Getting Back to Mission

I just read a blog by a self-styled book industry expert, who, for a handful of irrational reasons, all but predicts the demise of a major book retailer. One doesn’t have to be terribly visionary to see menacing clouds churning above the book world. But, rather than responding to such hyperbolic predictions, it occurs to me I ought to stop and reconsider why I was drawn to this business from the start.

  1. I love books! Not surprisingly, I love reading insightful, provocative ideas, marvelously expressed, that surge from words on a page. That’s very cool. I’m re-reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris, and it rings with hope about how creative thought can renew a broken world. So, one reason I came to publishing was to affirm the expression of creative, regenerative ideas.
  2. Good news is my call! For those of us who first invested ourselves in the Christian genre of publishing, it was about mission. Worthy’s mission is to help people experience the heart of God. We must not let the tumultuous book trends of the 21st century distract us from our mission to bring light to a world permeated by darkness. Any number of Worthy’s recent books remind me of that mission, not the least of which are Margaret Feinberg’s Wonderstruck, Mary Lou Quinlan’s The God Box, and Nichole Nordeman’s  Love Story.
  3. Wall Street doesn’t get it! The book industry has been overrun by holding companies and entertainment corporations, causing it to lose much of its creative heart. Not every business is best exercised as part of a multi-national enterprise, such as a mature, boutique-arts industry like books—the entire trade book business of $16 billion is only one third the size of the $42 billion Walt Disney Company. It’s hard to see what Wall Street has brought to the table, and I’m not altogether sure why the Street sees books as an opportunity. Do financial gurus think book earnings will experience double-digit growth over the next five years?
  4. Craft can be lost in a corporate environment! There was a time not long ago that publishing was driven by literary families who were impassioned by the artistic, enriching expressions found in books. Beginning with Gutenberg, think about all the family names that have defined what we still call publishing houses: Nelson, Zondervan, Harper, Collins, Putnam, Pearson, Warner, Doubleday, Simon, Schuster, Wiley, Dutton, Holt, et al. Today few families retain their heritages, resulting in Big 6 publishers being a conglomeration of hundreds of acquired imprints. The primary focus has changed from mission to ROI. Not good news.

Worthy’s mission is our message . . . helping people experience the heart of God. We are blessed to be funded by individuals who believe in our craft and support our mission. Worthy must be a great steward of its resources, yet we must not lose site of our mission.

Question:  From a literary and mission point of view, how is the business of books in a better place today than it was in years past?


Celebrating the Life of Calvin Miller

Guest Blog By Kris Bearss, Executive Editor/Worthy Publishing

Regardless of the changes that occur in the months ahead, the book publishing industry will always be centered around words. We are a community that celebrates, believes in, and stands by the power of both the word and The Word. So when a gracious wordsmith like Calvin Miller leaves this world for “the better realm,” as he called it, we are all a little lesser for it.

This past weekend, we lost Calvin—one of Christian publishing’s true craftsmen—to complications from heart surgery, and now our literary world will be a touch less poignant than it was before, like a well-crafted sentence that is missing its adjective.

On a personal level, though I only knew Calvin for the final 17 months of his life, he made a distinct impression on me and the rest of the Worthy team. We’d known of his industry accomplishments—which were many; been shaped for years by his literary prowess and spiritual insight—which was extensive; but what we didn’t know until we had the chance to work with him was how fully engaged he was in LIFE! His final months were not punctuated with an uncertain question mark or a run-of-the-mill period. Rather, he concluded his final earthbound chapter as I suspect he lived his every day: with an exclamation point.

Curious, excited, and very much alive, Calvin enthusiastically approached his writing, his relationships, his faith with a gusto that I often wish I had—and with a humility that I hope to emulate. He was caring, kindhearted, sweetly funny, genuinely interested in others . . . and a man of God who was minus all the pretension of someone who sold more books in his career than almost any Christian author living today.

I can’t say how God rewards His faithful scribes in heaven. Perhaps with a pen that never runs dry, a thesaurus with perfectly appointed words, and a heart that is ever full of inspiration. But this I do know: Calvin Miller shepherded the words that heaven supplied as no other ever will, searching for those scurrilous creatures on the high plains until they were found, rescuing them from the desert of superficiality, freeing them from the valley of apathy, and then herding them onto the lush pastures of finished pages bearing his name. Pages that all pointed to the Name that is above all names. And in the process, he led everyone who read him to the refreshing waters of belief, reassurance, and a Grace not of this earth.

Having previously been hospitalized for heart trouble, he lived with the awareness that eternity is only a step away. And in his final book, aptly called Letters to Heaven (which Worthy had the honor of publishing), he sought to take care of things the only way he knew how: Through the written word. Through letters that might complete the unfinished business of this life. Through personal missives that encouraged readers to write their own thank yous and wonder ifs.

Meanwhile, he held out for us all the hope that awaits.

For Calvin, on Sunday, August 19, 2012, his hope was realized. A sweet reality no longer the stuff of mere dreams. A lifelong confidence undeniably fulfilled.

Those of us who wrangle words for a living will never be able to replicate his ability to “make verbs dance and nouns sing,” as Max Lucado described his gift. But the one thing we can do is, I believe, the one thing he would ask us to do—whether we sell words or pitch them, design words or write them, edit words or print them. I think Calvin would say: “Make sure you end your story with an exclamation point.”

He sure did. Personally and professionally.

On the last page of Letters to Heaven, Calvin told of having heard the pale horse of death stomping his steel hooves, restless in his stable. “I am a shy equestrian,” he wrote, “yet I am not afraid. I have waited all my life for this ride. . . . This is my coronation day!”

