,” said Laura Minchew, senior vice president and publisher of specialty publishing at Thomas Nelson. The line with its multiple products, including the Jesus Calling Devotional Bible, have now topped 5 million worldwide.

In 2010, young readers got their own version of Young’s debut book with the release of Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids, which has also become a favorite, as evidence by Christian market best-seller charts.

Then last month, Thomas Nelson released Jesus Today: Experience Hope Through His Presence, as well as two other age-appropriate additions to the line: Jesus Calling: Teen Edition and Jesus Calling Bible Storybook for young children.

No doubt other Christian retailers agree with Scalzo, who sees Jesus Calling as one of the best-selling devotionals he has observed in his 20 years in Christian retail. Of the brand’s popularity he said: “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The success of another Thomas Nelson title, Heaven Is for Real, has prompted the creation of a companion title, Heaven Changes Everything: A Devotional Reader (October). The New York Times best-seller written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent tells the story of Todd and Sonja Burpo’s son’s journey to heaven and back at age 4. A DVD-based conversation kit and a children’s version of the book are also part of the line, which also includes an e-version of the book with sales topping 1 million.

The new devotional offers 50 inspirational readings based on excerpts from Colton’s story, relevant scriptures, take-away thoughts for reader application and features Sonja’s voice for the first time.

Another prolific brand is the One Year line by Tyndale House Publishers. With the first title created by Ken Taylor in 1985, One Year Bibles are organized to make reading through the Scriptures in one year achievable with short daily readings. Multiple translations are available, and themed editions exist for men, women, couples, preschoolers and more. Formats include hardcover, softcover and e-editions.

Kimura-Anderson attributes the One Year success to “its simple title and format. You can pick it up on any given day and find a relevant, short devotion … and if you desire to go deeper, you can read the Scripture passages and surrounding verses.”

“We sell a lot of the One Year [brand] throughout the year because it meets a lot of people’s needs,” said Bruce Anderson, owner of two Alpha & Omega Parable Chrisian Stores in Rochester, N.Y.

This year Tyndale added several titles to the line. The One Year Devotions for Women (September) is written by Ann Spangler, co-author with Jane Syswerda of the best-selling Women of the Bible devotional. In the new release, Spangler asks “How can I experience more of God’s peace in my own life?” Kimura-Anderson says the new devotional “is a year-long quest for that peace.”

TyndaleHouse-TheOneYearFatherDaughterDevoThe One Year Father-Daughter Devotions (Tyndale, October) by Jesse Florea, Leon C. Wirth and Bob Smithouser—three fathers who create youth products at Focus on the Family—is designed to foster communication and strengthen bonds between fathers and their tween or teen girls. Beginning with short stories and written in a conversational tone, entries also provide discussion questions, related Scripture passages and activities or applications of daily lessons.

The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional (Tyndale, October) is written by pastor Colin S. Smith (with Tim Augustyn), host of the national radio program “Unlocking the Bible.” Designed in a page-a-day format, the entries guide readers through the larger story of the Bible mainly using the New Living Translation.

Tyndale’s 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by life-coaching pioneer Tommy Newberry (October) is based on the message of his New York Times 2007 best-seller, The 4:8 Principle: The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life. The publisher’s product description makes a direct connection to the previous title, stating that readers of The 4:8 Principle “will love the reminders and reinforcements provided in 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, while new readers will be introduced to the life-changing power of The 4:8 Principle for the first time.”

Stormie Omartian’s “The Power of a Praying” line with Harvest House Publishers seems to have a life of its own. With its latest version released in April, The Power of a Praying Wife Devotional has sold more than 13.5 million copies alone. The Power of a Praying Wife Devotional Journal is to release in February.

WaterBrook Press has extended the nonfiction brand of Joanna Weaver’s popular Bethany trilogy by releasing At the Feet of Jesus: Daily Devotions to Nurture a Mary Heart (October). Drawn from Weaver’s best-selling books Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Having a Mary Spirit and Lazarus Awakening, the devotions in the new book are designed to help readers set aside responsibilities and spend time sitting at Jesus’ feet.

This month, the release of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces (Zondervan, November) promises to be a favorite among fans of her New York Times best-seller, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. In the 2011 book, Voskamp reflects on the stories of everyday life and chronicles the gifts of God. She encourages the expression of gratitude for life as it is in order to discover life longed for.

