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The Undoing of a Nonfiction Publisher

Mary Wiley | Sep 9th

For the past ten years I have published nonfiction books. I believe in nonfiction books for lots of reasons, but most centrally because they are generally an extension of some form of teaching ministry. Jesus told us to make disciples and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He uses the authors and messages of nonfiction books to make that happen.

But here’s something that’s been a bit of a secret until now . . . I’m primarily a fiction reader. I’ve always been a fiction reader. When I was a child my favorite thing to do was to go to Waldenbooks and pick out new novels. Or walk to the town library and check out novels. Even as I’ve grown as a publisher, I’ve never shifted from being a fiction reader at my core.

So, imagine my joy when I heard that Beth Moore was writing a novel. What I know about Beth is that she does what God tells her to do. And if she’s done something it is because God has told her to do it. When I heard she was writing a novel I knew that meant God had called her to write it. As someone who respects her and cares about her, I was nervous for her, though. What if God called her to write it in some bizarre form of pride-busting for one of the most humble people I’ve ever met? Or, what if this was a time when she hadn’t discerned God’s direction correctly?

A few weeks ago I received an advance copy of The Undoing of Saint Silvanus and happened to have a free evening. I decided to read a few chapters and get a sense of what Beth’s writing voice would be in a novel. It took three and a half pages for me to forget it was Beth and be pulled in the story. In that first chapter my publishing brain was still active and I caught myself marveling at how good it was and how astounding it was for such an established author to have a distinct writing voice for fiction. But I didn’t stay on that analytical train long because I was swept into the story. Into the streets and the home and the lives and the people. Into the context and the hurts and the hopes and the relationships.

Three and half hours later I finished Beth’s first novel and I was absolutely overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed with the amazing, creative, loving, redeeming God I serve who builds tapestries of stories just like the one that I read in The Undoing of Saint Silvanus. I was also overwhelmed by the phenomenal, engaging story. I had laughed (HARD), cried (HARD), and finished the book both wanting to start it again and to share it with everyone I know.

I was also overwhelmed by the incredible ways in which our God can use someone who waits for Him, listens to Him, obeys Him, and gives Him the glory. Because make no mistake of it, He called Beth to teach. Then He called her to write Bible studies. Then He called her to write books. And now He has called her to tell a story. The fact that He has borne fruit of all of those is not about her. It’s about Him. She knows it. I know it. And I believe if you read this book then you will know it.

So, I’m writing this blog post to tell you to buy this book. Even if you don’t read fiction. Even if you don’t read Christian fiction. Even if you don’t read books written by women. Even if you haven’t ever read anything Beth’s written. Even if you have read everything Beth’s written. I’ve ordered eight copies to give to people who came to mind as I read—Christians and non-Christians. This is a story for anyone who has lived and laughed and feared and marveled. (I want to tell you a lot more about the actual story, but part of the magic is discovering for yourself). It’s a story about God’s extraordinary and unexpected providence and goodness . . . and it’s told in a way that’s far more Handel’s Messiah than a Jesus bumper sticker.

Oh, one note . . . I’m a book publisher and have had the great privilege of working with Beth, but I didn’t publish The Undoing of Saint Silvanus. It was published by Tyndale House Publishers, so this may very well be the first time that a nonfiction publisher has written a post calling readers to buy a novel published by a competitor.

It releases on September 20 and you can most definitely get a copy online or at your local Lifeway Christian Store. And, if God has used Beth in your life in any way, perhaps you’d join me in praying for her that day?

Jennifer Lyell serves as Director of Trade Publishing at Lifeway Christian Resources where she leads the Trade Book business. The hundreds of titles that the Trade Books business has acquired, developed, or managed under Jennifer’s leadership include New York Times bestsellers FerventThe Vow, The Wisdom of Faith, The Resolution for Women, Reshaping It All, Balancing It All, and key brands such as She Reads Truth. She also serves on the board of directors for Reaching & Teaching International Ministries and the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association.