IVP - Andy Unedited - Publishing Archives

October 24, 2018

When Eugene Peterson Was Unknown

As we grieve the recent passing of Eugene Peterson, we remember the first encounter IVP had with him. When Peterson was an unknown Presbyterian pastor in Maryland, he sent IVP an unsolicited manuscript. Here is an excerpt from Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. that tells what happened behind the scenes that led to the publication in 1980 of one of his most influential books.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM | Comments (2)

March 10, 2016

The Publishing Experience (2)

Does a fifty-year-old book on publishing have anything to offer the radically different publishing environment today? Cass Canfield's The Publishing Experience, on his career at Harper from 1924 to 1986, is such a book. While his brief vignettes of many prominent authors are most fascinating and worthwhile quite on their own, along the way he also offers some precepts that guided his work, which still ring true decades later.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 23, 2016

The Publishing Experience (1)

What will publishing be like in fifty years? Will we be reading books from our brain implants? Will people still love print books but be printing and binding them in their home or office? Will reading increase because people will have more time as they travel in self-piloted personal drones?

Continue reading "The Publishing Experience (1)"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:05 AM

November 11, 2015

Getting a Job in Publishing

A college senior told a friend of mine, "I think I'd like to work in publishing."

So the friend asked me, "Do you have any suggestions I could offer her?" Here's what I said.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:52 AM

May 26, 2015

Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago the editorial department at IVP consisted of Jim Sire and me with Linda Doll working half time. We put out about twenty-four books a year. Today the editorial department consists of seventeen people and we do about a hundred and ten books a year.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:23 AM | Comments (11) are closed

December 30, 2013

Farewell, Jim Hoover

Jim Hoover has given us the sad news (for us) but the good news (for him) that December 31, 2013, will officially be his last day at IVP. Hoover.jpg I could try to measure the contribution Jim has made in number of books edited or pages published in his more than thirty-five years with IVP, but that would be wholly inadequate. He has been a work horse, but much more. He has been our sheet anchor of wisdom as we have faced innumerable decisions and quandaries over the years.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:36 AM | Comments (11) are closed

March 26, 2013

The Silver Lining on Doom and Gloom

Here's a doom-and-gloom article about the publishing industry with a twist: it might not all be doom and gloom.

Despite the continual stream of stories about authors making $10,000 a month or more on self-published ebooks and in the process crushing traditional publishing out of existence, Evan Hughes in Wired magazine (April 2013) says there's another side of the story.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:16 AM | Comments (6) are closed

January 15, 2013

John Stott's Peace Offering

"Fie upon you, IVP."

I'm still shocked, fifteen years later, that John Stott uttered these words at our office gathering during an event in which we honored him in 1998 for fifty years of publishing with us. We had at that point sold over five million copies of over forty of his books, booklets and Bible study guides. Many present had said what his books had meant to them. He voiced his appreciation. Then toward the end, even with a slight tinge of humor, self-consciously overstating his sentiments, he clearly expressed that, nonetheless, he was upset with us.

What had we done? Published heresy? Wandered far from our publishing mission? Perhaps we had altered some of his writing without his consent? Insulted the Queen? No, none of these.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:27 AM | Comments (15) are closed

February 22, 2012

My Conversation with Jeff Bezos

It was over a dozen years ago that I spoke with Jeff Bezos at a conference in Washington, D.C. In the early years of Amazon, the company was losing money hand over fist (losing $125 million in 1998 alone) in its all-out effort to gain market share. I told him I understood the strategy, but realistically, how long could they keep it up? With his famous Jeff Bezos smile he told me, "I appreciate your concern. But there's no need to worry about Amazon."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:30 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 15, 2012

What Publishers Can Learn from the Airlines

Book publishers are desperate for new business models. While standing in line at the airport recently, I thought maybe we could look to the airline industry for inspiration. If we did, here are some things you might see from publishers:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:11 AM | Comments (14) are closed

February 9, 2012

Reaching the World (or Not)

With all the options and advantages for self-publishing print and ebooks, authors are weighing their options these days, wondering what traditional publishers really have to offer. One consideration is selling rights.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:40 AM | Comments (4) are closed

January 20, 2012

Self Publish? You Bet.

Do I, as the editorial director for a traditional print publisher, encourage and support self-publishing--even self-ebook publishing? Yes. I do. Here's why.

Continue reading "Self Publish? You Bet."
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM | Comments (11) are closed

December 14, 2011

The Obvious Solution for Publishers

Publishing faces unprecedented challenges these days, with the decline of bookstores and the rise of the Internet and ebooks. The ultimate difficulty may, in fact, be the digital dilemma.

