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Former Gospel Light head relaunches Churchgrowth.org PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 02:22 PM EDT

Bill Greig III and wife Rhonni bring new trade strategy and distribution set-up to new church resource company

RhonniGreig-BillGreigBill Greig III, former president of Gospel Light, and his wife, Rhonni, are resetting their direction with an innovative new publishing company called Churchgrowth.org, which is also its domain name.

This transition came about as the Greigs sensed a shift in this season of life. Bill took a sabbatical from Gospel Light in 2013 to consider the couple’s future direction. Going through multiple transitions, not the least entering the “empty nest” stage of life, the Greigs sensed that God was shifting them into a new season. Bill believed that God was leading him to leave Gospel Light—a company founded by Henrietta Mears and handed down to his care from his father and grandfather—and to implement a new virtual-publishing model with a new team in place.

Confirmation came when he presented his ideas to Rhonni, and she told him of a dream she had had a year earlier of a virtual publishing company with limited infrastructure, but with significant impact found by combining new technology and social media with the truths of the gospel.

Bill was reminded of a ministry based in Forest, Virginia, in the Lynchburg metro area, Church Growth Institute (CGI), founded by Larry Gilbert. After initial inquiries, the Greigs found elements of their new publishing model already in place at CGI—a strong mission and position in an important market niche, foundational biblical resources used by thousands of churches, a value proposition that allows customers to choose between “free” and “premium” resources, more than 5 million users of the “Team Ministry” Spiritual Gifts Inventory, over 700,000 customer email addresses, a leading web domain and a profitable e-commerce store.

CGI’s missing elements were a trade strategy and a distribution partner, as for 36 years, its resources had only been available through direct sales to churches and individuals.

“When I saw how Churchgrowth.org was connecting their resources with their end consumer, I saw the potential for God to use these systems, with some upgrades and fine tuning as well as partnering with wtrade distributors and bookstores to reach many more churches and individuals,” Greig said.

With the new company in place, all ChurchGrowth.org resources are available to trade accounts through Advocate Publisher Solutions at Send The Light Distribution. Retailers can find more information at ChurchGrowth.org/Trade.

The primary trade strategy for the Churchgrowth.org relaunch is to update the best-selling “Team Ministry” spiritual-gift resource line with expanded editions and formats that work best in bookstores. Five new products in the line are expected to ship in December with a Jan. 1, 2015, publication date.

“ChurchGrowth.org publishes the top Spiritual Gifts Inventory available, and we are delighted to see it finally available for retailers to access and offer to their customers,” said Darren Henry, president of Advocate Distribution Solutions, a division of Send The Light Distribution. “Bill and his team are doubtlessly going to build upon its already incredible success and introduce new products that will help Christians everywhere gain insight and growth in their church and spiritual lives. Send The Light is proud to offer these items!”

The Greigs have embraced their new assignment as co-owners and partners.

“It has been a year of trust, faith and experiencing God’s unmerited favor as we have leaned into this new endeavor with Christ as our foundation and sustainer,” Rhonni said.

Bill sees a bright future for the company.

“The entrepreneurship gifting my father fostered in me, along with my strategic and visionary strengths helped me to see that with some innovation, the Lord’s blessing and wisdom, Churchgrowth.org has only opportunity and growth ahead,” he said.  —Johnson

 
Author Lisa Wingate appreciates relational retailing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ann Byle   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 02:08 PM EDT

Christy Award-nominated novelist sees great benefit in Christian retailers’ customer connections

LisaWingateAtIrenesFlowers-CreditCarlaVallejoLisa Wingate has published more that 20 books, but never has she dreamed the entire plot of one of her novels—until The Story Keeper, that is. Her newest novel with Tyndale House Publishers is out this month and promises as much emotion and drama as The Prayer Box (Tyndale, 2013), which was one of her two Christy Award nominees this year.

“I dreamed the plot, woke up and wrote it all down,” Wingate said, referring to The Story Keeper. “I wrote out a synopsis and was going to meet with my editor the following week at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. This was a different book than what I had planned, but I told her I really wanted to write this book, and she was fine with that.”

Wingate, who lives with her family in Texas and makes her own prayer boxes (to hold prayer requests or favorite scriptures), is no stranger to writing novels. Her first, Tending Roses, was published in 2001 with New American Library (NAL)/Penguin Group USA and is now in its 21st printing. Its first home was in ABA stores, but these days it’s also carried in Christian retail stores as a Penguin Praise title. Sales are at about 200,000 copies, Wingate said.

“The ABA publishers said they loved it, but it had too much church stuff,” she said. “The CBA publishers were saying they loved it, but it’s not historical fiction and nobody gets saved. But NAL published it as women’s fiction. It was a crossover book before there was any such thing.”

