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Transcript: How Investing in Employees Leads to Organizational Success // Jeff Crosby, ECPA

The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series

“How Investing in Employees Leads to Organizational Success“

November 22, 2021

Jeff Crosby

Intro: Hi, this is Al Lopus, and you've heard me say, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” And as a podcast listener, I'd love to get your feedback about how we're doing. Yes, we would like your ideas as we plan for the next season of the Flourishing Culture Podcast. Please help us do an even better job equipping and inspiring you to create a flourishing workplace culture. Believe me, this is a short survey and should only take a couple of minutes. So participate. Go now to bcwinstitute.org/contentsurvey. Please participate. I really would appreciate it. And here’s my promise: we will listen to your suggestions and act on them.

Al Lopus: Hi, I'm Al Lopus, and you're listening to the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where we help you create a flourishing workplace. The problem employers are facing today is that more of our employees are quitting than ever before. Some people are calling this the great resignation. And now with millions of open jobs, how can churches, Christian non-profits, and Christian-owned businesses face this tidal wave of resignations while attracting new, outstanding talent? And we know that having a flourishing workplace with fully engaged employees is the solution. I'll be your guide today as we talk with a thought leader about key steps that you can take to create a flourishing workplace culture.

So, now let's meet today's special guest.

The leaders in Christian publishing have had to adapt to many changes over the past years and even a few face different issues in your own sector. We can all learn from those that have thrived even during challenging times. And I'm delighted to welcome Jeff Crosby, who's the president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, known as ECPA. Previously, Jeff was the publisher at InterVarsity Press. Hi, Jeff, and welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.

Jeff Crosby: Thanks so much for having me, Al. I'm glad to be here.

Al: This is great. I'm looking forward to our conversation, and let's start off with, well, you know, Jeff, what are people reading these days? Can you highlight some of the key trends, particularly in Christian publishing?

Jeff: Sure. I was just recently at a conference in Arizona that featured a speaker who provided a very robust data set, a company called NPD BookScan. It's really the premier tracking service for data in our industry. And what I heard in that presentation is that for print and e-books, books that are categorized as Christian Life—that is, things that are trying to help readers faithfully live out what they believe—have seen the largest growth over the past few years in terms of units sold; followed closely by what they call Biblical Studies, but what they're really meaning is Bible Studies, things that help us understand scripture; and then actual Bible purchases. The data doesn't mean that all of those books have been read—it's what's been sold—but one hopes that there is a connection between what they're spending money on and what they're reading.

Other categories of note that are growing include fiction, self-help, and then books, interestingly, on racial and social justice. The latter has particularly shown a groundswell of movement over the past 18 to 24 months. And children's books as well have seen great increases. Especially during the pandemic, a lot of parents are homeschooling, and so that's probably a part of that.

And then audiobooks, in terms of the percentage growth over the prior year, it is growing exponentially. It's the highest-growth trend in terms of format. People are reporting that they have more time on their hands to read or to listen to books, which is music to my heart as a longtime publisher. I think that's in part they're working from home. They're avoiding long commutes. For whatever reason, it seems there is an uptick in reading. And so as an association, ECPA is delighted to see that.

There are a few key trends that I would highlight in terms of publishing. I'm seeing a great deal more emphasis on design, especially interior design. We live in an image-saturated world, and books are increasingly emphasizing beauty in terms of cover, interior, and typographical layout and design.

There's a recent example I would highlight, Al. You probably know the author A.W. Tozer and his classic book from mid-century last century, The Pursuit of God. It's been repackaged as a 31-day experience. And that book would normally be 130 pages, but Moody Publishers has a new visual edition that clocks in at 456 pages. It's still the same text, but the design is absolutely stunning, and it creates a reading experience like few others I've seen. But that reflects the design trend.

A second one that stands out is how books are connected to end readers historically. Publishers like the one I served for such a long time utilize retail bookstores, and then, since the mid ’90s, online retailers like Amazon and christianbook.com. But increasingly, publishers are marketing and selling their books directly to end readers. They have to, due to the massive number of bookstore closures over the past 20 years, and the strategic need as a business community to not be too dependent on a handful of online accounts.

