Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another CBA Publisher Gets Purchased By an ABA Company


The CBA (Christian Book Distributors) is an acronym largely used to reference Christian publishing or the Christian marketplace. The ABA (American Booksellers Association) is its general, or secular, counterpart. Recently it was announced that Harper Collins (a secular company) has purchased Thomas Nelson Publishing (a CBA company).  Harper Collins also owns Zondervan, another CBA publisher.

So what does this mean for Christian authors who want to publish in the CBA or the Christian marketplace?

No one is quite sure yet. But it does mean that the content coming out of Thomas Nelson in the future will have to be approved by higher-ups who may or may not find a Christian worldview and the Christian message favorable.

My agent, Steve Laube, has posts on his blog about it, from today and yesterday. CLICK HERE TO READ IT

Could this be an end to Christian fiction as we know it? Perhaps. If the demand is not there. Christian readers don't realize that when they share books or buy them at resale shops they are doing a disservice to Christian authors. I understand that readers want to be good stewards of their money, but if we're going to get serious about standing strong in the end times, we need to support Christian authors -- and other Christian talent.

How many of you have seen the movie Courageous? What about the movie Fireproof? If you have only borrowed the DVDs (or you're waiting to borrow them) from your church library, you're not doing Christian artists any favors.

I personally think most Christians are CHEAP. There I said it. Stone me. But it's so true. Many good Christian folks would rather beg and borrow than buy. This does our Christian publishing industry no good.

If our aim is to get Christ's message of love and redemption out in the form of fiction, we have to cultivate readers. But readers need to do their part too. They need to buy our books! And we, as authors, have a daunting job: We have to write books that readers want to buy!

But that in itself poses another set of issues.

Have you heard of the book Heaven is For Real?  It's published by Thomas Nelson. Readers, both Christian and secular, are grabbing it off of store shelves. What do you think is the reason for it? I haven't read it, but I wonder if the Christian message has been watered down to a feel good story rather than the truth of our sin, which sent Jesus Christ to the cross.

Will the Christian message be watered down in the future, so publishers can sell, sell, sell and make money, money, money?

What do you think?


Linda Rios Brook said...

Good for you about borrowing books instead of buying them. Serious writing is a full time job. Authors cannot afford to make writing their main focus unless books sell. Borrowing book may save the reader $12 but it costs the author much more.

Jillian Kent said...

Hi Andrea,
I think it's good to hash this stuff out. I was surprised by the announcement but we probably shouldn't be that surprised. The world of publishing is changing so much. My thought is that Harper Collins is really smart. They see how well Christian Fiction is doing and they want in and they want the profits. I don't think they will want to change the message if they're smart and I think they are. Of course I don't know, just my first thoughts.

Ahem. I don't think most Christian readers are cheap. I think all of us in this economy are looking for ways to make ends meet. It's a tough time. Maybe our message and our stories will help soothe readers frayed nerves. I hope so anyway.

I'm going to look on the bright side and think of this as an opportunity to grow Christian Fiction.

Think Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,(Harper Collins bought TN), courage to change the things I can,(write great stories!), and the wisdom to know the difference. (Work hard in your little corner of the world with God's guidance.)

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Linda, thanks for your comment. And, Jilli, I want to think positive but in 16 years of publishing I've seen a lot of disappointing things happen to my friends too. But, ultimately, God is in control!! We can trust Him with our careers.

Mike Dellosso said...

Andrea, first, I hear your frustrataion and applaud your honesty. It takes guts to call your readership cheap :) I feel that twinge of frustration, too, when a reader tells me she bought my book, loved it, and is now lending it out to everyone she knows. I want to say, "No, let them buy their own copy," but hold my tongue. I'm glad they're reading it and can only hope they'll buy my other books. It's just how it is and we're not going to change that.

As to how this merger will affect Christian publishing as a whole, we can't know that yet and must wait and see. In the meantime I'll do what I've always done, write the best darn story I can and be the vessel God wants me to be, one He can use.

Deborah Moss said...

Great post, Andrea! I share one book by an author with a friend, giving her the other titles in the series or by that particular author, and then I tell her where she can purchase the books. And one other thought comes to mind: what are the beliefs of the editors and others who will be working on the books at the secular publishers? Do they share the Christian beliefs of the author? To me, that is VERY important!

Debbie Marrie said...

Great thoughts, Andrea. We were just saying yesterday that in light of the Thomas Nelson acquisition, we need to start pointing out to people that Charisma House is one of the few Christian book publishers that is still owned by Christians. Not all readers will consider this difference before buying books, but I believe this distinction will matter in a big way to many Christian authors.

Greg Mitchell said...

I haven't quite sorted out my feelings on the buy-out. I guess I've adopted a "wait and see" approach. Obviously, "Christian Fiction" has got to be making money, otherwise a company like HarperCollins wouldn't want it. Whether they're Christians or not, I think they'll have enough business sense to sort of let it govern itself and butt out--just so long as they get a cut of the profits at the end of the day. I could be wrong, obviously, but I don't think they've acquired a Christian publisher with the purpose of de-Christianizing it.

As far as lending books goes, this practice is just part of it. I'm sure people were lending out books for as long as there have been books. The industry has survived in spite of it--or maybe because of it. Like it's been said here, it can be a great way to hook readers. But then, I have no aspirations of getting to place where I can pay all my bills by my writing, so I guess I'm way more blase about that kind of thing :p

Martha W. Rogers said...

It's good to read all the comments and thoughts of others. I haven't been in the business long enough to really know what goes on, but if we think positively and let God do His work, we should come out ahead.
I'd much rather see people buy my books, but I do lend my copies to certain ones I know can't really get out to buy their own or can't afford to do so. I consider it a ministry, and will sometimes give them one of my own books and personally autograph it for them.
I'm going to continue to work hard at my craft and let God take care of His business, but I do plan to keep up to date.

Bruce Hennigan said...

Maybe I shouldn't say this but I'm telling my readers to go buy my book on Kindle or Nook. It's a lot harder to let people borrow ebooks although I know it can be done.
I'm not sure what to think about the buy out, either. I am concerned about a secular company bowing to PC pressure and trying to scale back the "Christianese" in our Christian fiction. But, the one thing we do have on our side is money. If it sales, maybe they won't mess with the formula.
We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am gad to be a part of Charisma House. Debbie Marie, don't let anybody buy you guys out!!!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I agree that thing are changing in ways that sometimes don't feel comfortable to us. I like for my books to sell a lot, but I don't mind a reader sharing with a friend who can't afford the book. The same way, I like to encourage libraries.

A reader fan base is built that way, and often those readers who first borrow a book will soon be one who wants to have all your books in their own private library.

I encourage ebooks as well. However we can get our books into the hands of readers has merit. An unread book can't touch anyone's heart or life.

I'm thankful for all those at Charisma Media who are working so hard to promote my books. I can't do anything less. Of course, it takes a lot of time away from my writing. But if we don't catch readers' attention with the first book, it will be harder to catch them the second time around.