Guest Blogger: Phyllis Wheeler
Maybe you’re one of those Christian writers casting an eye at the general market these days and thinking about writing for it. Here might be your reasons:
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the big publishers have cut way back on the number of books trad-pubbed in CBA.
Perhaps your genre is speculative, and you’ve noticed that the Christian speculative readers hang out in the general market.
Or perhaps you feel called to reach a nonbeliever or two.
Here’s some news for you: agent Chip MacGregor thinks you cannot do it. “Most novelists in CBA struggle mightily to write to a broader audience. They don’t know how to stop using religious language. Their examples are often Bible-based. The situations they describe are frequently the things talked about in church. They over-worry about sex and strong language.” (See source #1 at the bottom of this page.)
What if you’re determined to prove him wrong? What kind of novel would you write?
Here’s some advice from someone who knows, Rachel Leigh Smith, a Christian general-market author commenting on a different post on Chip’s blog. The general market reader, she says, “wants a rip-roaring good read they can’t put down.” And only that. “Going into it with any kind of agenda, no matter how subtle you think it is, will get you set on fire.”
She’s seen it happen to a favorite author whose fans are “beyond ticked off at her” for putting too much religion into her books.
What is Rachel’s goal as a YA paranormal author in the general market? “To illustrate a Biblical approach to sacrificial love, without being ‘Christian’ about it.” Christian protagonist? Conversion scene? Not at all. “You won’t find Christians in my indie fiction. But what you will find is a message of hope, and pictures of sacrificial love. … That’s something general market romance readers don’t see much of. But I don’t do it in the typical CBA way. I do it using language the broken, hurting world can understand and connect with.”
Christian horror author Mike Duran wants to reach Christian readers like Rachel who read primarily in the general marketplace. This is an “untapped demographic,” he argues. It’s not small. And these readers are willing to read edgy books and books with fictional ambiguities.
Mike thinks that what market you aim for depends on your genre. If you’re writing romance, historical, or cozy mysteries, aiming at CBA readers makes sense. But if you’re writing sci-fi, horror, crime, YA, or urban fantasy, aiming at the general market makes sense.
He has more things to consider. Your book will be grouped alongside various general market books, including possibly erotica. What do you think about that? And, can you talk about yourself or your book without “playing the God card”?
Be prepared: Christians reviewing your book may not think it’s Christian enough. You’ll have trouble writing a book pleasing to both Christian and general markets. So don’t bother.
So, here’s your assignment, writers. Read in the genre you want to publish into, and realize you’ll be making a lot of adjustments.
Phyllis Wheeler is co-founder of Castle Gate Press and writes for the blog there. For plenty of writing and marketing tips, sign up to follow the blog. And if you’re looking for a small Christian publisher to partner with you in your writing journey, check out Castle Gate Press.
Chip MacGregor’s blog post “Can CBA novelists move to the general market?”
Chip MacGregor’s blog post “What’s Going on with CBA Fiction?”—see comments for Rachel Leigh Smith quote.
Mike Duran: A talk given at the Realm Makers 2015 conference for Christian speculative writers.