An Example of How My/Our Book “Being Christian” Was Edited

The very kind response I got to the excerpt I ran yesterday from “Being Christian,” the just-released book I co-authored with Steve Arterburn, moved me to want to run another (and more serious) excerpt from that book. So I found on my computer the finalized text of “Being Christian,” and began the business of cutting and pasting the excerpt from it that I thought I’d share.

In clearing that text of its MS Word formatting goblins (which is of course accomplished by first pasting it into Notepad to clean it, and then cutting and pasting it into WordPress), I lost some of its line breaks. So I opened my hardback copy of the book itself, so that I could be sure of where to properly insert those breaks.

And that’s when I discovered that after we had sent off what we understood to be the finalized text of “Being Christian” (rendered via back-and-forths with the book’s exceptionally talented editor, Christopher Soderstron), someone at the book’s publisher had decided to go ahead and further edit that text.

So here’s an example of what resulted. This passage now appears in the book as published:

 

“That we are saved not by works but by grace alone—the grace that comes through an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ—is central to the doctrine with which the German theologian Martin Luther profoundly challenged the Catholic Church and which ultimately resulted in the Protestant Reformation.

“Read the following carefully. It is the Great Reformer’s interpretation of the apostle Paul’s words, and it’s something all Protestants believe: …”

And here is how, the last we knew, that same passage was going to read:

 

“That we are saved not by works, but by grace alone—that is, by the grace that comes from having unshakable faith in Jesus Christ—was central to the doctrine with which the German monk and theologian Martin Luther lit afire the profound challenges to the Catholic Church that ultimately conflagrated into the Protestant Reformation. (“Protestant” as in, “protest”; “Reformation” as in “reform.” See? Luther protested! He wanted reform!)

“Read the following carefully. It was written in 1537 by The Great Reformer, and it’s something all Protestants believe. … ”

So you see the differences. Certainly nothing substantive was changed, and—what with them having paid for it, and all—the book does, after all, belong to its publisher, who is ultimately free to do with it as it pleases. (And of course it’s possible Steve okayed such last minute changes. He’s a busy guy; the book was on a schedule … just because I didn’t see this stuff doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t.)

I only mention this little bit of business because I thought it possible that those of my readers who are particularly interested in the Publishing Process might find it vaguely diverting.

 

Related/follow-up post: How To Survive as a Co-Author.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thank you very much for this very kind (and insightful) comment, Live. It is definitely, as you put it, a "subjective edit" (and actually has no bearing at all on reducing the cost of the book, thought that's a good thought). I appreciate everything you've said here. Excellent.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thank you very much for this very kind (and insightful) comment, Live. It is definitely, as you put it, a "subjective edit" (and actually has no bearing at all on reducing the cost of the book, thought that's a good thought). I appreciate everything you've said here. Excellent.

  • Live & Learn

    John, thanks for giving us a little window into the editing process. Thought-provoking.

    Some of the changes are not very controversial and fairly cosmetic — often saving words to cut back on pages and reduce the cost to print the book! But I do miss certain details that were cut — the date (good historical context), and especially this aside:

    (“Protestant” as in, “protest”; “Reformation” as in “reform.” See? Luther protested! He wanted reform!)

    That is such a subjective edit. It’s not a Chicago Manual of Style issue. It cuts deeply into content and writing style, and it prunes away an important example of why you were a co-writer on the book.

    So much of writing today fits the “I’ve heard it before” category, so it’s crucial to find a new way to say something that has become familiar. You did that. They cut it.

    Even so, no writer’s words are sacred (except God’s :-). And I’m sure much of your writing style is still on parade in those pages, and I look forward to joining the crowd to check it out!

  • Live & Learn

    John, thanks for giving us a little window into the editing process. Thought-provoking.

    Some of the changes are not very controversial and fairly cosmetic — often saving words to cut back on pages and reduce the cost to print the book! But I do miss certain details that were cut — the date (good historical context), and especially this aside:

    (“Protestant” as in, “protest”; “Reformation” as in “reform.” See? Luther protested! He wanted reform!)

    That is such a subjective edit. It’s not a Chicago Manual of Style issue. It cuts deeply into content and writing style, and it prunes away an important example of why you were a co-writer on the book.

    So much of writing today fits the “I’ve heard it before” category, so it’s crucial to find a new way to say something that has become familiar. You did that. They cut it.

    Even so, no writer’s words are sacred (except God’s :-). And I’m sure much of your writing style is still on parade in those pages, and I look forward to joining the crowd to check it out!

  • Tim

    I thought the process of editing was to reduce the wordiness. Not add to it.

  • Tim

    I thought the process of editing was to reduce the wordiness. Not add to it.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    The purpose of editing is to make the final text better, period. Sometimes that means less words, sometimes more.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    The purpose of editing is to make the final text better, period. Sometimes that means less words, sometimes more.

  • http://willentrekin.com Will Entrekin

    Didn't you get proofs to read over? Galleys and such? I've never heard of a publisher making such drastic changes without both the knowledge and the permission of the author.

    With whom did you publish?

  • http://willentrekin.com Will Entrekin

    Didn't you get proofs to read over? Galleys and such? I've never heard of a publisher making such drastic changes without both the knowledge and the permission of the author.

    With whom did you publish?

  • crystal17a

    Thank You for the warning. I am new to your sight, but want to look it over more.

  • crystal17a

    Thank You for the warning. I am new to your sight, but want to look it over more.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Will: The books I'm writing with Arterburn are with Bethany House.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Will: The books I'm writing with Arterburn are with Bethany House.

  • http://naturalgardenllc.com William

    John, regarding your book passage “That we are saved not by works but by grace alone—the grace that comes through an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.." Don't forget James 2:20 and 26. Thanks for all your hard work.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, William. Yes, actually, in the book itself I do, in fact, quote James 2:26. (The bit I excerpted above was part of our answer to the question, "What does 'saved by grace' mean?" Perhaps I'll run the whole answer. But, yes, within it I do, in fact, present James, as you've understood it'd be wise to do.)

  • http://holidaylonging.wordpress.com Longing for Holiday

    That is interesting.

    Make sure that your editors get all the typos out. Or someone like me with time to spare (NOT) will find them!! LOL

  • http://holidaylonging.wordpress.com Longing for Holiday

    That is interesting.

    Make sure that your editors get all the typos out. Or someone like me with time to spare (NOT) will find them!! LOL

  • FreetoBe

    That is a BIG change they made–took the personality right out of the writing.

  • FreetoBe

    That is a BIG change they made–took the personality right out of the writing.

  • http://willentrekin.com Will Entrekin

    And they didn't send you galleys? I'm surprised. Bethany House appears to be a rather major Christian publisher.

    When I worked at a publisher, as an editor, any such drastic change as you noted required author's permission.

    Did your co-author approve the proofs, or something?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X