You Did Not Publish Me

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Article By Isaac Phiri


If Jesus were in the world today, and was an author, what would He write about? And, would He get published?

From what we know of Jesus, it is safe to say that most of His writing would be about love for God, for neighbors, for enemies. Jesus would want His readers to understand God’s love for humanity—that He became one of them and died in their stead. This simple but profound truth is often lost in contemporary Christian publishing.

Jesus would also want to write books that stir a love for God in our hearts. Jesus would want readers to develop a greater passion for God—to be in His presence more, to worship Him more, to enjoy His Word more, to serve Him more. Clearly, this quality of spirituality lacks in most of our lives.


Love for neighbors

Jesus’ books would also challenge readers to love others—their neighbors. He would not be a people-pleasing author. He would make readers uncomfortable by His definition of neighbor—not a selected inner circle but one including even those we know (and love) the least. The homeless. The sickly. The poor. The lonely. Those who are different from us in culture, race, ethnicity, social status, and religion. Jesus’ books would expose our prejudices.


Love for enemies

In the U.S.A., September 11 is remembered as the day when enemies caused much death and destruction. The world responds to these circumstances by calling for the Old Testament’s eye-for-eye justice. Vengeance is the norm. What would Jesus’ line of books say about how we should live in these times? You guessed it—forgive and love your enemies. I can imagine Jesus appearing on a television program to answer a series of questions about His books.

“What do you say about those who fly passenger planes into buildings?” Love and forgive. “What of those who plant explosives and kill us?” Love and forgive. “What of those who drop bombs on our cities?” Love and forgive. “What of the religious fanatics who set trains and our homes on fire?” Love and forgive. “What of those who cut off our limbs?” Love and forgive. “What of those who plunder our national resources, leaving us in abject poverty?” Love and forgive. “What about those who treat us badly because of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality?” Love and forgive. “What about those who abuse our children?” Love and forgive.

At this point I imagine the interviewer would turn to a learned Latin-and-Greek speaking seminary professor to respond to Jesus’ ideas. “He must be from out of this world. Only God can do what this man says,” he contends. The interviewer turns back to Jesus for a response. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus smiles.


You did not publish me

Sadly, if Jesus wanted a publisher, many—myself included—would turn Him down. My reasons for rejecting Him would be valid. Jesus has no credentials. He is a first-time author. He is a Palestinian Jew who once fled to Egypt to elude authorities. He has no constituency to market to; His followers are a band of poor fishermen, former prostitutes and dubious tax agents. To make things worse, His ideas are offensive to many. He is not the kind of author any self-respecting Christian publishing house wants.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells of how at the end of time, we will stand before Him and give an account. He will say things like “I was hungry and you did not feed me.” If our books lack His authentic message of love, He could turn to us Christian publishers and say, “You did not publish Me.”


The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)

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Isaac Phiri

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

Author Follow-up is Crucial

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Article By Lawrence Darmani


Workshops are essential for identifying and training beginning writers. But to develop skill in any discipline, one must practice, then practice some more. Follow-up is indispensable for leading writers to maturity. Follow-up must whet a trainee’s appetite for practice.


Provide practical help

Following are some ways you can help your writers practice and develop skill in their work:

1. Arrange follow-up workshops. Many of the writer training programs sponsored by Step Publishers follow-up previous events. Seminars for follow-up include: discussion of questions and concerns, sharing of published works, and reviews of works in progress since the group last met. Our trainers emphasize that an hour of practice writing is worth more than many hours of lectures.

2. Give writing assignments. Skill development requires practice, so one should assign trainees practical work to do. We have published several assigned articles in our magazines, but one does not always have to publish such work. Our cities are full of publishing opportunities: newspapers, magazines, book publishers, journals. Follow-up involves helping the trainee to get published. Seeing their work in print motivates writers more than a thousand lectures.

3. Press for re-writing. Show a writer that there is no good writing; there is only good re-writing. If you have reviewed a writer’s story, point out the positive things about the story, and suggest ways to strengthen the weak areas.

4. Provide reading material. I have always benefited from handouts, reference books, or articles on writing sent to me by my mentors. Once, I sent copies of Writers’ Digest to a young writer. He said the magazine kept him working at his craft.

5. Write letters. The Bible is full of letters that offer heart-felt instruction as a follow-up to the church planting work Paul had accomplished. You also can offer encouragement through e-mail, letters and short notes. Recently a friend asked me, “Have you had some time to work on your novel?” That simple question in a letter revived my enthusiasm to work on my novel.

6. Nurture by role-modeling. “Action speaks louder than words” in our desire to nurture writers. My writings may encourage another to persevere. I have often met people who say to me, “I read your column in the newspaper,” or “I read your book,” or “I read your article.” A mentor or role-model will seize the opportunity to ask the reader about his or her own writing efforts.


