Tag s | Theology

What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Three)


So, there I were, surrounded by publishing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked–or respected–our end consumer: the reader.

Publishing folk are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, publishing professionals recognize–and love–the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops–words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower…or decimate and destroy. These particular folks also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped–really stopped–to consider the answer to whether or not they like the reader. Publishing pros are great at pondering.

I am, of course, a publishing pro. I’m an editor and an agent. But I’m also a writer. And I’m an ENFP, which, according to the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, means I’m basically a Golden Retriever. So no surprise I can’t ponder long. Or let others do so. My mind always bounces to the next thing to explore, and I find that’s often how you discover answers. So as they pondered I posed another question: “Who is your audience?”

Responses flew:

  • Predominately female
  • Age range: 34-80s
  • Over 40
  • Conservative Faith/Evangelical
  • Most likely Republican
  • Mother
  • Mostly stay at home
  • Some professional people
  • Men, but not a lot
  • Usually women bought for the male readers
  • Very few in 18-34 age range

From there the discussion morphed into how to reach our current audience better, as well as reaching those beyond:

  • the 18-34 demographic
  • those who aren’t overtly Christian but interested in spiritual issues
  • men
  • Post-moderns
  • …and on and on.

Again, ideas flew. From using technology better and more strategically (e.g., e-books, book readers, online downloads), to reconsidering format (imaginative use of packaging, layout, content), to allowing for open-ended books (e.g., story isn’t all wrapped up at the end, leave some questions unanswered). Ideas fairly sizzled through the room.

As I listened, I had–you guessed it–this incredible feeling of deja vu. I’d been in this very dialogue already that year. Twice, in fact. Once at a retreat attended by nearly 100 published authors. The second time at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. Editors, writers, even readers…we’re all struggling with the same issues.

Now, don’t hear me saying there isn’t a place for books that primarily encourage and entertain. Books that don’t ask hard questions, but give the reader a wonderful, wholesome story. I don’t think the majority of us want to eliminate those books. Not at all.

But in all these conversations I heard the same frustration of being held back, of not being able to write with authenticity. I’ll never agree that Christian fiction–or fiction written to glorify God–should contain graphic language, sexuality, or violence, but I understand the frustration. Writers, editors, and–from your responses–readers want fiction that digs deep, that challenges and pushes as well as comforts and encourages. All of us want to be iron sharpening iron.

So, you say, why don’t you all follow Nike’s admonition and JUST DO IT? What’s holding us back?

Before I answer, I’m curious what you think the answers are. What do YOU think holds publishers, editors, and writers back from writing the kinds of books they want to do? The kinds of books many of you have said you want?

Look forward to your insights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Two)


So what are some of the answers I’ve been given to the question “What makes a Christian book Christian”? Consider the following:

Written from a Christian world view Story offers hope Core of the story shows importance of faith in Christ

Similar to the things you all wrote in your comments (though I think your responses went far deeper.) But I’ve also been peppered with the following critical comments regarding Christian books:

It’s safe It doesn’t challenge the status quo It doesn’t leave anything unsettled, everything’s resolved Quality doesn’t match that of ABA books Easy answers Doesn’t make readers think Affirms readers beliefs and perspective
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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part One)


I had this discussion over a year ago on my blog, but thought it would be a good discussion for all of you, too. In some ways, publishing is in a state of unbelievable flux. In others, it’s utterly grounded and unshakeable. Good and bad on both sides.

But here’s what I find fascinating–and a bit worrisome. There’s a seemingless endless debate on what makes a Christian book Christian? Is it the context of the book or the faith of the author? What’s in the book or what isn’t? The tone or the specifics? Believe me, when I find myself in this debate, the answers come fast and furious and are as varied as can be. But before I share any thoughts or conclusions, I want to know what you think.

So, as a reader or a writer, what are you looking for in a book from a “Christian” publishing house? Or from a Christian writer.
What do you expect to find.
What do you expect NOT to find?
What makes a book “Christian”?

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God Gave Me This Blog Post

God gave me this blog post.

By invoking divine inspiration I have guaranteed that you will read this post and possibly give me money to read more.

Sound like a stretch? Then what if I just wrote or said:
“God spoke to me”
“I was led to write this”
“God revealed this to me”
“I have been called to write this”
“I believe this is an inspired post”

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