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Twelve Things I Learned as a Publisher

- 12/10/08  

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Trainer Network | MAI


December 08/January 09

In This Issue:
12 Things I Learned as a Publisher
Critiquing Manuscripts in Languages You Do Not Read
4 Keys to Boosting Rapport
Register for LittWorld 2009
Praise: African Train-the-Trainer Workshop
Connect with Your MAI Friends on Facebook

Hi, !

Most of us learn by trial and error. In this issue, save yourself from a few mishaps by learning from a veteran publisher who divulges what he’s gleaned over the years and an experienced trainer who offers tips for helping authors who write in languages you can’t read.

-Dawn Herzog Jewell, editor

12 Things I Learned as a Publisher
By Ramon Rocha III

1. Instrument. It is really all about God: We are just His cracked vessels, His instrument. People can enter the kingdom or grow spiritually through the books we publish, thanks to God.

I eagerly look for testimonies of people touched by our books. OMF Lit intentionally seeks feedback by printing an invitation at the back of each book with our contact information: “Please share how this book has helped or blessed you.”


We read the testimonies from our readers to our staff during weekly devotions to encourage them.


2.  Balance. Balancing ministry and business is a daily challenge.  I have felt this tension at several decision points: what titles to print, pricing, market segments to target, inventory, cash flow, accounts receivable, HR concerns and so on.  It is difficult but not impossible. The tension, in fact, forces you to be prayerful.


3.  Risk. It is exciting to grow the business (and its ministry), to see what works and what doesn’t, to be competitive and pursue excellence. I have taken calculated risks and tried not to be paralyzed by fear. Some ventures were failures but most were successful — only by God’s grace!


4.  Titles. It’s a big challenge to find the right “portfolio” — the right titles to publish each year.


Some titles have been sure sellers. Others turned out to be “lemons” despite our research. Lord, help us! Keeping ‘ministry’ titles in the backlist has limits, but we should still do it. These titles, though they may not be bestsellers, are what we feel the Church needs to grow and mature.


5.  Numbers. After deciding which titles to publish, how many copies is the right quantity? We should not print too many and imperil our cash flow, nor too few and miss an opportunity. Because of the prospect of higher sales, I have been tempted not to follow the rule to print less.


6.  Advertising. How to inform people of our titles using the most effective means at the least possible cost is a big question mark — but it pays to advertise.


7.  Places. We have to make sure the right people can buy our books at the places they shop and when they need them. Readers should be able to find our books without difficulty. 


8.  Records. It takes discipline to keep and maintain accurate records of all our transactions. A good, reliable accounting software helps. In record keeping, I’ve learned that integrity should not be compromised at any time.


9.  Assets. The right people are a company’s best asset. Do they possess the skills and the attitudes that will propel your company toward growth? Make sure they do.


10.  Leadership. Leading by example as CEO is vital for me to help keep the staff motivated. I strive hard, in God’s mercy, to be a model employee and a disciplined follower of Christ.


11. Prayer. Helping my staff stay spiritually strong can only be achieved through prayer and an intentionally wholistic program. Our leadership encourages each staff member to attend a local church regularly and participate in small group Bible study. We also set aside a budget for our annual four-day staff retreat and outing, which we held in different resorts outside of Manila. These times are always great fun and spiritually refreshing, too.


12.  Bottom line. All of the above lessons will only matter if the Christian publishing house aims to be faithful, depends on God’s grace for results and works for His glory alone. This is the true bottom line.


Ramon Rocha III is former CEO of OMF Literature, Philippines, and head of MAI Asia. He and his wife Grace are in the process of becoming members of OMF International. 

How to Critique Manuscripts in Languages You Do Not Read
By Miriam Adeney

Working with writers using languages you don’t read can be tricky. But even if you cannot read every word of every piece, you can, with a little help, critique. Here are a few hints on how to help writers make the most of workshops.

1. For your first public critique, select manuscripts  in the language written by the majority of the class. Use these to demonstrate the application of the principles you have taught. Invite suggestions for improvement in organization, research and biblical and cultural depth and balance. Modelling this process will help minority and majority language writers critique their own work.

2. Ask all writers to provide an outline for their manuscript in the majority language. Their outlines should include ideas, arguments, events and summarized illustrations in the order they appear in the writing.

Simply by studying the outline, the class can formulate questions:  Is there any research to support that point? Here’s a suggestion for an illustration. Does the sequence of arguments make sense? Have you considered this cultural value…?


You may ask writers to translate paragraphs or the beginning and ending of their work to give a sense of style. Try to minimize your requests so as not to disrupt their creative process.


3. Require writers to find someone who reads his or her language to critique their work. This may be someone from the class, community or home region who can keep in touch via email. Provide a simple critique tool — possibly a series of questions — to help the reader offer feedback on strengths and weaknesses.


Put these tips into practice and you should be able to offer useful advice on ideas, organization, research, audience and some aspects of style to all members of your class, regardless of their language. Plus, writers will complete the workshop with practical tools for future critiques.


Miriam Adeney is an associate professor of World Christian Studies at Seattle Pacific University, an MAI Board member and the author of Daughters of Islam. 

4 Keys to Boosting Rapport

Your success depends on personal relationships. How can you build those pivotal bonds? Here are four keys:

1. Acceptance. Let others know that you like and value them just the way they are. Don’t continually ask them to change and conform to your varying standards.

2. Appreciation. Say “Thank you” and you make people feel capable and valuable. That in turn makes them want to spend more time with you — and they will expend more effort to help you.

3. Attention. Listen to others with genuine interest and minimal interruption. Make eye contact, use positive body language such as nodding to show affirmation and ask clarifying questions to reinforce your attentiveness.

4. Approval. Offer sincere praise for others’ actions and accomplishments. When they feel better about themselves, their self-confidence and productivity soar.

-Adapted from “Turning on Charm at Work Makes Everyone Feel Good,” Donna Nebenzahl, The Montreal Gazette. Reprinted from Communication Briefings: January 2008, phone: (570)567-1982.


>>Register online for LittWorld 2009
>>Download a brochure pdf

>>Win a scholarship: enter the writing competition


Praise: Africa Train-the-Trainer Workshop

African publishers, writers and editors met in Ghana for MAI’s Train-the-Trainer conference from November 5 to 9. Men and women from eight countries learned how to share their publishing knowledge.

“I went away feeling I had learned things that were transferable to others— that had been my prayer,” said Iyabode Okoro, editor of Family Heartbeat magazine in Nigeria. 




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