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What Do We Call It? Coming Up with a Book Title.

I am at a critical juncture in my current writing project, and thought I could provide an update on my progress over a few posts.  Today I talk about titles As I earlier indicated on the blog, I am tentatively calling the book:  The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Destroyed the Religions of Rome.   I’m not sure what the final title will be – this is just what I’m working with for now.   The main title (Triumph of Christianity) is pretty secure, I think.  It is what I proposed to my publisher (Simon & Schuster) when I first floated a prospectus of the book before them to see if they were interested in publishing it, and they were (and I think are) enthusiastic about it.  The subtitle is simply the best I could come up with.  I rather like it, but I’m not sure they will. Titles are complicated affairs, as I’ve mentioned (a long time ago) on the blog.  For an *academic* book (that is, a scholarly book written for scholars), [...]

Who Should Write Trade Books?

Most people who contact me about a book they would like to write – or that they have written – are not talking about a work of scholarship (though some are); they are talking about a book that they would like to publish that “reaches the masses.”  They have some ideas about early Christianity, the historical Jesus, the life and writings of Paul, the Gospels, the entire Bible, or some related topic, and they would like to publish a book to make their views known. I never encourage them. This will probably be the most intellectually snobbish post I’ve ever made on this blog, but I think maybe I should just tell it like it is.   In my view, no one should write a book if they lack the necessary expertise.   And expertise doesn’t come from wanting to have it or wishing to have it.    It comes from years of hard work – in this case, intellectual work – after being trained sufficiently to be able even to *do* the work.   I may really, deeply [...]

How I Moved into Trade Publishing

I have been explaining that I started to write books for a broader audience not because that was some kind of goal in my life – just the opposite! – but because I came to think it would be a good thing to try to communicate scholarship on the New Testament to 19-20 year olds in a college-level textbook.  A couple of readers have commented that when my former classmates from Moody have indicated that I wanted (and still want) to write books to become famous, they were not referring to my textbooks but to my trade books for a general (adult) audience.   That’s exactly right – that is indeed what they were referring to.  The reason I’ve been talking about my first textbook is that this was the beginning of my quest to reach out to a broader swath of people.    Here in this post I’ll get to my trade books. After I wrote my first textbook (I’ve now written three, and compiled three anthologies of ancient texts, in good translations, with brief introductions, [...]

Writing to Become Famous?

I’ve been referring to the reactions that I received from my former classmates at Moody Bible Institute about some of my posts about what my experience was like there.  Some of them, as I indicated, warned me of future judgment.   Others made some a rather belittling comment:  that I have written my books simply because I have wanted to become famous. My sense is that nothing I say would ever change someone’s mind if that’s what they are already inclined to think, but I do want to say something about the matter from my own perspective. When I started out in my publishing career, I had no idea at all of becoming well known and that certainly was not a goal of mine.  Very, very far from it.   My goal was to be a widely respected scholar among New Testament scholars; I wanted to become a world-class expert on the Greek manuscript tradition of the New Testament.  I had no idea at all of reaching out to the general public in anything I wrote.   I [...]

Choosing a Topic for A Trade Book

In this thread I’ve been talking about how I go about writing a trade book, and I am now dealing with the question of how an author chooses what to write about.  I was indicating earlier that some of my graduate students have a difficult time knowing what to focus on in their dissertations.  Most of my students come up with amazingly good ideas; but every now and then I have a student who simply can’t decide what to do.  It’s hard because the dissertation is their first book, it has to be academically rigorous, on a topic of some intellectual importance, and dealing with it in a way that has never been done before.   The same is true with all works of serious scholarship. Having said that, I should point out that the New Testament itself is the most heavily researched book (or set of books) in the history of civilization.   And lots of areas of New Testament scholarship are thoroughly “over-researched.”   That makes it hard for students and even senior scholars sometimes to [...]

2020-04-03T16:35:17-04:00September 8th, 2014|Book Discussions|

Scholarly vs. Trade Books

In the past thread I was discussing how, on three occasions, I produced both a scholarly book and a trade book for popular audiences on the same topic.  I thought that now it would be interesting for me to say a few words about what I see as the difference between these two kinds of books. On one level, I think the difference would be obvious to anyone who would compare two of the books I’ve mentioned, for example, my scholarly monograph Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics with my popular book, Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.  They are on the same topic.  But they are oh so different. For openers, the titles are dead give aways.   Titles are a tricky business.   Publishers are the ones who ultimately decide on what a title will be.   I should say that for almost all of my scholarly books (in fact, I think for every single one of [...]

2020-04-03T16:36:46-04:00August 27th, 2014|Book Discussions|

My Scholarly and Trade Books on Forgery

A couple of posts ago I mentioned the books that I anticipate writing in the future.  I like to plan my life in advance.  I like to plan my week in advance.  I like to plan my day in advance.  I like to plan.   For my current ten-year publishing plan, the two immediate goals are not so immediate, as they will take three or four years, I should think.   The next book, I hope, will be the trade book for popular audiences on the oral traditions of Jesus in the years before the Gospels were written; that will be followed by a scholarly book on a very similar topic, not written for normal human beings but for abnormal academics. In my last post I began to talk about how I had done something similar before.  My trade book Misquoting Jesus, was a popular treatment of topics that I had dealt with at a scholarly level in several books and a number of academic articles.   I did something comparable with two other trade books. It worked [...]

2020-04-12T12:16:52-04:00August 19th, 2014|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

Trade Books and Scholarly Books

I indicated in my previous post that I would say a few things about each of the books that I am planning – today at least – to try to write over the next ten years or so.   The very next book will be trade book on Jesus Before the Gospels, a study of what happened to the stories about Jesus as they were altered, and invented, by Christians circulating them word of mouth before the writing of the Gospels.   The next book after that will be a scholarly treatment of the same thing.  Or that’s the plan. The reason I’m hedging my bet is because I never know whether there will be a scholarly book in my current research until my current research is my past research and I see whether there really is something there that I have to say to scholars, or not.   At this point, even though I have a rough idea of how I want to organize a trade book, and know where I need to go in order to [...]

2020-04-03T16:38:36-04:00August 17th, 2014|Book Discussions, Memory Studies|

My Future Books

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been in London for the summer, spending almost all my time reading books.   I should clarify that I’m not *only* reading books while I’m here!  Among other things, once a week I've been taking my daily walk (I normally walk an hour a day around Wimbledon, where our flat is) to the large park nearby, and sit on a bench, listening to music with my earphones, watching people play football (a.k.a. soccer) or cricket with their kids, and smoking a very big cigar.   I limit myself to one cigar a week, since if I did what I *wanted* to do, I would smoke three a day.  But our flat is tiny, and there’s no way on God’s good earth that I would be allowed to smoke in it.  So I go to the park.  And sit, and listen to music, and … think deep thoughts. Some of my most creative thinking time is with plugs in my ears and a cigar in my hand (or, well, mouth) and [...]

2020-04-29T16:13:30-04:00August 15th, 2014|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions|

Anecdotes in Trade Books

The *point* of this post comes near the end. The first trade book that I wrote (that is, a book for a general reading audience, as opposed to a scholarly book for scholars) was Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, which appeared in 1999.   I wrote several after that (including one that I like among my best: Lost Christianities), but it wasn’t until Misquoting Jesus in 2005 that I feel like I “hit my stride.”   That was the book where I think I “figure it out” – that is, figured out how to write not for my colleagues in the field of early Christian studies or New Testament, and not for university colleagues in other disciplines, and not for 19 year old college students (the readers of my textbooks), but for average, interested, educated lay persons who don’t know the jargon or technical aspects of my field, or probably any academic field, but want to know what scholars are saying without feeling like they are being “talked down to” by a condescending intellectual. That [...]

2020-04-03T18:44:00-04:00March 13th, 2013|Book Discussions|
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