Even though this topic could be applicable to just about any type of book, we’ll be looking at those in the Christian publishing category today.
Categorizing books has been part of publishing for a very long time. Officially, there are over four dozen primary book categories designated by the BISAC coding system, which spin off to thousands of subcategories. For example, one of the primary categories is Mathematics, which has over 50 subcategories beneath it. Some primary categories have many more subcategories.
Physical bookstores generally use only the primary categories for shelving books. Public libraries have their own system, but still use a smaller number of categories than exist in BISAC.
For certain, it’s complicated.
To make this simpler for my convenience, every book published in the Christian market should be categorized into one of two categories:
For the sake of this post, I am not going overly deep into the exegesis of the words “food” and “medicine.” Yes, nourishing, healthy food is good medicine. But for today, keeping it on more of a surface level will be the extent of my analysis.
The Bible is both food and medicine. Only an all-knowing creator could combine the two perfectly. Food and medicine books have long been part of the Christian publishing landscape.
Food books are the inspiring, informative, encouraging, eye-opening, awe-inspiring type of books, in all categories. After reading, you are satisfied, joyful, uplifted, encouraged, and energized. Food books are messages from a good Father to His children, whom He loves.
Medicine books are convicting, motivating, change-making, emotion-draining, and challenging. After reading, you might be overwhelmed; but you know being stretched is a pathway to growth and change, which God desires for all His children.
However, if you aren’t careful, food books can become simplistic, fast-food that doesn’t do much except tickle the ears (or tastebuds); and the medicine-books can be harsh, unpleasant exercises, which few people read and take to heart.
Inside publishing, a common statement places a proposal for a medicine book in the “Castor Oil for the Christian Soul” brand. Sure, they are good for you; but they don’t taste very good, and the actual medicinal value is questionable. “Read this; you need it and it’s good for you, whether you like it or not.” (I am not going to go down the route using “chicken soup” here because I promised I wouldn’t mix these categories.)
As Christian writers, you reflect the heart of God to His children and those made in His image. He is a good Father. This is for every type of Christian book, including fiction and books for children.
In your food books, make them a balanced meal of God’s heart. In your medicine books, combine God’s desire for His children to grow in their faith and life, without placing overly heavy yokes around their necks, thus exasperating them, as if from a stern, angry father.
Yes, this is hard. And it is why writing Christian books takes time, as authors take great care to accurately reflect the heart of God in what they do.