Every once in a while, a book gets a second chance. Usually books have a year or maybe two to “make it,” and if they don’t sell well, they disappear. Others sell well enough to stay in print, but never break out of the market sector in which they have made their way.
I’m grateful that Oxford University Press published Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil in 1998. It was my second book and a radical departure from my first one, Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century: An Introduction to Its Character (University of Toronto Press, 1993). That second book helped to earn me my last promotion (to Professor, at the University of Manitoba) and to get me my current job at Regent College.
But the book didn’t connect with a lot of people who might have been glad to know about it—or, at least, so I have been told by readers who happened upon it over the last decade. Because it was an OUP book, Christian stores and online sites mostly didn’t feature it. I’d speak at Christian conferences, and the book tables wouldn’t have it because those running them didn’t do business with OUP.
Finally, an editor at Baker–with whom I have published a handful of books, either as editor or author–told me a few years ago that he finally got around to reading it and really liked it. He tried to get his own house to republish it for their market, but the editorial committee didn’t go for it. (Reprints or even revised editions are generally hard to sell.) But I was encouraged by his affirmation, and when a different editor at a different house (Andy Le Peau at InterVarsity) talked with me some months later about doing something with them, I mentioned the possibility of revising Can God Be Trusted?
Andy was understandably lukewarm about the idea. (Did I mention that revised editions are hard to sell?) But he kindly accepted the offer of a couple of copies of the first edition to read and circulate among his colleagues. And to my delight, IVP decided to go ahead.
So now the revised edition (with quite a bit of new content) is out, with a new cover (which I quite like), from a publisher that does a good job of reaching a fresh market for the book.
We’re launching Can God Be Trusted? officially at Regent College on Friday evening, February 27, at 8 p.m. I’ll talk a bit about the book and then give a short lecture based on it: “Luther’s Strange Advice: How Running Away from God Solves the Problem of Evil.” I’ll be happy to sign books afterward, and those who attend can also stock up on other titles at the “Midnight Madness” sale at Regent’s superb bookstore.
So if you’re in the area, please come to the party! And toast with me a publisher willing to give a book a second chance.