According to the Spring 2012 ACFW (American Christian Fiction
Writers) Journal, only 13% of its members are men. (You can find a PDF
of that edition HERE.) I tweeted that stat a while back and Richard Mabry,
then ACFW Vice President replied, “ACFW male membership has climbed each
year I’ve been involved.” Frankly, I’m not sure if I should be excited
by that or not. If 13% is a positive sign, I’m afraid to know our dismal
representation before that. Or at what rate it’s climbing.
I followed up that question with one more to the point of this post
and my ongoing concerns about our industry: “Is there an attempt to grow
that number? If not, why not? If so, how?” That’s kind of where our
exchange stalled. ACFW membership is simply reflective of the demographic tilt in the Christian fiction industry.
As a result, there is no plan to grow male membership. That didn’t keep
E. Stephen Burnett from offering a creative solution to ACFW’s Man Problem:
I’m fully aware that raising these questions is interpreted by some
as a “wanton demonization of the majority demographic.” It’s not. But as
one of that small minority of men, it doesn’t feel like the Christian publishing industry
- Sees any problem with an overwhelmingly female readership, and
- Is making any effort to reach / represent men.
Clearly, the problem is not at the ACFW level, but at the industry.
I’ve talked to lot of male Christian authors, many already published
in the CBA, about this. Our impressions are remarkably the same. For
instance, I recently spoke to a multi-published male Christian author
who, like many of us, is looking to move out of the CBA. Why? Christian publishers don’t know how to market to men.
This author described how difficult it was to get the marketing
department to understand and “hit” his target market. Publishers are so
geared to the ACFW 87%ers, that everything else must, of necessity, take
a back seat.
Because Women’s / Historical fiction is the wheelhouse of the CBA, publishing houses are now designed to crank out this product.
A new title rolls in and the marketing department just rearranges all
the typical pieces: bonnet, covered wagon, parasol, petticoat, doe-eyed
lass. Check, check, check! It’s a quick cut-and-paste affair. The
economy has forced Christian publishers into “safe mode.” So when a
horror, crime, fantasy, literary, or sci-fi novel rolls in, it’s the
equivalent of adding a muffler to an assembly line of carriages.
ACFW is no doubt reflective of the industry. Men would likely
feel more comfortable about joining the ACFW if their demographic and
genre interests were represented more in the industry in general. But would a more intentional, more effective, marketing strategy to men change anything? Until we see it, it’s hard to say.
I will continue to keep an eye on the Christian fiction industry. I will continue to read some of its books. But as a male Speculative Fiction writer, remaining in an industry that struggles to represent my genre and my demographic seems like a losing proposition. Am I wrong?
Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike’s novels include The Telling, The Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.