The Purpose of Christian Publishing

One of the most common questions I hear about CBA is why it exists in the first place. (CBA means “Christian Booksellers Association” but refers to the entire Christian publishing industry including publishers, authors, agents, bookstores, etc.)

Many are concerned that it means Christians are trying to stay set apart. Others wonder about the value of “preaching to the choir” when perhaps we should be out evangelizing to non believers. Many couch the questions in negative terms, like wondering if the point of CBA is to keep Christians insulated from the world in some kind of a bubble that needs to be burst.

Let me just start here: In my opinion, the Christian publishing industry is NOT about keeping Christians insulated, safe, set apart, or in a bubble. It’s NOT about limiting your ability as a Christian writer to write whatever you want or feel called to. In fact, Christian publishing is about the opposite:

It’s about freedom.

The Christian publishing industry began with companies who published Bibles; then came the need for books to help people understand the Bible. The rest of the Christian publishing business grew out of the need to have a place for Christians to write freely, honestly, and openly about all aspects of the Christian faith.

Rather than look at CBA as a limiting, stifling place, it’s better to understand it as a place of amazing freedom to write candidly about life in Christ, life based on the precepts of the Holy Bible, life lived in pursuit of the God of that Bible. There is a freedom to talk about every single aspect of life, from relationships to finances to health to business practices, in a way that includes the Biblical perspective and addresses the daily, moment-to-moment struggle to live this life of faith.

Within that definition, there’s plenty of room for questions. How much freedom? you may ask. And all the other questions about what’s allowed and what’s not, whether to write to believers or non-believers… we can discuss all of those. But what I want you to keep in mind is how incredibly fortunate we are to live in a society in which a CBA is possible. The CBA represents our truly awesome liberty to openly discuss our faith amidst an increasingly secular society.

CBA gives Christians a free and open forum for discussion; and gives seekers and nonbelievers a place to turn for answers to their questions about the Christian faith.

The fact that CBA exists as a specialized niche within the larger publishing arena is not a negative in the least. Everything in our culture is specialized. If I want some basic sporting goods like a basketball or a kids’ bike, I might stop by Wal-Mart. But if I want some new skis or a high-quality mountain bike, I’m going to the ski store or the bike shop. I appreciate the fact that there are manufacturers and stores who specialize in exactly what I want.

By the same token, I appreciate that there are manufacturers (publishers) and stores who focus on the Christian reading materials I want.

How fortunate we are to be able to find a book on just about any topic from a Christian perspective; and most of all, how cool that’s it’s totally your choice whether to be involved in CBA publishing or choose to target ABA publishers instead.

Send me your questions about CBA, and I’ll do my best over the next few weeks to supply some answers.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  5. Richard Lewis on September 4, 2009 at 11:52 PM

    >A bit late.

    Susan Howatch's Church of England series is superb ecclesiastical fiction.

  6. Dineen A. Miller on September 4, 2009 at 10:57 PM

    >Awesome post, Rachelle!

  7. Tara on September 4, 2009 at 8:30 PM

    >Great explanation. I'm looking forward to seeing the answers for some of the questions.

  8. Steve on September 4, 2009 at 6:36 AM

    >I'm curious whether the "Christian" in CHristiasn Publishing is exclusiuvely or predominantly Evangelical, or would it include Catholics and non-Evangelical Protestants?

    Part of my curiousity is because I'm trying to write a YA novel – primarily secular – but, my protagonist goes to church regularly, and takes Jesus seriously. But her denomination and her personal theology are not Evangelical.

    Any place for such a story in Christian publishing?

  9. Andrew on September 3, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    >And yeah, Christians in the USA are being persecuted.

    Often, unfortunately, by other Christians. And I'm not talking the Six Counties, either.

    Some of the reviews of "The Shack" hounded the authors for following various Christian heresies…but some of those reviewers had a tone that seemed deeply rooted in Jansenism!

    I'm no theologian, but I mean, come on, guys…there's room for lots of points of view in the Christian Literary world. And in Christianity.

    After all, Who was it who said, "In My Father's house are many rooms…if it were not so, I would not have told you…"?

