Publishing Is Like . . .

I am off for July. So I’m running some favorite Andy Unedited blasts from the past. This was originally posted May 12, 2008.

The key personnel gathered. “Listen,” said the publisher. “A publisher went out to publish. And as he published, some books fell on deaf ears. And the remaindering houses came and snatched up the excess stock at a fraction of its cost. Other books fell on hard-headed readers where the ideas were not able to root deeply in their minds. So as soon as the readers’ preconceived notions arose, the ideas from the book withered away. Other books fell among a huge glut of other new books and choked out the shelf-space, so the books were not seen. Other books fell into fertile minds and grew there, making a difference in the readers who in turn touched the lives of thirty, sixty or even a hundred other people.”

Later, those who worked with the publisher asked about the story. “Do you not understand?” the publisher replied. “If you don’t understand this aspect of publishing, how will you understand any of it?”

“The publisher publishes books, doing the best possible to find great authors who write great books, giving them the best design and production, providing the most targeted publicity and advertising, working as efficiently as possible with distributors, bookstores and others to get the books out into the hands of the reading public.

“But there is much that the publisher cannot control. Sometimes when a book falls on deaf ears it is because readers just aren’t interested. Sometimes people have their prejudices and, no matter how great the design, you just aren’t going to be able to get past them. Sometimes the competition squeezes out a very good book. And sometimes a book hits its mark, finds the right audience and changes lives, not just entertaining or informing people but making them better people. The reverberations can be felt from that one reader in the lives of dozens or hundreds of others who may have never read the book themselves but who encountered the person who did.

“While a publisher always needs to seek to do the best job possible, those kinds of results are something publishers can’t control. But when it does happen, it is all grace.”

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

5 thoughts on “Publishing Is Like . . .”

  1. Andy, I see you’re making good application of your Mark manuscript study. Very appropriate.

  2. Could it be that publishing has fallen on hard times these days due to the decline in the middle class economically which means they simply can’t afford to buy books any more? The problem is how will prosperity ever return, considering how automation, computerization, and robotics have effectively taken away the jobs for the average John Doe, meaning, the masses of people? Perhaps, only prayer for the inventiveness of man to flourish to provide new forms of self-employment that are sufficiently remunerative to justify work for the foreseeable future will work?

    O yes, and now books are moving to the kindle or some such device which might soon hold all 12,000 plus books of my library. What will that do for publication and sales? Imagine being able to lug around all of the history books, I want to research in order to write some paper. And then there are the commentaries, books of sermons, etc., which serve to help in praparing perceptive and instructive and motivating messages. Does this mean that we could go on for a 1000 more generations experiencing the Third Great Awakening in which every soul in those generations is savingly converted? After all, John Owen did speak of an atonement of infinite value that could handle the problem of saving the souls on a thousand worlds. Does this mean the possibility of 20,000 more years and the spread of mankind to the stars?

  3. Paul: You are right, of course. Mark 4 was indeed the inspiration, along with a thought triggered by Andy Crouch.


  4. Dr. Willingham: There are many trends at work on book publishing. First, reading rates are declining. Next, the ability to focus and follow a sustained argument over hundreds of pages is in decline–even for those who still read books. Then, yes, there is the economy. And, finally, yes electronic books are having an effect–at least on print books. If sales of electronic books become pervasive enough, that could make it more difficult to make books available in print because print runs would have to be smaller, making print books more expensive–if economical at all. Electronic books do add portability and other advantages. But as I’ve said in this blog before–something is gained, but something is lost too. Andy

  5. Andy: I grieve for the loss. Books have meant our freedom, and the Bible beyond all else. But the great amounts of money spent on education and the decline in the quality of that education along with the impact of the visual media spells disaster down the road. My readings in conspiracy history tell me that the decline in education was a planned affair. Like FDR is supposed to have said, “nothing that happens publically is accidental.” In other words, it is planned. That might be a bit of overstatement, but there is a good deal of truth in it.

    What we need now is a Third Great Awakening which will restore man’s confidence in Scripture. Unfortunately, the grip of certain powers is too great. I have a number of mss in the rough which are focused on the subject of The Intellectualism of the Bible. However, no one is interested in such stuff, and the polish and completion of the work is beyond my strength and energy – I fear.

    I have been praying for a Third Awakening for about 38 years – ever since speaking on the subjuect of A Great Awakening to the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn. in ’73. That Assn grew out of the labors of two men who were converted during the First Great Awakening, and the churches in the Assn. experienced the Second Great Awakening in 1801 and then participated in the launching of the Great Century of Missions (Kenneth Scott Latourette’s title of his history on the 19th century and the missionary movement).

    We will lose the masses of people in the next 20-30 years unless there is a visitation, and, very likely, we will lose our freedom and our lives,too. I do think there is another possibility, namely, a Third Great Awakening which, hopefully begins in this generation and continues for a 1000 generations (I Chron.16:15). We need a great orayer effort like the one inspired by Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which produced the missionary effort. William Carey, et. al., began praying for such a visitation and for the spread of the Gospel in Foreign Lands, pleading the nearly 100 promises listed bby Edwards in his work…I think we could do the same and look for the same blessing. I even think it likely that man will go to the stars and the Gospel will go to. god must have a sense of humor as Rev. 7:9 speaks of a number in Heaven that no one can number (does that include God…is He making a joke for His children, a bit of humor for reassurance?).

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