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The Parable Group & Westbow Press Announce Top 10 Writing Contest Finalists

Aspiring Authors Winners

The Parable Group, a leading retail and marketing services provider, and WestBow Press, the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, announced the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest on Sunday, June 28th, during The Parable Group All Partner Store Meeting at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando before the International Christian Retail Show.

“We are very pleased with the quality of the finalists for this year’s Aspiring Authors Writing Contest,” said Pete Nikolai, Publisher of WestBow Press and Director of Publishing Services for HarperCollins Christian Publishing. “The reach of The Parable Group and their partner stores provided a great opportunity for hundreds of writers to make their dream come true. We’re looking forward to publishing and distributing the winner.”

The Aspiring Authors Writing Contest received ample attention, garnering hundreds of hopeful author participants from all over the country. Nearly every registered store had participating writers. The complete list of the 10 finalists and book titles can be found at
www.westbowpress.com/parable/winners/.

The grand prize-winning book of the Aspiring Authors Writing Contest will be self-published through WestBow Press and reviewed for possible traditional publication by Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. Additionally, upon publication, the grand prize winner will receive a free marketing package from The Parable Group to promote the prize-winning book in catalogs and in bookstores across the nation.

The Aspiring Authors Writing Contest was open to authors who were at least 18 years of age and had written an unpublished manuscript.
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WestBow Press is a strategic supported self-publishing alliance between HarperCollins Christian Publishing, the world’s leading Christian publisher, and Author Solutions, LLC, the world leader in supported self-publishing. Titles published through WestBow Press are evaluated for sales potential and considered for publication through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. For more information, visit www.westbowpress.com or call (866)-928-1240. For WestBow Press news, click “Like” at www.facebook.com/WestBowPress and follow @westbowpress on Twitter.

Christian Retailers Bringing Hope to Desperate Children

Prison Fellowship International - Retail Installation

Covenant Group, The Parable Group and their respective partner retailers nationwide, announced today a joint initiative with Prison Fellowship International, the largest and most extensive association of national Christian ministries working within the criminal justice field, to launch the Children of Prisoners Sponsorship Program to rescue, restore and rebuild the lives of poor and vulnerable children of prisoners—impacting lives across the globe.

“Around the world, millions of children have lost one or both parents to imprisonment,” said Frank Lofaro, President of Prison Fellowship International. “These children don’t have a safe place to live and lack food, medical care, education – and hope. They fend for themselves on the street or live with their parents in prison and are at a high risk to be sold into child slavery and sex trafficking. The need is daunting; PFI already has 10,000 kids located and identified on our waiting list.”

Bill Anderson, former CBA President – now Executive Advisor and Consultant to Prison Fellowship International, added, “We are excited to be working with Christian retailers to bring hope, relief and Christ’s love to children of prisoners around the world. Christian stores are the ideal partner – cutting across denominational lines and serving the whole Church. We are delighted with the strong response and high level of participation by Covenant and Parable and their partner stores. Together we will make a huge difference – for God, for good…forever in the lives of thousands of kids. And we’re encouraged that additional stores and groups will join us as we move forward.”

Prison Fellowship International, founded 35 years ago by former Nixon aide and Evangelical leader Chuck Colson, is dedicated to communicating the redemptive love and transforming power of Jesus Christ to prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, and victims of crime around the world. Prison Fellowship International works in more than 125 countries and engages 45,000 volunteers in prison ministry.

“Remarkably, PFI has been able to save lives as they work to restore physical health, improve nutrition, provide general education and ultimately bring the lost to Christ. We couldn’t be more privileged to partner with them and our partner retailers in this great work,” said Steve Potratz, Founder and President of The Parable Group. “Christian retailers will be able to connect children in need to customers who can help.”

Chuck Wallington, President of Covenant Group added, “The full sponsorship program is well-planned, well-executed, and highly cost-effective for the child sponsors. We look to enroll many sponsors for children in need over the coming months as our stores work to promote this program to the customers we serve.”

