I’m not sure where the phrase “piling on” originated, but one can assume it had something to do with football. Is there a better description of what happens at the conclusion of most plays, when the ball carrier is stopped by the defense?

I was reminded of this recently, upon seeing the upcoming release announced of Michael Vick’s new book (written with Charles Chandler and Brett Honeycutt), “Finally Free.” Of course, the story traces Vick’s troubles, which began a few years ago when he went to prison for facilitating dog fights – and I’m not talking about World War I aces.

No one disputes that the activity that Vick and his friends engaged in is repugnant. Good people don’t like to see animals harmed.

So maybe Michael Vick has become a good person.

Which raises some interesting questions. I am going to go way out on a limb here and say that I have been puzzled from the beginning as to just why Vick was vilified for his transgressions. Hopefully, I qualified sufficiently my feelings on this subject: No one wants to see animals harmed, especially on purpose. Again, no one here is defending what he did. I am raising the issue of what Vince Foster once called “the politics of personal destruction.”

Often, when a person has erred, publicly, he or she is just roasted in the media, and even among erstwhile friends. It just goes on and on. One wonders why. And it is selective.

For example, why is there not sustained outrage and vilification of Jesse Jackson for extra-marital affairs? Is the trampling of marriage vows not as bad as dog fighting?

But Vick went to prison and saw his pro career derailed. Professional athletes –especially in the brutal world of the NFL – have a narrow window in which to perform and make their millions. The average length of a career for an NFL running back (and for all intents and purposes, that’s what Vick has been much of the time) is three-and-a-half years.

He paid his dues. Yet so many people still loathe him. This is not so different from the feelings many still have for Jim Bakker, who spent five years in federal prison. A lot of folks believe these men cannot redeem themselves. I think that says something about who we are as a culture. Supposedly, Americans love a redemption story, but I think that’s selective.

In any event, we talk about publishing in this space, and that’s what I actually intend to do.

When I saw that Vick’s book will be released next month, I immediately wondered: Who did it? Who would go out on a limb and publish such a pariah?

Worthy Publishing, that’s who. A new outfit from Brentwood, Tenn., Worthy is not “really” new; the team is comprised of industry veterans who seem to be doing things right.

I love this description from the website: “Worthy is an old-school publishing culture with a contemporary passion for partnering with remarkable people and their compelling ideas. Ideas that help people experience the heart of God in ways that change everything. Because that is our calling, before anything else, we’re an editorial and marketing shop that believes consumers will beat a path to your door if your ideas strike home. A return to those old-school values is a fresh new idea!”

Look, in this space each week, I try to tell it like I think it is. We all know that in the book publishing industry (as in other endeavors), there is a lot of smoke blown up granny’s skirt. Hype is part of the machine, especially when it comes to promoting books.

Still, I sense strongly that the above self-description is actually accurate. The team at Worthy is old-school, in the sense they have been around a long time and understand all aspects of producing books (successful/bestselling ones, too).

Here is another brief description: Worthy is a privately-held, independent voice in Christian publishing and not dependent on a New York-based parent. Its responsive team is hands-on with all phases of the process: editorial, marketing, publicity, sales and distribution. Worthy focuses on a boutique list of books that cross a broad spectrum of genres: inspiration, fiction, Bible study, current events, devotion, leadership, biography and personal growth.

They are also doing things right by putting together an innovative team, one that places a heavy emphasis on marketing. I will briefly list the team at Worthy: Byron Williamson is the chief, having gained experience at the top, for Word Publishing, and then developing the Tommy Nelson children’s imprint and the J. Countryman imprint (producer of gorgeous gift and leadership books). Williamson founded Integrity Publishers in 2001, and last fall, started Worthy.

Williams leads a team that also includes Rob Birkhead, former vp of marketing at Thomas Nelson; Dave Wilstermann, formerly in sales with Nelson; David Howell, senior vp of finance and operations with Word Entertainment; Jeana Ledbetter comes over as vp of planning and author relations, recently with the literary agency Yates & Yates; Kris Bearss, as executive editor, formerly of Crossway, Integrity and Thomas Nelson; Sherrie Slopianka as marketing director, formerly with Word Records, Nelson, Integrity, and Ingram Book Company; and, last but certainly not least, Morgan Canclini, a recent graduate of Baylor and with a stint at Tri Star Sports & Entertainment on her resume.

I list the team because it illustrates that the group that put Worthy together wants to do things right. In the competitive world of publishing today, with more sharks in the water due to the economy, true commitment is what separates the pretenders from the contenders.

For example, Slopianka has experience at Ingram; that gives her a perspective on the distribution side of things. Ledbetter actually has a position with “planning” in the title. Do you know how many publishers out there do very little planning?

Then there is the company’s commitment to develop authors. Worthy has announced a writing competition, in conjunction with Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. Here is the announcement: “The Guild will announce the results of the contest in February of 2012 at the Writing for the Soul conference and award the winner $20,000. The novel would likely release later that year.”

Williamson gives his perspective on the contest: “We’re honored to be involved with Jerry Jenkins and the Guild,” says Worthy President and CEO Byron Williamson. “We believe some of the greatest fiction voices of our time have not yet been heard. Operation First Novel is an exciting way to seek out those compelling stories and writers.”

Back to our original issue, though. Worthy seems to feel that Michael Vick is worthy of a stage to announce his redemption.

I think that’s terrific.

Kudos to Worthy for having the courage to release this book. And may Vick find peace and freedom, truly. Enough with the “piling on.”

Discover how real and relevant Bible prophecy is to you with Jim Fletcher’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine): How to stop worrying and learn to love these end times”

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