Courage to Take the Plunge

John Mar2016 big smileBy John Maust, MAI President

One of our old family videos shows daughter Michelle, then age 4, perched on the steps of a swimming pool, water wings on her arms. Only her feet dangle in the water. “Michelle, come out and join us,” her Grandpa urges from the middle of the pool.

Michelle shakes her head. “No. When I’m ready,” she says firmly. No amount of coaxing will change her mind. Older sister Natalie giggles at Michelle’s fear of entering the water. “Natalie,” Grandpa says, defending Michelle, “she’ll waterwings and poolcome when she’s ready.”

The day did come, of course, when Michelle was ready and ventured into the pool, but it took awhile.

Sometimes at MAI I feel like little Michelle. A hard decision or risky opportunity awaits, and I take a deep breath at the edge of the pool. For instance:

-Should we go ahead with the training workshop in a difficult country of the Middle East, despite the recent bombings in Istanbul?

-Should we continue plans for a certain publishing conference, even though we aren’t sure where the money will come from?

-Should we hold the next LittWorld conference in Asia? Or Europe? South America? Somewhere else?

Faced with hard decisions in daily ministry, I recognize more than ever my need to seek God’s leading in prayer and Scripture, and then to sit quietly and listen to His voice. I’m not talking about listening for an audible voice (which might be nice sometimes!), but for those impressions or thoughts coming to mind that you somehow know are from the Lord.

I want to be in a state of constant readiness to follow Jesus when and wherever He leads. As Christ walking on the Sea of Galilee told Peter, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid… Come.” Please pray for wisdom, discernment and courage in my leadership of MAI’s global ministry.

This year, with God’s help and your generous partnership, MAI will equip Christian publishers and writers in nearly 20 countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. An estimated 640 gifted men and women will benefit from these on-site programs.

Success of this global training, in God’s grace, will mean more and stronger publishers and writers worldwide who “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3).

Please pray that our work will result in more and better locally authored Christian content that nurtures the Church and influences society in countries of great need. Pray too for God’s financial provision for MAI so that we will finish our fiscal year on April 30 “in the black.”

The Ten Commandments of What Makes a Good (or Bad) Website

This article was adapted from MAI’s recent webinar, “Build a Better Publishing House Website,” with Sam Richardson, CEO of SPCK Sam Richardson 2Publishers.

A good publisher website is one that meets the needs of different users. But a great publisher website increases the reach of the publisher beyond these audiences. To go from good to great, you first need to do the basics right in order to attract consumers and stop annoying them.

1. Your website must come up when you search for your company name on Google. This is easier if you have a unique name. If you have a common name like “Bible publisher” it will be hard for people to find you. If you have a common name with a lot of competition, consider paying for Google key words to ensure people can find you on Google.

2. Your website must not automatically play sound and video. It can be very embarrassing if you’re sitting in the middle of an office. It’s considered outdated.

3. Your website must be responsive (compatible with multiple devices—like tablets, smartphones, etc.). Google relegates websites lower in searches if they aren’t responsive, so it’s increasingly important to be compatible.

4. You must not have an ugly homepage. The  homepage (landing page) of your website is the first thing that people see about you. It’s a great chance to show people your beautiful ads and book covers, as well as your great words. Make the most of your assets.

5. You must not have an unclear menu structure. Whether your menu is down the left side or along the top, which is more popular now, it’s really important people can find your contact information, your store (shop), etc.

6. You must update your homepage regularly. Your super fans, those you really want to connect with, may visit your website every week. If you show them updated contact, it will encourage them to come back. Rotate your titles on the front page, show your social media links, post news items. There are many things you can do without much work.

7. You must not have broken links. If you can get rid of them on your website, this will improve your search engine ranking on Google and Yahoo a lot.

8. You must not hide your contact details. Customers often go to your website because they’re looking for your contact information. It’s tempting to try and hide them, but that will frustrate people. Consider setting up an email address just for website inquiries. People are happier sending an email than filling in a web form.

9. You shall have one website only. We used to have one web site for SPCK as a mission agency and one for our publishing. It confused Google, Yahoo, our customers and retailers. Have only one website if at all possible.

10. The user must be able to find what she wants. Different users have different needs.

Watch the full video of “Build a Better Publishing House Website.”

Check out our upcoming free webinars on publishing-related topics and videos of recent webinars.

We All Need An Editor

Stephanie Rische photoBy Stephanie Rische

When people hear I wrote a book after being an editor for over a dozen years, they often ask me: “So, since you’re an editor, you probably didn’t need much editing, right?”

WRONG.

Here’s the thing: I can be objective and incisive about other people’s stories, ruthlessly chopping out stories that need to be cut or pointing out the holes. But when it came to my own manuscript, my line of vision was clouded by blind spots. I was just too close to the content. It would have been bad enough if I were writing a novel, but the fact that I was writing about my life fuzzied my vision all the more.

What do you mean, I need to cut out that scene? It’s one of my favorite childhood memories! What do you mean, I have too many friends named Sarah, or that I’m the only person who thinks this is funny, or that this only makes sense within the confines of my own brain?

