Christian Retailing

New releases a 'SNAP' with STL Distribution Print Email
Written by Staff   
Friday, 23 October 2009 09:02 AM America/New_York

Distributor's initiative offers Christian bookstores 'a way to keep up' with publishers' new titles

STL Distribution North America (STLD) is anticipating the results of its new program to help stores keep on top of new releases.

The first shipment in the distributor's SNAP initiative went out in September. So far, more than 30 stores across the country have signed up for the program, launched at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in July.

SNAP—standing for STL New Auto Placement—offers a 43% discount on 10 new titles selected by STLD from several publishers, and automatically ships two copies of each.

RickRegenfuss"We were thinking that some of the major publishers have increased their margins so much that some of the smaller stores aren't able to really do business with them anymore," said Rick Regenfuss, STLD vice president of sales and marketing. "We thought that perhaps there was a place for us, where stores might outsource that part of their ordering to us."

The monthly selection, made by STLD staff, includes large and small- to mid-size publishers. "We choose what we believe are going to be the top 10 releases for that specific month," Regenfuss said.

Enrollment for the program is for a minimum of six months for stores with current STLD accounts, and the books can be returned if retailers are uncomfortable with the content or doctrine.

Dennis Lovvorn, owner of New Covenant Christian Bookstore in Shelbyville, Tenn., who signed up for the program while at ICRS, told Christian Retailing that it was too early yet to judge SNAP.

Though he has been in business 15 years, he thought that having help in identifying strong new releases could be useful. "When you are wearing 73 different hats, sometimes it's hard to keep up with all the new releases as well as you would like," he said. "It's just a way to keep up with them."

Meanwhile, Editorial Unilit has launched an "As Seen on TV" campaign—geared to assist Christian bookstores in promoting the sale of new Spanish releases and reach customers "straight to the heart."

"Currently, Christian booksellers are facing two realities: the global economic crisis and the abundance of new releases produced each month," said Editorial Unilit Vice President for Sales and Marketing Luis Fernandez Jr. "Which book do we choose, and how do we promote it among so many new titles? Considering the needs of the Christian population, we firmly believe that 'As Seen on TV' is the solution."

More than 200 bookstores throughout Latin America and the United States are taking part in the campaign, which features audiovisual materials offering customers information about the latest releases, company officials said.

Bible market heats up with exclusives Print Email
Written by Staff   
Friday, 23 October 2009 09:01 AM America/New_York

Zondervan's Wal-Mart line , Nelson specials for Christian retail


Competition for Bible sales has heated up as the industry's two leading publishers introduce separate exclusives, new programs and revised products.

News of Zondervan's exclusive Wal-Mart editions launched in September prompted complaints from some Christian retail supporters disappointed by the move. Shortly afterward, Thomas Nelson announced a series of developments it said were "in direct response to the needs of Christian retailers and their customers."

Between them, the two companies have the lion's share of the Bible market, consistently dominating the best-seller charts with their New International Version (NIV), King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) libraries.

EssBibleSeriesAdvBibleZondervan's "Essential Bible Series" is available only at Wal-Mart through January 2010.

Featuring both first editions and repackaged best-sellers, the 12 titles include regular and large print editions of the NIV Study Bible, Large Print King James Version, The Busy Mom's Bible, The Adventure Bible and The Beginner's Bible.

"Wal-Mart appeals to shoppers because it's familiar and inviting, yet there was a clear opportunity in the Bible category to make the product more accessible and eliminate confusion," said Chip Brown, senior vice president and publisher of Bibles at Zondervan. The line "is presented in a simple and personal way to help make Bible selection easy, so that consumers can walk away feeling confident that they have put the right Bible in their cart," he added.

Commenting on the news at Christian Retailing's Web site, industry observers expressed concern that the decision would make it harder for Christian bookstores to compete with the retail giant.

"Thanks Zondervan," wrote John Samuels. "Now there's one more reason for customers not to visit their local Christian bookstore this Christmas season. When we're all out of business, is Wal-Mart going to sell the rest of your repertoire?"

One respondent defended the move. "Why all the hate towards Zondervan?" asked James Ring. "More people will see Christian products at Wal-Mart than will ever see them at a CBA store—and surely we want the world to read the Bible."

