Imagine, if you will, a book. It’s a PI novel and sounds interesting enough to you. On the back there are blurbs from some well-known PI authors and maybe a couple authors you don’t recognize. The author has published a few stories in publications you recognize and even was nominated for an award or two. You scan the first few pages and it catches your interest but then you notice the publisher. It’s Tyndale, or Bethany House, or Zondervan, or any of the other Christian publishing houses. Would you still buy the book?

16 thoughts on “Noodling

  1. Considering you just had to tell me those were Christian publishing houses, I think it’s a safe bet that I wouldn’t care. The publisher doesn’t matter as long as they’re doing the best they can for you.

    And at least you’re writing a PI now…

  2. I own books published by all of those houses, but…

    It would really depend. If I had reason to believe the work might be preachy, no, I wouldn’t buy it. And in general, I’d have some degree of reluctance, because of some of the stipulations on publishing in the Christian sector. Harlequin has a ‘Christianized’ imprint with a clear list of rules for what is and is not allowed in terms of content. It isn’t so much about the rules as it is about the fact that it means a lot of the books have a far more optimistic tone. Since my reading leans dark, I’d probably overlook it. I know Frank Peretti has moved over the line with more mainstream stuff (apparently, and here his latest was shelved in the mystery section) but I haven’t been tempted yet. And in reality, I actually really enjoyed This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness at the time they were published.

    Most of the books by these publishers aren’t widely carried in chain stores here, though. If I wanted BJ Hoff or Brock and Bodie Thoene it meant usually going to a Christian bookstore.

  3. I would look to see if any of the promo quotes said “by the author of LUNCHBOX HERO” and then I would burn down the store and sow the ground with salt.


    Seriously, probably what Ray said. Unless I knew those publishers (who, like Ray, I’ve never heard of over here in Merrye Olde England) had a habit of sacrificing editorial quality in order to make sure their books followed a particular message – and the same would go for any other ‘demographic’ press, be it national, religious, political or whatever. In that case, I might think twice.

  4. I know of these publishers and I have some Zondervan refefence type books, but I don’t have any fiction by them (or the others). I was once asked to audition for a Christian mystery publisher. They publish whole series of two dozen books based on a town and set of characters that they provide. I thought I could work within their guidelines – character profiles were provided as well as a story story arc (don’t kill Mr. X or Mrs. Y). I could even write a conversion scene (plenty of criminals to choose from – not too hard to imagine one of them turning religious).

    The problem I had was with the final scene of the novel they were asking me to fill in – their synopsis had a mafia hitman man who is overpowered by a woman. Now, you might think I’m sexist when I say I could not write the scene. Oh did I leave out that he had to be armed for this final confrontation? And that she was in a wheelchair? A quadriplegic in fact. No kidding. The synopsis called for her to run into him with the wheelchair, knocking him over and the gun falling from his hand.

    I couldn’t. Lost out on $16,000. Ah well.

    Getting back to your question after that diversion. At my B&N and Borders, those particular publishing houses are separated out and placed in Christian Fiction. I just don’t shop there. A prejudice, but there you have it. When I’ve glanced at the titles and blurbs, some look very edgy, not Little House on the Prairie stuff at all (though Bethany House strikes me as that type). Demon hunters, etc. Just not my bag. Frank Peretti type stuff. I just don’t read that brand whether it’s secular or religious.

  5. I would probably never come across these books for the reason that Steven gave. If I did, it’s their political agenda that would turn me off–not their religious bent. These are the folks that elected Bush, that opposed legislation to deal with global warming, that doesn’t want health care legislation, that doesn’t want to provide teens with sex education, that would invade Iran, that believes that big business is good. These are my enemies and I would find it impossible to support them. Don’t go with them, Bryon. You”re better than this.