The One Thousand Gifts Devotional comprises 60 devotions inspired by the initial book. A special section provides space for readers to write their own thoughts of gratitude inspired by the daily scriptures and prayers.


With some devotionals aimed for a specific readership, retailers are best equipped to recommend targeted titles when they know something about the intended end-user.

Expressly for couples in any stage of life is Bill and Pam Farrel’s A Couple’s Journey with God (Harvest House). These authors of the best-selling Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti have written devotions for a couple to do together to strengthen their bond.

Busy families are the intended audience for Instant Family Devotions: 52 Bible Discussions for Anytime, Anywhere Use by Mike Nappa and Jill Wuellner (Baker Books). They require no preparation and can be used in a variety of settings to spark biblical discussions between parents and children. This title is also a brand extension, utilizing the same approach from Instant Small Group: 52 Sessions for Anytime, Anywhere Use (2011), also by Nappa.

For teens and tweens, is Jay Strack’s Impact: The Student Leadership Devotional (Thomas Nelson), a companion to Impact: The Student Leadership Bible. Based on the premise that teens want to change the world but don’t know how, the devotional aims to equip teens as leaders, servants and world-changers.

To guide grandmothers in devotions with their grandchildren, children’s author Crystal Bowman offers My Grandma and Me (Tyndale, October). This hardcover, full-color 68-page book includes a number of tools, like rhymes, prayers and interactive songs, helping grandma pass on her faith. The introduction also provides ideas for connecting with grandkids across long distances using the phone or Skype.

For history fans, J. Stephen Lang has penned The Christian History Devotional with its 365 readings and prayers. Drawing from 2,000 years of history, Lang provides readers with stories ranging from missions to martyrdom in the December release from Thomas Nelson.

Some products serve even more narrow niche audiences. For example, widows are encouraged in Margaret Nyman’s Hope for an Aching Heart: Uplifting Devotions for Widows (Discovery House Publishers, August), while job seekers and career changers are the unique target for Help Wanted: Devotions for Job Seekers by Aaron M. Basko (Judson Press, October).


With a clear media tie-in, A Hobbit Devotional by Ed Strauss (September, Barbour Publishing) was released in anticipation of the December major motion picture, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from New Line Cinema. The book features 60 entries that each relate one scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit to a modern situation readers might face, plus an applicable scripture or Bible story. Readers will also find a glossary of terms and a timeline for the Tolkien classic, further tying the devotional to the original work.

Barbour’s Senior Editor for Nonfiction Paul Muckley explains that since the author is a big Tolkien fan, “the devotional flows out of his longtime reading and study of all things Hobbit-related,” and that Strauss “has done a tremendous job of spinning real-life applications from scenes in the story.”

Because of Strauss’ experience writing for the youth audience, Muckley sees this title as doing especially well with readers in the teen years through the early 30s.

Based on the self-publishing phenomenon that is The Shack, The Shack: Reflections for Every Day of the Year targets fans of author William P. Young and his creative brand of fiction. The new title from Windblown Media releases this month.


Titles with strong sales histories are often updated and re-released. One substantial new devotional on the market this season is Billy Graham’s Hope for Each Day: Morning and Evening Devotions (Thomas Nelson). This 784-page leather book includes two daily readings and is a combination of two of Graham’s previous devotionals.

For single women, Harvest House is re-releasing a title by writer, singer and speaker Michelle McKinney Hammond. Now called Sassy, Single, and Satisfied Devotional: Secrets to Loving the Life You’re Living, the devotional is based on Hammond’s nonfiction book Sassy, Single, and Satisfied, which sold more than 200,000 copies.

“We wanted to be sure that all those readers clearly understood this is a devotional by the same author of a book they absolutely loved,” Sherrill said. “They’re going to find the same passion and biblical insights in this devotional that they truly resonated with in that book.”


For retailers trying to increase sales in this category, Minchew notes that “merchandising is critical.” Thomas Nelson’s J. Countryman program consists of floor spinners and dedicated shelving sections.

The spinner “has increased gift books and devotional sales by as much as 93%,” and “in the accounts that chose the dedicated section, sales still increased 38%,” Minchew reported.

Sherrill of Harvest House mentions boutiquing devotionals as gifts with other gift items and emphasizes store placement.

