All readers of this blog may not be writing for the CBA market and others may be contemplating writing for the general market when they’ve been in the CBA market for a while.
I thought it would be interesting to get the opinion of an author who changed from the Christian market to the general market and what her reasons were for doing so. She brought along two other friends to share their insight as well.
Welcome back, Charise!
Last year, I began to write my first non-Christian marketplace fiction project. It was a kind of one-off idea that I just wanted to try. It was a serial. It was historical fiction; I normally write contemporary. And it was for the general market. It started as a sort of experiment while I plotted my next contemporary novel for the CBA market (as were my first two).
But then something happened. I loved the freedom. The internal editor that kept me from writing what my characters really felt, thought, did and said was silent. And it all felt better. It read better. Frankly, it was better. And I decided I would no longer write with a CBA editor— or CBA reader— in mind.
Instead of being a Christian writer of fiction primarily for Christian readers, I am a writer who is a Christian. It now feels as I am writing with more truth than less; and the struggle with being “Christian enough” is over.
I know two other writers who have made this same switch: Katherine Bolger Hyde and Wendy Paine Miller.
Charise: What made you decide to move toward the general market from the Christian reader market?
Katherine: Even with an agent who believed in my work, I was not able to sell a novel to a CBA publisher. I had the choice of adapting my writing to that market or moving to a different market. Because I felt the adaptations being asked of me would have compromised the artistic integrity of my work, I chose to move.
Wendy: I’ve been honored to be invited to dozens of book clubs, and as I joined in the discussions, it became abundantly clear to me that Christians weren’t the only ones reading and enjoying my books. That was the strongest reason for me. But there’s more. My stories touch upon emotions and depth that reach beyond the Christian market—that are not exclusive to the CBA. When I write I don’t set out to work the gospel into my story arc or I don’t purposefully include a hopeful message. I just follow the story. I trust my faith enough to let it lead where it will.
Charise: I love that, Wendy, “I just follow the story. I trust my faith enough to lead where it will.” I felt the general market would let me be as dark as I needed to be in order to then show how much more blinding the light was when it broke through. And like Katherine, I was not selling in CBA nor entirely comfortable with the editorial limits.
What was the response from your writing network to that decision?
Katherine: My network was mostly supportive—probably because it was pretty obvious to anyone who read my work that it didn’t belong in CBA!
Wendy: So far, so good. As with any change, some have embraced it…
Charise: I think some were surprised and probably a few were relieved. Though I have had longer conversations than I expected about the new content and my choices.
What have been the greatest challenges?
Katherine: Honestly? Almost the minute I made the move, most of my challenges disappeared! The first novel I wrote deliberately for the general market sold to the first agent and the first editor who looked at it. I also got a better advance than I could have hoped for in CBA.
Wendy: Sometimes I feel like I’m straddling an invisible fence. Or quite frankly, I feel too Christian for the ABA market and not Christian enough for the CBA. It’s a strange place to be but more and more I’m feeling I’m on this exact road for a reason.
Charise: Katherine, that is a powerful affirmation! For me, the challenge has been to “sit out” on certain events and conversations because my stories will not fit in with CBA-oriented material. I’m still friends, of course, but there have been challenges.
What have been the rewards?
Katherine: I feel much more free to write what and how I am naturally inclined to do. I found CBA limiting not only in its evangelical worldview (which does not match my Orthodox Christian worldview) but also in its mission-driven approach to fiction. I see fiction as an art form; CBA seems to view it as a tool for evangelism, which can be crippling artistically. As a bonus, I’ve been fortunate enough to land with a publisher who doesn’t object to a little subtle spiritual content in their books.
Wendy: Understanding who I am as an author and establishing a grounded sense of what I want to write. Also, a wider reach. I’m a huge fan of engaging in enriching conversations and this happens at book clubs. When the topic of faith comes up doors open. It’s natural. There’s no budging involved. I learned to trust my voice, to filter through all the ideas of where I thought I’d be and who I thought I was becoming. I took risks. I paid attention, then did things that didn’t feel as safe but ultimately helped me to become a more authentic author.
Charise: I really just want to say “ditto” to Katherine and Wendy’s comments. Having readers who never would have found me in CBA contact me to say “that’s just how I felt!” The rewards have been to be able tell the story the way I believed it was meant to be told.
Anything else to add on the subject?
Katherine: I have to thank all the people I met in the Christian fiction world for their kindness, generosity, and support. I made many friends there who still put up with me now that I’ve left. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to leap out into the general market if I hadn’t built up my confidence through several years in CBA.
Wendy: I’ll always come alongside other authors no matter who their audience is. This is a crazy calling. And we’d all benefit from doling out more support.
Charise: It can be a hard change, but if it’s the right change for your story and your career and your readers— then it’s the right change to make.
How did you choose your reading market?
Have you changed markets? How did it go?
Have you considered doing so? What’s holding you back?
Katherine Hyde is an editor by day and a mystery writer by night. Arsenic with Austen, the first in her mystery series, Crime With the Classics, will launch in 2016. Find out more about Katherine at http://kbhyde.com
Wendy Paine Miller writes women’s fiction and suspense. Her latest release is The Delicate Nature of Love. Meet Wendy and her books at http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com
Charise Olson writes historical fiction under the pen name Leo Colson. The first episode in her serial The Roaring Redwoods is free! For more details and her blog visithttp://chariseolson.com