Nelson's efforts include six exclusive Bible editions for Christian retailers, switching its Bible range to a single ISBN system next year to make ordering easier and a new spinner-rack study-guide display that reduces the category's footprint.

The Christian retail exclusives—which will begin shipping next spring—include KJV and NKJV UltraSlim editions, the NASB large print MacArthur Study Bible and The Voice New Testament With Psalms and Proverbs.

Meanwhile, as Nelson debuted its complete The Word of Promise Audio Bible this fall, Zondervan has repackaged Inspired By... The Bible Experience, first released in 2007. The redesign emphasizes the celebrities involved in the production and features an 800 number on the cover that shoppers can dial to hear excerpts.

"We have given the project more of an overall entertainment look than a traditional Bible look," said Bran Scharp, Zondervan's vice president of Bible marketing.

New-look Howard Books gives 'Hugs' the cold shoulder Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Monday, 09 November 2009 07:56 AM America/New_York
Successful gift title lines discontinued as Simon & Schuster imprint relocates and turns to trade

Jonathan-MerkhThe Christian imprint of general market publishing house Simon & Schuster (S&S) since 2006, Howard Books is repositioning itself as a trade book publisher in the "New York of Christian publishing," according to Jonathan Merkh, Howard's vice president and publisher.

The company has shifted from publishing gift books—Howard was known for its best-selling "Hugs" series among others—to focus only on trade titles.

'Real giving' holiday focus Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 09 November 2009 07:55 AM America/New_York
Christmas promotions, campaigns emphasize the true spirit of the season

SKIAChristmas2009-1With the battered U.S. economy still trying to pull out of the worst downturn since World War II, Christian retailers are preparing for the most important—and busiest—season of their year by promoting "real giving" this Christmas.

As financial analysts forecast flat holiday sales at best due to recession-weary consumers, retailers are ensuring that they don't lose the true spirit of the season in part by spotlighting Christian retail channel exclusives.

STL Distribution moves to new facility Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:39 AM America/New_York

Relocation will allow key distributor to 'handle future growth'


STL Distribution North America has consolidated its four warehouses, moving to new facility in order to increase space and improve shipping efficiency for the nonprofit distributor.

According to company officials, 110 employees along with 275 volunteers moved 65,000 SKUs of inventory as well as truckloads of office furniture, fixtures, files, machinery and equipment to the new offices and warehouse at 100 Biblica Way in Elizabethton, Tenn., in early September.

Formerly Appalachian Distributors, STL Distribution North America has been operating in Johnson City, Tenn., since 1973. The company had three warehouses and rented an additional off-site warehouse in 2007 due to lack of space.

"It has been very difficult to operate out of multiple warehouses for 36 years," said STL Senior Vice President and Chief Distribution and Logistic Officer Robbie Edgar, the first employee ever hired by Appalachian Distributors founder Tom Torbett. "We were constantly moving product from one place to another. … With our guarantee of same-day shipping, it was often quite frenzied by mid-afternoon."

"With the new facility, there will be no delays waiting for stock to be moved around from one to another building or picked up from an off-site warehouse," continued Edgar, noting that the new warehouse was originally built as a book distribution center. "(It's) perfectly suited for our business."

BaileyGlenn08STL President Glenn Bailey added that the Labor Day weekend move "will give us two-and-a-half times as much storage capacity. Plus, there is enough room on the property that we could add more square footage in the future as needed."

A ministry of Biblica, formerly IBS-STL Global, STL has grown more than 12% in the last year, experiencing growth for the past 10 months.

"We are extremely pleased with this growth in light of the tough economic downturns many companies are facing," he added. "For over 30 years, this company has almost constantly operated at the limit of its facilities. For the first time in our history, we will be able to really handle future growth in our business."

The volunteers for the weekend move came from area churches and local civic organizations as well as students from East Tennessee State University.

"We accomplished a monumental task," Bailey said. "We successfully relocated 750 tons of inventory, shelving, office equipment, files, fixtures and equipment from three different warehouses and offices—a distance of almost 13 miles in just three days.

"Our goal was to have no interruption in our ability to serve our stores," he added. "The day after a holiday is always a very big one for us."

