Christian Retailing

Gaza Christian store hit by missile Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 12:41 PM America/New_York

Gaza Strip's only Christian bookstore was recently hit by a missile caused by the fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant organization Hamas.

The Teacher's Bookshop is a ministry of the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) and the Gaza Baptist Church. "The missile hit the fourth floor of the building," PBS told the Christian organization Open Doors USA. "The bookshop and community center did not suffer any damage. ... No casualties or injuries were reported."

Marketing, publishing veteran Murray Fisher dies Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 12:35 PM America/New_York

A memorial service was held Jan. 10 at Vista Community Church in Orlando, Fla., for Murray Fisher, a veteran of the Christian publishing world who died Jan. 6. He was 75.

A former retail manager who turned to Christian publishing more than 40 years ago, Fisher headed circulation, marketing and publishing efforts at three leading Christian companies before founding his own business, Longwood Communications, in 1992.

Jakes’ ‘Not Easily Broken’ debuts in top 10 Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 12:30 PM America/New_York

Not Easily Broken, a faith-based drama based on a 2006 FaithWords novel by pastor T.D. Jakes, debuted at No. 9 at the weekend.

Starring Morris Chestnut and Taraji Henson as a couple with a struggling marriage, the movie drew $5.3 million from around 780 screens at 724 theaters nationwide. The drama-with a largely African-American cast-was marketed in a similar vein as the Tyler Perry movies, and distributor Sony Pictures reported a production budget of just $5 million, according to

Osteen book leads 2008 best-sellers Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 12:21 PM America/New_York

Become a Better You by Joel Osteen (Free Press) had the longest run at the top spot of Publishers Weekly's 2008 top religion best-sellers.

Become a Better You topped the hardcover charts five times, followed by Mistaken Identity by Don & Susie Van Ryn, and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak with Mark Tabb (Howard Books) with two months at No. 1.

Ex-Zondervan heads join IBS-STL leadership Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Friday, 16 January 2009 11:27 AM America/New_York

Doug Lockhart and Scott Bolinder appointed to executive positions of not-for-profit organization

International Bible Society-Send the Light (IBS-STL) Global has appointed Christian publishing industry veterans Doug Lockhart and Scott Bolinder as president and CEO of its North American operations and president of global publishing, respectively.

Effective Jan. 1, Lockhart replaced David Passman, who was to retire in early 2009.  Lockhart served in the last year as vice president of communications and external affairs for the Hope Network, a Grand Rapids, Mich., based Christian human services organization. Lockhart previously served for five years at Zondervan, including two as president and CEO.

Lockhart will oversee IBS-STL’s Distribution North America, publishing, outreach, development and administrative divisions—based in Johnson City, Tenn., and Colorado Springs, Colo.

IBS-STL Global President and CEO Keith Danby said Lockhart was “God’s person to take us to the next stage of our development.”
Passman added that he had admired Lockhart’s “humility and determination as a leader for quite some time.”

Bolinder joined IBS-STL following more than 20 years as executive vice president of publishing for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Zondervan.

Danby said Bolinder was “one of the most respected Christian publishers in the industry.” Bolinder’s work with leading authors Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Philip Yancey, John Ortberg, Karen Kingsbury and Lee Strobel “makes him uniquely qualified to lead our global publishing efforts,” he added.

“In addition, Scott is one of the main catalysts for the commercial success of the New International Version (NIV) and getting it in the hands of more than 400 million people worldwide,” Danby said.

In the November announcement for the appointment of Lockhart and Bolinder, IBS-STL also appointed Steve Johnson to the new position of vice president of Communication and New Media. Johnson is a veteran of IBS, holding numerous leadership positions within the organization and most recently serving as global publisher.

IBS-STL officially merged in March 2007 to form one of the largest not-for-profit literature organizations in the world—a move that company officials said would maximize Bible distribution around the world.

IBS is one of the world’s largest translators and distributors of Scripture, and is the copyright holder of the NIV—the world’s most widely read contemporary English translation of the Bible. Zondervan holds exclusive North American rights to the NIV.

Spanish industry ‘upbeat yet conservative’ Print Email
Written by Harold Goerzen   
Friday, 16 January 2009 11:23 AM America/New_York

‘No doom and gloom’ from publishers, distributors and booksellers

The global economic turmoil was the topic of conversation during the fifth annual Spanish Evangelical Products Associa tion (SEPA) Summit.

A record number of publishers, distributors and booksellers from across the U. S. and Latin America attended the event, held Nov. 20-22 in Nashville, which was hosted by B&H International.

