Monday, February 13, 2012


Saying goodbye can be so difficult....

Back in April of 2010 my first book, Imaginary Jesus, hit the bookstores. It's hard to express how cool that was, and how much I love this book... it's sort of like (in a less significant way) having a kid. I'm proud of this book, even if it never grows up and graduates college and, say, earns me an honorary doctorate. And I'm enormously happy that this book found a publisher and has so many fans.

I love the cover, which has the perfect blend of humor and slapstick graffiti, with the defacing of this poor Aloha-shirted man to make him look like Jesus. I love the design. Some great authors and reviewers said a lot of amazing things about this book (some of them like the book more than I do!).

One of the challenges with the book, however, has been getting it into the right people's hands. We discovered soon after the book came out that a lot of people -- particularly Christian readers -- were a little intimidated by the title and cover. We got questions pretty often from people about whether the book is saying that Jesus is imaginary (Ummm... no. It is, after all, published by Tyndale House, a respected Christian publishing house). It seems that the majority of people who read the book love it, but let's face it, if you're browsing the Christian fiction section of the bookstore, you are probably looking for a thriller or a romance.

I'm not sure that standing next to an Amish romance and a Christian thriller has put Imaginary Jesus into lots of people's shopping carts (yes, I realize that most of you don't use shopping carts at the bookstore but I really like books).

All that to say, some people looked at the book and thought, well, maybe it was too big a risk (I assure you it isn't). Maybe it was disrespectful (it's not). Maybe it's making fun of God (NO WAY! Do you think I'm dumb or sumpthin?).

So. My beloved publisher approached me and said, "You know, let's try again. Your book isn't getting to as many people as we would like. Let's give it another shot. Sort of like how they are completely re-launching the Spider-Man movies." Technically, they did not mention Spider-Man. Of course I was up for that. Here are some of the NEW AND IMPROVED bits you'll notice in the re-release.

One, a new cover:

As you can see, the new cover is designed to reflect the cover from Night of the Living Dead Christian, which should make these books look lovely on the shelf together.

Two, a new, more possessive title: My Imaginary Jesus. This should help clarify that the book is not saying that "Jesus is imaginary" but rather "we all have some misconceptions about who Jesus is." Likewise the new tagline, "The spiritual adventures of one man searching for the real God" should make it clear that the book endorses belief in God.

Third, an introduction by David Kinnaman, author of You Lost MeunChristian and president of the Barna Group. I just recently read the intro, and it's a lot of fun. I think you'll like it. This should set some minds at ease, too. David is a trusted voice in much of the Christian community and he likes numbers and stuff, which shows that he is smart and a voice of reason.

We've also added in a small group discussion guide (something that I get asked about with astonishing regularity) as well as QR codes that will allow you to be guided through the discussions by YOURS TRULY in a series of videos. That's right people, QR codes. The future is now. I had to go into the computer like in Tron to make this all happen, but that's the sort of dedication I bring to the table in making the new and improved My Imaginary Jesus newer and more improveder.

All of this in an effort to help people see that this book is not only sidesplittingly hilarious, but also a book to be taken seriously... that it has some (hopefully) deep things to say about what it means to be in a relationship with a relationally present but physically absent Christ. Hopefully the new packaging and cover will make it easier for people to give it to a friend, suggest it to their pastor, get it as the church book-club book of the month and so on.

Anyway, to the details:

MY IMAGINARY JESUS releases on April 1st! This is not a joke, and there will not be a post on April first saying, HA HA, FOOLED YOU. No. It is for real.

Also, if you, like me, love the bearded graffiti edition of Imaginary Jesus (soon to be called the Collector's Edition), then now is your chance. You need to stockpile them as soon as possible, because soon the Collector's Edition run of books will be gone!

Goodbye, Collector's Edition Imaginary Jesus, with your hilarious cover and silly antics. We shall miss you! Hopefully your new and improved incarnation will bring us comfort.


  1. I first read Imaginary Jesus on my Kindle ... LOVED it ... tried to get my sister to read it and she said no, it didn't sound like something she would like ... so ... I ordered a copy of the book and took it to her ... said just give it a chance ... go one chapter at a time ... needless to say, she finished it and LOVED it too :-)

  2. Wow! I feel so privileged to have one of the original, rare collectible copies!

    The book was great, Matt! I hope the new cover, title, and intro get more people to read it, laugh, and think!

  3. Thanks, Cheryl! We're hoping that the new cover and title will make it a little easier for people like your sister to give it a shot!

    Samantha... aw, yeah, Collector's Edition!

  4. At least you didn't drop Jesus from the name like some name changes I've heard about.

  5. Ha ha ha. Well, if I did drop Jesus from the name, luckily it wouldn't have changed the content or purpose of the book. :)

  6. I think these changes are going to do what you intend for them to do. I read the book from my Kindle so the cover didn't affect me one way or another, but it might have if I was at the book store. {I sure do love me some good Amish fiction!} Some Christians are so afraid of the appearance of "wrong." This cover and new title are more innoculous. The content is going to be just as wonderful as before!

  7. I'm not sure I can endorse the belief in this sort of reincarnation, though. I mean, books coming back in new covers? Is that doctrinally acceptable?

    Kidding. It looks good. And it's probably a much better (if, sadly, rather less quirky) approach as far as marketing is concerned.

  8. Michelle Lawrence8:13 PM

    Congratulations, this is a great direction to go. I really like the cohesiveness between the two covers (My Imaginary Jesus & Night of the Living Dead Christian). It's your branding instead of a random (yet cool) book cover (which I loved), I can see many more in your future.
    I also like the addition of "My" to your first book's title. You will definitely expand your audience.
    I'm going to reread my Collector's Edition this week!

  9. I have a copy with the original cover AND written proof that I am your favorite member of a band I'M NOT EVEN IN with your autograph inside the cover. Winner.

    1. I just realized that my blog has threaded comments. Which is cool, and also embarrassing because I wasn't using them for the last three responses.

      Also... you are my favorite member of about twenty-five bands.

  10. I think I like the new cover better. I was not a big fan of the old one. It seemed sort of old school to me for some reason. -- Also, I forgot to mention before that I got my first Kindle book just after getting my first Kindle for Christmas. It was Night of the Living Dead Christian and it was a fun read. -- I'm glad you're doing the additional materials for IJ. I was thinking of using it for a discussion group for believers/unbelievers together, and all of that would help.

  11. Hey-- let me know if you do that discussion group! I'd love to Skype or call in during one of your meetings so that people could ask me questions if they want to....

    1. That would be great. I'll let you know. And thanks.

  12. @ A. Gillespie and Michelle--

    Thanks for the encouragement. I hope you're right! I'd love to see more people reading the book (of course).

  13. @Michael -- I guess technically it is sort of a reincarnation... new cover, same content. :)

  14. Maybe if you hadn't shewed away the squirrel from that older blog post...