Social media campaigns help publishers in 'reaching new audience' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:34 AM America/New_York

Twitter, Facebook, iPhone efforts and offers on books and other products seek to tap into growing digital communities


Christian publishers and suppliers are finding ways to plug into a wider audience through the popular iPhone as well as widely used online services like Twitter and Facebook. They say that by tapping into the benefits of social-media technology, their companies are promoting their authors, books and other products.

Standard Publishing has seen positive results from offering a free iPhone application based on Tony Jeary's new book, Purpose-Filled Presentations.

With more than 1,600 downloads since July 1, the free app—available at—presented instruction and insight to help Christians better communicate their faith, Standard officials said.

"We are reaching an entirely new audience who might not have known about Purpose-Filled Presentations otherwise," said Sarah Felkey, Standard's marketing manager who developed the application. "By offering this app, we generate sales for the book, but we're also getting valuable content out to more people through this channel."

For retailers, the app also functioned as a book preview, giving a more in-depth cross-section of the content than the first chapter featured on the book's Web site.

Larry-CarpenterStandard Publishing President Larry Carpenter said the company will pursue other iPhone opportunities. "This first application was intended to gauge the response to this new content-delivery method," he said. "With this level of demand, we are pursuing more mobile applications."

LifeWay Christian Resources launched three iPhone applications in June based on The Love Dare (B&H Books/B&H Publishing Group) by Fireproof movie-making brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, which has sold more than 2 million copies since it was released September 2008.

The applications include a digital edition of The Love Dare with pop-up scripture references and the complete Holman Christian Standard Bible (available for $9.99); a "40 Dares" program that lists each day's challenge from the book and allows users to check off the dare when it has been completed (available for 99 cents); and a daily reminders application with 365 quotes from the book that users can mark as favorites and e-mail to others.

Big Idea also recently launched the first VeggieTales application for the iPhone and iPod touch with name personalization.

The "VeggieTales Just For Me" app featured the voices of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber singing and speaking the name of users as part of an interactive experience. The application offered 3,500 names and nicknames from which to choose, allowing users to listen and watch their very own personalized VeggieTales theme song sung by Bob and Larry.

Meanwhile, DaySpring recently launched a new online community to benefit women, The Web site was created by a group of women employees at DaySpring who wanted to share the company's vision of "messages of hope encouragement, everyday, everywhere" in new and fresh ways.

"A lot of companies make the mistake of trying to use social media and those involved in it for a quick transaction, when really it's about building a lifelong relationship with the consumer, incorporating all aspects of her life, including products," said Stephanie Bryant, DaySpring's business development manager. "I get excited to think that our personal passions and corporate mission can coexist and create real life change for women."

Elsewhere, Thomas Nelson recently launched a multifaceted social-media campaign to promote Max Lucado's newest book, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear, released Sept. 8.

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt kicked off the campaign in August on his blog with a video book review, while offering Fearless' first chapter to download. He also offered those who submitted the first 100 comments a free copy of the book and 1,000 copies for bloggers via the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers program.

Nelson gave away a total of more than 1,200 copies of Fearless. "When we decided to give away copies, I assumed we would get a lot of interest," Hyatt said. "But even I was caught off-guard by the surge of traffic that overwhelmed my blog's server. The response was tremendous."

During a video town hall meeting in August, Lucado answered questions from live audience members related to various subjects, including fear of job loss and losing loved ones, which were later posted on the Fearless Web site.

Fans of another Thomas Nelson author, Donald Miller, followed his updates on social-networking sites to find the locations of hidden manuscript copies of his latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, released last month.

Sixty numbered and signed "bootleg" copies of the manuscript were hidden in secret locations in 60 cities across the country. Miller sent out daily messages via Twitter and Facebook with information on the location of two of the manuscripts. Those who found them also received Miller's personal phone number, so they could call him to talk about the book.

The Donald Miller Hidden Manuscripts game started in mid-August with manuscripts hidden in Portland; Seattle; Memphis, Tenn.; Fremont, Calif.; Fairhope, Ala.; Longmont, Colo.; and Atlanta. The response had been phenomenal, with manuscripts being picked up within a few minutes of Miller's Twitter and Facebook updates, Miller's publisher said.