Music, videos and news have been digitized, and which has sent those industries into chaos. And all sorts of other information have been digitized and liberated on the Internet for the greater good of the planet--at the ability of content providers to make a living, which ultimately has a negative effect on new content produced and so a negative effect on the planet. But I digress.

What is a publisher to do?

Continue reading "The Obvious Solution for Publishers"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:31 AM | Comments (8) are closed

November 15, 2011

IVP Acquires Biblica Books

InterVarsity Press has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Biblica Books, the book-publishing arm of Biblica Worldwide. In the acquisition, which is expected to close by the end of the calendar year, IVP will obtain 170 current Biblica Books titles, as well as nearly 30 forthcoming books. This includes Operation World, the definitive global prayer guide that's now in its seventh edition.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:42 PM

October 31, 2011

HarperCollins Buys Nelson

The publishing world, and particularly the Christian publishing world, is abuzz because of the announcement today that HarperCollins (the third largest trade publisher in the United States) has purchased Thomas Nelson (which claims to be the seventh largest trade publisher). With Zondervan
Harpercollins-logo.svg.pngNelson logo.gif and HarperOne already under the umbrella of HarperCollins (which itself is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.), half of all Christian trade publishing will be in the hands of a single entity.

What does it mean?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 5:32 PM | Comments (7) are closed

June 28, 2011

Where Are Your Printing Presses?

When people visit InterVarsity Press, they often ask where the printing presses are. I show them our copiers—the closest thing we’ve got. Our books are printed all over the country and sometimes around the world—all on printing presses owned by others. Even the biggest publishers do not own printing presses. Why?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:51 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 12, 2011

Merchants of Culture 5: Not All Digital Is Created Equal

The online subscription model has worked wonderfully for academic journals, as John Thomson summarizes in Merchants of Culture, because

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:48 AM

April 5, 2011

Merchants of Culture 4: Publishers in the Middle

It’s easy to see the advantages of being a large publisher, as John B. Thompson chronicles in Merchants of Culture. (The first in this series is here.) It’s the economies of scale—consolidating business operations, having the size to field a sales team, having clout with suppliers and retailers, accumulating cash flow for big projects, having the ability to absorb losses from a big investment that goes bust, and being able to invest in IT.

And on reflection, we can see that despite the vulnerabilities of being small, there are advantages too.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:10 AM

March 31, 2011

Merchants of Culture 3: Making Available vs. Making Known

While familiar territory for some, the current state of publishing and how we got here is skillfully summarized by John B. Thompson in Merchants of Culture. (See my first in this series here.) He covers the rise of agents, the rise of superstores, the rise of “mass-market” hardbacks, the rise of publishing conglomerates, the rise of sales to big box stores, the rise of advances, the rise of Amazon, the rise of the number of books published, the rise of ebooks.

At the same time this story also includes the demise of independent stores, the demise of superstores, the demise of literacy.

Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 3: Making Available vs. Making Known"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM

March 29, 2011

Merchants of Culture 2: Symbolic Capital

While John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture focuses on big trade publishing in the United States and United Kingdom, it provides helpful insight into a wider range of publishing endeavors. (See my first blog in the series here.) He begins with how publishers get things done. And all publishers, regardless of size or category, accomplish their work with five key resources:

Continue reading "Merchants of Culture 2: Symbolic Capital"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:21 AM

March 23, 2011

Merchants of Culture 1: Merchant of Candor

When reading John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, those of us who have been in publishing thirty-five or twenty-five or even fifteen years will feel like we are reading our own biography. This is history we’ve lived through and a present reality we know all too well.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:36 AM

July 8, 2010

A Footprint Bigger Than Its Foot

Sometimes a publisher has a footprint bigger than its foot. That certainly has to be the case with Copper Canyon Press. Respected if not revered by poetry patrons and literature lovers everywhere, Copper Canyon, since its founding in 1972, has developed an international reputation for doing (and doing well) what virtually all other publishers studiously avoid--publishing poetry. And we're not talking sentimental rhymes here. We're talking Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:31 AM

April 12, 2010

Stott's Farewell

John Stott, one of the most influential Christians in the world, retired recently from public ministry. Now he has issued his last book, The Radical Disciple.

