The Revolution: Why Bother?

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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.

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3 thoughts on “The Revolution: Why Bother?”

  1. Here is my wish list, Mick!
    I would like to see more Christian books sold at the Meyers, Walmarts, etc.
    I would like to see more topics addressed that need to be addressed by Christians (instead of ignored).
    I would like to see more believable Christian characters in fiction (who confront everyday problems realistically and don’t always solve them by having some sort of epiphany event).
    I wanted to use a quote by Rod Stewart in a book I’m working on. A friend who has several Christian books published said, “CBA will never go for a Rod Stewart quote.” So, I took it out. I wasn’t endorsing him or his lifestyle. But, what he said made my Christian point. Therefore, I would like to see more Christian books unafraid to interact/relate to the culture in meaningful ways.
    What I don’t want to see though is edgy without a point. For example, the book “Jacob Have I Loved” is a 5th/6th grade secular book. It won a Newberry Award. It’s as one child reviewer called in on Amazon “smutty”. The main character has feelings/stirrings for a 70-year-old man. I have teenagers (and I was one) so I know all about raging hormones and the thoughts that can accompany them. But,it serves no purpose, I believe, to put this in a book just to be edgy/realistic unless your showing teens how to cope with these feelings. Edgy for edgies sake is not productive.

  2. i’m with mary on this one, cba cpi sound like a two-headed monster from some godzilla movie. with some crazy oriental marionette at the helm. Lord help us every one!

  3. I’m looking forward to that interview. Although I can’t explain why, I find the inner workings and history of the industry fascinating, and the promise of insight from “subversives” is so suspenseful. I have a feeling that a lot of us cherish oversimplified notions of “how things work,” in part because it is so difficult to get the straight story on how they do. So I appreciate all you’ve done here, Mick, to clarify the structure of things.