Q4U

I’m heading out of town on our last ski trip of the season and I won’t be back until Thursday. However, I’ll try to post a couple blogs from our condo in Vail, and I’ll make sure everyone gets an acknowledgment when I receive your First Page entries.

Meanwhile, I’m starting another new feature that I’ll post occasionally. Q4U is Questions For You. This is your opportunity to enlighten me about yourself, your thoughts, your opinions. (Sometimes I get really sick of “me” and I want to hear more from YOU.) So here are today’s questions. Feel free to be as succinct or verbose as you like in the comments. I will probably use some of your thoughts in future blog posts.

Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?

Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?

I look forward to your answers!

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  • Ariel Allison Lawhon

    >We don’t live in a perfect world, so looking for the perfect publishing industry is futile. The beauty of CBA is that it gave a voice to authors who would have been ignored in the general market. Many of those authors have been able to forge ahead and change the writing landscape. The challenge for those of us following in their footsteps is to continue creating fresh ideas instead of settling for imitation.

    As a reader and a writer, I think the key is finding balance. I read books from both markets and enjoy them equally.

  • Catherine Downen

    >I believe our choice of market reflects God’s calling on our lives and our work. We are drawn to CBA as a ministry – I can’t think of any downsides to that. I also love the smaller community of CBA and the opportunities for fellowship with other Christian writers who share a passion for spreading the Gospel through the written word. How can there be an inferiority complex attached to that? “Seek first the kingdom.” “Go forth and witness.” “For I know the plans I have for you…” Trust in the One who called you, and the rest will sort itself out.

  • Queen of the House

    >I first want to say that I just discovered your website and blog today, and I’m so glad I did! As for the questions about CBA, I’m so new to the writing/publishing world that I didn’t know what CBA was until I read your definition. My initial reaction is from a reader’s point of view rather than a writer’s. I’m thankful that there are Christian publishers that give Christian fiction a chance. Even though I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years, I didn’t find Christian fiction until a few years ago. I have always been a voracious reader and have several favorite secular authors, secular fiction does not have the inspiration and the feeling of hope that Chritian fiction provides. In today’s generally anti-Christian society, I don’t think “God-centered” stories would ever make it past the editor’s desk. One more point – when I visit the public library, Christian fiction books are shelved among the rest with no distinction. I don’t think the average reader checks the publisher before cheking out a book. So, I think our message is getting out there, even if the books aren’t published by Random House. Thanks for letting me share :-) Angela Trent

  • Robbie Iobst

    >I love Jesus and the Word of God and the CBA market’s books reflect the freedom of Jesus and the Bible. The general market does not. On the other hand, I love language and I was raised by wonderful people who often used “colorful” language that was downright funny. (I am not talking about taking the Lord’s name in vain.)The CBA’s books do not reflect the freedom of this kind of language. I see this as a downside and a bit legalistic.

  • Catherine L. Osornio

    >The general market may not want to read a devotional for Moms or a Bible Study for teens or a historical fiction about the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness. CBA offers an opportunity to provide encouragement, instruction and inspiration to believers and a window into the life of Christ (sometimes via Christians) to non-believers.

    On the other hand, I worked for a Christian book store many years ago, and I was amazed at the books that were being marketed as Christian. We had to return several titles that were not doctrinally correct (and I’m not talking about denominational differences, but out and out non-Biblical views). They would have caused more stumbling than growth. Even the Christian market is susceptible to publishing what sells instead of what is right.

    As far as inferior, I don’t see CBA as any less prestigious; it just has a different audience and purpose. We each have to identify where God wants us to work. To some that is strictly within the Christian market. To others, like myself, I am called to both: to be an encouragement to fellow believers AND a light to those in darkness.

  • Linda Harris

    >For me, there is no question; I want to be published in CBA because my message is for Christians. Even though there is this CBA/ABA difference, it’s because there are more Christian publishers than other specialty publishers. CBA is just a publishing niche that’s bigger than the others, so there’s an organization dedicated only to that.

  • Randy Mortenson

    >Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

    Because birds of a feather flock together. Christians flock together so it makes sense for Christian writers to publish with and for their own. There’s a large enough audience for this niche–Christian publishing–that “niche” almost seems too small a word.

