A poster asked the question below on AbsoluteWrite.com.

How is a Christian Writer's conference different from a regular writers conference?

I thought it was a good question so I responded.

Christian Writer's Conferences are usually run about the same as those that don't actually call themselves "Christian" Writer's conferences (where a writer who is a Christian will actually fare better IMO!)

The MAIN distinguishing feature is this; most of the editors, agents and publishers, I dare say nearly 75% of them if not more, are affiliated with CBA/ECPA.

Why should that matter?

Because the Christian Booksellers Association and the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association are a niche market inside the Christian Publishing Industry as a whole. They have conservative evangelical content guidelines that are difficult to write inside of. Their guidelines are so conservative that the president of the ECPA once stated that some of their own members couldn't comply!

Writers who are Christians and write Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror(yes, this does exist) are often rejected hands down by ALL of the CBA/ECPA affiliated publishers, editors and agents because this type story doesn't fit the niche. Sadly, most never tell you why you're being rejected and seem content to let you think they're not a niche market.

Bascially, just do your homework. If you're going to a conference to pitch to an agent and you can manage to get some CBA/ECPA affiliated publisher to actually tell you what they will and won't accept AND you determine this is the kind of writing you want to do, then go for it! Picking up books written by CBA/ECPA affiliated authors will give you an idea if the publishers you talk to don't.

If you're simply going to glean some writing techniques and what not, you might do well. Just know that if the speaker is a CBA/ECPA affiliated publisher, author or editor the writing tips will be weighted in that direction.

I think it should be standard practice for a Writer's Conference to post information that let's authors know when over 75% of the editors, publishers and agents represented are from a niche market. CBA/ECPA is a very restrictive niche market. Where is the balance?

Where are the editors, publishers and agents from the rest of the Christian Publishing Industry?

The arguement that they might not exist doesn't justify not letting everyone know that the ones at your conference are mainly from a niche market.

Would every romance writer in the world got to a writer's conference put on by Harlequin?

Only if they knew they liked the kind of books this niche market put out.
Everyone knows Harlequin is a niche market. Very, very, very, few know that CBA/ECPA is a niche and even fewer know their guidelines.


Sheaf House and Marcher Lord Press

(When it rains blogs it pours!) - (Also, I acciDENTally posted this on Frank's blog too) oops!

That's right! In order to keep authors informed I now present you with two publishers which aren't exactly new.

Sheaf House as been around for a while as an e-book publisher but has in the past few years moved on into print. MLP(Marcher Lord Press) is new but Jeff Gerke is not. He's been around for a while working as an editor for several CBA affiliated publishers!

These two publishers seem to be operating the same way. They deny being traditional publishers and they admit to be filling gaps in Christian Publishing. I won't get into why the gaps are there, that's an entirely different issue. :)

So what's important to know about these two new efforts?

Glad you asked.

* They aren't affiliated with the Christian Booksellers Association.

* They both say they are not traditional publishers

Why is this important? Because if you're looking for a traditional publisher, this is not the route you want.

What makes a publisher tradtional?

Three very important things.

1. They pay an advance.

2. They pay STANDARD royalties. (There actually is a rule of thumb.)

3. They have a distributor who utilizes Baker & Taylor or Ingram in their wholesale capacity or they use Baker & Taylor or Ingram as their distributor.

Why are traditional publishers sought after?

* They CAN, with their set-up, give you the absolute best chance to get in the bookstores. (except for CBA affiliated bookstores as they primarily only take books by publishers affilated with the CBA/ECPA.)

*They CAN, with their distributor, ensure that your book will get the best chance it has to sell.
But most people aren't patient enough to go this route and it's understandable.

That's when publishers like Sheaf House and MLP step in. Just keep in mind, while they can get you sales on-line, they do not offer you the BEST chance at getting in a bookstore, CBA affiliated or otherwise. They don't have the level of distributorship to do this. Publishers who operate as these two do, often de-emphasize the importance of this but they are no substitute for a traditional publisher if that's what you're looking for.

I myself find Sheaf House particularly interesting because they claim to want to support speculative fiction. I would like to put one word out about that. I've seen their company as recently as today described as an CBA/ABA publisher.

First off, they are not a CBA affiliated publisher and secondly their is no such thing as an ABA publisher.