  6. Patti, I am swooning.

    To objectively answer the “would I buy it” question: I typically don’t look at publishers, and if I do it’s more likely to run to “No surprises there, with that godawful cover” observations, rather than an impact on the buying decision. Distribution and shelving are bigger issues. So is the presentation. If the book is being marketed as “Christian,” I will probably not be aware of it; or if I am, I will assume that “Christian” is code for “things I’m not interested in reading” (e.g. preachy, or icky in all the ways Patti outlined). And yes, I know that “Christian” need not equal “preachy” or “icky” people…but the majority of people in the US are Christian, so if the label’s being applied it’s being done to distinguish the book from the mainstream, and that doesn’t bode well. (I read books with post-apocalyptic settings, and I read books hinging on one mythology or another, but I’ve never touched the Left Behind series.)

    That said, I make exceptions. I don’t generally buy self-published books, but I have made exceptions for authors I know. Same goes for small press stuff (I read more of it than most people, but I still don’t read an awful lot of it). I’m generally more likely to seek out a book, even if it’s not easily accessible, than most of the book-buying public. (A completely unscientific statement I stand behind, if only because I don’t shop at Walmart and they sell a shitload of books.) But this hypothetical author doesn’t care about a single sale to me; he or she cares about getting this book in front of the largest possible audience, who will hopefully tell all their friends so the second book sells even better.

  7. Content. Not publisher.

    I own a copy of Josephus by Tyndale, but I’m still trying to figure out how in the hell I made it through three Left Behind books before deciding shoving icepicks in my eyes would be more efficient.

    That said, I did love the scene where Carpathia gets slugged in the mouth at the end of NICOLAE. However, I thought the series was so much better when Stephen King wrote it as THE STAND.

  8. I have to agree with the mob. Content is more important than publisher.

    That said, I would never touch a book published by Regnery, the same people who publish Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. I tend not to support brown shirts.

    And I don’t normally support anyone who wears their Christianity on his sleeve. It’s because of the political thing, as Patti said so well, not because I have anything against Christianity. In fact, I wish more Christians would read Matthew 6:6 and leave us heathens in peace.

    So, if this book was segregated into a Christian ghetto in the bookstore, I’d never see it.

  9. I agree with Patti. ….

    True. publisher doesn’t matter; content does. But if the publisher is so divisive and such a deterrent to prospective readers that it prevents would-be readers from buying the book, that’s a big problem. … I’d also be concerned about their control of content. I’d be concerned the publisher would want me to make all the villains in my book Godless “environmentally conscious” anti-war “fanatics” headquartered out of San Francisco and Berkeley with compost piles in their bakcyards. 😉

  10. I don’t look at the publisher. And when I do, it isn’t a make or break moment. To tell you the truth I have no idea what the Christian publishing house are. However, if the book was placed with other “inspirational” books, I wouldn’t even see it because I simply don’t browse that section. That being said, if the description of the book seemed to put across a “message”, I would probably put it down.

    As for the politics of a publisher, well, I read a lot of books published by HarperCollins and the thought of Rupert Murdoch hasn’t stopped me yet.

  11. Like a lot of folks, I think it’s content and not publisher.


    In the case of a publisher with a political or religious leaning, I think you’re not going to be well served. Readers might get turned off, it might get shelved in the wrong place. Worse, though, I think you’ll find yourself having to edit out scenes that you really wanted to keep.

    In short, the anal goose fisting scene in chapter 12 has got to go.

    I know, there are all those tireless hours of hands-on research, gallons of Boy Butter and traumatic beakings, but if you go with a publisher that isn’t appropriate for your content, you’re going to hit a wall. Same as if you tried to sell splatterpunk horror to Harlequin.

    Oh, and John, I tried to keep Guyot under wraps, but he gnawed through the ballgag and seduced Leather Charlie with those eyebrows of his. Your check is in the mail, minus a small fee for some new harnesses and broken bed springs.

  12. Like all these other characters, I think content is what matters, and I only recognized the name of Zondervan. And that’s only because I have a strange bible-shopping compulsion.

    Having said all that, if I were shopping a manuscript, the religious houses would not get a submission from me until I’d exhausted all of the big houses and almost all of the small presses, too.

    Of course, a religious house would never publish the foul crap I write, so it’s kinda moot.

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