I was going to post on something altogether different. However, after commenting on Shannon’s post below this one, I said to myself, “Hmmm…I should have made THAT comment my post.”
So, hey, I will. Sort of. This one’s way longer.
Here’s how it went: E. Stephen Burnett (aka Dr. Ransom) of FAITH FUSION asked about a petition of signators who want editors to supply mor Christian SF, and he asked:
How many signatures might be necessary to warrant publishers’ or editors’ increased attention?
I replied, basically, that I didn’t think petitions mean much. We can get friends, relatives, church-mates to sign something, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do the essential thing: BUY.
Yeah, it’ s a business. Bottom line rules. Units sold is King. (Or Empress.)
And not just BUY, btw. Buy and read. Buy and read and enthusiastically promote via word of mouth. Buy and read and blog.
I peruse and/or buy a lot of SF magazines, online and in bookstores and on newsstands. I can’t say that I’ve seen Christian SF marketed in any way that makes me go….MMMmmmm, that’s for me!
Not only are editors not wanting it, not only are the marketing folks not knowing what to do with it, not only is there a rabid and (imo) misguided contingent bad-mouthing speculative fiction within evangelical circles, but fandom seems to be scattershot.
And that last one, right there, is something we CAN do something about.
I can’t tell an editor which writers to sign and what manuscripts to buy. I can’t go into a marketing meeting and say, “No, that wouldn’t get me to buy that book” or “Market this to romance readers and women, especially, cause the subplot is a kicking love story!” I do not want to spend my days debating the anti-wizard, anti-elf, anti-science, anti-magic, anti-XYZ crowd.
We can, however, keep yapping and marching to organize a vocal and cohesive Christian speculative fiction/poetry/comics/film fandom. And, hey, there is an organization called that: Christian Fandom. (See links in sidebar)
So, it’s hardly a novel idea.
The internet makes this possible. I’ve seen connections formed in the past year. It’s exciting to see the linkages taking place, such as on this site, or Where the Map Ends, or the Christian Science Fiction and Fantsy Tour, etc. If we can link up in significant numbers, we can be the promotional and encouragement and prayer mechanism to help good Christian SF writers find the footpaths and widen those paths for the ones that follow. Imagine if one of “our” folks could put in their proposal, in the section on their marketing platform, “I am connected to a network of several thousand Christians who love and purchase and support speculative fiction, and a percentage of them are ready to buy and/or plug my book in their churches and online.”
It’s not nothing. It’s a nice beginning.
If people writing letters can keep a cancelled show on the air or get a movie made of a fave series, then thousands of people writing feedback to editors saying, “Dang, that book was great. Give me more stories of wonder!” will have an effect if the money goes where the wonder is.
THIS IS FEASIBLE, folks!
It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes work and a willingness to be part of larger, gradually-forming circles of readers and writers and artists… but it can happen.
Example: The Sword Review and Dragon, Knights & Angels. These are only two webzines that do Christian SF, but they get tens of thousands of hits a day. Not every hit is a dedicated fan of the stuff, no. But that’s a lot of hits. That tells me someone is browsing for this stuff, and coming back to read more. That’s why I put my money where my mouth is and donate. That’s why I sponsor contests. That’s why I give away books. I’m hoping to make a friendly valley for the writers who will someday come into the CBA and knock my socks off, speculatively speaking.
Will you put your time, prayer, and money into this?
Example: Join the CSFF Blog Tour and promote sites, authors and books. Do it your way, but do it WITH us. It’s coordinated to give maximum linkage to the featured subjects, and to give higher ratings to the involved sites. It’s a “system”. Join it.
Example: Drop five or ten bucks into a CSF webzine’s kitty now and then. Even a few bucks helps, when budgets are tight. Go and comment on their forums. Tell the authors you really liked that YOU VALUE THEIR WORK.
Example: Link on your sidebar to CSF sites. Raise their technorati rankings that way.
Example: Make a point when you blog to use terms such as “Christian Fantasy” or “Christian Science Fiction” or “CSF”. Make those terms “web visible.”
Example: Post reviews of books you loved at CBD and AMAZON.com and suggest OTHER books for those who may read your review.
Example: Ask CBA-related publicity folks if they have CSF clients whose books are available for review or giveaway or whose authors are available for inteview. Make your interviews snappy and strong. Post excepts of the books (if you like them).
Example: Be willing to give critical reviews with courtesy and respect. You don’t have to whitewash your reviews. If you don’t love it, don’t plug it. But maybe say what could have made for a stronger story, and maybe that will help someone writing a similar type of story.
Example: Pay attention to movers and shakers who can help the cause—Jeff Gerke, former editor and author, plans to have a forum at his WHERE THE MAP ENDS site. This is a perfect place for the kind of solidarity we need to be nurtured. Forums allow for more rapid interaction than the comments sections of our respective (or this team) blog.
Example: Visit your Christian and secular book stores and make the CSF books more noticeable. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of not-too-intrusive fiddling, such as putting the book cover facing out to catch someone’s eye. Ask your Family Bookstore manager to stock CSF. Suggest titles. Or get some pretty Post-Its (nice colors) and if there’s a book you love, tuck a post it to the inside cover saying, ‘I read this and it’s a terrific story. Please try it.” Make your handwriting attractive and LEGIBLE. Consider it an anonymous random act of literary kindness.
Example: Visit Christian speculative artists online (Jeff Gerke offers links at his WTMapEnds; check them out at DeviantART, too), and maybe see if they’ll let you feature their art on your blog banner or masthead. Buy their prints or t-shirts. Get the word out on their book covers or posters or graphic novels. One day, one of them might create YOUR book cover or, if you’re a reader, the cover art of your favorite new novel, or the special effects in a kicking SF film.
Example: Support Hollywood SF films put out by Christians. (Narnia and its sequels, for example, was one. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, while based on truth, will seem speculative to a non-Christian audience. Support such films! Keep an eye on Christians in cinema and television.)
What other ways can we throw pebbles in to make the ripples wider and and wider?
Ya know, I wish I had stats to offer , but I don’t. Stats on what? Well…How many Christians buy and read speculative fiction? CBA or ABA. Anyone? I haven’t a clue.
But be assured. If we can get behind the good writers and good books, if we can commit to buy them, share them, chat them up online and off, then we may, MAY, be able to start something significant. I’m not a PollyAnna. I’m not an optimist, like Becky or Beth. I do tend toward the melancholic and cynical. But my mind tells me this is doable.
Someone like Jeff or John Olson or Randy Ingermanson or Kathy Tyers or Karen Hancock or Steve Laube or Kathryn Mackel (or their editors) are better suited to answer the question of “How many books sold constitute an eye-opener?”
I don’t know. But I figure if we can get some forthcoming CBA SF novel to sell 50K over brief period of time (brief enough to make it count on some bestseller list), it’s a start. And if some exceptional story, one that can excite a broad segment of fandom, if buzz can get that one really moving—what would that be, 100K units?— that may be the “breakout” that some folks have said is needed to get editorial interest.
Those of you with more industry knowledge than I’m displaying here (which may be most of you!) please tell us: What are the crucial numbers to categorize a novel as a hit? What would be a break-out hit’s numbers? How many novels would have to sell how many units to justify a wide call for CSF submissions?
So…Am I being whack? Do you think this is doable or pie in the sky?
Next Week: Who knows? I’m in winging-it mode for now.
Note: Apologies for not being able to link to relevant sites mentioned. I tried four times, and Ritersbloc was just not letting me do it on Mozilla or AOL. Maybe later.