I'm not sure what the accurate name for their type of publishing is, perhaps small press but neither Sheaf House or MLP fit the criteria to call themselves traditional. Good thing is, neither one of them do. That, IMO, is what makes them a class act! :)

They are an alternative to traditional publishing but they can't offer you what traditional publishers can. And traditional publishers are not all bad. In fact, very few of them are.Here is the about me page to both publishers.

Notice that since both of these houses tend to cator to the Christian Publishing Industry they both use the terms CBA and ABA to talk about markets and publishers. This won't really be significant to anyone reading but it should be. CBA is a niche market of the Christian Publishing Industry and ABA isn't a market at all.

Links to these two publishers follow:



Another interesting thing about Sheaf House is that they just published Michelle Sutton a fine reviewer and an upstanding member of the ACFW!
Wonder if her book will be eligible for BOTY?
Hmmmmmm . . .

The Hound, the Lamp Post and the Seabird

Hi! I'm Sherry Thompson. I joined LGG just a few weeks ago, so this time I'll just introduce myself and describe how I started writing.

The Hound, the Lamp Post and the Seabird

In midsummer 1970, I was a discontented psychology grad student, halfway between a messy break-up with a long-term boyfriend and a semester in which I would take physiology with no biology since high school while teaching psych statistics. During the day, I worked fulltime at the university library and tried to make sense of the physiology text. I spent my nights fending off the Hound.

The Hound of Heaven was after me though, prodding me to make a decision about what I really believed. Glenn and I had both been agnostics. I had been exposed to Christian teachings via Sunday School from about 3rd to 9th grade and then virtually nothing. For a long time, my only response to the prodding was in bookstores where I picked up books with religious-sounding titles while on the eternal hunt for fantasy books. I had read The Hobbit years ago when I was a freshman and followed it with The Lord of the Rings. Glenn didn’t care much for fantasy and I was extremely busy, so I let my new interest drop until that summer.

Back in 1970, there was little fantasy to be had in spite of the popularity of Tolkien’s work. Lin Carter at Ballantine had reprinted a line of old titles by Lord Dunsany and Mervyn Peake. I found Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus in the university library. There was C. S .Lewis but, you see, Lewis was Christian and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into that whole “mess” of making decisions about things that might change my life.

I reached the point where I really had no other fantasy to choose from in our local bookstore, so I picked up all seven volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. (I hate having broken sets.) When I was checking out, either the cashier or a customer suggested that I begin with The Magician’s Nephew because that way I would be reading the books in chronological order. I read The Magician’s Nephew that night and was captivated by the idea of a lion singing a world into existence and by a world so bursting with life that a fragment of a lamp post buried in its soil sprang to life. A week later, I went to an evening meeting on campus and accepted Christ as my savior.

Over the following years, I read everything I could find by Lewis and followed that with everything I could find by the other Inkling, Charles Williams. I searched repeatedly for fantasy books I had missed earlier and I found a few from time to time but Tolkien was just beginning to have an impact on the publishing world and I lived in a small town with a small bookstore. Plus, this was the 1970’s B.A. (Before Amazon)

Eventually, I decided to write a fantasy story. I had written a bit before, many years earlier and mostly time travel stuff, but this would be my first attempt at an actual novel. The first step would be to “become organized” and make a list of everything that my novel should have in it.

The Daydream Novel List went rather like this:

a heroine (who would actually be me),
no elves or dragons (maybe for fear of competing with Tolkien?),
wizards, but not like Tolkien’s;
a jump from one world to another (based partially on Narnia but running back to my childhood daydreams of time travel),
the heroine would not instantly cooperate about her visit or her role (aside from Eustace, everyone visiting Narnia seemed to just follow along);
an artifact, for two reasons—1. to be mysterious here on Earth and 2. at the end to be proof that it had all been real (I disliked the insinuation that Dorothy had envisioned Oz while delirious);
heroes who rode horses and carried weapons (a leftover from my early exposure to TV serial westerns;
a really –different- setting,
a sequel with overlapping characters.

I didn’t begin with an story outline—I hated making outlines—but just plunged in with Cara finding the as yet unidentified “artifact”. Each day, my novel grew by approximately eight sheets in my 8x5 spiral notebook. Sorry about the culture shock! This was before personal computers. I had a typewriter but I couldn’t carry it around so I opted for the notebook.

After a while, perhaps a week or two, my inspiration dried up. I had taken enough English courses to realize that I didn’t know what my characters wanted or where I was heading with my plot. Plot? What plot? My list of Stuph was all on the surface. What was going on inside? Staring at the wall established the fact that the wall had cracks and the room needed painting.

