ABA vs. CBA: My Conclusions
In this conclusion to my blog series about my meeting with Allen Arnold at Mount Hermon (read part one and part two of the series), here are my responses to the questions he prompted me to ask myself about whether I should be trying to get published in the ABA or the CBA:
- With an ABA publisher, my novel would be put with all the general fiction (“shelved” in brick-and-mortar stores and “categorized” in online venues), where it would have lots more competition than in the Christian fiction section.
- All of my other writing (except maybe my writers’ helps books) is for CBA. If my novel is an ABA product, there will be virtually no cross-promotion. Trying to spread myself across both markets will not be as effective as dedicating myself completely to one or the other.
- God has positioned me, through my various editing ventures (the Christian Editor Connection and The Christian PEN, as well as all my editing of Christian manuscripts for Christian authors and Christian publishers)—as well as through my speaking at Christian writers’ conferences and events—to thrive in the CBA. I have spent several years networking with people in the Christian publishing industry and building a respected reputation for myself. When those people who know me hear that I’ve finally published my novel, many will be eager to buy and read it (I hope). I don’t know anyone in the mainstream publishing industry. So I don’t have an already established “fan base” to draw from.
- If my Christian friends, colleagues, and acquaintances (including those who know me purely through social media) hear that I’ve published my novel, they will look for it in the Christian fiction section and not find it! No one will be looking for me in the general-fiction section.
- If a non-Christian finds my book in the general-fiction section, and five chapters into the story discovers all these Christian characters talking about Christian stuff, he’s going to feel cheated. He’s automatically going to assume that I have an “agenda” and may immediately put the book down and stop reading it. If he posts a review anywhere, it might say something like, “This book started out strong, but then it got all religious.” Whereas a Christian reader would be thrilled to discover Christian characters and Christian themes (both overt and subtle), and her review would read more like, “This story started out strong, and then I discovered all these great Christian themes and parallels.” Pretty obvious which kind of reviews and publicity would be preferable.
- Why would I want my novel to get a mainstream publisher? Is it because I think my husband will be more impressed? (He probably would be, a little bit, at first—but not when my book sales floundered.) Do I think he will be more likely to recommend the book to friends and family if it has a secular publisher? (That’s going to be determined more by how I handle the story than what publishing house is listed on the spine.)Mainly, I just really want my book to be able to get into the hands of readers like my husband so they can discover a bit about what Christians and Christianity are about. But my book doesn’t need a mainstream publisher to accomplish that goal. God knows who would be brought a step or two closer to the kingdom by reading my book, and He can easily figure out how to get it into their hands. If Christians read my book and like it, they can recommend it to their unbeliever friends and loved ones, or buy them copies of it. (And if those people like it, they can recommend it to their unbeliever friends and loved ones.)And when a book is featured somewhere online (like on Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday page, for example), it has the book cover, title, author, and brief description of the story—the publisher isn’t even mentioned. If I want to know whether a book has been published by a Christian house, I have to click on it and then scroll down the page and see if I recognize the publisher. Most readers don’t do that. They get drawn in by the cover and the title and the description of the story, and couldn’t care less what company published it.
- I need to decide what I feel God calling me to be, not just what I think I should do with each of my writing projects. Am I called to be a Christian author or a mainstream author? Each writer needs to make that decision for him/herself, and neither choice is right or wrong for everyone. But there is a right choice for me. And whichever one it is, I need to give myself to that calling full on. Not one foot in each camp. But wholly dedicated to the particular calling God has placed on me.
I have zero interest in being an ABA author.
I want to be a CBA author.
I am a CBA author!
February 19, 2016 @ 6:24 pm
You mentioned that you will have less competition in the Christian section. I don’t doubt that. But every secular bookstore manager I’ve asked (about a dozen) tells me that their Christian fiction section gets very little traffic.