Motivate your writers

All the practical steps outlined above are not enough. You must also remind, enthuse, encourage, and urge your writers.

1. Remind writers about the key issues taught at the workshop or training programs or activities they attended. Preoccupation with other activities often brings forgetfulness. A trainee who wanted to write a book might forget that he even had it as a goal.

2. Enthuse the trainees about the goals and the aspirations that brought them to the training (for example, a clear sense of calling). Perhaps the trainee lacks enthusiasm to write that article or book. Lack of enthusiasm comes with time and procrastination. Your role is to build their excitement again by getting them to talk about their writing. Point out all the great things about the project. A mentor once said to me, “I’m eager to read your story—please get back to it.”

3. Encourage writers not to abandon their goals and aspirations. Too often, discouragement comes with failure or mounting problems. Your writer started the manuscript, but could not complete it because he is stuck on character development, or maybe he needs more ideas. Your writer may be discouraged because of rejection slips. At one of our workshops, I met a writer who would not submit any articles because of the repeated rejections she had experienced. I encouraged her not to take rejection slips personally, since she lost nothing if an article is rejected. I described how she could break into the secular newspaper market by submitting articles with a Christian slant. After our talk, her very first submission was accepted.

4. Urge writers to persevere. Reminding, enthusing, and encouraging are all coaxing. Urging is like pushing the writer a little bit. Once I sent paper, a pen, and a file to an aspiring writer and said, “Here is paper, pen, and a file to hold them. Now get to work and write!” She has published three small books since then. Urge your writers to pursue their writing goals.


Follow-up is time-consuming

Nurturing writers is hard work. Follow-up requires you take time to read their work and make comments, time to talk and offer encouragement, time to look out for opportunities. However, your investment in nurturing a writer can yield exciting rewards for your publishing house, for the writer, and for your readers.


The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)

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Lawrence Darmani

Lawrence Darmani is a Ghanaian novelist, poet, and publisher. His first novel, Grief Child, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize as best first book from Africa in 1992. He also writes devotional articles for Our Daily Bread, which touches the lives of many Christians around the world. He fellowships with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. He is editor of Step magazine and CEO of Step Publishers. He is married and has two daughters. They live in Accra.

Design Driven by Excellence

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Article By David Waweru


And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. With light came visual perception; color, beautiful and ugly; symmetry and asymmetry. With light came graphic cognition, communication and competition. And light made it possible to appreciate good design – and to sneer at the mediocre.

In a study published in 1982, researchers W.H. Levie and R. Lentz identified four functions of graphic design. These are: attention-getting, affective, cognitive, and compensatory. A designer must marry the objective of the author or editor to the message of the book to accomplish these four functions. The importance of each function varies depending on the subject matter and audience of the book. Failure to communicate with your reader occurs when you do not pay enough attention to one of the functions.


Capturing customers’ attention

A print design project, such as a book or promotional tool, communicates a message, but that message will go unnoticed unless the project has the visual impact to capture the intended reader’s attention. You can fail to get attention with a boring design or poor execution—or you can get too much, or the wrong kind, of attention!

Our cover design for a book on love, sex and relationships floundered. The color, typography and image used were deemed too “sexy” in a culture that treats the subject as taboo. Booksellers reported that some customers literally looked over their shoulders when presenting it to the cashier. Some who bought it immediately covered it up. Parents who would have selected it for their teens feared the book was about hot tips on sex and relationships. We were told that someone even asked whether it had photographs and other illustrations. We had not considered the fact that good design should say not only “I am here!” but also “Pick me up.” We learnt from the school of hard knocks that what matters is not how pretty a design looks—but what results it gets.

Our cover for a marriage book, Beyond the Vows, was an outright winner. The symbolism, color, proportions and typography were all just right. Its aesthetic message tied up quite well with the title.


The affective effect

A design can fail to connect with the intended readers because it does not appeal to their emotions. It would be considered unwise not to use red in designing a project for the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania. One rite of passage for the Maasai boy is to hunt down a wild animal, such as a lion, and spear it to death. The most common and popular meal among the Maasai is comprised primarily of raw cow blood. While the color red may be repulsive in another culture, it immediately evokes feelings of belonging among the Maasai. It is the dominant color in Maasai traditional attire.


Matching the message

You can fail because you do not pay attention to the cognitive message of the design. Because designs from the West are typically well executed, there is always the tendency to assume that their symbolism will be effective in another culture. This is not necessarily true. A book on how couples can work out their differences with a cover depicting pillow-fighting would not work. The pillow-fight concept is quite foreign in the African context, and it is almost inconceivable to imagine a couple sorting out their differences this way.


Aiding comprehension

A design can fail by neglecting the compensatory function. Children who are learning to read, as well as poor readers, need the help of pictorial clues to decode the text. Your drive in design should be effectiveness in communicating with your audience.


Excellence in design

Kirabo Lukwago, one of Kenya’s most respected graphic designers, says that the pursuit of excellence has more to do with attitude than the amount of money we can allocate to a project. It is quite possible to have an expensively done design that does not communicate. Conversely, it is possible to have a high impact design simply produced.

I concur with Lukwago: it is not a question of money, but of attitude. Our publishing house cannot afford designs that do not resonate with readers, and which result in slow-selling titles or dead stockpiled in the warehouse. The right attitude asks: “How can we attain excellence inexpensively?” It does not conclude: “Quality is too expensive. We can’t afford it!”

Publishers and other Christian communicators must realize that we are expected to be good stewards of the resources God provides. And He expects excellence of us, not constant griping. It is what we do with what we have that counts, not what we might do with what we do not have! If we are driven by excellence, we will refuse to settle for anything less.


The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)


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David Waweru

David has over 30 years of experience in book publishing as well as broad experience in business and enterprise development. He is the Founder of the publishing firm Booktalk Africa and Will to Win Global, a talent development and consulting firm. He is a member of the EU/UNESCO Expert Facility on the Governance of Culture, and of the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

Developing ‘La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines’ – Part 2

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Article By Africa Speaks
Publisher involvement beyond publishing

As publishers, we must also take care of our “children”, the books we bring into the world. That is, we must make sure that the project grows well by telling others about the existence of this remarkable Bible and the unique encouragement if offers to Christians. After its publication, a book must live. As for the Bible, and in particular La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines, we hope that Christians in French-speaking Africa will get to know it because we are convinced that their encounter with it will be a beautiful one and that it will have a long-lasting, beneficial and enriching impact on their lives.

Our ultimate goal in publishing La Bible d’étude perspectives africaine is to see the Word of God sink deep into Christian’s lives. We know from experience that when someone comes along side us and shows us how to develop practices that allow us to grow in our discipleship, the roots of our faith push deeper. For that reason, we have made training in the use of La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines a part of our efforts.


Training with a profound purpose

Our goal in training is to allow readers to know La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines from cover to cover and to help them make the most of its rich content and teaching. Deepening Christian discipleship and seeing truly transformed lives is the heartbeat of this effort. Our prayer is that through the reading and study of God’s Word, readers will progress in their knowledge of and relationship with God – that they’ll be strengthened and spurred on to live a life that reflects the heart and love of Jesus. That is the foremost purpose of our training.

And we have excellent trainers to take people down this path. The original and current training team of la Bible d’étude perspectives africaines is composed of: Dr. Abel N’djerareou, Dr. Augustin Ahoga, Pastor Barka Kamnadj and Mrs. Geneviève Guéi. Our primary partners in the distribution of La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines are the Bible Societies in the French-speaking countries. They have committed to championing the cause of training along with us. In April, our training team spent three days training the Bible societies directors and other representatives from 16 different countries so that they, in turn, could train people in their respective countries. The countries represented were Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Madagascar.

Since training is an integral part of our publishing and distribution effort, for all our launch events, we first do training times, then launch celebration ceremonies.


The training program

There are 12 major types of content in La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines and over 2,600 notes, that’s a lot! The training covers all the content types including: introductions to the books of the Bible, notes that integrate African proverbs and stories, notes that highlight similarities between the cultures of Bible times with African cultures, notes spotlighting African Church Fathers, basic theology notes and the list goes on…

What makes La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines so special are these multiple “entry points” that allow us to see the relationship between the Bible and African life today. Another example are the notes called “Comment vivre la Parole”. They give clear advice on applying what the Bible teaches to daily life situations. A significant portion of the Bible is the 58 feature articles that address the big questions African Christians face today and that explain the biblical perspective on these issues.

As King David wrote, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The content, notes and articles are written by African authors who use concrete examples from African realities. This light, which comes from an African perspective, really facilitates the understanding of the Word of God and our training really brings this out.

The training times are always interactive and include small group discussion times. There are moments dedicated to using La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines for preaching and teaching. With content so well adapted to its audience, the sessions are dynamic.

Who can request training?

Initially, we have invited church leaders, leaders of theological training institutions and Christian organizations to benefit from our training. We’ve also trained at Theological Seminaries and Bible institutes. Such institutions are a perfect fit for the work we are doing. We’re reaching out to all of French-speaking Africa. Recently, in April 2023, we held a training time in Cotonou, Benin and another one in at the Scripture Union offices in Côte d’Ivoire in June.

This said and after first turning to leaders, training in the use of la Bible d’étude perspectives africaines is for any Christian who wishes to better live out the Word of God. We’ve started to generalize the training and adapt it to all categories of people in the Churches. Thanks to our collaboration with the Bible societies, we are establishing a network of trainers that will allow most French-speaking countries to have people available to train in the Churches and institutions.


When, where and how? 

In the coming months the current training team will conduct training times in Cameroon and Chad. Planning has started for a training time in the Central African Republic. Another option for organizing training is to invite the training team to travel to your Church or institution. Costs are to be covered by the hosting Church or institution. For any training requests, please contact:

To celebrate the formidable work of the African authors and the release of the La Bible d’étude perspectives africaine a first launch ceremony was held in Abidjan in June.

Additional ceremonies are planned for Yaoundé and N’Djamena. If you can’t attend these events, you can keep abreast of what is happening at:



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Africa Speaks

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

Developing ‘La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines’

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Article By Africa Speaks
The birth of the project

The project to create La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines was initiated in 2011. Leaders from across the continent gathered in Accra, Ghana and felt called by God to create a culturally relevant Bible that would allow the Scriptures to be applied to daily life in Africa. Representing the French-speaking countries, Dr. Abel Ndjerareou from Chad and Dr. Tite Tiénou from Burkina Faso, were part of the founding committee. The group’s decisive conclusion was that such a Bible would serve the global community by revealing the truth and beauty of God’s Word from an African perspective.


Pan African authorship

When you consider all the churches and organizations of those who wrote the notes for the Bible, you realize that hundreds of groups are involved. One need only look at the list at the beginning of the Bible to be convinced that this Bible is a true exercise in unity covering a broad spectrum of Christianity in Africa. As for the publishing houses, Oasis International has accompanied the project since its inception and published the English version, The Africa Study Bible. Publications pour la jeunesse africaine (PJA) co-published the French version with Oasis in collaboration with the United Bible Societies (L’Alliance biblique universelle), which provided the text of the Bible – the very heart of The Book!


The needs of Francophone Africa

The publishing of La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines is the continuation of significant publishing initiatives that have already seen the light of day such as Le commentaire biblique contemporain and La Bible d’étude africaine, published by CPE. We are pleased to see more and more important works written by both the eminent and emerging authors of French-speaking Africa. The fact that these authors speak through their writings to Christians on the continent and beyond is not just an “added value”, it is an inescapable necessity. Everyone understands the world in which he lives, including his vision of God and His Word, through the cultural “glasses” he wears. To best understand the important message we are communicating, we need to give readers the appropriate lenses to look through. Wearing the wrong reading glasses does not enhance comprehension! We must continue to progress in the work to see more Christian literature written and illustrated by those who intimately know the African context. Publications in French and in the languages of the continent need to be especially encouraged.

La Bible d’étude perspectives africaines is a major advance in the work of Christian publishing in French-speaking communities.


The Challenges of Bible publishing

We believe that God through His Spirit inspired the authors of the Bible to write and thus transmit His thought to men. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If there is a message, a work that we must take care of and make known, it is that of the Bible.

The challenges in publishing are then directly related to the crucial importance of the message. Every aspect of Bible publishing must be approached with an aim for excellence, whether that be in the writing of notes, the translation, the layout or the production of the physical book — all that is undertaken must strive to reflect the perfection of God’s Word. All that is done must honour the One who through this open letter to humanity has revealed His love for men and women.



Regarding the Bible translation (biblical text) used for this project, we partnered with the United Bible Societies (UBS). Together with more than 350 authors from the continent, the editorial team of la Bible d’étude perspectives africaines, wrote the notes and articles that help the reader understand the biblical text. But the text of the Bible itself, that is, the Hebrew and Greek texts that have been translated into the French language, is the fruit of many years of work previously done by Bible translation specialists from UBS. La Bible d’étude perspectives africaine does not contain a new translation of the Bible, but rather an already existing and reputable translation of the Bible. We are grateful to UBS for their expertise in the field and their vital contribution to this project.


Information provided by Gregory Burgess, Abel N’djerareou and Augustin Ahoga

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Africa Speaks

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

A Capital Problem

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Article By Alec Gilmore


Every publisher needs money. When it is invested in books, and the books are sold, the profit may be invested in more books. If profits grow, the size of the list will also grow. That, at least, is the theory. However, running a publishing business is not quite so simple.

First, there is a time gap between spending the money and recovering it through sales, so if the capital is borrowed from the bank, interest charges either increase the price of the book or wipe out the profit.

Second, if the profit margin is (say) 10 percent and the publisher fails to sell the last 10 percent of the edition, or if it is accidentally destroyed, there is no profit. Third, if the edition sells out slowly, as happens with many titles, the return when it comes may be so devalued by inflation that the publisher will end up with less cash than originally expected.

If a publishing house is to be “safe,” (never mind successful!), it needs access to a nest-egg of capital. Few publishing houses are owned by people with considerable resources. Few starts with substantial capital or large investments. How, and where, therefore, can publishers obtain capital?


Clarifying the Need

To seek funding, a publisher can try some of the following steps.

1. Clarify the organization’s aims and objectives. Convince the donor that the publishing house runs on commercial lines, has a sound publishing project for which there is a need and which will therefore sell, and that any returns will at best enable the business to grow or at least to stay where it is. This is the hard reality from which all publishers must begin, though there is often a gap between the dream and the reality!

2. Establish a good track record. A publishing house must demonstrate clear planning, good budgeting, sound management and proven marketing skills. It must also have published a limited number of books, met sales targets within the time forecast, and re-invested profits for further productions. It is not expected that a publishing house will succeed with every title, but it is necessary to show some success over a few years. An empty warehouse will help more than one piled high with ‘treasures’!

3. Clarify the specific project. What sort of books does the funding request involve? Why does that particular project require capital? A project may require a large initial investment but quickly yield returns. On the other hand, a publisher might want to request funds to produce a book that will not sell quickly, but is likely to sell steadily for a long period of time. In one country in Africa, and in another in Central Europe, the state schools needed basic text books to teach Christianity. The projects were obviously big business, with long print runs and bulk sales, but interested publishers did not have the necessary capital. In one case, the publisher managed to raise enough capital, but in the other the only solution was producing a costly small edition, selling it and then repeating the process. Both were ideal cases for someone to invest capital and use the profits as a springboard for further growth.

Another case in Africa involved a denomination wanting hymn books. Again, large runs, bulk sales and a sure market: a good argument for investment. A third, though less satisfactory example, where a large initial investment is critical, involves children’s books. Black and white is unattractive. Small runs in color are not economic. Long print runs in color are costly. In the right situations capital for long runs in color could be a winner, though most potential donors will need a lot of assurance before signing the check.

In contrast to the above types of projects, sometimes it is necessary to request funds to support small editions with a long shelf-life. The solution is a capital support system. An agency provides funds from which to draw to cover production costs (or cash outlay) for an agreed program on condition that when the books are sold the production costs are returned. In that way it gets a return of its outlay in full. Also, the knowledge that the pool will soon dry up if the books do not sell spurs publishers to ensure that funds are used only for titles in which they have full confidence.

The fact that the funds do not have to be returned within a short period gives the organization stability and ensures a steady flow of books for the customers. Capital support systems have potential for many publishers in the developing world and may find favor with some donors. However, negative attitudes to loans and debt repayment are currently so strong that anything even remotely in that field is likely to get a big thumbs down. Most aid agencies prefer outright gifts to loans, or anything that appears like a loan. They know from bitter experience that projects rarely achieve their targets and prefer not to be involved in anything which suggests monitoring or supervision. They also realize the effects of inflation.

Finding donors

How can Christian publishers find donors? What potential sources of income exist? A publisher might seek a closer partnership with an aid agency, yet applications to agencies, perhaps the most obvious source of capital for publishers in the developing world, are rarely successful. In part this is because most aid agencies are more interested in food and poverty, crisis and disaster, than they are in publishing (and book publishing has little appeal to contributors).

However, some agencies might be persuaded to make grants for publication if it can be presented as an education or literacy effort. More likely ports of call are the specialist aid agencies committed to books and education, but here too there are warning signs, if not obstacles.

Some of the specialist literature agencies are more interested in exporting books (in some cases books of their own choice) than in making capital available for a publishing house to use as needed. Some avoid grants to commercial enterprises, preferring to give money to a church with a publishing program. Christian publishers seeking capital can benefit from partnerships with churches where these secure the funds to support an agreed publishing operation.

Nevertheless, there are agencies committed to supporting commercial Christian publishing with a view to developing sound, reliable, profitable publishing for the benefit, not only of the church, but also of the local community. Specialist literature agencies are unlikely to make blanket, open-ended grants. They will probably require evidence that returns from sales are reinvested into production of new titles, but hopefully this is exactly what Christian publishers in the developing world also plan to do.


One pattern of partnership, as mentioned above, is that between a publisher and a church or academic institution, where the church or institution has no control over publications or management, but acts as an intermediary between the publisher and the funding agency on titles or projects in which they have a special interest. Another solution may be a partnership with a successful publisher in the United Kingdom or in the United States. A company, instead of marketing wares in the developing world, may be prepared to invest a limited amount of capital in an overseas house with a flair for Christian publishing. Take the initiative. Approach churches, academic institutions, foreign publishers, and aid agencies in whom you have confidence. Do not be discouraged if first responses are negative. Seek relationships with others.

Partnership is not one party giving and the other receiving. It is two parties addressing a common problem and sharing resources for long-term solutions—including the problem of finding capital.


The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)

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Alec Gilmore

Baptist minister with 22 years experience in pastoral work in Northampton and Worthing followed by fifteen years as editor of Lutterworth Press and ten as Director of Feed the Minds, an ecumenical charity committed to the literature needs of the developing world and Eastern Europe. Retirement years spent mainly writing and lecturing in Biblical Studies, especially the Old Testament.

Good Sellers Make Good Business

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Article By Isaac Phiri


Many publishers dream of releasing bestsellers. They visit international book fairs to obtain rights to bestsellers. Since we work with many publishers around the world, I am sometimes in the awkward situation of “celebrating” with a publisher who just got the rights to a bestseller, and then a mere half an hour later “commiserating” with a crushed publisher whose house could not compete. Bestsellers touch many lives, sell in large numbers and bring in good revenue. They help companies gain a good position in the market. They help sell backlist titles. Therefore, it is not hard to celebrate with our friends whose titles make the bestseller lists in their markets, or who are able to acquire titles that are already bestsellers in bigger markets such as the United States.


Perils of bestsellers

Our work at Cook Communications Ministries International is to help Christian publishers build viable organizations. What, then, do we say to the publishers who are crushed when the titles they so desired went to a competing house?

My answer: Bestsellers do not build viable publishing companies. Often, this is a surprise to these publishers. They reason that bestsellers are money-makers. The more money a business can bring in, the better. I beg to differ. In the U.S., the U.K. and Germany, publishers of bestsellers often have financial trouble and can even be bought out by lesser-known companies. In emerging markets, we have also seen many “successful” publishers go out of business. One company in Eastern Europe published a bestselling title. Despite this, the company was in the doldrums not long afterwards.


Two strategic lessons

Strategic Lesson One: Do not build your business on bestsellers. Here is why: bestsellers are elusive. No one knows what makes a book a bestseller. The author’s fame or the book’s timing may suggest it will sell in large numbers, but this is not a given. In the U.S., large advances have been given for titles that the publishers assumed would be bestsellers. Some were disasters, leaving the publishers in a worse situation than before.

Strategic Lesson Two: Build a business on finding and promoting good sellers. These are titles that fit your mission and market, are well-crafted, well-designed, and offered at an appropriate price. They may sell slowly, but they bring in revenue year after year. Over time, a good backlist creates a steady business and an enduring ministry. A viable publishing business is made up of a backlist of steady sellers and a promising frontlist of good sellers. This model of publishing is more attainable and is more conducive to balancing business with ministry.

Occasionally, a good title sells quickly in large numbers. It is bestseller material. Then, strategic decisions must be made to take full advantage of the opportunity. The bestseller should be handled so that it does not stop the publishing house from focusing on the acquisition and promotion of good sellers. Some publishers create a separate department to handle the bestsellers; others actually sell the rights to publishers better situated to handle such books. Smart publishers realize bestsellers can be a blessing or a curse. Good sellers, in contrast, are always a blessing. They are the building blocks on which enduring publishing houses stand. Go for good sellers. They make good business.


The original article was done for Interlit, David C. Cook (published with permission)


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Isaac Phiri

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

Door to Door Sales (Colportage)

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Article By Africa Speaks

It has been my privilege to serve God in the Christian publishing world for over 50 years. During these years I have been involved in many areas of distribution from bookstores throughout the Caribbean and Mexico to launching Editorial Betania, a Spanish publishing house currently part of Grupo Nelson, to personally conducting 300 home book parties (think Tupperware only with Christian products), to heading up international sales with Zondervan Publishing House to building our own publishing house with my brothers and nephew. My travels have now taken me to over 100 countries, most of that related to training on distribution of Christian products.

I will soon turn 75 years old but still have the fire and energy to invest in helping grow the distribution piece for our products. One of my mentors many years ago told me this: “Nothing happens until somebody sells something!” Amen to that. Without sales, the best written, most beautifully designed and produced products are just inventory, and that is a major cost factor. 

It is my belief that one major paradigm shift in our thinking and the thinking of all retailers of our products can bring amazing increases in our distribution. This shift is to change how we think about our business from being a building into which people come to buy our goods to that of a base out from which we go to sell our goods. This changes everything. My prayer for each of us is that God will help us to see what can be done when we embrace the challenge of going out to sell our goods. 

One of the ways to do this in Africa is through direct sales. This could be colportage (door-to-door), person to person, business to business or any “face-to-face” method which allows the peddler to share about their goods and ask for the sale. The same mentor I mentioned earlier used to tell me, “The key to success in this business is to show the books to a lot of people and ask them to buy them!” Amen to that too.

So much of the effort (and money) of publishers is spent on advertising. This is OK, but there are various ways to do that. I like to say there are 3 kinds of advertising. 1. The kind you pay for. 2. The kind you don’t pay for. 3. The kind that pays you!!! And guess which one is the most effective? Here’s what I mean. Advertising you pay for is traditional methods of space ads, flyers, etc. Hard to measure and quantify effectiveness. Advertising you don’t pay for is publicity. Any article or promotion of your product that is free. You typically can say more and make better connection with the viewer/reader. Advertising that pays you is a satisfied customer. This person simply needs to be encouraged to start a word-of-mouth promotion of your product. This pays you in additional sales with no cost.

When I think of Africa I envision thousands of young, passionate Believers going out with product they can sell and in so doing, grow in their own faith, evangelize and also earn a living. The key to a successful effort to make this change is 3 fold. Start small, find good people and help them grow. In other words, do it yourself and when you find an enthusiastic believer who is intrigued with you or your products recruit them and then train them to go and do what they saw you do. Does that sound familiar?

Think about Jesus. When he began his ministry at his baptism, the first thing he encountered was the temptation to not go through with it. He rebuked Satan and began with meeting basic needs of those near him. Healing the sick, changing water into wine, casting out demons and more. He started where he was and small. While he was out “doing the job himself”, he found others that he invited to join him, his disciples. They began to follow him around and watch what he was doing. Then he took them aside and trained them. It took him one full year to find the 12 disciples. Then, after they were trained, he sent them out two-by-two to do what he had taught them to do, what they had seen him do…and they were successful, except when they got ahead of themselves. Jesus then told them that that kind of work can only be done when you pray and fast. However, when the Romans took Jesus, his disciples denied him and went into hiding for fear of the Jews. 

That’s when Jesus appeared to them in the Upper Room and said: “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” What happened after that changed the world. We are all here today as Believers in Jesus and his disciples because of this event. Earlier, in Matt 11:28 Jesus said to come unto him and learn of him. Then he said in Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Now in John 20 he says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”  It’s still the same today. Our job as publishers of His Word and other Christian products is to go and multiply just as Jesus did.

I pray that God will put it in the hearts and minds of thousands of young, energetic, faith-filled Africans to go out and make disciples using our wonderful products. If I can be of encouragement to you or even come to your part of the world to help find and train these young believers, please let me know.

Rolf Garborg 


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Africa Speaks

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

Ten Sales Boosters

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Article By Isaac Phiri


You are losing your edge. Less books are being sold. Fewer customers come in. What can you do to boost sales?


1. Change the way your place of business looks and feels. Display books in a creative way. Paint the walls. Move the shelves. Make small changes on a monthly basis, and other changes—for example, attractive Christmas displays—according to the season. Bigger changes such as remodeling your facilities can be done every few years because they cost more. The key is that changes, however small or big, will attract attention and possible new customers.

2. Check your stock. What kinds of titles do you have? Poor titles make poor sales. Build your business on good sellers that fit your mission and market, are well-crafted, well-designed, and priced right. They may sell slowly, but they bring in revenue year after year.

3. Know your customers. Who buys your books? Is it parents buying for their children? Is it pastors? The urban middle class? Youth? Market research can take many forms. Some are more elaborate but also more expensive. Others are simple, costing virtually nothing. You will serve your customers better if you know who they are.

4. Boost your staff. When things are not going well, check the work of your staff. Do they make customers feel welcome? Do they go out of their way to make customers happy? Do they love books? Do they have selling skills and talent? Have they ever been to a short course or workshop on bookselling? Give your staff a boost.

5. Get involved with the community. Identify a concern that you are able to address. Perhaps you can team up with educators to promote reading in local schools. Whatever community activity you undertake, it should increase the exposure and appreciation of your company and its products.

6. Say “amen” to the church. Improve your church relations. Survey the churches in your area. Design a strategy. Plan some visits with church leaders. Show them samples of your stock. Invite them to your premises. Offer help. Look at churches as a key channel to potential customers. Getting into the churches will give you a unique chance to show what you have to offer.

7. Go mobile. If customers are not coming to you, go to them. A man I knew sold more books on crowded trains than many bookstores did on a regular basis. Sell books at churches, at conferences, on the streets. While this strategy will give a boost to your sales, it requires closer administration. There are many details: Getting the appropriate licenses, recruiting sales people, and developing an accounting system.

