Christian Retailing

Christian publishers moving toward ‘digital revolution’ Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 08 December 2008 12:14 PM America/New_York

Publishing houses, retailers aim to meet ‘consumers’ desire’ for more electronic content

A growing number of Christian publishers are stepping up their digital emphasis, with Zondervan recently announcing significant moves to expand the company’s digital-content ventures.

Christian retailers, though, seem cautiously optimistic about the impact of the digital push.

“I’m excited about (the emphasis) because I want to be there,” Bruce Anderson— owner of Alpha & Omega Parable Christian Stores, which has three Rochester, N.Y., locations—told Christian Retailing. “Part of it is because I don’t want to be left behind by the digital revolution. We have to change as our customers change, and we must be on the forefront of the digital revolution.”

Publishers put their stock in financial advice books Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 11 December 2008 12:06 PM America/New_York

New titles and backlist best-sellers target ‘people wanting help’ in struggling economy

Several Christian publishers are hoping for something of a silver lining in the economic black cloud, by releasing financial-themed books that offered biblical perspectives.

New titles and backlist favorites from well-known authors, including John Hagee, Dave Ramsey, Pat Robertson and Ron Blue, deal with everything from the world economy and oil crisis to personal finances.

Strang Book Group recently published Financial Armageddon by pastor and New York Times best-selling author John Hagee. Released Nov. 11 by Strang’s current events/political imprint, FrontLine, the book was written in less than three weeks after the recent Wall Street banking crash.

In Financial Armageddon, Hagee—senior pastor of 19,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio—addresses the origins of the global oil and economic crises as well as how readers can protect their finances.

“The need is there,” said Tessie DeVore, executive vice president of the Strang Book Group. “People are wanting help and one of Strang’s strong points is the ability to turn a book around fast.”

A revised version of The New Economic Disorder by Larry Bates—which predicted the current economic downturn—was originally due to be released next month by Strang’s Excel Books. But because of heightened interest in the subject, the book was moved up to a November release, officials said.

Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Publishers will publish Surviving Financial Meltdown by Ron Blue and Jeremy White. Scheduled to release Jan. 15, the book is a follow-up to the duo’s Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Faith-based Family Finances.

Christian Broadcasting Network founder and televangelist Pat Robertson offers advice on personal finance matters—including budgets, building a nest egg and maximizing tax savings—in Recession-Proof Your Finances (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group USA), scheduled for release in April.

Harry Helm, associate publisher of FaithWords/Hachette Book Group USA, told Christian Retailing that the impetus for Robertson’s new book was to provide a voice of reason and expertise to readers in the current economic climate.

WaterBrook Press planned an extensive print and radio campaign for the new book by family financial expert Ellie Kay and a frequent guest on Fox News and CNN. Living Rich for Less will release Dec. 16.
Meanwhile, radio personality Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, released in 2003 by Thomas Nelson, has recently been a mainstay on The New York Times Hardcover Advice best-seller list.

Joel Miller, vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson’s Business and Culture division, said although Ramsey’s titles consistently sell, he believed that there was a connection between the economic crisis and the recent surge in Ramsey’s books.

“You’re seeing that (surge) from retail accounts that are doing better, more prominent placement because customers have needs, which are most critically and more clearly their financial needs,” he said.

Strang Book Group is part of Strang Communications, which publishes Christian Retailing.

'The Shack' ancillary products coming soon Print Email
Written by Andy Butcher   
Monday, 08 December 2008 11:57 AM America/New_York

Publisher wants to be ‘careful about merchandising’ opportunities with runaway best-selling novel

Products licensed to the surprise publishing hit of the year are likely to be in Christian retail stores before too long. 

The team behind The Shack has been finalizing agreements on tie-ins—expected to include T-shirts and keepsakes—as the book’s remarkable success story continues.

“We are wanting to be careful about the whole area of merchandising,” said Brad Cummings, publisher of Windblown Media. “We have had a fair amount of inquiries, and we will be careful about what seems appropriate. There are some fun things that are some great conversation starters.”

Cummings and Wayne Jacobsen brought out William P. Young’s novel themselves last year after being unable to find a Christian publisher interested in the story about a grieving man’s encounter with God in an abandoned shack.

The initial print-run of 10,000 sold out quickly by word of mouth, and there are now 4.6 million copies of the book in print, with Windblown Media signing a partnership agreement with FaithWords in the summer. Many readers have bought multiple copies to pass on to friends, telling how the book has helped them understand more deeply God’s love for them. 

A humble credit plan Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 11 December 2008 02:27 PM America/New_York

If you’re concerned about your business this Christmas season, you’re certainly not alone—but let me suggest a simple credit solution that may help see you through the days ahead.

While the government’s recent economic bailout package ran to several hundred pages, mine consists of 17 words.

They’re found in Luke’s gospel, when the angels tell a group of surprised shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

That may not sound like much of a plan, but it seems to me that the story of the first Christmas includes some helpful and reassuring reminders in a time of uncertainty.

Let’s face it, by modern-day marketing standards, God got the whole incarnation thing backward.

There was no major launch package or rollout plan. Sure, He let a few need-to-know folk in on the program in advance, but for the most part He saved the announcement until after the fact. More of a confirmation than a promotion.

But I see some wisdom there: No one was able to receive kudos for something that really was beyond them.