  10. Andrew on September 3, 2009 at 9:10 PM

    >I actually became a Christian by writing a Christian novel – and it didn't start out as one.

    It started out as a thought experiment, a 'what is the story behind a roadside memorial cross' idea pursued while proctoring an exam. And then, somehow, God forced His way into the plot.

    And into my heart.

    In some parts of the world I'd have been laughed at for my book. In other parts, I'd have been arrested or killed.

    I'm glad for CBA, and the shot I have to find a market for a book that is unashamedly Christian.

    And I'm deeply grateful to live in a country that strives to protect those rights, however imperfectly.

  11. CKHB on September 3, 2009 at 8:27 PM

    >I didn't want to be the one who started the debate, but I will back up Anonymous (one of the Anons, anyway) to say that the Founding Fathers were NOT Christian. They weren't secular humanists, either, they were deists, and they did not believe that the Bible was true.

    I also think that the United States as it exists today is overwhelmingly Christian, or at least "culturally Christian." I'm sure there is a wide range of faithfulness in the country, but currently, 76.5% of Americans identify as Christian. This is why I also agree with the Anon who said he doesn't think we're living in a particularly secular society. Maybe current societal values are less consistent with those that the CBA community holds dear… but in contrast, think about the response that an atheist candidate running for political office would receive in most regions of today's society. The "godless" don't have control in this country, not by a long shot.

    Finally, I agree with the poster who said that non-Christians just want a good story. After all, I've got Kanye West's Jesus Walks and Jars of Clay's Flood on my iPod — good music is good music.

  12. Mariana on September 3, 2009 at 7:45 PM

    >Great discussion here!

    Anon, I'm right there with you, and I believe all opinions are valid as long as they aren't impolite or offensive.

  13. Krista Phillips on September 3, 2009 at 7:18 PM

    >Wow, what a discussion! I almost posted a comment earlier this morning, but this is something ultra near and dear to my heart and I wanted to think through what I'd say first. (Something I should probably do much more often! ha!)

    Obviously there are good and bad about every organization, but I love that I can go into a bookstore and find books that encourage me in my walk with God, make me to laugh, and give me much needed *down* time without littering my mind with junk. I *need* this and I'm so thankful God has given us the freedom in our country to have it.

    I want to WRITE for CBA because it’s what God is leading me towards. I have NO problem with those Christians that write for the ABA. That is very cool if that's where God is leading them. But for me, I have a heart to minister to, in particular, Christian women. My books are geared towards the late teen girl, the 20/30-yr-old mom or single who needs a break from stress and finds it in a humorous romance that makes them smile. I weave lessons God’s taught me into my stories, like fear, dealing with loss, and leaning on God even when things seem really crazy.

    We are ALL called to witness and be a light in the world, and I try to do that every day: in the grocery store, at my day job, to my neighbors. But that's not my main purpose for my writing. Nor is it the MAIN purpose, IMHO, of the CBA. To me, the purpose is not to "find the lost sheep" but to feed the sheep that are in the fold, to minister to them and equip them. It's a way to lean on each other and support each other as we carry out God’s call to reach others for him. That said, non-Christians DO pick up a Christian novel sometimes, and I aim to make sure all my novels glorify God and portray his love and compassion.

  14. Eric von Mizener on September 3, 2009 at 5:16 PM

    >Let not your heart be troubled, Anonymous. I don't think anyone here is trying to discourage any of their fellow writers. We just have questions and opinions. If we didn't, we wouldn't write.

    Also, I think we all respect Rachelle. While I can't speak for her, I suspect she enjoys these spirited discussions.

    However, if I have offended or discouraged anyone with my words, please forgive and pray for me.

  15. Anonymous on September 3, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    >Rachelle uses words like freedom, opportunity, and doing her best.

    Many commenters talk of limits, restrictions, and shortcomings.

    Since Rachelle is open to different ideas, perhaps she doesn't mind the tone of the comments. But I find it regrettable that some have used this opportunity to dig their heels into the shoulders of those they stand on. Every writer before us has done a remarkable feat, regardless of how unfair you think it is or how horrible you find the product. Every publishing company started with few employees and little money. Rachelle works–I can't even think how many hours–too much, I know that.

