I’m in a group of serious indie authors who are all writing, going through the mill of editing and publishing. All of us are debating how, exactly, one gets sales.
One of my friends said this on Facebook:
“The notion that we in the arts have often reduced Christianity to a brand is really on my mind. May I be primarily concerned with making art I believe God would like, and the human audience can come as it may.”
Then I was reading an interview with Mark Coker, of Smashwords, and he said this:
Dynamics of the Power Curve – In publishing, a few books sell well and most sell poorly. The distribution of these sales is typically referred to as a Power Curve. In the 2014 survey, we took a closer look at the sales distribution curve, shared numbers behind different rankings, and explored how authors can use the power curve to inform their decisions. The nature of curve underscores the importance of the rest of our 2014 Smashwords Survey findings.
The survey details things like price points and book length (people want their fiction about the same price as a loaf of bread, and they want it long–300 pages or more–and they want it in a series).
Which got me thinking. How can we serve God with our writing if nobody reads it? Sure, we can write whatever we want and languish in obscurity–or we can study the market and climb that Power Curve, get our books out there, and possibly get a few people thinking.
(I’m not personally writing Christian fiction, but I’m all for countering the negative messages out there with positive ones–and good writing!)
One thing I think we writers get hung up on is the book we’re writing now. We forget that in the years ahead, we will write lots of different books. Did you know that George R. R. Martin started writing Game of Thrones in the 1970s? It took 40 years for it to take off. This is a really, really long game.
I think we can totally serve God by writing the very best book we can. And then writing another one. And another one. But they have to be books that people want to read, otherwise, what’s the use of bothering with publication?
Edit: My friend clarified her point:
To be clear, this statement doesn’t mean to me that I don’t care whether I have a human audience–I certainly write to be read. However, what I will not do is write in a formula that is prescribed by the Christian Publishing Industry so that my books can wear the Christian Sticker on their covers. I believe that if we write things that are beautiful and honest, and can’t help to point to God’s nature because of he way he indwells us, that there will be readers. Both inside the church ranks and outside.
In the end, I want my stories to be both powerful on a gut level and entertain. And when I stand before the throne, I want to be able to lay them at God’s feet and say, “I made these the best I could because I believe any shred of talent I have is from you.”
In the meantime, may the life people discover of the author behind those books be the tool of witness.
Which I heartily agree with. It’s no fun writing under the umbrella of the Christian publishers–the list of things you can’t do is miles long (one publisher memorably banned the use of “For Pete’s sake”, for Pete’s sake).