The Publishing Ministry


Chapter 19—Book Sales and Illustrations

Sale of Books and Periodicals Urged—Remind our people often of the work that may be done by the sale of our books and the distribution of tracts. Encourage them to sell the periodicals containing the message for this time. Our large books can be sold in Washington and other cities in the East if the canvassers will take up the work courageously.—Letter 21, 1905. PM 211.1

Message Books to Be Translated Into All Languages—The books containing the reasons of our faith must be translated into all languages. This work must make more rapid progress than it has made.—Letter 106, 1903. PM 211.2

The Stories of the Bible—Our heavenly Father, in giving His word, did not overlook the children. In all that men have written, where can be found anything that has such a hold upon the heart, anything so well adapted to awaken the interest of the little ones, as the stories of the Bible? PM 211.3

In these simple stories may be made plain the great principles of the law of God. Thus by illustrations best suited to the child's comprehension, parents and teachers may begin very early to fulfill the Lord's injunction concerning His precepts: “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:7. PM 211.4

The use of object lessons, blackboards, maps, and pictures, will be an aid in explaining these lessons, and fixing them in the memory. Parents and teachers should constantly seek for improved methods. The teaching of the Bible should have our freshest thought, our best methods, and our most earnest effort.—Education, 185, 186. PM 212.1

Valuable Books, Not Many Storybooks—The small storybooks that are being handled by our people—what are they? Many of them contain nothing of more value than can be obtained in any bookstore. We have books of great value, which should be recommended to the people; but it pains me to see our papers recommending and our people handling so many storybooks. These books may be excellent in some ways, but they do not contain the knowledge we should hunger and thirst to obtain in this period of the earth's history.... PM 212.2

Let all the publications issued from our presses be of a character to give food to the soul. The Word of God is not half comprehended.—Letter 75, 1900. PM 212.3

Duty to the Blind and Handicapped [With such inspired counsels as these in mind, the Christian Record Publishing Association was organized in Lincoln, Nebraska, to reach the blind with God's message of hope for these times. See p. 410.]—I have been shown some things in reference to our duty to the unfortunate which I feel it my duty to write at this time. PM 212.4

I saw that it is in the providence of God that widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and persons afflicted in a variety of ways, have been placed in close Christian relationship to His church; it is to prove His people and develop their true character. Angels of God are watching to see how we treat these persons who need our sympathy, love, and disinterested benevolence. This is God's test of our character. If we have the true religion of the Bible we shall feel that a debt of love, kindness, and interest is due to Christ in behalf of His brethren; and we can do no less than to show our gratitude for His immeasurable love to us while we were sinners unworthy of His grace, by having a deep interest and unselfish love for those who are our brethren and who are less fortunate than ourselves.—Testimonies for the Church 3:511. PM 212.5

Two Books on the Same Subject?—When a book comes from the press to fill a certain want in the world, the interests of that book must be guarded by the men who have received pay for publishing it, even if the matter contained in the book is not of sufficient importance to demand a large circulation without delay. PM 213.1

I have been shown some things that will be done in the future. One man will prepare a book for publication, and after it is in circulation, someone else will think that he can publish a book similar in appearance and covering nearly the same ground as the first book placed on the market. The writer of this second book will use different words, but will treat of the same subjects that are treated of in the other book. Thus two different books will be in existence when one would have been all-sufficient. There will be instances when even before the author writes the book that he contemplates publishing, someone else will write on the very same subjects in order to forestall the one who has expressed his purpose to write on certain subjects. The second book published diminishes the sale of the first one, and he who takes advantage of his neighbor in this way does not treat him fairly. His book largely takes the place and the patronage of the first book in the field. He has worked contrary to the principles of righteousness, for he has robbed his neighbor.—Manuscript 23, 1891. PM 213.2

Economy and Book Pricing—The Lord warns His instrumentalities in Battle Creek and upon the Pacific Coast to economize, economize. Your rivalry in book-making, in so many illustrations, is bringing expense upon the work. You are constantly planning to lower the prices of the books. This is a mistake. Once let down to a low figure, the book price will never recover. This is not the way to do. If you desire to place the work on a paying basis, do not lower the prices by special offers, which are called by my Instructor inducements, bribes. God does not want you to do this. These methods He does not approve. Devise means to create a fund by which books can be placed in families who do not and cannot obtain them for themselves.—Letter 150, 1899. PM 213.3

If there are those who are deprived of the books because of the price charged, then let a contribution be taken up for the benefit of those who cannot buy for themselves. Our publishing houses themselves can help in this matter by making gifts for the benefit of those who, unaided, could not procure the books. Let us never, by word or act, cast the reflection upon our publishing houses that they are not reliable. A great principle is involved here.—Letter 122, 1908. PM 214.1

Book Prices and Circulation—Some things of grave importance have not been receiving due attention at our offices of publication. Men in responsible positions should have worked up plans whereby our books could be circulated and not lie on the shelves, falling dead from the press. Our people are behind the times and are not following the opening providence of God. PM 214.2