“In addition to placing all devotionals in a devotional section in the book area, spread them throughout the categories. … If you have a section for a specific reader in your store, be sure the devotional targeted to them appears in that section.”

Westfall suggests stores might promote free imprinting with the purchase of leather or leather-like devotionals to increase sales. Barbour’s Daily Wisdom for Women is an example of an annual devotional with an imprintable cover.

Family Christian’s Scalzo said he and his team members do suggestive selling of devotionals.

“If we see a customer come up with a Bible, we might suggest a devotional book to go along with that Bible,” he said.

Anderson and his store staff do the same, especially for children’s products.

“We often recommend the spiral-bound devotionals for kids by Legacy Press as First Communion gifts anytime throughout the school year, but especially in the spring,” he said.

Catering to kids Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 02:49 PM America/New_York

sidebar-90DevotionsForKidsBrand continuation is key within children’s products as well, as evidenced by three new releases. Tyndale’s 90 Devotions for Kids is the first in a line of devotionals as part of the Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) mega-brand, marking its 25th anniversary this year.

“Parents are searching for trustworthy devotional material to share with their family,” said Linda Howard, senior product development manager, “and they can be assured of sound biblical principles from an AIO branded product.”

At Thomas Nelson, Max Lucado’s brand Grace for the Moment, which has sold more than 3 million copies, has been adapted by Tama Fortner for children, extending its reach. The company has also released the Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional by Gwen Ellis in its Read and Share line, which has sold more than 1 million products.

Thomas Nelson has also updated the covers of Sheila Walsh’s devotional Bibles, God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible and God’s Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible, releasing ?.

For boys, an updated version is available of Heads Up! Sports Devotions for All-Star Kids (Zondervan). First published in 2000 and written by David Branon, a former coach and managing editor of a sports magazine, this offering combines biblical principles with stories of athletes and sporting events to inspire kids, including reluctant readers.

From New Growth Press, Old Story New (October) is Marty Machowski’s second volume of family devotionals, following Long Story Short, both of which use a 10-minute-per-day structure revealing the gospel story to kids.

Devoted to God’s Word Print Email
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 02:52 PM America/New_York

MoodyPublishers-Love Languages Devo BibleSince devotionals go hand-in-hand with Bibles, many publishers merge the two into one product. Some of the same publishing strategies that apply to devotional books also apply to devotional Bibles.

For example, author-driven titles are available, like the Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible (Crossway) and three Thomas Nelson products: the Charles Stanley Life Principles Daily Bible, Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment Daily Bible and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling Devotional Bible.

Following are some new titles, which take the form of updated classics and best-sellers:

Moody Publishers continues to publish Gary Chapman’s Love Languages titles with The Love Languages Devotional Bible, released in hardcover last month.

Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible by RBC Ministries (Tyndale House Publishers, October). For more than 50 years, RBC ministries has been publishing daily devotions read by millions. Now the widely used devotional Our Daily Bread is paired with Tyndale’s New Living Translation of the Bible, providing 365 readings.

The Women of Faith Devotional Bible (Thomas Nelson), using the New King James Version, has sold more than a quarter-million copies to date. This year a plum leather-look version is another option in the product line.

Fiction Focus Series: ‘Give them an author they can trust’ Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 10:39 AM America/New_York

Zonderkidz-GuardianPublishers provide an alternative that connects with YA readers

From fantasy to fairy tale and sci-fi to Steampunk, the Young Adult genre covers a broad range of fiction types—not all of which have yet entered the Christian market. With general market series such as “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” appealing to teens, Christian publishers are offering alternative titles from YA authors, including Robert Liparulo, Nancy Rue, Stephanie Perry Moore , Melody Carlson, Sigmund Brouwer, Donita K. Paul and Lisa Bergren.

“If you connect with a reader during this time period, you may have made a lifelong connection,” said Shannon Marchese, senior editor, fiction at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. “The way to do so is to tell them a life-changing story and give them an author they can trust.”  

Not one particular type of book is associated with YA readers, but rather genres including science fiction, supernatural, action/adventure, everyday teen life and dystopian, said Becky Monds, associate editor at Thomas Nelson.

At Zondervan, paranormal is a subgenre that the company is making a “serious effort” to publish, said Annette Bourland, senior vice president and publisher, trade and Zonderkidz. 