Since I was still something of a new Christian, it took a while for the penny to drop and for me to pray for guidance. I asked for help and promptly went into wool-gathering mode

What did I want? What had I been looking for at the bookstore? What had I wanted when I finished The Lord of the Rings? God wanted my salvation. I wanted another good story, not necessarily LotR II but a complex fantasy world with people I could relate to. I positively –loved- The Chronicles of Narnia but technically Lewis had written it for children. What a shame he hadn’t held off on The Last Battle and written more stories bringing in older protagonists from Earth…


I “checked in” to see if I were on the right track, and felt I had the go-ahead. Along with it, came a flood of “new ideas”, which I should have considered critical from the beginning.

The Duh List.
The new list of necessary story elements included:

an actual reason for the protagonist’s presence on this other world (aka plot);
a varied cast of characters whom I must get to know intimately;
an agnostic teen or one struggling with doubts about his or her faith;
mistakes leading to regret and feelings of guilt; eventual reconciliation;
a world just as loved and saved by God as ours and Narnia—but in a different way; with a new representation for the Second Person of the Trinity;
the awe and delight of knowing God, shown as Lewis did it. Doing this meant a lot to me. In fact, this had become nearly the whole point of the exercise;
a deeply embedded yet subtle pattern in the setting and culture showing how this world’s reconciliation with God became possible.

And then a biggie, right out of the blue: An alternate history of the church beginning after the Incarnation, Christ’s Sacrifice and His return to Heaven where the abundant miracles of the Early Church would alter over time as needs changed. Enchanters would be called to wield these miraculous powers, each as granted from God. To the casual observer (or reader) it will look like magic but it wouldn’t be.

All of this subtly hidden in plain sight so as not to spook the person I used to be. No question: I was writing for all the other doubting or agnostic fantasy-readers like my old self who needed a subtle invitation to taste and see. If fellow Christians liked the book, that would be great but I needed to help those made nearly impervious to the call, by what Lewis named the Watchful Dragons.

I almost forgot one necessary element. Learning how to write. Sigh. I continue to work on the foundation for that one. I pray that my desire to share the joy of knowing God makes up for my abysmal execution of the message.

I used various plot ideas as testing grounds for my characters, jiggery-poking different elements until I knew what path I was supposed to follow. However, I was still missing a key element. I went to the beach on vacation and while I was there I searched vigilantly until I found it—a silver necklace shaped like a soaring seabird. My artifact, and the representation of Narenta’s Savior.

Under the Mercy,


Simon Morden: On ECPA/ CBA fiction

There have been several discussions at the Lost Genre Guild, on Shoutlife, on blogs, and in email about the limitations of Christian fiction published by the Evangelical Christian Publishing houses and sold by the CBA. Writers of sci-fi and fantasy, in particular, have been left out in the cold unless they've written, or are willing to write, within the guidelines of what is acceptable to the CBA. Now, we have found that many publishers are more than reluctant to let you know exactly what their guidelines are, and in fact, some even go so far as to say that they've no guidelines. However, I believe that the proof is in the pudding -- pick up one of these books and see for yourself.

Again and again, I refer back to a comprehensive essay written by Simon Morden. Do check it out sometime -- it is well worth the ten minutes it takes to read and days to ponder.

These excerpts are from a speech given at Greenbelt Arts Festival (2005), by Morden. In "
Sex, Death and Christian Fiction" Morden laments the lack of artistry and craft allowed in fiction sold via the niche market of Christian fiction. He is careful to point out at the beginning that his references to the Christian publishing industry are strictly about the ECPA and CBA.


"Christian writers, for the past 20-30 years, have been sold a lie: that there is one way to write, one message we need to communicate, that we’re only here for one reason. It’s led to the ghettoisation of Christian writers and a subsequent lack of artistic integrity and craft. We need to think very seriously both about how we got here and which direction we need to take next."

The publisher and the bookseller are no longer filters for artistic or commercial concerns. They become controllers of the content of the story. They are the gatekeepers, and their criteria for publication dictates what shall pass.

We, the writers, are faced with the proposition that if we do not write to their criteria, there is no chance of publication – no matter how good our writing is. We could send them the Chronicles of Narnia, and have it rejected on the grounds of smoking, drinking, violence and a nasty outbreak of Universalism in The Last Battle. We could send them Lord of the Rings and have it rejected on the grounds of – again, smoking, drinking and violence, the fact that God doesn’t get a mention and no one gets saved in the third act.


