Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:49 PM EST
Crossway leads with five winners in annual book cover competition
The art and science of book design was celebrated Oct. 21 with the announcement of the best designs of the year produced by Christian publishers. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) presented the Top Shelf Book Cover Awards among the industry’s design elite during the association’s PUBu event at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.
“The Top Shelf program highlights book design excellence, intelligence and beauty, and we are grateful to all who participated in the program with their quality entries,” announced ECPA President and CEO Mark Kuyper. “We also thank Faceout Studio, Color House Graphics and the 2014 judges for hundreds of volunteer hours that drove this program.”
One of the features of the program is to allow the judges to select the top designs regardless of how many there are. Last year, 10 designs were chosen, but this year, 16 stood out as the best of the best.
“It was a difficult yet fun process reviewing so many good entries. Many of the entries were unanimously chosen by all of the judges,” said 2014 design judge Kirk DouPonce, whose has worked on thousands of covers.
DouPonce was joined by University of Chicago’s designer Isaac Tobin and renowned freelance designer Abby Weintraub. If there were a conflict of interest in the competition, a judge would refrain from scoring a particular title.
“Like words on a page, the visual cover story is meant to inform, inspire and entertain readers,” said program manager Torrey Sharp, principal of Faceout Studio and PUBu design community captain. “The cover is a first impression. A first introduction. When done well, it compels a reader to respond—to pick up the book and read it. We’re all in the business of telling stories that matter. It’s exciting to see ECPA publishers wrapping their stories with amazing covers that are engaging and meaningful.”
Judge comments on each cover are featured in a print annual produced by Faceout Studio and printed by Color House Graphics.
Josh Dennis, Crossway’s senior vice president of creative, was “grateful” the design team was recognized with five awards, the highest number of winning covers for a single publisher this year.
“At Crossway, we have the privilege of working with wonderful authors and many gifted designers,” he said. “The work that was recognized would not have been possible without them. Thanks to everyone that we have the privilege to work alongside.”
“I am incredibly proud of our B&H design team,” said Jeff Godby, senior art director at B&H Publishing Group. “We could not do this without external partners so we thank Dual Identify Design and FaceOut studios. Also, the Teen to Teen Devotions were uniquely illustrated by B&H’s Diana Lawrence. It is amazing to see the amount of excellence coming out of the evangelical creative community today, and we are thankful for each of the judges publishers involved.”
The cover award winners are posted at bookcoverawards.com. —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:44 PM EST
Wanda Brunstetter and Vickie McDonough have sold millions
Sales of Wanda E. Brunstetter’s books have topped 8 million copies, Barbour Publishing announced in the fall. Readers have purchased 1 million copies in each of the last two years, the publisher said.
The announcement was made as Brunstetter, branded as “Amish Country’s Most Beloved Storyteller,” was visiting with readers during her fan-filled weekend in Ohio’s Amish country.
That same weekend Brunstetter and Barbour were celebrating the news that sales of her August novel, The Healing Quilt, had sent the third installment in her series about an Amish couple teaching quilting lessons to the No. 1 slot on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Fiction list and to placement on the Publishers Weekly list as well. Barbour also reported that sales of Amish Friends Christmas Cookbook are well on their way to propelling her to the 9 million mark.
Brunstetter’s Amish books resonate well with readers in part because of her relationships with the Plain People via family heritage and Amish friends across the country. These close acquaintances, whom Brunstetter and her photographer-husband, Richard, visit frequently, enable her to portray the Amish lifestyle accurately, affectionately and with a voice of authority, according to her publisher.
During her tour to promote The Healing Quilt, she visited the homes of Amish friends while signing and speaking in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Some of her signings were scheduled in conjunction with performances of Half-Stitched—the Musical. The play is based on Brunstetter’s 2012 novel, The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club.
Along with Brunstetter, Vickie McDonough has seen recent success. In October, it was announced that she hit and surpassed her first million-copies-sold mark with Barbour.
“Barbour Publishing appreciates Vickie McDonough’s hard work and congratulates her for hitting the 1 million mark in sales,” the company said in a statement.
McDonough has authored more than 30 published books and novellas that have appeared frequently on best-seller lists from CBA and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Her titles have won numerous Heartsong Presents’ annual readers’ contests and Inspirational Reader’s Choice contests. McDonough also is an American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Awards finalist. In 2013, she was the winner of an OWFI (Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc.) award for Best Novel and had a Romantic Times Recommended Inspirational Book.
McDonough’s next release with Barbour is the first installment of the “Land Rush Dreams” series, Gabriel’s Atonement (Shiloh Run Press, Jan. 1).
In addition, the company’s novelists, including Brunstetter and McDonough, took half of the spots on the October fiction best-sellers list from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:42 PM EST
Online retailer moves forward with one Big Five publisher but continues e-books battle with Hachette
Simon & Schuster and Amazon have reached a multi-year agreement for the sale in the U.S. of print and digital books. The deal, which goes into effect Jan. 1, reportedly came after a months-long process.
“We are very happy with this agreement, as it allows us to grow our business with Simon & Schuster and help their authors reach an ever-wider audience,” the Amazon books team posted online Oct. 20. “Importantly, the agreement specifically creates a financial incentive for Simon & Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers.”
