As retreat season ramps up into high gear, I have some thoughts for your planning committee:
There are some who might say that reading books is a lost art. Everything is digital But books are still making the best seller lists.
At every retreat, and even some women’s events, we try to have a “book table” set up for the women to browse and buy solid Christian books that we recommend. I have written a lot regarding this on this website (check out blog category “book table“), and even have a drop-down menu of recommended books under “Resources.” Here are some reasons why this is a part of our normal practice:
1. Reading Christian books, in addition to regular Bible reading and study, can foster spiritual growth.
2. Women who like to read don’t always make the best choices of reading material; we like to make books available which will encourage and edify and build up, as well as being doctrinally correct.
3. Having a selection of good Christian books available (and possibly doing book reviews at the event) encourages women to broaden their reading options to include biographies and other genres that perhaps they don’t normally read.
4. Often we can get books at a wholesale or discounted price, and sell at or close to cost, which makes purchasing books more affordable for our ladies. We also include used and donated books which women can “purchase” for a donation of any amount.
We have discussed in earlier posts why to have a book table at your retreat. If you do sell books at your retreat, it is helpful if some time for book reviews can be squeezed into the retreat schedule. Also, this is a nice way for women to be involved in a small way at the retreat.
“Book Review” is really a misnomer. Because time is nearly always limited, this is a time to recommend rather than review books. We do not have time to do a thorough review of these books.
A book recommendation consists of:
- Name of the book and author
- Show the book
- Very brief synopsis
- Why you liked the book/what you took away from it.
We allow no more than two minutes per book for the book recommendation. If more than one book is being reviewed, you could spend more time on one book and less time on the other.
Managing the prices at your retreat book table is key to having a successful book table. It is not always possible to offer good deals if the books you wish to showcase are all new releases. But we like to have a variety of books, including older and classic books, as well as a variety of price ranges. Here are some of our ideas:
- We try to make available small, quality books in the $3-$4 range. Sometimes you can find mass market paperback copies of classics that are available for a very low price, which can then be offered at a low price.
- If possible, we try to offer books priced below their retail price. The two primary ways that we are able to do this is by shopping sales (both at retail stores and from online distributors) and by ordering through our church bookstore and passing their discount on to the women.
- We keep the prices as low as possible after factoring in taxes and any applicable shipping charges. This is a service to our women, not a money-making venture. Our goal is to break even.
- We always check Amazon.com to see if the books we want to order are available used. This is tricky, because the shipping costs can sometimes be prohibitive. However, if I do find books used (in very good condition only), I mark them clearly as “gently used” so no one is deceived into thinking that they are buying a new book.
One note: Even though it is tempting, we would advise that you DO NOT lower book prices at the end of the retreat just to get rid of books. This would be unfair to those who purchased the book at full price early in the retreat. If ladies find out that by waiting they may get a better price, you will lose a lot of early sales.The exception to this would be if you had sold no copies of a specific book and wanted to lower the price on that book only.
An alternative to the book table at the retreat (where selected books are offered for sale) is to have a “donations” table, where books are available for a donation–“whatever you can afford”. We actually do this in addition to a regular book table, giving our ladies the option of either buying a new book, or giving a small donation to obtain a used book.
During the month(s) prior to the retreat, we ask ladies in our women’s ministry if they have good books that they have read and would like to donate. These books are carefully reviewed and either accepted or rejected, as we know that all so-called “Christian” books are not profitable reading (see our guidelines here). Often people have extra Bibles lying around at home too, and we welcome those donations as well.
At the retreat, these books are displayed on a table with a money box labeled “whatever you can afford.” One year, someone expressed that she was so blessed that she was able to pick up a special Bible–something she would have been unable to afford–for just a small donation. This is a blessing for the women, especially those who love books and can’t afford to buy them. The income from this table can cover a shortfall at the book table or can provide cash to purchase books for the book table next year.
What a great “recycling” program!