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May
2013
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Why I bought “How to Like Paul Again” by Conrad Gempf

An Inside Look at a Publisher’s Decision-Making

9781780780610

I didn’t think we at Authentic Media would get to buy this book. Although I had been Conrad Gempf’s commissioning (US: acquisitions) editor when I was working at the other end of the alphabet, time had elapsed and I had been out of the publishing game for a few years. Then Authentic approached me to work with them parttime, and I found myself agreeing, yet kicking and screaming inwardly, thinking that commissioning would distract me from my writing. I committed to a three-month gig and here I am, over a year and a half later and humbled by how much I love the marriage of writing and editing.

I was especially chuffed (US: thrilled) when the first book I acquired was Conrad’s. He’s a brilliant writer; witty yet deep. One of the unusual academics who writes for a popular audience, seamlessly weaving in references to Clark “Superman” Kent or Nieuport 27s (a World War I plane) or John Deere tractors. All while persuading us to like the apostle Paul better, or to understand why Jesus asked so many questions. One of his defining passions is to open up the Bible to his students at London School of Theology and to his readers. He’s quirky and not everyone will love his humor. But those who do often become diehard fans.

I was sad when I learned that Conrad was in advanced talks with another publisher about his book on Paul. For when I was at the Publisher-at-the-End-of-the-Alphabet, he and I had talked about this being our next book. Then my job was eliminated… and the book got put on hold. After a couple of years, Conrad restarted discussions with other publishers, and when we met up was nearly signing a contract. Out of integrity, but secretly crestfallen, I stayed out of the picture. Until surprisingly How To Like Paul Again came back to me after all. Another example of change being the only constant in publishing.

Why did we buy? Because today so many people don’t like the apostle Paul. They think he’s legalistic and cranky and anti-women. They pre-judge him, assuming they aren’t going to like his letters or what he has to say. But Conrad, in his inimitable style, gives us the tools to read Paul’s letters. We start to look at the greater context, such as the letter’s recipient, and begin to tease out why Paul was, say, pushing for freedom in the case of the Galatians or for tightening up the rules for the Corinthians.

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As an author, Conrad is wry and he’s playful, but he wants us to engage in serious work as students of the Bible. You might literally laugh out loud, but you’ll also pick up the Bible to see if what Conrad says is there, actually is there. (Like Galatians 5:12. Seriously? Did you realize Paul actually said that?)

What I love especially about Conrad’s writing is that when I read his stuff, I feel like he’s with us in the flesh, sharing a meal in our dining room and helping us lose our misconceptions about Paul. His prose shouts with his unique, funny, profound, make-me-laugh voice. No one else will have that voice, of course. But as we’re all made in God’s image, the voice we exercise will be beautiful in its own right.

And that’s why I bought this book. But what about you? Think you’ll buy it?

(Want to know more? Click here for some two-minute trailers.)

© 2013 Amy Boucher Pye. This blog post has been adapted from an article that appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of Christian Writer

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