Monday, May 17, 2010

Books YOU Want on Your Local Bookstore’s Shelves

Greetings, CCBR readers! This is my first column, and I’m delighted to be a part of your community. I hope to provide an insider’s look at the Christian children books industry through my column, provide answers to some of your questions, and have some fun in the process.

In our recent survey, one reader wondered who decides - and how they decide - what is sold in Christian bookstores. Many parents feel that they cannot find the products they want or need for their children on the shelves of their local Christian bookstores, because more popular products may dominate them. How can we, as parents, see the products we want on the shelves of our local bookstores?

To give you an insider’s perspective, let's take a brief look at the Christian publishing industry. Authors and publishers are out to sell their books. To sell their books, most publishers employ a sales team that visits most local Christian bookstores across the country, to introduce their books to bookstore managers and buyers who will hopefully order and sell their books on the bookstore’s shelves. Publishers keep a close eye on sales trends across the country, contemporary events and social trends, and try to publish books that answer the needs of readers, thus providing relevant resources at your local bookstore. Because of this, bookstores partly rely on publishers to inform them of the hottest trends and best-selling products. So, this is one factor that your local Christian bookstore takes into consideration when stocking their shelves.

Pat Walter of the Connections Bookstore in Colorado Springs, CO, said, “As the buyer of our store, I will tell you that I am shaped almost exclusively by two factors. Factor one is the publishers that present their resources to me. Those tend to be the companies that get stuff on my shelves, as they are actively seeking my shelf space and are willing to take the time with me to show me new stuff, what's hot, and what might be really cool for our store.”

But, that’s not all that Paul considers. He added, “Factor two is the customer telling me what they want through purchases and special order requests. I buy based on what I see selling in the store and what is being asked for. There are certainly other factors . . . but mostly I sell what I think my customers are asking for.”

The other major factor bookstores consider is the buying trends of their customers—you. If they see their customers ordering a lot of a particular type of product, they will most likely stock more of those types of products. That gives Christian parents a lot of power over what they see on the shelves. Make your voice heard, through what you purchase. “I do all our purchasing and honestly it is as simple as knowing our customers and looking for what they would want. I study the buying patterns,” says Katy Hardwick Mashburn, Bookstore and Cafe Manager at For His Glory Bookstore and CC Café in Nashville, TN.

If your local Christian bookstore does not stock what you are looking for . . . ask! They can order any resource you want, although you won't be able to walk out the door with it that day. Once enough people ask for the same type of books or products, they will most likely start carrying them in their store on a regular basis. Remember, your local bookstore is most likely struggling in the economic downturn, just like everyone else. If you want to see them stick around, order books from them. They can most likely either have your books delivered to the store for you to pick up (usually free), or they can have them shipped directly to your door (at normal shipping rates). Your local Christian bookstores are a great resource, and they will work hard to provide the resources you want and need.

And as always, online retailers like and are also reliable options for finding what you want for your children. And if you buy through Christian Children's Book Review's links, we are always appreciative for the financial support you are providing.


Angela said...

This is great. We only have one Christian bookstore in the town that I live in, so the selection is relatively small.

Any suggestions on how to get good Christian books into our local libraries?

Leslie said...

Hi, Angela! Regarding your question about getting good books into your local library, I think the same principles apply. If you ask your librarian(s) to acquire the book, they may just go right out and do it. Libraries usually get great discounts from most publishers. They also accept donations. So if you were to purchase the book and donate it to your local library, not only would they be very appreciative, you would most likely get a tax break!

Bev in Wisconsin said...

I found this information very helpful. I make a point of visit the two christian bookstores we have in the city. One is managed by the publishing house here and the other is part of a chain-store. I heavily rely on the publishing house store as I KNOW that they scrutinize each purchase. Thanks for the insight. I notice one "opps" in the article. Leslie referred to "Pat" in the column and then in the next paragraph referred to "Paul". Bring on more comments from an inside perspective.

Annette W. said...

I tend to be bad at asking my library about books I want them to carry because I tend to order online (my branch is quite small). If only I had a bookstore close to me... :) Country living means making choices!