“Penguins,” My “Blasphemous” Christian Book, Finally Returns Home

The story of my first book, “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do, by God” (as told to John Shore),  is so unbelievable that you’d swear I made it up. It involves, for instance:

A Christian agent stealing the idea for the book, giving it to a more established Christian author, and that author—knowing the book’s origins—gladly running with the idea (and ultimately using it to create a truly awful book published and heavily promoted by a huge Christian publisher who was only too happy to substitute it for my book, which they had been considering publishing, but were hesitant about since I wasn’t a known author).

Christian publishers reading the manuscript, declaring that no Christian publisher would ever publish a book written in the voice of God (and also that it was, as one leading Christian publishing executive wrote to tell me, “sheer blasphemy” to suggest that God has a sense of humor)—and then rushing to print books by name-authors, written in the voice of God.

My learning just how true it is that publishers prefer an author with a recognizable name. (And also that many in the Christian publishing industry aren’t, to say the least, exactly burdened by the sort of ethical constraints one would hope they would be—a lesson that I’m sad to say in the years between then and now has been too often reinforced.)

The book being picked up for representation by Deborah Schneider, of Gelfman Schneider, one of the most successful and respected “mainstream” literary agents in the world.

The heads of the largest American publishing houses all responding to the manuscript in the exact same way, which is, “We personally love this book, and would love to publish it. But we can’t, because: A. We have no idea how to market to Christians, and B. We’re afraid this book might anger Christians—and no publisher wants that kind of headache.”

How I—the tireless and imminently honorable Deborah having done virtually all she could—ended up selling the book to its publisher (for more money than they’d ever paid for a book in their 100-plus year history).

How the newly-hired, Big Deal Christian Book Marketing woman who acquired my book for its publisher quit the publisher three weeks later.

How its publisher so mishandled the book (that was their lead title for its season) that … well, for instance, when I received in the mail the large envelope from the publisher that was supposed to contain the book’s pre-press publicity materials, what I found inside was actual garbage: expired coupons, balled up newspapers, broken CD covers, a smashed styrofoam cup, etc.

And that’s just some of the stuff that I can tell you.

But the big news—the massively good and big news to me and my wife—is that, as of yesterday, I once again own the rights to this book! After literally years of trying to get it back, I finally own my book again! I now have in my garage the 1,500 remaining copies of Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang, and hold in my hands a contract that reverts all rights to Penguins from the publisher back to me.

Ahhhh. Feel the joy.

One day this book is going to make me a ridiculous amount of money. (Which is hardly why I wrote it; but there it is.) I know it like I know my name. And now I’m back in control of that.

First I brought back all rights and the remaining copies to I’m OK–You’re Not, and now I’ve done the same with Penguins.

Oh, but yayeth.

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  • Congratulations! That's great.

    As for God's sense of humor … oh, come on! Have they seen the platypus? Giraffe? Zebra? The Pope's hat?

    God has an awesome sense of humor.

  • Thank you, Ken. The quote from the head of editorial at this major Christian publisher was something like, "While it's certainly a good and wonderful thing that humans possess a sense of humor, it is sheer blasphemy to assert that God possesses one." And then he asked if I wanted to ghostwrite three books for one of his big-name authors.

  • I love this book! My only regret is some of my money went to said publisher.

    Congrats, John.

  • Thank, Ric. As usual, you get it exactly. You've touched upon the very reason I've always been so … uninspired to write much if anything about "Penguins" here on my blog. It's hard to partner up with someone who's never really been a partner to you.

  • Claudia S

    I can't find this book anywhere in South Africa, no matter how I try. Now I understand – it's because anyone with any sense who has a copy wont part with it, and all the other copies are in your garage John!

    I'll keep a look out for it though, just in case. Or maybe I should start a fund to raise money for me to fly over to the awesome U S of A and get a copy from the source. Good idea, yes? No? Well, okay.

    Anyway, congratulations on finally getting custody (of your own book)!

