March 27, 2013
We had a real treat last week: an in-person visit from Andy Crouch, the energetic and insightful executive editor of Christianity Today magazine. He's following up his 2008 IVP title, Culture Making, with a new book coming out this fall entitled Playing God. He was at the Press to lay some of his thinking on us, and it was great. Would you like to listen in?Continue reading "[Video] Andy Crouch on Institutionalism"
January 17, 2013
Posted by Jon Boyd at 9:43 AM
December 5, 2012
While I'm still introducing myself, let me say a word about IVP, the organization I work for. That's short for "InterVarsity Press," and since I don't want you to become confused, a little cheat-sheet of things that IVP does not stand for might be helpful.Continue reading "IVP ≠"
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"
September 4, 2009
Several loyal readers have asked us recently if we offer digital versions of our books.
Our answers are “Yes” and “Almost.”
First, the “Yes”
Already there are more than 200 InterVarsity Press books available for Amazon.com’s Kindle. You can visit the Kindle store and search for “InterVarsity Press” to see their listing. Or you can download our list as either a PDF or an XLS document. To pique your interest, here are the top 10 IVP downloads for the Kindle since January 2009:Continue reading "Yes, We Do Have Books for Your Kindle!"
April 15, 2009
One of the necessary parts of the publishing process is soliciting endorsements for new books. Sometimes authors do it directly, and other times the publisher approaches potential endorsers on their behalf. There’s never-ending debate on whether or not endorsements ultimately make much of a difference, but I am often excited by what endorsers say about our books.
Here are a couple cases in point, for two books assessing the state of the evangelical church in North America. Soong-Chan Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism recently came in from the printer. Just as we were finalizing the cover copy, we got this endorsement:
“One of the most important changes now going on in American—and indeed world—religion is the profound transformation of evangelicalism, a movement which encompasses hundreds of millions of people. This book is the best and most balanced treatment of the subject now available. It is well researched, clearly written and comprehensive.” —Harvey Cox, Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard University, and author of When Jesus Came to Harvard
Pretty high praise, from someone who doesn’t often blurb books from evangelical publishers. I literally said “Stop the presses!” and made room on the back cover for Cox’s blurb.
The title The Next Evangelicalism is obviously a nod to Philip Jenkins’s landmark The Next Christendom, so we were happy when Jenkins said of Rah’s book, “Soong-Chan Rah explores the impact of ethnic and geographic shifts on the present and future state of evangelicalism. He gives us fair warning that parts of his heartfelt book are ‘intended to provoke,’ and they will. But that doesn’t stop his book from being timely, thoughtful and very rewarding.”
And we’re getting some very positive early blurbs for Jim Belcher’s forthcoming Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. Jim is in a unique location as having been around during the early “Gen X” ministry days of the mid-90s that eventually morphed into what is now called the emerging church. Since then he has gone on to plant and pastor a Reformed PCA church. Can you be both emerging and traditional? Jim goes beyond both worlds and goes deep. Jim’s book is getting praise from all sides as a constructive proposal for the future of the church:
“Jim Belcher shows that we don’t have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book.” —Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
“Deep Church is a narrative of one man’s journey of spiritual discovery involving at core a search for a place to stand. Whether you can fully agree with Jim’s findings or not, you will find this book to be an accessible, well-articulated, deeply personal and (thankfully) theologically irenic apologetic for the emerging church.” —Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, and founder of Forge Mission Training Network and Shapevine.com
“Working out his ideas in the crucible of pastoral ministry, Jim Belcher proposes fascinating new ways to arbitrate today’s disputes by appealing to the Great Tradition. Read it and learn how your church can go deeper.” —Collin Hansen, editor-at-large, Christianity Today, and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists
“Deep Church is the book we need—it’s a genuine third way. Jim Belcher is poised like no other to evaluate the emerging movement: he knows theology, he loves the church, he cares about twentysomethings, he knows the entire emerging movement, and he remains faithful to theological orthodoxy. Most of all, Deep Church avoids the clamor for extremes. There are only two or three really good books about the emerging movement, and this is the best analysis I’ve seen.” —Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University
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.