In the postscript (titled "Farewell!") Stott offers a last bit of encouragement and exhortation, one that I resonate with myself after a lifetime of loving books:

As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight, I venture to send this valedictory message to my readers. I am grateful for your encouragement, for many of you have written to me.
Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be. But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced. For there is something unique about books. Our favorite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from any book unless I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace. . . .
Once again, farewell!
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:05 AM | Comments (1) are closed

March 18, 2010

What Publishers DO Know

In my last post I exposed the awful truth that there's a lot publishers don't know. They just don't have the ability to predict the future, unfortunately. But there's a lot they do know too. Such as?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:12 AM | Comments (2) are closed

March 8, 2010

What Publishers Don't Know

Many people seem to have a notion that publishers somehow are (or should be) a superior form of human being. It's nice to be so highly thought of--until you find out what they mean. Like the question many of us have heard. "I thought you guys were smart. Why don't you just publish bestsellers?"

So, true confessions, we're not omniscient. And I'm here to dish. What don't publishers know?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM | Comments (3) are closed

December 21, 2009

Sic Transit?

Dan Reid pointed out to me a comment left on a sister IVP blog, Addenda & Errata.

The comment: Tell us what you think about a piece by Steven Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, titled "The 10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing."

The response: This brief piece with a provocative title is a reality check for everyone connected to book publishing.

Continue reading "Sic Transit?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:21 AM

August 31, 2009

Shatzkin's Bad News, Good News

Someone recently asked me a helpful diagnostic question for those in leadership, a question that helps you get at the big picture. "What causes you to lose sleep at night?" Certainly for me the Great Recession and the sea changes it may be bringing in book publishing have been right at the top of the list for me.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:05 AM | Comments (2) are closed

August 14, 2009

Competition to the Rescue

What challenges do publishers have? Not just a faltering economy and declining reading rates; their problems are legion. To name but a few:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:43 AM | Comments (3) are closed

May 7, 2009

Eat Your Book

I was talking to an author who had worked for a multinational food company and had recently switched to a not-for-profit organization. She had a book in mind and wondered how many copies we typically sold for a book in that category. I gave her a five-figure range.

"Oh, I guess I'll have to get used to that," she said, "because where I came from, we talked about selling millions of boxes."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:34 AM | Comments (5) are closed

March 23, 2009

How Publishing Shapes Us

“Publishing by its very nature changes your value system.”

I was struck when my publishing friend Roy Carlisle suggested this might be the case. It set me thinking. Instinctively I felt he must be right. At the same time, I felt like such a proverbial fish immersed in the waters of publishing culture that I hadn’t the faintest notion what those changes might be.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:25 AM | Comments (2) are closed

February 5, 2009

Concept Books

Authors need a platform, a group of people with whom authors are already networked who are waiting and wanting to buy the authors' books. I've said that here before, though the idea is not unique to me. But can books by authors who don't have a platform sell well? Actually, I think they can.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:29 AM | Comments (4) are closed

February 2, 2009

Courage to Publish

No doubt publishing is difficult these days. But whatever challenges you and I may face, they are not very significant compared to what Lasantha Wickrematunge faced in the violence-filled country of Sri Lanka over the last fifteen years. There he was a crusading journalist who was not afraid to expose corruption and scandal both in the government and in the opposition. On January 8 he died for his efforts.

He left behind, however, a last editorial to be published on his death. It is a testament to integrity, to humanity, to doing what is right and to looking to the welfare of others before looking out for ourselves. It is publishing with courage.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:26 AM | Comments (1) are closed

January 19, 2009

Are Book Lovers Killing Books?

Is the rise of reselling books on the internet destroying publishing? Book lover David Steitfeld thinks it might be.

The explosion of people selling used, nearly new and rare books online means readers can save money if they are willing to wait a while for a new book to make its way to these re-sellers. And it's not just Amazon. There are over 20,000 such booksellers around.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:53 AM | Comments (7) are closed

January 14, 2009

A Bold, Exciting Career

A woman in Indianapolis wanted to interview me. Well, it wasn't actually even as grand as that. She wanted her kids to interview me.

She had a project for her children to interview people in different lines of work to see how they got there. What were their interests when they were the age of her kids? What steps got them from there into a line of work that really fit who they were?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:36 AM

January 11, 2009

Who Needs Publishers?

What do publishers really have to offer authors? Can't someone self-publish easily through Lulu or XLibris? Can't they sell their books on Amazon.com? Retail stores are in decline, so who needs publishers to get their books on the shelves?

Clay Shirky asked these sorts of questions in Publishers Weekly a couple of months ago. He thought publishers were especially well suited to

1. help a book focus a conversation about important topics
2. create social capital by making something that becomes more valuable as others consume it
3. do these two things on a large scale for the long term

Shirky was amazed to hear publishers talk about abandoning these functions in favor of finding authors who already have a "platform." If an author can already market directly to a group of potential readers, why does he or she need a publisher?