In an unusual move, Simon & Schuster President and CEO Carolyn Reidy announced the deal in an Oct. 20 letter to authors and agents: “It is not our usual practice to announce such agreements, but our publishers and I feel that the high level of public speculation over the status of these talks made it important to let you know about this positive development.
“We are very happy with this agreement as it is economically advantageous for both Simon & Schuster and its authors and maintains the author’s share of income generated from eBook sales. It addresses our mutual concerns about preserving the value of our intellectual property in the marketplace, as it is a return to a version of agency pricing that, with some limited exceptions, gives control of eBook pricing to Simon & Schuster, while providing us the flexibility to deliver great prices for readers.”
Reidy told authors that the deal assures that Simon & Schuster books will be “continuously available for sale” through Amazon this holiday season and beyond.
Amazon’s contract dispute continues with another of the “Big Five” book publishers, however. Nine-hundred authors—including household names Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham and Malcolm Gladwell—signed a letter protesting Amazon’s tactics in the Hachette Book Group fray, but the online giant defended itself, working for e-book pricing that is not “unjustifiably high.”
“I think it will serve to make Hachette more frustrated with their inability to make a deal knowing that one of their competitors has reached a deal,” Richard Pine, a partner in the New York literary agency InkWell Management, told the Wall Street Journal.
The dispute with Hachette may be coming home to roost. For the July-September period, Amazon announced its worst quarterly loss since 2003: $437 million. Some observers believe publicity surrounding the battle with Hachette may have contributed to Amazon’s downturn.
TIME magazine pointed out Amazon’s image problem and concluded: “If book lovers ultimately decide that Amazon is bad for authors, Amazon could lose its hold on the very business that nurtured its growth.”
Amazon also was due to negotiate new contracts with Penguin Random House, Macmillan and HarperCollins Publishers at press time. —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:30 PM EST
Author’s ‘Harbinger’ novel also sees a resurgence after more than 150 weeks as 'New York Times' best-seller
Jonathan Cahn’s The Mystery of the Shemitah (FrontLine/Charisma House) has charted for seven weeks on multiple best-seller lists—New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, CBA and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA)—since its release Sept. 2. The new nonfiction title from the author of The Harbinger had 460,000 copies in print at press time.
In Shemitah (SHMEE-tah), Cahn reveals a 3,000-year-old biblical prophecy for America’s future, building on the mysterious prophecy highlighted his first book, The Harbinger—a FrontLine title that has sold in excess of 1.8 million copies.
“The Shemitah has the same trajectory as The Harbinger, even though it’s nonfiction,” said Woodley Auguste, vice president of marketing at Charisma Media.
The “Shemitah,” or Sabbath year, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the land of Israel. Cahn says understanding this pattern is essential for understanding the prophecies and mysteries of the Bible that are still applicable today.
As of press time, Shemitah placed at No. 2 on the New York Times October Religion list only behind Oprah Winfrey’s What I Know for Sure and at No. 6 on the Nov. 2 Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous list. Additionally, Shemitah is at No. 51 on the USA Today Top 150 Books with No. 24 its best showing.
It also ranks at No. 1 on the October ECPA best-sellers list ranking above Phil Robertson’s UnPHILtered and Sarah Young’s popular devotional Jesus Calling. On the CBA list issued in October, Shemitah sits at No. 5 with The Harbinger at No. 19.
In addition, on Amazon’s list, Shemitah topped the Christian Prophecies best-sellers at press time. The list is updated hourly.
Cahn’s first book placed on the New York Times list for more than 150 weeks. It also charted as an ECPA, Publishers Weekly, USA Today Top 150 Books, CBA and Parable best-seller.
Not only has Cahn, a messianic rabbi and broadcaster, had success with his books, but also with his DVD documentary, The Harbinger Decoded (FrontLine/Charisma House), which has been syndicated by the Trinity Broadcasting Network and at press time was just shy of 100,000 copies sold. At Family Christian Stores, it was the No. 1 DVD in June.
When his second book charted on several general-market and Christian-trade lists, including Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Christian Book Distributors, sales triggered a reprint to meet market demand on the book's release date.
The Mardel Christian store chain has seen healthy sales of Cahn’s new book.
“I can tell you that his latest book is performing very well for us up to this point,” said Kevin McDonell, merchandise manager at Mardel. “It has also helped elevate sales of his first book, The Harbinger.”
A Parable Group store, Christian Publishers Outlet (CPO) in Springfield, Missouri, was the top seller of Shemitah in CBA independent stores at press time.
Bruce Erdel, owner of the 8,000-square-foot store, said that Cahn was appearing periodically on The Jim Bakker Show in nearby Branson, drawing interest from the store’s customers.
“I always ask people where they heard about a book just for intelligence, for my own purposes too, to help us better manage the store,” Erdel said. “With his appearance on The Jim Bakker Show before the book was out, we got several inquiries, so immediately we set it up as a prebuy.”
Using a poster from Charisma Media to draw attention, CPO created an endcap of Shemitah, Harbinger and similarly themed books and DVDs such as John Hagee’s The Four Blood Moons (Worthy Publishing); Cahn, a three-DVD set of the author’s teachings (WND Films); and The Harbinger Decoded DVD (Charisma House).