Here’s to you, Calvin. We miss you already, dear friend. But we celebrate your life too, realizing that, as C. S. Lewis said in The Last Battle, “Now at last [you are] beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read.”


Celebrating Year One, and Counting…

On this first day of August 2012, Worthy joyfully celebrates its first full year in commerce.  We are thankful to God for the team He has assembled, the opportunities He has provided, and above all, the grace He has poured out on us.  And that’s not to mention our supportive board that has believed in us from the get-go, providing cherished counsel and resources.  Thank you!

Creative Talent Onboard.  Looking back over this first year, I am humbled by the confidence authors have expressed in Worthy.  It’s unimaginable the talent that has come our way.  Never would I have believed a couple of years ago, when we first conceived the idea of launching Worthy Publishing, that we would be honored to have signed such a list in only one year. A short list of bestsellers that have come our way includes…

Stephen Arterburn

Tim Clinton

Franklin Graham

John Hagee

Hank Hanegraaff

Neta & David Jackson

Jerry Jenkins

David Jeremiah

Stephen Mansfield

Nichole Nordeman

Les & Leslie Parrott

Chuck Swindoll

Michael Vick

 Vision for Authors!  In a day of mega-sized New York-based christian publishers with enormous book lists, it’s easy for authors to get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. They often complain of getting little editorial input and even less marketing attention.  Worthy’s unique vision is to be a nimble, author-focused shop that is responsive to its authors and the marketplace.

                                     

Giant Media Exposure for Worthy.  Even as a new publisher, Worthy already has managed to get front-page, feature stories in USA Today, as well as appearances on NBC, Fox, CNN, ESPN and others, about two upcoming books:  BeBe Winans memoir of his 28-year friendship with Whitney Houston, The Whitney I Knew (July 31); and NFL star Michael Vick’s autobiography, Finally Free (September 4).  Stephen Mansfield’s just- released book, The Mormonizing of America, has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN’s Piers Morgan, Fox News, The Sean Hannity Show and MSNBC Now.

This first year has been quite a ride – and from my vantage point 2013 doesn’t look any less exciting!  Holding on to my chair.


My Friend Chuck Colson

“First, we must be diligent in the matter of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.” ~Charles Colson

Many things have been said about Charles Colson. Watergate villain. Nixon’s loyal “fixer.” Maybe the most famous convert to Christianity in this century. For certain, Chuck was one of the brightest minds I’ve ever known.

I met Chuck in the early ‘90s when I signed him to write for the publishing company I worked for. His first book with us, The Body, was the first-ever ECPA Book of the Year. Over the years we collaborated on several other titles, including his only novel. Coming full circle, this past year Worthy Publishing had the honor of publishing his last book, The Sky Is Not Falling.

As I think about Chuck, I remember an occasion years ago that struck me. After a video shoot in Fort Worth for a curriculum project, he spontaneously volunteered to field random questions from the studio audience of about 150 people. The questions were wildly diverse—politics, theology, church history, even scientific issues. Chuck responded effortlessly with direct quotes from classic books and historical dates and facts, in each case adding some form of personal application. I was speechless.

The ease with which he accessed a lifetime of learning and then so freely gave to this group of people—late into the evening—was clearly something he enjoyed. In an article in 2005, Colson wrote of the importance of Christian classical learning as a tool to engage culture. In 2009, he established the Colson Center, which he described as the “LexisNexis of resources on the Christian worldview.” He exhorted Christians to begin each day “with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

It was his love of knowledge and how it can transform culture that, for me, defined my friend Chuck Colson.

As I pray for Chuck’s family and celebrate the fact that he is now with Jesus, I find comfort in knowing his impact on this world has been far greater than he ever imagined. The Colson Center, Prison Fellowship, the many books he wrote, and the thousands of organizations and leaders he advised, counseled, and encouraged, will spread his love of Christ and love of knowledge for years to come.


A Revolutionary Old-School Culture

Worthy is an old-school publishing culture with a contemporary passion for partnering with remarkable people and their compelling ideas. Ideas that help people experience the heart of God in ways that change everything. Because that is our calling, before anything else, we’re an editorial and marketing shop that believes consumers will beat a path to your door if your ideas strike home. A return to those old-school values is a fresh new idea!

The core of Worthy’s innovative team built Integrity Publishers in the wake of 9/11, publishing now-classic New York Times and CBA bestsellers such as Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect, Max Lucado’s It’s Not about Me, and Beth Moore’s remarkable Get Out of That Pit, all now available from our good friends at Thomas Nelson.

Worthy picks up where Integrity left off – well-crafted books, excellent packaging, and aggressive marketing. Our first list hit retail stores and online markets last August and included Charles Colson’s The Sky Is Not Falling; Steve Arterburn’s Walking into Walls: 5 Blind Spots That Block God’s Work in You; and former Chicago Sun-Times writer Cathleen Falsani’s Belieber: Fame, Faith, and the Heart of Justin Bieber. Our diverse list going forward will include, among other categories: fiction, Bible study, current events, spiritual growth, biographies, marriage and family, and specialty Bibles.

That said, “old school” doesn’t mean old thinking . . . we can’t afford that in 2012. Worthy fully embraces the digital age with every book simultaneously releasing on all major eBook platforms, including Kindle, Nook, and iPad. Our edgy, upgraded website, links each book to its own customized landing page, with elements that include Oasis Audio MP3 downloads, video book trailers, sample chapters, and social media share features.

In addition to talking about what’s going on at Worthy, our blog will address contemporary issues in publishing, spiritual growth, current events, and culture that are vital to us all.

Thanks for reading . . . and stay tuned.