Why I Publish: Jim’s Account Continues . . .
In my last post [HERE], I reflected somewhat on the early interests and influences that were involved in steering me into publishing. I wrote a little about how I faced rejection from a secular publisher in South Africa, notwithstanding the fact that I (probably rather vainly) considered myself eminently suited to the position.
Providence directed my steps into a book-selling and distribution operation in South Africa, one Sue and I started from scratch. Interestingly, what led to this was really, humanly speaking, a low-level dabbling in selling books on a church book table. I think my passion, and Sue’s, was helping others to be enthusiastic about books, and how they could enrich one’s life in the experience of transforming grace. The book table we started was pretty inauspicious, but, like a steadily rising stream, it flowed further and faster and pretty soon became a full-time operation. Our intention, under God, was to fill and flood southern Africa with good books.
But back to why I publish, and some developments that took place once we had the book business in place and had started some printing…
A family situation arose in which we felt that our time in South Africa was coming to an end and that relocation to the UK was necessary. By the late 1990s, I had developed significant and strategic relationships with several UK- and US-based publishers, so it was not entirely an unexpected development for me to receive a job offer from Darlington-based Evangelical Press, now known as EP Books. David Clark’s crisp voice on my cell phone as he spoke to me from England (I was in the bank in Johannesburg at the time) spoke confidently of EP’s interest in hiring me, and in due course, the contract was signed for my impending position of International Sales Manager, with particular activity anticipated in developing sales in the North American market.
With our feet firmly planted on British soil, so began a new chapter in our lives. Working for EP was both stimulating and challenging. Frequent travel to the USA introduced us to new friends, new ways of thinking, and new opportunities. And because I maintained friendships with other publishers I knew, there were always fresh opportunities at trade shows and other events to compare notes and to think of new ways of doing things.
The Shortest Distance between Two Points
This publishing thing… there often seemed a top-heavy dynamic in the process of moving an idea into print, processing it through all the systems, getting the content edited, a book jacket designed, typography agreed, and then the process of channeling it out to would-be readers through a wholesaler, distributor, retailer, and sales-representative system. Why couldn’t we just get the book from the publisher to the end-user and make the process leaner and more efficient?
In other words, why not just make the whole process more efficient?
I plan to write more of this in my next post…
Christian Care for Body and Soul
When I met Jackie Ross of Blythswood Care, I liked him straightaway. I think most people liked Jackie; he was the kind of person you couldn’t not like. At the time, he was terminally ill with cancer, but close friends reported that his energy was almost unabated. Good friends with him, and related by marriage to William Mackenzie of Christian Focus Publications, the two men were very much like brothers. Both had been visionary and instrumental in the inception of Christian Focus. “We’d like you to work for Blythswood and help us with our literature ministry,” Jackie intoned in his highland Scots accent. My heart was strongly pulled. Some months later, I was engaged as director of Blythswood Books for Life. Blythswood’s primary mission was to show Christian care for body and soul; what better way to help with the soul part than with books! How exciting it was to be back in the discount mail-order operation system once more, this time in the United Kingdom. All the skills learned in South Africa came in useful as once again Sue and I were able to promote the best kinds of books from reliable publishers. And it was a relatively short gap between publisher and reader!
And guess what? I found myself talking again to printers, and also developing a website!
One thing leads to another, and, after Jackie’s passing, a certain measure of restructuring was inevitable. How would God lead us now, I found myself wondering. Then the phone call came from Day One. Would I give some time to them, maybe equivalent to one day a week, on a flexible basis? It seemed a fair question. “What would you like me to do?” I asked. “Well, more or less anything you think you could or that you are good at,” came the reply. So, soon I was in up to the elbows in new projects; there was some editing, there was magazine work, there were customer relations to take care of, and there were authors—authors to encourage, to nurture, and to discuss projects with. John Roberts’ Yorkshire accent was distinctive: “Well, lad, if you think you could develop this series, I think that’d be a right good idea,” his voice boomed. Before I knew it, I was the invisible series editor of “Opening up the Bible” and also pioneering many other of Day One’s sub-brands, such as Creation Points, Life Stories, Faith Finders, and several others.
“Jim, I think you have really put Day One on the map as a publisher,” offered one friend and mentor. “You’ve straightened up the list and brought discipline and order to it in a significant and strategic way.” His words were carefully chosen. And it was around that time relocation to the USA became a serious consideration. A week before Thanksgiving 2010, the Holmes family placed their six feet on American soil for the first time with the intention of not taking them off US soil for several months. With things that took place then, there might even be a book’s worth of events that I could derive from those early months!
April Fool’s Day
Here is not the place to go into what happened in Day One’s revised thinking with respect to its US operation and my and my family’s being transplanted here. Suffice it to say that I am thankful to know that the Lord God omnipotent reigns in the details as much as the big-picture events of our lives. So it was that on April 1st 2014 I awoke with somewhat of a sense of “What is God going to do in my life now?” I had but the barest sense of whatever it would be, it would be in publishing…
So, why am I a publisher? Let me try to share some more about that in another blog post! [HERE]