Nearly 15 years ago, when Tending Roses released, it was brick-and-mortar stores such as Barnes & Noble selling the book to readers who were “looking for gritty novels with a faith element, and a lot of readers wanted that.” Wingate has sold more than 1 million copies of all of her titles since then.

These days the author “loves being an ambassador for Christian fiction” and is eager to meet readers at signings and share her story.

“What I love about my books being in Christian retail is that the stores are so relational,” she said. “When I go to a signing at a Christian retailer, the people are so much more interested in talking about the book and finding out about your journey. Readers know the cashiers well and are frequent customers.”

Christian retail stores have helped to boost sales of Wingate’s books.

“Christian retailers have been great for my books,” she said. “One of the biggest things is that retailers know authors who are similar and are able to recommend my books. I hear a lot from readers who say they found my books when they asked about other novels. That’s the skill of the retailer knowing their books well.”

Tyndale is eager for readers to discover Wingate, who also has been published by Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group). To increase awareness ahead of the release of The Story Keeper, another of her Carolina books, Tyndale offered The Prayer Box at a deep discount. The company included the first chapter of The Story Keeper in the $5 copies of The Prayer Box and promoted it through marketing group catalogs.

Stores such as the two Kregel Parable Christian Stores in west Michigan took advantage of the promotion. The stores sold 40 copies in June and 35 in July, plus ordered ahead.

“Our two stores sell a lot of fiction, and we have a lot of fiction readers on staff, so it’s easier to recommend books, especially Lisa Wingate’s books,” said Jeremy Fleming, manager of the two stores. “The nice thing about the $5 book is it introduces people to an author they wouldn’t pick up if only seeing the name on the shelf.”

Fleming, who stocks all of Wingate’s books, plans to reserve feature space for The Story Keeper when it releases.

“She’s a very good writer, and we want to get her name out based on previous purchases and reader recommendations,” Fleming said.

Wingate herself participates in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book” campaign, which takes place several months prior to the release of each book. Early copies of the book travel around the country in “Sister Circles” of readers, who interact on the Sisterhood’s Facebook page, get acquainted via email and leave their thoughts in the margins of the shared books.

TheStoryKeeper“These women become ambassadors for the book and begin driving early word-of-mouth for The Story Keeper. They spread the word within their book groups, church groups and local areas, thereby driving sales for local Christian bookstores or favorite Christian online retailers,” said Cheryl Kerwin, senior marketing manager for Tyndale. “This year, over 130 women participated in 23 Sister Circles, and The Story Keeper traveled from coast to coast.”

Wingate is also going on a seven-state book tour that will include church, community and store events. CBA retailers will sell books at some of the events.

Family Christian, Mardel, LifeWay and Parable Group stores all do well with Wingate’s books, as do a number of ABA retailers in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, where her Tyndale books are set, and at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) stores in Texas and across the South.

Tyndale has purchased targeted online media that reaches previous buyers of Wingate’s books and Christian-fiction buyers.

Wingate is “quickly becoming one of our most popular authors,” Jan Stob, senior acquisitions editor for fiction, told Christian Retailing. “Her fan base is growing, and she’s becoming popular because she finds unique ways of getting the word out about her books.”

LisaWingate-JumpPageShe has released two e-books, both tied to her Tyndale titles. The Sea Glass Sisters is a prelude to The Prayer Box, while The Tidewater Sisters is a postlude.

“These are nice little discoveries for her rabid fans, whether a longtime fan or a new fan via her Tyndale books,” the Tyndale editor said. “They have sold well.”

Stob pointed out that there are underlying themes to Wingate’s Tyndale books, though each can stand alone. Wingate has a third print book and a third novella under contract, and “we’re hoping to extend that,” she added.

“Readers are discovering her beautiful prose, but they will also recognize themselves or people they know in these stories of women struggling with their pasts,” Stob said. “Lisa’s writing makes you stop in the middle and savor the imagery or a phrase. You can read them over and over again.”

Wingate remains committed to finding and keeping her readers, especially those who shop at Christian retail stores.

“Retailers are passionate about connecting books to readers who will love them,” Wingate said. “They are smart about positioning my books near other books readers like, which is so valuable to me. It all goes back to the relational aspects of Christian stores. Bookselling is incredibly different when there are close relationships there.”

