by Shirley Crowder
I am proud to introduce two “small”—perhaps in name recognition in some circles, but not in production of Christ-edifying books—Christian publishing houses you may not be familiar with but need to know about. I have close connections with both, and yes, I’m proudly partial to both of them!
I’m excited for you to “listen” as I chat with Jan Haley of Focus Publishing and Jim Holmes of Shepherd Press.
At the end of the interview you’ll find more info about Jan Haley / Focus Publishing and Jim / Shepherd Press.
Let’s get started!
What advantages are there in publishing through a smaller Christian publisher?
Jan: If you find a publisher that has an established market in your writing target, you will be more likely to reach a successful audience. A successful, smaller Christian publisher has refined their niche market and there you will find your customers.
Jim: Working with a smaller Christian publisher does facilitate a higher level of intimacy with the staff there and yet also brings the benefits of professional editing, production, and things like marketing and distribution portals.
Trends in Christian publishing are ever changing. Are there any of which our readers need to know?
Jim: I guess there is the good and the not-so-good! On the positive side, book production is getting better and better. We have access to great software that enables better graphic production, nicer book layout and design, and some efficiencies that facilitate much better outcomes. Not so positively, some publishers are less discerning on what they will bring into print, and there is always the temptation to print and promote a book because of commercial rather than ministry priorities. I always like to encourage authors, whether established or would-be ones, that the publisher that will do best for them is the one that is informed by biblical standards and is committed to a God-glorifying approach in the whole process.
Jan: I like to keep a pulse on current social problems and publish biblical resources to help hurting and confused people and to offer hope. For us, that means providing biblical answers not found in psychology. It is a priority that our books be 100% biblical. Christian publishers also need to help keep the church of Jesus Christ accountable for their response to the “trends” in our culture today.
If someone has a “really great” idea for a book, is there a process you recommend for developing that idea?
Jan: You must develop and write that “great” book before you send it to a publisher. I would suggest starting with an outline, research what you want to say, and then begin to “flesh it out.” After you have written a chapter, set it aside for a week or more and then re-visit it, editing and making changes as they become obvious. For me, Scripture quotations must be absolutely accurate, for example. If you quote something, footnote the source. Pay attention to detail.
Jim: Test it out with a small focus group and measure the response!
What are some common mistakes authors make when working with a publisher and submitting a manuscript? AND/OR What would you have them do differently?
Jim: For anyone proposing a manuscript, the key thing to keep in mind is to state VERY succinctly what the book is all about.
Jan: An author really needs to seek the help of an editor who can help them determine whether they are staying on message or drifting off on “rabbit trails.” Do that before you send the manuscript to a publisher.
What does your publishing house look for in a manuscript?
Jan: Because we are a small publishing house, we look to fill a counseling void, or at least a void in our catalog. We have found that shorter “booklets” are very popular. This is not surprising in our “McDonalds” culture. We want our food fast and our answers fast. We believe our large collection of booklets supply that desire.
Jim: We’re interested in writing projects that will glorify God in meeting needs and three criteria, as Tedd Tripp so well states, the text should be (a) gospel-driven—the grace of the gospel is not just for sinners; it is for saints, too. (b) The work should be heart focused. Lasting growth takes place as the heart is changed by grace. And, (c), the submission should be writing that will have a life-changing effect on readers.
What do you like best about your interactions with your authors?
Jim: It’s important, in my mind, to help authors express themselves in their own words, and yet in a medium that requires editorial development and very specific care. And I love teasing out how visual metaphors (as in cover designs and book typography) can help express these in practical ways, that are meaningful to the end users of the book once it is in print.
Jan: I know the depth of Bible study these men and women have completed to be in (mostly) counseling and pastoral situations, pointing people to God’s Word for hope and help with their struggles in life. I am more than honored and humbled to be part of their ministries, as they are part of ours.
How can our readers pray for you personally and your publishing house?
Jan: Pray that we can stay so close to the Lord that we may feel the “pulse” of what Christians need to help them grow spiritually. Pray that God will continue to bless our efforts here so that more people in this generation will realize there is only one true source of hope and help in this world today.
Jim: Please pray for us in the ministry of Shepherd Press that we would be guided by the Lord in all matters and that we would stay faithful to Him in each detail of His calling to us. These are challenging days, and it is vital that we be sensitive to the needs and challenges of ministry the times in which He has called us to serve.
After you read about these publishers and their publishing houses, you will want to go to my blog: ThroughtheLensofScripture.com to find (As Paul Harvey would say) “The rest of the story.”
Jan says, “It has been amazing for me to look back and see how God has sent resources that would grow what I consider to be His Company and our ministry. One book has led to another, and that to another and so on.”
Jan is the founder and owner. She pretty much makes all the major decisions about the company and which resources to publish, editing as she reads.
Jan says, “I am both humbled and excited about the quality of books we publish, knowing that as we depend on God through His Holy Spirit, He has brought the authors and resources to our door. What a joy it is to be useful to the Kingdom.”
Visit: Focus Publishing
Jim says, “I love to say that Shepherd Press is a small publisher with a big heart. The key point to make is that Shepherd Press is committed to producing books that are life changing, but with changes being driven from the heart, that is, a heartfelt response to the truths that are written in each book.”
Jim’s role is a fairly broad-spectrum one. He has some oversight when it comes to submissions, and is also involved in several of the editing and production aspects, as well as new-idea development and strategic thinking.
Jim says, “It is stimulating work being involved with talented authors, and I love the interface with our cover designers and typesetters.”