Thursday, November 12, 2015


If you could change . . .
by Nicole Petrino-Salter

I’ve asked several professionals in publishing from authors to editors about “changing” Christian Fiction. If you could change one thing – or a few things – what would it/they be?

It’s not a trick question. It’s not designed to put authors on the spot for publishing repercussions from their publishers – or to entice complaints from readers.

It’s simple, honest. What would you change about Christian Fiction?

Since no doubt some of you will have no complaints or concerns, I will give you mine.

First of all, I would change the focus of genres. Offering three dominant genres (i.e. Amish, historical romance, romance) eliminates a wide audience. If you really want to amplify your reading audience, you will expand the focus to many genres even if it means eliminating some of the production of the predominant genres. Even if it means you only do one novel a year in a rogue genre such as sci-fi or fantasy.

Secondly, be more flexible and less sanitized. This does not mean adding a bunch of cuss words and explicit sex scenes to the repertoire. It means, while keeping the same menu for those readers who gasp or complain at the use of “hell” or “damn” in the conversations of characters, who blanch at slang terms such as “boobs” or “slut”, add those books which present a more authentic picture of the world in general while keeping the faith message clear – even if you have to make a separate imprint to accommodate these books.

Third, I don’t know what department in publishing must be pared down or eliminated to do this, but the fiction marketing and publicity needs to be amped. Just because authors can write a story does not mean they can market what they write. The two parts are not necessarily simpatico. Of all the avenues in publishing, promoting fiction has to be one of the toughest. It needs people with vision to reach specific audiences to suit the particular novels. Generic promotion doesn’t work. In fact, it fails. Those educated in marketing/promotion should be recruited, discovered, hired, and used based on their understanding of novels and novelists.

Fourth, I don’t know who the culprits are in the process but there are more copy-editing mistakes in recent books and ebooks than can sometimes be counted. It’s unprofessional, distracting for readers, embarrassing for authors.

Number five, give the author a break. A bigger piece of the pie. If you do a combo print and e-book, give them more of a cut for the e-book sales. Isn’t that the right thing to do?

Okay. You might agree or disagree. Perhaps you have changes of your own you’d like to see. If so, let’s hear ‘em.     

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. You can visit her here most days.
Nicole Petrino-Salter 


Iola Goulton said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

I'd add to #1 that I'd like to see more variation even within the romance and romantic suspense genre - new locations and cultures, for example.

And I'd like to see more Christian novels that actually have Christian characters facing challenges around their life and faith. I've read too many over the last couple of years where the faith elements were so light, the only difference from a general market novel was the lack of sex and swearing. There's more to being a Christian than that!

Nicole said...

Bravo, lola! So agree. And there certainly is more to being a Christian - we fail, we succeed, we obey, and we don't. Thank you for this.

Tim George said...

I asked a young Navy fight student a question along this very line. He is a 21 yr old sold out believer who reads fiction like a machine. He is also from Colorado Springs,an Evangelical island of faith in a state that is far from Christian. When I asked him if he had ever read Christian fiction he replied, "Oh you mean those stories that read like Little House on the Prairie? Not for me."

There are many men who read but as you have observed most of those live and work in a world very different than Amish Pennsylvania. But the real problem is not that there are no good novels that appeal to male writers. They have to deal with an industry that has decided to try and force them into its mold. A young man who flies jets, cave dives for a hobby, and hangs out with mostly unbelievers will not and should not be limited to a mold that doesn't reflect the world he lives in.

Nicole said...

Excellent, Tim. Exactly. And although you and I might know how to mine those novels from the mass of other Christian novels, a young man such as this one has not the time nor the desire to have to dig deep for them. Great points. We keep hoping somebody's listening. Thank you, Tim.

Tessa Emily Hall said...

Interesting post! I also know several people who aren't interested in reading Christian fiction, including Christians themselves. If there were more books in the CBA market that portrayed an authentic story without preaching, I wonder if we could reach more readers -- including non-believers.

Thanks for sharing this!

Tessa Emily Hall

Nicole said...

Tessa, thanks for your thoughtful comment. There are some truly amazing writers in Christian Fiction. Talented, noteworthy. However, some of them who write the more authentic literature are a bit harder to find. The "preachy" thing depends on who's reading, don't you think? Some unbelievers bristle at the mention of a character praying. Some "Christian" novels (as lola pointed out) barely mention a passing glance at prayer or God so there's nothing there to "preach". I've had unbelievers read a couple of my novels, and although they mentioned that parts of the stories were a bit "didactic" for them, in my case they aren't my target audience although I'm grateful for them taking a chance on a "Christian" novel. The gospel will be included in some capacity in my books because it's at the core of life decisions. However, I include the raw side of people's conditions, circumstances, problems too. For contrast. Of course it's up to each author how they choose to write. For Christians it's between them and the Lord.

Thanks again, Tessa.

Heidi McCahan said...

Great post, Nicole. I give each point you listed a hearty 'Amen!'. As both a voracious reader and a somewhat new author of Christian fiction, I'd like to see more stories featuring characters struggling with real-life issues within the context of a Christian world view. Let's see relatable struggles and heroes and heroines wrestling with the gritty, messy side of life. Let's be less concerned about 'offending' a highly conservative and often judgmental audience and more focused on writing great books that appeal to a wider audience.

Nicole said...

Well said, Heidi. A Christian's walk does not depend on the opinion of others. It's direct communication with the living God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The "offended" card is way out of control. Nobody forces anyone to sample a book. The terrible retail policy at most Christian bookstores (those that remain) will refund in full the purchase price of books returned because of being "offended".

I would like to say I realize that the way my stories are written would/might offend some of the Christian readers you refer to (definitely not my intent but I'm not forfeiting the integrity of the stories I write to avoid risk of "offending").

It's important to note here that Christians as the Body of Christ are "highly conservative" in the comparison to the world/secular humanism. However, this doesn't exclude us from depicting the world and the struggles of people of faith accurately and realistically. And, as you stated, it doesn't deserve to have our Christianity challenged or under suspicion - especially in a public forum.

Thank you, Heidi, for your thoughtful comment.