 
ICRS Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christian Retailing Staff   
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 01:34 PM EDT

Thumbs up:

  • Convivial atmosphere—friendly retailers, vendors and publishers at the show.
  • Many publishers were eager to meet and work with international companies.
  • Meet the Authors of Our Daily Bread: The well-planned and well-advertised event gathered more than 500 guests.
  • Plenty of high-profile authors to draw lines at book signings.
  • Christian Fiction Trends—Interesting presentation and a nice touch to have authors meet directly with guests for a half-hour.
  • To kids’ gift company Oodles World for introducing “His Armor,” a line of products for tween and teen boys, an underserved demographic. The line debuted titanium sports necklaces, carabiners, sports socks and other fun products.
  • To Dr. Mary Manz Simon for 20 years of educating retailers on the latest trends in children’s products, for always recruiting lots of suppliers to send retailers home with free products and for receiving honors from CBA and Logos Bookstores.
  • To Dusty Wells, senior vice president of national accounts for Word Entertainment, for 32 continuous years at CBA shows—and for still having every one of his name badges!
  • To CBA for hosting several events that went beyond retailing, including a filmmakers summit and a pastors’ gathering in partnership with RBC Ministries that saw great attendance from the surrounding area.
  • To Dr. James Dobson for receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from CBA for his groundbreaking work through Focus on the Family and for his sense of humor as he posed with his life-sized standee on the show floor.
  • To Affirm Films for creating a comfortable screening suite that offered groups of up to 20 retailers screenings of upcoming films, not to mention the fun take-home favors like T-shirts, mini footballs and snacks.
  • To publishers, distributors and film companies for bringing more personalities to the show. It is important for retailers to meet their customers’ heroes, and ICRS 2014 had plenty of “star power.”
  • To Good Works Make a Difference owner Helena Cho for making her CBA debut with wrap bracelets and soy candles that are fashion-forward, priced competitively and displayed on modern fixtures. Even better, the Los Angeles-based Cho donates 25% of her net profits to charity.

Thumbs down:

  • Convention center location—Hall C was far enough away as to be a problem for some show attendees getting there at times.
  • Shuttle service—Shuttle didn’t ever show up at one hotel supposedly on the ICRS route.
  • Unattended workshops—The Selling Christian Rap workshop had no one in attendance--except two reporters. Too early? Too far from the exhibit hall? No interest?
  • Overwrought security: Good security is crucial at a convention, but when security doesn’t let in ticketed attendees to events and replies with gruff “no’s,” perhaps it’s a bit too much.
  • One new product showcase presented the history of Gospel Light. Where was the new product?
  • To a couple of the Christian films that still look, well, pretty cheesy. Just because the door has opened at the box office doesn’t mean that we should subject the public to sub-par plots and production quality.
  • For exhibit floor stages that were stuck in the corners of the exhibit hall. These stages offered everything from valuable workshops to award programs to fashion shows—and would have generated show excitement had they been placed in the middle of the floor.
  • To slightly overzealous CBA workers who scolded children’s character Rippy for standing in the aisle just outside his booth.
  • For poor social media promotion about the show. Correct hashtags and Twitter handles were not promoted adequately.
 
New films, music build excitement among Christian retailers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:25 PM EDT

Word Entertainment executive believes ‘retail is getting it’ when it comes to promotion of faith-based films

ShaneHarper-DavidARWhiteUpcoming faith-based theatrical releases and new DVDs were front and center at ICRS, with retailers treated to screenings, trailers and DVDs, and celebrity signings.

Producer and star of God’s Not Dead David A.R. White signed copies of the DVD with co-star Shane Harper on the floor and spoke about the film’s success at a breakfast event. To date, it is the No. 1 independent film of 2014, with the DVD released Aug. 5.

“We are very excited about how well it has done,” White said. “It will help pave the way for us to make even more films that we believe in.”

Sony’s Affirm Films hosted retailers at a suite away from the convention center at the Omni Hotel, inviting them to screenings of its two upcoming theatrical releases, the supernatural horror thriller The Remaining, due out this fall, and When the Game Stands Tall, the story of the De La Salle Spartans high school football team and its legendary Coach Bob Ladouceur, played by Jim Caviezel and due in theaters Aug. 22.

“Both films were received very well,” said Rich Peluso, senior vice president of Affirm Films. “People seemed to really enjoy them.”

City on a Hill Productions invited key retailers to a private reception, followed by two convention-wide screenings of The Song, an adaptation of the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Richard Ramsey, Louisville, Kentucky-based screenwriter and director takes the biblical King Solomon and portrays him as a modern-day singer-songwriter who succumbs to sins of the flesh.

Nashville-based actors Alan Powell (in the role of Jed King) and Caitlin Nicol (Shelby Bale) were on hand for the reception and screenings and played and sang the title track from the movie for an audience of several hundred.