    What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?

    This isn’t really a downside or an upside, just sort of an aside: I think we may fool ourselves a bit thinking Christian publishing helps reach the world for Christ. It may help–a little. By and large Christian books reach Christians, and affirm and confirm their faith. Which is a good thing. (People who go to church expect a Christian message, as do people who enter a Christian bookstore. “The World” remains outside.)

    Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?

    This is such a huge, loaded question. CBA, large as it is, is still leagues smaller than the monstrous general market. There are lousy books and great books in both. Will a CBA book ever be recognized as a Pulitzer or National Book Award or Newbery contender? Hasn’t happened yet. (If GILEAD by Marlilynne Robinson had been CBA published, would it still have won the Pulitzer? Hmm.)

    I would definitely say those outside the CBA see general market as more prestigious and probably superior. Lots of folks “out there” wouldn’t recognize many authors and publishing houses who are big names in the CBA world. Max Lucado, Beverly Lewis, Frank Peretti, Jerry Jenkins … Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, B & H, Moody (of course Zondervan’s part of HarperCollins, a big general market publisher). General shoppers at Barnes & Noble might not recognize any of those names.

    Overall, I would say the perception is that CBA is inferior and less prestigious than general market. If for nothing else because it’s so much smaller and less well known.

  • Brenners

    >I’m kinda ingnorant. What is CBA?

  • Susan

    >Hi -

    Back when I was a teenager, the number of Christian fiction titles was miniscule. I devoured everything I could get. Thanks to CBA, we have a broad range of books.

    I’m a regular reader of your blog, and appreciate the education you’re giving us.

    Blessings,
    Susan J. Reinhardt

  • Anne L.B.

    >Brenners -

    (Since Rachelle’s on vacation …)
    Check out the links on the right side of the blog. Under “Find Posts on this Blog” see “Christian Publishing.” Under “Blog Archive” see “Ask the Agent: Christian Worldview.” Rachelle did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Christian Worldview in this last post that you’ll love if you haven’t seen it yet.

  • Nicole

    >CBA vs. ABA (general market)
    Many Christian writers want the freedom to portray spiritual concepts, people, situations, and ideas in a truthful manner according to their faith without restriction to the amount of “religion” which might appear (speaking of novels).

    Downsides? Um, if an author is seeking great distribution for his work, then, yes, it could be more limited in CBA. Advantages are it’s a strong market, a closer community, improving its reach, and the novels aren’t full of graphic sex and the f-word while still producing harrowing thrillers, mysteries, and passionate romance.

    To some secular folks assessing CBA literature, most likely they assume the authors are inferior, although most haven’t read CBA novels before they offer their critiques and perceptions and derisions.
    CBA ficiton is not inferior or less prestigious if it’s assessed honestly as far as the actual book production (there is no difference), and relative to the number of books produced and authors, there are probably more inferior writers in secular publishing, but both have their good and “mediocre” authors.

  • Debbie

    >Okay. You said we could be wordy. ;-} I’m gonna take you up on that.

    Regarding why a writer would wish to be published in CBA as opposed to ABA: Jenny Jones, a YA author from Arkansas told me that attending the ACFW conference was amazing b/c you are surrounded by people who “get you.” To me the same could be said for writing for the CBA market. I think sometimes in the secular world, the writer tends to be less present in the minds and hearts of those executives with whom they are working. Both CBA and ABA have their own special place in the publishing world, and there’s not a single thing wrong with being published in the secular market, but if I had to choose which “house” to live in, I’d choose the one who welcomes God. I think they would “get me.”

    Point Two:
    The downside of CBA is the often misunderstood offererings available. I work with all age groups (K-Adult) and I’ve noticed when I do a professional book chat, once I mention that the book is a Christian-based book, many faces close down and ears clog up. But, when I chat the same book and leave out the genre, my audience can’t wait to get to the book. To me that says these people have had limited/stilted exposure of what’s offered in Christian publishing. With some of the big houses signing people like Melody Carlson and Bryan Davis and other (children’s, middle and YA authors), I’m hoping minds and hearts will open wide — Fingers crossed.

