September 24, 2012
Snubbed Again: Who Are You Reading?By David A. Zimmerman
Last night was the Emmys, and this year might be thought of alternately as "The Year of Homeland and Modern Family" or, more cynically, "The Year of the Snub." Perennial favorites such as Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston and Parks & Recreation went home empty-handed in their respective categories. (Parks & Rec wasn't even nominated for best comedy, which may be part of a communist plot; no disrespect to Modern Family and the other nominees, but Give. Me. A. Break.)
Speaking of snubs, once again Strangely Dim (not to mention my personal blog, Loud Time) was left off the list of the "Top 200 Church Blogs." This annual list showcases "today's most influential church leaders, journalists, theologians, and Christ followers," based on traffic, page ranks, subscriptions and other indicators. The compilers of the list obviously didn't ask my mom which "church blogs" she reads religiously.
I'm not bitter, really I'm not. I do find myself wondering, though, what blogs didn't make the list that should. Ed Stetzer makes three quick observations about the list: (1) the dominance of Calvinist perspectives; (2) the decline of emergence perspectives; and (3) the absence of women's perspectives. I might dispute (2) a bit--I see a decent showing of people on the list who lean Emergent, especially given Stetzer's observation (1)--but the dominance of Calvinists and the dearth of women are hard to argue.
Stetzer's observation about women bloggers comes almost simultaneously to Christianity Today's cover issue on "Women to Watch." Ironic, isn't it, that we are being advised to watch these women, but precious few of us are actually reading them.
Here at IVP we're doing our part to close the gap between watching and reading women. In the spring, we're launching a line of books that showcases women authors. More to come on that, believe me. But in the meantime, we're always on the lookout for interesting people with interesting perspectives, and while we want to elevate the voices of leading women, we are also happy to hear from men with something important to say. So here's your chance: Who are you reading, and why should we be reading them too?
September 21, 2012
Hug an Author Day: A RecapBy David A. Zimmerman
In retrospect, it was a pretty good idea. It probably could have been executed more strategically, yielding more book sales, elevating the profile of more authors, moving more product. But to do so would have made Hug an Author Day less an act of fondness and respect, and more an act of exploitation.
God knows authors don't need any more exploitation in their lives. What they need are hugs: concrete assertions that they exist and have value, that what they've invested so much of themselves in was worth doing and has had an impact. They need to be reminded that they are not merely the insights and assertions of their writing but real and whole human beings whose needs are legitimate claims on the rest of us. They need to be given permission to do the awkward self-promotion that their publisher and their own ego-needs are crying out for them to do, and they need to be reassured that they are not less loved or respected for having done so. They need a hug--or something very much like it--and they're not likely to get one unless there's time and space devoted to it.
Call me biased, since some of my best friends are authors, but I wish every day were Hug an Author Day. I'll settle for every September 15. I've marked my calendar; I hope you will too.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 11:24 AM
September 12, 2012
Hug an Author DayBy David A. Zimmerman
I should really probably start keeping a gratitude journal. I think I learned about such things from Oprah--indirectly, of course, via my wife. Write down what you're thankful for in life on a regular basis, and magically your thoughts will be transformed from paranoia and bitterness to gladness and a general openness to the world. In the third millennium of the church, it seems, God uses gratitude journals as much as anything to take people's hearts of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh.
I could list any number of reasons I need to start keeping a gratitude journal. An ingratitude journal would be easier for me, quite frankly; I've been called Eeyore by more than one person in my life. But to preface my gratitude journal with a list of laments seems somehow counterproductive. Light a candle, they say, and there will be little darkness left to curse. So I'll just start with gratitude, and in so doing I'll start with authors.
Ah, authors. They are the wingnuts that hold the whole publishing enterprise together. I publish people, not books, I regularly remind myself, because books don't wish me happy birthday on my birthday or graciously include me in their acknowledgments even after I've dropped the ball more than once on their precious project. Authors do that.
Before there is a book, there is an author. Books are not an end in and of themselves but a means to both the author's and the publisher's end: in IVP's case, to equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life. That's a lofty ambition, and you don't get there just by assembling random words on a page and mass-producing it; you need authors with hearts, souls, minds and strengths to put forward such audacious ideas and give them life. I appreciate book authors for that.
I appreciate book authors because unlike communicators who look directly into the eyes of their audience or who write with the assurance of a subscription base putting eyes on their words, or who have access to analytics that help them gauge and react quickly to reader response, book authors publish into a void and wait--sometimes months and even years--to learn the impact of their words. As glamorous as being an author appears, in many ways it's actually quite thankless.
