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They’ll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in publishing by Tony Collins

18 November 2022

Naomi Starkey reflects on a candid account

FIVE or so years into his publishing career, Tony Collins tried — and was discouraged — from exploring a call to ordained ministry. Owing to his Charismatic inclinations, the support of his then home church was considered unlikely. The Church’s loss (although he eventually became a Reader) was undoubtedly the lasting gain of the world of Christian books, as is clear from this autobiography, which is, in turn, entertaining, inspiring, and thought-provoking.

The roll-call of authors and bestsellers indicates quite how influential Collins has been over the past five decades. Beginning under the guidance of Edward England at Hodder & Stoughton, his career has taken him to companies as diverse as Kingsway and SPCK. His editorial output has included groundbreaking forays into drama and fiction, as well as biography, and a wide range of teaching and devotional books, all grounded in an unswerving commitment to spreading the Christian faith.

What makes his story particularly compelling, however, is his honesty not only about professional mistakes, but about personal struggles over the years. While always discreet and kind, he describes personality clashes, missed opportunities, health and family difficulties — and the deeply painful experience of making people redundant in the wake of business failure.

He also describes his involvement with Media Associates International, a charity established to encourage and train Christian publishers and writers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The occasional tribulations of UK publishing are given perspective by contrast with countries where maintaining any kind of business infrastructure is a constant challenge.

Having myself moved from a career in publishing to full-time ordained ministry, I was heartened and enthused to find confirmation in this story of the number of transferable skills. I also enjoyed insights such as the importance of recognising “the right idea coming at the wrong time”. For anyone tempted to oppose “managerial” and “pastoral”, here is ample material for reflection. If the aim is reaching out to as wide an audience as possible, there is much to be said for Collins’s mix of creative flair, entrepreneurial enthusiasm, financial shrewdness, and, above all, unswerving commitment to spreading the gospel.

The Revd Naomi Starkey ministers in a group of churches in north Anglesey and is also a pioneer evangelist.


They’ll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in publishing
Tony Collins
Sarah Grace Publishing/Malcolm Down Publishing £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.99

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