I was once asked for a blog Q & A, “Do you consider yourself a Christian author or a writer of Christian books?”
Honestly, I was confused. Was there a difference? I had to do a little digging, but I learned there was.
Writer of Christian Books: an author who writes books specifically geared for the Christian market, whose characters are Christians by the end of the book.
Christian Author: an author who professes Christ but focuses on writing a good story in general, without necessarily putting any Christian message into the book.
In the blog post, I responded that I consider myself both. I write novels for the Christian market, but I also write children’s books for the general market. Through this I realized there was more to the debate than meets the eye. There are certain stigmas, expectations, and dilemmas that come with whichever category you fall into. However, it’s important to know which category you’re in. How else will you know how to market your books?
No matter which category you find yourself in, there is a stigma from the other side that says you’re wrong. Are you a Christian writer who writes for the secular market? Some Christian writers might comment on how you’re not spreading Christ’s message, being too worldly, or promoting ungodliness.
Are you a Christian writer who writes for the Christian market? Some who write for the general market could accuse you of writing fluff with fake characters. After all, who doesn’t smoke, cuss, drink, or get divorced?
No matter which category you find yourself in, there are expectations from fellow Christians to put a salvation message into your book. If it’s not a salvation message, it should be another overt Christian moral or value. One author I know recently expressed frustration because Christian readers were complaining she hadn’t given a salvation message in her book. Fellow Christians just expected she’d do it.
Christians writing for other Christians typically face the dilemma of finding readers outside their own Christian circles. At a recent library book signing event, I dealt with the uncomfortable situation of getting snubbed for writing Christian speculative fiction. The library was hosting one hundred authors, and the place was packed. Tables lined every available space, with authors happily hawking their wares. Many of them were Christian authors. Many of them were speculative fiction authors. I was the only one whose book fit both categories.
One of the customers walked through, browsing books. He stopped at my table and picked up Vanquished, book one in my dystopian trilogy. “This looks really good,” he said. We talked for a few minutes before his eye caught my publisher’s logo at the bottom of the back cover. His face fell. “Oh,” he said. “This is Christian fiction?”
I smiled and confirmed it, and he quickly returned the book to the stack and went on his way.
As Christians, we recognize that not everyone out in the world wants to hear a Christian message. This man’s behavior wasn’t shocking—it was typical. However, even within the realm of writing for other Christians, speculative fiction writers can feel ostracized. Compared to other genres in Christian fiction, a spec fic author might feel there are less opportunities to excel in the business.
If you’re wondering how knowing your category can help you, you’ve come to the right place. How can you give yourself an edge in the business?
- Identify your intended audience. If you’re writing a book without any overt Christian message or characters you are probably writing for the general market. If you’re writing Christian books with Christian characters and a definite Christ-centered message you are probably writing for the Christian market.
- Choose the appropriate publisher for your manuscript based on your intended audience. If you’ve determined you’re writing for the general market should you be subbing to Christian publishers? If you’ve determined you’re writing Christian fiction should you be subbing to publishers within the general market?
Knowing your category can show you which publishers to study, which books to emulate, and which editors to sub to. You wouldn’t send a fantasy to Love Inspired. You wouldn’t send a romance manuscript to a children’s publisher. Don’t worry about the stigmas, expectations, or dilemmas of being in one category or another. Figure out which category you’re in, learn what those readers like, and write it. Keep in mind! These guideline are just as relevant for the self-publishing author. Knowing which readers you’re going after allows you to identify the readership for your work and narrow down your marketing efforts.
Now it’s your turn!
Which category do you see yourself in?
KATIE CLARK writes young adult speculative fiction, including her dystopian Enslaved Series, made up of Vanquished, Deliverance, and Redeemer. Her other works include multiple children’s books with Capstone Press, Bearport Publishing, and more. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.