“Because Jim Bakker is in the area, that spurred interest early on, and we put a really good price on it too,” Erdel said. “We’ve been sale-pricing it since it’s been out, and we’ve kept our endcap up.”
With this emphasis, the store has sold big with Shemitah, but also has seen a resurgence of The Harbinger.
Although television ministries offer Cahn items direct to viewers, the stores still play a significant role in sales.
“The cool thing is that people, when they see things on TV and when they hear things on the radio, they think of me as a resource where they can get those things,” Erdel said.
Erdel thinks the mystery of the prophetic is boosting sales.
“I just think the mystery of it all it just intrigues people, all the different things that are going on,” he said. “Many people find the topic fascinating and some of the discoveries that he has made and such kind of just mystifies people to some degree.”
To get the word out about Shemitah, Cahn has appeared on a number of shows besides The Jim Bakker Show, including The 700 Club and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural. Charisma Media has run 30-second spots on TheBlaze TV, FOX Business, FOX News and the INSP Network as well as on radio broadcasts “The Laura Ingraham Show” and “The Mark Levin Show.” —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:27 PM EST
Nonprofit’s CEO also transitions to HarperCollins Christian
HarperCollins Christian Publishing (HCCP) has taken on Biblica's direct and trade sales business in the U.S. and Canada. Biblica CEO Doug Lockhart also has made the move to HCCP as senior vice president of Bible marketing and outreach.
Biblica is the copyright holder and worldwide publisher of the New International Version (NIV) Bible translation, and licenses its North American publishing rights to Zondervan. Under the agreement announced in early October, HCCP has assumed sales of Biblica’s low-cost outreach Bibles through Zondervan publishing.
Biblica is refocusing on translating and publishing Bibles in the 100 most widely spoken languages and helping people to experience Scripture more deeply.
“Our partnership with Zondervan spans over four decades, during which time our two organizations have worked extremely well together," said Scott Bolinder, executive vice president of Biblica. "While any change of this magnitude is complex, it makes perfect sense for us to move this area of our ministry to HCCP. They’ll be able to give customers the best possible service, and Biblica will be able to put all of its energies into Bible translation and publishing, as well as our renewed efforts to help people read the Bible well through ministry programs like Community Bible Experience.”
Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO atHarperCollins Christian, added: "Growing our Bibles and biblical resources continues to be a core focus for our business, and it is where our mission—to inspire the world by meeting the needs of people with content that promotes biblical principles and honors Jesus Christ—is grounded. We are committed to serving Biblica’s current customers and ensuring a smooth transition.”
HCCP absorbed the sales of the NIV, NIrV (New International Reader’s Version) and NVI (Nueva Versión Internacional) outreach Bible lines. —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:22 PM EST
Translation captures emotion of Scriptures’ original languages
BroadStreet Publishing announces the launch of The Passion Translation Bible beginning with seven titles: The Psalms: Poetry on Fire; Proverbs: Wisdom From Above; Song of Songs: Divine Romance; Luke and Acts: To the Lovers of God; John: Eternal Love; Letters From Heaven: By the Apostle Paul (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Timothy), and Hebrews and James: Faith Works.:
Developed by a team led by linguist, missionary and author Dr. Brian Simmons, the new translation (thepassiontranslation.com) recaptures some of the “lost language” missing from translations that have not fully captured the emotional meanings and implications of Scripture. The new translation incorporates the ancient Aramaic scripture.
“Aramaic and Hebrew are related linguistically, and both are considered to be passionate and poetic,” Simmons said. “Greek speaks to the mind, while Aramaic-Hebrew speaks powerfully to the heart. By referencing the text written in the very language in which Jesus taught, and then overlaying that with the Greek, we are able to translate the root meanings of the Scriptures in a new, fresh way.”
The translation aims to add a spiritual dynamic by delving into the Aramaic texts along with the Greek to provide contemporary readers with an understanding of the emotion and nuance found in the original writings.
“Words are containers for truth,” Simmons said. “Every generation needs a relevant, accurate translation that speaks to them. Our approach to translating Scripture includes an emphasis on the original emotive intent of the text.
“God refuses to meet us only in an intellectual way,” he added. “God wants to meet us at heart level, so, with this translation, we are aiming for the words to go heart-deep and allow people to encounter the heart of God.”
Simmons said it was his aim to translate the original languages so that English speakers “have the same response as the original hearer when they first heard.”
Simmons is the U.S. director for Harvest International Ministries. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, he co-translated the Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama.
Even before the full Bible is released in the new translation, it has touched more than 100,000 lives through an initial version of a few completed books. The other books of the Bible are in the process of translation and will be released in stages by 2017, when the entire work will be complete. —Johnson
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:18 PM EST
Former Abingdon Press executive Pamela Clements to lead new impulse and inspirational book imprint
Worthy Publishing has named Pamela Clements vice president and associate publisher of the company’s newly launched imprint, Inspired. The 3-year-old company also has acquired major children’s brand Ideals and, with the transaction, access to licenses for VeggieTales with DreamWorks Animation and the Berenstain Bears with Warner Bros.
