Late last week, Hachette Book Group announced that Wendy Grisham was being let go, and that her imprint, Jericho Books, was going to be dramatically downsized. In the Christian publishing world, this is very big news. (Full disclosure: my agent, Kathy Helmers, pitched Jericho several book proposals from me; Jericho did not bid on any of them, and I ultimately signed with another publisher. I harbor no animus whatsoever, and Wendy and I remain friends.)
Jericho arrived on the publishing scene with a bang, paying significant advances to acquire big name authors like Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Philip Yancey, and Shane Hipps. Their first book to the make the New York Times bestseller list was Nadia’s Pastrix this fall.
Big New York publishing houses like Hachette have been snapping up evangelical publishers for some time now, as Christian books have one of the few bullish areas in publishing. Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are owned by NewsCorp, Waterbrook and Multnomah are owned by Penguin Random House, etc. You get the picture. The conglomeration in publishing is a reality.
Yesterday, I received in the mail the magisterial doorstop of a book: NT Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I’ve only read the first section, but I already love it. Many fans consider this book Wright’s magnum opus, but it’s actually part of a many-book series that he says he hopes to continue. Nevertheless, this is the book that Wright will be remembered for.
In the preface, he says that he’s really been working on this book his entire life, since his parents gave him a Bible at age five and he read the book of Philemon first. He admits that he didn’t work on this book from ages 5 to 15, but he says he’s been working on it ever since.
Even so, one of his first admissions is that he doesn’t cover everything, he doesn’t interact with every other point of view:
On this blog and elsewhere, I have been repeatedly told that I am blind to my own privilege. Of course, it’s hard to see what you’re blinded to, and if you protest a statement like that, you’re being obstinate and defensive. That’s why a lot of straight, white men like me — and especially those of us employed by the academy — avoid writing about such things, so we can avoid the charge, “Who the hell are you to write about such things?!?” Instead, we choose other things to write about.
Evangelicalism isn’t as beset with political correctness as the progressive academy, so maybe that’s why Andy Crouch could unashamedly tackle the subject of power and privilege in his new and compelling book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. Also, Andy is a journalist, so he can claim a bit of objectivity in his approach.
As I’ve written here before, I have a bit of a fascination with war. It began my freshman year in college, when I took a seminar called, “The Iliad and Memories of War,” with the intoxicating and quirky professor, James Tatum. Tatum later turned that seminar into a book.
The first week of my freshman year in college, Tatum assigned me and my ten classmates to read The Iliad, the 16,000-line epic poem by Homer. It was a daunting task. Yet read it, I did. Upon completing it, I was both buoyed by the accomplishment, and hooked on memoirs of war. We went on to read a dozen more books, from ancient times to modern, about men at war.
This post is sponsored by Grammarly. I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because so many people have accused me of stealing my theology from Pope Francis.
A month ago today, I was in Chicago, meeting with my editor about my next book. I’ve known him professionally and as a friend for over a decade, but we’ve never worked together before, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. Over the course of a day, sitting at his kitchen table, we talked about everything from what I see as my role in the wider world to what should be my “voice” in this book to how the table of contents should flow.
As a result of our meeting, the table of contents is, in fact, completely different. I had written about 23,000 words of the manuscript prior to our meeting, so we also went over some passages, talking about my voice, my writing style, etc. All in all, it was a great meeting, and I’m fortunate to be working with him.
With a dozen books in print, I’ve worked with almost that many editors. I’ve also worked as an editor, both in my role at sparkhouse, and in a couple book projects. So, from my vantage point, here are my Top Ten Tips for Working with an Editor:
It’s gotta be Nadia, right? I mean, I’ve been wracking my brain, and I cannot think of one. Can you? If so, please debate it in the comment.
PS: Yes, I know, Nadia will hate this post. But she’ll still love me. I think.
PPS: Check out Nadia’s post on Jericho Books’ site. It’s something I TOTALLY resonate with, about how her edgy, public self is not her only self.
I met Laura Truax a couple years ago. She’s a force of nature — high spirited, joyful, loving. She pastors a church in Chicago that, as unlikely as it may seem, was founded by Moody Bible Institute as a place for its students to attend. That church has changed significantly over the years and, suffice it to say, with a woman pastor and an openness to GLBT persons, Moody no longer recommends it to their students.