Spanish Evangelical Products Association (SEPA) Executive Director and Editorial Unilit President David Ecklebarger said the 71 attendees were surprisingly optimistic.
“For the most part everyone seemed to be upbeat yet conservative and watching expenses,” he told Christian Retailing. “Not that the industry is seriously hurting yet, but we’re all fearful the economic problems … will have an impact.

“The credit crunch (in the U.S.) may not be felt in Latin America for three or four months,” he added. “Some people mentioned being slightly down, but sales remain steady, and we’re not deeply concerned at the moment.”
SEPA Treasurer and Editorial Portavoz Publisher Tito Mantilla said “there was no feeling of doom and gloom.”

“Everyone was still pretty positive,” he told Christian Retailing. “They mentioned the crisis and appreciating U.S. dollar, but they were more concerned about learning how to better operate their business.”

SEPA Vice President and B&H International Vice President of International Sales Jim Cook said “a lot” of the Spanish publishing houses were either restructuring because of the economic downturn or in anticipation of a looming crisis. “There’s a little bit of nervousness,” he said.

Ebett Rivera-Kading, owner of Pan de Vida, a Chicago-based Christian bookstore that specializes in Spanish products, said she was concerned about the sliding economy.
“I’m buying very carefully—and I’m not normally a frugal buyer,” she told Christian Retailing. “Now I’m thinking three times before I buy anything.”

The summit featured workshops on topics such as branding, ethics and business, reaching pastors, developing a business plan, and tips on opening a bookstore.
The gathering also allowed publishers to present their latest products “in a less hectic setting than Expolit”—the largest trade fair in the U.S. for the Spanish-language Christian literature and music world, Cook said.

“The camaraderie was high,” he added. “What happens in our industry is special. I don’t see that existing on the English side.
“We sit in on each others’ presentations,” Cook added. “We’re not threatened by that. We’re in this together.”

SEPA President and Vida Publishers Senior Director of Sales, Marketing and Client Services Peter Cerra added: “Our industry still has a lot of room for growth.”
SEPA’s 17th annual Expolit convention is set for May 14-19 at the Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel and Convention Center in Miami.

Barack Obama books ‘gain steam’ Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Friday, 16 January 2009 11:12 AM America/New_York

‘Much greater interest’ in Christian titles about president-elect since his historic defeat of Republican rival John McCain

Books about Barack Obama by Christian publishers have “gained steam” since the Illinois senator made history by becoming the first African-American to be elected president.

Curt Harding, senior publicist for Thomas Nelson’s Business and Culture line, told Christian Retailing that The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield “started out just so-so, but has gained steam since the election.”

“We printed 80,000 and 50,000 are still out there averaging 500-700 sales per week,” he said. “What we hope is now that he is the president, people will be curious about what influences will frame his policies.”

Evelyn Curtiss—owner of Word of Life Christian Bookstores, which has two locations in Los Angeles—said The Faith of Barack Obama had been her “biggest seller” of titles about the president-elect, even outselling Obama’s The Audacity of Hope (Three Rivers Press).

“There has been a much greater interest in the Obama books since the election,” Curtiss, president of Christian African-American Booksellers Association (ABA), told Christian Retailing. “More and more people who didn’t vote for him are coming in the store saying, ‘I need to read more about him.’ It’s more of a historic thing.”
STL Distribution North America officials said The Faith of Barack Obama—released in August—was a modest seller before the election, but was now selling more rapidly. STL also distributes The Faith of Barack Obama audiobook (Oasis Audio) and Barack Obama: An American Story by Bob Carlton and Ariele Gentiles (Zondervan/Youth Specialties) to Christian bookstores.

Released in November, An American Story had a first printing of 160,000. The biography—which made the New York Times’ best-seller list in the Paperback Nonfiction category—was written specifically to inspire teens and empower them to change the world regardless of their circumstances, Zondervan officials said.
“We’re very happy with how it’s selling,” Zondervan Director of Public Relations Karen Campbell told Christian Retailing. “We are now in our fourth printing. It is continuing to sell at a very good pace.”

Youth Specialties Vice President of Marketing David Palmer added: “We have had strong support from ABA accounts from the start, and select CBA accounts have expressed excitement and support. We are hoping that as stores understand better the content of the book and its relevance and appeal to students of all stripes, that we’ll expand that base of support.”

Capitalizing on growing interest in the 44th president, Hachette Book Group USA was selling The American Journey of Barack Obama by the editors of Life magazine—released in October by Little, Brown and Company—in the Christian retail channel.

Curtiss said besides the Obama books, her store was carrying gift items bearing the president-elect’s likeness, including calendars, T-shirts and framed picture artwork. She added that Obama’s inauguration and presidency was significant for African-American Christian bookstores.

