Len Bailey of Wheaton, IL put his imagination in the Holy Spirit’s hands and came up with a Bible study idea he called Sherlock Holmes and the Bible. He envisioned Holmes and Watson by time travel visiting ten Bible story sites and solving a remaining mystery, adding small group Bible study questions. Since the agent for the author’s two general market books decided he did not want to tackle the Christian publishing world, Bailey turned to the Christian Writers Market Guide and landed on the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency name and e-mail address, who promptly agreed to represent this unusual book project.
Did editors jump on board?
No, conventional wisdom at publishers for years has been that books featuring time travel do not sell. Undeterred, Stobbe approached Matt Baugher of Thomas Nelson at ICRS and found a kindred soul. That Warren Wiersbe, a prolific biblical studies author with a national reputation as Bible teacher and closet Sherlockian, wrote the Foreword helped Baugher in his presentation to his team, which included marketing. The discussion revealed a concern about the method of time travel, so the author and Wiersbe came up with Moriarity’s needle’s eye approach. And while the author had envisioned two books, one with the narrative and the other with Bible study questions following each Bible story, the Thomas Nelson team decided on one book, with the Bible study questions at the end. The title became Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, with the sub-title: The World Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible’s Ultimate Mysteries. The title represents a bid to engage the general market book buyers and the sub-title is designed to intrigue the Christian book buyer.
Now came the tricky part, getting permission from the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to use the detective team as the lead characters. That secured, with a share of the royalty committed to the estate, the book’s writing could proceed.
Now it was up to editorial and marketing at Thomas Nelson, both of whom tackled this most unusual approach to Bible study with zeal. Marketing secured solid advance sales, including buys from book buyers at Sam’s Club and similar mass market merchandizers. Books shipped in early April—with the promotional drumbeat in full swing. Sales results will determine whether those committed to this book’s unique approach—or the naysayers—were right.