December 11, 2012
The title of this blog, "Behind the Books," is a bit of a double-entendre. Most of the time, I'll aim to pull back the curtain on this little publishing house and share some of what's going on in here. (I hope that won't take the edge off your appetite, like the old bit about people who like sausage or law being well advised not to inquire into their making.)
But sometimes (and today is one of those times) I fancy that "Behind the Books" suggests an alternate image.Continue reading "Jigsaw Puzzles with L'Engle and McLellan"
Posted by Jon Boyd at 7:40 AM
December 4, 2012
I'm new around here, so perhaps I should introduce myself.
I'm Jon Boyd, and I'm in my fourth month as InterVarsity Press's digital communications manager. I work with a cross-disciplinary team to bring you the IVP website and online store, social media, video and audio resources, and email newsletters. I love books, so I'm having a blast working in digital media to talk about books all day long. In fact, that's what this blog is about.Continue reading "Ground Rules"
June 15, 2009
For all of you who are following Behind the Books, we want to announce a few changes we are making to the blog this summer.
Our plans include adding a few more writers to our blogging team:
We hope to post more often and about a wider variety of topics. Please let us know what you want to hear about!
Until then, start the summer by taking an imaginary trip to the Middle East. Lots of readers are telling us that Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes is one of their favorites for informational as well as devotional reading.
Posted by Sally Sampson Craft at 2:00 PM
March 7, 2009
Publishing is hard work. We make it look so simple, I know: pretty little books with clever little sentences all strung together, effortlessly circumnavigating the globe and known universe to greet their audiences with a chipper “Hello!” and a promise of great reward. You want copies of The Hermeneutical Spiral and Circles of Belonging to hop in a box together and travel the thousands of miles from our distribution center to your church’s library? No problem: just point and click.
Blogging is hard work too—so hard that this blog has needed three of us to maintain it, with occasional outside support from authors, coworkers and, now, an intern. One of the nice things about authors is that they enjoy writing and are passionate about at least the subject of their book, so it’s often not all that difficult for them to come up with five- to eight-hundred words to share with our readers. One of the nice things about coworkers is that they can fill in the blanks of our understanding about our industry, so their occasional foray into blogging helps to fill out the content of Behind the Books. And one of the nice things about interns is that you can make them do pretty much anything you want.
That’s not the only nice thing about interns, of course, and it’s far from the only nice thing about our current intern, Michelle Read. Michelle, a senior at Hope College majoring in English, has busied herself for a few weeks now with writing reviews of draft manuscripts, proofreading catalog copy, filing paperwork, archiving reprints, brainstorming book titles and any number of other tasks essential to the publishing process. She’s learning a fair bit along the way and processing what she’s learning whenever she can gather together some free time and space. And now we’ve figured out a way to commandeer that free time and space: we’re going to make her blog her way through her internship.
Check in here regularly over the course of spring 2009 for updates on what Michelle is learning and how she’s adjusting to life in the big city, life in an office building, life in an industry. If you’ve been wondering what life behind the books is really like, if you’ve been curious how IVP keeps generating so many addenda and errata, if you’ve suspected that Andy’s unedited thoughts are too well-formed to have not undergone editorial scrutiny, if you’ve worried just how far and deep the strangeness and dimness at IVP extends—here’s your chance. We’re not paying her, so she’s not gonna lie for us.
June 3, 2008
After a little more than a year of blogging, Al, Dave and I thought you might want to hear from some new voices. And Al and Dave are busy with other blogging endeavors. As for me, I am busy acquiring too many books. (Yes, I receive praise from my boss when I manage to reduce my workload!) So please meet our friends from the publicity department.
Heather Mascarello (writer of the recent Sex and Publi-city entry)--is our print publicity manager. This means that she submits manuscripts to key periodicals, developing relationships with magazine editors of all kinds. The stacks of reviews she generates are impressive.
Adrianna Wright is our internet publicity manager. Her specialities here include promoting our books among key bloggers as well as academic publicity. (Being on Facebook is part of her job!)
Krista Carnet handles radio and television publicity. Her realm of work has to do with getting authors interviews on key media outlets. And Krista loves to book interviews. She keeps our authors busy.
So watch for their bylines to pop up as they blog about what's happening with our books as they release into the world.
Posted by Cindy Bunch at 12:26 PM
February 4, 2008
Pulling back the curtain is, generally speaking, a worthwhile effort. Everybody benefits--the curtain-puller is more fully known and better understood, the audience is better informed and more fully engaged. I get it. I do.
But sometimes pulling back the curtain is entirely inappropriate--pulling back the shower curtain, for example, benefits no one. And regardless of whether the drawn curtain is revealing something good and insightful or something unsightly and humiliating, nobody involved will ever be the same.
I've pulled back the curtain twice this week, once with an editorial intern and once with an IVP author. And in both cases I've revealed the final frontier of full disclosure: I've put on display the Editor as Ignoramus.
The nice thing about an IVP editorial internship is that you get to see the entire publishing process from the inside--participation in a variety of meetings at every point in the process, occasional field trips to printing presses, editing and copywriting projects, everything from soup to nuts. (I think I'm using that correctly.) The problem with an IVP editorial internship is that someone needs to be prepared to guide the intern through the publishing process, and that person is typically me. And I only occasionally know what I'm talking about.