And then I would just offer one other thing. Perhaps you're hitting me just at the right moment, but I think a lot of Christian publishers are grappling with questions surrounding evangelical or religious identity, and then the Christian-faith proximity to politics and power. So I think we're going to see a lot more books appraising the 2016 and 2020 national elections and the religious or religious community connections to that. And then you're going to see more books written by people of color, published by people of color, or appraising or attempting to shed light on issues of race, ethnic identity, tribalism, justice, and adjacent topics. Those tended to be not the norm that Christian publishers were speaking into, and now they are doing so with great frequency and, I would say, power.

Al: Well, Jeff, it's been interesting over my period with the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. And 19 years ago, we started and there were more book publishers publishing Christian books back then than there are now. And we've seen that publishing has changed. You mentioned going from retail stores, where I used to go and look at and touch and buy books before I'd buy them. Now, of course, they're on Amazon. I mean, that's just been a huge transition, I know. And as publishers, you've been forced to adapt to changes over the last few decades, from print to e-books to audio books. Here we are on a podcast, an audio format, talking about an industry that used to be solely in print. So what's on the horizon for publishing? You've kind of outlined a couple of things, but what sort of innovations do you see coming in the next few years?

Jeff: Well, you mentioned one of the key changes, and I did as well in that opening exchange, is the proliferation of audio books. We've never seen it to this extent before, and the quality of narration, the musical elements, and other production values have increased significantly. And I think you're going to see publishers continuing to invest in that. ECPA recently introduced an audiobook category in our annual awards process for the first time ever, and I've been struck, as I've listened to the nominations, by the quality of the production. We're still just at the tip of the iceberg on that. Some books that have historically sold 1 to 3 percent of total sales through audio book are now doing 25 percent or more. I know a couple of bestsellers where 50 percent of the sales are going through audio. So publishers are trying to determine how to build an audio program. You know, do they work with an outside company? Do they build their own studio and record themselves? Do they continue to sublicense, as was their pattern in the past?

And then, with the decline in the number of physical booksellers, we're seeing a lot of innovation in terms of publishers reaching end readers directly through content marketing; through podcasts like this one, where books are mentioned from time to time; video trailers; bonus content; and other things like that. E-books have largely plateaued. There will still be growth, I think, especially in the academic sector where online platforms, books are being placed up there digitally rather than students buying physical books. But for the most part, e-books have plateaued. We are seeing, however, innovative elements embedded within digitally delivered books, exclusive content that draws readers to the e-book.

Moving away from technology and innovation and that sphere to trends in actual content, as I mentioned earlier, you're going to continue to see publishers emphasizing books by and written for a diverse audience. That's going to require innovation in terms of staffing, recruiting, and welcoming more people of color into decision-making and senior-level roles in publishing houses. And that calls for a sense of inclusion, which the BCWI Survey really gets at. Part of flourishing is inclusion. And so I think that you're going to see more publishers emphasizing recruitment and then inclusivity for non-majority-culture staff. Much, not all, of Christian publishing has for too long been focused on majority-culture audiences, and from a business and a missiological and a justice standpoint, I think the rapid change there is really important. It's not innovation so much as adaptation.

Al: Yeah. For an industry that—I know our listeners are particularly trying to stay equipped and up to date on innovations because things are changing so fast. But, yeah. Book publishing has been an example. It's interesting, audio books and how they're really growing and podcasts and so on. You mentioned content marketing, and certainly the inclusion of diverse audiences and diversity. I've noticed that very much as well. You know, these have been some interesting times, haven’t they, Jeff?

Jeff: Sure, absolutely.

Al: So here at BCWI, we focus on employee engagement as a key to excellence. And you were a leader at InterVarsity Press for many years before coming to ECPA. So what are some of the ways that you've seen that investing in employees have led to organizational success to keeping organizations alive and pertinent to the ones that they serve? Can you share a couple of examples?

Jeff: Sure. Yeah. You and your team were such an important partner to IVP throughout the last couple of decades. I can't recall the year you started, but virtually since the very beginning of your work at BCWI, we, IVP, was surveying our employees for engagement. And what it did for us was it helped us to understand where our employees actually were rather than where we hoped they were or maybe thought they were in terms of engagement. And it also aided us in seeing organizational pivots that we needed to make. I think that IVP long had a culture that valued employee ideas, valued inclusion and teamwork, our purpose and values statement, which was very well crafted and I think was authentically so heralded among our staff. It valued all that things.

