Tuesday, August 16, 2016


I recently re-read Madeleine L'Engle's book A Circle of Quiet. This volume has been a companion of mine for more than 30 years. Some books stick with you, don't they? Not everything has such staying power. L'Engle tells a story about Henry David Thoreau:

"In 1853 Thoreau was informed by his publishers that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers had sold 219 copies since its publication four years before, so they sent him the remainder. He wrote, 'I now have a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.'
In a small way I can relate. A few weeks ago I heard from InterVarsity Press that sales of Through Her Eyes, published a dozen years ago in 2004, had finally slowed enough to make some changes in their marketing and distribution of this book. Unlike Thoreau's publisher, IVP is billing me for the cost and shipping of my "remainders."

But because a few other things have changed since Thoreau's day, they're still going to keep the book in print. Paper copies may not be worth the warehouse space, but it costs the publisher nothing to keep selling it as an ebook. For those who do want paper copies, "Print on Demand" (POD) volumes will be produced; that's more reasonable than ever before. So even though it's been remaindered, the book will remain in print. Nice.

The publisher told me they still had 210 copies. I spoke for 160. I'm having a case of 40 sent to me and have asked colleagues at Pioneers to stash several cases more so I can pick them up as needed. I'll keep schlepping copies along when I speak or teach, as I've been doing for years. But now I can cut the price in half to $5/each with no qualms about giving them away for free when that seems appropriate.

A year or two ago I had the dwindling royalties redirected to Pioneers as well. The cost of having Turbo Tax submit the paperwork to pay the government its share had exceeded the royalty income.

Staying in print for twelve years is pretty good for a book of this sort. I'm happy that there's still some audience for it and that the publisher has found a way to keep it available.

Thoreau might find it some consolation that these and other dynamics have returned Concord and Merrimack to print, too.

By the way, I would love to give away copies of Through Her Eyes for free to anyone who would be willing to review it on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. When it came out, that was less of a "thing," but now it looks rather pathetic to have none. Well, one. And even that one is brief and has a grammatical error. It would help the book find new audiences if there were more.

(Made friends with one of our neighbors who wrote a book published just a year and a half ago. He has 74 customer reviews. Impressive!)

Sunday, August 07, 2016

My Pioneers Project and the Parada Coca-Cola

It took me years to start saying I'm a "writer." At least that's what I sometimes say when people want to know what I do. More precise would be to say I'm a copywriter and copyeditor. That would tell people who understand the profession that I play with words (often other people's) to communicate messages (often not my own). It's easier to get a job that pays the bills doing that than being a poet or a novelist or an author of memoirs. I dare say it takes less talent and/or chutzpah. But I like it. I also like that most everything that gets past my own internal filters is published.

These days my words don't get out on paper, not often anyway. I mostly curate and work on content for electronic newsletters, websites, and social media.

My latest project is a bit different. It's concrete and three dimensional. It's going to have to be interactive and visual, using images and experiences to communicate instead of words, whenever possible. This is stretching me; I've been alternately inclined to procrastinate about the project, afraid to fail, and excited to try something unlike anything I've done before. This week I'm driving down to Orlando to spend a couple days working with a team there to see how much of the planning we can knock out and nail down. I've been working up possible copy on and off for weeks with little confidence that it's the kind of stuff that in the end we will want to use. Now I'll find out.

The commission is to build a museum-style display to explain what our organization is all about. It's going to take up a good chunk of the lobby of Pioneers' new building in Orlando. The audience? The many who come through as missionary candidates and appointees, Pioneers supporters, partner church leaders, allies and colleagues, and those who may just be passing through the lobby because they're part of a group that asks to meet in our space (theoretically possible given the new facility). We can also expect the occasional group of mission-agency-beat tourists, because believe it or not, that's a thing.

We don't expect to compete with the Wycliffe Discovery Center. They're the main mission agency attraction in Orlando. And the JESUS Film guys offer a well-crafted visitors experience as well, or so I hear. We aren't going to staff this, or charge a fee. But we wouldn't mind being another stop on the tour. In a town that's home to so many "world class attractions," it may take some doing. 

The whole exhibit may also play a part in pulling staff and friends of the ministry together around the mission we've been given. That would be good. But the brainstorming process made it clear people have rather different ideas of what should be included, and we can't do it all. We also  have to get the tone right; if not, there could be a lot of criticism. It should inspire and encourage, without being self-glorifying or manipulative. A tall order.

Even as the project is challenging and stretching me, I'm glad the leadership is not in my hands. I'm just an extra copywriter, on hand to put in the extra time the overextended Communications Team doesn't have to give. I don't have to deal with building contractors and the budget process.

Surely the budget is anywhere near the one Collin Brum has to work with on his latest project. Collin is my stepmom's nephew; a sort-of much-younger cousin. Colin works for Coca-Cola. He's a marketing "events" guy. I think he started with pop-up tents and free Cokes on the beach, but he  has a lot more on his shoulders now. Still, if you'd "like to give the world a Coke," you should have a job like Collin's... he has managed promotional efforts at the Olympics since the 2010 games in Vancouver. I wonder if there's anything I could learn from him for my project with Pioneers?

See below for a video in which Collin gives a tour of Coca-Cola Station in Rio