The answer, Shirky thinks, is by publishers making sure they matter to and are trusted by readers. As every publisher knows, however, readers almost never know--much less trust or distrust--publishers. Who publishes Toni Morrison or Thomas Friedman? Readers don't know. The only people likely to know are publishers themselves.

Shirky's three functions are good and valuable for publishers to focus on. But I don't see how looking for authors with platform negates them. The reality is that substantial decline in retail bookstore sales minimizes a traditional channel for publishers. In a bygone era retailers (who might have known publishers) also handsold books to customers. Retailers used to be the fulcrum between publishers and customers, and that fulcrum has shifted to the author. And as I've said here before, authors without platform rarely do well.

What do publishers offer, then, with self-publishers offering so much and retailers offering less? Years or decades of experience in knowing how people read, how ideas are absorbed, how story and content flow most effectively, powerfully and beautifully. (In short, editors.)

What do publishers offer? Years or decades of experience in knowing what books people buy, how they hear of them, where they buy them, how they buy them, why they buy them and how much they'll pay for them. (In short, marketers.)

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about the contributions of professional book designers, print buyers, rights managers and others. (In short, more.)

Is the publishing world changing? You bet. Do publishers always know best how to deal with that? Not at all. If authors want to publish without editorial or marketing expertise, they can. Many do; some succeed, many don't. But if authors want such help, they can find it at a publishing house.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:11 AM | Comments (6) are closed

December 4, 2008

Publish Without Perishing?

My colleague Sally Craft recently spotted two very different perspectives on the future of book publishing that are worth reading and pondering together.

The first, "How to Publish Without Perishing," from a guest columnist, author James Gleick, was posted at the New York Times.

The second, "To Publish Without Perishing," is from a guest blogger, NYU college professor Clay Shirky. This response to Gleick's piece was posted at BoingBoing.com.

So I want to believe Gleick. But should I? You tell me.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:24 AM | Comments (3) are closed

November 21, 2008

What I Like to Read vs. What I Like to Publish

When I read on my own time, I tend to gravitate toward history, science fiction, fantasy and New Testament studies. Sometimes I'll throw in some literary fiction or theology or management/leadership books. Sometimes I'll read a bestseller just to see what the buzz is all about. And I always listen closely to the recommendations of friends and colleagues which can lead me into any number of genres. And if you want to see where my reading interests have taken me at any time, just check out the list on the right hand column of this page.

Continue reading "What I Like to Read vs. What I Like to Publish"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:32 AM

November 18, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

In my car in recent days, I've been listening to Sara Paretsky's Fire Sale, featuring her favorite detective, V. I. Warshawski.

Many fans of this genre have recommended Paretsky to me, so I thought this would be a pretty painless way to test her out. In ways the book is predictable: evangelical Christians are the bad guys--greedy, hypocritical, even violent. Or they are good-hearted but impossibly naïve.

Continue reading "Be Careful What You Wish For"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:11 AM

October 6, 2008

The Perfect Recipe for a Modern American Publisher

One of my favorite quotes about publishing comes from John Tebbel's Between Covers. Tebbel recounts a conversation Mark Twain had with Frank Nelson Doubleday, in which Twain offered "the perfect recipe for a modern American publisher":

Take an idiot from a lunatic asylum and marry him to an idiot woman and the fourth generation of this connection should be a good publisher. (p. 138)

As Tebbel's book chronicles, there is a long, tension-filled and hilarious history of the relationship between authors and publishers. Many examples of strong, constructive and congenial relationships populate the past as well. I suspect that publishing is no more subject to these dynamics than any other endeavor involving more than one human being.

If it is more volatile, perhaps it is due to the often subjective nature of publishing. Predicting sales (and thus advances and royalties) is an art, not a science--thus it can be a point of tension. Knowing how and when to revise a manuscript is an art, not a science--thus also a point of potential tension.

Books have also been compared to being an author's "baby." There is a protective, parental concern that can hover over this toddler. As a parent's identity is wrapped up with what children say or how they perform, the same can be true with an author and their book. Publishers and editors and marketers are wise to take note of these factors.

I like the idea of working in partnership with authors, as a team. We each have strengths to bring to the table and seek to establish a mutual trust that focuses on doing what is best for everyone and for the book. Is that ideal? Perhaps. But it's an ideal that's worth the effort.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:25 PM

September 28, 2008

Publishing for Profit: Redux

Off and on over the past year I've been commenting chapter-by-chapter on Tom Woll's Publishing for Profit. The front cover quotes the Associated Press as calling it "the Bible for the industry." Almost as good as Holy Writ? Well, you be the judge.