    Now, for the last point. Nope, I definitley don’t think being published in CBA is inferior. I do believe that many in our society shy away from writing and reading Christin books for fear they will be faced with information that will make them feel inferior and uneducated. So, when they hear someone has been published in the Christian market place, they shrug it off as being second best — again, b/c they don’t realize that getting published in one is just as hard as getting published in the other.

    Okay. Those are my opinions for what they’re worth. Hope you didn’t fall asleep. :-}

  • Lisa writes…

    >I have no answers to your Q4U, but wanted to post a comment to tell you I stumbled upon your site from I-can’t-remember-where and have thoroughly enjoyed perusing your posts. What a wealth of information! I am now both encouraged and challenged in my (wanna be) writer’s life.

    I’ll be back!

  • Anonymous

    >Honestly, when I started to write I wrote what was in my heart. I have read both secular and Christian books. I have enjoyed both. However, the Christian books I have read I could relate to because I am a Christian. I have been writing for years and when I was compelled to write my first manuscript I wrote what was closes to my heart. This is my journey and it includes CBA and writing Christian books. It is my choice. I can not see any disadvantages in getting published in CBA. I also do not see CBA as inferior or not being as prestigious. I believe that there are Christian books that are being written or that have already been written that will turn the publishing business upside down and that will cross all barriers to say the least. We are the head and not the tail and it is only a matter of time.

    Best Regards,
    Rhonda (Rkh)

  • C.J. Darlington

    >Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

    I think the biggest reason someone would want to published in the CBA would be to have the freedom to talk openly about God in their books. And not just in a general sense either. Christian fiction allows authors to share the gospel, if it so fits their stories. I think it would be a lot harder to do that in the ABA. Not impossible, but definitely like a fish swimming upstream.

    I want that freedom. I want my books to share hope and God’s love for mankind. Yeah, I’ll share life’s realities too. But ultimately it’s all about the message for me.

    I hesitate to say it like that because I don’t want it to sound like my goal is to preach at people, but I think you know what I mean.

  • Margo Carmichael

    >CBA is wonderful. It’s a place of freedom and fellowship for those who want to read or write about the Lord.

    One can always hope their books will get passed around and read by ABA readers who would be blessed by the message.

    Many years ago, books like _The Robe_ and _The Scarlet Cord_ and other classics were published by secular houses. Maybe someday it will be like that again, but not this year. So, I’m glad ABA is there.

  • Heather@Mommymonk

    >I think you (Rachelle) talked a little about this recently. If my goal in my ministry of writing is evangelism, then I might want to consider ABA publishing. Would it be more challenging to get a faith-based message published in that realm? Probably. But I wonder if we could get the message out without using Christianese and in a fresh way.

    I don’t think CBA is less prestigious, but I do think the audience is more limited. That being said, I agree with everyone else that CBA produces great inspiring literature and I’d be proud to be a part of that group.

  • Melanie

    >I would prefer CBA because I don’t want my message watered down. I want to be able to reach hurting Christians and other Christians who need to understand why and how times of doubt happen and how to help people during those times.

    I’m with Heather. My only concern about CBA would be limited audience. I’d love to see my book on any shelf, but it would be neat to see it where anyone browsing might pick it up.

    I think the option of CBA is great. Someone in a secular writing group told me I might would have a chance to ABA if I got rid of the Bible verses. That would get rid of the book.

    I don’t think CBA is inferior, but it gets less attention in the mainstream media. When I put together entertainment pages at the newspaper, I never find wire stories that are about Christian authors or reviews of Christian books. If that happens, I have to do it myself.

  • Jennifer L. Griffith

    >1. Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

    I believe it’s all about the voice and heart that God has given to you as a writer. Some have a voice for the church, and some have a voice for the lost. I believe it’s that simple. Ask God who your audience is and let Him write the story He wants you as a writer to tell.

    2. What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?

    I have a ministry in a tough area of the country–highly New Age. God continually places me in the lives of those who don’t know the Lord in Spirit and in Truth. In all likelihood, they would never walk into a Christian Bookstore or the Christian section of a bookstore to buy a book. I believe God has given some a platform to reach the lost. I know that some CBA books are blended in with the ABA in stores, and PRAISE GOD. The advantage to writing CBA–working with people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. (I believe that can still happen in the ABA as well.)

    3. Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?

