Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Time to launch

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in the past nine months. After consulting with Brian and with Shepherd Press over the past couple of weeks, we decided to go ahead and give this blog a try. Let me give a very brief overview of what has taken place since last November.

I did an initial analysis of Brian's manuscript, and the more I have looked at it the more impressed I have become with the care and effort he has put into this. First, I sat down with a printout and read most of it, making marginal notes and, at a later stage, roughing out some thoughts in a Mind Manager map. I asked Brian a series of questions about the book and his hopes and intentions for it. This began a very helpful initial discussion.

After that I had to spend several months on some other projects and only came back to this book in about the past week.

Without going into any detail on the chronology, here are some edited excerpts from correspondence between the author, the publisher, and myself that may help clarify the current status of the project.

KM: What will the reader learn from your book that he could not learn equally well or better elsewhere? 

BH: ...One of the things I wanted to accomplish in this book is a synthesis of several approaches to spirituality that are usually not found together: So, the gospel (chapters 2-5), the application of the gospel in the pursuit of holiness (chapters 6-8), Christian hedonism as motivation (echoing John Piper, chapter 9), and means (disciplines, community, suffering, chapters 10-12).There are obviously very good books on each of these different emphases. What I hope will be distinctive in this book is combing them together into one unified vision of gospel-centered spirituality. 

* * * * * * *

(Now back to my written comments to Brian) Books that try to do one thing clearly often benefit from restructuring. But this book is trying to bring together several different approaches. The best course may be to just let this book be what it is. 

* * * * * * *

Maybe a new title (if there’s a better one), some careful marketing copy, and/or a new preface or introduction can help position this book better in the marketplace. Publicly framing this book as a synthesis of the emphases of major Christian writers might really help it stand out.

Because the manuscript is rather well developed and well executed, I don't anticipate a lot of structural alteration. But my concern is that the unique selling proposition of the book is not sufficiently evident to allow it to stand out in the marketplace. To carve out a niche for it, perhaps we need to think about titling, from the front cover to the chapter names and beyond. 

The current title certainly has value. But for many people, the title will be the only piece of information about this book they will ever receive. I wonder if we can’t come up with something that would capture the attention of virtually everyone who would be particularly interested in the original title, but then also cast the net more widely. I am playing with titles that emphasize the synthesis-of-approaches idea.

This began an exchange of ideas between Brian and myself about the title, which may ultimately render the name of this brand-new blog something less than accurate. Yes, editing is often a messy process, and it is not often best to go public with a book title before its time. Too late.


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