Small group curriculum and other church resources will release at the same time as The Song, which opens in about 400 theaters Sept. 26.

Convention-goers also were invited to a public screening of One Media and Millennium Entertainment’s July 18 political thriller Persecuted, starring James Remar, singer Natalie Grant and former Senator Fred Thompson and written, directed and produced by Daniel Lusko. In the movie, a senator frames a popular evangelist for murder because he is standing in the way of sweeping religious reform.

Life-sized images of actor Nicolas Cage greeted retailers on the exhibit floor, as he is starring in the fall remake of Left Behind, based on the blockbuster novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Producer Paul Lalonde and his brother Peter produced the original film that released 14 years ago, starring Kirk Cameron. Now Paul returns solo with Left Behind: The End Begins, also starring Chad Michael Murray and Jordin Sparks. The $16 million Oct. 3 release focuses only on the rapture.

“Our approach this time is completely different,” Lalonde said. “We’ve upped the cast and upped the budget a lot.”

Suppliers and distributors hope that generating excitement for films will propel DVD sales, which can help offset the decline in music sales.

“I think retail is getting it,” said Dusty Wells, senior vice president of national accounts at Word Entertainment. “Some of our key retailers seemed much more excited about films this year.”

Wells said that music still has some legs and pointed to the success of bands like For King and Country who performed Sunday.

“I loved hearing all the buzz about them,” Wells said. —Natalie Gillespie

 
Abingdon stands out at Christian Retailing’s Best PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:20 PM EDT

Methodist publisher wins dozen ‘Best’ while Christy Awards celebrate debut novelist with Book of the Year

AbingdonPress-AwardFrom Christian Retailing’s presentation of its product awards to the Christy Awards for Christian fiction, there was no shortage of honors presented at the 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS).

The Christian Retailing’s Best awards (christianretailingsbest.com) were announced Tuesday morning, June 24 at the Creative Pavilion stage. Todd Starnes, author of God Less America (FrontLine/Charisma House) and host of the “FOX News & Commentary” daily radio show, presented the awards.

Abingdon Press was the runaway winner with 12 awards this year, including both Bible categories won by the company’s Common English Bible editions, one for author and pastor Adam Hamilton, and two—fiction and nonfiction—for Cynthia Ruchti.

Tyndale House Publishers and Baker Publishing Group each took four awards. The winning authors from Tyndale were David Platt, Beth Moore, Karen Whiting and Ann Voskamp. Baker won in two fiction categories, one of which was a tie; Charismatic; and Bible Reference/Study. The company’s winning authors included Dani Pettrey, Beverly Lewis, James W. Goll and Tremper Longman III (editor).

At the 15th annual Christy Awards on Monday evening, June 23, Lori Benton was honored with three awards for the best in Christian fiction. Not only was Benton’s Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier (WaterBrook Press) given the top honor as Book of the Year, but the title also won in the First Novel and Historical categories. Benton was not able to attend, however, for health reasons.

Benton is only the second debut novelist to receive the Christy Awards’ highest honor.

“To say that I’m honored and humbled by this recognition for Burning Sky would be to understate things,” Benton said upon hearing the news. “I’m stunned, I’m rejoicing, and though it may sound strange to some, I’m terribly chuffed for Willa, Neil and Joseph, the story’s main characters.”

“We are so pleased by Lori Benton’s achievement and the three Christy awards Burning Sky has been honored with,” said WaterBrook’s Senior Fiction Editor Shannon Marchese. “It is no surprise that the years Lori spent researching Iroquois and Colonial history, her extraordinary characters and the spellbinding story she crafted has been so fittingly recognized.”

Davis Bunn was master of ceremonies for the awards, held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. With four of his works Christy winners in past years, Bunn was inducted into the Christy Hall of Fame. Marcia Z. Nelson, Publishers Weekly’s associate religion editor, was keynote speaker.

The other winning authors were Lisa Harris, Christa Parrish, Susan May Warren, Tessa Afshar, Anne Elisabeth Stengl and Ted Dekker. See the winning titles at christyawards.com. —Johnson

 
ICRS Bibles-Scripture publishers focus on retail PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:13 PM EDT

MEV translation travels while companies revisit top brands

MEV-StarnesBusBible publishers at the International Christian Retail Show were helping Christian retailers capitalize on their uniqueness in the marketplace with new Scripture offerings. Passio, an imprint of Charisma House, brought the only new Bible translation—the Modern English Version (MEV)—while multiple companies varied their Scripture offerings with new approaches and styles.

Charisma House came to the show in a big way, bringing a tour bus that not only featured Todd Starnes’ book God Less America, but also the MEV Bible, releasing this fall.

