Today I’d like to highlight Highland Books. Highland may be only a small publisher — their entire list fits quite comfortably (and sensibly) on a single web page — but they’re a publisher with a passion, a passion to produce ‘pick-me-up’ books: books that will take hold of a reader, that cry out to be read. Comparing Jesus’ parables about the person who finds some treasure hidden in a field and the merchant searching for fine pearls (Matthew 13:44-46), they say:
Highland is a merchant in search of fine manuscripts: but the challenge is to keep in balance the commercial sense and the passion aspects of this calling. And when in doubt the passion must trump the commercial, because the other way round is just too dispiriting.
That’s my kind of approach. As somebody said — I forget who — “Faith is spelt r-i-s-k.”
Two Highland titles that hit the spot for me are Volumes 1 and 2 in Paul Kercal’s Sylver Chronicles, The Library of Everything and The Repository of the Past. Volume 3, The Tapestry of Time, is due in October this year. This is edgy Christian fiction for teenagers which explores real issues that today’s youngsters all too often find themselves up against: bullying, disability, family breakdown, prejudice, self-harming — all woven into a gripping storyline that isn’t afraid to face tough questions about faith and life and spiritual warfare.
If you’re a Christian bookseller, I’d strongly recommend considering both of these for core stock in your teenage reading section — get them in now so that you’re ready when Volume 3 comes out! If your customers include any families or youngsters who went to Spring Harvest this year, you’re onto a winner as they’ll already know Kercal’s name from his Spring Harvest comic book, The Exile Road. Anybody else: just buy them and either read them yourself or pass them on to a teenager you know — you won’t regret it.
But the reason I’m highlighting Highland right now is because I’ve just received their latest mailout of two reprints and one new title: reprints of Gordon MacDonald’s contemporary spiritual classic Ordering Your Private World (9781897913673, 2nd Edition, 2003, £5.99) and David ‘Packie’ Hamilton’s A Cause Worth Living For (9781897913796, 2nd Edition, 2008, £5.99), along with the brand new Next We Shall Sing by Tony Jasper (9781897913826, 2008, £9.99). Subtitled “Can’t get no satisfaction” from hymns and songs, Tony’s book promises to ruffle more than a few feathers as he takes a no-holds-barred look at both contemporary and time-honoured trends in church music and hymnody.
Highland Books have a unique marketing policy: they let their books speak for themselves. Instead of employing a salesforce, they send out complimentary copies of every book they publish to some 270 bookshops around the country: we take a good look at them and if we like what we see, we order them (if you’re a Christian bookseller and you’re not on that mailing list, here’s an open invitation to join it). Whilst I’m not for one moment advocating doing away with sales reps, it’s a policy that other Christian publishers would do well to learn from: to rewrite the old proverb, a book in the hand is worth ten in the catalogue…