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Publishing 101: The Christian Market

Publishers Operating in the Christian Market

At first, I was going to call this post ‘Christian Publishers’, but I soon realised that while some of these publishing houses are owned and operated by Christians, many are not. For example, two of the biggest names in Christian publishing, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan (respectively, publishers of the New King James and the New International Versions of the Bible) are owned by HarperCollins, one of the ‘Big Five’ of publishing, and owned by News Corp. Thomas Nelson also offer a self-publishing option, WestBow Press, managed by the notorious Author Solutions (who are owned by another ‘Big Five’ publisher, Penguin Random House).

Over the next few months, I’m going to profile some of the publishers operating in the Christian market. Some are major trade presses, publishing dozens of books a year, fiction and non-fiction. Others are small presses, publishing a handful of titles annually focused on specific genres. Some specialise in ebooks, and don’t offer print editions. Some are vanity, subsidy or co-operative presses, working with authors to publish their books for a fee. Some are reputable. Some are not.

What information is covered?

In looking at each publisher, I’ve tried to find out the information I would want to know as a fiction author needs to know in making a decision about the most appropriate publishing choice. Note that what is the best option for one person might not be the best for another.

  • How many books do they publish each year?
  • Do they publish fiction? What genres?
  • What books and authors have they published recently? Do the reviews or samples highlight any publisher issues (e.g. editing)?
  • Do they accept unsolicited submissions, or do they only accept submissions from agents?
  • Are they a Big 5 publisher, small press, vanity press or something else?
  • What services do they offer? Do they charge for these services? If so, how much?
  • What editorial and marketing support do they offer?
  • Are there any red lights?

In each case, more information will be available from the website of the respective publisher.

How did I choose the publishers to feature?

My profiles will focus on publishers of novellas or novel-length fiction. If you are interested in finding out who publishes magazines, short stories, poetry or non-fiction, I recommend you consult the latest edition of The Christian Writer’s Market Guide, which is updated annually.

This list includes:

If you seek traditional publication, then the ACFW Recognized Publisher List is a good place to start. Recognized Publishers must meet certain criteria, but meeting the criteria does not imply endorsement by ACFW (or Christian Editing Services!). The criteria are:

  1. The publisher publishes novels written from a Christian worldview in any Christian fiction genre (i.e. should not contain profanity, graphic sex, or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to generally accepted standards of the CBA, as determined by ACFW.)
  2. All of the publisher’s fiction is Christian, or the publisher has an imprint devoted entirely to Christian fiction (in which case only the imprint will be recognized).
  3. The author must not participate financially in the production or distribution of the book (including a requirement to buy books).
  4. The publisher must pay royalties.
  5. The publisher must have been in business at least one year, and have previously unpublished books of Christian fiction by at least two authors (other than the owners) in print over the past year. Two books must have gross sales of over $5000 each in a twelve-month period.
  6. The publisher’s books must show evidence of professional editing and cover art, and the content must reflect biblical principles.

The revenue requirement is new, and although I don’t know what has prompted it, I suspect it has to do with those small presses who were created to publish books by the owner, have expanded, but offer little in the way of marketing support. A minimum gross sales figure should help eliminate those who have no distribution networks, provide insufficient support or expect their authors to do all the selling.

 

Are you intending to submit your manuscript to a publisher? Which publishers are you considering?