The consensus on the MEV is that “it’s going to be well-received,” said Jason McMullen, director of ministry services and publishing director of the Modern English Version. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about it. Obviously we’ve promoted it heavily here with the goals of raising awareness and driving engagement. We are encouraged by what we see so far and look forward to a strong launch.”

McMullen said he believes the MEV—a new, modern translation in the spirit of the King James Version (KJV)—“will benefit the church.”

Just before ICRS, B&H Publishing Group announced its plans for The Rainbow Study Bible, the best-selling color-coded, themed Bible acquired from Standard Publishing.

Launching in September, the Holman Rainbow Study Bible, KJV Edition features an all-new page layout that includes the unique color-code key across every spread.

The NIV edition will release in February 2015, and then the RVR 1960 Spanish edition will follow in April 2015.

B&H is also helping retailers maximize the effectiveness of their presentation of text Bibles. About a year ago, the company began to offer the KJV in a merchandising program with seven Bible sizes and 14 styles and designs. B&H is now rolling out the New King James Version (NKJV) in the same program, and from fall 2014 to spring 2015 will be doing the same with the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

“We have three pretty sizable translations in the market,” Tim Jordan, Bible marketing manager, said. “We felt like we needed to move that into plain text Bibles to help bookstores, help consumers walk in and make just simplified decisions—1, 2, 3. There’s no reason for customers to leave.”

Sharon Heggeland, director of sales operations, at Tyndale House Publishers, said that the company’s significant One Year Bible “anchor brand” has been refreshed with full-color imagery for each day’s reading. The One Year Bible Illustrated comes in the New Living Translation and the New International Version. Tyndale also introduced HCSB version of its popular Life Application Study Bible.

Several publishers had women’s Bibles to promote, including B&H (The Study Bible for Women, HCSB), Charisma House (SpiritLed Woman Bible, MEV) and Crossway (ESV Women’s Devotional Bible, English Standard Version).

The end of August will see the release of Crossway’s ESV Women’s Devotional Bible with a “Word-centered” devotional for every day of the year, said Anthony Gosling, vice president of sales at Crossway. “This is not just sort of a helpful thought for the day.”

HarperCollins Christian Publishing was promoting The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible (Thomas Nelson, Oct. 28), continuing the popular brand, and the NIV First-Century Study Bible (Zondervan, Sept. 9), which guides the reader in Scripture study through the eyes of a first-century disciple.

Abingdon Press was promoting October’s The Step Stone Bible, which focuses on the people and places of the Bible. It includes extended introductions, sidebar articles and is described as “a full Bible with an in-depth reference handbook in one.”

Kingstone Comics continues work on The Kingstone Bible, releasing the installments of the 12 graphic-novel metanarrative as they are completed. —Johnson

 
ICRS Attendance flat at Christian retail show PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:09 PM EDT

CBA to revamp convention strategy for 2016

DobsonAwardThe 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) convened in Atlanta, June 22-25, with the number of attendees essentially flat, but with significant discussions on the future of Christian retail.

The number of attendees at this year’s convention was essentially flat, with CBA reporting buyer attendance up 2.4%. In St. Louis last year, professional attendance for ICRS was down 15% to 1,485 buyers.

Some exhibitors changed their strategy for the show, seeking to rein in costs. Gardenfire and African American Expressions (AAE) opted out, while InterVarsity Press (IVP) just had a table in the international rights area.

“Knowing that CBA is attempting to right-size the event and its costs (much of which are borne by exhibitors), I wanted to pull way back and gauge the impact, knowing that IVP would return in 2016 and beyond when CBA’s legacy contracts with convention centers reflecting a very old set of realities were fulfilled and a new model was in place,” said Jeff Crosby, IVP’s associate publisher and director of sales and marketing.

“The impact was negligible, and what I did feel was largely positive, even beyond the financial,” Crosby added. “My colleague in international sales, Diana Verhagen, and I had a very full dance card of strategic meetings.”

AAE Sales Manager Ron Gilmore said options are “still open” for 2015, but the company’s new approach didn’t pan out.

“AAE originally planned to fly me in to walk the floor and visit with some of our vendors there off site for lunch or dinner,” Gilmore said. “However, as an exhibitor company, I was not able to accomplish that through CBA. Also, as we looked at our calendar and realized that the Atlanta gift show was right behind this show, we thought we needed to be good stewards of the resources and opted to just go to Atlanta once rather that twice.”

Apparel maker Gardenfire, usually a big presence at the show, opted for a pair of gift marts this year, but plans to return to ICRS.