When we met, Laura told me that she was writing a book, and we chatted about the writing process. We did not, however, talk about the content of her book. So after my initial impression of her as ebullient and joyous, I was surprised to get her book in the mail last week and find out that it’s about failure and brokenness.
And then I was really floored when I read the opening lines, about her divorce. Yes, I was hooked.
I’m getting audited, which I can tell you completely sucks. And I’m getting audited for three years of tax returns, which means triple the pain — it’s like getting an enema with thumb tacks. I’ll write about it more sometime.
But because of that, I need a couple more days to chew on and answer this week’s Question That Haunts — it’s a good one. In the meantime, here’s a fantastic guest post by Zane Schertz, following up on last week’s post about Slavoj Žižek. About himself, he says, “I am a death of God theologian. I am currently studying dialectical materialism, and Jacques Lacan’s stade du miroir. My main theological influences are Thomas Altizer, Slavoj Žižek, Soren Kierkegaard, George Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Drew Sumrall. You can find me on my blog and on Twitter.” Here’s Zane:
In the theological realm there has been much discussion over Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek. What makes this a bit of anomaly is that Zizek is a self described atheist. So the next logical question is, what can an atheist teach us about theology and the Christian walk? Well, first we must understand there are many varying forms of atheism. Just as there are many varying forms of Christianity, Judaism and so on. So before we dive in, understand that to lump Zizek in with the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and so on, is to lump Tony in with Mark Driscoll. It’s irresponsible and we will ultimately miss what Zizek is saying.
Slavoj Zizek is a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and a professor of philosophy and psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School. Now Zizek is a character to say the least. His style is manic, ugly, and all over the map. Have you ever had so many thoughts going on in your brain that your mouth can’t keep up? I assume Zizek spends all of his waking moments in this state. He just talks and talks and talks and talks and talks [you get the point] and within that time he jumps from topic to topic to topic to topic. So needless to say, more times than not it’s difficult to keep up with his thoughts and antics. However, when he gets dialed in, there is no one person more brilliant, exciting, and passionate than Zizek.
I asked Tony if I could guest post here to discuss how this atheist madman can and should be implemented into modern theology and Christianity. My goal is to be as coherent as possible, but when discussing Zizek this sometimes becomes a bit difficult. So I am currently thinking maybe I bit of more than I can chew. Anyway, here is my best effort to explain Christian [atheism] as Zizek sees it:
As I wrote last Monday, I’ve had an agent, Kathy Helmers, for quite a while now. We’ve been through ups and downs, and I think I’ve learned some things about working with an agent, both from my time with Kathy and watching my friends with their agents. Here’s my list of 10 Tips for Working with a Literary Agent:
1. Know why you have an agent.
Some of my friends have an agent because they hate the business side of publishing; they just want to write and have someone else take care of the details. That’s not me — I like the business side. Others have an agent because they don’t really like to write; they use an agent to help them fashion the book. That’s not me — I love to write. I have an agent because I work better on a team. I want a lot of advocates and various voices in the process of writing. Kathy is an important voice in the process for me, and she sticks with my book until it’s in print. Also, a part of that team is being friends with my editor, and tough financial negotiations can be hard on a friendship. Since Kathy does the negotiating, I can keep my relationship with my editor free of that.
2. Know what your agent brings to the party.
Your agent brings perspective and expertise in the market that you, as an author, don’t have. She knows what books have sold for recently; she knows sales figures on books that are similar to yours; she knows what particular publishing houses are looking for; she probably knows which editors you’ll work best with. These are all insights that most authors don’t have.
3. Remember that a book is a giant compromise.
Your book will not end up being about what you first thought it would be about. Your agent will shape and reshape your proposal, and then the publisher will have all sorts of opinions about what kind of book will actually sell. Trust your agent when she tells you to change aspects of your book idea.
4. Remember that your agent works for you.
That being said, you do have to stand on your principles. You are giving up 15% of your advance and your royalties to your agent, but in the end, it’s your name on the cover, not hers. Be ready to compromise and negotiate about your book, but don’t end up agreeing to write a book that you don’t want to write.
5. Know that your agent doesn’t work only for you.
Your agent has many other clients. If she doesn’t answer your phone call right away, or respond to your email within 24 hours, she’s probably neck-deep in a negotiation on another author’s book proposal. Your book is the most important thing in the world to you, but it’s only one of the most important things in the world to your agent.