That’s why I’m so grateful for my wise and kindhearted editor, Kim. There came a point, after editing and re-editing my own manuscript ad nauseam, that I could no longer see what worked and what didn’t. She was able to see the potholes and road blocks in the manuscript, and she helped me pave the way so readers could ride through the pages smoothly. And she did it in such a nice way that the process wasn’t painful at all. It was—dare I say?—fun.

People tend to fear the editor’s red pen, but let’s be serious: Kim was making me look good. I’d rather get called out on my mistakes before the book goes to press and I find myself standing in my proverbial underwear. And there are also the unsung heroes of the editing process: the copyeditors. I’m so thankful for Sarah and Annette, who faithfully fixed my sloppy punctuation, noticed missing words, and identified my pet sayings (you mean I can’t use “just” four times in one paragraph?).

What I learned being on the other side of the editor’s pen is that writing is a lot like life. We strive away in our private world, trying to live out a life of faith. But as good as our intentions are, we all have glaring blind spots. There are areas we fall short, but we are so close to it that we don’t even recognize the problem. That’s where we need life-editors—people who will give us wise, kind accountability.

We were never meant to do life alone; we need friends who have our best interests at heart, friends who will gently and lovingly point out where we’re not living up to God’s best vision for us. And isn’t it much better to hear that news from someone who loves us than from the big, scary world?

And as much as we may fear the vulnerability required to open ourselves up to accountability, whether with our writing or with our lives, there’s something sacred about sharing that space with another person. When someone is invested enough to look over every word and comma you typed or listen to the details of your life, it’s kind of like stepping onto holy ground.

So I would like to encourage you to get your own editor today . . . to invite feedback into every area of your life, writing and otherwise. You will feel the burn, to be sure, but the end result is worth the fire.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17

This article was used by permission of the author and first posted on her blog.Stephanie Rische book cover
Stephanie Rische is the author of I Was Blind (Dating), but Now I See, a memoir that chronicles her misadventures in dating, waiting, and stumbling into love. She is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, and she blogs at www.StephanieRische.com.

Producing Biblically-centered, Culturally-relevant Children’s Curriculum

Jeanette Windle is an award-winning novelist, author of 16 fiction titles, missions journalist, editor and collaborative writer. She grew up in South America, has lived in 6 countries and traveled in more than 30. Jeanette represents BCM International, whose core Genesis-to-Revelation children’s curriculum, Footsteps of Faith, and children’s ministry leadership training curriculum, In Step with the Master Teacher, has been reproduced in dozens of languages.  

Producing biblically-centered, culturally-relevant curriculum is neither as difficult nor as costly as you think. Click to watch this 5 minute video.

The purpose of a children’s curriculum is to help children know love and obey God.
Here are the core values that any curriculum for children needs to include:

  1. Bible centered. Curriculum is only as effective as it gives children the opportunity to engage with God’s Word. This is even more so for kids who are not from a Christian background. Center on a chronological presentation of God’s Word.
  2. We teach for response and application. It needs to be a living story for today’s children, interactive and relevant to their lives.
  3. Holy-spirit dependent. Remember the Holy Spirit is the Person who changes lives and impacts hearts. We can’t use curriculum to pressure or push children to make decisions.
  4. Culturally relevant. Even when writing for children within one country, remember that children may be from non-Christian homes, be at risk and dealing daily with great tragedies.
  5. Financially and physically practical. Most effective curriculum is not dependent on space, personnel or resources. Remember that your Bible content centers around the Bible story. Create a Bible toolbox to augment the basic story according to the group size and resources.

In summary, you can make your curriculum easily affordable and widely used among a variety of children.

How do you write a children’s curriculum?
One lesson at a time. Every lesson has five parts:

  1. One Bible truth and one way for a child to respond to each lesson
  2. An intro to pull children into the lesson, whether drama, questions, role play or…
  3. Bible content based on careful study of Scripture
  4. Summary/application that takes the Bible content and applies it to where the child is today
  5. The response activity—what the child can take away and apply immediately to their lives

This video was shot by Team David Films at MAI’s international publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore.

Five Keys to Copyediting

Owen Salter is the founder of Barnabas Editorial Services and Training, and a freelance editor and writer with over 35 years of experience. He has conducted editor and writer training for MAI since 2005 and is an MAI-Asia trustee.

Arthur Plotnik, a well-known American author and editor, once said to writers, “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

The three main kinds of editing:
1. Developmental editing: developing the manuscript.
2. Substantive editing: dealing with big picture issues, such as the organizational structure and relevancy of content.
3. Copy editing: checking the fine details of the copy, line by line.

Learn the five keys of successful copy editing:
1. Polish the text. Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, sentence and paragraph structure.
2. Ensure consistency and accuracy. Apply the publisher’s house style- Scripture references, how to dates are written, etc. Make sure the internal details match, such as the chapter titles match the titles listed on the contents page.
3. Organize the presentation. Check headings, sub-headings, call-out boxes, captions, contents pages, and more. 
4. Attend to technical matters. Style or format appropriately. Prepare a list of spelling and other style issues for a proofreader.
5. Handle administrative matters. Find ISBN numbers, deal with copyright issues, permissions and any questions. Communicate with a senior editor regarding any problems such as plagiarism or legal issues.

A copy editor is a servant to make sure the manuscript is the best it can possibly be.

This video was shot by Team David Films at MAI’s international publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore.