The can of worms Eric Wilson opened last week are writhing their way across the blogosphere as though they’ve been greased and teased. A week after Eric’s opening salvo there are still bitter arguments everywhere. As much as I go out of my way to avoid arguing these days, this is one that I think has to be had. Because I think (if you hadn’t guessed by the post title) that there is room for the Christian Booksellers’ Association to depart a bit from its dull homogeneity. I initially wrote this as a comment on another blog but felt strongly enough about what I had to say that I’ve imported my thoughts over here.
I’m a disabled woman author who, before her disability prohibited work outside the home, worked in a support role for a company who does a LOT of business in the CBA.
My frustration–and I think perhaps Eric’s as well–is the Same Old Thing. It’s the Same Old Thing that Christians have been fighting over since the morning of Pentecost. But it’s still worthy of discussion, I think.
The issues for me are:
1. The CBA’s Business Model
I find much of the CBA publishing tricks to be dirty pool. As a reader, that is. Because I cannot stand when a book that would be one large paperback in the ABA meets a CBA publisher it invariably becomes diluted into a series of mediocre, filler-stuffed, large-print trade paperbacks that together cost 15 times the price of the same story in the ABA. I have nothing against someone making a decent profit. I do have a big issue with a barkeep watering down the wine as it were. And the CBA over the last 30 years has made a big habit of that. It’s a form of price gouging and I don’t believe it to be an honest business practice. If Pillars Of The Earth had been published by the CBA it would be a 5 book series that costs a total of $75 to own.
2. The CBA’s Unwritten Codes Of Homogeneity
Thanks to the glut of free CBA loss-leader backlist titles on my Kindle last year I’ve read a lot of newer CBA fiction I would have avoided otherwise. So I’m well aware that we’re now writing a bunch of oh-so-fun (?!?) stories about alcoholism, abuse, adultery, serial killers, etc. But like it or not, there’s still a huge dividing line between the types of books that are okay and the types that are not. Even the Edgier stuff deals with it behind the CBA’s Scrim Of Safety. In other words, all the edgy stories must resemble a Lifetime Movie of the week (Miniseries, once CBA Issue #1 comes into play) where Jesus makes everything okay.
Anything dealing with mysticism of any kind is strictly verboten. Even though we are practitioners of one of the most mystic faiths in history. If your story has vampires (eric’s issue), witches–as opposed to Wiccans who find Jesus–werewolves or any other sort of magical element it will.not.find.a.well.accepting.home.in.CBA. Period.
Unfortunately one glance at the New In Fiction section in any bookstore will tell you that’s what people are buying now.
A lot of Christians want to write for the CBA and have their books be marketed as Outreach. I personally think that CBA publishing houses should develop mainstream imprints which release the types of work Eric and others write into the ABA as general fiction. As it stands now you cannot write general market work and be published by a CBA house.
That strikes a lot of us writers as a bit backward. It would be like if the Church in general decided it would fully support missions–as long as all the missionaries only went to Utah.
Some folks like me are just content to write for the ABA and not bother with the CBA at all. Other folks would like to continue having a publishing home within the CBA while still writing for the non-Christian market.
Given the fact that most ABA publishers have Inspirational imprints it doesn’t seem like the stupidest idea ever for us to indulge in a bit of turnabout.