I sometimes hear someone speaking about CBA—the Christian Booksellers Association—as synonymous with the Christian publishing industry. CBA is an independent organization to which Christian bookstores and distributors belong. Its offices are a stone’s throw from my desk (not that I’d actually know that from experience or anything).
The Christian publishing industry is a separate entity. They’re that strange amalgam of Christian writers, editors, and publishers, most of whom are keen to challenge the current assumptions of what CBA readers will buy. The industry is not bound to sell their books in CBA member bookstores. They could (and do) sell through the ABA with some pretty cool subversive marketing.
CBA member bookstores and the corporate association discourage the practice, of course, since going outside the existing sales reps and licensing channels is wrong and sinful. (I’m just kidding, of course. Most reps and outlets realize some books aren’t meant for their markets and they don’t pretend otherwise) Some publishers are riskier than others, and some just have more ability to challenge market assumptions given their New York underpinnings and assurances that a certain amount of failure is expected in a healthy book program. I hope to bring one of these subversives here for an interview in the future. Many Christian publishers are actively seeking to take their business elsewhere. I’m speaking in generalizations purposely here because when you talk about this—what you might call a paradigm shift—it’s offensive to someone. It’s not my intent here to be offensive. That’s my other blog.
The CBA has its problems. I suppose saying this is revolutionary, but it’s not just me who thinks it. There is the fierce opposition of some in the industry who think nothing can be solved by “complaining and negativity.” Their main problem is the old difficulty of preserving the standards while keeping buyers happy. It would be nice if more CBA bookstores simply ignored the complaints of modern day Pharisees. But we can’t judge them because we don’t know the pressure they experience. Those I’ve spoken with agree that God redeems even the vilest of sinners. “There is nothing so secular that can’t be made sacred.”
If this revolution to expand the offers of CBA is right, God will make His will known to thousands of writers, editors, and publishers. We should be actively praying for it. We should also hope and pray for the bookstores and sellers. They have an unbelievably difficult role. But the revolution has started in the writers, in the hundreds I’ve met at conferences and conventions who have voiced their intention to contribute to websites and blogs all over the growling kingdom. As more of us begin telling our stories, praying, and banding together to reveal truth, expansion will happen.
If we have but one master—and it isn’t “our” ministry or “our” publishing dreams or even “our” cherished ideals of full, confrontational truth—we won’t be too wrapped up in any of this. If we are writers, we are called to write. Simply write. As much as we cherish this dream of a restored Christian literary heritage, we have to be faithful to get “seat in chair”—as Jerry likes to say. And the words we borrow will bring in the revolution and be the voice of change. We’ll build back up the former greatness we all long to see. But it won’t happen unless we apply our talents to God’s use and stop hiding them under a bushel.
Get out here Christians! You’ve got a calling to fulfill.