Why Does CBA Exist?

One of the primary areas of questioning about CBA is why it exists in the first place. Many are concerned that it means Christians are trying to stay “set apart” rather than “in the world.” Others wonder about the value of “preaching to the choir” when perhaps we should be out evangelizing to non believers instead. 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 on it 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 as we delve into those other aspects (in future blog posts) 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 this increasingly secular society.

Why does CBA exist? I like to think it’s to give Christians a free and open forum for discussion; and to give seekers and nonbelievers a place to turn for answers to any and all of their questions about the Christian faith. This would not be possible within the structure of the mainstream publishing world.

I don’t think the fact that CBA exists as a specialized niche within the larger publishing arena is a negative in the least. Everything in our culture is specialized. For music, you can turn to record labels that provide the type of music you enjoy. If your tastes are more mainstream, you can shop at Wal-Mart. If you want something a bit more specific or unusual, you’ll need to shop at a special store. Nobody’s saying there’s anything wrong with that, right? Same with anything. If I want some basic sporting goods like a basketball or a kids’ bike, again 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. In fact, I greatly appreciate the fact that there are manufacturers and stores who specialize specifically 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. Does that make sense?

I suppose many of you will want to poke a thousand holes in this, the very first of my attempts to explain some of the whys and hows of the CBA, and that’s okay. But as you do, remember how fortunate we are to be able to discuss all aspects of our faith freely and openly; how great it is to be able to find a book on just about any topic from a Christian perspective; and most of all, that’s it’s totally your choice whether to be involved in CBA publishing or choose to target ABA publishers instead.

Keep your questions coming 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!


  1. Lavonna Bennison on January 21, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Hola! I’ve been following your web site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

  2. ChristFocus Book Club on June 11, 2009 at 3:55 PM

    >I found this a very interesting post. I'd never thought of Christian publishing as limiting books precisely, but I did think it rather limited the audience that would be exposed to the books produced. I'd decided that was why many Christian fantasy novels (no matter how allegorical), usually did poorly: because fantasy fans in general never heard about the titles.

    I look forward to your future CBA posts.

  3. david w. fry on March 25, 2008 at 9:19 AM

    >Nice! And timely too. I love it.

    This dovetails with Easter Sunday’s worship at my church. We sang the chorus from the Newsboys “I’m Free” as part of our worship. And we had a reprise of it at the end of the service … several refrains …(clapping and jubilant)


    I have not been able to get that tune out of my head since Sunday!

    In fact, my kids and I have been singing variants for the past couple of days.


    I think you get the idea. THAT is the message of Easter … WE ARE FREE!!!

    Rachelle, your post just reinforces that.

    Thank you for reminding us.

  4. Anonymous on March 25, 2008 at 6:29 AM

    >This makes freedom of choice so very dear to me. I love that I am free to choose to make a conscious decision to surround myself with his goodness. CBA all the way!

    Rhonda (Rkh)

  5. Melanie on March 25, 2008 at 2:53 AM

    >I think I’m one who asked the question in terms of why they’re separated, but I was asking as a newbie, not from my own perspective.

    I love that there’s a place I can go in the bookstore and know my faith and my belief system won’t be attacked. I like being able to buy a book that wouldn’t embarrass me if my pastor was reading over my shoulder. After all, God’s reading over my shoulder all the time.

    I still read secular fiction, sometimes just because there are great writers, sometimes because my favorite authors aren’t keeping up with my demand.

    But I love that the CBA exists. If my book is ever published, a CBA publisher is the only one that could take it on.

  6. Michelle Van Loon on March 24, 2008 at 7:57 PM

    >Amazing how a single word can change perception.


    I like it!

  7. canvaschild on March 24, 2008 at 6:40 PM

    >At the risk of sounding redundant, I too found this post enlightening. I’d never really seen it as ‘freeing’ before, but you’re right. We have received the grace and mercy necessary to express all of our forgiven-ness on paper.

    Thanks! Emily.

  8. Merrie Destefano on March 24, 2008 at 2:40 PM

    >Great answer, Rachelle! I’m looking forward to reading your answers to all the other questions, as well.

    Merrie Destefano

  9. Nicole on March 24, 2008 at 2:21 PM

    >Excellent–perhaps the best–analysis of CBA I’ve read.

    The majority of critics of CBA fiction who keep bringing up “requirements” or “limitations” haven’t read more than a handful of CBA novels and have no idea what is being offered in the CBA today.

  10. Melissa Marsh on March 24, 2008 at 1:29 PM

    >This was so great to hear, Rachelle. I had never thought of it that way before – that we have the freedom to discuss out faith in the CBA. Very enlightening. 🙂

  11. Timothy Fish on March 24, 2008 at 1:26 PM

    >I love to pick holes in things, but I really don’t see anything to pick at here.

    I think part of the reason that authors get critical of the CBA is that some of us see the world backward. We have a tendency to believe that that important thing is to get our message or our story to the public. The publishing industry makes better sense when we see it as the customers deciding what they want and the industry provides it. The CBA, then, is just meeting the needs and wants of their paying customers. If we, as authors, try to force stuff that CBA customers don’t want down CBA’s throat, we are only hurting ourselves. The targeted customers aren’t going to buy it.

  12. XDPaul on March 24, 2008 at 12:37 PM

    >This is an outstanding post, and very helpful to me. I’m a Christian convert and a writer who really never had any background in Christian markets. I’ve read and heard a lot of intense conversations about this topic, and this is a really pleasant addition.

  13. C.J. Darlington on March 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM

    >Thank you so much for this balanced, positive post. I hear so much for the naysayers of CBA, and it’s great to hear from someone speaking positively. I agree with you, by the way. 🙂

  14. Nancy I. Sanders on March 24, 2008 at 10:36 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    Sounds like your ski trip was fun!

    And thanks for your insight on CBA. I love the idea of freedom.

    It’s kind of like celebrating Mother’s Day. Having the one day set aside doesn’t LIMIT us to that day, but it gives us the OPPORTUNITY to focus on Mom. That’s what I got that you were saying about CBA. It’s an OPPORTUNITY to focus our writing on our faith and to share our faith with others. What a great explanation you gave!