This week, midway through our debriefing about a particularly complex interdepartmental meeting, I realized that I was effectively making up my responses to our intern's questions. In my defense, this was informed improvisation; I've been around the IVP block a few times, so I have a good general understanding of how things work around here. Nevertheless, I felt compelled by my sense of intellectual honesty to tell her that I was, in fact, making up my comments as I went along. Fortunately, a few of my colleagues were within earshot and came to bail me out--not to mention rescuing my hapless victim from slipping into the rather dubious role of Intern as Ignoramus.
My other display of mediocrity this week is the real dual purpose of this post--to confess my ignorance and to accommodate a request in the only way I know how. L. L. Barkat, who very graciously covered for a recent spate of writer's block here at Behind the Books, generated more comments than is common for our site with her post about the writer's muse. Along the way she decided to direct readers to the site of fellow IVP author Ed Gilbreath. She didn't know how to do that using our blogging software, so she asked me to fix the link.
Well, L. L., the thing is, ummm . . . I don't know how to do that. Because when you get right down to it, I'm an ignoramus.
I do, however, know how to include a link in the main body of a blog post, hence today's post. I also, apparently, know how to ramble on incessantly about nothing of great import, hence the length of today's post. But in the grand scheme of things, I think, this was bound to happen at Behind the Books: the curtain has been pulled back as far as it will go, and there stands the editor, fully disclosed, warts and all on display. Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
July 20, 2007
Life is growth, right? InterVarsity Press is growing in all sorts of ways, and along the way we're experiencing some growing pains. In the past year we've added over thirteen thousand square feet of storage space, and now we're busy trying to fill it.
Filling new spaces involves making a lot of noise and disrupting a lot of normal procedures. Yesterday the metal shelving that formerly housed our editorial archives and files were dismantled so that they could be re-assembled in the expanded distribution center. That meant that the normally churchmousy editorial department sounded for a day like a kindergarten drum corps rehearsal. Meanwhile the page layout specialists--formerly known as typesetters--have been temporarily relocated from their offices (a large, open, windowed four-workstation palace, really) to the teeny-weeny windowless library, where we typically banish our teeny-weeny undergraduate interns one at a time, and where most of us would go only begrudgingly, say, during a tornado or some other apocalyptic event. Today we were put on notice that any coffee mugs we've left in the kitchen are now homeless, so that the construction crews can tear down one wall and put up another.
But the inconvenience of these growing pains, in another sense, is evidence that we are indeed growing. On the far side of this project we'll have more efficient systems for distributing our books, more space for special meetings, more workstations for new employees, more shelves for more books. In the end we'll even have room for more coffee cups and, more important, more coffee.
In the meantime please forgive us if we ask you to speak up when we talk on the phone; drum corps practice resumes any minute now.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:54 AM
June 8, 2007
Dieter Roelstraete, in issue 12 of the journal Dot Dot Dot, extends Martin Heidegger's description of books as "letters to friends":
Anyone who has ever "made" a book will immediately grasp the depth of feeling communicated in this admittedly romantic view of the book publishing business. No matter how strained the relationship between writer, editor, translator, designer, publisher, printer and book-seller can become, there is no denying the intimacy that is engendered by poring over the book as a labor of love that has required the "befriending," however formal and economically dictated, of so many different parties. By their very nature, books are collaborative efforts in a cultural space that continues to be dominated by individualism, conflated egos, and conflicts of solitary interests.
I should say lest you think Is Dave taking a class or something? that I didn't find this quotation by myself, nor did I deduce by myself that Heidegger (whoever that is) had anything to do with it. No, this quotation was forwarded to me by my colleague Matt Smith, a designer here at InterVarsity Press. It's a nice lived example of how things work around here, and how things in publishing work in general: insights come from all corners and contribute to the final product. And though there are days when the corners inhabited by designers, marketers, editors and authors seem like the four corners of a boxing ring, on our best days we all kiss and make up something uniquely collaborative, truly insightful, a conversation really worth joining.
Guess I'm feeling sappy today. I heart InterVarsity Press.
May 11, 2007
A few months ago an industry friend e-mailed me and asked if I knew how many new Christian books are published each year. I wasn't sure. I know that overall, in terms of total new English language books published in North America, the number has ballooned from about 55,000 a year when I started in publishing in the mid-90s to 178,000 (as of 2005) or perhaps even over 200,000 now. The growth is largely a result of print-on-demand technologies and self-publishing vehicles being much more available. And something like 70,000 new publishers have cropped up in the last few years. Some of those are things like alumni associations publishing a book of alumni reflections, but even so, there are a lot more independent small publishers now. I have also heard a figure of something like 8,000 or 9,000 new religion titles published each year, the vast majority of which are Christian, but I haven't been able to nail that down.
Well, in an article in Publishers Weekly, I finally saw some concrete numbers. PW quotes Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, as saying that ECPA publishers published about 7,500 new books in 2005, but that number has declined to about 5,900 new titles in 2006. "Most of our publishers are trying to figure out how to get more out of fewer books," he said.
