November 11, 2013

Help an Indecisive Author Pick a Book Cover

by Clint Archer

I can’t decide whether or not to attend “Indecision Anonymous” meetings. While I’m making up my mind about that, I could use your help in picking a cover for my new book on short term missions (STM), called Holding the Rope. Michael Hyatt would call this crowd sourcing; my dad calls it “passing the buck.” Either way, your help would be appreciated.

Deep down we all know that we do judge a book by its cover. So rather than fight that unfortunate reality, let’s embrace it. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The creative design team at William Carey Library publishing house has proffered these three options. Please vote for #1, #2, #3, and if you have reasons for your preference, suggestions for improvements, or any other constructive comments, feel free to include those. If you’re bold enough to do so, include your age demographic, and whether or not you’d be interested in this book no matter how gripping the cover. (Just be nice, my wife reads this).

Here’s some blurb about the book:

“Holding the rope” is more than Carey’s iconic catchphrase–it articulates an entire philosophy of ministry. Christian missions is too daunting an enterprise to attempt alone, but the synergy of combined efforts can accomplish untold advancement for the kingdom of God.

Many churches market their STM trips by appealing to the novelty of international travel, but the real goal of a successful STM trip isn’t primarily to enrich the one going, nor is it the benefit for the sending church, but rather it is the missionary family. These have left family and lands and Starbucks, for the sake of Christ’s great commission. It is the missionary who understands the needs, pitfalls, and long-term strategy of his new home. Using William Carey’s life story as a framework, and exploring the biblical models, Holding the Rope shows how to think about STM theologically as well as how to do it effectively.

When I was the STM co-ordinator at Grace Community Church, I was privileged to meet dozens of front-line missionaries and visit them in the trenches. I used their collective wisdom to build a selection and training program for the 120 short term travelers Grace Community sent out each year. This book is half-memoir, half-manual on what I learned on the job.

If you liked my chapter on STM in John MacArthur’s Rediscovering Evangelism then you may or may not like this book. It’s an elaboration on the philosophy of ministry in that chapter, but in a far less formal style.

Here’s a dust-jacket description of the book written by the editor:

Holding the Rope gives an insightful look into the preparation, philosophy, and application of short term cross-cultural ministry. Archer addresses the issues with candor, humor, and most importantly, grace. He provides viable solutions to common problems, and encourages churches, pastors, and volunteers to adopt a biblical and practical approach for engaging in short term missions. This book is a tool for those serving the servants, a guide and celebration of those who hold the ropes.

Without further ado, I give you the three finalists…

#1 Rope Vertical Title

#1 Rope Vertical Title

#2 Hands Holding Rope

#2 Hands Holding Rope

#3 Bright Yellow

#3 Bright Yellow


Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
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  • Eric

    #1. I like it because it’s looks simple and clean and professional. I’m a 23 year old recent college graduate and would love to read this book as I’ve grown a lot in my thinking regarding STMs this past year.

  • Liesel Bakkes

    hey Clint, definately #2. I like the fact that there are hands holding the rope. Love the contrast of the colours. Looking forward to reading it!

  • I choose Book Cover #1 for two reasons 1.) I don’t think I own a book with those outstanding mesh of colors 2.) Book Cover #2 has sorta has the “Srange Fire” book colors (and not that that is a bad thing at all!)

  • Jason Alligood


  • Linda Rice

    Either 1 or 2 will do well. #1 is easy to read and has the rope theme. I really prefer the hands gripping the rope as in #2, but find the title harder to read than #1, and I think that’s a deal breaker.

    It would be nice if the image of #2 could be worked into #1.
    Not #3. Book 3 catches the eye more like a warning sign, and I think that yellow is a fad color that will date the book on the shelf.
    I’d like to read more on this topic. Glad you’re writing on it.

    • Good point about the fad color. Fads fade. Tx.

  • Persio

    #1. Age 25. It has a cleaner finish than the other two; I would suggest bringing down the “Short term… impact” a little, to balance the design, and probably using a brighter tone that also includes a little bit more blue (in the same phrase). #2 looks a little too much like the new pop novels. #3 is fresh and very much alive, but the combination of colors is a liiiiitle too much (maybe taking out the contrast the green brings in would bring a little cohesion to the blast).