Nelson also gave consolation prizes to people who didn't arrive in time to find the manuscript, including a free download of the audio version of Miller's best-selling Blue Like Jazz (Thomas Nelson).

New NIV, no more TNIV Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:29 AM America/New_York

Controversial 'gender' translation is to be phased out as new one aims to cement share in increasingly competitive Bible market


Beverly-HallThe best-selling New International Version (NIV) is to be updated for the first time in 25 years, while the controversial Today's New International Version (TNIV) is to be phased out after the revision.

The move was announced last month by Zondervan, which publishes both the NIV and TNIV; the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT); and Biblica, holder of the NIV copyright.

With more than 300 million copies sold since its first publication in 1978, the NIV is the world's best-selling Bible translation, although more recent translations such as the English Standard Version (ESV) and New Living Translation (NLT) have grown in popularity in an increasingly crowded Bible market

The NIV's market share percentage last year was 34%, followed by the King James Version (KJV, 14%), New King James Version (NKJV, 13%), NLT (13%) and ESV (4%), according to Zondervan research. In 2005, the NIV had 35% of the market, followed by KJV (15%), NKJV (13%), NLT (11%) and ESV (2%).

"I don't believe this is a commercial decision," Zondervan CEO and President Moe Girkins said of the planned NIV update. "I believe it's a right decision."

Comprising a team of global biblical scholars, the CBT is slated to finish its revision—which will reflect changes in English usage and advances in biblical scholarship—late next year, with publication of the new NIV in 2011. The year will mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, and will be "a great celebration year for the Bible," Girkins said.

"We want to reach English speakers across the globe with a Bible that is accurate, accessible and that speaks to its readers in a language they can understand," said Keith Danby, global president and CEO of Biblica, formerly IBS-STL Global, during the news conference in September at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. He added that the original charter called for the NIV to be evergreen, with revisions and updates.

Previous efforts to remake the NIV for contemporary audiences in different editions have been hindered by controversies regarding gender language. Zondervan released a New Testament of the TNIV in 2002 and the complete Bible in 2005, which critics decried for changing some gender-specific pronouns.

Zondervan reported that in 2007—two years after the release of the complete TNIV—it had sold 1 million units, including the company's celebrity-driven audio Bible, Inspired By… The Bible Experience.

But during the September press conference, Girkins said the TNIV had "divided the evangelical Christian community," and the Grand Rapids, Mich., publisher will phase out the translation in a period of 18 months to three years after the release of the revised NIV. Zondervan currently has more than 200 products featuring the NIV and TNIV, company officials said.

The CBT has invited questions and comments on the new revision process at the Web site Christian retailers with concerns about the TNIV and critics of the translation were glad to hear that it will be phased out.

Beverly Hall, manager of Salt Cellar in Lawton, Okla., said the TNIV should be discontinued. "It has been a hard sale for us and generally has been a marked-down or return item," she said.

"The main reason we have seen (from) our customer base is the gender-neutral aspect of the TNIV has not been well-received. The TNIV products currently in our store are majority mark down and we will be doing deeper discounts to liquidate them further."

Hall added that the NIV was not her top-selling Bible, but it did produce good sales. "Hopefully, as they update the NIV, it will not just become the TNIV with a new title," she said. "I feel like sometimes we try to hard to be relevant with today's culture. To simplify the Word doesn't mean to compromise the meaning."

Lorraine Valk, co-owner Banner Books Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph in St. Joseph, Mich., said the TNIV had been "a hard sell" to her customers, and had "under-produced in the market."

Brenda Harrison, co-owner of Lighthouse Christian Bookstore in Bedford, Ind., said the NIV was her best-selling Bible, but she carried only a small stock of the TNIV.

"When the TNIV first came out, we did not want to carry it because of the gender-inclusive language," she said. "We saw no point in it, and felt uneasy about this change. We did start carrying a few, since we had customers asking for it. … I hope that this updated version will not be with the gender-inclusive language."

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association CEO Mark Kuyper said that he looked forward to the updated version of the NIV.

"I admire the courage demonstrated by Biblica, the Committee on Bible Translation and Zondervan to acknowledge and respond to the challenges offered by readers and the academic community regarding the TNIV," he said.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author, said the "unfreezing" of the NIV was announced in a way that was "respectful and honest."

