Signing with the Enemy, Part Deux

So in a previous post I talked about the awkwardness of signing a contract for my now-forthcoming book, tentatively titled Deliver Us from Me-Ville, with a new publisher who is not only not my previous publisher but is not my employer, as is my previous publisher. Does that make sense? It's confusing, I know . . .

But in my previous post I promised a rationale, and not only a rationale, but a rationale that justifies the lamest, most hurtful cliche of the English language: "It's not you, it's me." You'll have to let me know if I succeed. Here goes nothing.


I signed with Cook rather than with IVP for a number of reasons, most of them psychological, most of them in acknowledgment of my inner weaknesses.

1. I've had this particular idea for a book for a long time, but I've been too timid to actually put it out there for someone to scrutinize and (say it ain't so!) reject. I finally worked up the moxie to draft a formal proposal and was planning to submit it to IVP when I started to think, Omigosh, my friends are going to see this proposal. They're going to decide whether it lives or dies. And when I thought of that, I had two visceral reactions:
  • (VR1) If they reject it, I will take their rejection very personally, and I will be filled with shame and embarrassment, and I will have a hard time making eye contact with my friends and coworkers, and a psychic barrier will be erected, and psychic distance will build between me and my friends and coworkers, and my effectiveness at my job will suffer, and my friendships will suffer, and I don't want that.
  • (VR2) If they agree to publish it, I will wonder from start to finish whether they thought it was a good book worth contracting or whether they thought It's a good enough book to make our coworker and friend happy, seeing as how he really wants to write more and lately he's seemed so anxious and timid and trepidatious, and then I'll be distracted as I write and as I work, and I will have a hard time looking my friends and coworkers in the eye, and my writing and my working will suffer, and I don't want that.
So I went to Cook, for one thing, to build as much stark objectivity into the review process for my proposal as possible, to spare my friends and my coworkers and myself the anguish that I found myself imagining. I wanted to guarantee as much as possible that this idea, that I've wanted to explore in print for a long long time, was really a legitimate, viable publishing project.

Of course, I already noted in my previous post that I did in fact know some folks at Cook, so my experiment in stark objectivity is compromised a bit from the outset, but I'm comfortable with my margin of error--due in no small part to the fact that I got what I wanted, which was a book contract.

2. I get paid for full-time work as an editor, but upon the release of my first book, Comic Book Character, I found myself frequently tempted to devote some of my work time to monitoring the business, marketing and sales concerns of my book. I didn't cave to said temptations too much, but it was a temptation I didn't enjoy, so I wasn't looking forward to the prospects of fretting over the details again, just because I happened to have read-access to the data.

3. I actually have several positive reasons for going with Cook. One is my friend the publisher, whose brain I like. I like IVP's publisher's brain too, but I digress. Another is the delightful editor, who has in our few encounters shown herself to be quite savvy about the industry and the craft of editing. Of course, my friends and coworkers are savvy too, but again, I digress. Cook has been the publisher of record for some great writers, among them Leonard Sweet, Brennan Manning and Matthew Paul Turner--not to mention they recently published a book about my hero of heroes, Jack Bauer. That's got to count for something. Of course, IVP has its share of significant writings under its hat, but darn it all if I'm not digressing again. Another reason for going to Cook with my proposal is the momentum I see happening there: with a lot of new folks with a high capacity for creative thinking about the industry and craft of publishing, I anticipate seeing them do some really interesting work on my book. It's an exciting time to be publishing with them, I think. Not that IVP doesn't have momentum and isn't exciting, but . . . what is with all this digression?!?

All this to say, I'm excited to be working with Don, and Andrea, and Cook. They're cool people doing cool stuff. And I'm excited to have a reason to really crack open the ideas behind Me-Ville. And I still think, for those of you who I've suggested publish with my employer, that IVP is a great publisher to work with and for. You can tell both IVP and Cook that I said that.


Pete Juvinall said…
Personally, I think those are really valid arguments. It's seeming to me that as time goes on there's a whole relational aspect to my job, especially considering that I like and support the mission of where I work (and I suspect you do to, Dave :)).

As far as 2 goes, as well, I've struggled with that temptation in a different context here and really respect the decision.

Well thought out process.

BTW. Let's see a picture with your facial hair!! :)

Another BTW - my verification word is genpk which I mentally broke down to gen PK and laughed at my own lame joke :)
Anonymous said…
Sometimes you scare me! I feel that I am inside your head or something. In other words, "I feel your pain."

life giver
Anonymous said…
I think we all nodded our heads with "knowing" over those visceral reactions and digressions.

