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The Spiritually-Interested Publishing Revolution

Christian publishing may be more recognized than ever. But that doesn’t mean anyone knows how to sell to the avowed-unaffiliated, spiritually-interested audience.

In fact, there’s strong evidence a big house can’t because more readers are moving “off the grid” every day. Someone said recently that a quiet cultural revolution is underway, especially in publishing—the anti-establishment sentiment seems to be at a fever pitch amongst certain readers and growing louder by the day.

Oh, you’ve noticed? That’s good. Because whether or not CBA survives its uncertain and awkward teen years (never threatening the reach of its big brother ABA, even in a good year), the association of Christian retailers and affiliated Christian suppliers is scrambling to keep up with the morphing and fracturing that’s shifted into high gear. The addition of viable self-publishing, new indy publishers, and a welcoming general market have all but destroyed the arguments that we need more acceptance of Christian books. And while the lingering effects of the recession are preventing many publishers from risking on new authors, there has never been so much opportunity for diverse messages in this industry.

Let the good times roll!

CBA gatekeepers and storeowners can continue to keep “seeker” books out of their stores all they want. Christian publishers can be wary. But those authors and houses who want to do more seeker-friendly books have plenty of ways to reach that broader audience. Outside CBA lies the open sea of the general market and the bottomless Internet. Is viral and guerilla marketing as effective as store placement, big ads, and catalog spreads? It’s hard to argue “No,” when talking about the spiritually-interested book. Spiritual forum discussions, videos, blog tours, downloadable bonus content, interactive web interviews, and other creative promotions are generating interest and sales. Traditional live events, media coverage, reporting, and book reviews, are morphing into online content through alternative news and spiritual websites like Salon.com, Beliefnet, and book clubs. And anecdotal evidence says more people are seeing an author’s self-promotion in regional independent ABA stores more often and faster than those going through the traditional grueling channels (targeting an agent to sell to a big house, re-shaping to fit standards, and hiring a publicist to get you into chain stores while hundreds of other books arrive with yours). Maybe for the first time, the odds of success in spiritually-interested publishing are shifting toward small and independent.


By the way, we know it’s been building for several years. These readers have always been a fairly …unusual breed…okay, nerdy nonconformists. Sure, they liked believing they could be accepted in the establishment in-crowd, when it was still new. But marketing has changed all that. The big houses now feel phony and old and sad trying to target the unaffiliated. So for authors, this means the vision you construct for convincing retailers to take your spiritually-themed book will be easier to pitch as unique and desireable (and money-making) for not being mainstream. Because here’s the sound-byte of the century: aligning with big mainstream publishing—general or Christian—can be a liability to spiritually-curious readers.

Plenty of people still like the establishment, including myself. But that doesn't change the fact that these are interesting times in publishing. Any case studies? Leave a comment and we'll discuss.

4 Responses to “The Spiritually-Interested Publishing Revolution”

  1. Shana Murph says:

    Hey Mick, How does the Christian comic book/graphic novel fit into this revolution? Case in point: take my friend Jason who is writing a Christian comic that is online and interactive. He’s also looking to so a print product and/or series… http://www.myspace.com/thewaycomicbook

  2. So Mick, As someone who’s averse to self-promotion, I feel all this author-produced publicity as a burden. I’m aware that some of it is necessary, but what pieces of all that you’re talking about are the most necessary for an author to gain the attention of an audience?
    And, for those of us who are Christians, how do we reconcile the need to promote ourselves/our writing with the call to humility? They seem so antithetical to each other.

  3. Mick says:

    Shana, good question. I don’t know. But Jason’s stuff is interesting and a good example of non-mainstream projects that now have a better chance of finding an audience outside traditional channels thanks to increased public awareness of this missing middle ground. I’ll talk a little about that in my next post. Thanks!

  4. Mick says:

    Kimberlee, the great news is, it’s not about you. Were you given hands, a family, sustenence, support, education, a literary heritage, insights, a message, training, an opportunity, and resources to publish with? What did you do but arrange some words (words you also had guidance in rearranging)? Promote the work as a gift to those whose shoulders you stand upon, and in the freeing knowledge that only about 2-4% of it has anything whatsoever to do with you.

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