First, let me alert all my readers that this is about my business even though this is a personal blog. Second, for those who read my business blog, it will be, to a certain extent, repetitively redundant.
Several months ago I decided that I would expand my publication efforts into the area of politics, though I continue to look for a faith overlap in what I publish. This is simply a new category; nothing so dramatic as a new imprint. In doing so, of course, the new political book would be from some perspective or another. If it had been a liberal book, I would want to write a post on publishing a liberal book, and even if it were a moderate book, this might be titled on publishing a moderate book.
What I have found before, and has inevitably come up again, is that people assume that I started publishing in order to publish books with which I agree. I have probably helped nurture this idea by publishing my own books through my company. That is something I will just have to live with, because the sales of those books have been an essential part of growing this business in a very competitive market. None of my books are massively popular, but all of them have helped the bottom line.
Thus I was led to write a post on publishing books with which I disagree a couple of months ago, and now I’m writing this one. The first instance of this problem came up when I responded to a post suggesting that Christian publishers needed to publish “the truth”. This goes way back to 2006, but I find that the posts are still there so one can examine the discussion at the time.
I do, in fact, regard my business as a ministry, or to put it in secular terms, a service. I have specific goals and a specific audience I hope to reach. My interest is in broadening Christian education for what I call the “broad Christian center” and especially in mainline protestant churches. Education doesn’t involve hearing just one set of ideas, and neither does my publishing effort.
In order to accomplish that, I’m seeking to publish books that are both challenging and dialogue-seeking. What I mean by that is that they express their viewpoint well from within their particular perspective and also reach out to communicate with those from other perspectives. I’m not seeking the literature of compromise, i.e. people who water down what they actually believe in order to build dialogue. I posted a view on this, which can be found here.
In connection with this new book on politics, this issue has come up in two ways, first by people who assume that since I’m publishing and marketing it, I must agree on all points. While I don’t feel the call to fight with my own authors, I have no need to agree with everything they say. Second, I hear it from people who question why I would publish a book with which I don’t agree fully.
That leads back to the question of publishing “truth.” Should I limit my publications to those that express precisely the view that I hold on each and every topic? If I did, I would have to remove books of my own from the market each and every time I change my mind on a detail. What about a broader level of truth? No, not so much. What I look for in manuscripts–and trust me, getting good manuscripts that fit my goals isn’t easy–is a point of view that is worth hearing expressed in a way that it can be heard.
If my company were not individually owned I would have less trouble with this. Large companies are expected to produce a variety of ideas. But as it is, many people are surprised each time I publish a book that doesn’t entirely agree with what I have said or written.
So what is this conservative book that I’m publishing? It’s Preserving Democracy, and it’s by Elgin Hushbeck, Jr. I’ve published two books and two study guides by Elgin dealing with Christian apologetics (Evidence for the Bible and Christianity and Secularism. I like Preserving Democracy, because Elgin has done thorough research, referenced the book extensively, and has argued his points well, in my view.
No, I don’t agree with everything in this book, but that is really not the relevant point. I think this is a book that expresses ideas that should be considered. If you don’t agree, you should know why, and be able to support your position.
It’s possible this sounds like damning the book with faint praise. Not true! I’m extremely delighted to have it as the first Energion Publications title in the Politics category. I hope it will challenge people, start debate, and create action. One course of action might be proposals or manuscripts. (Are you interested in the approach I’m taking? Do you have a manuscript or an idea for one? Contact me.)
But I’m also using it to establish my brand identity, so you may hear me talk a bit about my ideas here from time to time. Conversation between people expressing clear, uncompromised ideas can be a powerful force.
Elgin expressed this in his book:
A good healthy democracy depends on a healthy debate that includes both pros, cons, and ramifications of each side and their proposals. But when debate exists primarily in slogans, bumper stickers, and thirty second TV spots, true honest discussion and debate is impossible.
Furthermore, with so many outlets for information, groups are increasingly becoming more insular. Democrats talk primarily to Democrats, Republicans to Republicans, and Libertarians to Libertarians. Each group looks to its sources and insulates itself from others, effectively becoming self-reinforcing, feeding on their own rhetoric rather than on reality. (pages 165-166 in advance copies)
I think he is absolutely right. I believe his book is a step in the right direction. Many more are needed, but you can’t take a second step until you have taken the first. It’s my first step toward strengthening the political debate as a publisher.
Note: If you are interested in reading an advance copy, and you are a blogger, involved with other social media including Twitter, or a political leader, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are still a few advance copies available, and I’d be delighted to send you one while they last.