Theology

The Painful Side of Publishing

Ache

We’ll get back to focus next week, but something has been weighing heavy on my heart and I want to share it with you.

We all know that publishing is a tough gig. It was proven yet again by what happened last week with the B&H Publishing Group’s fiction division (see Steve’s blog about it). It’s easy to commiserate with the authors impacted by this sudden change, to pray for them and encourage them. But I saw something happening in a number of blogs and author loops, and I confess it troubles me. What I saw was people making caustic comments about the publisher and about the people who work at the publishing house. Even to the point of questioning their faith. As in “How can they call themselves a Christian publisher and do something like this?”

Friends, first and foremost, there is no such thing as a “Christian” publisher. There are publishing houses that provide Christian products, many of which have people working there who are Christians. But, as Steve put it, business is business, even when the business has the higher purpose of spreading the Gospel of the Good News. And Christians in business must sometimes make terrible decisions to keep their companies going. I know we, from the outside, look at the impact of some of those decisions and are outraged. Especially when those we care about are hurt. Disagree with them, yes. By all means, disagree. But to call into question someone’s faith…to accuse them of doing wrong or evil because we disagree?

Not on your life.

Because neither you nor I know all the details. We weren’t there, with them, inside their heads and hearts as they made these decisions. Not one of us saw how making these decisions impacted them. How they worried or struggled or sought God’s counsel. And none of us can say, with any measure of truth, that they didn’t seek God! How dare we presume to do so?

When you or I are tempted to do this, I pray these words will stop us: “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Our love.

If that doesn’t do it, how about, “Love your enemies!” (Because heaven knows, the way some folks have talked about this publisher, they must be our enemies.) As it is written, “Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

This business is hard. Grueling. It can chew you up and spit you out. Let’s not make it even harder by our words and actions toward each other. Instead, let’s take these painful times and let them turn our eyes to the One who called us to writing in the first place. None of this surprised God. Nothing that any publisher or business does can change the fact that He is in control. Of every aspect of our lives. And He is at work, refining us. Even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times. Look to Him and His truths to get past the pain and anger, and to remember who we are—HIS children—and why we’re doing this—to bring His truth to a weary world.

Leave a Comment

Miracle

by Tamela Hancock Murray

This time of year, Christians contemplate the marvel that is the resurrection of Christ. Such an event seems magical, though God is never a genie, ready to grant our every wish. Even Jesus was not granted His plea in the Garden of Gethsemane as He asked the Father to take the cup of death from Him. But was there any other way? No, there was not. How else could have the miracle of the resurrection have taken place? How else would we Christians today be washed in His blood? As he chastened the disciples for their inability to stay awake even an hour, I think of how short I fall in my efforts to follow Him.

What Jesus did for us was nothing magical. Love is not magical, but the emotions we feel knowing we are loved are, well, magical. Little children can nibble chocolate bunnies to mark the awesome day that is Easter and then, as they mature, come to the realization and understanding about Jesus’ resurrection, and what He really means to us.

Read More

The Writing Book for Your Year

by Steve Laube

Note the title of this post did not say “of the year” but “for your year.” It is rare for me to recommend books on writing because there are so many good ones out there, but this one is an exception.

The spiritual foundation of the writer is critical to surviving and even thriving in the call as an artist.  Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer (published by Eerdmans) is a book each one of you should acquire and make a part of your reading plan.

The book description includes:  “This book offers prayers that correspond with each stage of the writer’s work — from finding inspiration to penning the first words to ‘offering it to God’ at completion. Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, experienced writers themselves, introduce each chapter of prayers with pithy pastoral reflections that will encourage writers in their craft.” Gary has twice won the Newberry Honor Award for his children’s books and is a professor of English at Calvin College. Elizabeth, Gary’s wife, wrote a wonderful blog called “Language and Prayer” where she introduces the book and she explores the weaving of faith and writing.