"Those of us who have had significant concerns with TNIV should communicate these concerns respectfully, candidly and directly to the Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan and Biblica," Mohler wrote on his blog.

"We must all pray that their work will produce an updated translation we can greet with appreciation and trust," he added. "We must take the Committee on Bible Translation at their word that they will consider these concerns."

CBT Chairman Douglas Moo said during the news conference that the new NIV will include a "complete review of every gender-related change since the publication of the 1984 edition."

"We recognize that not everyone will be happy with all the decisions that we make," said Moo, adding that 95% of the revised NIV would be the same as the current version.

Girkins added: "We are expecting less than 5% of (the NIV) to change. Zondervan has great respect for Doug Moo and the CBT. They are committed to reconsider all critical input."

She said the move to update of the NIV was not a unilateral decision. "Zondervan and Biblica have ongoing strategic-planning meetings for all NIV- and TNIV-related products," Girkins said.

"The idea surfaced in one of these strategic meetings. In the end, it was a joint and unanimous decision by the leaders of Biblica, the CBT and Zondervan that was then presented to the Biblica board of directors, who unanimously approved the go-ahead."

Music industry changes spotlight challenges Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:17 AM America/New_York

GMA regroups for survival as full-time head steps down


Gospel Music Association (GMA) President and CEO John Styll has stepped down as part of an effort to ensure the survival of the cash-strapped organization.

Ed-LeonardThe move is part of a concentrated "re-set" of the organization, which will use more volunteers and a managerial position to oversee its reduced staff, said Ed Leonard, president of Daywind Music Group and new chairman of the GMA board of directors.

The association's changes spotlight the challenges faced by the music industry as it continues to be impacted by digital sales and the economic downturn.

"The GMA, like many other organizations and businesses, has taken hits during this prolonged downturn in our economy," Leonard said. "It has forced the GMA board to evaluate our association's current business model and to acknowledge that in order to meet current financial obligations and needs of our members, and to ensure GMA's vitality in the future, we needed to make some significant changes."

Leonard told Christian Retailing that part of the inspiration for the move came during the organization's summer Immerse music training conference.

"About 100 people came together—between volunteers and staff—to plan, run the event and market it," he said. "We were very energized and excited about that because it gets people more involved in their association and helps them to network better."

Meanwhile, some of the industry's leading artists—Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant and Casting Crowns—were due to take part in a $1,000-a-plate "Save the GMA" event, which was scheduled Oct. 12 in Nashville.

Support for the event was "vital to GMA's ability to continue operating," said Leonard in an invitation circular. "What would it be like if events like GMA Music Week, the Dove Awards and Immerse went away and there was no organization to bring us all together?"

Leonard said that the fundraising idea—spearheaded by EMI CMG Publishing President Eddie DeGarmo and The Premiere Group founder Roy Morgan—was intended to retire ongoing debt incurred from a last-minute sponsorship drop for the Dove Awards five years ago.

The venue "seats around 800 and our payables are about $800,000," Leonard said. "If we sell it out, we pay off the debt and re-set the organization. That's what we're trying to do."

Styll, who remains a GMA board member, has led the organization and its affiliate group—Christian Music Trade Association—through a challenging period, as attendance was significantly down at this year's GMA Music Week, despite efforts to attract attendees by lowering registration rates and offering seminars on financial management to address an unstable music environment.

Leonard said that the debt as well as dwindling GMA Music Week attendance and declining membership are directly connected.

"When you go register for an event and see a discount for members, you become a member," he said. "If event registrations are down, then it just goes to show that memberships are down."

Leonard—who estimated that the organization's current membership of 3,000 is down from a high of 4,000—said there was a 20% drop in registrations at this year's GMA Music Week.

The organization faces an additional challenge if Christian radio programmers, who comprise a significant portion of GMA Music Week attendance, completely pull out of the event. Christian Music Broadcasters (CMB)—which has traditionally offered an educational track during GMA Music Week—held its own event, Momentum ‘09, in Orlando, Fla., last month.

