I met Simon Cozens via the Christian Authors, Booksellers and Publishers facebook group and he told me about his recent venture into publishing, Wide Margin Books. Intrigued, I invited him to tell us more…
My wife came home from visiting friends on a Saturday afternoon, and caught me hunched over a laptop in the living room: “What have you been doing all day?”
“I’ve been planning to start a publishing company,” I replied. Even despite my history of crazy ideas, this one managed to catch her by surprise. But I was being quite serious. There were a number of factors leading up to the formation of Wide Margin Books.
I’d been working as a missionary in Japan, and there been influenced greatly by an author and church planter, Mitsuo Fukuda. I really wanted to share what he was saying with the rest of the Church, and so I translated one of his books, Mentoring Like Barnabas into English and shopped the manuscript around a few publishers. The silence was deafening.
I’d also worked in technical publishing in the past, both as an author and an editor, and my experience was that publishers were people who worked with authors get their ideas into print, and that anyone with a good message, with the help of a good publisher, could produce a good book.
But here I was, being told that someone that nobody had heard of (and, I suspected, with a name that was difficult for people to pronounce) would not be able to come up with a book that sold. That wasn’t true in the computer world, and I don’t believe that it’s true in the Christian world – in fact, the runaway success of books like The Shack from previously unknown authors rather suggests that it is not. It’s ideas that make great books, not speaking engagements.
As I write, 70% of the world’s Christians are outside the traditional Christian heartlands of Western Europe and North America. Equally as I write, 99% of the top-selling Christian books on Amazon.com are by authors from Western Europe and North America. (The one exception being Ravi Zacharias – an Indian-born Canadian-American.) While people from our own culture certainly have messages that are easier for us to understand, digest and apply, I believe that there are great ideas out there already in the Body of Christ, and that it’s imperative for us to be hearing those voices from the rest of the Church and learning from their experience – particularly in areas where the Church is growing fastest of all!
Once it’s out there, a book or a sermon is a monologue — there is little chance to be corrected or to interact with others.
While thinking about the idea of hearing the voices of others, I realised from my missionary work that writing books is like writing sermons: if you do it in isolation, you can end up writing things that are sometimes unhelpful, often untrue and almost always lacking the full picture, and once it’s out there, a book or a sermon is a monologue — there is little chance to be corrected or to interact with others. In the profoundly interconnected world we live in, that just isn’t good enough any more.
When writing computer books my work was always checked by a panel of independent reviewers to ensure that I had considered all the possibilities, and readers could send in errata for me to confirm and correct; what would it look like if Christian books were reviewed by a panel of independent experts with different points of view, and if readers could challenge the author on ideas that they thought were incorrect or miscategorised? That would certainly keep our authors honest, and they would probably produce better books at the end of it!
So Wide Margin’s main aim is to provide opportunity for voices to be heard, primarily through publishing books from non-Western and first-time authors. Our first book, Christians and Catastrophe is already available; look out for Mitsuo Fukuda’s church planting manual, Upward, Outward, Inward, which will be released in September!
Reviews of Christians and Catastrophe (most recent first)