The Painful Side of Publishing


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.

49 Responses to The Painful Side of Publishing

  1. Ron Estrada May 8, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    I’m surpised to hear Christians reacting this way. Especially since most are very conservative and understand (or should understand) the necessity of a free market economy. If the publisher keeps the fiction division to support its authors, but then continues to take losses to the point where staff members are laid off, did they do the right thing? My own family busniess has had to lay off people we’ve considered friends. If we hadn’t, the company would be closed and no one would have a job. I’d admonish my brothers and sisters to think about the ultimate consequences of their business “ethics.”

  2. Tanara McCauley May 8, 2013 at 3:24 am #


  3. Tanara McCauley May 8, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote, Karen. I just had a little more to add after some reflection. I heard Davis Bunn speak about a year ago at the Writing for the Soul conference in Denver. He talked about what it means to attempt to be successful as a Christian author, agent, editor, publisher, etc. The goal for success was not to obtain personal glory and all the extravagance that comes with it, but rather to use the success in order to spread the good news even further. Christian authors, as stewards of the gifts they’ve been given, have a responsibility to present their best work so more people will be compelled to read it and begin or deepen their relationship with God because of it. Likewise, publishers of Christian content also have a responsibility to make business decisions which will enable them to continue publishing Christian content. If they don’t, everyone loses…especially those who are still lost.

    • Tanara McCauley May 8, 2013 at 3:46 am #

      That means if something has to be cut in order to keep the ship sailing, so be it. Our prayers and support–not our criticism–is what everyone involved needs at this point.

  4. Anne Love May 8, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    Let us also be known by our faith.

    Though I was discouraged to hear the news about B & H, I’m encouraged by our sovereign, living God–who is greater than any flushed business deal. When God’s word goes out, it does not return void. No human plan or failing can stop the accomplishments of His word, or His will. Let our faith not be so small that we forget and become despaired. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. For all we know, these changes perhaps only herald making way for better things to come if we are patient and wait on Him.

  5. Lisa Bergren May 8, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Good reminders, Karen. And Anne! Love that. And it applies to so much more, beyond publishing…

  6. Susan Stitch May 8, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Karen, THANK YOU! I continue to be amazed by how each of us, Christian or not, presumes that the motives of others are always selfish. Hmmm, guess that’s selfish of us. Seems like that is the current world view, and we as Christians need to step back and remember it’s not all about us — it’s about God. That means we will be inconvenienced in this life, but then again so was Jesus!

  7. Normandie Fischer May 8, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    Well said. We can’t judge another person’s calling, nor the steps others feel compelled to take to accomplish that task. And in a business setting, in today’s marketplace? Let’s be thankful God knows and sees and hears. He doesn’t call us all to the same ministry or to run our business in lock step with another’s idea of what’s best. All we can do is lift one another up to His grace that we may each hear what He speaks to us, not what He’s telling someone else.

  8. Nancy May 8, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    Thank you, Karen, for a gracious post. Probably wouldn’t hurt for all of us to stop and pray for editors and production personnel at B&H who are likely to be “down-sized” in this change. That won’t catch God off-guard, but the people involved may have their faith stretched.

  9. Karen Whiting May 8, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    I’ve had contracts cancelled as part of business decisions of publishers but always believed God was also redirecting me (the same publisher later gave me a different contract). I’ve also turned down a contract as a business decision because I believed God directed me to a better business decision and hoped the publisher I turned down understood and would not dish me (It happens-publishers don’;t always get the authors they want).

    Thanks Karen for reminding us to look beyond a single decision (even if many are impacted) and continue to trust God.

  10. Kathryn Barker May 8, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    Thank you Karen for a wonderful heartfelt post. My husband and I, like Ron Estrada’s family, had our own business for awhile…a lovely little tea room. Unfortunately, we had to close and I was devastated with this choice, because I knew what it meant for the employees I loved! But, as we’ve all been saying, business is business, and sometimes you have to make very difficult choices.

    I think what’s happened is that somehow the notion of “fair” has crept into people’s minds when it concerns anything called Christian. But bad things do happen to good people, good Christian people. Life really isn’t fair! (I’ve never read in the New Testament where we were promised “fair.”) And yet, as you said, God is in control! He knows, He sees, He cares! We can trust Him.

    Thanks again for your uplifting, encouraging post! Let’s have a little faith…”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen!” Heb.11:1 (KJ)

    • Sherry C. May 8, 2013 at 7:22 am #

      Wonderful, Karen!
      You are so right, Kathryn. In my Bible study, Storms of Life,I talk about how God isn’t interested in fairness, He’s interested in molding us in the image of His Son. This idea hasn’t been well received by some readers.

  11. Micky Wolf May 8, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Amen! And how applicable your comments and insights to so many other issues. So much vitriol and negativity out there…we are well-reminded as Christians to behave in a manner befitting the One we say we follow.