The Parable Group and Covenant Group will raise awareness to customers via catalogs, emails, online and in stores beginning in March 2015. Retailers will aim to engage customers to enter into a one-on-one sponsorship with a child for just $28 a month. The turnkey, easy-to-implement program includes training resources, marketing support, in-store merchandising, data-reporting and accounting services for participating retailers.

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Prison Fellowship International is the largest and most extensive association of national Christian ministries working within the criminal justice field. PFI is committed to sharing the love and power of Jesus Christ to prisoners, families of prisoners and victims of crime around the world. For over 35 years, PFI has focused on contextually appropriate programs which are indigenous, volunteer-based and transdenominational in order to minister to prisoners and their families in culturally impactful ways. For more information, contact cstonehouse@pfi.org or visit www.pfi.org. Prison Fellowship International is based in Washington DC.

Bill Anderson is an Executive Mentor/Advisor to Presidents and Boards – serving a wide variety of non-profit and for profit organizations across the US and internationally. His clients span many industries including retail, publishing, customer service, trade associations, Christian missions & ministries, marketing & media, radio, health services, pastors, and Christian schools & universities. For more information contact Bill Anderson.

Since 1985, The Parable Group has helped independent stores buy, promote and sell products using data, technology and marketing expertise in the Christian market. The Parable Group is a leading retail services provider specializing in print and digital marketing for independent Christian stores, and delivering innovative, industry-leading marketing solutions connecting products and services to Christian consumers. For more information, contact Sally or visit www.parablegroup.com. The Parable Group is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.

For over 30 years, Covenant Group has provided an array of marketing and promotional services to independent Christian retailers of all sizes, including print and digital catalogs and flyers, in-store promotional aids, digital marketing services, and a burgeoning branded website network; that allow retailers to both serve and inform the consumers and churches they serve with state-of-the-art resources. For more information, contact cwallington@covenantgroupstores.com or visit www.covenantgroupstores.com.  Covenant Group is based in Spartanburg, SC.

The Parable Group Launches 2nd Annual Writing Contest Sponsored By Westbow Press

Aspiring Authors Writing Contest

The Parable Group, its retail partners and WestBow Press, the strategic self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, the world’s largest Christian publisher, announced today that they are accepting submissions for the Second Annual Aspiring Authors Writing Contest. Top 10 finalists will be announced on Sunday, June 21 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando before the International Christian Retail Show.

“Now, more than ever, the world is in need of positive, inspirational Christian messages that help people deal with the challenges of our time,” said Steve Potratz, President of The Parable Group. “I believe books can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform hearts one person at a time, one message at a time. This is why I’m intrigued by the growing movement of undiscovered authors eager to help other people through their books. We’re honored to help those fresh voices get heard.”

The grand prize-winning book of the Second Annual Aspiring Authors Writing Contest will be self-published with WestBow Press and reviewed for possible traditional publication by Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. Additionally, upon publication, the grand prize winner will receive a free marketing package from The Parable Group to promote the prize-winning book in catalogs and in bookstores across the nation.

In 2014, debut author Richard Newberry won the inaugural Aspiring Authors Writing Contest with his young adult Christian novel Light at the Rat Pond, an inspiring story set in 1970s Illinois. His book is available in Parable stores nationwide and on parable.com.

“We’re excited to partner with The Parable Group to give aspiring authors the opportunity to rise above the crowd and get noticed,” said Pete Nikolai, Publisher of WestBow Press and Director of Publishing Services for HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

The 2015 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest is open to authors who are at least 18 years of age and have written an unpublished manuscript that is at least 10,000 words in length. Most genres are eligible, excluding children’s and picture books. All submissions must be received by May 31, 2015.

For more information, including the complete list of prizes, rules and regulations, and an explanation of editorial standards, please visit:  www.westbowpress.com/parable

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WestBow Press is a strategic supported self-publishing alliance between HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Author Solutions, LLC — the world leader in supported self-publishing. Titles published through WestBow Press are evaluated for sales potential and considered for publication through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan.  For more information, visit www.westbowpress.com or call (866)-928-1240. For WestBow Press news, click “Like” at www.facebook.com/WestBowPress and follow @westbowpress on Twitter.