For your convenience, here's Woll's table of contents linked to each blog post I've made on the book.

I. The World of Publishing
1. C3--Commitment, Consistency, Credibility
2. The Publishing Environment

II. Managerial Organization: Strategy and Techniques
3. Define Your Niche (part one)
3. Define Your Niche (part two)
4. Make Planning Primary
5. Keep Your Staff Lean (But Not Necessarily Mean)
6. Protect Your Assets

III. Functional Organization: Strategy and Techniques
7. The Editorial Process (part one)
7. The Editorial Process (part two)
7. The Editorial Process (part three)
8. Production and Manufacturing
9. Sales . . . and More
10. Subsidiary Rights
11. Direct Response Marketing
12. Operations, Fulfillment, and Accounting
13. Electronic Publishing and Marketing
14. Returns

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:09 PM

September 22, 2008

The Crystal Ball

When anybody talks about the future of publishing, the impact of the digital world is always front and center. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. It is having and will have a massive impact. Tom Woll acknowledges as much in the conclusion to his book Publishing for Profit, as well. But what is really interesting, I think, are his predictions for brick and mortar stores, which many prognosticators ignore.

Eventually, he says, superstores will find that stocking a wide array of inventory that doesn't sell won't make economic sense--and therefore having 50,000-square-foot stores won't make sense either. In a few years' time the superstore strategy will revert to the mall chain strategy.

When that happens, surprise! The independents will return to the scene. Those, he believes, will tend to be more focused on certain genres like history or mystery or travel.

Is his crystal ball clear or cloudy? I'd be interested in what you think.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:26 PM | Comments (2) are closed

July 15, 2008

The Logistics of Love

I'm not at ICRS this week because I just got back from our oldest son's wedding in Colorado. At 9,200 feet, it was definitely a high point for our family this year. Stephen is the last of our four children to get married. He and Kristen are a great couple and very much in love. But after having been father of the groom three times and father of the bride once, I have come to the conclusion that weddings are not about romance. They are about logistics.

Transportation to meals, events, housing and the airport for dozens of family and friends. Schedules to make sure the right people are in the right locations at the right times for rehearsals, pictures, fittings, hair appointments and, oh yes, the wedding. Arranging for invitations, music, flowers, tuxes, returning tuxes, programs, locations for rehearsal suppers, receptions and, oh yes, the wedding.

Robert Fulghum once wrote, "Weddings are high state occasions run by amateurs under pressure." He got that right.
While you don't want the logistics to crush out the romance, however, good logistics can create the environment that allows the romance to bloom.

There's a lot of romance about publishing--dreams of literary fame and bestseller status, elegant meals full of sophisticated conversation and interviews on PBS. Even without these dreams being fulfilled, there is an aura that surrounds publishing that is found in few other endeavors. But bad logistics can crush the romance right out of any publishing venture.

If you can't be on time with the right copyediting, with the right publicity for the right people, with the right ads, with printing and shipping the book to the right places in the right quantities, then the luster of publishing can shine as brightly as a black hole.

By all means, celebrate the love. But every so often, celebrate the logistics too.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:48 PM | Comments (3) are closed

June 3, 2008

Print-on-Demand Soars

We've been talking about this here for sometime. Publishers Weekly recently confirmed the trend. Print-on-demand books are increasing massively.

Continue reading "Print-on-Demand Soars"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:40 AM | Comments (2) are closed

May 12, 2008

Publishing Is Like . . .

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.”

Continue reading "Publishing Is Like . . ."
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:28 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 15, 2008

Putting Out a Contract

At the core of every publishing project is the author contract. Here are some more tips from Tom Woll, author of Publishing for Profit, a book I've been reviewing serially over the past few months.

Continue reading "Putting Out a Contract"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:08 PM

April 9, 2008

After a Hundred and Fifty Years, It Just Might Work Again

Everyone is hailing it as a great innovation in publishing. Actually, it's just an excellent example of bringing back a very old idea in a new context.

Continue reading "After a Hundred and Fifty Years, It Just Might Work Again"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:24 PM | Comments (3) are closed

March 24, 2008

Copyright: Sell or Rent?

Copyright is one of the more difficult and complicated concepts to wrap your mind around. That’s largely because it has to do with an intangible object—intellectual property. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of ways to explain it to authors and others. Here’s one of the best I’ve used.

Copyright is like real estate. If you own a piece of property, there are two things you can do with it to get some dinero. First, you can sell the property. Second, you can rent it.

If you sell the property, you are relinquishing all rights to the property in exchange for some greenbacks. The new owner may build a skyscraper on the land and make a gazillion samoleans (or lose same). In either case, it has nothing to do with you. You are not helped or harmed because you have no legal interest in the land anymore.