  12. Jill Kemerer May 8, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    Oh, this breaks my heart. God has closed many doors for me personally, but He’s usually done it privately–and blessed me by opening another door.

    I look at what’s happened to B&H as God closing a door so another one can open for everyone involved. I’m sure it must be devastating not only to be announcing this decision but to have to close the door on a company dream. To have to do it publicly is even worse.

    My prayers are with them.

  13. Cheryl Barker May 8, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Amen, Karen. As believers, it’s so important that we extend love to one another — and everyone — and that we give each other the benefit of the doubt.

  14. Sally Bradley May 8, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Karen, thanks for sharing this. People don’t realize how much they’re behaving as Job’s friends when they make comments like that. Not helpful and so, so devastatingly hurtful.

  15. Connie Almony May 8, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Preach it, Karen. I can’t even imagine what it might have been like to have needed to make those decisions. They needed to consider not just those they “let go” but those they retained. I feel for all those involved. I’m praying for all those involved.
    Like you said, this is no surprise to God. He has a plan and He is speaking it to each of us about our part in it. We just need to be quiet and listen.

  16. Ken L Roberts May 8, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    I agree with your observation and your appeal for understanding, maturity, and love.

  17. Patti Jo Moore May 8, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    Thank you for this post, Karen–valuable reminders that can also apply to many areas of life. Continued prayers for all those affected by these business decisions. God is in control. ~ ~ (Romans 8:28)

  18. Sonya Contreras May 8, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    It is easy to point fingers, it is hard to live right. It is easy to see the splinter in another’s eye. It is hard to see the beam in our own. I’m grateful of the tiny steps that God leads us to take. For sometimes that is all that I can take. The steps of another, are just that, their steps with God…He does not take us all through the same things—we couldn’t take it.
    Your reminder of love is needed in a world full of pointing fingers, and ten steps to success….God leads His dear children along. Thank you.

  19. Christina Suzann Nelson May 8, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Well said. Thank you, Karen.

  20. Ann Shorey May 8, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    Beautifully said, Karen I appreciate the clarity you brought to the issue.

  21. Jaime Wright May 8, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Wise words, Karen and so appreciated! May God be honored and glorified in all our words — written and spoken — that HIS love may shine through!

  22. Jan Cline May 8, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Thank you Karen. I am always amazed at how judgment almost always comes in the heels of ignorance. How can we possibly know what goes on if we aren’t there in person. These companies face difficult decisions every day and times are tough. As Christian authors, or authors who are Christians, we put our trust in God, not man, not a company. I appreciate your boldness to speak up.

  23. Martha Rogers May 8, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    Thank you, Karen, for the great words of wisdom. I’ve always admired you and this hitches you up one more notch. I had a contract cancelled, but reasoned that God must have something even greater in store for it and the others involved in our project. When one door closes, God will open another one if we stay on track with His will in our lives. I pray others will stop and think and remember that God is in control and none of this was a surprise to Him. I’ve never heard God say, “Whoa, I didn’t see that one coming.”

  24. Thomas Allbaugh May 8, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Well, the logic is a little open to debate here. I’m not saying that B&H did anything wrong or unethical with their decision, and that wasn’t my first reaction to this news either. Certainly, it is their responsibility to be good stewards of their resources. And if that means getting out of the fiction market, so be it. But to say that they can separate their Christian ethics from their business practices is strange. That’s the same reasoning in The Godfather. “It’s strictly business, Kate.” At home, we practice our faith, but on the job, our faith doesn’t and shouldn’t cloud our business decisions? Hmmm. I disagree.

  25. Meghan Carver May 8, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Wise words, Karen. Thank you for this thoughtful and Scripture-filled post.

  26. Mel @ Trailing After God May 8, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    I totally agree and I hate seeing this kind of behavior. We really have NO clue what went on behind the scenes. True of most any situation that appears in the media. We only see one side of things. Good for you for speaking out against this attitude that is not at all Christ-like.

  27. Gina Welborn May 8, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Karen, thank you so much for reminding us of what we are to be about: loving others. To be candid, prior to reading Steve’s post on B&H, I hadn’t given much thought to the changes, other to pray for Julie and the others being downsized. But what struck me what when Steve mentioned, and I’m paraphrasing, the importance that a best-seller is to a publisher. So I pray that God will rise up the next generation of Perettis, Rivers, Dekkers, Okes, etc.

  28. Jeanne Takenaka May 8, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Karen, so well stated. So much has already been said above. So I’ll stop. So well said.

  29. Debra Clopton May 8, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    So well said Karen. I read Steve’s post yesterday some other post also and I too was concerned by some of the comments. I’m glad you addressed them. My heart hurts for all those involved and I pray for other doors to be opened for each of them.