The Inspired imprint will offer impulse-read, felt-need, inspirational, self-help and devotional titles from such authors as Laura Story, Stu Epperson, Margaret Feinberg and Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.
“Pamela’s wide experience with author acquisition, product development, brand management, creative marketing and promotion make her the ideal person to launch a new imprint,” said Byron Williamson, president and CEO of Worthy Publishing Group. “She led the Abingdon team that won an unprecedented 15 Christian Retailing’s Best Awards—presented at the 2014 CBA convention—and was named publisher of the year by the AWSA [Advanced Writers and Speakers Association].”
Clements said she was “thrilled” to join the Worthy team.
“I love the mission and the books that they have been publishing, particularly the opportunity to build a creative new imprint,” she said. “It’s exciting to be a part of a growth-oriented company committed to reaching out to readers with life-changing content.”
Most recently associated publisher overseeing Christian Living and fiction with Abingdon Press, an imprint of The United Methodist Publishing House, Clements lost her post in late summer to the “reassessing and realigning” of Abingdon’s Christian Living and fiction programs, which were said to result because of the “rate of change and shifting structure in our industry and the resulting challenges faced by all religion publishers,” Abingdon President and Publisher Neil M. Alexander said.
Inspired recently shipped its first titles, including Hope for the Caregiver by Peter Rosenberger, which was featured this month on NBC’s Today Show during the Kathie Lee and Hoda hour.
Worthy’s acquisition of the Ideals children’s book brand and product lines was announced Oct. 10. A 50-year-old children’s category-leader with offices in Nashville, Ideals was owned by Danbury, Connecticut-based Guideposts, which was founded by Norman Vincent Peale and publishes Guideposts and Ideals magazines. Ideals publishes 25 to 30 books each year, including picture books, board books, and novelty and sound books.
The Ideals Christmas picture book The Sparkle Box won the 2014 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Christian Book Award for children’s books. Holiday board books from Ideals regularly rank at the top of Nielsen BookScan charts each year.
“My roots in children’s books are more than two decades deep, having launched WordKids, Tommy Nelson and now WorthyKids,” said Byron Williamson, president and publisher at Worthy. “I got my start in children’s publishing with the conception and development of the International Children’s Bible (ICB). Worthy is excited to welcome the Ideals team into the Worthy family, effective immediately.”
Connecting the Ideals brand with WorthyKids brings about the return of former associate Dale Wilstermann. Formerly with Worthy before moving to Guideposts/Ideals, Wilstermann will serve as vice president of sales at Ideals/WorthyKids. Peggy Schaefer, a children’s specialist serving as vice president and associate publisher, will continue to lead the product-development team. —Christine D. Johnson
Written by Ann Byle
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 04:08 PM EST
Christian retailers see big boost in sales of Bible teacher’s practical books with publisher’s promotional effort
Not many authors have had more than 100 books published, but Joyce Meyer is one of those few. Her century title—God Is Not Mad at You: You Can Experience Real Love, Acceptance & Guilt-free Living (FaithWords)—came out in 2013, so with her 2014 titles, she inches above that distinctive mark.
Meyer has been a foundational author for the FaithWords program since the house acquired her entire backlist and began contracting new books back in 2002. In total, FaithWords has sold more than 30 million copies of Meyer’s books in all formats. She typically does two trade books each year—in April and September—and a devotional book near the end of the year. Her devotionals alone have sold over 3 million copies, with the 2014 release titled The Power of Being Thankful: 365 Devotions for Discovering the Strength of Gratitude.
“Her top two geographic markets are New York and Los Angeles,” Zettersten said. “You don’t think of New York and L.A. as particularly Christian, but she’s popular everywhere and is on TV daily.”
Meyer’s television and other broadcasts feature teaching that is usually tied to the topic of her books, which helps drive retail sales because “customers want their books now; they don’t want to wait to get her books through the mail,” Zettersten said. “When Joyce says, ‘Wherever books are sold,’ that is literally true.”
Gary Davidson, vice president of CBA sales and marketing for FaithWords, observed that Christian retail stores comprise a significant percentage of overall retail sales for Meyer’s products. This year, he said, FaithWords “offered extra discounts on new releases as well as backlist titles to celebrate ‘The Year of Joyce.’ Her overall sales are up 7% over previous years due to the emphasis at CBA retail.”
Meyer sees Christian retailers as a vital part of her sales team.
“It’s our mission through our ministry to share Christ and love people all over the world, as much as we possibly can,” she said. “I’m so grateful that my books are being distributed by businesses and ministries to help us do that. I certainly couldn’t to it all on my own, and I don’t take this privilege for granted. We can do so much more when we work with others.”
Her newest book, Good Health, Good Life: 12 Keys to Enjoying Physical & Spiritual Wellness, hits stores this month, just in time to help readers step into the New Year with a tool to help them set health goals.
“God has an awesome plan for you, and whatever shape you are in today, you do not have to stay that way,” said Meyer in a recent interview with Christian Retailing. “If you want to improve the way you look and feel, you can do it by learning and applying biblical principles that lead to good health—spirit, soul and body.”
Good Health, Good Life is the second in a series of condensed, $10 books derived from earlier, best-selling titles by Meyer.