“We chose to spend our budget at the Dallas Market and at a show in Las Vegas this year,” Gardenfire owner Jayme Brandt said. “We have a small staff, and I could not do both the ICRS show and Dallas at the same time.”

Much of the planned discussion at ICRS focused on reaching millennials as the industry is seeing significant shifts in shopping habits and fluctuations in church attendance, especially in the 18-33 age group.

“Group Publishing’s Jeff Michaels said it in an ICRS training session: The market has shifted from boomers, driven by price, to millennials driven by branding, local loyalty and relationship,” said Curtis Riskey, president of CBA. “And small Christian stores are in that sweet spot.”

Monday’s general session panel invited authors Ravi Zacharias, Philip Yancey and Ryan Dobson to address an important question: “Where is Christianity going?”

In that session, the association presented Family Talk’s Dr. James Dobson with the ICRS Lifetime Achievement Award.

“His radio interviews alone drove tens of thousands of people to Christian bookstores,” Riskey said.

In addition to retailers and vendors, CBA tailored parts of ICRS to the public and to ministry leaders, the latter in conjunction with RBC Ministries.

The new Change A Life Festival, free to the public, saw some big names, including Phil, Alan and “Miss Kay” Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, and show-stopping band For King & Country. The festival benefited Buckhead Christian Ministry.

ICRS 2015 will be held June 28-July 1 in Orlando, Florida. Arrowhead Conferences and Events, a ministry of Cru, is assisting CBA with revamping its show strategy to lower costs and add greater value. —Johnson

 
Hachette Book Group continues negotiations with Amazon in much-talked-about sales dispute PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 03:04 PM EDT

Amazon-ColbertStickerSheetComedian and Hachette Book Group author Stephen Colbert stirred the publishing pot in June regarding an ongoing dispute between the prominent publisher and online giant Amazon. The bad blood centers around Amazon’s decision to delay the delivery of books, not list some e-books and not permit pre-sales.

Colbert asked viewers of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to use stickers that read: “I didn’t buy it on Amazon.”

Hachette said negotiations with Amazon are continuing: “It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives,” a statement from the company said. “For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles.

“Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult mission to communicate with readers. In addition to royalties, they are concerned with audience, career, culture, education, art, entertainment and connection. By preventing its customers from connecting with these authors’ books, Amazon indicates that it considers books to be like any other consumer good. They are not.

“We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years—but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing and distributing them at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator. Once we have reached such an agreement, we will be happy to discuss with Amazon its ideas about compensating authors for the damage its demand for improved terms may have done them and to pass along any payments it considers appropriate.”

Senior Vice President and Publisher Rolf Zettersten observed that Hachette Nashville’s “hottest-selling book” at the time was Instinct by T.D. Jakes, which Amazon has kept in stock.

Literary agent Chip MacGregor observed on his blog (chipmacgregor.com/the-business-of-writing/biggest-news-bea/#disqus_thread) that the biggest topic of conversation at May’s Book Expo America in New York City was the Amazon-Hachette dispute. The fight is all about the bottom line, according to MacGregor.

“Amazon, a company that used to pride itself on being customer focused, is deliberately choosing to treat customers badly, in order to try and force better terms from Hachette,” he writes. “(In addition to wanting to sell books at a loss, they want more marketing dollars from Hachette, and of course are pushing for greater discounts. This fight is ALL about money.)”

The American Booksellers Association  (ABA) produced two banners for independent booksellers that read: “Thanks, Amazon, the indies will take it from here,” with tag line options of “Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always,” or “Pre-order and buy Hachette titles today.” Booksellers also can download ABA stickers that read: “I bought it at an independent bookstore” and “I bought it at my local, independent bookstore.”

An Amazon statement from May 27 reads: “Suppliers get to decide the terms under which they are willing to sell to a retailer. It’s reciprocally the right of a retailer to determine whether the terms on offer are acceptable and to stock items accordingly.”

The online retailer added that the “business interruption affects a small percentage of Amazon’s demand-weighted units” and points to its third-party sellers for resolution.

”We’ve offered to Hachette to fund 50% of an author pool—to be allocated by Hachette—to mitigate the impact of this dispute on author royalties, if Hachette funds the other 50%,” the Amazon statement said. “We did this with the publisher Macmillan some years ago. We hope Hachette takes us up on it.” —Johnson

 
Family Christian Stores announces food company head as new president/CEO PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 02:59 PM EDT

ChuckBengocheaFamilyChristianFamily Christian Stores has hired Charles “Chuck” Bengochea as the retail chain’s new president and CEO. The former president and CEO of The Original Honeybaked Ham Company of Georgia, Bengochea began his new role with Family Christian on June 30.

