Want a job in Christian publishing?

by Marvin Olasky

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, at 5:00 pm

At a low point in ancient Israel, “There was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.’ But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle” (1 Samuel 13:19–20, ESV).

Are we almost at that point in Christian book publishing today? What’s missing from the following notice on the Publishers Weekly Job Zone?

“Title: Senior Acquisitions Editor. Employer: HarperCollins Christian Publishing

“Date Posted: 09/25/2014. Description: The Senior Acquisitions Editor position exists to acquire and substantively edit 22 to 25 projects per year for the Nelson Books imprint. … He/she acquires and develops book projects for the division, working with the author (or writer) to ensure that the completed manuscript meets accepted editorial standards in terms of content, scope, development of the subject, organization, and accuracy.”

Here’s more detail:

“Day-to-day responsibilities include analyzing market trends, pursuing new authors and book projects, evaluating book proposals submitted by literary agents, presenting and costing new projects, negotiating major deal points for new projects, substantively editing manuscripts, and serves as internal champion for projects acquired.”

And more:

“Creates book concepts for target authors as needed … creates book concepts for current authors … provides substantive editing and feedback on first draft; reviews final draft.”

Here’s what the candidate needs to bring to the table:

“EXPERIENCE: 3 to 5 years in book publishing or related field. SKILLS: Proficiency in Microsoft Office, especially Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; proficiency in Chicago Manual of Style; efficient task management; efficient product development management; excellent substantive editing skills; ability to lead meetings toward specific desired outcomes; public speaking; strong front cover copy creation skills. EDUCATION:

Bachelor’s Degree in English or Journalism or related field.”

What’s missing in this search for a person who will have a large role in determining which ideas get before Christians, which authors become well-read, which topics get play? Hint: When students apply for admission to World Journalism Institute courses, we ask not only about professional accomplishments but also about their spiritual history. How much more important is it that a senior editor at what used to be Thomas Nelson and even today wears the label of “Christian Publishing” should be able to make a credible profession of Christian faith?

The catch, of course, is the last line in the notice: “HarperCollins Christian Publishing is an Equal Opportunity Employer.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “Religious organizations are permitted to give employment preference to members of their own religion. The exception applies only to those institutions whose purpose and character are primarily religious. Factors to consider that would indicate whether an entity is religious include: whether its articles of incorporation state a religious purpose; whether its day-to-day operations are religious; … whether it is not-for-profit; and whether it is affiliated with, or supported by, a church or other religious organization.”

HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is for-profit and not church-connected. It bought Thomas Nelson two years ago. I don’t know about its day-to-day operations or whether the purchase came with clauses to protect the company’s early religious base. We need to ask questions: Although Nelson’s mission for two centuries was Christ-centered (with profit important so it could stay in business), is its current mission to use religion to increase profitability? And if so, why should we trust it (or similar companies) to produce Christ-centered books? How and why have we become so reliant on Philistines? 

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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