Stan Jantz, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, has a succinct summary of his professional lifetime. It’s been all about advancing the books that “help people better understand who God is,” he says. A Christian retailer turned publishing director with Regal Books and former interim CEO for Gospel Light Publishers, and author of more than 60 books calling people to faith, he’s spent nearly six years heading the ECPA, furthering that mission in challenging times.
Now, as he winds up his tenure before IVP publisher Jeff Crosby takes the helm August 1, PW talked with Jantz about accomplishments, challenges, and what’s next for him. (Hint: It’s still about God.)
(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
What leads your list of the ECPA’s recent accomplishments?
I’m really proud of the industry’s response to focusing on diversity. We worked with Skot Welch, president of Global Bridgebuilders, to bring diversity into our events. At PubU, we started an emerging leaders program and it’s very exciting to see these people now moving up in the ranks of publishing. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we created a list of 1,300 books addressing racial justice and reconciliation. And this year culminated with Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, (WaterBrook) by Latasha Morrison being named Christian Book of the Year.
What are some publishing trends that are taking off now among evangelical publishers?
I can name several. Mindfulness – getting your mind right and how faith can help – is big on bestseller lists. Kids’ books have blown up big time during Covid, with new children’s imprints (IVP and Chalice in 2021) and publishers focusing on serving the whole family. I see a lot of new creativity in marketing with the use of YouTube, email, and apps. Look at what happened with The Chosen: I Have Called You by Name (by Jerry B. Jenkins, Broadstreet). It started as a TV show on an app and then became a bestselling book.
Devotionals are more popular than ever as people are looking for answers and longing to hang on to something that is true — the Bible. And Bible publishing is becoming more creative, too, with innovations such as (Tyndale’s) Filament-enabled editions with digital connections to the text. And we’re seeing other media such as K-Love Radio and EMF (Christian radio) turning to publishing.
What’s the biggest challenge now for evangelical publishers?
The delays and rising costs in the global supply chain is the major issue today. Right now, we depend on China for printing Bibles and for four-color work for children’s books. More Bibles are printed in China, with the most sophisticated printing companies, than anywhere else. But we are starting to look to India and South America.
But right behind that, are other concerns such as counterfeiting and the need for copyright protection. And we’ve lost a lot of retailers such as Family Christian and Lifeway stores, even before the surge in online shopping. There’s a boom in publishers developing their own direct-to-consumer sales.
Why do you mention beauty as so important?
Truth, goodness, and beauty are the foundations of a flourishing life. We have always put the emphasis on truth. Now, particularly with millennials and families, we need to emphasize the beauty of the Christian Story and its goodness as well. Dane Ortlund has such lovely writing in Gentle and Lowly (Crossway), which were the only words Jesus used to describe himself, that people are buying 10 copies at a time to give them away to others. Ruth Chou Simons’ is a writer and an artist in Beholding and Becoming (subtitled The Art of Worship, Harvest House). People are picking up on reading again and at the end of the day, you want to hold something beautiful in your hand.
What’s next for you?
I always want to be about amplifying Christian content in the world. I was inspired by the international 2019 European Christian Rights Fair that the ECPA held in Krakow. I’m joining with Christian business leaders who want to be part of creating more access to the Bible and transformational content through collaboration and technology between the West and the “Majority World" — South America, Africa, and Asia where 75% of all the Christians live. This means not only licensing on a global scale but growing indigenous and authors as well.
And I’m still writing. I have a book coming in January with Harvest House, The Healing Power of God: A Biblical Embrace of the Supernatural Today. We long for the stories that take us to another place. The Gospel story has another place — heaven.