Meet Our Traveling “Physician”

Like a doctor who pays house calls to patients upon request in many parts of the world, our “Dr.” Ramon Rocha treks the globe to offer a confidential listening ear and advice for various publishing ailments. Since 2012, he has extended MAI’s consulting services to Christian publishing leaders and writers in 25 countries as Director of Publisher Development. In many cases, no other professional help is available. We asked Ramon to give you a sneak-peek at his itinerant consulting.

Ramon enjoys a break with Ukranian publisher Andrew Kravchenko of Ezdra Publishing at LittWorld 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Crespo.

Ramon enjoys a break with Ukranian publisher Andrew Kravchenko of Ezdra Publishing at LittWorld 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Crespo.

What does your consulting visit look like?
I try to come more as a friend than an expert. My ideal three- or four-day visit allows me time to listen to the publisher’s challenges and issues, brainstorm solutions with the team, identify possible action steps, and pray with the team. I check in afterward by email and at times video calls. A follow-up consulting visit may be as short as a day. Occasionally I lead brief trainings for local writers upon the publisher’s request.

Sometimes I have the privilege of sharing a meal or staying with the publisher’s family. I’ve been touched many times by the love and care of my hosts and their generous hospitality.

Consulting with the marketing and sales team of Editions PBA, an IFES-related publisher, in Benin.

Consulting with the marketing and sales team of Editions PBA, an IFES-related publisher, in Benin.

What do you carry in your “medical kit”?
I try to assess the publisher’s situation before my arrival so I have an idea if the need is marketing, finance, editorial or publishing leadership. I create a presentation and come ready with templates, Word or Excel files and links to helpful websites.

Sometimes I have to respond to an issue that surfaces during the consultation. Then I refer back to my “medical kit” of previous Powerpoints, charts and my Evernote files to find the appropriate tools. The publishers have appreciated stories from my business background and/or helpful steps other publishers have taken.

Have you ever found it particularly hard to help a publisher? If so, what did you do?
Publishers struggle with a relatively small reading public in some countries. Others face political, economic and social conditions that make it hard to achieve a healthier financial standing. Or a publisher may be involved in a long legal battle or a soured relationship with a problematic staff or director.

I urge them to refocus on their vision of how Christian materials can impact peoples’ hearts and minds. I also propose ideas to challenge publishers to look beyond their problems.

A magazine publisher in Bangladesh shares his concerns.

A magazine publisher in Bangladesh shares his concerns.

What is the most common publisher’s ailment that requires a clear solution?
Pricing with a profit is a major concern especially where people expect Christian books to be either free or very cheap. Sometimes the healthy tension between being a ministry and a business is evident, especially in determining the right price. How to reach a broader audience beyond the Church is another struggle.

A publisher has to be willing to change paradigms and do more than the status quo. I’d like to see more publishers become goal-oriented and disciplined to measure outcomes, and make adjustments quickly.

Tell us about a recent highlight on one of your visits.
On one return visit, I was so encouraged to find a publisher reporting higher sales and showing a net profit, plus soliciting feedback intentionally from readers. In another instance, I applauded a publisher’s success in moving books from its former inventory “cemetery” by slashing prices and donating.

What results have you seen?
One Asian publisher emailed me, “After you left, we tried to implement your recommendations to gradually increase our price to help our cash flow, to produce quarterly sales reports to monitor our bestsellers and slow-movers….We even renovated our showroom as you suggested. We are now seeing improved operational results.”

On one sad occasion the action steps we identified during my first visit were not implemented. I tried my best to be extra tactful not to scold, and to be even more encouraging. I knew I could only make suggestions; the actual work is with the publishing team.

Enjoying a boat ride with Georges Late, manager of Editions PBA, in Benin.

Enjoying a boat ride with Georges Late, manager of Editions PBA, in Benin.

How would you advise publishers to stay healthy?
Keep an eye on maintaining high quality editorial standards while remaining passionate about your mission and vision. Ingredients for long-term publishing success include: quality writing by reader-sensitive local authors, polishing by skilled editors, creative marketing strategies and effective distribution.