If you rent the property, you agree to allow someone to use the land for a certain amount of time for certain purposes in exchange for an agreed amount of shekels. But since you have transfered certain rights to the renter, you can’t just do anything with the property you choose. You can’t rent it out to someone else at the same time figuring you can get twice the rent. You can’t tear down the building on the property. At the same time you still have certain obligations. Likely you have to keep the building in good repair. In any case you still own the land.

With copyright you can also sell or rent. A work for hire is like selling your land. You transfer full, irrevocable ownership of and rights to the work you've created to someone else for some dead presidents. The new owner may make a mint or may crash and burn. You aren’t helped or hurt by this because you no longer have any rights in it.

Work for hire agreements are often used with employees (who get their salary in exchange for the intellectual property they create on the job). Freelancers often sign a work for hire agreement to do some work that is part of a larger work or collection.

You can also rent your copyright. You transfer certain rights for a certain period of time. But again, after having signed such a “rental” agreement, you can’t do anything you like with it. In many book contracts, all rights are transferred from the creator to the “renter” (or publisher). Now the publisher can exploit the work in a variety of ways and is obligated to compensate you, the creator, as agreed. You are limited in what you can do on your own with the work by the terms of the publishing agreement you have signed.

Now the work itself may be copyrighted in your name (indicating that you are the owner), but because of your (rental) publishing agreement, what happens to your work is now in the hands of another until the agreement comes to an end. That could happen when the work goes out of print or when some other event happens as defined in the agreement, such as the publisher failing to fulfill certain terms of the agreement.

So real estate and copyright. The analogy works for me. What about you?

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:50 AM

March 3, 2008

Fifteen Minutes a Day

When I first entered publishing, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the folks at InterVarsity Press had a slogan for a reading program they were promoting: "Fifteen Minutes a Day Is Fifteen Books a Year." The idea was that if you could give on average fifteen minutes a day to reading, over the course of a year you could read fifteen books.

Continue reading "Fifteen Minutes a Day"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:24 AM

February 18, 2008

Easy to Get In. Hard to Stay.

"It is easy to get into publishing. It is hard to stay."

I've mentioned this adage here before. The first half is drawn from the fact that virtually every facet of the publishing process can be outsourced with relative ease and relatively little expense. You can contract an author to write the book, a freelance editor to edit it, a typesetting firm to set it, a designer to create a cover, a printer to print it, a marketer to promote it, a distributor to sell it and an accountant to keep track of the money. You don't need any employees. All you have to do is coordinate what everyone else does.

Continue reading "Easy to Get In. Hard to Stay."
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:23 AM

February 14, 2008

Questions Editors Should Ask

Editors are responsible to bring new book ideas and proposals to the publishing committee. Previously I wrote about how weak books can kill strong books, especially if the committee has not been objective enough about a given project. Here are some additional questions editors can ask of themselves before they ever bring a book to the publishing committee.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:16 AM

February 11, 2008

The Voice of Experience

I believe it was The New Yorker that ran a cartoon depicting a stereotypical, balding, blue-suited executive sitting behind a large desk with an earnest, young, stubble-bearded creative-type standing in front of him imploringly. The executive says, "Your job is to propose. My job is to pooh-pooh."

Continue reading "The Voice of Experience"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:26 AM | Comments (1) are closed

February 6, 2008

"Why Don't You Just Publish Bestsellers?"

"Why don't you just publish bestsellers?" I think everyone in publishing has gotten this question at least once. And don't we all smile knowingly to ourselves that it is not quite that simple.

Of course, every once in a while someone comes along who thinks it is that simple. Here you will read about Jonathan Karp at Twelve who seeks after the Holy Grail of publishing.

Certainly he is to be commended for limiting his list to give every book the best chance possible (publishing only one title a month--thus the name of the firm). Every publisher knows that too many books can mean that each book does not get the editorial or sales, marketing and publicity attention it deserves. With over 290,000 new books published in the U. S. in 2006, all publishers have to ask if they are doing too many.

Of course, it is not necessarily the goal of every publisher to only publish bestsellers. For some the goal is to publish the best books of a certain genre and still stay in the black. Nonetheless, it will be worthwhile to check in with Jonathan Karp in three, five or seven years. For we can also lay alongside the common question noted above the dictum: "It is easy to get into publishing. It is hard to stay."

