Veteran Christian publisher Byron Williamson has announced the launch of a new publishing house, Worthy Publishing, which releases its first books this fall.

Over a long career Williamson has published many powerhouse Christian authors, including Sarah Young (her Jesus Calling, published in 2004, was the top-selling Christian book of 2010); Beth Moore (Get Out of That Pit); Frank Peretti (The Visitation); Emerson Eggerich (Love & Respect); and Max Lucado, who Williamson first published at Word in the late 1980s when he was president of its publishing division.

After Thomas Nelson bought Word in 1992 Williamson became executive v-p of the Nelson Publishing Group, where he developed the Countryman and Tommy Nelson Imprints. Williamson left Nelson in 1999 and founded Integrity Publishing for Integrity Media; it was sold to Nelson in 2006. While he waited out his three-year non-compete, Williamson did some author management—for Max Lucado and others—and packaged 11 books for Zondervan.,

Worthy is privately held and independent, and Williamson told the Daily this will make the house more nimble and less prone to the communication problems that can arise with publishers that are a Nashville-based division of a New York house. “The feedback we’ve gotten from agents and authors is that their relationship to a publisher can be complicated by those ties,” Williamson said. “And we’ll be able to make decisions in days instead of months.”

He added, “We are bringing ideas to authors and helping them shape projects, rather than waiting for them to come to us.” Half the books on Worthy’s first list originated with ideas from his team, he said.

Of the current climate in Christian publishing, Williamson commented, “Some of the older, more traditional publishers have struggled in the past few years, have changed hands, and have become vulnerable to losing authors. There’s a perception they are stale and have lost the entrepreneurial spirit, and we’ll be able to provide that. We will also do marketing and put some energy into it.”

Worthy’s fall list of 12 books includes titles by evangelical stalwarts Chuck Colson (The Sky Is Not Falling, Sept.), Gloria Gaither (A Homecoming Christmas, Oct.), and Stephen Arterburn (Walking into Walls, Sept.). The remainder of the list will be announced in March. Worthy will publish a variety of genres, among them fiction, devotionals, inspiration, Bible study, personal growth, and children’s books.

Staff of Worthy Publishing includes Williamson as CEO and publisher, Rob Birkhead—who held senior sales and marketing positions at Thomas Nelson and Integrity--as senior v-p of marketing , Dale Wilstermann—another Nelson and Integrity veteran--as senior v-p of sales, and Jeana Ledbetter—formerly a literary agent at Yates & Yates--as v-p of planning and author relations. Headquartered in Nashville, Worthy will announce the appointment of an executive editor in the next few weeks, Williamson said.