A Matter of Taste


I always enjoy reading comments on our blog posts. Recently a reader posted a provocative question:

In this time of great emotional upheaval, instability, and unrest, aren’t we ready for something more solid and inspiring than just different types of romance novels?

Those of you familiar with my career know that I am the author of many romance novels and stories — and Bible trivia books!

And while I represent a variety of authors in fiction and nonfiction, my list is weighted heavily to romantic stories. I do realize that not everyone has the same taste — nor should we. God has created each of as unique, and CBA offers a variety of books to accommodate all readers. Please see the twentieth entry in the comments section of my post, Study the Market, for my unscientific suggestions for those looking for limited or no romance in novels.

History Repeats Itself

As to whether readers are ready for heavier books during hard economic times, I would say that economic times themselves have little or no bearing on popular tastes. Because people always have been and always will be unique, in perpetuity you will find a segment looking to escape their problems and another segment looking to confront them in entertainment. Today’s tough economy is likened to the Great Depression. This decade brought us the complicated life and romances of Scarlett O’Hara  in the 1936 book release, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, which led to the 1939 movie starring a king of Hollywood, Clark Gable. This decade also brought us the 1939 release of a gritty and hardscrabble The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, followed by the 1940 film, when the country had not yet recovered and was on the brink of war.

The Good Ship Lollipop

In the meantime, my grandmother, whom I called Precious, was watching Shirley Temple  films, lighthearted and heartwarming stories that are still run on TV from time to time and can be bought in a variety of volumes on DVD.  Shirley was so popular that Precious owned, among other trivia, a water pitcher and drinking glass set bearing Shirley’s image. Escapism? Yes. Popular? Wildly. Oh, and my other grandmother watched her “stories” on TV from 12:30 to 4 PM every week day — diversions popular through prosperity, inflation, stagflation, detente, and other such worldly cares.

Variety in Entertainment

Because I don’t want this post to lapse into a burdensome tome overstating a point, suffice it to say, a study of entertainment history shows a consistent pattern of musicals and anti-war plus pro-war films in time of war and silliness alongside consciousness-raising books in times of unrest. Some authors want to address society’s problems — and we will always have problems, though immediate concerns will vary. Those blessed enough to find an outlet and an audience for the important points they want to make may well change society, or at least make people think. But those books and films are likely to attract a different audience than lighthearted stories. There is plenty of room for both.

The Importance of Romance

And please don’t discount romantic stories and genre romance as fluff in the Christian Market. Read one or more of these books and think about the stories. The ones I have written, read, and represent have an underlying spiritual thread and message. In fact, the spiritual arc is one of the proposal points I ask my novelists to include in their proposals. The difference here is, our  romance authors are writing the love story as the focus but intertwine spiritual truths. They are not looking to offer a sermon, then the romance. Those who dismiss romance novels and romantic stories should reconsider. God is great, and He can and does use romantic stories to change lives. My authors have the fan letters to prove it.

Your turn:

What is your favorite romance or romantic story you have read in the Christian market? What books do you recommend in other categories?




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Any Regulatory Issues with the Purchase of Thomas Nelson by HarperCollins?

By most accounts the purchase of Nelson by HarperCollins will put the #1 largest Christian Publishing house under the same ownership as the #2 largest Christian Publishing House (Zondervan). The press release mentions that the sale “is subject to customary regulatory clearance.”

It will be interesting to see if the Department of Justice cares about Christian publishing, or even understands it.  Over in the telecommunications industry they are blocking the merger between ATT and T-Mobile, which are #1 and #4 in wireless service.  With the purchase of Nelson, it is combining #1 and #2.  So it should come under some scruitiny.  But it might not because:

The DOJ might not understand the Christian book business. 
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Perspective on the Sale of Thomas Nelson Publishers

In light of yesterday’s announcement of the sale of Thomas Nelson Publishers to HarperCollins I thought I would write a few thoughts.

Without question this is the biggest news story in the Christian publishing industry this year, if not the last few years. Most of us have been caught flat-footed. Partly because Thomas Nelson is such a large company. And partly because they were just purchased by an investment group last year. The other surprise is the buyer. HarperCollins has owned Zondervan since 1988 which is a direct competitor to Nelson. They publish some of the same authors. (And by the way, HarperCollins is owned by NewsCorp…whose owner is Rupert Murdoch.)

Back in 2002 when I was still with Bethany House Publishers we were sold to Baker Books. So I’ve seen some of the inside of a publishing sale. There will be some obvious echoes to our experience, but Zondervan and Nelson are very different from Bethany House and Baker.

Ten Random Thoughts

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More on the Purchase of Thomas Nelson by HarperCollins

One bit of speculation about the sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins comes from PaidContent.org written by Laura Hazard Owen: “Thomas Nelson has been on the forefront of experimentation with digital publishing, and HarperCollins is buying not just the company but also that digital experience….Thomas Nelson has done a bunch of …

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HarperCollins Buys Thomas Nelson Publishers

BREAKING NEWS! Startling industry news. HarperCollins will purchase Thomas Nelson by the end of this calendar year. HarperCollins already owns Zondervan (which they purchased in 1988). The combination will create the largest and most dominant Christian publishing company in the world. Wow. Here is the official press release.

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C.S. Lewis on Writing

by Steve Laube

On June 26, 1956, C.S. Lewis replied to letter from an American girl named Joan with advice on writing:

Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I’ve been talking with writers who have another job as well as their writing to see how they juggle doing both. I was a social worker before my daughter was born and started writing soon after, but now that my youngest is off to college I’ve thought about getting back into the work force. I just don’t know how I’d balance the two yet.

The first thing I thought of was that I’d have to do some serious time management to get everything done that I do now plus working. Getting my family used to the idea that I wouldn’t be as available would be the biggest undertaking, and having others do some of the tasks that I’ve always done. In having less time for writing I’d be spending less time with my imaginary friends, meaning my characters of course (If I were writing this to anyone other than fellow authors I’d worry they would question my sanity) along with a number of activities and groups I belong to. I suppose it’s all about prioritizing.

I did a little research about authors who didn’t give up their day jobs, or at least not right away after they were published. Some of these might surprise you.

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News You Can Use – Oct. 25, 2011

What Authors Learned from their Editors – This a flat out brilliant piece. Come back here and tell us in the comments what you learned from your editor. How to Find Free Photos for Your Blog – In case you wondered, we use iStockPhoto.com for the majority of our images. …

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What Caught My Eye

Last week we talked about the hook, the sound bite, or the ability to “say it in a sentence.” One reader asked for examples so I thought I’d give you a few.

Below are the short pitches of proposals that have caught my eye over the years from debut authors. Please realize that the sound bite is only one of many factors that goes into a great proposal. Ultimately it is the execution of the concept that makes for a great book. For example, The Help by Kathryn Stockett would not have succeeded as a word-of-mouth bestseller if the writing did not support the story. (No, we did not represent that title, I’m only trying to make a point. :-))

Your challenge will be to see if you can identify which books these sound bites are pitching. Each one has been published. One is obviously non-fiction, the other two are novels. The answers to each of these will be provided later this week in the comments section. along with a link to the title so you can see it in its final form.

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