“We’ve had great success with this format with John Maxwell, selling over a million copies at that price and in that format,” said Rolf Zettersten, senior vice president and publisher for Hachette Book Group, of which FaithWords is a part. “We thought we should apply that idea to Joyce Meyer as well.”
Meyer’s first release in the smaller format is titled The Approval Fix: How to Break Free From People Pleasing (2014). Good Health, Good Life is derived from Meyer’s 2006 best-seller Look Great, Feel Great: 12 Keys to Enjoying a Healthy Life Now.
“Look Great, Feel Great was the result of a major turnaround in my life that led me to better health spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically,” Meyer said. “Going through my own journey of healing and restoration made me want to help others who are struggling too. This new book is another way to take the 12 practical keys that I discovered through my own experience and share them with people who need to make the same kind of changes.”
The book offers space in each chapter for the reader to make notes to establish his or her needs and goals and how to work toward them.
“I’m excited about this because just learning information doesn’t change your life; it’s what we do with it that makes the difference,” Meyer said. “I really believe the principles in this book—put into action—can help bring breakthroughs in people’s lives that will make them healthier than they’ve ever been.”
To introduce Meyer’s new books, FaithWords offers video footage for Christian retail websites, and the company put a major emphasis on flyer ad placement with key accounts and marketing groups for Meyer’s September release titled Living Courageously: You Can Face Anything, Just Do It Afraid.
That new title, plus her Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind and You Can Begin Again: No Matter What, It’s Never Too Late are top sellers in Christian retail stores, with Battlefield of the Mind consistently on best-seller lists.
“I just don’t know any other inspirational author who has had such a sustained writing presence and been so successful over the last 12 years,” Zettersten said. “Many authors come and go, but I don’t know of any other who, year in and year out, is selling 2 to 3 million copies of her books.”
Meyer believes strongly in the power of the written word.
“I live to write, and books are a wonderful way to teach the Word because they can go anywhere we can send them!" she said.
“God has given me the desire to do this, and He has given me the ability to write,” she added. “So every book I write, it ultimately comes together by His grace and the direction He gives me for it.”
She’s already preparing for the release of her April 2015 title Get Your Hopes Up! Expect Something Good to Happen to You Every Day, with another in September titled The Mind Connection, a follow-up to Battlefield of the Mind. FaithWords also is planning a third in the $10 book line titled Let God Fight Your Battles.
Meyer will do a book tour for the first time in several years in spring 2015.
“Joyce Meyer is simply one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met,” Zettersten said. “She’s always working on writing her books, running a huge ministry and preparing her teachings for broadcast or for events. She has an amazing ability to work hard and stay focused—and she’s never missed a deadline in 12 years.”
Written by CRYSTAL VILKAITIS
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 02:21 PM EDT
Employ these 7 post ideas to increase engagement, traffic and sales
Have you ever posted something on your Facebook page and felt like you were just talking to yourself? You eagerly open your page to see how many people responded to the most recent post and are left disappointed when you find no one has interacted. They haven’t liked, commented or shared.
Now more than ever it’s crucial for brands to post meaningful content on their social-media profiles to stand out from the crowd. Consumers are busy, just like you, and are swirling around the Internet at lightning-fast speeds trying to connect with friends and family, get a movie recommendation, talk about their favorite singer on some reality show, make weekend plans and show pictures of their dogs/cats/children/gardens/meals/sunsets.
And, with only on average about 3-5% of total Likes organic views of your posts, you need to be posting content that speaks to them so it grabs their attention, feels relatable and adds value to their busy lives.
Here are seven Facebook post ideas (with examples) to help you stand out from the competition and increase engagement, exposure and sales.
1. Exclusive offers
Giving your Facebook fans something special, something they cannot find anywhere else is one of the best ways to use social media and truly gives a reason for someone to follow you online. The key here is keeping it exclusive and only giving certain offers to your Facebook fans.
This is a great example from Swagger Gifts who hosted a Flash Sale on Facebook.The company ran a limited-time sale that users could only access from Facebook, providing exclusivity and an easy way to track the success of the campaign.
Here’s another great example by Lisa Lisa’s Gift Closet where she asks fans to present this photo at checkout to receive 20% off.This is a strong example because she used a photo, which has heavier weight according to Facebook’s algorithm and typically will be shown to more people. She made it “Today only,” which creates urgency, and is combining this offer with a popular theme that happens every Thursday on Facebook called “Throwback Thursday” (also known as #tbt).
2. Sneak peaks
Consumers love getting an insider, first look at what’s coming soon and what just arrived in-store. Create excitement in your online community by posting these types of pictures, and make sure you call out that these are coming soon or new, as we see in Cedar Springs Christian Stores’ post about a new book available. The store took its post a step further by adding text on top of the graphic that clearly showcases that it is a new item by adding, “Look What’s New!”
Another great way of showcasing new items to your Facebook community is by taking a picture of an in-store display like P. Graham Dunn did. This helps the customer “digitally window-shop” and not only gets to see what’s new, but also gets a look inside the store.
3. Popular items
Consumers also love knowing what’s hot. Showcase popular items by posting pictures and saying things like, “These are selling fast!” or “*Popular Item Alert* Get This Before They’re Gone!” or by posting “BACK BY DEMAND” in all capital letters with a photo of the item like Impressions Boutique & Gifts did. They wanted to make it clear these were so popular they sold out, and you better get yours today before they’re gone—again.
