Thursday, December 5, 2013

How much faith content? by Terry Burns

Interesting question, and one that I proposed to my clients. I wanted each of them to rate the amount of faith content in each individual work on a scale from one to ten.

One told me their book was overtly Christian but she was unsure what that meant in a ranking on such a scale. To me the words overtly Christian puts a book in the upper half. The way I look at the scale, a ranking of “one” is little or no faith. A “five” means moderate faith content, and a “ten” means really in-your-face faith content. Those points are more-or-less black and white. For most of us we are deciding where we fall in between one and five, more toward one or toward the other or between five and ten, more toward one or the other. I believe taking the time to actually evaluate this is an important understanding for a Christian author to come to.

It is also helpful me in knowing how to represent their work. It’s no secret that Christian publishers are interested in faith content. Many mainstream publishers don’t want such content at all. Then there are publishers who fall at various points along the scale.

It is possible to have enough faith content that we rule out a number of the mainstream publishers but not enough content to interest the Christian publishers. That’s sort of a “no man’s land” in between. It doesn’t mean there is no place for a particular project, but it does mean that we have reduced the number of possibilities to a large degree.

I am looking at submissions constantly, have a large number of projects that I represent, and when you add in my senior memory it means every time I start to work on a project I have to spend a little time reminding myself what it is so I don’t confuse it with anything else. I don’t have to read the whole thing to accomplish that, just enough to be sure I’m thinking of the right manuscript. But if I have to decide how much faith content a particular work contains, that takes a lot of reading. I can save myself a huge amount of work by establishing that rating at some point and marking the work with it.

My clients seem to be learning a lot about themselves and about each other as they are going through this process and going through it on my client online group.


Audrey said...

This is interesting, thanks for sharing.

David B. Smith said...

This is such a helpful post. I'd love to hear more of Terry's insights, including good examples of successful books in the 1-5 category and also in the 6-10 bloc. Are there literary ingredients that automatically put a book in the Christian category despite its overall secular-ness? I'm currently reading a frankly rather seedy crime thriller published by Tyndale, entitled "False Witness"; I'm up to page 162 without a single shred of spirituality thus far. Thanks for the very enlightening post, Terry.