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What Does the Christian Book Market Need?

Discussion in 'The Writers Guild' started by Stancet, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. JAM2b

    JAM2b Newbie

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    I questions this a lot, or actually it makes me question my writing.

    I think people have a hard time grasping that Christianity doesn't mean easy and blessed life all the time. I think they also think the only way to live out their faith is to be directly evangelizing and proselytizing all the time.

    My work that I really want to do is too Christian for secular audience and too secular or "worldly" (not faithful enough) for mainstream/mass market Christian audiences. Christian characters are often too good (and moral) to be true. They may have a trouble or two in order to create a plot, but for the most part, they lived a blessed life. This is not reality for many true believers.

    In short, many people, both Christians and people who are not Christians observing from the outside, do not understand being "in the world but not of it."

    I do not want to publish independently because I am not a good promoter and I do not want to handle sales. However, I don't expect for some of my work to be picked up by any traditional publisher because it isn't Christian enough for Christian publishers and it's too Christian (or not bad enough) for secular ones.

    In my most recent submission I was asked to describe my previous writing experience. Part of that is church dramas and Sunday school lessons. I almost didn't put that in there because my manuscript is not overtly Christian material, and I was afraid the editors who read it might think that it was and they would not be interested.

    There is obviously room in the market for blatant Christianity in the Christian book world, if that is what authors want to write. But for the Christian author who wants to write clean fiction with real plot and challenges for realistic characters with realistic life struggles and temptations, it's hard to get it out there.

    My hope is to have works that are entertaining with real-to-life drama without explicitly depicting violence, sex, or real bad language. Think of books or movies that are wonderfully written but not full of unnecessary bad content, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Incredibles, Stranger Things, Chronicles of Narnia, Hoot, and New Mexico Sunrise and New Mexico Sunset romance series by Tracy Peterson (not well known). Think of Fred Rogers, who addressed things honestly and was very progressive, but most people didn't know he was a Presbyterian Minister.

    In our nation (U.S.) I believe in living a life that makes it obvious I'm a Christian without preaching and throwing Scripture at people so much they are turned off. People here already know about church and Jesus and the Bible. If they were interested, they would seek it out. If I have to tell people I'm a Christian, or tell them some Scripture for them to realize it, then I'm not living right or treating others right. This is a major philosophy I use when I write.
     
  2. JAM2b

    JAM2b Newbie

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  3. DennisTate

    DennisTate Newbie Supporter

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    Some Christian authors might be able to do something with this basic idea, (warning... I voluntarily put this in the Conspiracy Theories forum) :

    I plead guilty...... I like the idea of President Trump having a dual role in .....
     
  4. Samuel Preston

    Samuel Preston New Member

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  5. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    The modern Western world is like the Greeks of Athens in Pauls time who love to hear new stories and perpetually search for them on Netflix and on You Tube and the like. They are constantly learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. A Christian writers goal is to find a way to connect and feed that thirst for the new while situating the surprising and disturbing answers he gives in a reality these people have all too often been avoiding. Can a superhero tell us about Christ rather than merely revive the pagan world order and mythologies that Christianity once displaced. Can we affirm truth in fantasy by demonstrating how brightly its light shines there also. But the competition with people for whom sex, lies and violence might be hotter selling points than truth, love and life requires our writings to interact with the beasts, whores and false prophets of the modern era without being sucked into their worlds and losing our souls in the process. I find many Christian writers too prudish and too nice to expose the rawness of our sins and souls and lift them to a real and transforming experience of the Almighty. Unlike the bible which talks of rape, famine and murder and horrible massacres we sanitize our romances, polite dreams and cartoon caricatures of life to fit our own narrow Christian ghettos and so we fail to interact. Why should we buy books that tell us nothing about how to deal with the darkness that cages us to this world. Why should we listen to authors that paint pale pictures of a light at the end of dark corridors or a distant shining city on a hill but who never tell us how to get there.
     
  6. bèlla

    bèlla ⭐️ Supporter

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    The Christian book market is a business. Their primary motive is producing content that sells. It’s much easier to get a book deal when you have an audience and established platform than without one.

    Personal wants are nice but you need to back that up with sales. What percentage of the market is interested in theology and willing to buy the book? Amish romance may not include deep theological themes but it sells like hotcakes.

