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Publishing agreement announced: I think you may enjoy the process ...

May 24, 2011

Two years ago, at the beginning of the Three Testaments project, some of us discussed the pros and cons of publishing with each of the three main categories of publishers: Religious, Academic and Commercial (or “Trade”). I sent trial balloon inquiries, describing the project to three of the most highly regarded publishers, one in each category:

1. My old Wipf & Stock, since they are one of the more creative publishers of serious theology.

2. Georgetown University Press, a Catholic university press connected with a community not sufficiently included in our plans at that point, and a press well established in the interfaith field.

3. Roman and Littlefield, a commercial trade publisher that also has both academic and religious credentials (they co-publish with the Smithsonian Institution and they operate the noteworthy Episcopal and Catholic imprints, Cowley and Sheed & Ward).

Roman & Littlefield also owns the National Book Network, the second largest independent book distributor in America, so when they said “get back to us when the project is further along,” they went to the top of our list for future reference. Wipf & Stock said they would be pleased to publish but thought the book deserved mass market exposure. (That would be impossible at their proposed selling price of $49.95, but we kept them in mind as well.) Georgetown did not reply, but I went back to them later when Henry Carrigan furnished a personal contact. Like a few other university presses we talked to, Georgetown decided it was too big a project for them to attempt.

Then I had correspondence with a British publisher who wanted to know if we had ninety thousand pounds to invest, and a Canadian publisher who could not imagine anyone who could do this complex book in the present perfect storm of publishing, i.e. the recession, combined with the war between print and electronic books, plus competition between bookstores and online sales. I shopped a few religious denominational publishers, but they are too small. We tried some of Henry’s friends at Harper and Doubleday. They called the concept “compelling,” but their books are now all of the cookie-cutter variety, for economic reasons, whereas we want the Scriptural portions in two columns, plus calligraphy, Arabic, Greek and Hebrew scripts, complications with nine writers and three Scriptural copyright holders. This project also faced a measure of Islamophobia, or of fear of backlash relating to the publication of the Quran as part of “a new Bible,” as some saw it.

Kazi Islamic Publishing might have formed a partnership with The Jewish Publication Society if we had found them an adequate Christian partner. Mellon offered to publish a library edition, selling at $100. per copy. Several publishers offered to publish in three separate books over time, but this would defeat the vision. Wipf & Stock was still ready to go and there were other positive possibilities, but Rowman & Littlefield was still our first choice. I went back to them this winter when the text had taken shape, hoping for at least an offer from one of their subsidiaries. Ideally this might be Sheed & Ward, now claiming to be the largest religious publisher in the world, or perhaps AltaMira, Lexington, Scarecrow or one of the university presses they manage, all of whom have access to the National Book Network, as does the Smithsonian Institution.

Sarah Stanton, the Rowman & Littlefield acquisitions editor, replied that R&L, their flagship trade imprint, was itself increasingly interested. They sent out the text to a spectrum of independent readers who responded with enthusiasm. They offered a good publishing agreement which I have accepted, after some improvements. To generate reviews and awards, and to sell to libraries and other specific targets, R&L decided to make Three Testaments available in hardcover first, in the spring of 2012 @ $36.98, followed by the paperback in 2013 @ $29.98, at which point I will quit my day job and hit the lecture circuit. We hope to have a free copy of the hardcover for each of you, and this online community will have certain privileges in a virtual launch early in 2012. This is a mammoth undertaking and we will want your involvement and support, but we are in good hands with the publisher we preferred from the beginning.

Special thanks to Henry Carrigan for contacts, wisdom and patience with my almost impossible demands and unreasonable expectations, and to David Bruce who took the responses, positive and negative, and made some modifications and adjustments so that most of the glitches and any disjointedness was gone by the time R&L saw the final product. Ellen Frankel, Laleh Bakhtiar, and Amir Hussain also contributed guidance leading up to the publishing decision. Thank you all for your continuing interest; we are now entering the home stretch of this odyssey.

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown