From the Publisher: A Year in Review

From the Publisher: A Year in Review

books by windowA small, hand-stitched wall hanging has adorned my offices throughout most of my thirty-four years as a bookseller and publisher of books in the Christian tradition. The gift of a former colleague, its message is drawn from a portion of a Jewish proverb attributed to an 18th century rabbi. The print simply says:

In remembrance is the secret of redemption.

Jeff Crosby speaking to office meeting
Jeff Crosby addressing IVP employees in an office meeting in June

As I’ve crossed a number of thresholds in a long tenure of work with Christian literature, I’ve found that remembrance is a gift and a discipline that is important to practice. This summer has provided such an occasion—to remember and reflect on key elements of my first year as InterVarsity Press’s publisher, to give thanks for God’s provision, and to acknowledge dependence on God for what is to come.

As I reflected on these first twelve months, I’ve circled around four themes:

Technology

My colleagues and I have navigated a massive technology change, adapting to a new software package that runs the order, shipping, royalty, and website functions of our business. Indeed, it runs virtually the entire business. It’s the first upgrade of this magnitude InterVarsity Press has experienced in more than twenty-five years, and it’s called for all of the adaptive strength we have—and then some. I am grateful for my colleagues’ diligence and perseverance in a race that has seemed like a marathon with a never-ending series of sprints embedded within it.

We’ve also installed fiber optic cables to speed our connectivity and a generator to keep all of our systems online when our local village’s power goes out—an all-too-frequent occurrence!

The technology upgrades have been challenging, but they are in service to our mission of reaching the university, the church, and the world with resources that equip and encourage people in their journey of faith, and they will put us in a stronger position for the road ahead.

(New) Titles

Our work revolves around the books we publish and the authors who write them. In the past year, we’ve released more than 110 new titles equally divided between our general and academic segments and have garnered awards and recognition across the spectrum of categories, disciplines, and areas of interest.

Additionally, we have expanded our partnership with the London-based publisher SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge), which has since January of 2016 served as IVP’s distributor for the United Kingdom and Europe. As of September, IVP will be providing North American distribution for select titles published by SPCK, a company founded in 1698 whose mission is to “promote Christian ideas and values through publishing.”

In a book publishing and retailing climate that is increasingly competitive and where discoverability of books is a challenge, it’s wonderful to link arms with partners like SPCK to ensure our respective and complementary missions our accomplished.

Transitions

Sherm Swenson, the former CEO of B. Dalton Booksellers, was in the 1980s and early 90s a mentor of sorts to me and I distinctly recall him saying that “all change is perceived as loss. But change can also provide opportunities for significant growth.”

Four long-term, senior-level employees have entered (or are about to enter) their retirements, and that has brought both loss and opportunity to reset our structures and staffing to meet the challenges of the context in which we’re doing our work today.

Collectively, our leadership team has read and applied the seminal work of organizational theorist William Bridges, Managing Transitions and Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (both published by the Perseus Books Group) to ensure we are traveling the path of endings and new beginnings in a faithful and intentional way. A Transition Monitoring Team (one of Bridges’ key suggestions) comprised of members of all departments spent the better part of the past year watching for key concerns or progress in three major areas of transition, and their contributions helped us in significant ways.

Trust

And the final theme is, for me, the most important.

Shortly after being named publisher at IVP, I shared a brief story from one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner.

“I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter’s illness and what was going on in our family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary that I needed most to see,” Buechner writes in Telling Secrets (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991). “The word was TRUST. What do you call a moment like that?  Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us every once in a while? The word of God? I am willing to believe that maybe it was something of both, but for me it was an epiphany.”

Buechner’s words came to me in the earliest days of my own transition into this role. I had a strong sense that what lay ahead would require a great deal of trust—in one another, in God, in the Spirit’s leading of us down the path set before us.

And it has.

But these months have been marked by repeated reminders of the work of God’s Spirit in and through us, shedding light for the journey.

In his Bible Speaks Today commentary on Ephesians, John Stott reminds us:

“The infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts and dreams is by the power at work within us, within us individually (Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith) and within us as a people (who are the dwelling place of God by his Spirit). It is the power of the resurrection, the power which raised Christ from the dead, enthroned him in the heavenlies, and then raised and enthroned us there with him. That is the power which is at work within the Christian and the church.”

And that is the power that is at work here at IVP. Thanks be to God.

One Reply to “From the Publisher: A Year in Review”

  1. Thanks, Jeff, for this encouraging remembrance. From one of the recently retired, so thankful for God’s faithfulness to IVP, and to each individual on the team.