    I know several Christian authors who penned NYT and well received titles. All of them had a following of devoted customers and marketing experience to get the word out and drum up sales. If you want to do something with lower interest, self-publishing is best.

    Yours in His Service,

    ~Bella
     
  7. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Very true.

    I wonder to what extend your own experience and wants have coloured that judgment. The bible is of course the best selling book of all time and more read once bought than any other also and there are serious novels that have articulated deep theological themes that have rocked the world. Including:

    Lord of the Rings (theological themes woven into a parallel universe)
    Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
    Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
    The Name of the Rose
    Sophies World (not Christian but interesting cause it opened up the world of philosophy in a way that was accessible)
    Left Behind
    Works of Dickens (Not exactly Amish Romance but arguably transformed attitudes towards poverty in the UK)
     
  8. bèlla

    bèlla ⭐️ Supporter

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    mindlight,

    I’m not speaking as a consumer. I’m addressing the subject from the perspective of a writer with intimate knowledge of the US market.

    Your examples, notwithstanding the bible, are comprised of classics and a modern series penned by Christians. Is that the lone evidence you have? You’re relying on the past and failed to mention recent entries that fit the bill. Why?

    Dickens penned Bildungsroman novels. He and Charlotte Bronte are best known for giving voice to children (Jane Eyre and David Copperfield) in their books. They were seen and not heard during that period. Morality was plentiful in early writings. But none are Christian. They’re simply wholesome. From a consumer’s perspective, Austen commands a greater share of readers than Dickens.

    It isn’t hard to gauge what people are consuming. We have the data. If the OP had a sizable platform there wouldn’t be an issue. He could self-publish the book and use the numbers to validate the concept to a traditional publisher. It happens often.

    Yours in His Service,

    ~Bella
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  9. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    That's cool - RESPECT :)

    You implied that theological themes did not sell so I went to the all time best seller list and found examples that have out performed every romance novel ever written. But to be honest , aside from the Left Behind Series, I am mainly ignorant of any real Christian novel successes since CS Lewis and Tolkein closed shop. I would be interested in any recommendations you have or examples of recent truly successful Christian novels.

    You say Copperfield I say Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist or Christmas Carol for Dickens. My mum loves the Brontes and Austen but must admit I never warmed to them except for Pride and Prejudice which is stand alone brilliant and maybe Jane Eyre. But disagree that in case of Dickens there is not a strong Christian compassion and conscience being expressed as well as an astute Political awareness. It is not just morality it is a distinctively Christian morality being expressed.

    If Market research simply reinforces the selective choices of a world gone awry then that is a problem. Amish Romances might express a sense of a lost purity and passion in an age of broken marriages and wounded hearts. There may well be a craving for this but the essential need even if not expressed is for a new connection to God. I think Dickens expressed the Christian conscience of his age but as you say they ignored him cause he said it too early and before they were ready to understand it even though he articulated it with some brilliance. CS Lewis managed to articulate it but I think we are waiting for a new voice. Maybe you have examples which contradict this point of view though.

    Regarding the platform from which to publish what exactly do you mean by that. Like a preacher can offer his book to his church and other churches for instance, or someone with a lot of FB contacts can advertise it to them. Or do you mean you have to have published previously with a measure of success to be taken seriously?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  10. UnrulyBeauty

    UnrulyBeauty Lady of complexity

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    Books that aren't about being pilgrims, Quakers, or pioneer women lol. Books that recognize the gritty reality of life in the real world, even as Christians, and aren't afraid to tackle those stories. I remember reading "young adult Christian" novels as a teen girl, and thinking how repulsively treacly they were. Utterly unrealistic, the protagonist girl was always cute/pretty, talented, well-loved, had a perfect family, lots of friends. Completely unrelatable, and gave the impression that being a Christian youth meant that you lived a squeaky-clean, Barbie-girl life.

    I'd love to see more Christian authors tell the gospel in creative ways like CS Lewis and Tolkien did.
     
  11. UnrulyBeauty

    UnrulyBeauty Lady of complexity

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    The first portions of The Silmarillion are almost parallel to the Creation and Fall in the Bible.
     
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