Thinking Out Loud

December 17, 2013

What Christian Publishers Want: It’s Not Great Writing

Christian publisher query form“I can say without reservation that the bigger the platform the less the author has to say…”
~Scot McKnight

At the blog Jesus Creed yesterday, Scot McKnight posted a sample form that one publishing imprint uses to respond to author queries. WARNING: It’s got nothing to do with anything the author may feel led to say in print. It’s not what you know, it’s who knows you. It’s all about trivialities like Facebook friends and Twitter followers. FURTHER WARNING: If you’re already disillusioned with the Christian publishing industry, this story won’t help. 

Scot McKnight is highly respected and widely read, so it’s not surprising some high profile people — some authors themselves — chimed in on this one:  

Skye Jethani: I had a conversation with a publisher recently about these problems. He shamefully admitted that in today’s Christian publishing world a Eugene Peterson would never get published. Another literary agent said it’s much easier to get talented writers published by non-Christian publishing houses–they’re less beholden to celebrity and platform. Arg! I suppose it’s not worth fighting. In a few years we’ll all be serving one master anyway–Amazon.

Karen Zacharias: We are a celebrity-driven culture which is why platforms matter. Not for content, but for economic value. It’s a business. Many of my author friends have quit the business in the past couple of years, as their work and merit has been devalued by the digital era. Not that being an author was ever a money-making venture, but it’s even less so for mid-list authors than ever before. There are days when I think I will quit and go get that job at Dairy Queen after all. 

Dan Kimball (tongue in cheek): When looking at this form, there is a very obvious mis-focused attention to the questions being asked. They should be including ones like: “If you were on a deserted island for a year and had to listen to only one kind of music the entire time, would you listen to rap (with clean lyrics) or contemporary country western?” “How many times have you seen the David Lynch movie Eraserhead?” “Please provide a list of concerts you have seen the past 18 months?” “What hair gel do you use and please provide a short paragraph listing the specific reasons why you choose that hair gel over another?” If they would only ask these questions, then it would show they are critically thinking about what they are publishing. I hope there is change, it can happen. 

Basically, with the release of this form, the Christian publishing establishment has been caught red-handed.

Click to read: Platform and Publishing

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1 Comment »

  1. Being hard at work on something that I hope might someday be worthy of publication, this is pretty discouraging. No literary agent, no twitter feed, no facebook likes, no megachurch and no pithy statement of faith. Sigh.

    Comment by Bill — December 18, 2013 @ 6:48 am


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