Worse than thankless, sometimes being a book author seems to be more trouble than it's worth. Once a book is out, its author has to cash in favors, chase an audience, move units, all in coordination with a publishing house biting its nails and tapping its feet to see if the potential audience takes the bait. Even more pressure descends on the self-published author, who faces the same demand with ewer resources (and less moral support) to draw from in their effort to get their message out. Authors wait anxiously for the first and then the next review, and thanks to an increasingly uncivil and combative cultural context, it's reasonable to expect as many negative reviews as positive.
And then there's the conventional wisdom that assumes the last thing anyone wants to do is to read a book. Books are too long, too wordy, too linear, too monochrome, too, too, too. Some ideas can't be crystallized into a sound bite or conveyed in an image--everyone knows that--and yet the notion of giving an idea adequate space to make its case is considered among many as quaint at best, stupid at worst. "Great minds discuss ideas," Eleanor Roosevelt said, and yet book-length attempts to discuss ideas in a format that allows them to be considered in full scope are out of vogue. It's hard out there being an author, I tell you.
Hey, look at that. My gratitude journal has become a list of laments. I really am quite good at that, aren't I? OK, so maybe instead of a gratitude journal, I'll just start a new tradition: Hug an Author Day.
Seriously, given the portrait I've painted above, don't you think an author could use a hug? So let's do it. Let's say September 15. Why not? Don't be creepy or anything--a side hug counts as a hug in my book. But let the authors you know know that you love them, that you get that it's hard, that you still appreciate the hard work of giving an idea its due. Give them a hug, people!
Or, better yet, buy their book and read it.
So, which author would you like to give a hug on Hug an Author Day?
September 7, 2012
What Authors Eat
By Dave Zimmerman
It has been brought to my attention that I tend to go on a bit in these posts. Sorry about that. I thought I'd overcompensate by talking about something simple: what authors eat.
For the most part, authors eat what pretty much everyone eats--although some, including Sean Gladding and Rachel Stone (whose forthcoming book Eat with Joy will be as yummy as it looks), are particularly particular, in that they like real food, as opposed to the processed stuff that I (and, if you're being honest, you) feel little compunction about chowing. But authors are also like everyone else in that they're suckers for a free lunch; in that respect, what authors eat is, essentially, whatever I pay for them to eat.
The first time I took a prospective author to dinner I was ill-prepared. I was a deer in the headlights, and he was a ravenous, road-kill-eating ice road trucker. (Not literally; books in that genre don't fit nicely into our publishing program.) Anyway, he ordered an impious amount of food and drink, and when the bill came, I swallowed hard and paid it. He eventually signed a contract with another publisher.
Since then, when I take an author to lunch, I tend toward bargains and signed contracts. I am unique among my colleagues in that regard; most of my coworkers respect food and authors enough to pick a nice place. Pity the poor Heuertzes, Chris and Phileena, whom I rewarded for for their book deals with meals from Taco John's and Taco Bell--which, in my defense, may have been the best Mexican food on offer at the time in Omaha.
When authors come to IVP, I usually let my coworkers (or the authors) pick the place. Over the years a few restaurants have emerged as particularly good for such occasions. If you're ever in the area and itching to write, here's a list of places I might take you (or, if you're lucky, my colleagues might take you).
Uncle Bub's. Award-winning barbecued pork, and immortalized in some film starring that Git-Er-Done guy. Order the pig-pickin' pulled pork sandwich or, if you're especially hungry or daring, the Uncle Joe burger.
Standard Market. A relatively new entry on the scene here, Standard Market is a farmer's market with a dining area. It ffers a simple yet elegant sit-down meal with good service. I like the Buddha Bowl.
Siam Kitchen. Good Thai food. I had lunch there once with one coauthor while on conference call with the other coauthor. I felt mildly wicked, like we had just tee-peed the coauthor's house. I like this line from their website: "We omit the use of MSG." Sounds like a good line for an editor.
Portillo's. A family-owned franchise in the Chicago area, Portillo's is famous for its Italian beef sandwiches. But I usually get the Italian sausage sandwich. At the launch of Likewise Books, we took about sixteen prospective authors here, including Sean Gladding, Mike Sares, Heather Zempel and Amena Brown, who graced us with an impromptu slam poetry performance. (I snuck some of her fries while she wasn't looking; her book comes out next February, so I'll probably buy her some new fries then.)
Zaza's. I go to Zaza's if I'm trying hard to impress someone. They have a lot of wine, but that would be inappropriate during a working lunch. Good bread.
There are, of course, lots of other places to eat around here. This is America, after all. But these are some of the IVP hotspots. How about you--where would you make me take you if I was trying to squeeze a book contract out of you?