Subtitled “What If Following Your Heart Meant Losing Your Soul,” Halflings by Heather Burch is “the classic story of good versus evil, but offers a very satisfying read without the vulgarity often found in mainstream publishing,” Bourland said, noting that the second in the trilogy, Guardian, comes out this month.

Zondervan also recently published its first dystopian novel, Replication by Jill Williamson, which examined the moral and ethical issues of cloning. 

Author Kat Heckenbach (Finding Angel, Splashdown Books) doesn’t find a “message of despair and hopelessness,” in dystopian fiction, as many expect to find, but just the opposite, she said. “I think dystopian fiction is popular because it sends the message that no matter how bad things get, there is always hope—and that teens have real power in seemingly hopeless situations.” 

Jenny B. Jones, a Thomas Nelson author, sees dystopian as a reflection of our times.


“Times are hard all around, from the economy to the environment to the government, and right now our literature reflects that, but in a hyper-developed way,” she said. “And there is always a thread of reality in these dystopians. The plot might seem far-fetched (a world where the ability to love is surgically removed, for example), but what a lot of dystopians do well is make it within the realm of possibility. Our tweens and teens are really thinking about their world, and dystopian is a natural reflection of that.” 


While dystopian is still a strong seller, “novels with ‘everyday’ teens, set in our own time are making a comeback,” said Monds. “These typically deal with heavier topics, like cancer, death and suicide.”

Nicole O’Dell based her “Diamond Estates” series on her experience as a resident at Teen Challenge as a teenager. In The Shadowed Onyx (Barbour Publishing, December), 17-year-old Joy Christianson faces depression after her best friend commits suicide, but seeks help at a home for troubled teens.

Appealing primarily to male readers, Andrew Klavan brings action to the fore with his high-stakes adventures, including Crazy Dangerous from Thomas Nelson.

His novels are impossible to put down and appeal to that hard-to-reach audience of teen boys,” Monds said.

In an altogether different subcategory, Zondervan has seen success with one of its young authors in historical fiction. 


“Perhaps one of our biggest rock stars is 16-year-old author Rachel Coker,” said Bourland, noting that Coker’s Interrupted was well-received by reviewers. “Rachel’s story is rooted in the Christian marketplace. She is homeschooled and her parents once were independent CBA retail owners.”

Coker’s next work, Chasing Jupiter, set in the 1960s, is slated for publication in January.

Looking into the supernatural is Karyn Henley’s forte in the “Angelaeon Circle” series, which includes Breath of Angel and Eye of the Sword, from WaterBrook Press. 

Thomas Nelson also looks into the world of angels with new voice Shannon Dittemore, who made her debut with Angel Eyes

“What I love about her stories is that her main character is a teen girl, like any teen girl, who has her eyes opened to a world of angels and demons that she didn’t even know existed,” Monds said.

Fairy tales are also prevalent in pop culture these days—in TV, movies and books, Burch noted. Shellie Neumeier (Driven, Risen Fiction), agreed, citing Melanie Dickerson’s work that “retells classic fairy tales with a twist. Her books appeal to the romantic side, but they take on social injustices at the same time.”


Zondervan’s success in YA has come with works “that have rich character development, interesting plot lines and a sense of exploration, meaning teens are not fed didactic answers about life and religion,” Bourland said.

“The most important element is to make sure the author does not talk down to the reader,” Monds said. “A teenager can smell condescension from a mile away. And if you are trying to preach something? Forget it. It is also important to relate to them where they are. Connect with some of the issues they are faced with on a daily basis. And finally, it has be a page-turner. The stakes have to be impossibly high, leaving the reader with no option but to stay up late into the night to finish the novel.”

Diana Sharples, author of Running Lean (Zondervan, May 2013), pointed out that YA novels have to written “almost as if they were written by a teenager. A stroke of death for a teen novel is to have an adult step in to solve the character’s problems!”

The genre presents a challenge for marketers, said Katie Bond, publicity manager at Thomas Nelson.

WaterBrookPress-EyeoftheSword“We must meet youth where they are, finding ways for great stories to be shared among peers and for authors to connect authentically with young audiences—respecting these intelligent young audiences who are exposed to more influences than any previous generation,” she said. “And we must simultaneously gain the respect of gatekeepers like parents, educators, school librarians. 

“But it’s worth it. When books capture the attention of youth and their parents, series can become family reads.  Our authors’ favorite fan letters come from youth who report that they had to fend off a parent for first dibs to read a copy of the latest offering from a YA author.”

