As a reader and writer of Christian fiction, and as the owner of a Christian bookstore, I have a few things to say. I know, I know. Those who know me are probably thinking that I always have a few things to say, and they’re mostly right. But today I want those few things to be about the Christian fiction market.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and I grew up on the likes of Christian authors such as Grace Livingston Hill, Francena Arnold, Bernard Palmer, and others like L.M. Montgomery and Carolyn Keene. The stories were good and well written, for the most part. Then came the dry years. I gave up on Christian fiction. It seemed like anyone who could slap a mediocre story together and insert a prayer or a reference to God in there somewhere could publish a book under the guise of Christian fiction. And sell a ton of them. The writing was terrible. The plots were predictable and hardly believable. The characters were flat. Yuck.
That began to change after the turn of the century. This century, by the way. Christian publishers finally started to pick up on the fact that readers were not dummy-heads who would continue to read the drivel they were churning out. Christian writers began developing their craft and giving us some really good stuff. I have so enjoyed the brilliant writing of authors like Davis Bunn, Liz Curtis Higgs, Ted Dekker, James Rubart, Francine Rivers, and many more. It seems that Christian fiction is finally coming into its own.
But here’s the thing.
As I peruse the upcoming releases for potential sales in my store, I am again seeing book after book after book filled with fluff. Bathtub books, my daughters call them, because the reading is so mindless that the book can be read in its entirety during one long bath. Who buys these books? Not my customers, that’s for sure! The sappy romances sit on the shelves for months and months, until I finally mark them down to $2.99, and even then they still don’t sell. So I don’t bring them in anymore. Readers want fiction that makes them think. They want stories that take them out of their world and into another. They want to see God working in the characters’ lives in practical and complex ways. THEY WANT GOOD WRITING!!!
So please, dear publisher, stop with the Amish romances already. And we’ve had enough of the ugly duckling turned beautiful swan when she falls in love with her boss. Oh yeah, you know those authors that are putting out three or four books a year? Take their plot and character templates (you know they’re using them because every story is the same) and burn them. Make them think up something original. They used to be able to do that back in the day when their books were actually good.
Do I sound frustrated? I kinda am. I want to give my customers something that is worth the $16.99 I charge them for a Christian novel. And I want to read something that will be worth the time I spend in those pages.
And about my writing? Oh, I’m working on a novel that is absolutely nothing like any story that’s ever been on my store’s shelves. I think it’s pretty darn awesome! It remains to be seen whether or not a publisher will see it the same way.
Okay, I’m done. For now.