Christian Retailers Discover & Improve Their Online Reputation

How To Improve your Online Presence - The Parable Group

Christian Retailers discover and improve their online brand and reputation with ease using The Parable Group Online Business Claiming service. The service, which launched in 2011 and expanded in 2014, helps stores evaluate, build and monitor their brand health online. Stores receive quarterly reporting, including an overall online brand score, and easy-to-follow recommendations to reach more customers, improve consumer engagement and enhance their brand online.

The scoring model takes into account over 80 data points to create a brand score that not only reflects how strong a brand presence is, but also provides a benchmark for store’s efforts compared to others. The Parable Group evaluates website search results, reviews and social media from various online sources such as Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, Google Places, Twitter and LinkedIn and other online profiles for retailers, saving them time and allowing them to focus on serving customers.

“As a retailer, it’s tough to know just where to begin and what steps you should and should not take to manage your online reputation. The score provides a gauge of each store’s starting point and measures improvement over time. It’s basically a brand report card,” said Tiffany Davenport, Data Content Coordinator for The Parable Group.

Score strength is measured as high with a score of 650-850, medium with a score of 550-650, and low with a score below 550. Most participating stores saw an increase over the past three months, and the current average brand score of 679 is well within the high score ranking.

“I love that The Parable Group monitors and evaluates my store’s online footprint for me—they save me countless hours of work,” said Danny Vera from Christ Centered Life Store in Fort Myers, Florida. “The reports provide me with our brand score, insights about where we rank on search engines, social media activity and recommendations we can take to raise our score and online engagement. I couldn’t get all of this information about my store on my own.”

Steve Potratz, owner of The Parable Christian Store in San Luis Obispo, CA and President of The Parable Group said, “In 2010 we moved our store from a high traffic downtown location with a lot of tourist traffic to a strip center on the outskirts of town. Months after our move, the internet continued to display the downtown location, so we lost tourist traffic and a lot of local traffic. This caused us to search for a fix. We solved the problem and today our store is prominently listed on all maps and searches online. In fact, if you buy a new car with navigation, you’ll easily find our store in their maps too. We are happy to provide this tremendous solution to help all Christian retailers easily monitor, manage and strengthen their brand presence online.”

 

Christian Retailers Enjoyed December Sales Lift

Christmas Retail Tips

Christian Retailers reported a lift in December sales and traffic, according to The Parable Group. Sales stats by the group show a 3% December sales lift over December 2013, and a 19% increase in sales for the week ending December 27 over the same week in 2013.

“Dozens of our retail partners had a strong month, many in the double-digits, and it really lifted the group number up,” says Erik Ernstrom, Manager of Business Intelligence for The Parable Group. “That week before Christmas was stronger than most of us anticipated.”

Retailers reported that the 12 Days of Christmas daily deals promoted in their catalogs, targeted shared mail (Redplum/Valassis), newspaper inserts, promotional in-store signage, email marketing and Facebook campaigns developed by The Parable Group were effective in driving consumer traffic and increasing sales in their stores.

Deidre Pagni from His Word…A Parable Christian Store in Reno and Sparks, Nevada said, “The 12 Days of Christmas Sale that we promoted in Red Plum seemed to have a bigger impact for our Reno store and drove some traffic. Plus, we did a better job preparing our stock levels for the 12 Days of Christmas Sale traffic as well.”

Matthew Wright of Praises Family Books & Gifts in Chillicothe, Ohio said, “December was a great month for us. We really pushed the 12 Days of Christmas sales hard. We sent an email reminder every day of the sale to our entire email list. We used the aggressive coupon option to generate traffic from our catalogs. Plus, we gave each customer a bounce back coupon at the completion of the sale encouraging them to come back in. Our promotional plan through Parable print catalogs, SnapRetail emails and proper staff training provided us with a great December and an end to a good year! Higher traffic made the difference in our sales.”

Gift cards were projected to be the most popular holiday gift option, with 80% of shoppers saying they planned to buy at least one, according to a National Retail Federation survey. They aren’t counted as part of a retailer’s sales, though, until they are redeemed.

“The post-Christmas period is when that starts and that’s a great way to start the new year,” says Ernstrom.