February 28, 2011
We'll Always Be Your Beast of Burden
There's nothing quite so quirky about the Likewise line of books at InterVarsity Press as its logo: a man leading a resistant donkey, in silhouette. What does it mean?!? we're often asked and occasionally tempted to ask ourselves. Still, when you get right down to it, it's pretty adorable, pretty versatile, pretty memorable. We (and many of our authors) find ourselves identifying with it in an iconic sort of way; Jamie Arpin-Ricci, whose forthcoming Cost of Community will bear the logo, even riffed on the vibe of the logo in his proposal.
Early in the life of the line, Karen Sloan (who wrote the Likewise book Flirting with Monasticism) and Emily Sloan (who had joined us for a line brainstorming weekend with several culture-makers we admire, including Likewise authors Don Everts, Mike Sares and Sean Gladding) presented us with a Likewise-inspired gift: three Gund stuffed donkeys, which when wound up sway back and forth to a tinkly rendition of "Amazing Grace." They stitched the word "Likewise" onto the donkeys' fluffy sweaters, in case we missed the connection. They brought the donkeys to the 2006 Urbana Student Missions Conference, where we were making a big to-do about the line. We loved them.I'm not sure what happened to one of the donkeys, quite honestly. It may be in Andrew Bronson's family room (that's him in the photo above), or someone may have absconded with it. Another of the donkeys was vandalized--taken from my office and deposited on a rock somewhere on IVP's campus to brave the elements. It didn't fare so well.
I consoled myself by acknowledging that there is truly a ministry of iconoclasm, in which the things we gradually place our confidence in (sometimes to the point of idolatry) get put through the ringer so we can see them more accurately. A haggard donkey is no less inspiring, and in some ways even more inspiring, than a pristine, well-tended donkey; sometimes the best way of listening to a tinkly rendition of "Amazing Grace" is by silently recalling the sober verse "Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come . . ."
Byron has been a generous reviewer and promoter of Likewise Books from the very beginning, but many of us associated with the line have not had the pleasure of meeting him face to face. Well, now one more of us has, and whenever he feels like it, he can wind that thing up and do a little dance, confident that as much as he likes reading and selling our books, we like publishing them and putting them in the mail to him.
Donkeys--they bring people together. It just needed to be said.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 10:16 AM
February 11, 2011
You Will Know Us by the Trail of Editors
A friend of mine read an article in USA Today about self-publishing, and because he's worried about me (since conventional publishing, as we all know, is on its deathbed), he asked me if there's an untapped market for freelance editors. Here's my response:
For the record, I do sometimes recommend self-publishing to prospective authors, not as a critique of their ideas or their writing but because for them it's a more viable path than conventional publishing. It's roughly equivalent to my directing an author to a different conventional publisher whose program fits the author better than ours. Sometimes, of course, it's because the writing and ideas aren't particularly good, and the person is merely infatuated with the idea of publishing. I had an unusual experience recently where I was the only editor at a gathering of writers, and one of them very intentionally pursued self-publishing rather than the possibility of publishing with a publisher like us. You can read a bit of his rationale here. Good on Jimmy for having a plan and sticking to it.
Feel free to push back on my characterization of conventional and/or self-publishing, my interpretation of the article and its profiled author's experience, or whatever. The self-published, the conventionally published and the blogging editor have this in common: we love to have people interact with what we've written.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:46 AM
February 3, 2011
A Blizzard of Good Books
I don't know about you all, but having now dug my way out of a blizzard that terrorized as much as a third of the United States, all I really want to do is dig my way back in. Jars of Clay has an adorable little song called "Hibernation Day" that captures some of my well-chilled emotions:
What do you do when you're holed up in your home, riding out an abominable snowstorm? Well, you can certainly use your imagination, but one thing I highly recommend, as an employee of a book publisher, is that you read lots and lots of books.
What to read, you ask? You could do a lot worse than just working your way down a list of the "best of 2010" provided by bookstore owner par excellence Byron Borger. His Pennsylvania bookstore Hearts & Minds is a leader among independent booksellers and has everything thoughtful readers of Christian literature could wish for--and he's helpfully free and open with his opinions.
Byron's list from 2010 features books that many of us here have been ogling, some of which we occasionally smack our foreheads and lament "Why didn't we publish that?!?" Two that I've had my eye on are Eric Metaxas's Bonhoeffer biography and James Davison Hunter's To Change the World. My big boss Andy Le Peau blogged his way through that book; read those posts starting here.
Byron has been a great supporter of InterVarsity Press over the years. The fruits of our efforts here show up nicely on his list, including a revised edition of one of my wife's favorite books, Richard Mouw's Uncommon Decency; Friendship at the Margins by Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl (part of our collaboration with the Duke Center for Reconciliation); The Art of Dying by Rob Moll; Mark Labberton's The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor; James Bryan Smith's third volume in his Apprentice Series trilogy, The Good and Beautiful Community; the Veritas Forum collection A Place for Truth; Mack Stiles's passionate Marks of the Messenger; and Wayne Rice's memoir/manifesto Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again).
Whenever I'm feeling anxious or road-weary in developing our Likewise line, I dig up little comments Byron has made in various reviews he's written of Likewise books. This year's best-of list is no exception; consider this little snippet filed away: "Kudos to the 'Likewise' imprint for their consistently innovative, contemporary, and faithful books." Here's Byron on Likewise books released in 2010:
Living Mission: "Powerful, inspiring, challenging, and very important. What a strong bit of hefty wisdom! What an indication of the emerging tone in missiology. Spectacular."
Unsqueezed: "The kind of 'Christian self-help book' that redeems the phrase, and is a standard for the sorts of contemporary, practical, insightful books that we need to see on the market."
The Story of God, the Story of Us: "It is hard not to applaud too loudly for this one-of-a kind book. . . . Nothing like it that we know of; highly recommended, happily honored."
The Gospel of John (Resonate): "Any gospel commentary that takes a song from Rattle & Hum--a duet between Bono and B.B. King--has got to be great! Resonate. Indeed. It deserves a special commendation of one of the best ideas in the Christian publishing world of 2010."
Wisdom Chaser: "A book I couldn't stop talking about for weeks."
I'll toot my own horn just a bit and admit that I contributed to one book in Byron's list, Besides the Bible: 100 Books That Have, Should, or Will Create a Christian Culture. Byron contributed as well, so there's pimping all around, I guess; unless Byron struck a deal I didn't, neither of us is making any money off it. Anyway, the book is what the title suggests: one hundred books that are worth knowing, reading and responding to. IVP showed well in that list as well (I blogged about that here), but in his review Byron takes the opportunity to make a brief case for reading as an act of faith, which is itself worth quoting here:
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:36 AM