ABA vs. CBA: My Insights (part one)

In my last blog (“ABA vs. CBA: How Do Christian Writers Choose?”), I shared about a meeting I had with Allen Arnold at Mount Hermon that resulted in questions to ponder about whether to try getting published in the ABA or the CBA. My answers to those questions gave me so many insights, I couldn’t fit them all into one post! So here’s “part one.” I’ll share more in the next blog.


Allen ArnoldAllen ArnoldKeep in mind, these are my responses about what I believe is true for me. That doesn’t mean they’re right for everybody. Each of us needs to decide individually where God is leading. This is only where God is leading me. (And who knows? He made lead me somewhere else later on down the road!)

Based on the questions Allen Arnold prompted me to ask myself, here are my thoughts about ABA versus CBA in the pre-publication part of the process. I’ll share my thoughts on the post-publication part in my next blog.

    • If my novel was accepted by an ABA publisher, they would undoubtedly want to “water down” the Christian parts of my manuscript. I would be faced with numerous decisions regarding what things I’d be willing to change and which parts I’d feel compelled to take a stand on keeping, even if it meant losing the contract (and possibly reimbursing the publisher for any advance). And if we did eventually manage to find a common ground, I’d face the same challenges with any future books I might want to write for the ABA.
    • My reading for pleasure is almost exclusively Christian fiction. I don’t particularly care for ABA fiction, because there’s nothing “redeeming” about it. It doesn’t draw me closer to God or improve my relationship with Christ or make me a better Christian. Secular fiction feels like a waste of time to me (and time is a valuable commodity for me). If I stick with the CBA, I can write the kind of book I like to read.
    • Since I don’t read much ABA fiction, I’m not sure what secular publishers (or readers) would consider to be a “well written” novel. To be honest, from what little ABA fiction I’ve read, most of it doesn’t seem very good from a technique perspective. As far as I can tell, ABA novels are no better than CBA novels (there being both high-quality and not-so-high-quality examples in both camps). But I do know what Christian publishers (and readers) consider “good writing.” I actually make my living helping writers polish their manuscripts according to what the Christian publishing industry deems to be “well written.” So I stand a much better chance of being accepted, by publishers and readers, in the CBA world.
    • Early on in my foray into writing for publication, I attended a couple of secular writers’ conferences and felt very uncomfortable and out of place there. Not only were they missing the godly fellowship and camaraderie I get at Christian conferences, but everyone there seemed cutthroat and narcissistic. No one really helped anyone else; they were all there to promote themselves. Ick! I love the Christian publishing industry, where everyone truly wants to help everyone else succeed at whatever God has for them. I can give of myself, my time, my expertise, because I want to be part of the “team” required for a book to get published and then get into the hands of readers so it can touch hearts and change lives. I don’t want to be part of a community where every other author is out to get my spot on the bookstore shelves … and where my publisher (and agent, if I had a secular one) is only interested in one thing: how much money I can make for them.
    • Not trying to tweak my novel to work for an ABA publisher gives me tremendous freedom! I am free to have as many Christian characters as I want, talking and thinking about Christian stuff, going to Christian places and doing what Christians do. I’d have a really hard time writing a novel that didn’t have anything Christian in it because my life is full of Christians and Christian activities and Christian thoughts and conversations. Everyone (in both ABA and CBA) says you should write what you know. Well, this is my world, and I know it well. And I like it!
    • I love the Christian publishing industry. I love being a Christian writer. I love reading Christian books and editing Christian manuscripts. I love hanging out with other Christian authors, at Christian events, in Christian locations, sharing my love for my Savior freely and boldly, without hesitation or reservation, and having others freely pour into me the love of Christ that they have experienced. I love talking to my colleagues about how God works in this amazing industry. Those kinds of experiences are simply not going to happen much, if at all, if I’m in the mainstream publishing industry.

I think you can see where this is going! But check back next week for my post-publication thoughts on ABA vs. CBA … for me.