This morning I received an email from mega-huge Christian book publisher Zondervan (a division of HarperCollins), asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their new book, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry: A Christlike Response to Homosexuality.
Actually, they were wondering if I’d like to review a chapter of the book. From their email:
Read the entire book by the time of the blog tour (January 10-17, 2011), and let us know as soon as you’ve read it, so that we can assign you one chapter. … You will then post a brief review of that chapter (your comments and perspective can also refer to the book as a whole) on your blog during the blog tour week (January 10-17).
Huh? “Read the whole book, but write only a brief review of the chapter of it that we choose for you?”
What is this, book reviewing for people with ADD? Who wants to write a review of a chapter of a book? How is that even possible? It’s like having to review fifteen minutes of a movie.
“Oz certainly is a colorful place. Dorothy seems to be in a daze, as the Munchkins gradually reveal themselves. Glenda the Good Witch floats down in a bubble, and explains to Dorothy that she needs to visit the Wizard. I’m not really that sure what happened before or after this.”
The book’s cover is above.
A moment of silence, please, for all the unemployed good book cover designers and graphic artists out there who can’t find work. And a big “whoop-whoop!”, apparently, for designers of 70’s-era giveaway drugstore calendars and high school textbook covers.
Yikes, man. Are publishers even trying to survive anymore? Have they just thrown in the wet towel? Because unless this book’s suggestion for a “Christlike response to homosexuality” is to drown homosexuals in the ocean, this cover makes about as much sense as the Church Lady doing naked yoga. Which would at least be interesting. This thing is death.
Anyway, I wonder if I should review … well, whatever part of this book they tell me to?
Hmmm. Well, if I can manage to look at the cover without slipping into a coma, what’s immediately obvious is that the publisher is really pushing the “Turning Controversy into Church Ministry” part of this book’s title.
Gee, what a surprise. Zondervan is hoping lots and lots of pastors will buy this book.
“Church ministry” is code for “grow your church,” see. And “grow your church” is barely code at all for “make money.”
Zondervan wants pastors to believe that, if they use it in their adult-education classes, this book will help grow their church. As well as anyone in the world, they know that 99.99% of pastors will only use for their adult-ed classes books that they think will help grow their church. And if you don’t think Christian publishers are crazed to get some of that adult-ed book sale action, you’ve never imagined being rich. Like all Christian book publishers, Zondervan primarily pushes its pedestrian products to pandering, prosperous pastors.
I’ve written this before, but, to repeat: the hierarchy of church structure is a marketer’s dream. Sell to the pastor; the pastor sells to the congregation; ka-chings all around. When the honchos at a Christian publishing house sit around talking about the Big Title on which they’re pinning their hopes, they don’t talk about the content of the book. They talk about one thing, and one thing only: how to market the book to pastors.
So what’s the fact that they’re clearing doing that tell me about this book? It tells me that I have a better chance of sprouting wings and flying to Mongolia than it has of saying one single new, bold, or even vaguely interesting thing about homosexuality.
Pastors aren’t about to alienate their congregations. And any book that says anything real about homosexuality is guaranteed to do exactly that, but quick.
And thus, in about 1.2 seconds, am I absolutely, 100% assured that this book is a boring, bland, fence-sitting nothing. It won’t sell. It cannot, because in its efforts to offend no one, it’ll also interest no one. No one—not even a pastor—likes to be bored.
Oh, well. Another missed opportunity. Too bad! Or not, I guess. Christian book publishing continues to sink into the morass of its own mediocrity. And without even reading it, I know this book is typical of why.
The follow-up to this post: Was I Rude to the Author of “A Christlike Response to Homosexuality”? Hell, Yes.
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