I’ve had more than a dozen people write to ask me about the new self-publishing service Jerry Jenkins has set up through his company, CWG. I’ve looked into it, read the stories, studied the comments, and four thoughts have come to my mind.
First, Jerry Jenkins is not a con man. I don’t understand the vitriol being leveled at a guy who wants to help authors get their books published, and make a buck while doing so. Some people in CBA are acting as though there’s been some breach of faith — as though this is a sign of the end-times, and the world’s most famous apocalyptic writer is behind it. Look, Jerry and I aren’t friends, but we’re certainly friendly — I’ve gotten to know him a bit over the years, and was at the literary agency that represented his LEFT BEHIND series that sold 70 million copies. It’s not like we’re hanging out together, and I have to leap to the defense of the guy… but give me a break — he’s made a pile of money, doesn’t need to bilk anyone, and has basically run his Christian Writers Guild as a service, not as a money-maker. I can tell you from firsthand experience that he’s honest and fair, and a much nicer guy than, say, me (who would be calling these people nasty names if they said those things about me). He’s not out to con anyone.
Second, Jerry Jenkins is a businessman. His name and celebrity certainly draws in potential writers, and the long list of people who have participated in CWG classes, conferences, and training creates a perfect list for potential self-published authors. How is that unethical? (For the record, PW asked me for a quote about all of this, and I told them I didn’t have much to say. It’s pretty much the same as what Thomas Nelson did with Westbow, or what Rick Christian did with Bondfire.) If a well-known author wants to start a service to help people self-publsih, why would I be up in arms? I’m not really enthusiastic about all the attendant marketing copy (claiming that there are piles of great unpublished CBA manuscripts crying out for a publisher is more marketing hype than actual fact, in my view), but there’s nothing inappropriate or unethical about it. It’s a business.
Third, the service is certainly expensive. My defense of Jerry and CWG is not to be seen as a wholehearted endorsement for their program. The cost is apparently $10,000 to get some writing training, a substantive edit, a copy edit, a cover, and the book posted as an ebook and available as a print-on-demand. If you checked into it, you could get all that done for a third of that cost, so it’s not something I’ll be encouraging a bunch of writers to do. But so what? Some people want a turn-key operation, since it’s easier than doing it all yourself. And the folks who do it will probably trust the process better than if they were working with free-lancers. Hey, some people want to eat steak at Ruth’s Chris, others at Outback, and still others with a hunk of dead cow they bought at Wal-Mart… I’m failing to see how offering choices is a bad thing. Sure, if they’re caught scamming people down the road, I’ll be first in line to criticize them — but I don’t see that happening. Again, I’ve always found Jerry and the team at CWG to be people of integrity. So lighten up with the uncalled-for criticisms.
Fourth, I’m dismayed how the anonymity of the internet seems to bring out the worst in people. The nastiness of the comments I’ve seen, many of them personal, are certainly disappointing. I poke fun of things on this blog, but try to stay away from personal attacks on people. I worry that the influence of Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the consonant responses from MSNBC and The Daily Show have generated a nastiness in our public discourse. We saw it during the presidential elections, we see it on a daily basis on TV, and its filtered into our personal communications. The lack of civility in comments from “Christian” writers is dismaying. The lack of listening is alarming.
A case in point: I recently said “the shooting in Newtown has me re-thinking handgun control laws.” I didn’t call for any big changes, but said I was considering things, in light of the tragedy. To me, that’s a reasonable reflection… Instead, you’d have thought I had tattooed Ted Kennedy’s face to my chest. People came onto the site to argue gun control as a sort of spiritual evil. One author fired me over my comment. People didn’t want to reflect or listen — they wanted to shout their point, then go home, angry.
That’s a perspective that amazes me. I generally try to stay away from the really volatile topics online — abortion, gay marriage, politics, etc. But when I’ve made even moderately political statements (such as saying that George W Bush, while a nice guy, wasn’t really a great president), I had my salvation questioned. To me, that’s an opinion, there’s adequate evidence to support it, and the support of one political party doesn’t make one a Christian or non-Christian. It’s okay to disagree sometimes. So I just want to encourage people to tone down the vitriol over this topic. Jerry Jenkins isn’t going to be scamming anyone, and will probably offer very good help to those who can afford the hefty price tag. In my world, that’s a perfectly acceptable path to take.