the road ahead

How then should we publish?
March 5, 2009, 8:40 am
Filed under: business, ministry, spirituality


Needless to say, those who live and work in the publishing business are facing a time of unprecedented change. A virtual economic tsunami is sweeping across Wall Street and the business world, destroying everything that is not built on solid business and financial support.

Publishers (whether they will admit it or not) all around the world are gathering like NavPress leadership to discuss our options. What is the future of our business? How are our publishing partners doing? Have we found the new solution to our business model? How much cash reserve do we have? Will we have to cut our operating costs? On and on we go. I sit in these meetings myself and unfortunately ask many of these questions to my leadership team. Lots of hand wringing, worries, and fears.

But something is missing! We are not asking the right people for solutions to our challenges. What about all of you who read the books and other resources that publishers produce? How then should we publish? Is NavPress missing it? Do we just not get it? What do you think we should focus on in these days of change? I can tell you at least on behalf of NavPress we want to know what you think.

Here are several questions to which, if you would be so kind, I would really appreciate your feedback.

What kinds of materials should NavPress publish in the days and years ahead?

What are some of the spiritual messages that we need to communicate to help the world understand and consider?

How should we deliver and distribute these new resources in order to help people in their spiritual development?

If you will, would you help us? We really want to know what you think! How then should we publish?


15 Comments so far
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Thanks for asking the questions. NavPress has been a great resource for me in the past, especially when I was in an organized ministry position.

I find myself in a different place now, and find that I’m listening to different messages and reading different books. Part of it may be a changing of the times and some of it is changes that is going on inside me.

My thoughts are pretty random but they may count for something or get some dialogue going.

I like Web 2.0 and the accessibility it has presented with various authors, blogs, on-going discussions, etc. I am currently reading Ed Cyzewski’s book as a part of NavPress’ review program- very smart idea. The fact that Ed has a blog and interacts with his readers is significant to me and very appreciated.

Typically I am more interested in the narrative of people’s lives these days. I connect more with their story than I do their directions or outlines. I buzzed through Matthew Paul Turners book, “Churched” because it was funny, engaging and brought up some HUGE points that our Sunday School teachers really need to understand. But he did this without ever actually calling them out or setting them straight. I just had breakfast with a pastor-friend this morning who is responsible for a large SS department. I encouraged him to use “Churched” the next time he does a teacher training. Stories are relevant, extremely so.

I love books. I have 9 bookshelves in my house, all full. I always am carrying a couple books around with me… but this week I splurged and bought a Kindle. Now i can carry the whole bookshelf! I wasn’t sure what I would think. I still reach up to try and turn the page sometimes, but I think that just means that it still feels like a normal book to me. I’m liking it. A lot. I don’t know what publishers think of this, but I’m quickly becoming a fan and will be looking for material in this format.

When you get done hearing our opinions, I’d enjoy hearing yours. What is on your heart for NavPress.


Comment by Chad

Michael Hyatt has a great post on his blog about their new “Nelson Free” program where they are testing an idea about giving consumers a free ebook and MP3 audio book with purchase of a regular hardcover.

Is that the solution? Not sure but what I do like is their approach. They are trying something new that may just work.

Something you said in your post caught my attention. You said your leadership team has “Lots of hand wringing, worries, and fears.” I’m sure those are justified worries and fears but is that fear paralyzing or causing the pursuit of new ways to innovate your model?

Personally I realize the economy is in tough times but I truly believe we are more so in a fear-cession than a Recession. No doubt many have lost jobs and the realities of the economy are solid but that fear that comes along perpetuates it all.

I don’t have the answers but I know I will pray for Navpress. I will pray for you and your leadership team to have the wisdom to make good choices and that you will have the ability to move beyond fear in to the faith that will guide you to new and improved ways of doing business and ministry.

Comment by Daniel Decker

Just a clarification in response to Daniel Decker’s excellent comment. There is no hand-wringing, worry, or fear among the NavPress leadership team. Concern, sure. But we’ve deliberately chosen to weather this storm with faith, not fear, and on the foundation of that faith we’re determined to stay calm, listen to God’s voice, and make the best, most well-reasoned decisions we can for the future.

I heartily encourage all of our publishing colleagues throughout the industry, as well as our readers and the Christian community at large, to keep in mind that God has not suddenly fallen from His throne. Yes, times are tough and unprecedented. It’s time to listen and learn and adapt as never before. Most importantly, I can’t think of a better time to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.”

Comment by djb

Well said “djb,” whomever you are. 🙂 This is getting off topic of Mike’s post but I, like many others, truly believe that this time in society is a monumental opportunity for Christians to share the good news and hope of Christ with no many who are in fear, who are feeling lost, who are seeking hope, truth and security. Security is an illusion when measured by the world, True security only comes in Christ.

I hope that believers seize that opportunities at hand to let their light shine and speak boldly with truth and in love. God doesn’t just bless America in times of prosperity, He blesses us in ALL the time. We just have to stay focused in Him.

Comment by Daniel Decker

(woops… typed too fast in the above comment, a few typo’s… sorry)

Comment by Daniel Decker

All good questions. I might add another: Where should NavPress take its risks? To answer, you first need to define risk. It’s not about rolling dice. It’s about creating measured strategies that are in line with stated visions and goals. Some of these strategies must include less “assurance” of of a payoff in order to create innovation and what others will see as unlikely success stories (The Shack). It might be in how you use technology or in how you select books. For instance, if you have a team that approves the selection of books you’ll publish, perhaps every member of that team should have x-number of anti-veto cards per year — even if everyone else doesn’t like the book, this person can play the card and get the book through. If it’s a success, give that person a bonus card.