Retailers must reach the parents of YA readers. Citing the 2010 Bowker PubTrack report The Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, Bourland said that “79% of teens have read a book given to them by a parent,” and Bowker Market Research from fall 2011 reported that “60% of parents are considered ‘top sources of book discovery.’ ” 

Getting the YA reader into the bookstore can be a challenge and is an invitation that must be issued, Bourland believes. It’s important to offer a varied selection of titles, too, she said, sounding a note of caution: “Make certain this area isn’t placed with the children’s section.” 

Once you have the young people on board, Jones said: “So much of YA is sold by word of mouth. There are no bigger ‘book talkers’ than your YA audience.”

Fiction Focus Series: Tell me more … Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 10:50 AM America/New_York

AbingdonPress-BeyondTheStormCatering to readers who can’t get enough means higher fiction sales

From tales of the Amish to romantic suspense, publishers of Christian fiction have found that once readers get hooked on a series, sales take off, reaping rewards for author, publisher and retailer.

Such different series as Beverly Lewis’ “Home to Hickory Hollow” Amish series (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group), “East Salem” supernatural mystery trilogy by Lis Wiehl with Pete Nelson (Thomas Nelson) and Terri Blackstock’s “Intervention” suspense series (Zondervan) are some of the top sellers.

The recently published “Mr. Right” series by Lisa Raftery with Barbara Precourt (Harrison House Publishers) is sure to draw many a teen girl, while Angela Breidenbach (“Quilts of Love,” Abingdon Press) and Stephanie Grace Whitson (“The Quilt Chronicles,” Barbour Publishing) take different approaches to a homespun hobby. Written by various authors and set in different locations, the “Love Finds You” series has been a hit for Summerside Press.

Penelope Wilcock’s 20-year-old classic series “The Hawk and the Dove” (Crossway) now has three new volumes. Set in medieval times, it is one of the more unusual series on the market with its tales of monastic life and brotherly love.

BethanyHouse-TheBridesmaidEXTEND THE EXPERIENCE

Readers who enjoy dipping into a good novel often want to revisit its characters in future titles.

“A series engages the reader with characters that they don’t want to forget,” said Sue Brower, executive editor at Zondervan. “They want to know what happens next and to extend the experience of the first book.”

Research by Thomas Nelson bears this out, showing “an average of 43% of readers prefer series over stand-alones, but these numbers vary by genre preferences,” said Daisy Hutton, vice president and publisher.

“Series allow an author and his readership to spend more time developing a community or cast of characters, creating loyalty to a brand that can be sustained over the course of months, years or even longer,” she added. “Authors frequently hear from readers who want to learn more about secondary characters in their favorite novels, and series can provide that opportunity.” 

However, series authors who make readers wait for an extended period may suffer the loss of fans.

“A lot of readers don’t like a cliffhanger ending, often forcing them to wait many months to see how a romance or adventure or medical emergency turns out,” said Kim Moore, senior editor at Harvest House Publishers. “We prefer books that can stand alone in a series—boy wins girl, good triumphs over bad, a miracle happens and a life is saved—while being part of a larger story or group of stories that encompass more than one book.”

When series are successful, readers become absorbed as if watching a good TV show week to week.

“A series is like a great television series that you can’t wait to see the next episode of, and a stand-alone is more like a movie without a sequel,” said author Lorna Seilstad (“Lake Manawa Summers,” Revell/Baker Publishing Group). “For many readers, it’s hard to become attached to characters or a time and place and then have to let it go.”

An epic cast of characters or certain types of writing simply require more than the limited page count of one novel.

“With particularly high-concept writing like Stephen Lawhead’s ‘Bright Empires’ books [Thomas Nelson], the series format allows for the build-up of an expansive, powerful storyline that couldn’t possibly be contained or developed in a single volume,” Hutton said.

Moore agrees.

“Books in a series can tell more complex and detailed stories. Taken all together, they feel more complete. The reader can continue following the lives of characters they have come to know and love in Book 1, while meeting new friends and watching familiar figures overcome adversity and triumph over a broad story arc.”

HarrisonHouse-MeetingMrRightEXPAND THE BRAND

Authors seem to agree that series can work for just about any type of fiction, with mystery and romantic suspense among the strongest subgenres that lend themselves to ongoing installments.

