Posted by: Andrea Mullins | 10 July, 2010

Celebrity vs. Relational by Jonathan Howe

 When New Hope Publishers decided to make major changes in our business, and basically rebuild our publishing house from the bottom up, Jonathan Howe had been on the job about 1 week. To this day I am convinced that God brought him to New Hope to walk hand in hand with our managing editor and me as we navigated new partners, new processes, and a failing economy. I love to laugh, and Jonathan does, too, and that has seen us through some really challenging times.

I quickly discovered that Jonathan doesn’t use a chronogical calendar, but the Nascar schedule to plan his year. He has driven his car around the Talladega Superspeedway, even! But Jonathan is also brilliant, enjoys theology, and helps us stay in touch with those who are influencing the Church today. We both like to see sales numbers, and after working hard we pray for good ones. You’ll enjoy reading what he has to say about authors.

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Like any other consumer-driven industry, the Christian book market is celebrity-driven to a point. We have our “rock stars” like Rick Warren, John Ortberg, John Piper, Jon Eldredge, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and Stormie Omartian. There’s nothing wrong with that. As an industry, we need big names to give us a place in the general book market and to create fan-bases of devoted followers/purchasers.

 The odd thing is that “big-name” authors are almost always a bigger deal to consumers than to those who work in the industry. While it would be great to meet some of those authors, my reaction compared with that of a “huge fan of author X” would likely be a bit more tempered. You might not be surprised by this. You might say “Well I would hope so, Jonathan. You need to show professionalism.” Or “They’re just another person. They just happen to have sold a couple million books. No big deal.” And you’d be right with both statements. However that’s not the true root of my tempered response.

 Working in the Christian book industry and attending conventions like ICRS has proved that respect for and admiration of authors comes more from their relationships than their celebrity.

Every time I go to a convention or conference there will undoubtedly be a select few authors promoting their celebrity status. You can see them from across the floor. They’re the ones with an image to uphold, a status to protect, a point to prove. Then there will be the best-selling author who walks by and just strikes up a conversation and you don’t even recognize who they are until you steal a glimpse of their name tag.

That happened to me at ICRS last week. I was standing around waiting on a co-worker when a man dressed in a simple navy t-shirt and jeans strolled up, said hello and just made small talk for a minute. He was waiting on someone as well. Then I saw his name tag. It was Randy Alcorn, best-selling author of Heaven and numerous other books.

I wouldn’t have considered myself a “huge fan” of Randy Alcorn the author before that. I’ve only read bits and pieces of his writings, but I did know who he was and greatly respected the biblical focus of his books. But after that encounter, I can now say that I’m a huge fan of Randy Alcorn the person. He made an indelible impression on me not because of his celebrity status—which he definitely has. He made an impression on me because of his relational quality and humility. Believe me, the next person who recognized him was not quite as tempered in their response as I was.

 Like many things in life, celebrity comes and goes. It is fleeting. Many times people will forget what you wrote and how many books you sold

 Relationships and relational qualities last a lifetime. People don’t forget when they met you for the first, and possibly only, time.

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Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrea Mullins and Andrea Mullins, Andrea Mullins. Andrea Mullins said: Celebrity vs. Relational by Jonathan Howe: http://wp.me/pfQoE-7L […]

  2. I love Randy Alcorn’s book, “Safely Home.” If you haven’t read that one, run to the nearest bookstore and get it! You’ll get a glimpse of persecution in China and appreciate his writing even more.


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