    I'm not saying we should never disagree, debate, or ask honest questions. I've just noticed an increasingly negative tone in the comments here, and my heart breaks for those who have a hard enough road without reading their genres, professions, publishing houses, and very career lampooned over and over in these comments.

    I'm anonymous not because I'm too fearful, but because I don't want to come off as one who hopes to further her career by brown-nosing to publishers. It's not about that at all; it's about how we treat one another. Doesn't that matter so much more than having your name on the cover of a book?

  16. Eric von Mizener on September 3, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    >And the ideas of the Enlightenment came mostly from Christianity.

  17. Anonymous on September 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM


    Actually many of our Founding Fathers were not particularly religious (George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson etc). Their ideals sprang from the European Enlightenment, not from the Bible.

  18. H. Scott Hunt on September 3, 2009 at 1:53 PM

    >There's no doubt CBA is vital. I just hate to see the works of great writers pigeon-holed because their books are being shipped from a Christian publisher.

    I'm a part of the Robert Liparulo street team, and I've handed out his novels to both believers and non-believers. Both enjoyed them equally. So Non-Christians apparently don't give a rip who publishes a book, or if if has a character saying something about Jesus in it; all they care is that it's a great story written with great style.

    So the problem seems to lie with the retailer automatically shelving the books based upon one parameter – who is the publisher. If it is a CBA publisher, then it must go in the Christian section. I look forward to the day when I find Robert's books – as well as other authors – right next to the works of Dean Koontz and James Patterson.

  19. Nicole on September 3, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    >"Excuse me for being blunt, but what are you smoking? What about the way the religious right is shouting down all non-evangelicals — on the right as well as the left and the forgotten center, whether Christian or non-Christian? Proclaiming that the US is a 'Christian republic'?"

    Anon, you know the historical significance of the founders of this nation based their principles on the Bible, not secular humanism. If you think the evangelicals are "shouting down" the nons, etc., you either must have lost your hearing to the secular efforts to force Chrisianity out of the market, out of politics, off the radio and everywhere else in this nation or you've grown used to their bull horns denouncing its values. "Increasingly secular" is a fact.

  20. writer jim on September 3, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    >SARAH sept 2, 6:49 is on the AUG 31 LUCKY BREAK blog. sorry i didn't tell so above.

  21. Cassandra Frear on September 3, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    >We live in an exciting and fascinating time — to have so much available to us at the click of a mouse, or the turning of a page. It's overwhelming. I am blessed to have so much opportunity for growth, so many who have gone before me and written about the things they saw. My steps follow theirs, and my way is surer for it. I do not have days enough to soak in the beauty, the truth, the joy of it all.

  22. Roxane B. Salonen on September 3, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    >Like another readers here, I hadn't really thought about questioning the need for CBA, or that others were doing so, until now. But I can relate to this in the fact that our kids attend private Christian school. Even though it has been with great sacrifice that we've sent them there, from the outside, some might perceive we are keeping our children separated from the rest of the world. Fact is, the rest of the world is all around them all the time, and sending them to a Christian/Catholic school simply allows them to discover and grow and educate the spiritual part of themselves. The fact that they are able to begin each day in prayer, acknowledging the Creator who put them into place, is huge to us. So when you say "freedom," I totally get that. It is such a joy to me that my kids can express the spiritual part of themselves without feeling like they're doing something wrong. I am thankful for this option, and see CBA in a similar light. I, too, am curious whether my Catholicism would ever be a hindrance in the CBA world. I would hope not, but realistically, I wonder if it's a turnoff to some editors/agents. It'd be good to hear your perspective and an honest answer to what defines the C of the CBA. I'd hate to be barking up the wrong tree.

  23. writer jim on September 3, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    SARAH Sept.2,at 6:49 on your blog seems like someone you may check out to represent. I went to her site and found it so wonderful and powerful that I suggest all readers check it out. I think her book is going to be powerful for CBA, etc.