8. Make the headlines. Print and electronic media are often looking for new and unusual items that will attract their audience. Invite a political figure to say something about the value of books. Get a popular author to speak on a theme of interest to the media. Newspaper, radio, and television personnel are generally willing to cooperate with people doing something good.

9. Start a newsletter. Improve communication with your customers. Announce new books. Publish comments from influential figures and from customers. Describe how you are improving your services. Include human interest stories. Keep production expenses to a minimum.

10. Give choices to your customers. I remember two bookstores in Lusaka, Zambia. One displayed a limited number of booklets with evangelistic themes. The other had a wide variety of books covering national politics, regional economics, and Christian living. The latter was always crowded with enthusiastic customers while the former was virtually empty, and from what I gather, was later closed down. Declining sales indicate that something is running low in the life of your company. You need some boosters.



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Isaac Phiri

Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) 30 Year Celebration

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Article By Prof. Danny McCain


One of the ministries that I am most proud of here in Nigeria is Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS). Although there were many people who came together to create the organization, it was Sid Garland who primarily developed the ministry.

History of ACTS

The ministry grew out of a brain-storm meeting that was held in Jos in June 1991 over the greatest need in theological education. Obviously, it was textbooks for all our classes in seminaries, Bible colleges and religious studies departments in universities and colleges of education. In October 1995, I invited some people to my house to discuss this and five showed up. We created the name “Africa Christian Textbooks” at that meeting and decided on other issues related to the ministry. Sid Garland, a missionary for North Ireland with a mission known as Mission Africa, had been importing a few books for his students. Also, Timothy Palmer, a missionary with the Christian Reformed Church had been importing and selling NIV Study Bibles. These two men brought their efforts together with the other people interested in Christian textbooks and we formed ourselves into the Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS).

We started a very low-level project at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) and Sid hired a student assistant to help him. That student assistant was Luka Vandi who is the managing director of the organization – 30 years later.
Rev. Luka Vandi

The ministry has slowly expanded. We have 20 branches across Nigeria, a branch in Kenya, one in Cameroon and we just approved a branch in Liberia. We have over 50 employees, have published over 300 books, have a large warehouse and probably the largest and certainly the most well-stocked bookshop in West Africa and probably East Africa as well.


Rev. Prof. Danny McCain
Rev. Prof. Danny McCain


Because that first meeting at the ACTEA conference was in June 1991 and the meeting at my house was 15 October 1992 and a third expanded meeting on 2 January 1992, we have a little difficulty in pinpointing exactly the starting date of ACTS. However, we decided that we would at least have a 30-year celebration this year. Sid, who had to move back to Ireland about ten years ago because of his mother’s health, was able to come back for our celebration. There were celebrations in Ogbomosho, Lagos and Abuja before our big event in Jos, which was Saturday and Sunday, 20th – 21st May 2023. The main celebration was at the headquarters building. We actually did two things that day.



Name of Bookshop: Africa Christian Textbooks
Branches: Nigeria – 20, Kenya – 1, Liberia – 1, Cameroon – 1 
Books Published: 300


Dedication of new building

First, we dedicated a new building. We have just completed a new building with four new offices and a large room that mothers can use for their children. Many mothers bring their small children with them to work but we have not had any nursery or other place to put them. So, we have built this nice space for them. It should make life easier for the children, the mothers and the rest of us. Sid cut the ribbon and dedicated the place. We named it after his wife, so it is Mrs. Jean Garland Annex.

The other part of the celebration was to honor ACTS’ 30 years of existence. Though we have a huge warehouse, it is full of books. We therefore had to pitch a tent out in the parking lot to accommodate the 100 or so guests that we had invited.

Rev. Canon Timothy Olonade, the person who published my first book and has been involved in most of them since, gave the keynote address the night before and the sermon on this day.


ACTS 30 Years Celebration - Cutting the cake
ACTS 30 years Celebration – Cutting the cake


The celebration was just about what you expect for an occasion like this. There was lots of singing, some dancing up front to put money in the receptacle, and of course the cutting of the cake. You always have to cut a cake at any celebration in Nigeria. The hall was full. I would guess that there were at least 300 people present, including many prominent people who came to help us celebrate this occasion. Of course, we were given packets of refreshments as we left. It was a celebration to remember.



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Prof. Danny McCain

Daniel “Danny” McCain has been a professor of Theology at the University of Jos in northern Nigeria since 1991. He is also founder and international ambassador for Global Scholars (formerly the International Institute for Christian Studies [IICS]), which he helped launch in 1986 to teach the Bible and develop Christian studies projects in public universities worldwide.