Weekend Knockabout: The Ultimate Christian Product Awards

Roll up, roll up now ladies and gentlemen! Gather round now, please, for this weekend’s extravaganza: spring has sprung, summer is sizzling and it’s time for some marketing madness as we bring you [cue trumpet fanfare and roll of drums] The Ultimate Christian Product Awards!

Nick Page, eat your heart out: your writing career with HarperCollins is finished. There’s nothing left to write now. Vicky Beeching, your days as a worship leader are over: the best that can ever be has already been done. HarperCollins, Kingsway: you can both close down now. You have fought the fight, you have run the race: there are no more Christian books to publish, no more worship albums to produce. John Paculabo, you can relax at last: no one cares about your prices anymore because there’s only one product to sell!

As for us, as Christian retailers, we can sweep the shelves clear! Sweep them clear, I say, and fill them with these, The Ultimate Christian Products! Let’s go further: with only two products worthy of shelf space beside the Bible, let’s replace ourselves with instant-burn digital download POD vending machines: the only things to quibble over are the prices, but with the only staff overheads being the machine tenders’ wages, that shouldn’t be a problem. Amazon: you are history.

So fast forward to the Awards Ceremony, my friends: we have two entrants, one book and one CD:

Collins Bible Companion: The only book you need beside the Bible

Collins Bible Companion - The only book you need beside the Bible

The Best Hymns Album in the World ... Ever

The Best Hymns Album in the World ... Ever

But now, behold, a mystery!! Both products have been around for a while: the Collins “Only book you need besides the Bible” Companion came out in October last year; and Kingsway’s Best Hymns Album in the World… Ever was released in March this year — yet both publishers are still producing more stuff!

Could it be they don’t believe their own marketing spin? Could it really be nothing but hype?? No, no, my friends: this is reality!

And do we have a winner in this two-horse race? Indeed we do, ladies and gentlemen, indeed we do — and in time honoured tradition I can now announce the results. In no particular order, then:

HarperCollins, I am so sorry: you are out of the competition. Please step aside. I am so sorry: you’ve given us a magnificent product but it hasn’t quite made the grade. The judges love you, the audience at home love you — no, please, don’t cry. Step over there, please, my darlings. Thank you, thank you so much.

And so we come to the winner of this weekend’s show, and that winner is … [flashing lights, fireworks, orchestra in full swing] … patience, now, please ladies and gentlemen: the winner is Kingsway!!

Congratulations, my dears. Yes, you have won. Yes, it’s true, it’s really true: the Ultimate Christian Product award goes to Kingsway — but not for the Best Hymns Album in the World… Ever! No, for  a surprise new entry as the rolling banner that tempts us with Best Hymns Album in the World… Ever rolls around again to offer us:

Kingsway: You Have Shown Us: Songs of Mercy, Justice & Humility

Kingsway: You Have Shown Us: Songs of Mercy, Justice & Humility

Yes! Songs of Justice, Mercy and Humility! Yes, that’s it, take a bow. Yes, this award is really yours. Stand tall now, with pride! Stand tall!!

But wait, there’s more! Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to let you know that not only have Kingsway won the UCP award but they also want to share the proceeds of their marketing madness with you by offering all their own products at below their own RRPs!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: visit kingswayshop.com today and you can buy the Best Hymns Album in the World… Ever at Kingsway price, £12.99; Kingsway RRP, £16.99 and ‘pre-order’ You Have Shown Us: Songs of Justice, Mercy and Humility at Kingsway price, £9.99; Kingsway RRP, £12.99. That’s both albums, the winner and the runner up, for Kingsway price, £22.98, Kingsway RRP, £29.98: you save and Kingsway wins! Or is it the other way around? I truly don’t know.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and goodnight. Goodnight from all of us at the Ultimate Christian Product Awards ceremony. Enjoy your evening. Thank you. Goodnight.

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24 thoughts on “Weekend Knockabout: The Ultimate Christian Product Awards

  1. Pingback: I’ve Wasted A Fortune! « Kouya Chronicle

  2. Satire really is the lowest form of wit, the only thing that this post proves. This really is a new low. What a shame.

      • I see nothing funny about openly degrading and mocking different publishers and product, the result of what I am sure is a lot of hard work by a lot of different people who write, produce and create to further His Kingdom, something that I don’t see in this post, which is something divisive and pointless and I am sure to those people associated with the product concerned hurtful.

        • The mockery, my dear FH, is aimed at the crass marketing, not the products. But perhaps you are too closely bound up with the products to see that?

          Silly claims deserve a silly response; but if you’d prefer something more direct, consider: “The only book you need beside the Bible” — really? “The Best Hymns Album in the World… Ever” — really? Do you genuinely think those sort of claims have anything to do with furthering God’s Kingdom? Of course they don’t: those are the claims of marketeers attempting to maximise their profits, people who have fallen in love with money and lost sight of the gospel, whose twisted thinking leads them to believe that Christianity is a way to get rich. This sort of marketing has no place in the Kingdom of God.

