How to make a Christian Book without offending customers is a challenge that many publishers face.
Christian Book Publishers Association’s annual conference in Atlanta this year included a panel on publishing Christian books.
The panel, titled How to Write a Christian Books Without Offending Customers, was moderated by Mark Driscoll, author of “The Good Book.”
The panelists included Jennifer T. Puhl, president and CEO of the American Christian Publishing Association; Elizabeth S. Stumpf, executive director of the Christian Book Distributors Association; and James D. McCallum, vice president of the publisher’s trade association.
“The goal is to create a market for the books you publish without offending any of your customers,” said Stumpfs.
“If you’re publishing a book that has a message that is Christian, and it has a Christian theme, and the message is not offensive to a wide audience, you can do it.”
Stumpff added, “It’s not a hard thing to do.
We’re trying to get it done.”
She went on to say that a Christian publisher needs to be open to people reading a book and “giving it a chance to get out.”
For instance, if a book is published for a Christian audience and people who are not Christian are offended, that book will not be published.
“That’s what it’s about,” said Puhls.
“We’re trying as Christians to be inclusive.”
Publishers also need to be mindful of their own audiences.
The number of people reading books on the Christian side is not the same as the number of Christians reading books for the secular audience, she said.
“I think the Christian book is going to sell more, but you’re going to need to do your homework on what your audience is,” she added.
Pohls said that the goal for a book should be to “be as good as the Bible and the Bible is good enough to be in your book.”
That means avoiding offensive material.
“When you publish something that’s going to offend your audience, it’s going get removed,” said S.B. Stovall, CEO of Publishers Weekly.
“You’re not going to be publishing it.
If you’re selling a book, you’re not selling it because you’re offended.”
The best way to avoid offending customers, she added, is to “make sure the book is good.”
The first step is to find a suitable book for the genre you’re working in.
If the title of the book doesn’t have a biblical theme, or the title is about a subject other than Christianity, that could be a problem.
Stowford said that it can be easy to get caught up in the genre of the title, but that’s where a publisher needs “to make sure they’re looking for books that are relevant to their audience.”
She added that publishers should also be aware of their audience.
“They’re looking at the demographics, and if you’re a woman, if you have a younger audience, if your audience’s younger, you might want to consider a book with a more upbeat title,” she said, adding that the best approach would be to choose a title that appeals to both genders.
The publisher also needs to understand how they’ll sell the book.
“What they want is that you get it to people,” said T.J. Johnson, president of The Christian Book Company, which publishes a range of titles.
“There’s a lot of people who will read a book if they’re reading a Bible book.”
When it comes to making the sale, publishers need to make sure the reader understands the book and understands why it’s important to them.
“People need to understand the message of the Bible,” said Driscolls.
“It has a huge impact on people’s lives, and that message needs to get through.”
When a book isn’t appealing to both men and women, it could hurt sales.
“Even a title like ‘Fairy Tales of the Holy Virgin Mary’ doesn’t make women more likely to buy it,” said Johnson.
“But when it’s a title about a Christian person, and people are like, ‘Well, that’s just a title for girls,’ it could be detrimental.”
A Christian Book Publisher’s Guide to Marketing Christian Books says that publishers need a book to be “fleshed out” so it can appeal to both sexes, both Christians and non-Christians.
For instance the book should have a message, a title, and an author.
If a title is offensive, it should not be in the book, said Drascoll.
The best title is one that appeals “to the widest audience,” he added.
In fact, he added, the best title in the world is “The Bible,” and “the Bible has the biggest appeal.”
He said publishers should be careful with titles.
The book should not just be about God or the Bible, but about God and Christianity.