Too often that seems to rather be in contrast to the way things work in our industry. We like to—or try to—make things happen.

We have focus groups and branding specialists, big publicity campaigns and the like. God’s revelation somehow ends up getting presented more as our genius.

Now I’m not knocking business smarts and professionalism. God’s people should be among the best at what they do. Marketing and advertising has its place, of course.

But sometimes, it seems to me, we are in danger of squeezing Him out and relying too much on our own best judgments and efforts.

That’s never more true than in times of difficulty, when it’s all too easy to try to fix things by just working harder or longer.

That sort of determination and attitude is commendable. But it can mask an unspoken doubt, the secret fear that actually God can’t really be trusted and it’s all down to us.

While “can-do” attitude is good, there is also an appropriate time for some  humble “can’t-do” honesty, too, turning us back to dependence on God.

Consider for a moment that two of the biggest happenings in our industry in this last year have been, if not entirely accidental, then at least hugely unexpected successes.

This time last year, hardly anyone had heard of The Shack, sort of self-published and quietly shipped out of a California garage by a couple of industry newbies. The book from a neophyte publishing house has, of course, gone on to sell more than 4 million copies and create the kind of buzz that long-established companies envy.

Incidentally, the men behind The Shack will be telling more of some of their own wonder—and the lessons they believe are to be learned from their remarkable success— in next month’s issue of Christian Retailing, as they debut our new guest column series.

Then there was The Love Dare, which catapulted onto the New York Times best-seller list as the movie from which it was drawn, Fireproof, astounded the Hollywood elite with its near-$30 million success at the box office.

The pro-marriage manual was merely a plot device in the film until someone thought that they could sell a few of those in real-life, and the race was on to produce an actual manuscript in time for the movie’s release. Sales were inching toward 1 million in a matter of weeks.

So much for great planning. Each of these cases reminds me that, like Christmas, on occasion things seem to happen almost despite, rather than because, of us, and we only discover how significant they are afterward. We have no bragging rights.

Some may point to both The Shack and Fireproof and sniff, arguing that they are not of as high a standard artistically as some secular creations.

There may be some merit to that, but not enough to completely dismiss the fact that each seems to have touched many people at a level that other works—for all their big budgets and high-minded “creativity”—have failed to do.

Both The Shack and Fireproof/The Love Dare remind us that we do well not to judge things merely by human standards, nor to credit ourselves too much for any success.

The men involved in each of these remarkable projects have cheerfully and gratefully acknowledged God’s hand on their efforts, and expressed their desire to be good shepherds of what He initiated.

Which appropriately brings us back to when the angels interrupted the shepherds’ night shift that first Christmas.

The angelic announcers made the proper order of things clear from the start: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

And once that had been established, there was to be “peace to men” on whom His favor rested—even in the midst of great turmoil.

May this, ahem, modest proposal, be your experience this Christmas.

CBA planning changes for its events next year Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 10 November 2008 03:58 PM America/New_York

Retailers trade association recasts winter conference, ‘working on adjustments’ for summer show

CBA has been planning changes for its events next year.

In response to feedback from retailers and suppliers, and to ease the cost of travel and lodging to attendees, next year’s CBA Industry Conference will be offered in two locations on opposite sides of the country.

Christian novelists draw record crowd at Mall of America Print Email
Written by Sam Townsend   
Monday, 10 November 2008 03:53 PM America/New_York

Book-signing event at largest mall in the country ‘raises awareness’ about inspirational fiction

More than 120 Christian novelists recently drew avid fans and new readers to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., in the largest book-signing event ever at the biggest mall in the country.

Sponsored by Barnes & Noble and Northwestern Book Stores, the two-hour signing Sept. 20 was held in conjunction with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference and Awards Banquet in Minneapolis.

Digital initiative launches with 400-plus Christian stores Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 10 November 2008 03:56 PM America/New_York

Zondervan’s Symtio offers retailers ‘extremely high-return rate with very low investment’

More than 400 Christian stores have signed up for Zondervan’s new Symtio initiative, touted as “a multi-channel solution for digital media,” which launched last month.

Unveiled at the International Christian Retail Show in July, Symtio features credit-card-sized book tokens that can be purchased in Christian retail stores, which allow consumers to download audio versions of the titles at home.

Pro-marriage film ‘exceeds expectations’ Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 10 November 2008 02:57 PM America/New_York

Grass-roots campaign helps ‘Fireproof’ light up the box office

Stoking more interest in faith-based films, Fireproof—the latest Christian drama from the church-based moviemakers who scored a surprise hit two years ago with Facing the Giants—made a big splash at the box office.

And as a book that was a focal point of the movie shot onto the best-seller lists, several songs used in the film racked up digital sales and received plenty of airplay on Christian radio.

News Beat: Mike Nawrocki, Ashley Smith Robinson, Standard Publishing and Faith Hill Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 10 November 2008 03:42 PM America/New_York

Larry the Cucumber has become a creative big shot. Mike Nawrocki—VeggieTales co-creator and the voice of numerous characters for the anthropomorphic vegetables, including Larry the Cucumber and LarryBoy—has been named vice president of development by Big Idea. In the newly created position, Nawrocki will oversee all creative projects and production for the Franklin, Tenn.-based studio, including the VeggieTales and 3-2-1 Penguins! series.