    I’m not sure whether I’d read the book or not… Most STMs I’ve come across were more oriented towards the growth of the people coming (usually youth) than towards loving the people they came to –even when they built stuff for them (1 Co. 13:1-3). Hence, I’m not too appreciative of STMs, but if this book shines under a different light, I may be interested in reading it :).

    • Ha! You and I are on exactly the same page about STMs. The main point of the book is showing why what you said is right on. (I;m not just saying that to get you to buy the book! I have a passion for STMs to be oriented around what the missionary wants and needs primarily). Thanks for your insight about the covers.

  • A Christian Jones

    I like best the graphic design & photo of #2 and the color scheme of #1.

  • Chris Bruynzeel

    #2… 47yrs old, pastor, missionary g’kid, yes–I am interested in this book/topic

  • Bob Schilling

    #1. I’m a 52 year old man, Pastor of a small church / yes, looks like a worthwhile read.

    I like the simple, straightforward look of #1.

  • Taneil

    My husband likes #2 because it actually has hands “holding the rope”. However, we both like #1 with the vertical title and because it is crisp and clean. The hardest part about #1 is that it doesn’t have a hand holding the rope. If you even had a partial hand at the top or bottom holding the rope I think my husband would like it better. Being a graphic artist, I really like #1 better, but not having a hand holding the rope was a little “disturbing”. My thought would be to use the picture from #2 and the words and background from #1. Those are my thoughts, take’em or leave’em. My husband is 42 and would be interested in reading the book, but he is a little overwhelmed right now. I would like to read the book as I have had discussions about the effectiveness of short term missions many times over the years. I am 37.

  • Clint,
    I would suggest combining #2 and #1. I like the vertical approach to #1 but it needs the hands as in #2. So, put some hands pulling up the rope in #1 and I think you’ve got yourself a catchy book cover.

  • Glenda

    I’m with the crowd that’s choosing #1 — strong image, conveys the message, contemporary look. I’m a professional marketer and the mother of collegians. I’d read this book and know that at least one of my early 20-somethings would also.

  • Cynthia

    I would vote for #1 – a nice uncluttered look and it leaves you wondering what exactly is at either end of that rope… maybe I better read the book and find out. Yes – I am curious to know what is in the book.

  • #2. Hands down 🙂 It makes the strongest statement–in my (over-50) opinion.
    This sounds like a wonderful book!

  • Dan Phillips
  • John


  • Jim

    3 is right out. At first I thought it was a noose. 🙂 No one seems to be holding the rope. Why is it all tangled up?

    2 is better, though it seems a little chaotic somehow. The hands behind the words don’t work.

    1 is slightly on the boring side, but it’s much clearer, easy on the eyes, and draws your attention to the message.

    Vote: 1

  • Johnny

    #1 is best. #2 is too busy, and #3 seems to imply a hangman’s noose (to me, at least. I can picture a recently-freed Clint Eastwood on the ground, clutching his neck…)

    • Mmm, that makes me like #3 more. I love Clint Eastwood!

      • #3 is too Heaven Is For Real-ish.

  • tenns

    #2. The hands holding the rope reinforces the title. The yellow is just too yellow and overshadows the concept of rope-holding.

  • Pamela Vasseur

    #2. It has good contrast, it relates to the subject. I am mid-sixties. Would be interested in reading as we so stm 10 day trips.

  • I vote for #2. No particular reason except that it spoke to me first – interesting, intriguing, hands gripping the rope – seemed to fit with the title. And yes, I would read the book! And I am in the over 50-under 60 crowd.

  • Geo Philips

    3 is what would catch my eye in an Amazon list or on the bookshelf/library

    • Let me guess, you’re under 25.

      • Geo Philips

        Haha.. nope. I am 30 but I appreciate the comment!

  • RicePoint

    I like number 2 but maybe it should be brighter. The fact that someone is holding the rope emphasises the title. I’m 52 and would be interested in reading the book. Our church sends out people on STM every year.

  • MatthewnAmyRaper

    38 y/o male. I’m with the group that recommends a combo of #1 and 2. #1 is my top choice but needs a hand or hands. The hands should probably be at the top rather than at the bottom. Hands at the top would look like someone lifting something up while hands at the bottom would look like someone trying to keep a blimp from floating away. Just a thought.

