by Elva Cobb Martin
How Alive or Well Is Christian Fiction?
Kim Moore, Senior Fiction Editor with Harvest House, recently shared with me:
“Christian fiction is rather fluid right now. Ebooks on digital devices are changing Christian fiction in rather dramatic ways, and authors, agents and publishers are working to meet those challenges.”
Dan Balow, literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency, lately wrote a blog titled “Is Christian Fiction Dying?” He writes, “Last year a couple of Christian publishers stopped publishing fiction. Others are nervous about and it and still others are excited about it.”
He cited some reasons he thinks Christian fiction is causing some publisher-confusion:
■ Fiction is the segment of book publishing most affected by the sales of eBooks.
■ The relatively small number of new Christian fiction titles published by the main ECPA publishers.
■ The limited number of genres published.
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas CEO Eddie Jones has a little different take on the subject:
“I believe the general public is offended by the excessive cursing, gratuitous sex, and unnecessary violence, and yet, this is what passes for entertainment within the secular market. I also feel Christian Fiction has, for too long, catered to those readers who demanded a “come to Jesus” conversion ending in every story.
Seems to me, there is an opportunity for book publishers to reach those readers who are offended by the word “Christ” but yet are drawn to themes of redemption, compassion, and sacrifice. I think the best fiction presents God’s truth without mentioning Him by name. When we allow God to work within the heart of a reader, they are moved not just by words, but by His Spirit, also.”
Lighthouse is a fast-paced and innovative traditional, royalty-paying publisher of eBooks and Print on Demand (POD) paperbacks. LPC embraces the new book publishing model that favors eBooks and Print on Demand over long press runs and warehouse inventories. They are excited about Christian fiction and over the next couple of years are launching five new imprints.
One writer has posed an interesting question for those wanting more “freedom of expression.” What if the Christian Booksellers Association morph’s into a quasi-ABA with more sex, violence, and coarse language, how many chomping at the bit to get there will be truly happy with the results?
On the other side of the coin are those who are content and feel called to “write for the choir” (and read the same type fiction). One agent recently blogged in defense of the choir. He quoted statistics that 200,000 new books are published in the United States each year from traditional publishers (not counting self-publishing), and that of those, only 10,000 would be Christian books from Christian publishers. He summed up by saying maybe we need more books with a blatant Christian message and worldview, as there seems to be enough books covering the other side.
He’s got a point.
But for those maybe caught in the middle, how does a Christian writer who desires to deal realistically with the nitty-gritty hard issues people, including Christians, may face, and the Bible even covers, do so without offending?
Author Timothy Fish may have hit the proverbial nail on the head. He commented on Karen Ball’s blog that the Bible, for the most part, tells what happened in grisly situations without giving a blow by blow account. He uses as examples the story of the Levite in Judges 19 who cut up his raped and murdered concubine into twelve pieces and sent her to the twelve tribes to stir them to action. He also used the story of Ehud, a man God raised up to deliver Israel from Moab, who thrust a dagger into the Moab king’s gut and the fat closed up around it.
The key, Fish says, is that the Bible writers did not go into detail about what precisely was taking place, what it smelled like or what the blood felt like as these actions took place. He says many people have a blood lust to show things that it is sufficient to tell only.
He’s got a point, too.
In conclusion, some would quote the dismal lowering of morals in America as the reason Christian fiction is not selling as well as would be desired. A new report, 2014 State of Dating in America, published by the online dating sites Christian Mingle and JDate, revealed that 61 percent of Christians said they would have sex before marriage.
Should the demise of morality, book sales figures, or anything else cause us to waver writing in the Christian worldview, however that’s interpreted? Should we continue writing fiction that not only entertains but also shows Christianity and gaining God’s wisdom as the answer for an individual’s problems, even the grittiest ones? Or should we try to tread more softly with inspiring fiction that doesn’t mention the name of Christ but clearly shows themes of compassion, redemption, or sacrifice? Is there room on the book shelf for both to reach various groups?
Some believe we Christians and Christian writers, publishers, agents are wrestling in a true spiritual warfare with the forces of evil which are trying, and have tried all through history, to grasp the hearts and minds of man. MaryLu Tyndale is a prolific Christian romance author who shows evidence of this warfare in her well-written, exciting novels. Frank Perretti, with more than 15 million novels in print and often called America’s hottest Christian novelist, infused new life into Christian fiction when he introduced this kind of warfare in his first bestselling novel This Present Darkness.
Do you believe there are forces of evil Paul spoke about in Ephesians chapter 6 that are authoring books, movies and television programs? If so, how would you define Christian fiction and the direction it needs to go to win more victories and arise with new life?
We look forward to your comments!
If You Missed the previous blogs, links are below
Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She is currently polishing her second novel, an historical inspirational romance. A mother finally promoted to grandmother, Elva and her husband Dwayne, and a mini-dachshund Lucy reside in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site www.elvamartin.com, her blog at http://carolinaromancewithelvamartin.blogspot.com on Twitter @Elvacobbmartin and on Facebook.