February 25, 2009
Some of our books have been turned into movies! Well, not really, but we’ve created videos to profile a number of our books. They’re all viewable from our website, but many of them are also available on YouTube. Here’s the top ten, according to the number of times they’ve been viewed on that site as of this morning. Check them out to get a feel for the books and their authors.
There are plenty others, along with videos related to the books but not posted by us, including James Choung’s two-part video describing his True Story. So if you find yourself thinking, I wonder what Love Is an Orientation author Andrew Marin’s voice sounds like, truck on over to YouTube and wonder no more.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:27 AM
January 28, 2009
I am happy to report that two of Christianity Today’s 2009 book awards went to IVP books: Andy Crouch’s Culture Making in the Christianity and Culture category, and Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice’s Reconciling All Things in the Christian Living category. Here’s what their judges said:
On Reconciling All Things: “I love this book for its range, the weave of the two writers’ voices, its deep appreciation of process, and its combination of spiritual groundedness, accessibility, and ecclesial, psychological, and political awareness. It retrieves the term reconciliation from the buzzword bin, and offers hope and direction at the same time.”
On Culture Making: “An astonishing work that moves from sociological analysis to biblical theology (in story form) to their practical implications. Crouch’s main contribution is to show how Christians can and should do cultural analysis but not stop there: They should proceed boldly and deliberately to creating culture itself. This is a book for the whole church.”
In addition, our Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings edited by Tremper Longman and Peter Enns received an award of merit in the Biblical Studies category. This book has also been named a finalist for the upcoming 2009 Christian Book Awards in the Bible Reference & Study category, and Gary Haugen’s Just Courage is a finalist in the Christian Life category.
January 22, 2009
“That sounds like a good article.” That’s how a colleague responded recently to my excited presentation of a book proposal. Ouch.
What determines whether an idea would work better as a book or an article? When a friend asked me recently if I had anything that helps a writer determine the answer to that question, I had to admit I couldn’t really say. I asked around, and in fact none of us remembers seeing anything authoritative on the subject. So I thought I’d make something up.
1. Audience, audience, audience. Are there enough people out there who would drop $15-20 and a couple of weeks’ worth of reading time to digest the idea under consideration? “Enough” is a difficult threshold to measure, of course, but here’s a proto-filter:
Readers (as opposed to non-readers)
For example, many people read, but only a percentage of those reading people are Buddhists, and only a percentage of those Buddhists who read give a portion of their reading time to books. Not all Buddhist book readers read books about Buddhism, but undoubtedly some do. Only a few, however, would feel compelled to purchase and read a high-end theological critique of Buddhism from an evangelical Christian perspective. And finally, some of those Buddhist devotees of high-end theological Christian critiques of Buddhism have taken vows of poverty that preclude their spending money on books.
I am undoubtedly missing some layers in my filter, and in the case of my example there may well be a sufficient alternative audience outside of Buddhists (scholars of world religions, for example), but you get the idea. Books are significantly more expensive than articles, and so to earn their keep they depend on a highly committed audience. Is there enough demand to warrant the supply?
So the first category distinction between what constitutes a book and what constitutes an article is the question of adequate audience. The second is like it.
2. Content, content, content. In terms of pure word count, a short book is generally ten to twenty times the length of an average article. So, put simply, does the author have ten to twenty articles’ worth of ideas about the topic under consideration? Are those ideas distinct enough from each other to avoid redundancy when stuck together? Are they integrated enough that they make sense bound together into a book?
Another way of looking at this is by looking at the skeleton of your idea. How many sections does your thesis break out into? If you can’t subdivide it into more than two or three ideas, then perhaps before long you’d run out of steam writing it. If you subdivide into seven to ten “chapters” but can’t imagine yourself writing more than a few paragraphs about any of those subcategories, then maybe this idea can’t sustain a booklength treatment.
Now, just because an idea doesn’t yield a book’s worth of content doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea; it may well be a great idea. A more prudent editor might leave it to a periodical publisher to comment on the positive case for an article, but I’m not especially prudent. Therefore let me offer these preliminary thoughts.
