The Message, published in 2002, is still the ninth best-selling Bible translation, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. But that wasn't enough to save NavPress from downsizing this September.

Gary Cantwell, chief communications officer for the Navigators, the ministry behind NavPress, says The Message's success was "not a problem." NavPress "is still a thriving publisher. [Tyndale House Publishers] will just be handling distribution and marketing."

NavPress announced a partnership with Tyndale in September, ostensibly to "grow the influence and impact of the well-established and respected NavPress brand." But NavPress itself isn't growing: the publishing house laid off 24 of its 29 full-time employees who worked in production, sales, and distribution. The remaining five to seven editorial positions will continue business as normal, said Cantwell.

The new setup is similar to the way Tyndale has worked with Focus on the Family for nearly 20 years. That successful partnership informed NavPress's decision to pursue a similar relationship, Cantwell said. (Meanwhile, Focus cut another 40 positions this fall and added 11.)

In today's publishing world, such a partnership was the right move for NavPress, says Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor at Publishers Weekly. "Profit margins in publishing are razor-thin," she said. "They make their financial projections based on sales, and if they have a best-selling product that falls off, it changes everything."

Similarly, InterVarsity Press associate publisher Andy Le Peau said runaway growth can lead a publisher to cash-flow problems and bankruptcy if the company overestimates ...

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