Many of our publications have been thrown into the market at so low a figure that the profits are not sufficient to sustain the office and keep good a fund for continual use. And those of our people who have no special burden of the various branches of the work at Battle Creek and Oakland do not become informed in regard to the wants of the cause and the capital required to keep the business moving. They do not understand the liability to losses and the expense every day occurring to such institutions. They seem to think that everything moves off without much care or outlay of means, and therefore they will urge the necessity of the lowest figures on our publications, thus leaving scarcely any margin. And after the prices have been reduced to almost ruinous figures, they manifest but a feeble interest in increasing the sales of the very books on which they have asked such low prices. The object gained, their burden ceases, when they ought to have an earnest interest and a real care to press the sale of the publications, thereby sowing the seeds of truth and bringing means into the offices to invest in other publications. PM 214.3

There has been a very great neglect of duty on the part of ministers in not interesting the churches in the localities where they labor, in regard to this matter. When once the prices of books are reduced, it is a very difficult matter to get them again upon a paying basis, as men of narrow minds will cry, Speculation, not discerning that no one man is benefited, and that God's instrumentalities must not be crippled for want of capital. Books that ought to be widely circulated are lying useless in our offices of publication because there is not interest enough manifested to get them circulated.—Testimonies for the Church 4:388, 389. PM 214.4

Book Making Must Be Simplified—Our book-making business must be simplified. Trust in God rather than go down to Egypt to consult idolaters.... Expensive books are not to be brought out so freely as they have been. There are books which are not worthy of the consideration given them.—Manuscript 131, 1899. PM 215.1

Illustrations Choice Rather Than Numerous—I would not altogether condemn the use of pictures, but let fewer be used, and only such as are good illustrations of the subject. Bear in mind that illustrations should be choice rather than numerous.—Letter 18, 1897. PM 215.2

Avoid Passion for Illustrations—I have been instructed that there would be a tendency on the part of some to strive for the supremacy in the matter of profusely illustrating books in which there was but little reading. One would strive to excel the other, and a wrong condition of things would be brought about. The passion for illustrations coming in was causing jealousy and envy, threatening the success of the book business as a whole. Everything of this order must be bound about. If it had continued, spirituality would have died out, and the future of our book work would have been blighted.... There must not be in the book business the least contention or strife for the supremacy.—Letter 75, 1900. PM 215.3

I have been shown that the abundant picture making for our periodicals and books is growing into an unsanctified ambition, and the dangers of rivalry are increasing to an alarming extent. The books we are sending out to the world are costing too much. Extravagance in illustrations costs time and money and creates worries which can and should be avoided. The Lord would have us keep the eye single to the glory of God. This infatuation for so abundant illustrations is not in God's order; it is the pulse of the world, and this is beating strongly in God's people at the present time.—Letter 147, 1899. PM 215.4

Certain Books to Be “Abundantly Illustrated”—Many lines of business will open up as the work is carried forward. There is much work to be done in the South, and in order to do this work the laborers must have suitable literature, books telling the truth in simple language, and abundantly illustrated. This kind of literature will be the most effective means of keeping the truth before the people. A sermon may be preached and soon forgotten, but a book remains.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 381, 382. (See Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 213, 214.) PM 216.1

Illustrations That Lead to Study—The Lord desires His people to move understandingly and intelligently. They are not to create large expenses, yet everything is to be done in perfect order. Our books should be bound with good, durable covers. The sewing should be firm and strong. This should always be. But care should be exercised in the matter of illustrating. Much money should not be invested in this line. When there are lessons in the pictures which lead to a study of the book itself, it is well; but when the pictures draw the attention from the truth contained in the book to themselves, the effort to help the book by illustrations is a failure.—Letter 75, 1900. PM 216.2

Artwork to Do Justice to Subject—The cut in Gospel Reader, Moses viewing the Promised Land, does great injustice to the subject and great discredit to those who accepted it for the book. What sort of an impression will it make on the readers of the book? It is not in any sense a correct representation of Moses. It looks more like a picture of the great deceiver, Satan, after he had lost Paradise. PM 216.3

Page 52, same book, “The Ark Standing in the Midst of Jordan“: see the cherubim on either end of the ark. What a misrepresentation of the heavenly angels looking with reverence upon the mercy seat, the cover of the ark. A child might take the representation as a bird hunched up. But when the ark was removed from the sanctuary, the cherubim were never exposed to view. That sacred ark, which represented Jehovah amid His people, was always covered, that no curious eye might look upon it. Let it ever be covered.—Letter 28a, 1897. PM 216.4

Avoid Pictures of Cruel Persecution—Catholic pictures of persecution and burning should be kept out of our publications. It is enough to read of these wicked deeds without trying to bring them, in all their terrible details, before the eyes. When I was a child, Fox's Book of Martyrs was given me to read. I saw the pictures representing various horrible acts of cruelty. I could scarcely eat or sleep. Day and night I was passing through the horrors, identifying myself with the suffering ones. I almost lost confidence in God because He allowed such things. It was a long time before I could overcome the impression made on my mind. Whenever the Book of Martyrs, or any other book of like illustrations, finds its way into my library, I hide it, that no child may be caused to suffer as I did. Such pictures do not increase faith.—Letter 18, 1897. PM 217.1