But the elements of engagement that BCWI lifted out in the Survey and in our management debriefs with either you or a member of your team afterward gave us an objective snapshot of the company, and it helped us prioritize areas that we could address over the course of the following 12 or, in some cases, 24 months. We attempted to be honest with our staff, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of our scores, and then transparently indicating what we intended to work on.

And then, very importantly, and your team drove this home to us, is that we kept that change in front of the staff. It wasn't a moment in time where we said, “Here's what we're going to do.” But we kept coming back and saying, “Okay. This is what we're doing. This is how it connects to what we had told you about before. Or here is some place that we're stymied. And so we're going to have to pause,” or something like that. We kept the truth in front of the staff, and I think that that helped build trust in the leadership and it helped build engagement. It just wasn't a single moment in time where we were reporting. So we were usually, if not always, certified. I can't remember if IVP ever wasn't certified, but I'm confident we almost always were.

Al: I think you always were, yeah, Jeff.

Jeff: Okay.

Al: Absolutely. Twenty years. I mean, going on next year will be 20 years, so that's a remarkable strength or stretch, yeah.

Jeff: Well, that's great. Thanks for the reminder.

Nonetheless, there were times where the feedback that we would get was a little bit of, “Oh, ouch. That's not what we wanted to hear, our executive team wanted to hear.” And yet it was so incredibly valuable and helped us get better over time, helped our organization to flourish in greater ways. And so I'll always be grateful to you and the BCWI team.

One of the joys in the months prior to my departure from IVP for this role with ECPA was acquiring your forthcoming manuscript, The Road to Flourishing, which I think IVP will publish in February. And it's such a helpful distillation of the path that organizations can take. Among the more important shifts that IVP made in recent years at the strong encouragement of one member of the senior leadership team and coming out of survey data was corporate-wide, one-on-one meetings with all staff, regardless of their role or their level. And that helped us increase engagement significantly. People felt heard. They felt seen. They felt they were cared for beyond just the day-to-day warp and woof of what they contributed in terms of the practical elements of their job.

IVP was a fairly serious-minded organization. I remember when I arrived at the end of 1997, our tagline was “For those who take their Christianity seriously,” which is telling. The environment was one that was fairly cerebral. It was serious. You know, we took our work very seriously. And so one of the elements that we were clearly told year after year was we need to have some lightness and some fun. And the data suggested that was a real weakness. That was something that our staff wanted. And so connected to that in the last couple of years, a senior leader formed what she called the celebration committee, which existed solely to celebrate achievements, special milestones, and create moments of fun and community.

I remember one of them being executive-led. By that, I mean we were in the kitchen cooking pancakes and sausage and bacon for the entire company, 94 employees, each fall in September for the last couple of years prior to the pandemic. And I believe they started it again this year. And then an experience working to pack meals through a ministry called Feed My Starving Children. We closed it down, and we drove to a nearby community. And over the course of several hours, we packed these meals, which went to places in other parts of the world. And that may not sound like fun, but it actually was. It was a community-building experience, and there were other things like that where the celebration committee led out. And I trace that directly back to the Survey and to IVP’s desire to have greater flourishing and trying new things to try to help that happen.

Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.

Female: As we come through the COVID-19 crisis, leaders everywhere are asking, how do we understand the tensions our employees are experiencing coming back to work? How do we keep our employees engaged, hold on to our best talent, and position ourselves to thrive as an organization going forward? If you're looking for a way forward, the Best Christian Workplaces Institute can guide you onto the road to a flourishing workplace.

The first step to begin the journey is our well-known Employee Engagement Survey. This proven online tool pinpoints where your organization is already strong and where you can improve your employees’ workplace experience, resulting in more productive people. That's right. You'll have more engaged, productive, and fulfilled people. Time-consuming guesswork won't get you there. Instead, let us help you with a fact-based, hope-inspiring action plan that only our Employee Engagement Survey and skillful coaching can provide. Sign up now to begin the journey to build a flourishing workplace culture and a thriving organization. Find out more at bcwinstitute.org.

Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.

IVP’s a case study, no question about it. Love your thoughts. And yeah, your predecessor that first year was the fall of 2002 was when we first kicked off the Best Christian Workplaces Survey, and, as you said—

Jeff: So almost 20 years for you.

