How Mark Driscoll Gamed the Publishing Game

Years ago, Rick Warren finagled his way onto the bestseller lists. Before Purpose-Driven Life came out, Warren had hundreds of churches lined up to buy thousands of copies, all of which he bought through Pastors.com and resold to said churches. It was so effective that Warren’s marketing rep and Zondervan left his job there and wrote a book about the process. Warren vehemently disavowed that he’d done anything unethical. Instead, the 35 million copies he’d sold was not marketing but “God’s supernatural and sovereign plan.”

Rick Warren

Nevertheless, as a result of PDL, bestseller lists changed their rules — some removed any book that showed large, bulk sales, while other lists put an asterisk by those titles. Also, they pulled books like PDL off of non-fiction and put them in their own category of “Self-Help and Advice,” since those are often the books with bulk sales.

Authors know that “non-royalty sales” don’t count toward bestseller lists. Those include, for instance, books that authors or their organizations buy at the author discount, usually 40 or 50% off the cover price.

Bestseller lists are important, even today. I once had a book contract that had a $10,000 incentive if my book made the NY Times or Publsihers Weekly list. (It didn’t.) Those lists are meant to gauge how many real, individual readers are buying books.

Now comes word that Mark Driscoll and his church hired a firm that used a thousand different credit cards and thousands of individual names — the names were supplied by the church — to drive Driscoll’s marriage book onto the bestseller lists. As a reward, the firm was paid $210,000 by Mars Hill Church:

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The Best Bible Software

So, here’s the story. I can’t really even remember how it began, but I posted somewhere that I was looking for an online, interlinear version of the Septuagint for a word I was researching for my next book. Pretty obscure, I know. Well, I heard from the people at Logos that they, indeed, had such a thing.

I’d had Logos back in the day. It was an early version, back when I was on a church staff and had a budget for such things. It came on CD-ROMs, and they’d mail updates every once in a while. But I hadn’t used Logos in many years.

The folks at Logos offered to give me the latest version if I’d review it. I told them that my review would be honest, and they were cool with that (I’m not being compensated for this review, and the embedded links are not part of a commissioned sale). So off I went. And here’s what I think:

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The Book You’re Going To Be Talking about This Fall

My bedside reading this week is an advanced copy of Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s theological memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and a Saint. In addition to the arrestingly beautiful author photo on the cover (taken by the incomparable Courtney Perry), it deserves a wide readership for a number of reasons.

Nadia and I met, I think, in 2008. We became fast friends, and have been ever since. I’ve joyfully watched her rise to become an ecclesial elite, and I cheer her on when she preaches in front 10,000 at Red Rocks or 35,000 at the SuperDome…

…or in front of 115 at House for All Sinner and Saints.

The fact that Nadia pastors a small church and yet is seen as an expert in all things church would have been unthinkable 15 years ago, when we were all neck-deep in the church growth movement. But now, with house churches and new monastic communities and organic church and slow churches, Nadia’s voice and vision is pitch-perfect for our time. But there’s an even more important reason that her book (and her life) kicks ass.

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Watch Evangelicals Lose Their Young

Two posts of note today.

I don’t often re-post stuff from Rachel Held Evans, mainly because I assume that you all read her already. Her posts are, almost without exception, worth reading. But today’s post was, I think, a watershed post for her (and probably for many post-evangelicals). The talk for many years has been around Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. His conclusion: There isn’t an evangelical mind.

Well, that was nearly 20 years ago. Evangelicals have done their best to mitigate that, starting Books & Culture and academic societies and the like.

But, Rachel tells us, that’s not the real problem. That’s not what’s driven her from evangelicalism.

Rachel leaving evangelicalism because evangelicalism lacks a heart:

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