The small seminary that I’m associated with also publishes books. So besides being a writer and a teacher of biblical languages and theology, I also serve as an editor for our very small press. Being a small press, we have no money for marketing or promotion. Over the years, we have published more than fifty books, most of them Bible-related. For instance, Dr. Jim West, our adjunct professor who handles most of our online courses, has been working on a commentary of the whole Bible for the past decade. Thus far, we’ve published over thirty volumes of his commentaries.
Not all the books we publish are about the Bible, however. Recently I turned over the preliminary version of a book that an African American woman in our congregation wrote (it was published last year). Eula Youngblood is in her eighties; she wrote a book about her paternal grandfather who was murdered by his brother at an Odd Fellows Lodge in Georgia back in 1911.
Eula used to write for television (for instance, she wrote an episode of the old TV series Bonanza), and she has authored a handful of other books. But now she is nearly blind and must use voice recognition software on her computer to write. Although voice recognition has gotten quite good over the years, it still makes mistakes—especially when it comes to punctuation. It also has some difficulty with homonyms. Consequently, as the editor of her latest book, I had to make a number of corrections, on top of the normal rewording and reworking of sentences here and there. Then I had to format the text, do the layout for the interior of the book and create an index.
Altogether, I spent about two months on the project. Then I had to design the cover. She had a photograph of the Lodge where the murder had occurred so I started with that. I made substantial modifications to it in GIMP, an open source clone of Photoshop: I changed the colors, reduced their number to only three, and transformed it into a poster-like painting. I added the Odd Fellows symbol, the title, author, and a blurb to catch the eye: “One brother murdered. One brother in jail. A family divided.” On the back cover I added a few lines of text from the book:
“You’ve killed me.”
Willie grabbed Ed’s arm to keep him from firing again. They fell to the floor.
Ed yelled, “I’ve ruined myself! Somebody! Take my brother to the doctor. I’ll pay for it.”
Eula was thrilled with the cover design. Then I told her something along the lines of “we made corrections to the text and I think everything is okay now— but I’d like you to go through it and make sure. Then let us know if there’s anything that needs to be changed.”
She looked at me funny and asked, “What do you mean ‘we.’ Did you have any help doing this?”
I tend to forget that I alone do all the work of putting the books together and publishing them. Quartz Hill Publishing House is really just a one man operation—though the seminary as a whole was responsible for establishing it. We—and I really do mean more people than just me, myself, and I—had hopes that our publishing venture might generate some income for the seminary. However, as I said at the beginning of this post, we have no distribution or marketing capabilities. The small seminary’s website—which includes pages for the publishing company—gets around 1500 visitors per day. But most of those seekers haven’t come to buy books. Therefore “some” income has turned out to mean “smidgen.”
But making money was not our only reason for publishing books. We hoped that we’d do something that might benefit people.
They say that you should do what you love and the money will follow. So far, in my experience, it doesn’t work like that. Money mostly gets distracted by squirrels and gets lost along the way.