  • I’m two score and eight. I’m interested in the content of the book, but all other things being equal, the first impression of a bright yellow cover would probably cause me to take it less seriously than the others. Of those, #1 is most attractive, but #2 is nice enough and represents the content better.

  • jane-o

    #1. Catches the eye and made me want to read the info. #2 is predictable and once I read the subtitle I thought, “blah.” #3 is. confusing.

  • Kelli

    Definitely #2–it’s the title in action. I’m mid-40’s, have a degree in cross-cultural studies and am very interested in the book.

  • Morris Brooks

    Age 62, #2 stands out the most, and is the most inviting to read.

  • SDD

    Not #3 – looks like a noose.

  • Casey

    Probably 1. I’m 33 years old and have led a number of short-term missions in the past (and probably will again in the future). I’m always interested in considering how to improve them and do them better (though some want to throw them out entirely, I’m not convinced that’s the best solution to some very real problems). So yes, I would be interested in the book for those reasons.

  • elainebitt

    You changed the order you posted them on your facebook. Are you trying to trick us? 😉

    I still vote for [this time] #2.

    • I was wondering who would notice. The shuffled order has yielded an interesting statistic. Whichever cover (of #1 and #2) is seen first, tends to score higher. That seems to indicate that they are both visually intriguing, and the one you saw first registers as acceptable. Or something. Thanks for your double vote.

  • Drew Sparks

    I am in the crowd that likes the image in #2 but the coloring of #1. Love the hands holding the rope in #2 but #1 is easier to read.

  • Nancy Tyler

    Cool sounding book and all three are nicely done designs!

    #3 feels a little hard on my eyes colorwise. And as some others noted, the rope could resemble a noose.
    #2 is literal, which is the way a lot of art in its various forms tends to get served up to the American Christian audience.

    But I like #1 the best. The parallel, vertical lines are appealing and the overall design is clean, modern and a little intriguing.

    I’m a mid-40s ad producer/pr/social media/marketing chick for Uncle Sam.

    • Thanks for weighing in. You’re where I am on this.

  • Zach Edwards


    • Zach’s Dad

      Definitely #1, Clint.

  • Josh

    My two cents:

    #2 seems to be taking itself a bit too seriously. #3, as another commented, is “right out” (the colors are a bit jarring, and it’s not really clear what’s going on with the rope.)

    I like the fact that camera’s focus in the image of #1 is on a specific segment of the rope, sort of inviting the viewer to grab it. I like the color scheme of #1 as well. So my vote is for #1.

    I’m a 23 year old male. I’ve been on two STMs and have wrestled with what the purpose of an STMer is, and what the correct Biblical “philosophy” of STMs should be in general. That to say, I’m interested in the topic.

  • Nathan

    #1 without a doubt – the rope is clear and makes the point. #2 is too “busy” and hard to see the text. #3 is just…well…no.

    38 years old and would very much want to read the book as long as it does not have a bright yellow cover.

  • Barry K

    I always have fond memories of missionaries of old and remember clearly the great sacrifices they made for the sake of their Saviour and His saving gospel.I particularly remember one OMF missionary couple with 2 little daughters serving the Lord in Malaysia back in the 60s. They live in a Malay village in a small zinc roof house which can as hot as an oven in the day time, and without air conditioning but their love for The Lord and the people kept them going. Having served in China prior to the Communist takeover, the couples were able to speak very a particular Chinese dialect fluently. Thank you Lord for their lives. They ploughed the hard stony soil of pagan cultures often hostile and poor socio economic environment, planted the seeds and brought in the harvest of souls. The foundation of the gospel and establishment of the church in Asia and 3rd world countries were through their sacrifices. But alas the charismatics came and divided the church and literally took control of the fruits of their hard work ie the members and assets. Now every time the charismatics brag about how big and how fast they are growing, I just remind them that the initial toiling of hard ground, the laying of foundation and the establishment of the church was already there for their taking. A movement built through migration of beleivers or taking over of people and assets built by early non charismatic missionaries and growing from there is easy.Therefore due credit should be to the missionaries and not to these ‘hijackers’.