  30. Dineen Miller May 8, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    I’m grateful for one aspect of all that happened last week—it opened my eyes to see that I’ve spent lots of time complaining about this industry and bemoaning my struggling place in it but I haven’t prayed for this industry over all. Christian fiction is an amazing avenue to share God’s love, whether subtly or overtly. And we have an enemy who seeks to steel, kill and destroy such things. We need to be praying for this entire industry. All the pub houses, editors, agents, marketing, sales, staff, independent stores, etc. ALL OF IT! Yes, God is in control but let’s release open the door wider to release the Holy Spirit through our united prayers! Let’s claim Christian fiction for God’s glory and let Him show us what’s next!

    • Connie Almony May 8, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Yes, Dineen! And we need to stand together in doing so, working as the Body of Christ from our different strengths/parts (be they different genres, stories or publishing houses). Thanks for that reminder!

      • Dineen Miller May 8, 2013 at 10:39 am #

        Amen, Connie! I’m praying for God to raise an army of prayer warriors. Honored to stand with you in prayer, my friend!

  31. Heather Day Gilbert May 8, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    I thought B/H did the honorable thing by letting the authors keep their advances. That alone spoke volumes to me.

  32. Deb Kastner May 8, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Beautiful post, Karen. May we all be led to prayer for our own writing, as well as for our fellow writers and the publishers.

  33. Angie Dicken May 8, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Beautifully said, Karen.
    This is a post needed to be read by more than just the publishing community. So many times I encounter situations void of love and seeping in judgement. I pray that God softens my heart so I do not get entangled in such hypocrisy, and that we, as believers, remember that our greatest call is TO LOVE!!

  34. Christi McGuire May 8, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Thank you for taking the time to address this. Having worked as an employee or contract editor at LifeWay for over 12 years, I know there is always a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the public doesn’t know about. Even the ones who have to make the announcements and carry out the decisions aren’t always the ones who MAKE the business decisions, and often their hearts are torn about it, too. A dear friend is President at B&H, and I know no other person on earth who cares more about people than she does. Christian character is shown not through good times but difficult times. Thanks for encouraging the Christian community to pull together instead of tearing one another apart!

  35. H.G. Ferguson May 8, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    All of us — writers, editors, agents — we all need to remember that the mantra “Well, it’s a business” does NOT apply to the Christian when that mantra is used to justify anything God calls sin. A just balance is His delight, and before Him we shall all give account. On that day, I really don’t think saying “But Lord, it was a business,” is going to get very far as an excuse to ignore God’s Word. We need to take this very much to heart. Attacking fellow Christians and judging them is wrong, but some things done by publishing houses justified in their minds with “Well, it’s a business,” don’t stand either in the light of God’s Word. Let’s all give Him the just balance He demands.

  36. Robin Patchen May 8, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Well said, Karen. Thank you for saying it.

    • Keith Henry May 8, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Couldn’t agree with H.G> more! Even if businesses have to act as a business, Christians working there should behave as Christians first, businessmen second.

  37. Janet Ann Collins May 8, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Karen, I’m sure the major changes in the publishing world make your own job more difficult, but it’s obvious from this post that you practice what you preach.

  38. Karen Ball May 8, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Thanks for all your comments and thoughts. I agree that faith and God’s Word have to come into play in our business decisions. When I say that Christians in business have to make terrible decisions, I don’t in any way mean they should do ANYthing contrary to God’s guidance and will. We all need to bathe our decisions and actions and words in prayer, and submit them to God’s guidance. But there’s no way we can judge whether others have done so unless we’re in the midst of the decision making. Nor can we rightfully say that they’ve justified anything unless we know for a fact the condition of their hearts and faith. Not until that day when we all know as we’re known, and those motives we keep hidden inside are revealed. On that day, we’ll all face God’s justice. Until then, let’s offer mercy to each other rather than condemnation or judgement.

  39. Henry McLaughlin May 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Amen, Karen.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this in its proper perspective. I know you probably stepped on some toes but they needed stepping on. I pray that as a result of your post the complainers will re-think their words and repent.


  40. Sharyn Kopf May 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Wow, it never would have occurred to me to label a company un-Christian because of a business decision. Fiction is great & I don’t know what I’d do without it, but I don’t think God’s will can be thwarted because B&H has to limit how many novels it publishes.

    It’s my understanding that Christian fiction, particularly well-written novels, still sells. My heart goes out to the writers whose contracts have been pulled but, again, if God has a plan for their work, this doesn’t derail it. It just sets it on a different track.

  41. Mark Rhyne May 9, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    Thank you Karen for the wise words. This is an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we react to things we cannot control and what it really is, or rather, who it is that drives our passion every day. Change can be messy at times, but there will always be a outlet for great writing. Thanks again.

  42. Patrick Craig May 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    If you are a Christian, the flip side of accusation is trusting God to know what He’s doing.

  43. Nicole Adams May 13, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Amen! I have been a small business owner for nearly 10 years. Many want to criticize the decisions that business owners make but they never know all the anguish that most business owners go through with each decision that they make. That’s especially true when it concerns someone else’s livelihood. Being a Christian, makes the hard decisions more difficult to deal with not easier.

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