“I think this is an opportunity for the stores to really feature Black History Month in February,” Curtiss said. “I call it a defining moment to highlight it.”

Meanwhile, sales of biographies by Christian publishers about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the unexpected running mate chosen by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, slowed after Obama’s victory.

Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down by Kaylene Johnson (Epicenter Press/Tyndale House Publishers) reached the New York Times’, Publishers Weekly’s and CBA’s Top 50 best-sellers lists.

“It’s still early, but we estimate our sell-through will end up around 115,000 units from three separate printings,” Mavis Sanders, Tyndale’s corporate publicist, told Christian Retailing. “Since the election, book sales have slowed down, (but) there is still some movement with the book.”

Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader by Joe Hilley (Zondervan)—which had a first printing of 160,000 copies—also reached the New York Times’ best-seller list in the Paperback Nonfiction category.

“With an aggressive first printing, we remain satisfied with book sales,” said Zondervan Vice President of Marketing for Trade Books Ginia Hairston.

Meanwhile, media outlets have reported that Palin was interested in signing a book deal of her own in the near future.

Christian publishers, entertainment company downsize Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Friday, 16 January 2009 11:10 AM America/New_York

Poor autumn sales, online publication push, layoffs and cutbacks prompted by ‘tough economic times’

Several Christian publishers and entertainment companies have downsized citing the economic slowdown.

Thomas Nelson terminated 54 employees last month after poor sales reports for September and October, while Focus on the Family announced in November plans to lay off 202 employees and turn four of its print magazines into online publications due to the economy.

Meanwhile, VeggieTales maker Big Idea announced it was cutting its workforce and relocating its headquarters in an effort to reduce costs.

Elsewhere, Augsburg Fortress—the Minneapolis-based publishing arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—will close stores and shift its publishing emphasis as part of significant changes to its operations. The move was based on a year of market analysis and business research, the publisher said.

The Nelson layoffs were the second round of staff cuts at the Nashville-based publisher last year. Company officials said the reductions were across the board, but did not comment further. However, President and CEO Michael Hyatt wrote of the “extremely difficult” decision to trim his workforce at his personal blog.
Though April’s 60 job losses had been due to the company’s decision to reduce the number of new titles it published, the December layoffs were “purely a result of the slowdown in the economy,” he wrote.

While as recently as September, Hyatt had assured staff that further downsizing was “not even a remote consideration,” he said “final September and October sales reports changed that.”

Founded by James Dobson, Focus will terminate 149 employees and eliminate 53 vacant positions—about 18%—of its 1,150-strong staff, company officials said. The Colorado Springs, Colo.-based nonprofit organization previously announced in October 2008 that 46 employees would be reassigned or laid off in 2009.

Focus’ Vice President of Media and Public Relations Gary Schneeberger told Christian Retailing that most of the new layoffs were to go into effect in late November, but some would be phased out through early this year.

“Tough economic times require tough decisions,” he said. “The worldwide economic downturn has had a negative impact on donations—which make up about 95% of our operating expenses.”

Plugged In, Brio, Brio and Beyond and Breakaway—all aimed at teenagers—will be revamped into online versions, and their content targeted at parents instead, Schneeberger said.

Focus now has four print magazines left—Citizen, Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr. and Focus on the Family.

Additionally, Focus’ budget will be reduced from $160 million in 2008 to $138 million this year.

The Big Idea moves were announced in December by general manager Leslie Ferrell, who said they were part of broader changes by parent company Entertainment Rights.

The owners were “like so many others, facing economic challenges that have led us to make some difficult choices,” Ferrell told Christian Retailing. Big Idea’s 30-strong staff would be trimmed, she said, declining to give details because discussions were “ongoing.”

Among those remaining with the company will be Vice President of Creative Development Mike Nawrocki, who co-founded the popular children’s brand in 1993 with Phil Vischer—no longer part of Big Idea, but still involved with VeggieTales projects. Writing at his personal blog, Vischer said that two-thirds of Big Idea’s staff had been let go.

Ferrell said Big Idea would be looking to move from its current location in Franklin, Tenn., to a new home in the area and planning to outsource production, hopefully involving existing staff.

Meanwhile, Augsburg Fortress will close nine bookstores by April 30, 2009, company officials said. A store at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., which is not owned by Augsburg Fortress, will continue to rent space there and Augsburg’s Canadian bookstores will remain open.

Additionally, Augsburg Fortress will no longer accept or sell new titles in its consumer-oriented book line, although it will continue to sell stocks on hand. Beth Lewis, president and CEO, said 55 positions will also be eliminated from Augsburg’s 242-strong staff.