“I don’t know that a certain type of fiction could not be written serially,” Moore said. “Some epic fiction might set itself apart from being contained in one book.”

“A strong series is built on developing an experience that leaves readers desiring more and more of a particular setting or community of characters,” Hutton said. “Writing in this format can also allow for brand expansion for an author.”

However, the number of titles that is best for a series can “depend somewhat on content,” Moore said. “Certain genres, especially mysteries, seem to be able to support many books. But it also seems that the number has gone down in recent years.”

Brower has seen series as short as three books and as long as 20. 

“I like to read series between four and six novels,” she said. “Beyond that, it’s hard to keep track of characters and plots, particularly if the books are a year apart.”

When a series goes on too long, it risks tiring the reader. In that light, “reader demand” is what Colleen Coble and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have let drive the number of books in her series. For instance, her “Rock Harbor” series was slated for three titles, but became five plus a Christmas novella.

“Sometimes a very popular series might be stretched beyond its potential just to keep the brand up,” Brower cautioned. “The latter books in the series are not nearly as compelling as the first.”

As a reader, author Deborah Raney doesn’t want to invest the time in extended series.

“There are just too many other great authors out there to devote myself to only one author for a long period of time,” she said.

ThomasNelson-DarknessRisingEXCITE THE READER

Building fans of a particular series is basic to its success.

“The beauty of a series is that readers know they’re going to become very involved with beloved characters and follow their stories for more than one book,” said Barb Sherrill, vice president of marketing at Harvest House. “There is something exciting and satisfying about that reading experience.”

To do that, stores must make an effort to keep fiction fans coming back, perhaps with signage and promotional items that announce news series, author appearances or whole-set discounts.

While some stores may only keep the first and latest titles in a series, David Lewis, vice president of marketing and sales for Baker Publishing Group, thinks it’s important for retailers to keep all series’ titles in their inventory.

“To sell series they need to keep every book in the series in stock,” he said. “Many stores have had success selling the first book in a series at a sale price to get readers to try a new series or author. This often brings readers back for the other books in the series.”

Since fiction fans are often avid readers of e-books, the digital option can be used to the publisher’s and retailer’s advantage by offering the initial book of a series or first chapter of a subsequent title as a free e-book. Tamera Alexander and her publisher, Bethany House, did this with From a Distance, a “Timber Ridge Reflections” novel, to entice readers into the series.

Stores might try a “first in series” sale “in which they offer the first book in several series for a reduced price, therefore engaging readers to new authors and series,” Brower said.

Overall, with new releases, “the promotion plan must be two-fold, serving the established readership to notify fans of the next installment, and seeing with new eyes the potential for growing the fan base with new readers,” said Andrea Lyons, senior marketing director at Thomas Nelson. “In order to maximize the full potential of a series, marketing teams and retailers benefit from lifting up the first book as an entry point for joining the satisfied readership.” 

David Long, senior acquisitions editor of Bethany House, sees readers’ involvement and loyalty rewarded by a series.

“They fall in love with a setting and characters, and a series allows them the opportunity to dive back in,” she said. “With all the choices out there, the promise of an author taking a story deeper and wider than just a single novel can be quite tempting.”

Christmas Focus Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 15 August 2011 09:56 AM America/New_York

New products releasing for the crucial holiday seasonAMarriageCarol

In preparation for the important Christmas season, Christian retailers will want to have in stock key new products. Among the new releases for 2011 are some from best-selling authors and others likely to become children’s favorites.

Gary Chapman—family therapist and New York Times best-selling author of The Five Love Languages—has teamed up with radio host and award-winning author Chris Fabry for the September release A Marriage Carol (978-0-802-40264-6, $14.99, Moody Publishers), a seasonal novella on what it will take to restore a dying marriage. 

Having previously joined forces to bring marriage principles to fiction in his “The Four Seasons of a Marriage” series (Tyndale House Publishers) with Catherine Palmer, Chapman now looks to the Christmas season for the setting in which he and Fabry take readers on a special imaginary visit. 

AHomecomingFamilyCharacters Marlee and Jacob find themselves in an accident on the way to a lawyer’s office to dissolve their marriage. Marlee walks away from the scene, and with Jacob nowhere to be found, she ends up invited into a home with a door-knocker the shape of a wedding ring. The old man there claims the three golden pots on the hearth inside are used to restore marriages, so Marlee begins a journey through her past, present and future.