  24. Anonymous on September 3, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    >You write: "The CBA represents our truly awesome liberty to openly discuss our faith amidst an increasingly secular society." [emphasis mine]

    Excuse me for being blunt, but what are you smoking? What about the way the religious right is shouting down all non-evangelicals — on the right as well as the left and the forgotten center, whether Christian or non-Christian? Proclaiming that the US is a "Christian republic"?

    I'm not suggesting that CBA is anything other that a good thing, but the premise on which you base your argument isn't correct. Please don't pretend that the majoritarian culture in this country is being persecuted; you're smarter and better than that.

  25. chrisw10 on September 3, 2009 at 12:33 PM

    >I haven't really considered CBA in this light before. I do like the freedom it affords to explore Christian topics in a way that secular publishers wouldn't touch.

    My concern with CBA has always been the perception among Christian fiction writers out there that that is where one goes first to sell their fiction. It does create the appearance of a walled off community because it seems to me that it creates a vacuum in the secular fiction marketplace of Christian themes, and secular readers are not exposed to them in the fiction they read.

    I may be speaking without proper knowledge here, so I appreciate the correction if there is one; but it does seem to me that the lack of Christian writers in the secular marketplace is one of the reasons why naturalistic materialism is the predominant philosophy promoted in the spec fic genre, for example.

  26. Eric von Mizener on September 3, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    >Just read the Steeple Hill listing with the colorful commentary. If this list is true, it would not only stop publication of scripture, but of Milton and Dante as well. Pilgrim's Progress, however, might make it. Might.

    But, they apparently know their market.

  27. Eric von Mizener on September 3, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    >Unfortunately, there is a need for a CBA. Prior to 1900, most books were Christian books – that was the market. It was the rise of secularism in the 20th century that made Christian books a niche market. Sad.

    Also, as an Orthodox Christian, I share some of the same concerns as my Roman brethren. The CBA is predominantly Protestant and there are those who view historic Christianity as something – if not to be shunned – at least as unsellable. Many are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy and misunderstand it as Catholicism without the the Pope. (Healing from the Great Schism and the Reformation will take time – Lord be patient with us.)

    As for freedom, I find that a word to be approached with caution. On the positive side, the CBA (or more, the industry it represents) has provided publishing opportunities away from the advancing secularism of our society. That's a blessing. We still have the freedom to publish Christian works.

    But the promise of freedom is one every addict has heard whispered in his or her ear regarding the object of their addiction. It has been a favorite word of political charletons and worse. It's a word the enemy likes to play with. All things may be allowed to me, but not all are good for me.

    The perceived limitations of the CBA market restrict some things. At the end of the day, it remains a market, and not a church.

    It seems to me that ultimately we must write what we believe God has called us to write, to proclaim Truth in accordance with true belief, and finally not to worry as much about "the market." First century Roman marketers would have rejected a Jesus campaign as unsellable. Yet the church conquered the empire. God will give the increase.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pour over the Christian book store ad that just came in the mail.

  28. csmith on September 3, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    >@Lea Ann McCombs

    Thank you very much for your reply. I am pleased that you pointed out that Steeple Hill is known as having rigid guidelines and a defined readership.

    I have replied to Rosslyn Elliot, saying that her post has made me want to dip deeper into the genre (and maybe one day write something appropriate for it). I thank you for giving me even more encouragement.

    All the best,


  29. CKHB on September 3, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    >"It's a result of the refusal of overtly-Christian material by the mainstream press, a phenomenon that only began in the last half of the twentieth century."

    Wait, can you please define this "mainstream press"? And to what do you attribute this refusal/phenomenon? Isn't it simply that many publishers didn't think they could sell a certain type of book, whereas CBA organized and proved that a market for it does exist, after all?

  30. csmith on September 3, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    >@Rosslyn Elliott

    Thank you. I am glad I am not the only person who has seen this and had some concern, though it is great to know there is a wider audience.

    The stuff I write is rather incompatible with Christian fiction as I write Historicals that both deal with homosexuality attempt not to judge either the Christian or non-Christian people. I guess I am more an apologist in a way for some of the stuff that has been done in the name of the church than anything else. I do have to say that I hope that some people who are scared by Catholicism as a root of Christianity will come to some sort of understanding on what it was during its history, and why it was the way it was. (And now I sound very pretentious; that is not my intention.)

