Christian Aid Week is upon us (9 – 15 May 2010) and the familiar red envelopes will soon be appearing through people’s letter boxes as thousands of supporters take to the streets to raise both awareness and money to help end poverty.
But there’s another way that we as booksellers and retailers can help too, and that’s simply by stocking the growing range of resources available from St Mark’s Press: for every textbook or CD sold, a £1 donation goes to Christian Aid.
If you haven’t heard of St Mark’s Press, don’t panic: they’re a relatively new publisher who have only been trading for just over a year. Alongside their own titles, they’ve taken over part of the William Barclay backlist and acquired some bestselling RE textbooks from Lion, which they’ve reissued in new editions. Simon Danes, pictured below, is their Director, and he knows his books, having read Theology at Brasenose College, Oxford, where — for better or for worse — he was a contemporary of a certain PPE student called David Cameron – ‘though I was two years above him and I don’t expect he remembers me!’
Simon was in teaching for 20 years before setting up the company:
I used to be a head of RE and I did that for about ten years in a non denominational comprehensive school. I really enjoyed it, and then I did the same thing in a church school. Then I moved into senior management, focussing mainly on the academic side of school life. I didn’t want to be a head and so decided to do something completely different.
So why publishing?
Well, I’d had some experience of it. With my brother Chris, I’d written a number of textbooks for Lion. Two of them were really successful: Mark: A Gospel for Today and Today’s Issues and Christian Beliefs. They’re both GCSE textbooks. Mark sold something like 65,000. Today’s Issues did even better: well over 100,000 and there were a lot of translations produced. I was a best selling author in Lithuania!
I asked Lion if I could take the titles and publish them myself and they very graciously agreed. The syllabuses had moved on and they badly needed updating. 70% of our edition of our Today’s Issues is entirely new.
The core of the business, then, was the textbooks. I then got in touch with William Barclay’s estate – he of the Daily Study Bible. Barclay’s sold an astonishing number; I’ve heard the figure of 17 million copies. I’d always liked Barclay’s books and it was marvellous when we got the rights.
We’ve started with The Gospels and Acts. This is essentially a two volume introduction to New Testament scholarship. Sounds dry and dusty but Barclay really makes it come alive. He’s just jaw droppingly good. He writes good prose, which isn’t usual with an academic, and he had an absolutely encyclopaedic knowledge, and not just about the Bible and biblical studies. Amazingly learned. And then he’s balanced, generous, thorough – and his faith shines through.
The first volume’s out now; the second follows around July. And we’re doing Barclay’s The Mind of St Paul, a shorter book which gives a lot of insight into Paul’s thought. That should be out in July too.
What else is coming up?
More Barclays! I’m also writing a book for the non specialist on philosophy of religion: the arguments for God’s existence, whether we can prove religion, that sort of thing. It’s partly a riposte to Dawkins, but this will be quite a fun book with lots of illustrations and some humour too.
We’ve got a really dramatic CD of the NIV text of Mark’s Gospel. We recorded that in a freezing studio in Cambridge with an actor called Peter Wickham. He’s with the BBC Radio Drama Company and he’s done literally hundreds of audiobooks, so he really knows his stuff. We did Mark because it’s the most popular Gospel set at GCSE but I’d like to do the others too.
And what can you offer us as booksellers?
The Barclays and the CDs are proving popular. The textbooks are being stocked; the Lion editions were carried quite heavily by a number of Christian bookshops and we’re seeing that with our versions too. Teachers can pick up copies but they’re also useful for church study groups – and for students (and their parents!) who are anxious about their children’s revision. The Mark CD’s a popular revision aid.
All our textbooks and CDs carry a donation of £1 to Christian Aid.
If you’re with Fairway Marketing, we work with them and you can order through your rep. Otherwise, do contact us direct.
To find out more visit www.stmarkspress.com, email info AT stmarkspress.com or, if you want to chat with Simon personally, he’d be very pleased to hear from you: feel welcome to call him on 01234 824861.