The word dangerous isn’t often associated with Christian writers or for that matter, Christian readers. It’s certainly not a word associated with CBA fiction. One of the reasons that CBA fiction exists is that it is a safe alternative to secular fiction. I should be able to read it without being tempted or scandalised. It is fiction which is pitched at adult audiences, but that my kids should be able to read. It is a place where Christian readers can escape to where they have nothing to fear and know before they start that everything will be all right in the end.

CBA authors and editors censor fiction not just because of its potential to offend, but because it offers vicarious experiences that may be seen as sinful. If we believe that sin occurs in the mind as well as in behaviour, any vicarious experience we read about might give rise to sinful feelings or thoughts. If I write a sex scene, which might be entirely necessary to the story, I have to find a way to write it that does not encourage lustful thoughts. A description of a murder must not encourage murderous thoughts, and so on.

There’s a problem here. A hallmark of good writing is that it changes the way people feel. Writers are supposed to offer vicarious experiences, the more intense the better. A book which does not engage a reader’s emotions is dull and lifeless. I don’t want to write a book like that anymore than I want to read one. And yet, CBA fiction censors the vicarious experience, quite deliberately.

The sum total of the effects that I’ve been outlining is to foster conditions where it is very difficult -- not impossible, but very difficult -- to write good fiction. The quality of prose is not the primary concern of the CBA. I’m not arguing that it isn’t a concern, just that it isn’t their first concern.

As a reader or a novelist, does anything Morden wrote jump out at you? At the Lost Genre Guild, many novelists have resigned themselves to finding Christian publishers outside of this group -- but only after a history of turndowns and rejections, then lamentations and valiant statements about changing the so-called CBA guidelines.

Morden ends his essay/ speech with this thought:

As authors, there’s very little we can do to influence the CBA. Pressure to change has to come from within the industry itself. I am aware of tensions beginning to build, but this is very much the hand on the tiller of a supertanker. It might turn, or not at all. Waiting for it to do so is a fools’ errand. But there’s plenty we can do to influence ourselves for the better.

--Simon Morden is the author of "Heart", "Another War" and the forthcoming "The Lost Art", as well as the short story collections "Thy Kingdom Come" and "Brilliant Things". He is editor of the British Science Fiction Association’s writers’ magazine, "Focus", and is a judge for the 2006 Arthur C Clarke Awards.


Lestat Lives, says Anne Rice!

Posted by Sue Dent in Cyn's account because her stinkin' account keeps transliterating.

Lestat Lives, says Anne Rice!
(Here's an a blog I put up at shoutlife. I'll post it then change the emphasis. You'll see.)

Since I'll be taking things out of context, I've posted a link to the article and now some thoughts from me!

---"One more book." Those are the words Anne Rice fans have been dying to hear about the Vampire Chronicles ever since her shocking and dismaying to many of his followers turn to religious writing.---

---While Rice justifies her decision by saying the book will have a definite Christian framework and a focus on the theme of redemption, she admits that the future chronicle will once again involve the character Lestat and a fictional organization known as the Talamaska that is responsible for investigating the supernatural.---

Two very significant things to point out about this and how it affects the Christian Publishing Industry.

1. Anne Rice is published by Knopf Publishing Group a branch of Random House. This publisher is not affiliated with CBA or ECPA. This means despite Mrs. Rice's claims of being a Christian and Catholic, you won't find her books in most Christian Bookstores because most Christian Bookstores are CBA/ECPA affiliated and primarily stock books published by CBA/ECPA published authors.

:0 *gasp* What a shame!

2. There's no reason to believe that Mrs. Rice will be seeking representation from a CBA/ECPA publishing house since Knopf actually published some of her older vampire work. Therefore, threre's no reason to believe that Mrs. Rice's work won't be the best dang Christian vampire story done to date.

Yes!!!! Anne brings it back around. It can be done. It has been done. And now, it will be done again--by the only one who can reeeeeeaaaly do it!!
Unrestricted, unrestrained grand Christian fiction/horror by a Christian author!
Now for the emphasis change. When I posted this on shoulife the one thing that struck me as odd was that no one got the gist of the blog. They were all hung up on the fact that Anne Rice was a Christian and writing as a Christian.


Anne Rice has been writing as a Christian (Catholic) for quite some time now. It had to be one of the most talked about conversions of the decade. Her following was huge and they made quite a bit of noise themselves. How could one not know?