“This is a time of change for Family Christian, and we believe that Charles Bengochea is the ideal choice to lead Family Christian as a world-impacting ministry,” said Rick Jackson, chairman of the board for Family Christian Stores. “Chuck is a direct, passionate, business-savvy leader who knows how to motivate a team to achieve results. His personal mission aligns with the heart of Family Christian, and his knowledge and business experience will facilitate the long-term success of this ministry.”

Bengochea comes to Family Christian with 35 years of successful business leadership. Following his 1979 graduation from Cornell University, Bengochea began to build his career working for General Electric, becoming an analyst in its television business division. In 1987, he joined The Coca-Cola Company and rose to the position of controller of the Fountain Business Division. Bengochea left Coca-Cola in 1995 to become the director of retail operations for The Original Honeybaked Ham Company of Georgia. In 2003, he was named president and three years later, CEO. Under Bengochea’s leadership, Honeybaked Ham of Georgia grew to 200 franchises and 115 company stores.

Bengochea has been married for 37 years. He and his wife, Laurie, have four grown children. Bengochea is a triathlete and has completed in eight Ironman competitions. He recently served as chairman of the board of elders at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia.

“I am grateful for the trust placed in me by Rick Jackson, Mike Kendrick and Larry Powell, the board of Family Christian,” Bengochea said. “I am also thankful for Cliff Bartow, who is the retiring CEO of Family Christian. Cliff has graciously guided me and the organization in this transition of leadership.”

Jackson voiced the board’s gratitude for the outgoing president.

“The board deeply appreciates the leadership provided by Cliff over these past 11 years,” Jackson said. “Cliff has expertly guided the organization during challenging retail times. He has strengthened the brand, improved operations and, most importantly, expanded the many ministries of Family Christian in changing lives across the globe. A capstone of Cliff’s many accomplishments at Family Christian is securing ownership of the company with stewards who are committed Christians and passionate about the mission of the company. Cliff has done a masterful job in establishing the company as a nonprofit ministry—the first of its kind in the country. The board and company are grateful for the strong leadership provided by Cliff.

Jackson said the board was “blessed” to introduce Bengochea as head of the chain.

“For more than 20 years, Chuck has been leading worldwide brands and organizations,” he said. “Chuck will bring to Family Christian a deep passion for serving our customers. He has also proven that he will relentlessly pursue creating a culture that encourages, equips and releases employees to be successful at every level of the company. We are incredibly enthusiastic that God has brought Chuck to Family Christian. With his passion for kingdom generosity, people and customers, he is God’s man to lead Family Christian.” —Jeremy Burns

 
Supreme Court narrowly rules for Hobby Lobby PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 02:56 PM EDT

Retailer can’t be forced to provide certain contraceptive coverage that violate faith-based convictions

SupremeCourt-CreditUpstateNYerCraft chain Hobby Lobby came out the victor in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision June 30. The long-awaited but narrow ruling for Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby and for Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties fell in favor of the family-run businesses.

The Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—directs businesses to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees or face having to pay severe fines. The mandate does not allow businesses owned by Christians whose beliefs conflict with the law to forego providing coverage.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the court in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell. The cases were consolidated before the Supreme Court.

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them,” he wrote.

Alito called the holding “very specific,” and contrary to what the dissenting opinion, written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, alleges, does not hold “that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises ‘can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ ”

Lori Windham, senior counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and counsel for Hobby Lobby, saw the ruling as “a landmark decision for religious freedom.”

 “The Supreme Court recognized that Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business,” Windham said. “This ruling will protect people of all faiths. The court’s reasoning was clear, and it should have been clear to the government. You can’t argue there are no alternative means when your agency is busy creating alternative means for other people.”

The court upheld a June 2013 ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals protecting Hobby Lobby and the Green family from the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which required the chain to provide and facilitate, against their religious convictions, four potentially life-terminating drugs and devices in the company’s health insurance plan. While the business provides other forms of contraceptive coverage through insurance, the Greens argued that the HHS mandate substantially burdened their religious beliefs in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Business owners shouldn’t have to give up their faith to operate a business, and they should be free to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of government punishment,” said Curtis Riskey, CBA president. “Americans don’t surrender their freedom when they open a family business.”

Mardel Christian & Education, owned by members of the Green family, also joined the suit. —Christine D. Johnson

 
Lysa TerKeurst speaks to women’s felt needs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ann Byle   
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 02:45 PM EDT

Best-selling author known for her ‘raw honesty’ engages readers and even learns from her own books

LysaTerKeurst-SheSpeaks-July2013-SeanLyon 200Lysa TerKeurst gladly admits she writes “from a place of my weakness.” Her struggles have yielded the best-selling Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food and Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, which have reached sales of well more than 1 million copies, not including companion devotionals and participant guides.

