Chicago and environs—residents sometimes refer to the city and its suburbs as “Chicagoland”--is home to a number of religion publishers, the result of the migration of certain ethnic and faith groups to the center of the country, but also of Chicago’s historic role as a transportation hub and a center for printing, notes Bob Fryling, director of InterVarsity Press, located in Westmont, Ill. He adds, “Christian publishing has especially thrived because of its concentration of both mainline and evangelical colleges and seminaries.”
Sweet Home Western Suburbs
IVP is a branch of the college campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which was founded just before WWII. With a staff of nearly 100, IVP publishes 90-100 books annually; its distribution center ships more than 2.3 million books each year. IVP’s fall list includes 35 titles, steady with last year’s output. Revenues are increasing, says Fryling, and IVP sees 11% of its sales in e-books. Among IVP’s top books this fall is Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today by Mark Labberton.
In 2017, IVP will celebrate its 70th anniversary. In 2011, the press expanded by acquiring Biblica Books from Biblica Worldwide (formerly known as the International Bible Society). IVP also now distributes books for Renovaré, a spiritual renewal organization.
Tyndale House Publishers, located in Carol Stream, was founded on two books created by Ken Taylor—Living Letters in 1962 and The Living Bible in 1971. Those two books--Bible paraphrases designed to be friendlier to modern readers--developed into Tyndale’s New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible; the press also publishes fiction and nonfiction across the spectrum of topics and genres. In 2015, the Tyndale Español imprint will celebrate 10 years of Spanish-language publishing. Today, Ken Taylor’s son, Mark Taylor, is president and CEO of Tyndale House.
Tyndale’s groundbreaking Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction became a publishing phenomenon in the late 1990s, and its success helped open the doors of the major chains to Christian fiction. The adult books in the series have sold 48 million copies; the children’s, 12 million, with many millions more sold in ancillary products. The film version, starring Nicolas Cage, releases Oct. 3. Tyndale is active in book-movie tie-ins, both book-to-movie and movie-to-book. In September, the press published the novelization of The Remaining movie, out the same month; the Sundance Award-winning documentary The Green Prince, released in September, is based on Son of Hamas, a bestselling memoir Tyndale published in 2010.
In nearby Wheaton is Crossway Books, founded in 1938 as a not-for-profit Christian publisher. Crossway publishes the ESV Bible (English Standard Version), as well as trade books and gospel literature. The press has made the ESV Bible text and other resources free online through ESVBible.org and in a variety of digital formats.
Wheaton also is home to Quest Books, the trade imprint of the Theosophical Publishing House, publishing arm of the Theosophical Society in America. Since 1966, Quest has sold more than 4 million books, according to marketing director Jessica Salasek. With a backlist of some 300 titles--including audio and video—the press publishes about 12 new books a year. The Theosophical Society's 40-acre campus in Wheaton features a library and a The Quest Bookstore, “which specializes in religious, psychological, and spiritual titles and is open seven days a week,” Salasek says.
Quest celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016, and this fall the press is launching a redesigned website and a monthly e-newsletter. Revenues and title output are steady, Salasek says, with four titles on the fall list, including Meditation as a Way of Life: Philosophy and Practice Rooted in the Teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda (Sept.).
Sweet Home City
The city of Chicago itself is home to three religion trade publishers. Moody Publishers, with a history reaching back to the work of late 19th-century evangelist Dwight L. Moody, shares a campus just west of the Mag Mile with Moody Bible Institute; not far away is the historic Moody Church. The press enjoys an enviable position as publisher of Gary Chapman’s perennial bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, which has spent five years on the Times bestsellers list and sold more than 9.5 million copies. Moody celebrated the 25th anniversary of 5 Love Languages in 2013; an anniversary edition with a new cover and content updates released this January.
With 18 titles on its fall list, Moody’s title output is the same as last year, though publicity director Janis Backing says there are plans to decrease the 60-75 titles it has been publishing annually to 40-45 in 2015. The press was one of several Christian houses to recently pull back on publishing fiction. Says publisher Paul Santhouse, “I had seven people acquiring, but we’ve cut back, which has obviously led to some staff cutbacks.” Moody will publish 3-5 novels under its River North imprint this fall, down from 8-12 in 2013.
Two other Chicago publishers reflect the city’s large number of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Mexico, and other predominantly Catholic countries. Loyola Press publishes books that reflect the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits; Loyola is a Jesuit-owned ministry. Located on the Chicago’s north side, the press celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012.
With the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, Loyola is enjoying its own Jesuit moment: In April the press published The Church of Mercy: A Vision of the Church by Pope Francis, the first Vatican-authorized collection of his writings, talks, and homilies; it has sold more then 70,000 copies. In 2013, Loyola published Chris Lowney’s Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads; it has sold 40,000 copies combined in print and digital formats.
Says Stephen J. Connor, director of trade, “We have been moving more toward publishing products when they are ready, rather than a strict adherence to fall and spring lists.” Forthcoming is the English-language version of a biography of Pope Francis written by Argentine journalist and friend of Francis, Elisabetta Piqué; the book is already a bestseller in Argentina, Connor says.
Also based on Chicago’s north side is ACTA Publications, a Catholic publisher of books across a range of popular and religious education topics. Started by a group of priests in the 1950s, it is now owned by Gregory Pierce, president and publisher. In 2013, ACTA published The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition by Eugene Peterson and William Griffin, a popular contemporary Bible translation that includes the deuterocanonical books, recognized by Catholics but not included in the Protestant canon.
ACTA is now launching a new imprint, In Extenso Press, which, says Pierce, “is built on a new model of author-publisher collaboration, where the author takes some of the risk in publishing a book in return for receiving a larger royalty.” He says the books are not self-published—costs are shared by the author and the press—and will adhere to ACTA's editorial standards, with “attention to quality editing, design, production, and marketing.”
Of the future of religion publishing and ACTA’s mission, Pierce says, “It should be very difficult to make ‘religion/spirituality’ boring, although publishers succeed at that all the time. Still, what will ever be more interesting than life’s essential questions?”