Perhaps you’ve been reading the industry news lately and noted that Christian publishers are putting out way fewer books than they did a few years ago. This is for various reasons — Christian bookstores closing, publishers consolidating and buying each other out, and so on. Agent Chip MacGregor wrote a blog post on this recently (see below).
Does it mean there are fewer Christian readers out there, the kind that used to stroll into Christian bookstores and choose a book? Maybe it just means traditional Christian publishing isn’t doing very well, but readers are switching to new methods of buying books.
Let’s say you’re frustrated with this situation, tired of pitching to agents who have gotten mighty choosy lately. You’re thinking of going indie or small press, maybe, and wondering who your target reader is and how you might find him or her.
You’re thinking of finding a new market, the general market. Maybe you can witness for Christ there.
Surely there’s a slot for your work at Barnes and Noble, not hidden in the back on the Christian shelf but placed on the shelf appropriate to the genre: mystery, suspense, fantasy, maybe romance, whatever. You’ll get a lot more potential readers.
Or maybe you will go for the huge general market for indie books.
What do you need to know?
First, you need to start over. Don’t take a CBA book and try to re-write it. Start anew.
Now you need to make sure you aren’t offending the average non-Christian. Do not put any preachiness into your book. No Bible verses. Your protagonist can’t go through a conversion experience and probably shouldn’t even be a believer. (Times are changing–what’s offensive to a non-believer now is different from what was offensive five years ago.) Work your themes into your plot.
Whoa, what’s the point? you might say. Why write this? Isn’t my writing a mission field for me?
The point is that you could provide a good story with uplifting values to the general market, where so much available fiction is not uplifting in any way. And if you can subtly add a character who shows the general market reader something about the faith, that’s good too.
Fantasy/historical author Stephen Lawhead has been walking this tightrope for decades now. His most recent series, the Bright Empires series, has two protagonists who are not believers but seekers. By the end they are still seekers. The tone is not preachy in the least.
But there is a secondary character who is a Roman Catholic priest, and he’s the one providing the faith perspective to those with eyes to see. It’s well and subtly done.
If you can do this, your mission work might do more to spread the gospel than if you are writing for the CBA reader, who is almost certainly already a Christian. Something to think about.
Does anyone have other tips about how to write for the general market? We’d love to hear them.
Source: Agent Chip MacGregor says CBA fiction is facing hard times for authors. http://www.chipmacgregor.com/current-affairs/the-great-christian-fiction-debate/