Writer’s Log: Stardate 25-1-12
I just received an email from the Templeton Foundation with some news about the book I published last year with my good friend and journalist par excellence Dean Nelson: Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion. The Templeton Foundation provided a modest grant that supported the writing of the book, some of which covered Dean’s expenses when he spent time in England, hanging out with Polkinghorne. We also got five thousand dollars apiece for our efforts in writing.
The Templeton officer in charge of our grant added an incentive to our grant: for each short piece that Dean or I placed in a major media outlet—up to ten total—we would receive $1000.00. So Dean and I went on a writing race to see who could get the most incentive money.
I lost the writing race—but I did get $4000 of the incentive money which is pretty good considering that Dean is a much more talented journalist than I am. The news today was that my last piece about Polkinghorne in the Huffington Post was approved for the final incentive in the grant. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-giberson-phd/science-religion-peacemaker-john-polkinghorne_b_1176361.html).
The goal of the incentives was, of course, to promote the book. Unfortunately there is no simple way to connect cause and effect to see how the popular pieces helped sales. I am convinced that the widely read short pieces Dean and I published were significant, however. Right now, for example, Quantum Leap has an amazon ranking of 40,000, which is respectable and indicates steady sales (there are millions of books on the list). Polkinghorne's recent book, Testing Scripture, which came out around the same time, has a ranking of 340,000, in contrast.
The first printing of Quantum Leap has sold out in less than a year and I think sales have surpassed 4000 copies--indicating that the publisher is pleasantly surprised. This is more copies than my books Oracles of Science or Species or Origins sold, after a decade. I think, however, that Oracles of Science could have sold more copies if we would have promoted it in this way.
After years in this business I am convinced that many, probably most, and possibly almost everybody who writes scholarly books does not understand the value of the popular media. If every project had this kind of promotion the general awareness of the science and religion dialog would increase dramatically. There is a sort of "no-man's land" in between traditional journalism and scholarly writing.
And that is where I live now.