I'm happy I didn't draw the January 1st post. That one is normally reserved for topics like resolutions and lots of positive "this is your year!" kind of stuff. I've never been good at that. I like to call 'em like I see 'em. And to be honest, I don't see a happy 2016 in front of us.
Unless you are one of those hopelessly upbeat people that we like to plant behind the church doors to greet newcomers, you are undoubtedly witnessing, along with me, the last gasp of Christian America. The term "post-Christian America" has, in fact, been slipping into media conversation for several years now. Mind you, this has no impact on the faith of a believer. America's predominant Christian culture of the last two centuries is a bit of an anomaly. Christians throughout history have rarely held the majority opinion. And when we have, it has more often than not been a government-issue sort of Christianity with lots of laws and holy speeches, but with little substance.
So where we find ourselves in 2016 America, my friends, shouldn't be a surprise.
Depressed? Good. Now we can do our job.
History also reveals that it is the depressed, uncomfortable, persecuted Christians who are the most effective in doing the work for the kingdom of God. Falling into the unpopular category of any culture has a way of filtering out the fence-sitters, those with one foot in the world and one in the church. In such a culture, those who publicly proclaim their faith are met in one of two ways: contempt or awe.
We are looking for those awes. But we'll muck through a lot of contempt to reach them.
That long introduction was meant to bring you to the point I want to make: the onset of indie publication is equivalent to the opening of Europe and Asia by the Roman Empire. A bold statement, I understand, but hear me out.
Up until the last decade, all writers were forced to contend for the precious few open spots on the traditional publisher's shelf. We were not only contending with other Christian writers, but all writers. Yes, there are Christian publishers who uphold our banner. But let's be honest. Even at the highwater mark of Christian publishing, our books were still regulated to one corner of Barnes & Noble, under a sign that read "Religion and Spirituality." A banner suggesting that the study of any faith was nothing more than that--a study. Like studying art or science.
And even those publishers who championed our cause soon took the fiction space from us and handed it to the more profitable non-fiction authors. And even those titles rarely made it to a location in the store where they might see daylight.
Hmm...I think I've only depressed you more. Back on track, Estrada.
First, I don't want anyone to give up the pursuit of traditional publishing if that is your dream. We still need that tiny corner of B&N (or Amazon). Some seekers of the faith want to know that Christianity has been validated by large publishers. Many will turn to non-fiction for their initial inquiry, but they will soon seek the modern parables for which you, my friends, are so talented in presenting. That pre-Roman road, treacherous with borders (no pun intended) and gatekeepers, is still open for new Christian titles.
However, the open road of indie publication is an invitation to all of us to spread our message obstacle-free. It is, indeed, the Roman road. Yes, I know, you won't make enough to pay for the next cup of coffee, let alone the next conference. Not at first, anyway. Money is made through indie publication, and I'll suggest here that your odds are better than they are via the traditional route. As I look down my Christian writer buddy list, I don't see many sharing the Gospel from their private jet. If we were secular writers, we'd be concerned about this. But as Christians, we often have to remind ourselves that sharing the Gospel is a non-profit venture. We do it out of love of our Father.
The greatest royalty statement ever is "Well done, good and faithful servant."
If that's your goal, then you will welcome indie publishing the way Paul welcomed free passage through two continents without ever once having to pitch his proposal at a disciple's conference. 2016 is here and unfolding fast. One glance at 2015 will offer a preview of what we're facing. The lifestyle of pleasure, a reverence toward entertainment, and the rejection of any view that contradicts one's personal desires will only grow in the coming year. We cannot stop it. But we can snatch a few from the horrifying destiny that the majority has chosen.
We must move quickly. I don't know the day of our Lord's return, but I do hope that He arrives to the sound of millions of clattering keyboards and voices shouting to be heard above the din of corruption. Our open road awaits. Will you join me on my journey?
I would love to share the greatest royalty statement with you.
Ron Estrada is the author of the Cherry Hill YA series and regular contributor to The Novel Rocket. You can find out more about him and his books at RonEstradaBooks.com.