Another way to showcase popular items is by creating Top 10 lists. If you could turn your list into a graphic, perhaps a collage or infographic, that will help it get more exposure in the Facebook newsfeed. Consider using the tools Canva.com or PicMonkey.com to help create graphics for Facebook.
One of the best ways to boost engagement and get more people commenting and liking is through contests. This is a great example by Repurpose Boutique that branded a contest, calling it “Win-It-Wednesday.” The contest helps consumers remember when it is held, giving them the chance to mark their calendars and try to win next week.
I also like how Repurpose Boutique created an image that featured the items you could win and then after the winner was announced, the store put her name on top of the image. This is a great way to spotlight the winner, and consumers typically enjoy being featured by their favorite stores and brands.
Another way to feature fans is through a “Fan of the Week” type of post, where you select fans and feature them on your page, giving them something special like a $10 gift certificate.
Here’s another example by P. Graham Dunn, which took a picture of the winner while he was in the store picking up his prize. Posting pictures of people like staff and customers is a great way to humanize your brand, and this type of photo is typically interacted (likes/comments) more than pictures that do not include a person.
Side note: If you’re going to run a contest on your Facebook page, make sure you have a strategy. Are you trying to build email addresses, store and/or online exposure? How long will you run the contest? How will you notify possible participants? How will you promote the contest? When you have in place a strategy with clear goals, you’ll have a more successful contest.
5. Customer stories and testimonials
When a customer tells you about a great experience he or she had in your store, share it with your online community. Peer recommendations and word-of-mouth marketing is the No. 1 way consumers decide where to shop. This is a great example from The Gift Box.
6. Inspirational and funny
The top two types of content that go viral, meaning they get a lot of shares and interaction, are inspirational and funny photos and videos. These types of posts not only build online exposure, but they also help us connect with our audience in a more personal way.
This example from Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph in St. Joseph, Michigan, is a classic example of taking an image that has a saying that relates to the store’s perfect customer, inspiring Facebook users or possibly even making them laugh because they can relate.
This is also a great example because store owner Lorraine Valk added her name at the end of the post, which gives a personal tone to the post, making it more relatable and easier to get to know Lorraine and the store.
Here’s another example from The Bookery Parable Christian Store in Mansfield, Ohio, which posted a simple graphic with a powerful message.
And here’s a great example of adding some humor to a post by Upstart Crow Bookstore & Coffee House in San Diego.
7. Expert tips
Last but certainly not least, you must post tips and helpful resources on your Facebook page. Remember, consumers are busy, and you need to offer them something in exchange for their time. One way to add value is through sharing expert tips and advice.
Do you have great taste? Do you have an eye for fashion or decorating? Do you have the best recipe for certain holidays or gift-giving advice for men or parents? Here’s an action item: Take the next 15 minutes and write down 10 expert ideas you could share with your Facebook community. Then, look at those tips and see how you could turn them into a graphic. If you’re not a graphic designer, you can use Canva.com to create a visually appealing image.
Here’s an example from Miss Cayce’s Christmas Store. The Midland, Texas, store used its Facebook page to promote a blog post titled “How to Theme Your Christmas Tree,” which gave expert tips and design ideas.
Crystal Vilkaitis is the owner of Crystal Media, a company dedicated to helping retailers integrate proven social media, mobile and email marketing strategies into their businesses. Vilkaitis started Social Edge, an online membership group exclusive to retailers looking to gain an edge over the competition using social media. For more information, visit crystalmedia.co or crystalmedia.co/socialedge.
Written by Kathleen Samuelson
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 09:12 AM EDT
Publishers make this summer-outreach program easier than ever for churches
Christian retail stores and local churches often team up this time of year for an effective ministry opportunity, Vacation Bible School (VBS). In this roundtable discussion, we talked with four publisher representatives to learn more about their 2015 programs and their hopes for the kids—and adults—who participate in them.
Jill Frahm, VBS specialist, Group Publishing
Julie Horner, solutions strategist, Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center
Karen McGraw, associate managing editor, VBS, Gospel Light
Pam Nummela, editor, VBS and family materials, Concordia Publishing House
CHRISTIAN RETAILING (CR): What are you most excited about with your 2015 VBS program(s)?
FRAHM: We are very excited to release a brand-new format for 2015 Vacation Bible School. It’s called Cross Culture VBS: Thailand Trek. It’s everything you love about Group VBS, plus a fresh way to ignite kids’ faith. At Thailand Trek, you’ll meet four kids from Thailand, on video, who love Jesus. You’ll explore everyday life through games, snacks and cultural experiences and help kids see the big picture—an exciting world of faith beyond their own backyard. We can’t wait to watch kids grow closer to Jesus in 2015 at Thailand Trek VBS next summer!
HORNER: I am always most excited about how many kids will hear about a relationship with Jesus for the first time because MEGA Sports Camp draws kids who don’t normally attend church.