Coinciding with Disney World's annual Night of Joy Christian music concert series, the event attracted more than 400 radio industry professionals. Momentum included educational tracks on subjects such as programming strategy, digital music, shareathons and donor relationships as well as performances by a wide range of artists, including Casting Crowns, Natalie Grant, Jeremy Camp and MercyMe.

Meals and events during Momentum were sponsored by Christian music companies, such as Integrity Label Group, Provident Label Group, EMI CMG and Word Records.

Don Burns, program director for KXGM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, compared the gathering to the CMB track during April's GMA Music Week, but said that Momentum was "a lot quicker pace and more concentrated."

Although CMB Executive Director Linda Meyers did not comment on how the new event would impact Gospel Music Week, Burns said: "In my opinion, this will replace (the GMA radio track). Attendance at Gospel Music Week wasn't as big as this is."

Leonard, who attended Momentum, said radio was a "key driver for our music" and hoped for continued involvement during GMA Music Week.

"I thought it was a fantastic event for radio, but I think there's a place for another event, where people are used to gathering with everybody," Leonard said. "I hope radio will support that effect, and we're going to do everything to make it attractive for them to come."

LifeWay Christian Resources has 'a very good year' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 09:07 AM America/New_York

Unexpected success of 'The Love Dare' contributed to a successful 2009 and 'marriages healed'


Despite a tough economy, LifeWay Christian Resources (LCR) "had a very good year," according to LifeWay's top executive.

ThomRainerDuring a plenary session in September at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C., LCR President Thom Rainer told the trustee board that "tremendous expense control" was the key reason, Baptist Press (BP) reported.

Additionally, the unexpected success from The Love Dare (B&H Publishing Group, LifeWay's publishing arm)—a focal point of the surprise hit movie Fireproof—also contributed to a successful 2009. The Love Dare recently became the all-time best-seller for B&H Publishing Group, surpassing the late golfer Payne Stewart's biography, BP reported.

"The business side of this success excites me, but the ministry side does even more," Rainer said. "It is phenomenal to see marriages healed, strengthened and renewed through The Love Dare. The Lord is using it in a mighty way."

B&H Publishing Group Vice President Brad Waggoner said besides spending 52 weeks at the No. 2 spot on The New York Times Paperback Advice best-seller list, The Love Dare has resulted in countless saved marriages.

Waggoner also highlighted the continued popularity of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, while spotlighting the release this fall of the Holman Christian Standard Bible Study Bible.

LifeWay Christian Stores Vice President Mark Scott told trustees that the 152-store chain had responded strategically to the recession. First, the stores emphasized Christian resources that addressed people's felt needs. Second, the chain responded to tighter consumer and church spending with strong offers that created value for customers. Third, the stores were offering strong and frequent promotional events, Scott said.

"LifeWay Christian Stores continue to support our partners in ministry through the Minister's Discount," Scott said. "By God's grace and the hard work of our team members, we've seen wonderful ministry results in 2009.

"These results were accomplished during a very difficult period in the American economy, so we know the Lord has sustained us through what's become known as the Great Recession," he added.

Despite the gloomy economy, Chief Financial Officer Jerry Rhyne said LCR's financial health was good, citing a strong balance sheet, no debt and a strong and diverse customer base.
"LifeWay is a ministry funded by a business model, but that model needs to be adjusted from time to time," Rhyne said.

For example, LifeWay has budgeted no salary increases for 2010 and was holding the line on prices for most literature to help struggling churches, he added.

October 2009 Letters: Seeking help in facing 'an ugly little secret' Print Email
Written by Production   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 08:58 AM America/New_York

It's an ugly little secret in our country that 18 million adults in America can't read this sentence. Thirty million American adults can't read at an 8th-grade level. Sixty-two percent of prison inmates can't read at all. Imagine getting out of jail and trying to make a new life for yourself when you can't even fill out a job application. We take this basic life skill for granted, while millions of struggle in secrecy and shame.

Illiteracy is linked to just about every evil under the sun: child abuse, spousal abuse, violent crime, poverty, HIV/AIDS. I believe it is our duty as followers of Christ—a rabbi Himself and the Word of God—to effect good in the world. And supporting literacy is one of the few, simple things we can do that can actually make an enormous difference. It touches every area of life—including spiritual life.