          Coming from HarperCollins it’s understandable: they are a secular publishing house with a religious imprint, out to increase their market share. But Kingsway are without excuse and should know better. As David Keen has rightly observed, it’s more akin to The Most Unchristian Marketing in the World, Ever than it is to the proclamation of the gospel; but when such a claim is combined in a rolling banner advertising the Micah Challenge album, “Songs of Justice, Mercy and Humility”, it truly does become a matter of laugh or weep in shame at what these people are doing to our faith.

          I choose to laugh: it’s better for the soul; and when I see hypocrisy such as this, I will continue to mock it for the folly it is. I seem to remember a certain Messiah giving us precedent…

  3. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to leave a reply, because I actually found it rather hurtful to be accused of having ‘fallen in love with money and lost sight of the gospel’ (trust me Phil, nobody in the publishing industry is in it for the money, and I hope that as someone who has met me on a number of occasions you will have the good grace to withdraw this personal comment) so my first instinct was to stay away. But I think forums like this which enable dialogue between publishers and booksellers are vital, so even if I don’t persuade many of you to agree with me I hope you will read my comments and at least understand that there is more than a ‘secular’ attitude and ‘twisted thinking’ behind the way we have marketed the Collins Bible Companion. I actually think ‘The Only Book You Need Beside the Bible’ is a very good tagline for this product, for a number of reasons:

    Firstly, this book was created with export to the developing world in mind and sadly many Christians cannot afford books other than the Bible, so if they do buy or get given one book we think this one – which provides a full book-by-book guide to the Bible, as well as a systematic theology and a guide to Christian living, all in one volume – is very appropriate.

    Secondly, there are many situations such as home groups where British Christians cannot take many books with them so they will only have the Bible and one or two books besides it. The reason why I commissioned this book is that on my gap year (quite a few years ago now!) working for a mission organisation I lived out of a small rucksack for six months, and I wished I had taken a book like this one instead of a trashy thriller which I finished within a week.

    Thirdly, the strapline is a message for bookshops as well as for consumers, and in our biggest bookshop customers (for example Waterstones and Smiths) the books that are placed alongside Bibles are not Christian products but books like Tarot readings, zodiac signs, crystals etc. We hope this strapline will encourage non-Christian booksellers to place Christian products such as the CBC beside the Bible instead of that kind of stuff. So yes Phil I am bothered about market share – but not in the way you suspect.

    Fourthly, I think consumers will actually pick up the double meaning in the tagline – we’re not saying the only books you need are the Bible and the Collins Bible Companion (as you point out Phil, we and other publishers produce thousands of fantastic Christian books), but we’re saying that this is the ideal comprehensive and quick reference book for you to have right ‘beside’ your Bible.

    Of course, we publishers hope that people will judge a book by more than its cover, so if anyone wishes to review the Collins Bible Companion for UKCBB, I will happily provide a copy.

    • Thanks Sam – a very gracious response. I’m afraid FH annoyed me and I over-reacted, and for that, I apologise. On further reflection, what I should have said is people who are in danger of falling in love with money and of losing sight of the gospel … a danger that all of us — myself included — face… but which those involved in marketing may be a little more prone to?

      I still think the strapline is overblown: Probably the Only Book You Need Beside the Bible might take the whiff of arrogance away? Or even the best book? Or the perfect book? Still big claims, but better than the only, methinks.

      The ideal solution, I guess, would have been a quote from a third party saying “If you looking for one book to have beside the Bible, this is it!”

      Maybe send a review copy to Eddie Arthur, since he picked up on this on his blog? Are you reading this Eddie?

      Meanwhile I’ve just sold three copies of the book at LST today to a customer looking for exactly the sort of book you describe – to give away as Father’s Day presents!

      Next time we meet you can either punch me or I’ll buy you a pint, whichever you prefer…

  4. I think that you have presented your case well Sam, I cannot speak for the entire trade but my own local shop is stocking your title and also the Best Hymns Album that has been similarly mistreated here.

    It has occurred to me Phil that your comments have wounded people here without any real justification. Publishers always have and always will make their products attractive and convincing so that people pick them up and then of course they can judge them for themselves. I don’t think that people need your hand to guide them here. Your comments are not only insulting to the publishers, but also insult the intelligence those retailers that have ordered the product concerned. I would invite you to reflect on Ephesians 4:29-32 and reconsider your position on this.

    • PS: As you say, FH, publishers always will set out to make their products attractive and convincing — but I think there’s a world of difference between that and making massively overblown claims; and the simple fact that it’s someone completely outside this trade of ours, David Keen, who first responded to Kingsway’s folly should surely tell you — tell Kingsway — something: I do hope you’ve read David’s post and reflected upon the points he raises.

      I chose comedy as my response; David’s approach is more direct; but I can do direct too if that’s more to your liking…

      … and I apologise for the intemperate tone of my first riposte to your initial comment. Thank you for coming back and keeping the conversation going.

    • Final Haven,

      That’s a nice quote from Ephesians Chapter four, my bible starts the section that comes from with a header at 4:17, I assume you read all of it from there first and then read Chapter five as a matter of note, because you know I found that first section and the ones following it to be quite enlightening as well given the current discussion and situation all round.