    Anyhow, thank you so much for pointing out that all publishers do not have the same guidelines. Maybe one day I'll write something that will fit the Christian book market, but for now you've encouraged me to read more in the genre.

    My thanks.


  31. Damaris on September 3, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    >Great post.

  32. Nicole on September 3, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    >What Lee Ann McCombs said, Anonymous. If you read enough in the CBA fiction market, you know the parameters are very wide right now. Just look at Steven James, Tim Downs, Ted Dekker, Lisa Samson, Robert Liparulo. Really I could go on and on.

  33. heather on September 3, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    >I've heard some talk about some CBA publishers considering getting books on the general market shelves and publishing books for the spiritually interested. What are your thoughts on this?

  34. T. Anne on September 3, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    >Timely post for me Rachelle, I'm writing something for my daughter and her friends to read when they are pre-teens to teens. I look around and wonder what will our daughters read? There's not a whole lot of fun light, modern, christian books on the market for young girls. I think middle grades and YA is ripe for the picking. I would debate anybody who says there is no market for this demographic.

  35. Dara on September 3, 2009 at 11:19 AM

    >I am glad we have CBA because I fear that without it, secular publishers would be too hesitant to publish Christian fiction. It's good to have a market like that.

    That being said, I do long for a little more diversity in Christian fiction. A few have mentioned the lack of Catholic characters. I know CBA is heavily Protestant and there's still a prevailing opinion that Catholics are not Christian (many of the older generation at my church think this, which breaks my heart).

    I also long for stories that are set in more exotic locales, like Asia. I have seen a few set there and hoping that it increases 🙂

    At one point I had thought about writing Christian fiction but then discovered it was fairly limited, at least with the stories I wanted to tell. I would like my stories to reach out to a broader audience, without the smut factor in it. I know there are non-Christians who do actually look for a novel without the smut factor. So I'm aiming to bring a message of hope and redemption to them 🙂

    Plus, my stories would have a hard time being placed in the Christian section when I normally have them set in times and places where Christianity just wasn't there (most recently, 18th century Japan). It can't really be called Christian fiction if there aren't Christian characters. 😛

    But I am very happy that we're blessed with the freedom to have CBA.

  36. Lea Ann McCombs on September 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM

    >Chris Smith,
    I feel compelled to point out to you that the site to which you are referring is Steeple Hill, owned by Harlequin. That list of "verboten" words applies ONLY to Steeple Hill fiction, a line which has extremely rigid parameters for all the fiction they publish, including shorter word counts, and story structure (The romance MUST be introduced in the first chapter, for example.)

    While you make some good points, I hate to see you get the wrong idea about ALL CBA publishers, because very few have the same strict guidelines or the same readership as Steeple Hill books.

  37. Reesha on September 3, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    >Thanks, Tracy. That helps.

  38. Nicole on September 3, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    >Well said. Couldn't agree more.

    (Just a side note for the concerned Catholics: Read Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret, the upcoming The Mission by Athol Dickson, and the series by Kristen Heitzmann, Secrets, Unforgotten, and Echoes, features a contemporary Catholic protagonist to name a few. These novels should put your fears to rest.)

  39. Lori Stanley Roeleveld on September 3, 2009 at 10:57 AM

    >Thank you for this post! I'm so tired of writer's and readers whining about the "woes" of Christian publishing! I appreciate the existence of CBA even with its limitations or pitfalls. I believe quality writing will find a home. Some of my writing, however, might not get a fair reading in the secular market because of the worldview from which I write. Thanks for choosing to take a positive stand when it seems to be the order of the day to throw stones!

  40. Anonymous on September 3, 2009 at 10:46 AM

    >I tend to disagree with this post.

    One has freedom to write for any market. Within a market he may be hampered by the tastes of the day.

    If you to take the two to dinner, the secular market would order a steak and creme brulee. CBA is the kid that needs a grilled cheese sandwich and fries to shut him up.