Bible Pictures of Superior Quality—The dummy of Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, with the illustrations, I received. The illustrations I could not possibly accept under any consideration. Some of them look as if prepared for a comic almanac.... PM 217.2

Pictures to represent Bible scenes must be no cheap designs.... The knowledge which God imparts is not of a character to belittle our ideas of sacred things. The glory of God must be kept before the mind's eye, not the cheap, earthly representations that imprint in the memory scenes which give a false conception of Christ and heavenly things. A proper illustration of Bible scenes requires talent of a superior quality. With these cheap, common productions, the sacred lessons of the Bible disdain comparison.... PM 217.3

The work before us is great and cannot be done in any cheap style. I am at a loss to know just what to do with the books I am urged to write. May the Lord help me is my prayer. God forbid that we should please the devil by lowering the standard of eternal truth by using illustrations that men, women, and children will make sport of.—Manuscript 23, 1896. PM 217.4

Author to See Illustrations Before Publication—Would it not be best to submit anything so important as illustrations to the writer before publishing?—Letter 102a, 1896. PM 218.1

Costly Illustrations and Long Delays—Our books are being filled with expensive pictures, and this makes them too costly to give away, and too costly for those persons to buy who need them most. The matter of illustrating is being carried to extremes. The extra money put into the cover of a book, or into pictures, will not convert the soul to the truths that are contained in the book. That so much space should be occupied with pictures is not in the order of God. There have been long delays in the publication of our works waiting for illustrations—delays that could be ill afforded and which have kept from the people the truths which they should have had.—Manuscript 131, 1899. PM 218.2

Too Many Illustrations in The Desire of Ages [The first subscription edition of The Desire of Ages, published in 1898, the year before the above testimony was written, was lavishly illustrated and its purchase beyond the pocketbook of the average man. It was Ellen White's intention that The Desire of Ages should be placed in every home. And this could not be when the price of the book was so high.]—It is too late, altogether too late, to depend upon the expensive covers of a book, or its abundant illustrations, for its sale. It is enough, without any explanation, to say that God has not inspired this enthusiasm regarding illustrations. Had I the Desire of Ages to publish now, the showing would be entirely different. The books that the people need should be issued free from all display. The saving of the thousands of dollars expended in illustrations would make it possible for the books to be sold at a price that would enable many to obtain them. The Lord has not inspired this enthusiasm.—Letter 133, 1899. PM 218.3

Good Illustrations No Detriment—Do not read in public the letters I have written in regard to the illustrations of The Desire of Ages. There are minds that cannot comprehend the matter, and they think the book is condemned because [it is] profusely illustrated. Satan takes any word of which he can make a handle and so presents it before minds that they come to strange conclusions. PM 219.1

The matter, as opened before me, was that there was a fervor, an enthusiasm, among authors to seek to excel one another in the appearance made by their books. PM 219.2

I ask you to be guarded in this matter. The Lord would have The Desire of Ages do its work. The illustrations will be no detriment to the book, but an advantage in its sale. The investment of so large an amount of money in illustrations was not essential, but that should not in any way hinder the canvassers from handling the book. Canvassers generally have much to say in favor of illustrations. Now, because cautions and warnings are given to prevent the coming in of an evil which no one suspected, some may refuse to handle The Desire of Ages.—Letter 76, 1900. PM 219.3

Pictures Upon the Mind's Eye—An extravagant outlay of means has been made for illustrations. Thousands of dollars have been expended which has not tended to glorify God. A large number of illustrations in a book will cause some persons to purchase it who would otherwise not take it; but the benefit derived is not equal to the disadvantages. God can make pictures upon the mind's eye more beautiful and correct than can be made by the greatest artist who has ever presented to the world a representation of heavenly things.—Letter 137, 1899. PM 219.4

Artists Cannot Truly Represent Christ—The artist may do his best to represent the things his eyes have never seen, but his representations are so far beneath the reality that I am pained as I behold them. Neither God nor heaven nor Christ, who is the image of the Father, can be truly represented by the art of man. If the Lord had thought it advisable to represent Christ in this way, His person would have been described in the writings of the apostle. PM 219.5

In the words of the disciple John, Christ is presented before us: [John 1:1-14 quoted]. PM 220.1

Christ is to be all and in all to the believer. There must be none of self, and all of Christ, whose we are by creation and by redemption. The Holy Spirit takes the most attractive excellencies of the One who is altogether lovely, and presents them in such a way as to engage the attention and receive the best attention of the renewed heart. God designs that the Holy Spirit shall keep before the mind's eye scenes that will attract and absorb all there is of the newborn soul. We need not any external representations of the person of Christ. The imagination must take in the only begotten of the Father, “full of grace and truth,” the One altogether lovely and the chiefest among ten thousand.—Manuscript 131, 1899. PM 220.2