Al: Almost 20 years, yeah. Yeah.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Al: Yeah. And, yeah, you kept coming back and coming back and looking at the data and—

Jeff: Right.

Al: —keeping it in front of your team. And I love your feedback. And to all of our listeners, let me just say, one-on-one meetings is just a huge way of improving the health and the engagement of your employees. And your reflection on just the personality of the team being very serious. And I would say, yeah, that's a serious group there.

Jeff: You’ve experienced that.

Al: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And all for good reason. But to add some celebration certainly did add to the culture.

Jeff: Yes.

Al: But just great examples and a great case study.

You know, as we look at our current situation, even to the future, gig workers are growing part of the economy, and I've mentioned the growing gig economy for Christian workplaces as something to pay attention to. And we aren't always working with employees, but we're also looking and working with people with a particular skill, and this is especially true as I've looked at publishing, especially in design and editing. So how can an organization develop great relationships with various people who contribute to the overall success but are a gig worker? They're not an employee.

Jeff: It’s a great question, Al, and it's one of the very reasons that ECPA as a trade association exists. We help to provide forums for networking and relationship building that leads to a healthy and productive work within organizations, but then also with freelance partners and gig workers. Just this week, I have been in three days of sessions so far, there are two more to come, with something we call the Publishing University this year because its online. Traditionally, it's been in a city with a concentration of publishing. But we invite external voices such as outside designers or freelance editors or marketing specialists and so forth to come in and speak about best practices, and our member publishers learn from them, engage with them. And out of all of that—that's just one example, the Publishing University. There are several other events that we do where these sorts of relationships with sponsors or industry affiliates are nurtured. So whatever your specific area of work, whatever your field or your industry, there are likely trade associations and networking opportunities, such as what ECPA provides for Christian publishers. And so I would just encourage everyone to seek out those spaces, even if there's a little bit of a cost to it, cost in terms of membership fees or staff time away from the office or increasingly their homes, and ensure the senior leadership team members and directors and others attend those events, whether they're in-person or online, and test out freelance partners and make sure that as you enter into those engagements, you ensure you have clear objectives and criteria upon which you're going to be evaluating how things have gone and whether you continue or end the work together.

In the latter years of my work with IVP, it's an organization that we probably prided ourselves on our perfectionism, and we likely prided ourselves on a sense of really knowing how to do things the right way. But I'll tell you what, Al, in the latter years, we absolutely had to begin to access the talent that wasn't actually on the staff, but was freelance in nature. And I think you're doing that with your own book, and you'll see how valuable that is and sort of the in-house, the out-of-house, and the author kind of come together for a wonderful experience and productive experience.

Al: Yeah. I love your advice to test them out, to build relationships, and to see exactly what expertise you can bring into your own organization without even having to hire them full time.

Jeff: Right.

Al: Yeah, that really is great.

You know, one of the aspects of the work at ECPA is equipping leaders in publishing and both those already at the top levels and also emerging levels. I mean, the future leaders. So, share with us a little bit, Jeff, about your work at ECPA and how you're going about training and mentoring the next generation of publishing leaders.

Jeff: Love that question. In 2021, Al, it was an exciting time to join ECPA as president and CEO because my predecessor, a man named Stan Jantz, had been in the industry a little bit longer than me, over 40 years, and the gifted team I now work with, they had innovated in significant ways in the face of the global health pandemic. They made one of our traditional core deliverables from members impossible, and that was gathering physically for our events. But the team didn't let that stop the continued growth of service to members, and what you're asking about here in terms of mentorship is one of the key growth areas. Mentoring the next generation of leaders became a priority.

Two things stand out in that. In tandem with the training event I mentioned a moment ago called Pub U, we formed what we called an emerging-leaders scholarship program, where younger or newer professionals—sometimes they were mid-career, but they were new to publishing, new to our industry—they were able to come to the training event at a greatly reduced registration fee, and they were paired with a seasoned mentor, someone who had worked in their part of publishing—editorial, marketing, design, production—they were paired with a mentor from that sector in a learning relationship. That was a commitment for at least 12 months, and that had never been done before. It was quite an achievement, and I attribute that to my predecessor, Stan, and the team, but we're carrying that on again this year. In fact, on Tuesday next week, we're going to be pairing the next cohort. It’ll be 22 young professionals or new professionals who will be paired with a mentor. So I'm very excited about that.

Secondly, we have a new initiative called Open Doors that's still in development but will happen in the new calendar year of 2022. It's designed to specifically create recruiting and mentoring opportunities for people of color and to open doors to the publishing profession, which, as I said earlier, has historically not reflected the diversity of the church and the population.

Additionally, through all of our events, we're trying to platform as well as ensure we have content in place that will nurture, encourage, and instruct younger professionals in this work of publishing. So the master's thesis that I wrote as a graduate student was on creating a mentoring culture at InterVarsity Press, and I like to think that that had a bit of influence on some of what happened at IVP. I am hopeful that the studies and the thinking in that area will also contribute to expanding mentoring within the ECPA community. So that's my hope, that's my prayer, and my dream.

Al: Yeah. Gosh, that's great, Jeff. I love the idea of mentoring. And again, our listeners, you know, I've had on the podcast before leaders who really have focused on mentoring and even training and teaching others, and that really makes a difference. And yeah, and open doors, to make sure that you're opening the doors for diversity, people of color, multiple generations. Great ideas.

You know, talking about the next generation of leaders implies succession. And you know, that's something that you've been through. You've recently gone through this process at IVP. So I know a lot of people are thinking, “How does a leader know when it's time to pass the reins on and move on?” And we've got plenty of examples, and I don't want to be one of them, where you overstay your season of influence. Tell us that journey, Jeff.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, it's very fresh in my mind. I'm in my fourth month in the ECPA role. As I reflect back on my process, I began it, really, in December of 2020. It was very, very happy and I would say fruitful at IVP. Hopefully, the team there would say that as well. But it's a place that I’d worked at for 24 years or nearly so. In December 2020 was invited to consider the ECPA role. I remember sitting with the author and college president Gordon Smith. He wrote a classic book on vocational stewardship called Courage and Calling. And I remember hearing him speak of executives having a shelf life. We know food has a shelf life. But Gordon was saying executives also have a shelf life, and I think he said it was about 10 years. I think he included those comments as well in a book that I published with him called Institutional Intelligence. And that struck me, as I sat there with him listening, shelf life, maybe 10 years. It struck me as true and wise. And I’d been at IVP more than twice that long. And so I entered into a conversation with the ECPA, seeking to discern whether or not my shelf life at IVP had expired and whether or not God was calling me to this new work with ECPA, whose board of directors I had served for some time the previous two years as board chair.

The first step I made was one that, perhaps, wouldn't work for everyone listening to this podcast, and that was I approached my supervisor, the president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the person I had reported to for the prior five-plus years. And I told him I was entering into a discernment process, and not only that, but I invited him to walk with me. It was a bit risky. I wasn't sure how he would respond. I wasn't sure it was the right thing to do. But I remember one of the things in my mind and my heart as I did it was, if something happened and Tom found out that I was in this process, would I regret having not informed him? And when I answered yes, I would regret if he learned about this from anyone but me, I knew what I had to do. And so I didn't want to move forward in the process without his awareness. I met with him twice a month, beginning in January of 2021, and I listened to the questions that he posed, and some of them were pretty difficult and straightforward. I journaled my responses, which is one of the spiritual practices that I have, daily journaling. And, you know, I would take his questions, I would prayerfully ponder them, I would journal, and then when we gathered the next time, we would process what I had put down on paper. I then received more questions from him. We iterated the process for about three months, and eventually he asked me if I would add two additional executives within the larger ministry of InterVarsity, and so I did that as well.

Now I had a discernment community of three. Simultaneous to entering into dialog with them, I spent time in solitude and silence because I believe that it is out of that practice that we can hear the voice of God. Not audibly. I'm not suggesting that. But just through the Spirit’s prompting within our own souls. And so I asked myself questions like, do I have an unrealized vision for my existing role at IVP that I need to continue leaning into? And I asked, what is my vision for the potential role at ECPA? Very importantly, I asked, what is my motivation for change, both the positive and the negative? In other words, was there anything I was running from? Or was it really the draw, the sense of God's call? And then lastly, was the executive team that I would be leaving in a good position to carry on? Was there someone, was there more than one person who was poised to carry on in a flourishing way the work that I had done? And so all of that and more were kind of put into the soup, and at the end of the process, I sensed in partnership with that community of three that walked with me that it was time to pass on the reins, using your language, that IVP was ready for that to transpire and that God was in the midst of it all and would provide for both sides of the equation.

And now, four months later, I can tell you that I believe that process was a good one. I continue to have tremendous respect for the people and the publishing at IVP, but I feel deeply honored to serve ECPA and to work with the creative team that I am now a part of. And I believe that both sides of the succession equation are flourishing and will continue to do so.

Al: Yeah.

Jeff: So I think in summary, I would say don't be a lone ranger. As you’re thinking about change or you think about a succession process, who is your community? The Quakers call it a clearness committee. I didn't call it that, but it really functioned that way. Who can listen to you? Who will you listen to in a way of just kind of cracking open for the Holy Spirit to say, yes, this is something to attend to? And so I'm grateful to the three people. They know who they are. They may be listening to this podcast, who accompanied me on that journey. I am grateful to now be where I am and to see IVP continue to flourish.

Al: Thanks for that heartfelt discussion. You know, I love the questions. We're at a stage. We're calling it the great resignation, where a lot of people are looking at moving to another role. But your discernment process here is something for us all to really think about. And as people on our teams are even thinking about this, how can we help them with questions like my unrealized vision for my existing role—have I finished? Is the vision where I hoped it would be? Or, you know, how about the vision for a potential role, or what's really behind my motivation to change? I know that I've counseled a lot of people that have worked for me over the years, and sometimes I would say, your motivation isn't right. Ultimately, it might be good to transition, but let's wait for a better situation. And then, you know, the question that we all have is, is there a good team in place that will carry on the old saying, there really isn't success without succession.

Jeff: Yeah.

Al: And the whole team of three, that does reflect the level of trust that exists at the leadership there at InterVarsity.

Jeff: Right.

Al: And I know it took some courage on your part, but, boy, what a great story. I think all of our listeners appreciate that. That's probably another podcast all on its own, to talk about this. And we're all interim, aren't we, in our roles?

Jeff: Absolutely. We all have a shelf life.

Al: Yeah. Wow.

Well, InterVarsity Press is known for seeking out diverse voices, and InterVarsity, particularly, is known as a leader with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. And you've been a leader in the publishing industry as well. So, you know, as you look to the future, what do you see?

Jeff: Thankfully, nearly a year ago, ECPA staff and its board that I was chairing at the time had a vision for creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. We had never had one before, but Stan and his team and the board felt we needed to take that step. And it was formed, I believe, in May of 2021, comprised of seasoned and insightful publishing professionals who reflect the diversity that we long to see in Christian publishing.

And so they began the work then, and over the course of time since, a number of things have happened. Creating a baseline survey. So we have a sense of the level of diversity and the composition of member companies at various levels, not just one. And we've even had a conversation with you, Al, about that, and how do we effectively execute something like that.

Secondly, we've created an education program that keeps the unique gifts and needs of people of color in mind. As I mentioned earlier about our events, we are ensuring that our events reflect a diverse pool of speakers and also address issues with insight, boldness, and clarity. And then the mentoring dimensions, the open doors that we talked about previously as well.

At ECPA, we desire to honor our history, which dates back to 1974. I believe there were 22 founding charter publishers who came together, and I believe it was in Los Angeles, in 1974, to charter this. So it's a fairly mature organization, and we desire to honor that history and to stay on mission but also have adaptability and be a part of facilitating and supporting Christian publishers and change that we all believe is important for the industry, and DEI is one of those places. I can tell you, it's tricky work, having been at IVP for a long time and kind of at a publisher that was at the forefront of it. It's tricky work. You open yourselves up to misunderstandings and critique, but it's important work, and I believe it's a unique work of God in this moment in our culture and in the church and within Christian publishing. So I'm encouraged that there are a number of things happening within ECPA and our member publishers as well, even beyond what ECPA itself is doing. Our member publishers are committed to working within their spheres of influence as well.

Al: Yeah. And you mentioned even earlier in our podcast how this is an important topic. I mean, it's not just that people are talking about it, but people are buying books and reading and learning about it—

Jeff: Yeah.

Al: —and that's great progress.

You know, ECPA is not just for U.S. publishers, as I've learned, but you've got a global reach. And so what are some of the developments in publishing that we can learn from in other parts of the world when it comes to publishing?

Jeff: There has been a shift among many U.S. publishers away from exclusively sublicensing English books. That's been our history. We would work with a publisher in the UK or Europe or Singapore or other English-speaking markets, and we would sublicense to them. And instead, there is a movement to publishing global editions. There are also a number of publishers who have developed or acquired Spanish-language product lines, reflecting the demographic changes in the U.S. and also the growth of the church in parts of the global south, where English is not the first language.

But the same is also true going the other way. Amazon.com, where more than 50 percent of most publishers’ books are sold, has brought about a sea change in the global scene, where now metadata—which is just a fancy term to talk about all of the words that populate Amazon screen, about the book, the endorsements, and the reviews, and all of that—metadata is now kind of a globalized lifeline for making books known. At ECPA we have scores of international members, and we attempt to hear from them, to platform them, to learn from their unique challenges. And places in Eastern Europe, for example, or places in Africa, where publishing is more restricted, places in the Middle East, and so we're attempting to learn from them, learn from their challenges, and then to resource where we can or to partner with them.

There's another organization called MAI that does tremendous work engaging and partnering with the global Christian-publishing sphere, and I've recently been involved with them and events in Singapore and coming up in Hungary. Publishers in Brazil, where the church is growing rapidly, are doing some of the most innovative reader-engagement pivots among any of our members, and I'm hoping that one of those publishers will be at an event in May in Philadelphia that ECPA is hosting, where we can hear from them of what they're doing to elevate sales of Christian product in Portuguese and the country of Brazil.

For any of your listeners, Al, who are interested in what's happening in the global Christian-publishing scene, I would recommend a brand new book titled Chasing Paper: Critical Reflections on Christian Books and Publishing. It's edited by a scholar named Stephanie L. Derrick, but it has contributions by a number of people I suspect the podcast listeners may have heard of, like Philip Yancey and Mark Noll, I'm sorry, of Notre Dame, and my former colleague Andy Le Peau, who directed the IVP editorial department for many years, and a host of others from around the world. Virtually every continent is represented in this book. And it just captures the amazing way that books are being used around the world but also the unique challenges in the developing world.

Al: Wow, Jeff, this has really been fascinating. We’ve learned so much. Going back to just the beginning of our conversation, how things are really changing, how audio books are really becoming big, how books on Christian life and Bible studies and the Bible itself are still very much key aspects and pillars of Christian publishing. And gosh, the trends around design. Yeah, we're all focused on how things look, aren't we? And how retail has moved from stores to Amazon, and gosh, a whole bunch of innovations that you mentioned. Also, of course, reflecting on your culture journey at IVP. That was really interesting. Your focus on one on ones, for example, and celebrations, having a celebration committee, and even serving. You mentioned Feed My Starving Children, serving as a group together builds cohesion and community and trust for strengthening culture. And then our discussion on gig workers and the importance of training and mentoring emerging leaders. And then your story around succession and how we can all apply that as we think about job changes and having a cadre, a group of people that you have to help you with questions. Having that time of journaling I think is a tremendous spiritual practice, one that I appreciate. And, you know, that we all have a shelf life in our role of leadership, where we're all an interim in our roles. We have to keep that in mind. Yeah, just great discussions, Jeff. Thanks so much.

Anything else you'd like to add that we haven't talked about?

Jeff: I think we've covered the waterfront, Al. I just appreciate, again, the work that Best Christian Workplaces is doing, the podcast being one of those things, but the Surveys that you have administered to scores of Christian organizations and the way that that helped me in particular at IVP. ECPA is not a large-enough organization in terms of employees to do it, but I am carrying with me what I learned about the drivers of a flourishing organization, carrying those with me as I interact with ECPA colleagues in this new work. And so I'm grateful for all that I've learned from our interaction over the years.

Al: Thanks, Jeff.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Crosby, president of ECPA, thanks so much for your contributions. And most of all, I appreciate your devotion and service to our loving God for helping so many communicate the message of Jesus through the books that you've published. And thanks so much for taking your time out today and speaking to our audience and the lives of those who are listening. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you.

Al: And please don't forget to participate in our podcast survey. Please go to bcwinstitute.org/contentsurvey. I appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

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