    No, it’s a different avenue to a goal. There are some fabulous writers in both markets. I am so thankful for the CBA writers who inspire me and draw me closer to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    When we as writers truly seek the purpose of the Lord in our lives, He will direct our steps in the direction He sees fit. It’s all for not if it’s not for Him, no matter who publishes your book.

  • heather

    >My vision is to see the Church as a patron of the arts. As Christians who understand that art is an embodiment of theology, who understand better what it means to have the Imago Dei (and to be creators in His image), I believe that we should hold the standard in art–I don’t mean that moralistically, although that will follow. In other words, I don’t mean a standard that is “safe.” By safe, I mean how we conventionally understand it. I mean that in incarnating Christ, which means, like baptism, taking on His suffering and death, taking on His mourning for the world, and offering a true hope (even if it means we don’t have traditional happy endings).

  • heather

    >How funny that after commenting here I read Novel Journey’s interview with Allen Arnold in which he speaks of the Christian’s emphasis on being safe.
    I’d like to think that great minds think alike…;)

  • Anonymous

    >Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?
    I think it comes down to the target audience. People who shop the member stores of the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) have an expectation that the books they find will meet some set of criteria. These stores don’t have the resources to evaluate every book published, so they go to publishers who are also targeting those customers. An author who is targeting that same audience will want to make her book available to these publishes because there is a much more narrow path between the author and the readers. While the number of people looking for Christian books is much lower than the number of people looking for books in general, the people the publishers and booksellers are marketing to will be much more likely to buy the book.

    What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?
    One of the biggest downsides of CBA that I see is that we see some very corny stuff coming out of CBA and it includes some of the work of the “best” authors CBA has. Rather than call any authors by name, let me provide an example of the type of stuff I mean. She coffeed her cup. It reminded her of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jack had lipped this cup only two days before. She envied the cup because, wishing that she had been the one with Jack’s quivering lips on hers. When this kind of stuff is allowed to make it through the editorial process for some of the best authors, it reflects poorly on the mediocre authors.

    Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?
    I really don’t see prestige as being a major concern. I have liberated my bookmark from the middle of too many CBA and general market books to believe that there is much difference between reaching the bottom rung of one versus reaching the bottom rung of the other.

  • Nancy

    >What a delightful new trail to journey along with you–Q4U! I loved reading everyone’s comments…here are some more.

    a. Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?
    I truly believe that God places 2 callings on a writer’s life: 1)the call to write something and 2)the call to publish something. As writers, we can answer the call to write, and if God is calling us to write for the CBA, then that is what we must do. However, we can only know if God has called us to PUBLISH if He decides to get us published. Yes, we have to learn our craft, etc. but He alone makes that ultimate decision. When I first started writing, I wrote and published over 20 books in the CBA. But suddenly, all the doors banged shut. Editors left, policies shifted, etc. And at the same time, huge doors opened in the general market such as publishers contacting me out of the blue, saying “We see that you publish in CBA and we want a book about such and such Christian topic–would you write it for us?” So I knew God was calling me to get published in the general market at that time. Currently, I write and publish in both CBA and the general market, and each manuscript is based 100% on the call God places on my heart.

    b. What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages? Since I’ve had over 75 books published in both markets, I see a lot of similarities across the board as far as both markets have editors who are nasty or nice, both have publisher who are honest or not, both markets can be a dream to work with or not. The bottom line is to be working where God has called you and fighting the battles He has called you to fight, then the joy will be there.

    c) Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior… Not at all. Both CBA and the general market produce high quality and low quality products etc. The bottom line is that if we as writers are answering God’s call, even the most “inferior” assignment in the world’s eyes–either in CBA or in the general market–becomes the most important work in His kingdom.

  • XDPaul

    >I believe that if I’m writing primarily for women, the CBA is a good route. Since approximately 90% (or more) of the frequenters of Christian booksellers are women, that defines the market very well.

    I think that if your work is intended for men or even just a wider market than “women only” the CBA is a less desirable avenue for distribution than the general market. Keep in mind that there are many Christian works that are published in the general market, so I’d further the “niche” definition to say that it is not just a Christian niche within the wider realm of publishing, but that the CBA is a niche even within Christian publishing.