Whatever the number, the sheer quantities are still staggering. That's a lot of books fighting for shelf space and media attention. IVP publishes about 100 books a year, not including paperback editions of previously released hardcovers or other reprints. That's less than 2% of all the new Christian titles each year. I'm personally responsible for the acquisition, development and publication of about 12 to 15 of IVP's titles each year. It's humbling to think about how much work goes into the publishing of a book, and then to realize that that book is barely a drop in the ocean.
The same issue of PW quotes an author who says that if authors are feeling cocky and self-important about their work, all you have to do is go to a bookstore - "Tolstoy could go into a bookstore and say, 'Wow, nobody needs War and Peace; there's plenty of stuff to read!' If the bookstore doesn't depress you, go to BEA [BookExpo America, the annual trade show for the American bookselling industry]: it'll be very clear how unimportant your work is."
Despite the numbers, what keeps us going and keeps us publishing is that our books seem to be making contributions that people find helpful. I get a kick out of searching for our book titles on Blogger and seeing who's reading our books. We know that folks have infinite options for their discretionary time these days, not just the multitudes of books but all forms of entertainment media, so we are honored when people choose to spend time with our books. We try hard to make them worth your while, and we hope that they're helpful to you.
April 30, 2007
I knew I would love IVP editorial director Andy Le Peau like my own dear old dad when I learned that, while I was frittering away my life in the first grade, he was writing an ongoing column for His magazine about "bubbles"--not in the strict, literal sense of the word but as a sort of linguistic exercise. Andy would take a word that ended in able or ible and conflate it with the word bubble. Then he would define the new term. So, for example, the word contemptible would become contemptibubble, and take on the definition "a bubble filled not with air but with hate." The whole concept was, in a word, incredibubble.
As this blog has taken shape, we could very easily revive the bubble game Andy pioneered in days of yore. The question "What is blogable?" has occupied more real estate in our editorial brains lately than is probabubbly appropriate. "Should this blog include jokes?" we've asked. "Should we share with our readers the funny mixed metaphors we run across?" "Should we bare our souls in front of all of our publishing audience?" "Should we edit one another?" "Should we publicly critique one another's posts?" "What, fundamentally, is the point of going Behind the Books?
This internal dilemma plays out to a soundtrack of a ticking clock. We need to continually feed this blogging enterprise with new posts, to keep it interesting both for us and for both of our readers. Editors may never get editor's block--ask our opinion on anything and we'll be quick to give it--but we're as vulnerable to writer's block as anybody. So the pressure is on to individually keep coming up with new ideas that all of us agree are, in a word, blogabubble.
Phillip Johnson, author of several IVP books including Reason in the Balance, once commented on the ongoing rivalry between evolution and intelligent design as legitimate subjects for public education. His advice: "Why not teach the controversy?" He recognized that the value of observing two ideas interacting with one another (like stubble and bubble) is similar to the value of knowing intimately one idea or the other. Evolution as a theory of origins has its intellectual merits; so does intelligent design. Each also has its vulnerabilities. And the exposure of one to another itself yields valuable insights into our understanding of the world and our other intellectual pursuits.
To borrow the concept, it strikes me that the internal dilemma of how to define and grow an editorial blog is exactly the type of question that characterizes any editorial enterprise and, coincidentally enough, the type of question that often characterizes a good, thoughtful blog posting. It makes a certain amount of poetic sense, then, that a bunch of editors would invest as much time and energy as we have into figuring out precisely what they should say, and how they should say it. Any other process would be, in a word, inconceivabubble.
April 11, 2007
We actually get a lot of work done here at IVP. We publish about 100 new books a year that are sold and read all over the world.
Getting so much done might surprise you--especially if you ever hung out in the editorial hallway for any period of time. Editors frequently bounce out of their offices with interesting proposals to discuss, responses to the latest bit of publishing news, observations about the latest evangelical controversy or just a good joke. When we are feeling more introverted we will email to one another an interesting article, website or bit of news about one of our authors.
We find this interaction very stimulating, helpful to our work and just plain fun. Editors are a curiosity in the eyes of many. Some people envy the work we do—we are, after all, getting paid to read—while other people shudder at the thought. At the heart of it, we're a bunch of people who love good books and great ideas. Sometimes the things we encounter in our reading are so interesting that we have to share it with someone, so we wander out into the hallway, looking for a conversation partner. That's essentially what we're doing with this blog: wandering out of our offices, into your hallways, looking for a good conversation. Why not share all this good stuff with others? we thought. And so Behind the Books was born.
What will you find in this blog? Some of it will be like bonus features on a DVD, with behind-the-scenes stories, commentary and outtakes relating to IVP Books. Some of it will be whatever catches our fancy here in IVP's editorial hallway—a thought-provoking snippet from a forthcoming book, a link to an interesting article, observations on a current trend. We might weigh in on what’s going on in publishing, pass along IVP news or pose a question we're mulling over.
Whatever the case, we hope these blog posts will be of interest to those who are interested in the making, reading and pondering of books.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:55 AM