How does your own faith play into your work? How can friends pray for you?

I need to be consistent in drawing strength and encouragement from God’s Word myself. Please pray that I will not be too technical as a consultant or teacher but serve more as a caring friend.

Please pray for publishers to persevere, especially amidst a lack of peace and order, and political and economic tensions. Pray they will be courageous in publishing God’s truth in creative ways, build bridges to unbelievers and strengthen the national Church. Pray that these publishers will be financially sustainable, profitable and growing.

Christian publishers and writers “on the front lines” are being equipped and encouraged because of your partnership with MAI.

Turkey: A Resilient Faith

While Turkey reels from terrorist bombings and refugees fleeing ISIS, its sole 0300x0300gokhantalasChristian magazine helps dispel despair. Since 2012 Miras magazine has been dishing up hope to a tiny Christian population—6,000 of its 70 million people. Before launching the bi-monthly magazine, Gökhan Talas and his wife were churchplanters until Islamist terrorists killed three teammates.

This June 23 to 25, Gökhan hosted a three-day MAI workshop for 14 writers near Istanbul. MAI’s Ramon Rocha, trainer Tony Collins of the UK and local Turkish author Pastor Ozbek led the training.

Learn more about Gökhan’s publishing ministry in our exclusive interview.

Do you ever feel like giving up in such a challenging context?
Sometimes I want to give up everything. But if you’re living in Turkey, you only have two choices. You can either serve or be lost and alone. I don’t want to be lost.

We have reason for serving our people—the darkness is very wide in Turkey. The Lord encourages us.

Tell us more about Miras magazine.
We want to be in touch with social problems. An issue last year focused on homosexuality and Christianity since a lot of our young people started arguing following the US Supreme Court decision.

Our contributors write on practical and theological topics. Each issue includes an evangelistic page, a teaching on the Gospel for unbelievers. A travel page introduces Christian historical sites in Turkey and nearby countries. We want to show Christianity has been here for years—Miras means “inheritance” in Turkish. We also feature an important person in Turkish Christian history. We include counseling topics, biblical perspectives for women, and more.

miras18_kapak-magazine-coverWho are your contributors?
We try to encourage mainly Turkish writers. Most of our writers are pastors or theologians in academia. If we find an exceptional article elsewhere, we will translate it. But we seek all local writers because our problems and needs are different from churches outside Turkey. We want to give our readers good vision for Turkey’s problems and Christianity in our country.

Tell us about your readers.
Since Christians are so few in Turkey, everybody needs each other. I’m the only Christian I know of from my hometown. In some cities there are no Protestant churches, so brothers and sisters attend the local Catholic church. We don’t focus the magazine on differences, but on common issues for Christians.

What is it like publishing for a limited readership?
People say, “You can’t sell anything Christian in Turkey.” The first generation of Christians gave all reading materials away for free. So now people don’t want to pay for books or magazines in churches. We sell our magazine for 5 Turkish Lira ($2 USD). To promote it we do public seminars on a topic related to the current issue of our magazine. It’s okay legally but there are risks we could get attacked.

What other challenges are you facing?
The postal system blocks us from distributing in eastern Turkey especially, so we’d like to make a deal with a private delivery company. We don’t have an office or vehicle—we carry the magazine copies from the printer in our backpacks. We’d also like to pay our writers more and hire a full-time editor.

Would you tell us about one of your readers?
A gay prisoner in İsparta wrote us and requested our magazine. He had been a prostitute, very dangerous work—nobody wanted to talk to him. My wife took him the magazine personally.

His life has been changing daily. My wife told him several years ago, “You’ll be married someday and have a child.” He replied, “My life is changing, but I’ll never be a man completely.”

A few months ago his wife had a baby boy. He wants to be a pastor and is currently on staff at a church. He’s starting to write his testimony as a book. He’s very brave.

>>Watch this 2-minute video with Gökhan Talas from our LittWorld 2015 conference

Christian publishers and writers “on the front lines” are being equipped and encouraged because of your partnership. Learn how your gift will be doubled.

