Counting the Cost of Writing in the Christian Market

By Rachel Hauck

Being a Christian comes with a cost. Jesus tells us plainly that if men hated Him, they will hate us.

In Luke 14, Jesus challenges His followers to “count the cost,” summarizing with this, “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

For most of us, the cost of being a disciple is nominal. We live, so far, in a land that allows us to believe as we want, to function as Followers of Christ.

But more and more there are dividing lines. You don’t see Christian music artists delivering awards at the Grammy’s or American Music Awards. And the Inspirational awards are usually off stage not part of the main show.

As for movies, we’ve not seen the Kendrick brothers invited to present at the SAG Awards or the Oscars, or People’s Choice, and they’ve produced some of the last decades top grossing films. The War Room topped the chart the weekend it opened. 

If they were anyone or anything other than Christians, would they be invited to awards shows? On Kelly and Michael? Kelly and Michael went gaga over 50 Shades of Grey but not War Room. 

Christian fiction sometimes feels like the red headed step child in the literary world. The annoying kid who’s “there,” can’t be ignored, “But man, do we have to embrace it?”

It’s hard to watch books about sexual bondage or multiple sexual partners, etc take off, in some case, make millions, while our stories about healing, restoration and hope languish on the proverbial shelves.

Hard to read a book about a heroine who discovers her great aunt is really her grandmother while flashing back to her first sexual experience — with her step brother — only to have the story end with NO sense of hope, change or resolution to make more of her life.

Meanwhile, authors who write with a Christian world view are shelved separately in stores, discounted as preachy or worse, subpar writers.

Face it, we most likely will never get the attention of the elite literary world. 

Anyone been in People Magazine? Maybe Ted Dekker or Karen Kingsbury. And we have authors in our market worthy of a People shout out! 

How about an Oprah book club pick? Or the whole slew of NY acclaim and awards? 

Sure, there are many general market authors who get none of those things too. I get that. But when you choose to write in the Christian market, once aimed largely at now-decreasing Christian brick and mortar retailers, you’re also choosing to a much narrower path.

The acclaim is less. The money is well, less. Sales are smaller. Above all, it seems, our impact and reader reach is limited, shorter. 

If the general market author can reach 10 readers, Christian market authors can only reach, say, 5 readers.

I’m spitballing. I don’t have exact stats but my point is writing in the Christian market comes with constraints. 

We have our literary excellent authors who have done very well. I’ve mentioned Dekker and Kingsbury, but there’s Susan Meisner and Lisa Wingate who’ve crossed over to the general market and found success. 

So, why not just go general market? Why do we write in the Christian market anyway? Why is there even a Christian fiction market? 

Because we have a message. The one in which God breaks into our every day human existence and reveals Himself.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? God breaking into history as a little baby in a manger with the destiny in His bones to grow up to be the man on the Cross?

Sometimes the “general market” doesn’t want to hear our message. Even a little bit. Because it’s convicting, challenging, makes us face our own weakness and need for a Savior. 

In our market there are various levels of God content in each author’s book, and at writer’s conferences, we teach against being preachy with our God-message. But the fact our books are tagged, labeled, classified, categorized, designated, stamped and called “Christian fiction” we get “special” shelves all our own.

Our great authors have to leave the market to get the recognition and compensation they deserve. 

So why write in the Christian market? Because we feel called. Because there’s something in our hearts that can’t leave God out of our stories because we can’t leave Him out of our lives.

To authors who’ve left our market and gone to the general market, hats off to you! Let the fragrance on your words go out into the world!

2 Corinthians 2 says, “Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”

Let’s perfume the world with the fragrance of Christ! 

However, if you choose the Christian market with aspirations of acclaim, movies, large advances, guest spots on TV shows, or half the world talking about your book re 50 Shades or Hunger Games, you might be disappointed.

If you choose the Christian market because you feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to write stories that demonstrate the Love of God coming to earth, then go for it. With all your might. The awards, acclaim, sales, etc is gravy compared to doing what you’re called to do.

I think an author is worthy of all those things! I want them for myself too. But if I don’t get them, I’m okay right? I’m doing what God has called and gifted me to do!

Writing in the Christian market is like fishing in the family pond sometimes. We’re all trying to hook the same fish.

But with God as the great fisherman and rewarder of those who seek Him, we’ll all be just fine!

I’ll close with a few words from Jesus…

“Simon, push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” 
It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.”
See, there are plenty of fish in the see. What if our stories are just the net Jesus is needing to bring in a big haul of souls?
Never the less… as you pursue your writing endeavors, be sure to count the cost. 

Rachel lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

She’s the author of USA Today, EPCA and CBA best sellers, RITA and Christy nominated books. 

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Best Inspirational Novel by Romantic Times.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.
Her latest book, The Wedding Chapel, was named to Booklist Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.

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