"It was a deep, emotional, personal thing. I wanted to give my life to him any way I could. I’d been discussing all that with him for weeks in church. I said, ‘Thy will be done,’ but I also have people dependent on me, so how can I do this? It came to me: Just do it." –Anne Rice in The Denver Post
If, as I stated last time, the Great Publishing Dichotomy—these opposite poles of literary vs. commercial, highbrow vs. popular—is a phantom, you can publish great books that sell by just doing it. Believe that God’s rewards follow those who step out in faith, and don’t fear the consequences.
I admire Anne Rice and her recent conversion back to Catholicism. And I see a parallel between her publishing reversal and the difficulty facing other professional Christian acquisitions editors. On her conversion:
"Q: Did you worry that writing from a Christian worldview would impact your career?
"A: I thought it would destroy it, but that didn’t matter. I went back to the church in 1998, and it wasn’t till 2002 that I really was talking to the Lord in church and decided to write only for him.
Surely she had some indication (Mel Gibson) it would all be okay, but all that aside, such a shocking 180 is indeed a dramatic opportunity for us to ask some of our favorite big questions: Can you publish what you want or do you need to serve the audience? Can you do both? But most importantly, can you publish what God wants?
Because you see, after you ask that question, it isn’t so much about making money / being successful / being relevant / upholding standards of quality / furthering your career or the company, but rather, Are any of these other concerns even relevant?
I’ve been wanting to jump on this topic ever since Professor Bertrand dedicated some high-level thought to publishing strategies in his creative application of the Windows/Apple turf war on "future vs. past tense" publishing. And then Dick Staub reminded me of our constantly shrinking “middlebrow” culture in America, reemphasizing Lewis’ statement that unless you can convert an idea into popular vernacular you either don’t understand it or don’t believe it. While this makes an equally strong case for the power of translating the gospel into story I won’t go so far as to excuse the vaccuous, reductionist theology that’s becoming more popular by the day. There is still a standard of accuracy and truth to be upheld, as another of this week’s bestsellers, Mere Christianity, points out.
But over the next couple weeks, I’m hoping to continue the Thanksgiving spirit as we look at some examples of how others target, choose, and evaluate books. All labels aside, each of us is accountable for our choices of which books to write, buy, or recommend. What are our criteria? If literary vs. commercial is thrown out the window, what are the standards of measurement?
This could be a tough topc to cover. There’s a lot of ground. I want to give my perspective on this side of the acquisitions desk, but there’s room for broader discussion, like how we choose which stories to write down, which books to pick up over others, which ideas to give weight and which to ignore. We have choices to make and it isn’t easy. In fact, we all know it’s getting harder every day.
Anyway, there’s probably ample chance I’ll fall down and hurt myself on this one, so I hope you’ll continue on with me and post so thoughts as we go. Let’s get some noodling going on.