    Primarily, though, I see it as a woman-only market, not that male readers aren’t occasionally addressed, but I’d say only 10% of the shelf-space is targeted to men (as it should be. If they aren’t shopping the stores, it doesn’t make business sense to waste shelf-space).

    I see no difference in quality between the CBA or general market. I do see a difference in quality between the best of Christian fiction (whether CBA or non-CBA) and the best of worldly fiction. The very best Christian fiction has an almost unfair advantage in quality.

    Conversely, at the bottom, terrible Christian fiction sticks out like a sore thumb, even amidst the worst fiction of the world.

    In the middle, you can find really clunky language and poor structure from authors of all stripes.

  • Anonymous

    >Speaking for myself,the only reason I can see for turning to a CBA publisher would be subject matter. There are some themes a secular publisher isn’t interested in.
    Downsides: CBA publishers pay less, they don’t have as wide a distribution and, in some cases, the product itself is not the same quality.
    Because so much CBA fiction is written to formula and conforms to editorial restrictions, I think it ends up being viewed with the same prejudice as a standard romanace…the Rodney Dangerfield of fiction.
    Less prestigious? I doubt that a CBA author will ever make the short list for the Pulitzer Prize or any of the other La De Da literary awards. But then, the books that win them are seldom commercially successful anyway. So, who cares?

  • Anonymous

    >I don’t know if it would improve the chances of Christian fiction receiving prestigious awards, but I think Christian fiction needs to improve in writing quality. If I see one more book that talks about how great some guy thinks a woman’s high heeled shoes make her calves look, I think I’ll hurl.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just in romance novels, but it shows up in other stuff too. One very good rule of writing is don’t describe a sunset. We know what a sunset looks like. We also know what a beautiful woman looks like. Writers shouldn’t criticize my intelligence by describing things that I can see in my mind.

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller

    >Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

    I can’t speak for “someone,” but I want to publish in the CBA because I want there to be no doubt about my worldview. I write fantasy, without allegory and/or overt Christianity.

    I also think the best way to get my stories in the hands of non-Christians is for Christians to give them to their friends and neighbors. It’s also the most effective if said friends and neighbors will discuss what they read.

    What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?
    Downsides:
    1) Sometimes I wonder about the timetable CBA writers seem to operate on. Typically, general market writers refer to a year or two between books, whereas CBA writers seem to work on six months to a year schedules and some seem happy telling how they actually needed only 5 weeks or something equally incredible.

    I think such a fast turnaround means the writer and the editors might have trouble spotting problems they would easily see if they had time to set the manuscript aside for a few weeks.

    2) Placement in general market stores.

    Advantages:

    1) Working with Christians to bring God glory.
    2) I hadn’t thought about this before, but I suppose it’s better to be a small fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.

    Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?

    I think I used to. I still think the top end of CBA fiction probably doesn’t reach the top end of general market fiction, but the majority of the books are probably just as good if not better than the majority of the general market books. That’s just an impression. I have nothing specific to base this on.

    I do know from some editing work, critique work, contest judging I’ve done, there are books getting into print that don’t seem to me to be ready. But I suspect that’s true of the general market as well. (Look at Dan Brown as an example),

    So now for my question: When you say you’ll possible use these responses in some later blog posts, just how will you use them? Would I have been better off if I’d sent this anonymously? ;-)

    Becky

  • Anonymous

    >1) Why would someone want to publish in CBA vs. the general market?

    For me, it’s because I feel that God called me to write a novel with a message woven into it.

    2) What do you see as the downsides of CBA? The advantages?

    The market is smaller, and depending on the genre, less developed than the secular market.

    3) Do you perceive publication in CBA as inferior or not-as-prestigious as publishing in the general market? Why or why not?

    Unfortunately, I do perceive the CBA as producing inferior quality work. Why? Because I read books by “award-winning authors” whose books are full of passive tense verbs, are lacking in tension, have POV problems, and other problems I know would have been red-flagged by my critique group. Although I see this sometimes in secular publishing, it’s not nearly as common.
    On the bright side, however, I feel that the quality of books available is steadily improving. Fifteen years ago, there was only one Christian fiction author I would recommend. Ten years ago, it increased to several authors, but recently I’ve found a number whom I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

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