    Case in point: One CBA agent praised my writing, then lamented that the CBA audience is largely women and they don't want to "read anything negative."

    It was exactly the stone-cold advice I needed to put it all in perspective.

  41. Tracey on September 3, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    >Should an extra measure of trust be given it because it is Christian based?



    Without getting into any issues about CBA itself, I can say that you will find scam artists in every branch of publishing. And the biggest weapon that a con artist has is the trust of the mark. If he can convince the mark that he would never ever hurt or betray him or her because he's a good person and one of the target's group, he's rounding third base and heading for home.

    You should, before you get started, research publishers. Research who to avoid, too. (Don't worry about agents yet. You're just starting out. Odds are you won't be able to get an agent yet.) Participate in writers' groups and writers' forums like Absolute Write Water Cooler. Read sites like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors to see who your fellow writers have had trouble with.

    Shun PublishAmerica. It's a scam. A tragic scam.

    Check the contract before you sign it. Compare it to the industry standard (oh, yes, boilerplate contracts are online). Make sure that your rights as an author are protected.

    Remember, above all, that writing and publishing is a BUSINESS, and a cutthroat one. Treat it as a business, and not as an offshoot of your church. You will be more alert and more conscious of what you have to do to protect yourself as a writer.

  42. sallyhanan on September 3, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    >I wonder if readers who are not Christians are turned off by the label of CBA and read anything but their books.

    Personally speaking, I love to write light references to God in my writing, but want to appeal to secular readers who would not normally read Christian material.

    Fortunately, because of CBA, more and more secular publishers are open to publishing Christian fiction. They have seen the figures and the popularity of books with Christian themes and want in on the money. This is something that we would not have if it were not for CBA getting the ball rolling all those years ago.

  43. Rosslyn Elliott on September 3, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    >Chris Smith –
    I'm a Protestant, but also a former Catholic. I want you to know that I also regret the exclusion of "priest," "Father," etc. from some areas of Christian publishing. It bothers me, as a historical writer, that these restrictions mean I could not set a novel in historical New Mexico.

    I understand why some publishers do it (I think). It's because of the heavily-Protestant market. Dealing with Catholic characters and issues is such a potential hotbed of controversy that they probably just want to avoid it altogether. Should it be this way? Nope.

    However, I believe Rachelle has mentioned prevously on her blog that some publishers are becoming more open to Catholic material, and I think there are also Catholic presses out there.

    I'm thankful for the CBA because of the freedom it offers Protestants to write of their faith. I agree with other posters that the segregation of the Christian market from the secular market is not the choice of the authors or the publishers. It's a result of the refusal of overtly-Christian material by the mainstream press, a phenomenon that only began in the last half of the twentieth century.

    My misson at the moment is to write for Christians and anyone else open-minded enough to pick up a novel with undisguised Christian themes of sacrifice and love. I salute all those who wish to write for a nonbelieving audience as well. There's a great need for good spiritual writers of all kinds–those who support the flock, and those who enlarge it.

  44. Matilda McCloud on September 3, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    >I'm actually really confused about Christian publishing. I'm writing a novel about an assistant pastor at an urban church, but it's more a novel about identity than faith. I don't think the novel is appropriate for CBA publishers, yet I do think some CBA readers would enjoy it and get the jokes. Are there books with "crossover appeal?" Will ABA publishers toss this on the reject pile right away? I've worked in publishing, but I'm not sure myself. My unscientific feeling is that ABA publishers are a little more open to this kind of fiction than they were when I worked in publishing about ten years ago.

  45. Reesha on September 3, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    >Hey Rachelle,

    I recently had a conversation with my fiance regarding getting published. He said he was concerned that in the publishing world, I would get taken advantage of and he doesn't think I should try.

    Have any advice for me?
    He's mostly worried that I will either not know what's going on and get swindled, or that fame and money will drag me away from him.

    This is very frustrating for me because I want us both to share in the joy of writing and the publishing process.
    As of right now, I promised him I would wait until completing two novels before seeking publication. (Which is fine since I'm working on two novels right now.)

    This doesn't relate to CBA directly, but is CBA less likely to involve me in some kind of scam than other places? Should an extra measure of trust be given it because it is Christian based?