“That sounds like a good article” is the kiss of death on a book proposal, but it’s exactly what you want to hear from a periodical publisher. In either case, there’s a lot of work—both introspection and research—that precedes it, and a lot of work—writing and rewriting and supporting and promoting—that follows it. So whatever distinctions there are between articles and books, neither one can be said to be easier. Whatever publishing direction you choose to take an idea, you need to know who you are, what you have to say, and who you’re dealing with.
August 1, 2008
Kevin O'Brien, director of Bibles and reference for Tyndale, has a great blog post about the decision processes involved in Christian publishing. In his case, for Bibles, "I often not only ask myself whether or not we at Tyndale can produce a Bible but also whether or not we should produce that same Bible." He gives an example of a wide-margin, single-column Bible. It's something that people have requested and has ministry value, but it faced challenges:
The problem is that the economics on a project like this have made it very difficult to create. The Notemaker's Bible in the first edition of the NLT was exactly the kind of product that we are talking about. It was developed before I came to Tyndale, but from all the reviews I have seen, the team's efforts to get it right paid off. But there was a problem. Big one. It sat on store shelves. And sat. To be fair there could be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe our price was wrong, maybe the cover or the title were just a bit off. Maybe the timing was just wrong. I'm honestly not sure.
The issue here is not one of whether or not the product is worthy, but whether or not it's viable. There's a lot that goes into the creation of a Bible. Things like the time and money invested in design, typesetting, proofreading, manufacturing, warehousing, freight (and yes that one keeps going up), how long the print run will be, which market segment is likely to stock that kind of a Bible, what the returns rate and average discount that channel receives and a whole lot of other issues as well, things like whether or not "the market" will support the product (i.e., is there a sufficient demand).
It's a complex business to publish a Bible with a lot of variables and a lot of difficult decisions to be made. Print runs are a great example. Increase the print run and the cost of goods per unit goes down. This means it's easier for us to be competitive in retail and sale pricing. It's also a huge risk because you can sit on a lot of inventory for a long time if the product doesn't work. And those are dollars that you can't put into other projects. Which means that not only does the business potentially suffer, but so does ministry because opportunities may not be able to be pursued.
We face the same kinds of questions and challenges in IVP's publishing program. We turn down lots of perfectly good book proposals because for whatever reason, they are not likely to be financially viable, and thus it wouldn't be good stewardship of our time and resources to publish them. We often pass on a proposal because it overlaps too much with other books already on the market. For example, there are thousands of general books on prayer, or basic introductions to apologetics, or books on leadership. Unless the author has an amazingly new and fresh angle or a significant high-profile platform, the book is likely to get lost in the mix.
It's not merely a matter of whether a book makes a significant contribution to its field. It's also whether the book is likely to find enough readers to be economically viable. These days both the editorial content and the marketing potential are key components of the equation. IVP's bias is generally still to emphasize editorial content, because if a book has great content but weak marketing possibilities, we can usually work on improving the marketability. But if a book has great marketability but weak content, there's comparatively less we can do to make the editorial content stronger. It's easier to tell a potential author, "Work on your platform," than it is to say, "Write a better book! Get better ideas!"
(Of course, many publishers and authors enlist ghostwriters and book doctors for exactly this reason - an author might be prominent and likely to sell books, but can't write worth a darn or has nothing new to say. So ghosters collaborate with the personality to make a salable book. But that's generally not the kind of publishing IVP does.)
At any rate, what makes for the best book is when all the publishing stars align. You have the right author writing on the right topic, aligned with the right publisher that can find the right intended audience. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, we rejoice.
June 6, 2008
The June 2 issue of Publishers Weekly reports that the number of new books has shot up to over 400,000 a year, but a quarter of these, well over 100,000 of them, are print-on-demand titles, most of which are self-published. The stats:
And if you look at religion books in particular, it's grown from 12,253 new religion titles in 2002 to 18,956 in 2007. (Perhaps 6000 or so of these are from specifically evangelical Christian publishers.) No wonder none of us can keep up with all the new books out there.
The same issue of PW also reports the following on what influences people's book purchases:
60% are swayed by recommendations by friends or family
Also, 43% of people go into bookstores looking for a specific book, and 77% make additional purchases while looking for a specific book.