For these reasons, I've decided to launch a campaign to support adult literacy in America: I Told Two Friends ( . Readers are invited to join the effort to raise $100,000 by purchasing two copies of my latest Dylan Foster thriller, My Soul To Keep, giving each to a friend and encouraging their two friends do the same. One-hundred percent of my profits will go to ProLiteracy (, an international nonprofit whose mission is to end adult illiteracy worldwide.

You can help an eager adult learn to read this sentence. And they can walk away from crime, get good jobs, lead productive lives, pull themselves and their families out of poverty, help their kids with their homework, read John 3:16 and so on. Please join us and be part of the solution.

Melanie Wells

Author, When the Day of Evil Comes,

The Soul Hunter and My Soul to Keep

(The Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House)


The editorial "Measuring Ourselves Down" from the Aug. 24 edition was the best I have read this year. The part about the "classic slap down of a rival" made me pause and recognize how much emotion we as an industry have wasted over defense of our own turf. I count myself as having made that miss-take. Humility is truly virtuous.

To your comments about authors and artists and their signing sessions, I'm reminded of Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Mel Cheatham, both 'gentle' men who set the example of humility always. They know who to give the glory, praise and honor to .. .and it's God.

Most importantly, this editorial showed me a "condition of the heart" that has changed. I have always looked up to you as a brainy, opinionated person, but now I look at you as a sage....but don't get too prideful. After all..."do not think of yourself more highly than you ought."

Rick Tocquigny

CEO of Gracefully Yours Greeting Cards

A division of Artbeat of America

What do you think?

Share your opinions on these and other industry issues by writing to:
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600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746.
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We reserve the right to edit letters for style and content.

International show to welcome domestic buyers Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 08:56 AM America/New_York

Marketsquare International extends its reach as CBA scraps winter Industry Conference

Christian Trade Association International (CTAI) is to open up its winter event for overseas buyers to North American retailers, Jan. 10-12, 2010, in Atlanta.

The move follows CBA's decision not to repeat its January Industry Conference and is the latest change in the industry's evolving trade show calendar.

JimPowellCTAI President Jim Powell said that he expected additional exhibitors to take part in Marketsquare International—to be held at the Atlanta Airport Marriott—in the light of the anticipated domestic attendance.

"Because there's no other competing show, we feel like this is a prime opportunity to grow the event for the sake of our exhibitors by inviting American buyers as well," said Powell, predicting drive-in attendance from stores within a 500-mile radius of the venue.

More than 60 suppliers are expected to be at the third Marketsquare International, founded to provide a second buying gathering in the year for overseas market after CBA canceled its Advance convention in 2007.

In addition to opening up to U.S.-based retailers, the CTAI event will feature a special remainders focus. "We have learned that international buyers are very interested in buying remainders, as of course everyone is these days," said Powell. "We will have a special section on the floor for remainders."

CBA President Bill Anderson said that the decision not to repeat the organization's Industry Conference had been made based on feedback from retailers and suppliers urging "one show where everyone meets and major industry business is accomplished"—the annual International Christian Retail Show (ICRS)—and the need to "be sensitive to the difficult economy."

The first CBA Industry Conference in 2008, a two-day event, drew 188 retailer and supplier representatives. This year's program was trimmed to a single day and attracted around 100 attendees.

Although there will be no January event, CBA is to partner with the Atlanta Gift Mart to hold a meeting for Christian buyers attending the Jan. 8-12 gift industry show, Anderson said.

Meanwhile, there was "a great deal of excitement and anticipation" building for the next ICRS, returning to St. Louis for the first time since 1979, June 27-30. "The earlier date is being lauded, as is the advantage of going to a new city," Anderson said.

Powell said that he expected buyers' attendance at the next Marketsquare International to double this year's 74. Though some exhibitors might take two booths instead of one, the event would still be tabletop style. "We are committed to this not being a show where you have to bring a big display," Powell said.

The first 50 international registrations for the CTAI event—$50 for CTAI members—are eligible for a free night's lodging at the hotel. The show will feature bookstore training sessions and will be followed by a daylong Professional Booksellers Institute. Powell said that the new location would be more attractive to visitors, with a free shuttle from the airport and a $109 room rate lower than this year's event.