The end of a genre

Last week, Tammy Boehm and I went to Maranatha Christian Writers Conference—and we had a grand time. Granted, if you put Tammy and me in a room together, we’re pretty much guaranteed to have a grand time, no matter what. But the conference really was a lot of fun.

I shared something on my personal blog yesterday (check out Too Many Books to Count), and honestly, I could think of nothing better to share here than the same thing I talked about there. So, at the risk of sounding redundant…

 

From Too Many Books to Count

Last week, I went to Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference, up in Michigan (yes, I’m still adjusting to being back in my own time zone… don’t judge me). Tammy, RAD’s other associate editor, and I spent nearly a week together in the lovely, mildly chilly air of Muskegon, to get our read on. And boy, did we learn a lot.

But there’s one thing I took away from the conference, a confirmation of sorts, which I thought would be the best thing to tell you all about. You’ll see the effects of the conference on us for a long time, don’t you worry.

Going Rogue

Dave Lambert, in his keynote presentation, talked about Christian Fiction from a marketing standpoint—and he mentioned something that you should certainly know, especially if you’re wanting to write in this genre.

Christian Fiction is dying.

Yeah, that’s the blunt way of putting it, but that makes it no less true. In fact, that’s probably the easiest and best way to put it. Simply stated, Christian Fiction is on its last legs. Most Christian publishing houses have already cut this department entirely. They’re no longer releasing titles in this genre, no longer marketing them, no longer doing anything with them at all.

But what does that have to do with us?

Well, that depends on what you want to write.

A lot of Christian writers feel that since they’re Christian, they must write to fill that Christian niche, to write words that other believers will readily eat up and pass on to the next eager reader. But the thing is, Christian readers are a fairly small and narrow audience. In fact, Lambert mentioned that most Christian publishers see elderly white women of Baptist orientation as their primary target market. How many of those women do you suppose like to read in your subgenre of Christian Fiction?

That’s why it’s dying.

Christian Fiction, in and of itself, is a genre. Everything that exists within it is a subgenre. So, let’s say you write Christian Science Fiction (or, heaven forbid, Christian Horror). Well, that means that you’ve narrowed your audience from General Market to Christian Fiction, and from Christian Fiction to Christian Science Fiction. That’s an extremely small range of people.

That’s why Christian Fiction is dying.

It’s incredibly hard to market to, and at a point we have to ask ourselves if it’s even worth it. Why should we be writing to a Christian market, when General Market is just sitting there, calling our names? Why do we have to narrow our audience only to those who believe the same as us, when many of our books have little if anything to do with our faith, but are really just good, clean fiction?

The answer is that General Market is where we ought to be.

For me, it was a confirmation of something I’m already doing. Yes, I’m a Christian. You all know that. My faith is extremely important to me. But I don’t write to my faith. I write for people: all people. Just like I can pick up something by Card and enjoy it, despite what he may or may not believe, I hope that people will pick up my books and enjoy them for what they are—not critique them for what they are not, which is often what happens in the Christian Fiction genre.

So, if you’re a writer and you’re debating what audience you want to market to, consider this. Consider who your book will reach, and who you want it to reach. But remember that if your book is highly spiritual, yes, it should be categorized as Christian. If not, however, come and join me.

General Market is ready and waiting for you.

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.

p.s. Oh yeah, and guess who specializes in good, clean fiction? ;-)