Publishing (Scripture & Academic)

People connect with God and each other through languages and media. On the Publishing team, we help people get and use Scripture in the languages and media they want.

We make SIL’s knowledge and work available for people to use. In academic publishing, we focus on people and languages that don’t have enough resources. In Scripture publishing, we make and distribute Bibles.

This area of service works in teams. Publishing specialists make print and digital books. Editors prepare the content. Typesetters and designers create covers and layouts. Production managers release and deliver books on time and on budget. Marketers tell customers what books are available and where to find them.  Managers equip, train and inform the publishing team. Publishing staff deal with technology, manufacturing and legal issues.

Our staff may work from the International Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas. Others might work from home or from SIL offices around the world. We meet together and share files online.

We train our staff in editing, typesetting and using software. We urge staff to take classes and webinars on new technologies. We share articles and books with each other. Some staff join professional groups. Others take part in Communities of Practice.

Think Publishing is right for you? Let’s see if you’re right for Publishing: You’re comfortable with technology. But you also stay flexible and ready to learn. You meet deadlines while keeping track of details. Even when working at home or away from the main office, you’re productive. You work well with others, especially those from other cultures. When problems come up, you tackle them. You know the methods and terminology of publishing. And because you’ll often work behind the scenes, you’re committed to serving the Lord.

Two Stories, One Purpose

Alan Conner worked in the marketing and communications division of a global electronics and printer company. It was a good job, but Alan wondered if he could serve the Lord more fully.

The company sent Alan to Europe to introduce a new printer product, and Alan took his family with him. While there, they attended a multilingual church. When one speaker spoke in German, Alan and his family had to wear headphones and wait for a translation of the words into English. The system worked, but the delay disturbed Alan.

That’s when Alan realized what it was like for people who didn’t have the Bible in their own language.

“It really broke our hearts that it was so hard to understand God’s word unless you knew the language of the speaker,” Alan said.

When they returned to the States, they started attending a new church that just happened to be hosting its missions conference. Alan and his wife heard the same thing from the Wycliffe speakers and started supporting them. A few years later, Alan and his wife left the business world to join missions in SIL.

Alan knew he wanted to work close to the production of Scripture. He expected to end up on an island in the Pacific, using a computer to typeset Scripture for a local language. But because of his broad experiences in publishing, SIL decided he should go to Dallas and serve many fields rather than go overseas and serve only one area.

So Alan became the Director of Publishing Services for SIL International. Working at the international center in Dallas requires him to act more as a leader and administrator.

In a typical day, he has meetings with his managers who work in the US, Germany and Australia. He answers and writes emails and works with budgets and contracts. He approves funds for projects. He communicates with colleagues throughout SIL, Wycliffe and other Bible agencies. He may troubleshoot some of the logistical chain for publishing.

His staff work with scholars and authors to put together books and papers. Their work becomes books, textbooks and materials to teach staff how to translate and how to do linguistic analysis and are used to advocate for language speakers with a government.

“I didn’t realize how much you needed spreadsheets,” he quipped. He explained, “In publishing we work across the entire scope of everything SIL does as well as those things that Wycliffe Bible Translators does.”

Unrealized Gifts

When Sue McQuay was young, people would have called her picky and bossy. She pointed out errors and told people how to do things right. Those characteristics would play a role in missions, though Sue didn’t know it at the time.

After becoming a Christian, she understood that meant committing wholeheartedly to the Lord. As she completed her university studies, she kept her hands open to the Lord’s leading.

“If he wanted my front line to be a regular job or church ministry, that would be fine, but from early on I was willing to be in ministry overseas,” she said.

Sue’s to-be husband made the same key decision. Both wanted to be available for overseas missions if called. So they stayed active in their local church, went to Bible college, completed introductory language and culture training through SIL and kept their debts as low as possible.

Neither Sue nor her husband had a particular country or organization in mind. They also didn’t know how their gifts and skills could be used. 

“The Lord showed us there were things in Wycliffe we could do,” Sue said. “It wasn’t just being a Bible translator or just being a pilot.”

Upon joining, Sue and her husband did literacy work in the Philippines. The local New Testament translation was already about 60 percent done, so Sue spent her time developing basic literacy and teacher-training materials.

“In the midst of all that, and especially when the New Testament was close to being published, we were already publishing,” she said. “Publishing books, publishing reading materials, distributing promotional materials all in the local language…”

The opportunity came for her to proofread a small mathematics book for a colleague working in a related language. Sue spotted errors throughout and even mistakes in the answer key at the back.

That’s when Sue’s mentors suggested she explore editing and publishing after the New Testament dedication.

Returning home to Australia for a scheduled home assignment, Sue completed a year of postgraduate study in writing, editing and publishing. She then became the Academic Publishing Coordinator for the Philippines.

Now the Editor-in-Chief for SIL International Publications, she produces academic publications. She works with authors and a team of editors, typesetters and graphic designers to make textbooks, grammars, dictionaries and research materials about linguistics and ethnography that help translators understand language and culture.

“It’s not just about being an editor and seeing typos,” she said. “It’s about the purpose of the materials we’re publishing and making sure they’re as easy to use as possible.”

Sue is stunned at the way the Lord showed his faithfulness to who he created her to be.

She explained pickiness is a strength in copy editing, when accuracy is crucial. And bossiness, tempered by the work of the Holy Spirit, can be another word for managerial skills, which Sue uses to look at the big picture and help others put things in place.

“I’m bringing a lot more skills than just editing and having an eagle eye for mistakes,” she said. “I’m also an administrator and project manager. It’s really fascinating to see how the Lord uses all of the gifts he’s given me.”

More Than Books

Staff in publishing serve both spiritual and educational needs, Alan said.

“Publishing provides tools for people to engage with the world around them and to engage with the Lord.” He sees publishing as expanding the opportunities for speakers in under-resourced language groups. “It’s holistic and spiritual. I want others to experience the blessings of the kingdom of God now, not just in heaven.”

An example of expanded opportunities is in digitizing Scripture translations. With wider access to cellphones and the internet, people want to access their Scriptures there, too. The publishing team uploads translations to the Digital Bible Library and shares the texts with YouVersion, Faith Comes By Hearing and other ministries. 

“A translation text that we often think of as only becoming a print Bible turns into a multi-medium Bible that can be used in all kinds of different ways,” he said.

Sue has also seen changes in technology and publishing. In one agile system the organization uses, authors can put up a chapter of a book and receive feedback on it as they continue writing. SIL is also moving to an HTML5-based system to publish print books and ePubs simultaneously.

“I don’t think publishing, in terms of what people want to know, is going to change,” she said. “People want to learn more and more and more. So we try to meet people with the variety of ways that they want to interact with publishing.”

She enjoys working with different people and seeing a project through from the beginning to the end. “I love editing and working to make a text as readable as possible.”

Publishing provides people with tools, but it takes a team of people to edit and produce a publication.

“It’s fascinating how many people are involved in serving the Bibleless and serving those that don’t have reading materials,” Alan said. A Scripture that might be translated in Africa comes through a publishing center to be finalized, then goes to Korea to be produced into a book form, heads on a boat back to Africa and finally travels overland to its starting point.

He imagines the Bible coming from God’s hands into people’s hands. Publishing staff get to take part in that process and help improve the spiritual and educational lives of under-resourced peoples.

“Publishing is a way you can get very directly involved,” he said.

Alan Conner

Link to interview here and here