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Of Making Many Books There Is No End


Back in the late 1970's, E.M.F. missionary Jean Pleasence was involved in the setting up of a branch of Evangelical Press in Spain. This publishing house, which later became independent, is called Editorial Peregrino, and is headed up by E.M.F missionary Matt Hill. In this article, Andy Woods, (who married Jean Pleasence in 1997), tells us what he has discovered about the complexities of publishing a Christian book in Spain (with similar issues being faced in Poland, where Krzysztof Rutkowscy directs the work of the Legatio publishing house). As Andy discovered, getting that good book onto the reader's shelf is no simple task. Read on to find out more...

‘Of Making Many Books There Is No End’. Solomon, or whoever wrote Ecclesiastes, wrote more than he knew! He saw it as a complaint, which many students would heartily agree with.  Yet for many others, books are a passion and we love to decorate our houses with them.  Books are friends.  Since mechanical publishing came into being at the end of the Middle Ages, there has been a steady proliferation of printed matter, whilst the advent of the computer age has witnessed the rise of the e-book.  Most people in the Western world now have unparalleled access to a huge range of titles, on every subject under the sun!  Surely Solomon would have been impressed, or perhaps, more deeply depressed.

Making a book: it’s more complicated than you might imagine!

How many of us know what is necessary to make any single book available?  Perhaps you have a computer.  If so, you can probably use a word processor to type your thoughts onto the screen, where they appear as if by magic, and when you are through, you can press ctrl +P, and lo and behold, what you have written comes out of your printer!  So publication is just that on a bigger scale.  Well, not quite.  Just imagine you want to send your thoughts to someone in Hungary or Romania who speaks Hungarian, but not English.  What then? Easy!  Just use Google Translate and away you go. Then you’ve never tried to read anything translated that way!  

Now imagine you are an author who has written a book and you would like to publish it. How would you do that?  Do you hope to make some money from it?  Is it more important to you that people should read what you have to say?  Is it a hobby, or your livelihood?  Was it dashed off in two days or did you labour over it for months?  Is it an exciting detective whodunnit or a serious tome for serious students?  Are you famous, or has no one ever heard of you? Is it full of typos and grammatical errors, or has it been properly edited?  Does it need translation and will it read well in another language? What kind of cover will it have and who will design it? Will anyone want to read it? Maybe publishing a book is a lot more complicated than you thought.

Now think about Christian books; the variety that there are and some of the subjects they cover. Then think about the size of the market for this type of book and the type of Christian book you prefer to read.  Apart from the Bible, do Christian books have a value?  Now think about where your nearest Christian bookshop is.  Does it prosper?  Do you like the selection of titles it has? So Christian publishing has its own unique problems.

Two E.M.F. workers involved in ‘making books’

Matt Hill  (Editorial Peregrino) and Krzysztof Rutkowscy (Legatio) and their helpers battle with these kind of issues and more besides.  Editorial Peregrino is a publisher of Christian books in Spain.  Legatio is a Christian publisher in Poland.  Both are supported by EMF. The stance of both would be termed ‘reformed’.  But within that category, there is still a wide choice of topics to consider, such as apologetics, theology, commentaries, children’s books and evangelism.

The issues faced by Matt Hill in Editorial Peregrino

In Spain, there is a lower tradition of book-reading than in the UK, so the market for Christian books is restricted and books are generally a lot more expensive.  There may be a broader purchase base in the Spanish-speaking world in Latin America and the USA, but that presents a marketing challenge.  Financial considerations are important, for no sales means no publishing, and understandably, publishing people however committed, need to live!  To give some idea of costs and procedure, look at the flowchart.

In Spain, a book club ensures a regular purchase of books by members and therefore a small regular income, but it is not possible to publish all the titles they would like.  There are series which need to be maintained and developed. Children’s books are very expensive to produce with their special colour and paper requirements.  Holding a large stock of unsold books is financial suicide, yet books on a list need to be readily available to order.

An editorial committee of six people meets quarterly to discuss titles for publication to balance competing claims and other issues.  Translation is a time-consuming exercise and needs special skills that are highly valued, but never satisfactorily recompensed.  Mostly these things are a labour of love. Editorial Peregrino has ten to twelve books in the pipeline at any one time with a two year plus gestation period. Matt has a small team helping him in a portable cabin office, (Eva, Raquel and Saray), who would value your prayers too. Authors being translated include Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, Dale Ralph Davies, Roger Ellsworth and Leonardo de Chirico.  Joel Beeke, who was a speaker at the recent Pasion Por El Evangelio (Passion for the Gospel) conference, also has had a book published to coincide with this event.

One of the delightful reflections of the growing maturity of the Spanish Church is that Spanish authors are coming through.  Luis Cano has written a book of devotional daily readings called Comida Para Llevar (Takeaway Food), whilst his wife, Pilar Herrera, has written a book on women of the Bible, with another volume in waiting.  Editorial Peregrino also produces two magazines, one evangelistic, one theological.  So there is plenty happening!

Prayer Points

Prayer pointers:

  • Please pray for Matt and Krzysztof as they face all the issues outlined above.
  • Thank the Lord for increased interest in sound literature in Spain and Poland.
  • Ask the Lord to help these publishing houses to distribute their literature more effectively.