McGRAW: We are super excited about kids getting to know Jesus through the whole Bible. Kids will learn about God’s plan of salvation through Jesus, beginning in Genesis, moving through the New Testament account of the early church to today’s church. They will discover that through Jesus they, too, are a part of God’s plan. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve got an amazing and exciting theme. Through fun science-object lessons, kids will have a blast—in some cases literally—as they discover that when God created the world, He created the principles that control how the world works.
NUMMELA: The opportunity to impact so many young lives and connect them to Christ is such a privilege! Our theme and content engage children in a fun dynamic manner, immersing them in God’s great plan and purpose for their lives. Concordia Publishing House’s [CPH] central verse at Camp Discovery is 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.”
CR: How can retailers encourage their church customers to purchase your VBS curriculum?
FRAHM: Group VBS really shines as a leader in creating experiences for children, youth and volunteers during VBS that will help them grow in relationship with each other and with Jesus. We focus on single Bible Point learning each day, and it is reinforced in every station the kids visit at VBS. When a child attends a Group VBS, you can expect they’ll have a blast, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they remember the Bible Point and how they apply it to their daily life. Retailers can ensure that churches will experience life change in their kids and volunteers through a Group VBS. Another aspect that we introduced last year, KidVid Cinema, was a big hit with kids across the country. We’ll have all new topics and relevant experiences where kids will again dive into “real life” issues that they face through engaging stories of other kids just like them.
HORNER: MEGA Sports Camp is unique in that about 50% of the time is spent in sports training, and 50% is spent in small groups and children’s church-style rallies. Not only has MEGA Sports Camp been a four-time winner of Outreach’s children’s resource of the year, but our customers tell us why. According to surveys, about half of the kids who attend are guests of the host church, and about 20% of the kids ask Jesus into their hearts and lives. Plus it’s a great way to get men and youth groups more involved in children’s ministry. They love the sports aspect!
McGRAW: Gospel Light’s SonSpark Labs is the most flexible program out there. We’re working hard every year to find better ways to communicate with churches and provide a curriculum that is simple to use and adaptable to any situation. One way we’ve done that is with our Reproducible Power Pack. In this pack, churches have the power of reproducibility at their fingertips. They can print, email or post on their secure site leaders’ guides, student pages, music files—even our videos! It’s truly never been easier to get material into the hands of your volunteers. We’ve also added a Weekend Adventure VBS to go along with SonSpark Labs. It has all the fun and excitement of SonSpark Labs condensed down to three sessions in two days. This is a great alternative for any church and makes the program adaptable to any situation.
NUMMELA: Retailers are a key partner in our VBS mission. Recognizing this, we have developed a Sales Success checklist that can serve as a roadmap to make connecting customers to CPH’s VBS easy. This checklist is available at vbs.cph.org/trade. CPH also has a support staff for retailers to answer questions ranging from product particulars to how to arrange events—this is available by phone at 800-325-3040 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A number of retailers found our retailer-focused theme site helpful as well with dozens of downloads and assets to help display and sell CPH’s VBS.
CR: What’s different about your VBS curriculum for the coming year?
FRAHM: Aside from creating our brand-new Cross Culture VBS, we have made some intuitive changes to the preschool area of Everest VBS. Preschoolers will now begin their day in Exploration Stations. This new station allows little ones to naturally gravitate to a fun hands-on activity that they enjoy—one of the stations is a newly designed Bible Activity Page—which helps them transition into a day of VBS. Preschoolers will also now end their day in Closing Circle Time instead of the larger Finale with elementary kids. We have tested these changes at the Everest field test, and preschool kids loved it!
HORNER: A fun new feature for athletes is that this year’s theme, “MEGA Sports Camp Get Ready,” will have videos featuring a competitor who is getting ready for American Ninja Warrior, which is a sports-entertainment competition on TV. Also, the kit packaging and theme art are targeting the sports person who may not be attracted to a traditional VBS. We refocused on MEGA Sports Camp instead of theme art only because our customers want to invite kids to a sports camp primarily and then let the character-based theme come out in the large group rallies.
McGRAW: We have reinvented our decorating resource into a theme guide that includes a Theme Center Guide with awesome hands-on science activities for kids. We’ve added some amazing resources that will make the job of decorating for your church a snap—wall murals, doorway covers, super-sized MEGA Decorating Pack, beakers and test tubes, and so much more! Our director’s Planning Guide now includes a Week-by-Week Checklist of action items for the director. Never before has a director’s job been so clearly laid out. We believe the whole church family can be involved with VBS, so we’ve had youth and adult Bible studies created to correspond to SonSpark Labs VBS. These guides can be used as part of a parent’s Bible study, volunteer Bible study or an afternoon Bible study for youth helpers. And our very popular ShowTime! Assemblies DVD is now included in the Deluxe Kit.
NUMMELA: CPH’s Camp Discovery brings a number of exciting updates. First, VBS leaders, parents and children will be able to engage in God’s Word with the Bible Challenge, an online experience designed just for Camp Discovery to provide hours of sharing and exploring God’s plan in His Word. Also new in 2015 is The Science Behind It. In this new feature, children and parents are equipped to actively experience science demonstrations and fun activities that explore the wonder of God’s creation. A big focus for CPH continues to be making VBS easy to use and organize. Knowing that planning and executing a smooth VBS is a huge job for leaders and volunteers, we intentionally focused on offering an expanded and comprehensive Volunteer Training section. Camp Discovery has a host of helps for leaders and volunteers, providing inspiration, tips and tricks, videos and instructions, all with the volunteer in mind and all online.
