The Publishing Life

The Grand Canyon of Crossover Writing

A number of Christian writers desire to write a book published by a large publisher focused beyond the Christian market. The motivation and focus are well-intentioned, amplifying a Christian message to the larger world.

But while the author has this desire to reach a broader audience with a message of hope, companies that publish to the general population have an entirely different agenda, which for the most part does not include God or anything related to Scripture.

For sure, broader-market publishing has a wider creative bandwidth than Christian publishing. To illustrate, I refer to a daily summary of publishing deals available to professionals in the industry. From a recent single-day listing, here are nonfiction topics that received contracts:

–A story about an extraordinary herd of elephants and the woman dedicated to keeping them safe.

–A feminist exploration of Caesarean-section deliveries, investigating their use and misuse on “pregnant bodies,” the long-term impact on maternal health, and ways in which obstetric medicine routinely fails “pregnant people.”

–The story of America’s most important railroad and the region it defined, linked, and shaped.

–A collection of great American women who weren’t attractive, well-spoken, demure, and “sinless” enough to receive their rightful place in history.

–Coming-of-age tale of living with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a syndrome that results in excess hair growth.

–Series of essays told through a bisexual lens, exploring the author’s coming-of-age in a world riddled with harmful messages about sex and sexuality, moving toward a place of embrace and celebration unencumbered by shame.

–A humorous look at the history, mythology, science, and magical touch that make whiskey taste like liquid gold.

And then the ones with a spiritual angle:

–A journey of personal development and spiritual awakening through witchcraft and conversations with nature and the cosmos.

–A memoir to inspire nonbelievers to be honest about their true beliefs and, in so doing, fight the reflexive deference that gives religious belief far too much cultural and political power.

–A narrative chronicling the author’s year-long journey of living as a practicing Wiccan, appealing to anyone dissatisfied with our current religious options.

–A modern tour of grief and grieving, braiding together the author’s experience with his own grief, the sociocultural history of grieving rites and beliefs, and the modern therapies and industry being built around grieving today.

–A book for millennials and Gen Zers, disrupting intergenerational social conditioning of “not enough,” and exploring how to build a joyful life and a more peaceful world grounded in the concept of innate self-worth, self-compassion, and social justice.

The list of fiction projects mentioned on the one day’s list were as diverse as you can imagine.

Publishers are not book factories, devoid of agendas. Just as Christian publishers have mission statements indicating their commitment to biblical content, general-market publishers have one, too. While not stating it directly, they avoid the Bible, unless it is to critique it. Of course, there are a few exceptions. If you are famous with a large media platform, you are given more latitude, since broader-market publishers really like selling lots of books.

As a writer, you need to decide your own purpose in writing, with a key decision about how overt you want to include God in what you write.

The difference is not a narrow crevice, but a wide canyon.

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