  46. ChrisB on September 3, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    >Christian publishers make sense from certain angles — theology, apologetics, Bible study. It doesn't make a lot of sense in terms of fiction.

    I guess if what you want is to write for Christians, you would take your work to a Christian publisher.

    If you want to write for everyone, and especially if you want to do some subliminal evangelism (be the anti-Dan Brown), you have to go to a traditional/secular publisher. Otherwise your work will be put on the "religious fiction" shelf at B&N and your intended audience will never read it.

  47. Cindy on September 3, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    >I really appreciate this post and the reminder of the kind of freedom we have in this country. I feel blessed that I am able to write Christian fiction without most forms of persecution. It's also a blessing to have a community in CBA that supports, promotes and enjoys Christian books.

  48. Serenity on September 3, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    >This is what I've always heard (and said) about Christianity in general – that it is about freedom, not restriction. But it sure seems to have a long list of don'ts. I agree it is a beautiful thing that we live in a time and in a country where the CBA is possible. Still, I wonder if it keeps us from trying to write from our faith with a language, an attitude, and an honesty that anyone might hear.

    I'm still trying to sort it out, so I really appreciate this post as food for thought.

  49. ginny martyn on September 3, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    >FREEDOM = The Sacred Cipher on a Prairie People dominated shelf.

    (no offense if you are a fan of PPs)

  50. Rachel Starr Thomson on September 3, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks for this perspective. I'm a Christian whose fiction always has strong Christian underpinnings, but no overtly Christian message — and I've always wanted to stay away from the CBA because I wanted to reach a wider audience. I've also tended to share the negative impression of CBA books as being published in a box (but the truth is, so are other books — they're just published in different boxes). Lately, though, I'm growing more and more impressed with some of the fiction coming out of the CBA, and I hope the quality of honest, imaginative, well-written stories will manage to kick down the box walls and call readers from many walks of life into the Great Conversation.

  51. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on September 3, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    >Good morning, Rachelle.

    I had never given any thought about the existence of the CBA universe unil your post. However now that you have brought it up, I think that all of it is a direct result of our social and cultural shift.

    I have ecletic tastes in books, so years ago, I read almost any genre written in the 1920's and 1930's because those were the ones available in our libraries. Many of them would fit into the CBA universe, now. They were devoid of any graphic sex, violence or cursing and often made reference to God, church and family. That included most romances, many westerns and a few sci-fi books. As publishers began to market books with fewer references to any of those things and replaced them with sex, violence, and cursing in the late 1960s, a demand for wholesome books was left unserved. CBA is the response to that demand. If you watch the publishing business, you might see a trend grow, top ABA publishers buying up growing CBA publishers to get a piece of the Christian market.

    Publishing is like every other business in that regard.

    Thanks for stimulating the little gray cells, Rachelle.

    Be blessed,


  52. Gina Logue on September 3, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    >When I became a Christian, I craved Christ-centered books. I don’t agree with many books that are labeled “Christian”, but I appreciate they are there as an option. Without CBA, my only choice would be general market books, where Christian messages are not welcomed.

    I wish though, that there were more diverse Christian fictions. Asian Amish romance anyone?

  53. CKHB on September 3, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    >(And I hate to lump atheism in as a "religion" but I wanted to keep my comment short.)

  54. CKHB on September 3, 2009 at 8:16 AM

    >I wonder if there is any similar place where writers grounded in other religions can go. Are there any Jewish/Hindu/Muslim/atheist publishing groups? Or do those people just have to hope to find acceptance in mainstream publishing despite the fact that those beliefs are unpopular (by which I mean that, statistically speaking, there are fewer people of each of those religion than there are people who identify as Christian in the US).

  55. csmith on September 3, 2009 at 8:14 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    I am really pleased you posted about this because for the last week I've been wondering about something that I felt you were best placed to respond to.

    I am a Christian (actually a Catholic so it is possible that many people here may not see eye to eye with me) and one of my non-Christian friends linked me to the following post, as an example of what Christian publishing can promote:

    As someone who attempts to write historical novels, I am slightly flabbergasted by the idea that historical novels should be banned from containing words such as "Priest", "Father, "Bishop", "Devil", "Harlot" or "Saint" to name but a few.

