Many of the Christian Novelists I’ve met over the years self-identify as politically conservative or libertarian.* From their alignment with the Republican party (those who are not libertarian) , approval of its candidates, comments on blogs and Facebook I know that these people do not like the idea of a welfare state. They believe in some measure along with the conservative ideals that money is exchanged for work and that handouts are bad for personal growth.
I’ll step away from the political framework for a moment while I explain the Christian Booksellers’ Association to those who may not be familiar with the marketplace. In the past 35-40 years a publishing industry has grown up around the demand for books that are–for lack of a better word–Rated G or soft PG at the most. Stories where the characters pray and go to church and fall in love without drinking or smoking or using ‘rough’ language. As limited as the offerings are, this segment of the publishing industry has been comparatively successful, growing or maintaining market share even when the rest of the publishing industry has had significant downturns. With the success of the CBA marketplace, many writers have been drawn to it like moths to flame.
Unfortunately, a lot of writers who are Christians are writing novels with Christian themes that don’t fit the narrow CBA market profile. Instead of stories about Amish girls who find love with nice Mennonite farmers next door, these writers are writing about haunted pastors, Christian Vampires and magic in fantastic worlds from a Christ-centered perspective. A few people want to read these books, but the stories are undeniably niche tales with even niche-ier appeal.
The CBA publishers generally won’t publish these stories because the few times they’ve tried, the sales numbers–while strong in many cases–aren’t strong enough to justify print and marketing runs for traditional publishing houses. The break-even line for a big publisher like Thomas Nelson demands a broader audience. In addition there’s also the fact that many of the traditional customers for this product find the concepts underpinning these non-traditionl stories to be offensive. There has not been one time that I’ve told a Christian reader about the “Christian Vampire” stories of Eric Wilson and had them react with anything other than an appalled and affronted shock. Author Mike Duran’s Christian publisher requested that he include an Afterword in his story explaining the theological soundness of the ghosts in his novel, The Resurrection.
Clearly this is an awkward fit.
And so this is where I find myself saying that I believe it’s time for Christian writers to put into practice some conservative philosophies. At this point asking a traditional CBA publisher to print and market many of these speculative fiction tales is nothing short of applying for welfare. We KNOW these books don’t sell in the numbers the businesses need to stay open. The only reason a traditional house would be taking any sort of chance on this type of book at all is to test the waters in an attempt to broaden their market share. I don’t see how asking a publisher like Thomas Nelson to take a chance on a Space Aliens From Eden novel is that much different from applying for food stamps.
One of the tried-and-true beliefs in Conservatism is the faith in the virtue of small business. With the rise of e-books and Print On Demand it could hardly be any easier than it is now to start a small publishing imprint.
It’s time to put principles to the test, my friends. Amazon has handed you some very strappy boots; now is the time to put them on and pull yourselves up.
*If you’re new here, I self-identify as a Christian Mennonite libertarian who writes novels for the broad market.