A challenge for book promoters is trying to market to a narrow group of people and discovering they are not easily distinguished one from another. People are born every day and there is no definable space between demographic markets. Generational identifiers are not scientific, but arbitrary for marketing convenience sake.
In case you don’t know all the terms:
Traditionalists – Born up to 1945
Baby Boomers – Born 1946-1964
Generation X – Born 1965-1976
Millennials – Born 1977-1995
Gen Z – Born 1996 or later
(I am sure we will come up with a new identifier for the next generation after Gen Z. Who knows, maybe all this is cyclical and they will be the “New Traditionalists?”)
Marketing too broadly treats people alike, when they can be vastly different. The practice forces characterization based on age and gender, which rarely works well.
Marketing too narrow ignores the fact people most often do not fit a simple profile. In fact, many people intentionally work to defy the profile assigned them by others.
Just because I am a male of a certain age, of a certain race and live in a certain place does not mean I must like a certain type of book or hold a certain life-view. I addressed this general issue here months ago when I asserted we need more ways to distinguish reader segments.
I simply don’t like labels.
I also take issue with the current discussion about publishing Christian books effectively for millennials or Gen Z’ers.
Because it is not a new discussion. Every couple decades the discussion resurfaces in a predictable cycle.
As time passes, those in publishing grow older and find themselves unaware of the younger market, realize they are out of touch and seek to find a solution through some strategic initiative or dramatic effort.
But it is a cyclical and perpetual process. Like clockwork, we lose touch, and then seek to get back in touch.
And every time it comes up, the solution to reaching younger audiences over an extended period of time is always the same. There truly is nothing new under the sun. It’s happened numerous times before. Let me count the ways.
The broader (non-Christian) publishing world actually has a far more difficult challenge before them to stay connected to younger readers because in general their core message is in a constant state of change and evolution. To remain relevant, they need to reinvent themselves to meet the next big thing. They chase things which might pass way in a year, or less.
In the Christian publishing world, there is no new message for a new generation. Regardless of translation, the God of the Bible is the same. Good news for every generation. A millennial is not subject to different Biblical truth than an 85-year old person.
Of course, different techniques of communication and approaches to writing should adapt as time goes on. In addition, various general themes might resonate more with one generation than another. One generation might be more spiritually “inward” and the next more focused spiritually “outward.”
The issue for every Christian writer in every generation is how to point someone to the reality of God. And it is the same reality for every generation, just wrapped in a different set of words.
Every generation needs books which gently push readers to a place where they worship God above all else, think about others more than themselves and grow to be courageous disciples of Christ.
Making sure there are Christian books for all generations for the long term is found in some very specific elements which are always (or should be) underway:
- Education and mentoring structures to encourage young authors.
- Apprentice and mentoring structures for young literary agents.
- Intentionally hiring young people where appropriate at publishers and booksellers and allow them to grow into the next generation of publishing professionals.
Better to have an ever-present program to permanently stay in touch with new readers than a once-a-generation publishing panic attack.