Comment by Stephen Caldwell

“If you do not change, you can become extinct” – Haw’s resoponse to Hem in Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. Mike, you may want to have your NavPress team read this book – again and again and again//

Comment by Rodney Boyd

I am impressed you’re even asking. Kudos!

I would merely like to comment on the methods of distribution. I think I should buy one book in all it’s available forms. If I’ve bought the physical book, haven’t you made the money already and can give me a Kindle version free? Do I get a discount on the audio book? (I understand this to be different because of time to record and produce and wouldn’t expect it to be free, as opposed to converting text to bytes.) Books come with codes to access additional online resources and communities.

As for content- as a 30 year old pastor I am greatly concerned that my generation is too open to the same social gospel which overtook many close to 40 years ago. We must see books that extol the virtues of faith and works, and clearly articulate how works must come out of faith, not the other way around or at the same time.

Comment by Clayton Bell

Aloha, I’m 77 and use the BibleGateway to do my reading of the Message. I miss the “Introductions” of each book. My wife has the MESSAGE//REMIX which has the Introductions. Would want to purchase just the Introductions to all the Books or find it on line as a larger font for my eyes.

Comment by Leonard Chun

As the market shrinks and readjust itself, I’ve heard you say that NavPress wants to publish people who have something important to say, instead of authors who need to get their next book out because they’re on a schedule. I still believe that’s going to be the key to publishing in the future for any Publisher: finding content that’s fresh, relevant and fits in the Publisher’s niche.

I know NavPress continues to explore new ways to distribute its content whether through new media as well as publishing partnerships, but distribution is always going to be a secondary issue to content.

The Navigators have 75 years of experience in reaching out to culture. NavPress has an amazing group of content providers within the Navigator organization as well as through the discovering new voices such as Makoto Fujimura.

If you continue to resource the Kingdom, people will continue to buy your products whether they are downloadable files, ebooks, or a good’ol print book.


Comment by Maurilio Amorim


I thought of another example of being introduced to authors and their books that I really enjoy: podcasts. I came across Bruxy Cavey’s podcast on iTunes where he was in discussion with another pastor about the contents of his book. It was after listening to their series that I was interested in purchasing the book. The Steelehouse Podcast (Tulsa, OK) and the Drew Marshall Show (Toronto, Canada) also highlight different authors, interviewing some of them, that can pique my interest in a book.

Comment by Chad

This is hard because even with a faltering economy, I think the biggest problem is an information glut. Even if the economy was doing great, I think publishers would be forced to retool and adapt to the “Glut of Information Age.” There will probably be a need for paper for some years to come but it is clear the internet is consuming a lot of our readership. My wife and I were recently out of town and our number one requisite for a hotel was internet access. Having said that, I remember 5 years ago we were talking about the web being 100 miles wide and only an inch deep. If that was the case then, now it’s a 1000 miles wide and only an inch deep. Three opportunities I think publishers can capitalize on: One, the internet seems to be the prince becoming king, use it. Two, It’s difficult to find the information you are looking for even with the best search engines on the internet. Christian Publishers can leverage their skills in marketing, readership, and technology to provide leadership and consolidation of quality information on the web. is a great example of this being done in the audio message venue. Three, encourage good scholarship. Part of the problem with an information glut is that causes a reversal in education process. There’s so much out there you can virtually find a source that agrees with your slant on anything. Education becomes finding data that confirms your original convictions rather than being a challenging growth process. I guess Navpress could be a QC in the educational process by being a clearing house for sound biblical writings. A place on the web you could trust. I’m rambling but just some of my ideas. One thing for sure, Change is a comin’ and sounds like you all are interested in keeping pace rather than getting left in the dust. Bravo!

PS. Michael, I’d like you to be a guest blogger on “Following Jesus” to talk about what you see in the future of Christian Writing, are you game?

Comment by Chuck Wood

Just a note to Leonard that you can buy just the introductions of the books from The Message. The title of the book is The Invitation. It is available at this link.

Comment by JML

I’d like to say that I agree fully with what Chuck Wood wrote about the information glut and the general superficiality of the content on the internet. In my opinion, the overabundance of information will increase the demand for publishers who are credible. We see this already with some of the most successful blogs being linked to credible authors and news outlets that have already established their credibility in the market. People will always want to know that what they are reading is valid and truthful.

Secondly, I believe that the superficiality will increase the demand for meaningful, rich content. People can only eat so much sugar before they start longing for meat and vegetables. The hunger and thirst people have for meaning and truth won’t go away. If anything it will increase.

This is, in my mind, good news for NavPress. I think that NavPress already has earned the credibility it needs for the future (at least among Christians). And there’s no reason why it can’t continue providing rich content.

The second issue is a matter of what form this content should be delivered to people. Although the question of form is very important, to me it’s secondary to the content and credibility issue. As fast as technology changes, answering this question will be difficult. It might require materials to be delivered in multiple formats, not just one.

As a NavPress author, I can say that I appreciate your efforts and the way you are facing the challenges. NavPress is a great team of professionals. Keep up the great work.


Comment by Glenn McMahan

Here is a “snapshot” of a potential customer:

I bought Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline because it was recommended on a church website.

I hook up to the internet every morning while I drink my coffee–it’s taken the place of BOTH television and newspaper at my house.

I appreciate the solid reputation and trustworthiness of NavPress and wouldn’t want to see that change.

I’ve enjoyed this blog… what part does this have in NavPress’ future strategies?

🙂 I DO pray that God will give your team direction in this matter.

Comment by thejellies

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