Throughout the book I was inspired by material from writers such as Augustine, Dante Alighieri, William Barclay, Thomas Merton, Dwight L. Moody, Reinhold Niebuhr, C.S. Lewis, Soren Kierkegaard, and Richard Baxter. Ranging across the entire spectrum of the Faith. It is a book that should be examined slowly and without haste.

Make this the book of your year and let the words from great writers be a cool splash of water on your soul.

Below is a brief book trailer citing one example from the book.

Read More

Kick Discouragement to the Curb

I don’t know about you, but I loved Steve’s blog post on Monday, When the Outlook is Bleak. People out there are HURTING.

I was with a friend a few days ago, a best-selling author who was battling an especially difficult edit. Difficult because the edits weakened the book rather than strengthened it. She’d uttered a series of gut-deep sighs, read me changes that I agreed didn’t make sense, and finally sat there, shaking her head.

And then she stopped. Straightened. Fixed me with a somber gaze and said:

“Today, in this very moment, someone is sitting in the doctor’s office, receiving the worst news of their life.”

I started. “What?”

She drew a deep breath. “At times like this, I have to restore my perspective. I have to tell myself that somewhere, right at this moment, a mother is saying good-bye to a dying child. A family is losing a home to foreclosure or disaster. In light of all of that, what does a difficult edit matter?”

Read More

Does God Need a Makeover?

I have had some interesting conversations over the last few weeks with several different authors about the fact that God often doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, there are times when God’s ways—and the ways of those He used–seem…

Strange.

Unfair.

Even–dare I say it?–wrong.

Think about it.

The person who came to work in the field just before the day ended got paid the same as the folks who’d worked all day.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.

God promised Abram and Isaac that their descendants would be more than the sands on the beach…and gave them wives who were barren.

God gave a prophecy to Rebekah about Jacob, which she “helped along” by some of the most blatant favoritism found in Scripture.

Read More

21 Influential Books

by Steve Laube

There is a shelf in our living room where I have placed the books that had the most influence on my spiritual growth. I call them my “Punctuation Marks” because in a metaphoric way some books were a comma, some an exclamation point, and some a period or full stop.

The beauty of having them all in one place is the visual reminder of those moments where God reached out through the pages of creative people who listened to the call to write and thereby touched me. It is a large part of why I have been involved in the book business for over thirty years.

Here are the books in no particular order:

Read More

Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

Read More

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Three)


So, there I were, surrounded by publishing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked–or respected–our end consumer: the reader.

Publishing folk are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, publishing professionals recognize–and love–the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops–words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower…or decimate and destroy. These particular folks also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped–really stopped–to consider the answer to whether or not they like the reader. Publishing pros are great at pondering.

Read More

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Two)


So what are some of the answers I’ve been given to the question “What makes a Christian book Christian”? Consider the following:

Written from a Christian world view Story offers hope Core of the story shows importance of faith in Christ

Similar to the things you all wrote in your comments (though I think your responses went far deeper.) But I’ve also been peppered with the following critical comments regarding Christian books:

It’s safe It doesn’t challenge the status quo It doesn’t leave anything unsettled, everything’s resolved Quality doesn’t match that of ABA books Easy answers Doesn’t make readers think Affirms readers beliefs and perspective
Read More

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part One)


I had this discussion over a year ago on my blog, but thought it would be a good discussion for all of you, too. In some ways, publishing is in a state of unbelievable flux. In others, it’s utterly grounded and unshakeable. Good and bad on both sides.

But here’s what I find fascinating–and a bit worrisome. There’s a seemingless endless debate on what makes a Christian book Christian? Is it the context of the book or the faith of the author? What’s in the book or what isn’t? The tone or the specifics? Believe me, when I find myself in this debate, the answers come fast and furious and are as varied as can be. But before I share any thoughts or conclusions, I want to know what you think.

So, as a reader or a writer, what are you looking for in a book from a “Christian” publishing house? Or from a Christian writer.
What do you expect to find.
What do you expect NOT to find?
What makes a book “Christian”?

Read More