    • Barry K

      I forgot to vote. My vote goes to the one with the hands holding the ropes. While we are told to let go and let God, yet at the human level the confidence, the emotions and the faith of the missionaries would be greatly helped by caring, loving and supportive hands .love must be action oriented.

    • So, maybe a cover with a rope and some strange fire. Mmm.

  • Jessica M.

    Alright, I had picked #2’s pair of hands on FB, but I’m changing my vote. It’s too obvious. “Holding the Rope” with a pic of someone… um.. holding the rope? Such linguistic conspicuity is the complete antithesis to your writing style. Looking at some other titles on the market now, and knowing the levity that would no doubt pepper your pages, I think #3 is much more your style. However, seeing that everyone has commented on the chaotic rope, I would settle for the first rope on the 3rd option’s layout. That would help to streamline it…. even if it does remind some of us of Home Alone 2’s kerosene soaked rope. 29, female.

    • Awesome. Thanks. I’m really targeting the book at the demographic with the discernment to not watch Home Alone 2. 🙂

  • Greg Pickle

    I’m 31, would like to read the book whatever the cover is, and am in the minority (I suppose) by liking #3. it does catch the eye (if not, why have a cover at all??). I also like the criss-crossing ropes as symbolizing the network of missionaries you may help (though that may fly in the face of your STM philosophy of ministry!). Most of all, the title is clear and crisp against that background, which I think the other two sorely lack. Hope that’s helpful!

    • Networking missionaries as opposed to a noose. I think you’d pass any ink-blot test for optimism.

  • NotByChance

    I’m a 58 year old wife, mother, grandmother and teacher and I have a background in advertising and marketing. From your description, I would definitely appreciate the opportunity to read “Holding The Rope.” Just yesterday, I read a review of Grudem and Asmus’s new book, “The Poverty of Nations,” which spoke to some of the “damage” that some short-term-missions trips can do. Just reading the review made me begin to think differently about STMs. I look forward to reading both books.

    Of these three covers, I would choose #2. At my age, I find the sub-title difficult to read on #1, as there is not enough contrast against the background color. The garish yellow on book #3 makes it look cheap, like a “Dummies” book, and not to be taken seriously. Although I prefer #2 of these three, I think the cover needs a visual that brings missions to mind. I’m not a graphics designer, but I envision something like a translucent globe behind the current graphic, or an entirely new graphic, perhaps of a globe being held up by a rope that is wrapped around it. I realize, given the title, that you want to keep a rope in the graphic, but If this book is on a bookstore shelf, you need to grab the attention of a passing, casual glance of a person who will react to a cover that “speaks” missions in its look (while keeping the rope.)

    I hope this is helpful. To God be the glory.

    • I agree with Grudem on the damage of STMs. I’m hoping this book will articulate a better way to do STM, a way that is entirely focussed on supporting the long-term missionary family and their goals. Incidentally, you are the second person to suggest the globe and rope idea.

  • Damon Loomis

    #2 – Actually holding the rope & a more dynamic photo.

  • Thanks to all of you who voted and commented. The designers will review what you’ve said. Oh, and for all of you who said you would read the book… the Bible says “pay your vows” and “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” 🙂
    When it’s available I’ll let CGate readers know immediately. Thanks again, folks.

  • Adele Engelbrecht Fourie

    #2, but would prefer a less dark background

  • lindsaystoever

    I like #1 because it’s clean and simple. I’m 22 & am interested in reading the book regardless of the cover 🙂

  • Kwaw

    I vote for #2 because it has human hands and therefore i think it brings out the meaning of the title more clearly than the other 2.

  • Helen

    #2. The whole point is that the rope doesn’t work by itself…it needs to be held. Without the hands there is no force or effort being extended. This is the opinion of someone on the other side of 65 🙂

  • Torch4jesus

    I like #3. On a website or in a catalogue, the others will blend in with all the other books. 3 stands out but also communicates the theme of the book. I think the font colors against the yellow also cause the title and subtitle to be clear. #2 especially causes the title to be lost in the graphic.

  • Lorna Doone

    #1 (the vertical title) is definitely the way to go. #2 is too difficult to read, and #3 looks like a curious george book.

  • Dale

    #2 caught my eye first.