Cambodia: Manna in the Desert of Magazine Publishing

cover-11-lowres2“Sometimes I want to give up, said Linat Tiv of Cambodia. “I complain to God like Moses, but every time God provides.”

At our LittWorld 2015 conference, Linat described her desert journey in magazine publishing. The petite 35-year-old mother of two is CEO of Light of Times, her country’s first and only Christian magazine.

Three years ago, Linat was enjoying her supervisory position at World Vision in Phnom Penh. Her salary supported the family. Her husband, Chin, had quit his job after leaders of multiple churches affirmed his calling to produce a magazine to help families live biblically.

After he launched the first issue in 2013, Chin invited Linat to join him. She replied, “If I leave my job, how can we survive?”

Linat prayed for three months until she felt God saying, “Linat, I am the provider, not only to you, but to all people.” So, she quit her job and plunged into publishing by faith.

The couple sold their car, depleted their life savings, and started shopping only tiv-linat-and-chin-soksan-family-photosecond hand. But God began providing manna.

Seeking writer training, Linat called Christian publishing house Fount of Wisdom. The next week she attended a workshop there led by MAI board member Larry Brook. Since then Larry has encouraged and trained the magazine’s four staff members via Skype.

Recently Light of Times published its 11th issue and will celebrate its 3rd anniversary this June. Article topics include keeping children safe on the internet, testimonies, budgeting and more.

Most Cambodians live on $3/day (US) or less, so paying $2.50 per issue is challenging for subscribers. Six hundred churches each receive a free copy. In one congregation, 40 families passed their copy from house to house.

After Linat attended LittWorld 2015, she revised production strategy. They plan to increase printing from 1,500 to 5,000 copies.

“God never gives you a dream that matches your budget,” she posted on Facebook recently.

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.

LittWorld2015 Inspires Participants from Fifty Nations

141124LittWorldPosSharper vision and skills were among the key takeaways of 277 talented men and women who attended our global publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore, November 1 to 6.

gokhan-talas-center-michael-collie-by-kcrespo-low-res

Gökhan Talas (center) enjoys meeting publishers and writers from around the world, including Michael Collie (right) and Kelly Norman of Sparklit in Australia. Photo courtesy of Karen Crespo.

Gökhan: A visionary publisher
“In situations of persecution, books, magazines and other publishing ministries can reach people,” said Gökhan Talas (center in photo),  co-founder of Turkey’s first and only Christian magazine. He was inspired at LittWorld to create a simple digital version of Miras magazine to connect with more readers. Miras aims to build bridges between Turkey’s estimated 6,000 believers, their churches and denominations.

Before launching the magazine in 2012, Gökhan and his wife were planting a church until Muslim terrorists killed three of their teammates. “But we live the risk in Turkey every day,” he says. This year MAI is planning a writer workshop with Gökhan’s team. (Watch a 2-minute video of Gökhan at LittWorld)

daniela-ortiz-front-red-top-with-group-by-jeam-wong-lowres

Daniela, front left, enjoys a workshop discussion. Photo courtesy of Jeam Wong, Singapore.

Daniela: A strengthened leader
“I love encouraging young Argentines to read. When they do, they ask for more. Books can give them a new perspective on the Bible and their lives,” says Daniela Ortiz (front left). She manages Christian publisher and bookseller Certeza in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Certeza faces increasingly difficult political and economic challenges.

At LittWorld Daniela gained strategic leadership and marketing skills. “I returned with renewed strength,” she said. (Watch a 2-minute video of Daniela at LittWorld)

Josil: A dedicated writer 
Filipino Josil Gonzales serves the persecuted church as country manager for two josil-gonzales-cropSouth Asian nations. “I have decided to embrace my calling as a Christian writer,” Josil said, inspired by best-selling author Davis Bunn’s writing track.

After LittWorld, Josil and another writer became accountability partners, to “prod us to more writing.” He even named his new laptop “MAI,” for “pointing me in the WRITE direction.”

Pray
Pray that our author and publishing friends go forward in creating excellent books and articles for readers in challenging contexts.

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