And why wouldn’t her work be celebrated?! Where was everybody? God brings someone like Anne into the fold and two years later not one Christian knows. This isn’t even a genre issue. But it is an issue. IMO

Anne Rice’s publisher is Knopf. I’m not sure how they’re connected with Random House but they are. I do know how they’re not connected with Random House. As far as I can tell, they aren’t Random House’s Christian branch. They actually published some of Mrs. Rice’s vampire novels.

Okay. Since Mrs. Rice isn’t published by a CBA/ECPA affiliated publisher her Christian work most likely won’t see the inside of a CBA/ECPA affiliated bookstore. Her books still sell well though because she is who she is, a very talented lady!

I saw Mrs. Rice’s first book being talked about on a blog hosted by a CBA affiliated author. They spoke of her as though she were just someone who happened to write an interesting book they might consider reading.

This woman, as talented as she is, (you don’t get the following she got just writing vampire novels. She’s that good, on the level of Tolkien, Lewis, King.) is being tossed about as though she just walked in off the street and wrote a fine book.

I’m sickened. Anne has such a testimony and God has absolutely worked wonders to bring her to the point she is now. How sad it is that the Christian community has barely even heard of her and her turn around—even two years later.

How sad indeed.

Now she’s going to write a vampire novel with a Christian world view. I hope I don’t see CBA/ECPA affiliated houses seeing that meal ticket and jumping on board. I’m pretty sure I won’t.

Anne Rice, writing Christian Horror with a traditional publisher.

Yeah buddy!!!

They Just Don't Get It!

By Terri Main

I teach at a local community college. This semester I'm on sabbatical leave. I am writing a training course for new online teachers. So, I've been asking our veteran online teachers to add me to their course to get ideas. This means I'm also getting emails to their students. This week I got one which started me thinking.

It was from David Borofka, an accomplished fiction writer. In the email, he told his students to not respond in the discussion forums where other students are critiquing their work. They are to not defend or explain their writing. To quote from the letter (used by permission):

I'd like for you to know what an author's true experience is like: writers
send their work out into the world and they don't get to explain it, defend it,
or get to negotiate with a reader. And that's true whether the reader is an
agent, an editor, a publisher, a book reviewer, a critic, or the reader who
plunks down $25 at the Barnes and Noble counter. And unless they're invited to be on OPRAH,they don't even get to have a conversation about it with their
adoring fans.

In this respect, we're in a somewhat helpless and passive position, but
that's partly because when we release our work to others, that work becomes
theirs rather than ours. We listen to the reactions, and we can agree or
disagree. Sometimes what we hear may make a story better in revision. Other
times, we'll hear junk, and we just have to make the decision to take that
reading/reaction for what it is: a reader's opinion.

I love this and will probably incorporate it into any of my future writing classes. I have seen this happen often in critique groups. I have been guilty of it. Everyone misses my wonderful symbolism or they don't understand my character or they are confused by the plot. They are just so stupid! Why can't they see what's right in front of them? So, I jump in and try to explain it to them. It must be their fault. After all, it couldn't possibly be my writing.

Okay, an occassional person may miss the point, and you shouldn't try to please absolutely everyone. However, if even one person in a ten person critique group doesn't "get it," that means ten percent of your readers might not get it either. And, as Dave says, you can't negotiate with or explain it to them. Take every criticism you receive seriously before rejecting it as a case of stupidity on the part of the reader or an isolated incident. If you have the chance to do so, talk to the person, not to explain or defend, but to find out why she or he didn't get it. First, find out how they interpreted what you wrote. Then ask why they interpreted it that way. Finally, ask how you might have made your intent more clear.

This isn't easy. It means setting aside egos for a moment or two. Writers have strong egos. This isn't a bad thing. If we didn't, we wouldn't presume to write for others. However, it is hard to sit quietly and listen as our work, our masterpiece, our creative offspring is being evaluated negatively.

I know this. I am working with an editor/mentor right now finishing a novel, something I haven't seriously attempted before. And I find myself saying, "Why can't you see that?" only to have to answer, "Because I didn't show it clearly enough."

I will leave you with the concluding words from Dave's letter. I'm trying to take them to heart. I encourage other writers to do so as well:

If the reader doesn't get it, the problem may lie in a bad reading. Then again,
the problem may be in the text of what you've submitted. And that's your job