This is interesting to me because I've been wondering how many people care about endorsements. I can only think of one instance when I've bought a book because of an endorsement on the back (a blurb by Anne Lamott on the book Expecting Adam by Martha Beck). But I've picked up countless books because I saw them mentioned on people's blogs (which could count as either friends' recommendations or reviews). What makes you buy a book? Do blurbs matter?
April 1, 2008
One of the biggest limitations about publishing print books these days is how quickly material gets out of date. We labor for months or years to publish a book, and soon after it comes back from the printer, something happens that makes us wish we could reprint. We notice embarrassing typos. Significant developments occur in a theological debate or cultural issue, or an important new book needs to be added to a bibliography. We can make corrections at the next printing, but that could be months after the initial release. We occasionally do revised and new editions of our books, but those often don't happen until years after publication.
Well, thanks to new technology, a remedy is in the works. We are pleased to announce that we will soon be launching IVP's own Wiki-books, using a program platform similar to that which powers Wikipedia. These are not replacing our print books, but are online, open-source versions of selected titles. That way we have immediate flexibility to change the text, whether something in the main content, or to update a bibliographic reference or biographical information. Typos can be corrected immediately. If an author has second thoughts about a statement or a change of heart on a position, things can be revised right away.
And we benefit from our readers' collective wisdom and expertise as well. Sometimes we get letters from our readers telling us that they noticed that a citation was incorrect, or that a reference to Bultmann really should have been Moltmann. Well, with the new wiki-editions, readers can make those changes directly themselves.
For certain volumes, like our reference books, wiki-editions create the opportunity to fill in gaps in our print books. For example, our Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters or Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals certainly couldn't include every imaginable commentator or evangelical notable. The books are hefty enough as they are! But with unlimited online page count, we are able to add neglected personalities that otherwise wouldn't get covered. If readers think we overlooked someone, they can insert their own entries, whether of still-living thinkers like N. T. Wright or obscure geniuses like Franz Bibfeldt.
Some might object that all this will dilute the authoritativeness of our books. On the contrary, we trust that the wisdom of crowds and the self-correcting nature of wiki-technology will provide the peer review and accountability needed to weed out theological error. No single author is an expert in everything, and by opening up our books to open-source contribution, we benefit from scholarship and perspectives from around the world.
If you're worried about losing authorial intent, the technology has a "track changes" function that allows you to revert to the original edition to compare differences and even see the entire history of addenda and revision. This provides the additional benefit of seeing the development of content, how an argument was edited or a paragraph shifted one way or another.
Will all this be monitored? Well, it may be next to impossible for us to police every single change, but editors, interns or other staff will periodically review global changes. In fact, improvements may loop back to the print book. If readers make significant enough changes (and have sufficient peer review, by way of reader ratings), we may well introduce the new material into the print editions of our books. Imagine a four-views book that neglects a key position. An online commenter could provide a fifth view, and we might decide to publish it in the next print edition of the book.
These online wiki-editions will have virtually unlimited room for bonus material that didn't fit in print, whether extra chapters, or in the case of conference collections, additional papers, responses or panel discussion transcripts. Wiki-books also provide something readers have been asking for for years - customization. Other publishers are already selling books a chapter at a time. Professors often assign selected chapters or articles for coursepacks. If students don't want to purchase the whole book, they can get access to only the needed material. If you want just the Reformed commentators, or the Lutherans or the Baptists, you can set the parameters so your desktop edition provides exactly the version and content you need.
We're not unaware of the potential for abuse. In beta testing, we asked the authors of our four-views book The Nature of the Atonement if they wanted to add any additional response or rebuttal to their counterparts' comments. Tom Schreiner took the opportunity to cut out several key paragraphs from Greg Boyd's response to penal substitution. Boyd retaliated by deleting whole sections of Schreiner's chapter and declared that Christus Victor had triumphed over the powers and principalities. We're still exploring how best to prevent abuse; the software will alert administrators if it appears that someone is taking advantage of the system, if, for instance, someone does a global search and replace to swap "God" out for "Bob." At a minimum, all reader/contributors are required to register and log in.
All of this is a natural development in the evolution of books and technology. CD-ROMs of our reference books and commentaries introduced convenient searchability to our texts. Wiki-books take things a step further, adding reader interaction and leveling the playing field so all can dialogue with authors' content, shape books and participate in the exchange of ideas. So look for our online wiki-book store, coming soon! We look forward to your participation.