Her publisher, Nelson Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishers, is expecting more of the same from her August release, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

“Lysa TerKeurst is completely in tune with the desires and needs of her audience,” said Brian Hampton, senior vice president and publisher at Nelson Books. “She does not write books and then hope her readers find them so engaging they talk to friends about them. Instead, she listens to what her readers are talking about—what they are really dealing with in their lives—and then writes books that speak to those needs in an engaging way.”

The combination of Christian retailers and TerKeurst’s books are what Hampton calls the perfect marriage.

“Lysa’s writing touches a broad audience, but the bull’s eye is exactly the kind of woman shopping in Christian retail: passionate about her faith, hungry for practical ideas and inspiration from an author who is authentic and knows from experience what it is like to juggle all of the roles she is playing,” he said.

The goals of the publisher and of Christian retail stores are well-matched: “putting life-changing content in the hands of Christian women (and men),” Hampton said. “Historically, nearly half of all TerKeurst’s book sales have been in Christian retail.”

The New Life Bookstore, located inside New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has a special place for TerKeurst’s books, according to Renai Herron, bookstore manager.

“Sales have been great, especially for Made to Crave and Unglued,” she said. “We’ve done several Bible studies with each book, so women have purchased them for themselves and as gifts.”

Herron plans to promote The Best Yes in the bookstore newsletter and in the New Release section of the store, displaying it on an endcap and offering a 20% discount on purchases for groups.

“Lysa has special place in our hearts here at New Life Church because she’s been here to speak,” Herron said. “The women really loved her talks and love her books.”

Baker Book House, an independent Christian retailer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is forecasting store sales for The Best Yes on par with Made to Crave, which has sold nearly 700 copies since 2012, not counting Bible study guides.

“With each book, Lysa does a better job. She’s definitely an ‘A’ author,” said Sue Smith, store director. “Women are attracted to her because we need other women to be real and honest with us. Lysa’s biggest draw is her raw honesty. She doesn’t hide anything.”

Baker Book House will highlight The Best Yes along with TerKeurst’s other best-selling books in displays near the front of the store and close to the registers. The store has purchased 280 copies and forecasts a sell-through and additional purchases, thanks in part to a “healthy, upfront discount” from Thomas Nelson.TheBestYes

TerKeurst sees huge benefit from connecting to readers via Christian retailers.

“I value Christian retail stores and booksellers so much,” she said. “They are the connection point between a person desperate for help and the book I write to give them hope. So many times it’s a sales clerk within a Christian bookstore recommending a book that becomes the change agent in a person’s life.”

The Best Yes speaks directly to women who live with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul.

“I’ve really failed at this a lot,” TerKeurst said. “It’s not like I used to struggle with this five years ago. Today I have to open my own book to learn how to underwhelm my schedule.”

The author, who is also founder and director of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and her husband have five children, ages 15 to 26, so they know about being rushed. In fact, TerKeurst had been praying for a couple of years that God would “unrush” her. She discovered that wedging one more event into her schedule could bring her to that place of overwhelmed stress.

“I started to realize many years ago that either I was going to set and run my schedule or it was going to run me,” she said. “How I set my schedule determines how I run my life, and how I run my life is how I spend my soul. I kept getting a sinking sense that I wasn’t spending my soul well.”

Hampton of Nelson Books sees TerKeurst as one of the few authors who will open their lives to their readers.

“Some Christian authors aren’t willing to share their personal struggles in their books,” he said. “Others are willing to share them—if they have already overcome them. But Lysa is willing to share her current struggles with readers, and the result is powerful.”

He talked also of how much TerKeurst’s brand has meant to Nelson Books, admitting that he and his team learn as much from her as she learns from them.LysaTerKeurst

“She is a student of her audience and of publishing; she is so smart and engaging,” Hampton said. “After more than two decades in the industry, Lysa and her team have caused me to think in new ways about how Christian nonfiction books ‘work,’ what bonds reader to author and what kind of writing truly delivers value to the reader.”

Hampton and TerKeurst are hoping for more of the same from Christian retailers who are eager to bring buyers through their store doors looking for her newest book.

“We’re hoping Christian stores continue their already strong partnership with us, giving The Best Yes the kind of attention and support such a sales track record merits,” Hampton said. “We know their customers are eager for Lysa’s new book and will find it genuinely life-giving.”

Says TerKeurst: “When I hear booksellers have suggested one of my titles, I am humbled and so very honored. Together, we are changing lives.”

 
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