  • Claudia: It'll soon be available as an e-book, probably on Scribd.com

  • Anna Rose

    But Scribd.com only sells to people in the US. I know, because I really wanted to buy "I'm OK – You're Not" and it wouldn't let me… 🙁

  • I smell a movie deal coming along.

    …just sayin.

    Hey! Think of it: The Lead "John Shore" could be played by Kirk Cameron.

    Oh, yayeth!

  • Kirk Cameron? OH NO YOU DINT!

    Bummer that you're going to have to spend all those eons in hell now. But I'm afraid God won't be able to see that joke any other way. What a drag for you.

  • Tim


    The part of John Shore would be better played by Andrew Koenig. More popularly known to TV's "Growing Pains" audience, as Richard 'Boner' Stabone.

    John, I'm fortunate enough to have read the copy of "Penguins" that you passed along to Jennie Gillespie (SDCWG) three or more years ago. And for that, I thank you. Thoroughly enjoyed every bit of your blasphemous irreverence. She said, "This guy John Shore is right up your alley". And what a strange alley that is.


  • Tim: You read "Penguins"? Cool. That makes SEVEN people I know who've read it. No, but that's cool to learn. Thanks for your kind words about it.

    I should do a book give-away on it. I've certainly got an extra copy or two lying about now ….

  • Kirk Cameron. haha. snort.

    I always think of the Ray-banana episode on this blog whenever I read or see Cameron.

  • Hey, John,

    Congratulations on getting back the rights to your books! That would have upset me so much! It's one of my fears, having my work stolen, especially when I love something I've written. I have two really good children's books that I am afraid of sending out there, for that very reason. One is a really original idea that I got from something a little boy said to me. The other one I've already queried and had a semi-self publisher bug me to death for over a year, lowering their price that I HAD TO PAY to $300. The only other responses I got were from publishers who no longer publish children's books…one said to send them anything else I had. I didn't know that letter was gold until I went to a Christian Writers' seminar, and by that time, I had thrown out the letter. I'm glad you wrote that post. I can see everyone goes through stuff…..like having your PC crash and losing a LOT of material. No, most of it wasn't backed up. You live and learn! Jerri

  • Latoya


  • Most of the publishers who claim to be Christian publishers, are not real Christians but cult. True Christians publishers cannot have trivial excuses in publishing Christian books that speaks about God. An Christian who truly fear God cannot publish Christian fiction books that contradict God's word of truth. They are not Christian at all, but cult or Christendom. This is an old crisis, that affected early true saints sufferring because they were there contradicting God's truth.

    These Christendom emerged for decades as result many good Christian books are declining because they are changing the Bible to suit their ego conscience. But they cannot overcome God's word of truth. Satan is judged to condemnation of hell! Publishers are only interested with prestigious names because they make money. Nothing else. They are not interested to change the behavior of individuals who need to hear the true word of God. They are dead. Jesus said; "Let the dead bury their own dead." [Matt 8: 22]: And so are the Christendom publishers are dead according to the scriptures.

  • Annnnnnd …. yet another reason to lock your doors at night.

  • Jeasue Christ is inevitable! If individuals and humanity are to progress, Jesus Christ is inescapable! You ignore Him at your own wicked Risk!

    "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you res: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will have rest for your souls! For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus said; [Matt. 11: 28-30]:

    You are too far from God: But you still hear him calling you: Those simple things that you once knew, the memories are drawing you back! You need to confess-repentance to the Lord that you ''ve been blessed, but yet your soul is never satisfied: Let God renew your faith, restore your joy-peace-mind, and dry your weeping eyes:

    Allow God to take you back to the place where you first believed in him: Jesus Christ is just to forgive your sin.

  • Okay, thank you. But stop now.

  • (So this fellow, Mr. Nkomo, just emailed me to ask him if I'd like to help him market his "narrative Christian books.")

  • Tim

    Wow! Just like church!

  • You know John, following threads on your blog is a lot like going to the carnival, which I obviously enjoy.