    This is what scares me about any purely religious publisher or association (be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish etc) – not that they exist, but that there could be a mandated falsification of history promulgated through their lines. I have no issue with people writing contemporary (or even post-reformation) novels where those words are not mentioned – it is logical and possible within certain communities.

    I find this very disturbing – because I think it is important for people to attempt to understand the full scope of the past, from the self-sacrifice of the early church to the unholy excesses of the Borgia Popes, to what created the reformation and what drove people to settle the US, South Africa and other primarily religion driven diaspora. It seems to me that by banning these words in a historical context, it is possible that some Christian publishers are losing the very foundations that their faith was founded upon.

    I don't know, Rachelle, and I am sorry to ramble on in your blog, but I've been thinking on it a week now and when this post appeared it seemed extremely fortuitous. I apologise if I have in anyway unwittingly caused offence – it is really not my intention but I would love to understand how people can justify that sort of level of historical misrepresentation.

    All the best,


  56. Jessica on September 3, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    >Great post!
    I have to wonder…if there was no CBA, would ABA publishers even want to publish books so specifically about Jesus? I'm thankful for our freedomes and that the CBA exists.

  57. Sharon A. Lavy on September 3, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    >More great information! Thanks.

  58. Marla Taviano on September 3, 2009 at 7:41 AM

    >I'm all about the freedom!

  59. Jason Crawford on September 3, 2009 at 7:05 AM

    >I think *at this point in time* there is definitely a need for Christian publishing, as many agents and publishers will not touch any overtly Christian work.

    It's a lot like segregation. There was a time when a black student's only choices were to go to a black college or not go to college at all. Thank God our nation moved beyond that point, but I think we're still there in the publishing industry where differing ideals are concerned.

    I always wonder if Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be picked up by a major secular publishing house if it were submitted today.

  60. Robin on September 3, 2009 at 6:15 AM

    >I write non-fiction humor, that is cleaner than most secular books on the same topics but not straight-laced…I think some non-Christians would be more comfortable reading it than some Christians. My agent had mentioned CBA, and I was concerned because my book doesn't seem like a Christian book to me. It's a funny, clean humor book…written by a Christian…

  61. Lisa Jordan on September 3, 2009 at 5:55 AM

    >When I first started writing, I was influenced by the secular market. But after I became a Christian, I realized I didn't want to write for the world, but for God.

    I also prayed for quality Christian romances beyond Grace Livingston Hill and the prairie romances I had read. That year, Harlequin introduced Steeple Hill and the Love Inspired novels.

    I'm thankful I have the freedom to write from a Christian perspective. Even if I'm preaching to the choir, those choir members struggle daily in their spiritual walks. I can no longer count the number of times my heart has been touched by the Christian fiction I've read. One of my friends is not a Christian, but she reads Christian fiction because it's clean and gives her hope. If I can touch one person with my (future) novels, I'll consider that book a success. Plant the seeds and let God's work begin.

  62. Whidget on September 3, 2009 at 4:49 AM

    >I am a Christian and I have written a very clean novel. It is not a "christian" novel, per se, but lately I wonder if I shouldn't seek a Christian publisher just because it's clean. In your opinion, does a "Christian" novel need to be about Christ, or just devoid of some of the smut I have seen in almost every book lately?

  63. AmyBoucherPye on September 3, 2009 at 4:48 AM

    >There's a Christian publishing industry here in the UK, but on a much smaller level than in the States. And the American CBA influences the church/market here too – quite often in a top ten book list, 6, 7 or even 8 might be by American authors/publishers. We have some great UK authors too. But I agree with Beth that CBA in terms of influence on the culture is pretty unique to America.

  64. Beth on September 3, 2009 at 4:01 AM

    >CBA seems like a uniquely American phenomenon – in Europe I do find Christian theology, but not much else (except monastic recipe books, of course). One thing I've always wondered about is whether it's evangelical-only, or are other denominations of Christianity included under the umbrella?