The publishing industry is a lot more like junior high than I'd hoped. But then again, I did survive junior high somehow!

Thanks again for making this all a little more navigable.
Anonymous said…
Just curious, did they offer you a lot more money than IVP? do you just go where the money is?
David Zimmerman said…
Well, I'm not comfortable outing the financial practices of two publishing houses, so I'm not going to answer that question in a public forum. I will say that I was not motivated by money in my pursuit of either book contract--nor should anybody who is looking to publish in the Christian book industry. Most people don't get rich writing books, and those who do really need to search their soul, because it's a challenging--even traumatic--experience to become suddenly wealthy and noteworthy in the arena of religious faith. But in any event, to put it lightly, for every purpose-driven life there's roughly a thousand comic book characters.

As for me, thus far I've not submitted any book proposal to multiple publishing houses simultaneously; while that's certainly an acceptable practice in the industry, I've preferred to keep things simple and two-party wherever possible. So I had pretty much settled on Cook before they even gave me indication that they'd accept the book for publication.

Let me quickly add that I did negotiate some of the terms of my contract--I'm no pushover--but the negotiations went quickly and I very happily signed contracts for both books soon after they were offered me. Both IVP and Cook were very gracious to me in the contracting process.

How's that for elliptical and nuanced?
L.L. Barkat said…
Is it okay for me to call you elliptical? That seems unkind. But you said it first, you did.

But I digress. Really I just wanted to say that all this makes complete sense, and in a humorous way too, over something of course that is no laughing matter. Congratulations. And thanks for making me chuckle.
David Zimmerman said…
I've been called worse. Read my post at Strangely Dim:

Thanks for coming by, L. L. You're no stranger to the perils of publishing, I'm sure. And let me say I got my own chuckles from the name "jinglehells," so kudos to my anonymous commenter.
Al Hsu said…
Yep, The Purpose Driven Life is by far the exception in the publishing industry - according to Long Tail author Chris Anderson, the average book in America sells about 500 copies. (I've heard previous estimates that the average general market book sells about 5000 copies, but that might be New York publishing - Anderson's figures might include all indie publishing, academic publishing and self-publishing.) The vast majority of authors make their living at some other day job - pastor, professor, etc. Only a tiny fraction are fulltime freelance writers.

L.L. had a really good article awhile back mentioning that Andy Crouch makes more money speaking than writing. And Andy Crouch does a lot of article writing. He says that the only way he could survive being a freelance writer is by being married to someone with a real job.
christianne said…
Loved this rationale, Dave. One thing I've wondered all along is how people even get to the point where they get published by their own houses. That's not viewed as a conflict of interest or something? (Please take into consideration that I've always had a hard time understanding the definition of conflict of interest, so if you think it's a dumb question, at least there's a reason for it.)

I think it would feel really weird to walk around the halls of my work (which is a publishing house) both 1) trying to get my book acquired by them and then 2) letting them run with it if they accepted it.

Just how does that 1) happen and 2) feel for those of you who've done it? (So far I know Dave and Al belong in this category . . . right?)

As usual, I enjoy coming back here. Thanks for keeping me entertained and thinking!
David Zimmerman said…
Excellent question, Christianne. Different publishing houses have different guidelines about publishing their staff; IVP, as an extension of the campus Christian Fellowship, has for a long time seen staff as having expertise in an important field of publishing for us and an ethos that gels very well with the Press. A lot of our publishing staff have prior experience in campus ministry, and many of us have ongoing relationships with campus staff, so we've seen good strategic reasons from time to time in publishing staff. Other presses expressly forbid it, actually. It depends on the publishing philosophy and agenda, on the part of the publishing house, and on the ability of the author to communicate to and connect with enough of an audience.

Then of course there's the considerations you bring up of watching your manuscript get scrutinized, deconstructed and packaged in real time and having to figure out what you can and can't contribute to the process. That's not professional so much as it is personal, but of course they all blend in together.
christianne said…
That's great feedback, Dave -- thanks. What you say about connecting with an audience is great, too, since each house has a distinct market they're reaching and you gotta discern whether the market for your book fits the markets they can reach.

Thanks, too, for the insight on how IVP works. Interesting to better know some the ins and outs of their philosophy, as that's a house I've always respected!
Kami Rice said…
Congratulations! And, I'm buying your rationales. Very legitimate. If the book is as good as they are, I may just buy that, too. ;-)

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