CR: What kind of support is your company offering for VBS 2015?
FRAHM: We will continue to offer a free online tool called VBS PRO to Promote, Register and Organize your VBS. We will also provide training sessions across the country called FunShops happening at local churches, as well as VBS Previews with many retailers across the country. Our website and trade partner’s site is also stocked full of images, song and video samples, order forms and many other extras.
HORNER: The megasportscamp.com website as well as Facebook and Pinterest are great support for those who host a MEGA Sports Camp.
McGRAW: This year, we have more decorating resources than ever before. In addition to our popular wall murals (we have two), we have included a Jumbo Lab Backdrop, which can be used to decorate the assembly room. We also have the MEGA Decorating Pack, which has supersized graphics that can be cut out and, in some cases, taped together to form 4- to 6-foot graphics! And we can’t forget the Reproducible Power Pack, youth and adult guides, and tons of fun theme-related items like Fiber-Optic Lab Lamps and SonSpark Lab Glasses!
NUMMELA: For online support, we’ve redesigned the Concordia VBSMate online-registration tool for 2015’s Camp Discovery. This handy, online tool provides a user-friendly way to track and organize volunteers and registrations. We want to equip VBS leaders to have access to their specific information and be able to manage their team, whether from the comfort of a laptop or the ease of a tablet.
CR: How are you using all that the Web has to offer to enhance your VBS programs?
FRAHM: We have a robust online network of VBS directors with Group VBS Facebook, Group VBS Pinterest page and Group VBS forums. We encourage VBS directors and volunteers to get online for support, to share ideas and network with thousands of churches across the country. Our website, group.com/vbs, also has Bible content, music clips, video clips and much more for directors to quickly access information and dive into our programs. One other item of note from a digital perspective is that we have been offering a phone/tablet application for a few years now and are excited to be offering it again with all-new tools, games and, most importantly, Bible-focused content related to our Everest program. In Thailand Trek, we’re launching an all-new, interactive student piece that kids will engage with via phone/tablet/PC both in VBS and in their home—it’s very cool!
HORNER: Last year, we added music-training videos on the website to help volunteers access them on their own schedule. This year we are looking at ways to expand that with other helps for busy volunteers.
McGRAW: In addition to our website, gospellightvbs.com, we have our VBS party site,myvbsparty.com. On myvbsparty.com, VBS directors from all over the world get to talk to each other—and us! It’s a great way to gather tips and suggestions and get questions answered. Another great thing about myvbsparty.com is our Anytime Anywhere Training. We have dozens of videos covering a variety of training needs. Since the videos are online, training can take place anytime, anywhere! VBS volunteers can watch from the comfort of their couches, or directors can show the videos at a training meeting—whatever works best for the church. And our online training is free! We also have active discussions on our Facebook page and lots of bonus ideas pinned to boards on Pinterest.
NUMMELA: Camp Discovery will provide samples, planning documents and downloads through a dynamic, theme-rich website. CPH also supports dealers with an exclusive For Dealers Only site to get the tools they need at cph.org/tradevbs.
CR: What do you want the participants to walk away with once they’ve completed your VBS program?
FRAHM: Our prayer each year for our VBS programs is that, ultimately, they bring kids closer to Jesus. We intentionally design every moment of VBS to reinforce the daily Bible Point for kids. I was fortunate enough to follow up with a VBS director in New Jersey who had just finished Weird Animals VBS. The message of “Jesus loves you” hit home with their kids because often they do feel afraid or don’t understand or feel left out. This director heard from parents that it was exactly what their kids needed to hear before they were about to start a new school year. It’s stories like this that encourage us as we pray over our VBS programs and friends in ministry each year.
HORNER: I hope they will be shocked at how many kids come—typically way more than a church expects—because sports is such a draw in most communities. If it’s like the MEGA Sports Camps I’ve been a part of, they will walk away thrilled to be a part of introducing kids to a relationship with Jesus. MEGA Sports Camp intentionally builds to that special moment when adult believers pray with kids who attend. For many volunteers, this is the first time they have prayed with someone when they asked Jesus into their heart and life.
McGRAW: At Gospel Light, our mission is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.” This is our desire for children who attend SonSpark Labs, their families and all the wonderful people who give of themselves to volunteer at VBS. VBS is still the most effective outreach at any church. We believe that introducing kids to Jesus is the most important reason we create VBS materials. The one thing we would love everyone to walk away from VBS with is a deeper understanding, appreciation and love for Jesus.
NUMMELA: It’s simple—we want Christ’s love and God’s plan to shine through our VBS. CPH intentionally crafts a VBS with purpose to help churches and families connect children to “the God stuff.” The lasting message of God’s love for everyone is at the heart of Camp Discovery. It is our prayer that the kids leave at the end of the week having had fun learning about God’s great, endless love for them. We hope that the churches hosting Camp Discovery have as much fun learning about God’s love for them as the kids do during the week. At the core, we all need to be reminded that God loves us.