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:23 AM

January 28, 2008

How a Weak Book Kills a Strong Book

I've seen the pattern all too often. We as a publishing committee are enthusiastic about a book because we see it as unique or because we are passionate about the topic or because it touches on a trend that it is rising. Then a year or two after publication we look back with disappointment. It didn't catch on. There weren't many readers as passionate about it as we were. It may have had fine editorial quality, but the experience left a bad taste in our mouths.

Continue reading "How a Weak Book Kills a Strong Book"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:00 AM

January 21, 2008

Nobody Likes Planning

Corporate planning is the butt of many jokes and the bane of many managers. But as folks in InterVarsity have said for years, "Aim at nothing and you are sure to hit it." Tom Woll offers 35 pages on planning in his book Publishing for Profit, a book on which I've been offering a serial review. Woll covers a lot of territory. Here are some highlights:

Continue reading "Nobody Likes Planning"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM

December 17, 2007

How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book?

In August we received a request from an author to publish their book by Christmas. Next July we will receive a request from someone to publish their book before the November election. I mean, how long can it take to publish a book? You get it typeset and printed and you're done. Right? A month? Two months maybe?

Continue reading "How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:21 PM | Comments (1) are closed

December 10, 2007

Dear Santa

Dear Santa:

We have been a very good publisher this year. We have paid our bills on time. We have one of the highest "in stock" rates in the industry. We have published many valuable books. We got several awards for our book designs. We have played nice with our authors. We told the truth in our marketing (even if we did get a little "excited" now and then). So I hope you will keep that in mind as Christmas gets near.

I know your elves are working harder than ever this time of year. Maybe they would have time to squeeze in one or two of the following into your sleigh before you take off.

1. Lots and lots of shelf space in bookstores so people can see our award-winning covers, not just our award-winning spines.

Continue reading "Dear Santa"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:00 AM | Comments (2) are closed

December 6, 2007

Publishing for Profit

The old joke defines a consultant as someone who borrows your watch and then proceeds to tell you the time. If a consultant writes a book, however, that is a different matter. And what more appropriate topic for a consultant to write a book on than publishing itself. That's just what Tom Woll, president at Cross River Publishing Consultants, has done.

Over the years I've read a number of books on publishing, and in most I have found several helpful ideas I have been able to implement. Woll's Publishing for Profit is no exception. Periodically over the next few weeks I'll be summarizing one or more chapters of the book at a time, highlighting insights and commenting as I go.

Continue reading "Publishing for Profit"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:27 PM

November 19, 2007

The Dark Side of Platform

Be careful what you wish for.

Publishing is becoming like real estate. Only three things matter. Platform. Platform. Platform. It seems to be a requirement that to publish a book authors must be well-known or be on the speaking circuit or have a deep network of potential readers to tap into once the book is published. A high-platform author is the dream of every publisher. Or is it the nightmare?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:57 AM | Comments (1) are closed

November 13, 2007

One Flew Over

It seems that everyone wants a say about the new book There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheists Changed His Mind. It started with publication of the book last month by Harper One about Antony Flew, a British philosopher who wrote a pivotal essay in 1950 called “Theology and Falsification,” originally presented at the Oxford Socratic Club chaired by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted many times over, it has been a guide for atheists ever since.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:57 AM

November 5, 2007

Changing Lives

Last week the DePaul Journal for Social Justice celebrated its inaugural issue. As the opening "Letter to Our Readers" from the managing editor states, "It began with a dream. Three women with a vision to create a forum calling for justice, bringing inequalities to light and inspiring others to fight for what is right and just in this world. Beyond a dream, we had little more. No money. No office. And very few models for what we wanted to accomplish. We knew we wanted a journal unlike any other at our law school and among only a handful of public interest-oriented journals across the country."

The three women are Jennifer Keys, Alysia Franklin and Susan DeCostanza. The last of these is my daughter.

Continue reading "Changing Lives"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 3:51 PM | Comments (1) are closed

October 19, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Vanity Publishing Edition

Vanity publishing. It even sounds a bit sleazy, doesn't it? Paying a "publisher" to print and distribute your work has always had negative connotations in publishing. If a legitimate firm won't produce your book, there must be something wrong with it. Right? Either it is commercially unviable or editorially substandard. It means someone is doing it just to satisfy their vanity.

No more. Vanity publishing has had an extreme makeover.

Continue reading "Extreme Makeover: Vanity Publishing Edition"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:59 AM

October 12, 2007

On the German Front

[Here's Andy's latest report from the Frankfurt Book Fair.]

So who have Ellen and I been meeting with here in Frankfurt and what are they interested in?

We have met with Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and general market publishers from all over the world. Some have wanted to get reading copies of one book. Some have wanted to look at several.

A publisher in India wanted to see How We Make Your Kids Angry.