      The trouble I have found with playing bible quote thrower (I admit to having learnt this through painful experience myself and yes I admit to sometimes still falling into the trap and temptation of doing it myself still)is that there is usually a quote not too far away that can be used against the one doing the throwing, that’s why we are supposed to take the word into our beings and not take just little sections of it in isolation.

      • I couldn’t agree more Melanie, I am sure that no contributor to this blog would profess to be perfect and I have more faults then most. On this occasion though, it felt right, and anything that makes us pick up a bible is ultimately good for the soul if done in the right spirit which I hope I have.

      • Thanks Melanie. It’s vv.25-27 that strike me as especially pertinent, and if I were inclined to seek biblical justification for my approach to this matter, I think I’d say I’d found it there:

        So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

        I am angry about the Kingsway pricing situation; I’m angry with John Paculabo for running away from it, for taking such a dismissive attitude towards his trade customers and their concerns. If it were just my own trade affected I’d accept it; but it’s quite evidently wider than just my shop. And the sun has not yet set on my anger, which is now a slow burning fuse.

        As for the overblown marketing claims, I’m just amused … it’s unfortunate that these were brought to my attention at the same time as the pricing issue.

        John, if you happen to be reading this, my invitation to you to contribute a guest post setting out your point of view is still wide open. As you said to me a while back, you have my email address…

        For those who don’t have Bibles handy, I recommend the Oremus Bible Browser: Ephesians 4:17-5:2

        But as Melanie says, let’s not get into a game of Bible ping-pong, because we can all quote passages to support our perspectives. It’s living up to the bigger challenges of integrity in all areas of our lives — the Word of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts and minds and, yes, in our business practices both locally and globally … setting standards that the world aspires to … that’s the battle we face…

        • Phil. I don’t think John was being dismissive. Just because this blog is here, it doesn’t mean people need to use this medium to respond. He has offered a response, and anyone can communicate directly with him (as you have).

          I do worry that the ongoing sniping at Kingsway generally (not directed at you personally Phil) is heading from what is felt to be a justified anger into the ‘sin’ cautioned above. Please everyone, make sure that is not the case.

        • Thanks Ian. Perhaps dismissive is the wrong word, though that’s how it feels to me. True, no one is under any obligation to join the discussions here: as Ally pointed out a while back, there’s no reason why John couldn’t address the issue via a Kingsway blog.

          But John has certainly not prioritised the issue and there does seem to be a certain disdain towards the questions in his responses thus far… his approach is not what I’d call a good model for customer service, and we retailers are also Kingsway customers…

        • Replying to Ian –
          to be fair Ian I asked John to contact me directly as I stated right at the beginning that i would not be able to make his meeting date.

          I have accepted and respected his right not to respond here and offered forward a few suggestions of alternative means of communication.

          I know he has read that request and knows about it and yet I have heard nothing at all from him, not email or phone call or letter.

          As to your point on moving into the Sin as stated above, I think it is important to remember that just as bible quotes should not be taken out of context and put in isolation so also it is that one sin is not greater or lesser than another.

          However you are totally right to call us to question, prayer and reflection, as in one respect was Final Haven, and I honestly thank you for this.

          I think that most here, myself definitely and the others I know that are raising this issue here, in CM & elsewhere in discussion etc are genuinely doing it everytime with a searching and prayerful heart, not meaning or wanting to bring discord but rather to bring about discourse that will highlight situations of real issue that are causing problems within and for the body of the community. This is done in the hopes of bringing about a harmony, accord or resolution.

          Sad though it may be, but nevertheless well testified and biblically documented, sometimes these things can only be done by being a voice calling out, by being one constantly questing and questioning for the fathers heart and insight on this and other issues.

          Sometimes we are called to shout out – not shut up.
          Sometimes we are called to stand up – not move quietly aside.
          Sometimes anger is justified.
          Is this one of those times?

          As you have rightly said that is a question for each to decide and make the right choice on, each according to their calling, their purpose and their prayer.

  5. Thanks for your gracious response Phil. A pint it is! I’m glad we can agree to disagree about the strapline for now, but we will certainly consider our options when it comes to the reprint or paperback edition. In the meantime I will get a copy of the hardback out for review as you suggest, thanks for that.

    FH, thanks for your comments, I hope the book sells well for you too.

  6. I found the tone of this article less than gracious and seems willing to look for the worst interpretation and intention, rather than the best. Also, the constant Kingsway-bashing is starting to look bitter, especially some of the comments.

    • Sadly, Ian, watching customers walk away because of Kingsway’s pricing practice does leave a bitter taste in the mouth…

      It’s a knockabout, albeit with a cutting edge … quite mild as such things go, if you’ve ever read Punch

      As I’ve said before, Kingsway produce some excellent stuff — my customers love it, and I love to supply it to them — but Kingsway themselves are taking my business away from me. So until Kingsway/David C Cook address the issue, the questions won’t go away.

      Always happy to report other news and feature guest posts: it’s simply a question of publishers and others sending me their news & views…

  7. Pingback: Kingsway: no meeting with John Paculabo and “an unwholesome witch hunt”? « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

  8. Pingback: Collins Bible Companion « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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