March 11, 2008
Some authors bite their nails. Others tap their feet. Some e-mail their editor incessantly. All eagerly await the arrival of their book, their baby, from the printer—or stork, if you’d like to extend the analogy.
Here’s a little secret: editors are doing the same thing at the same time. While there’s never a shortage of books and proposals vying for an editor’s attention, and while each book is thus one job among many, each book is also one of the many babies we’ve helped to deliver.
The emotional investment isn’t anywhere near that of the author, of course, but it’s significant nonetheless. So I often find myself, in the week leading up to a book’s anticipated delivery date, anticipating its delivery—loitering around the shipping/receiving bay, sneaking peeks inside the production manager’s in-box, even sometimes e-mailing my poor friend Taryn incessantly, asking if she’s heard news of when the book will arrive.
Such is the midwifery of editing as a profession. But there’s one other parallel: my work on a book, like a midwife’s on a baby, is effectively finished when it’s safely delivered.
From that point on in the publishing process, the author works primarily with the sales and marketing department to sell and market the book. In this analogy, if the editor is a midwife, the sales/marketing folk are the nannies. They attend to the book’s needs and, with the author, look after its best interests. They’re eager to see the book flourish (we lovingly refer to a book’s point person in sales/marketing as its “champion”), and they do what they can to help it along the way. But in a similar way to the editor, their investment is nowhere near that of the author.
In publishing, especially publishing in a long-tail environment, each book is a never-ending story bound only by its own inherent limitations, the limitations of a finite publishing program and the limitations of its story-teller and greatest advocate.
A book’s inherent limitations may involve time-bound illustrations or a very tightly focused argument or audience, but they’re generally recognized by the author and publisher going in. Also inherently obvious are the limitations of the publisher, who (in our case) has ninety other new babies to dress and feed and burp every year, and some twelve hundred older children who need attention of a different sort.
That leaves the book’s author, who like a parent has his or her own life to live but is also intimately invested in the growth and prospering of this little offspring. So publisher and book alike rely on the author to "parent" the book--to attend to the lion’s share of its promotion and even a fair bit of its sales. If you’re an author or even a would-be author, this fact perhaps more than any other should guide your approach to publication.
Your book will have inherent strengths and, yes, inherent weaknesses; so will your publisher, I daresay. So will you, of course, but you knew that going in and decided to birth a book anyway. So regardless of how exciting and gratifying the birth of a book is, for you the author it’s not the end: it’s the beginning.
Laura Barkat is about to birth her first book, Stone Crossings. I suppose you could say she’s been nesting—making space in her life for the responsibility of bearing a book. Some of her creative ideas include a book wiki, a book club blog and a media/blogger toolkit. If thinking beyond the ecstasy of writing for publication to the responsibilities of “parenting” a real, live book gives you the willies, you could do worse than turn to Laura as a mentor. And keep in mind that despite all the caveats listed above, you're not alone: an anxious editor and a champion marketer are right there with you, tapping their feet and biting their nails.
February 27, 2008
Al Hsu's first Christianity Today 'Kingdom Sightings" column is in the February 2008 issue and is now available online. I found it to be very moving, so I thought you might like to read it as well.
My vision has never been good. I've worn eyeglasses since second grade and contact lenses since high school. Once during a Little League game, a line drive smacked me right on the nose, splitting my glasses' plastic frames neatly in half. My vision was so bad that at optometrists' exams, the only letter I could see on the eye chart was the big E—and then only because I knew it was an E.
Here's a link to the rest of the essay.
February 11, 2008
Check out what our esteemed boss is posting over at his blog:
It's hard for authors to believe that a publisher might be doing them a favor by not publishing their book. But sometimes that is the case.
Read the whole thing here. And for all those authors we've recently rejected, umm, you're welcome?
February 4, 2008
I've written before about why authors expect (not unreasonably) that it should not take too long to get a revised manuscript typeset and printed.
Rachel Donadio offers another look at the same topic here, explaining that while technology can make things fast, people, geography, planning and distribution can still take a long time.
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM