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Home > The Inside Story > 2013 > May > The Making of Study Bibles

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If have an NIV Student Bible or a Quest Study Bible on your shelf, you may not know it but you own a Christianity Today product. For over 25 years Christianity Today has worked with publishers from all over the world to develop multiple new Bibles for different ages, demographics, and concentrations, including these two best-selling Bibles.

Cliff Johnson, Global Publishing Director, oversees the development of Christianity Today's custom publishing products for both domestic and international publishing partners. We asked Cliff exactly what that job description means and specifically about the nonprofit ministry's work with Bible publishing.

Many people are surprised to know that Christianity Today has been involved with Bible publishing for several decades. How does this process work?

Most Bible publishers have their own editorial staff, but in many cases the complexity of Bible projects limits the number of products a publisher can have going at any given time. Thus, they often look outside for trusted sources of quality Christian content. Our domestic and international publishing partners come to Christianity Today for our expertise in identifying and writing content that Christian readers know comes from an authoritative and trustworthy source.

Initially, we collaborate with an English-language Bible publisher to whom we grant worldwide rights to English print and digital editions. We usually retain the non-English rights to the Bibles so we can develop our own relationships with Christian publishers around the world. Through these relationships we can build a direct understanding of the content needs in different cultures.

How long does the typical Bible project take, and who at CT would be responsible for making this happen?

For Bible projects started from the ground up, the editorial development alone can take anywhere from 2-3 years, often longer. It depends on the length of time it takes to develop the best concept, find the right content direction, line up the best writers for that content, and craft that content into the many different features within the Bible itself. Once we deliver final files to the publisher, it often takes the publisher another 12-15 months to do a final editorial review on the content, design the cover and interior layouts, place the content from each feature within the Bible text at the appropriate place, and then send those files to a printer who will produce the actual physical product. Since many Bibles are produced in China or Korea, it takes an extra 2-3 months to get the product delivered back to the publisher's warehouse in the United States.

Since most of our staff is already fully committed to their day job, Bible projects almost always require a combination of freelance time for the in-house editors involved and outside editorial assignments to complement their work.

But perhaps the longest part of the process is the upfront development of the concept. Global Publishing collaborates with potential publishing partners to see which publisher has the right translation available for the project, the marketplace niche to reach the intended audience, and then both the time and resources to enter into a contractual agreement with Christianity Today. The process involves many starts, stops, and U-turns on the way to creating one of the most complex publishing formats.

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