A publisher in Sweden wanted to look at The Gift of Being Yourself.

A German publisher was interested in Deep-Rooted in Christ, a book we published by Joshua Choonmin Kang, a bestselling Korean author who pastors a church in Los Angeles.

A Norwegian editor wanted to see a book we publish on a Christian view of economics--Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves.

A Brazilian wanted to consider an IVP Academic book Rediscovering Paul.

A publisher from Korea was interested in Discipleship Essentials.

A Spanish publisher wanted to see Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

Usually publishers are interested in books under 200 pages because of the cost of translation. And often readers from other countries who might want to read our larger and higher level academic books already know English, so translations are rarely necessary or feasible. At the same time, many of these publishers already have authors from their own countries writing on some of the topics we publish and in a much more contextualized way.

Even with these factors in play, each year we continue to increase the number of contracts we write for translating our books. The substance and thoughtfulness of our books contribute to the good reception many of our titles receive. While contracts are rarely signed at Frankfurt itself, important groundwork is laid for future agreements.

Last night Ellen Hsu and I enjoyed dinner as guests of Brunnen Verlag--Giessen along with about a dozen others. Since we do business all day, our hosts said this was a time for a relaxed social visit. We ate at a restaurant whose name translates roughly as "Beautiful View," which it did provide, overlooking the city lights of Frankfurt from the outskirts of the city. Dinner was served on the more relaxed Eurpoean timetable which allowed for a pleasant evening with our German friends and several of our counterparts from other U.S. publishers.

What is the news on the rail strike? It changes minute by minute. This morning it was on, so we once again took a cab instead of using the commuter rail service. But word now is that more trains are running. So perhaps the union feels it has made its point for the moment by disrupting the morning commute--then again, maybe not.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:30 AM

October 10, 2007

Reporting Live, from the Frankfurt Book Fair

[Andy sent this dispatch from Germany.]

The 2007 edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair got underway Wednesday in Germany with its usual bustle of activity. Several thousand publishers from all over the world have set up their displays—some very grand indeed, some more modest. IVP is in the latter category, but we are still very busy with half-hour appointments scheduled back to back all three days we are here, sometimes doubling up.

Continue reading "Reporting Live, from the Frankfurt Book Fair"
Posted by Al Hsu at 8:30 AM

September 26, 2007

They Just Love My Title

"I asked five friends, and they all told me they loved the title I'm thinking of for the book."

"I randomly surveyed a dozen people at the mall and most liked my title best."

"I've been speaking on this topic lately, and when I mention my working title for the book, I get a very positive response."

Over the years we at InterVarsity Press have heard many variations on this theme from authors. They mention their working title to friends, relatives, coworkers or people in the intended audience, and the reaction they get leads them to believe they have a winner. And they might. But why should a publisher be cautious about such a conclusion? Why should an author also be cautious about such a conclusion?

Continue reading "They Just Love My Title"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:03 PM | Comments (2) are closed

September 23, 2007

Publishers Don't Sell Books

"Publishers don't sell books. Authors sell books."

I was with a group of editors last week. Roy Carlisle, who has been an editor at HarperSanFrancisco (now HarperOne), Crossroad and his own imprint, was making a presentation and was getting just slightly off topic. But he was passionate nonetheless. "An author has got to have a platform. That's what has been true in New York for the last five or ten years. It's what every editor there knows."

Publishers don't sell books? How do they stay in business?

Continue reading "Publishers Don't Sell Books"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:19 PM

July 13, 2007

Creating Readers

I was in Atlanta this past week at the International Christian Retail Show with thousands of others interested in Christian books and Christian music and Christian gifts. As we stood in the aisles, one colleague reminded me of APA President Pat Schroeder's comment that publishing is the only industry that doesn't seek to create consumers. The tobacco companies do it. McDonald's does it. (Those Happy Meals are hard to resist.) Publishers do some--but not much--to grow readers.

"But what about Harry Potter?" you protest. "Look, we've got a 12 million copy first printing! Biggest in history! Kids lined up at stores at midnight! Surely that is helping!" Apparently, not so.

Continue reading "Creating Readers"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM

July 9, 2007

Nothing New Under the Publishing Sun

Looking for new publishing ideas? One neglected place to look is the past.

Continue reading "Nothing New Under the Publishing Sun"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:38 AM

July 5, 2007

The Good News About Going Out of Print

One of my least favorite tasks is attending the meeting where we decide which books will go out of print this year. Every book is a friend and companion. Some are even like children. We want them all to do well in life and find success. Occasionally that does not happen.

Continue reading "The Good News About Going Out of Print"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:50 AM

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Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.