Is it Christian or Is it Inspirational?

What's the Difference and Where to Market it
By Pamela S. Thibodeaux

I've been asked this question more than once..Christian, Inspirational..what 's the difference? Though many would consider it one and the same, I'll do my best to differentiate.

Christian fiction is written for a particular audience...the CBA market/readership. Christian fiction focuses on a relationship with God and God is the center of every romantic liaison. It adheres to the guidelines set forth by the CBA publishers and readers. In most instances, those guidelines are very conservative. The CBA wants "chaste relationships.the emotional side of love without the physical." Some of the guidelines include the heroine never appearing in her nightgown outside of the bedroom, no profanity or even 'substitute' words such as "shuck" "heck" and "darn." They want little or no reference to a particular denomination, divorce is a no-no, sensuality is very limited and "unless it's something the characters struggle with" must be done sparsely and very tactfully. Drinking, dancing, and other controversial subjects such as water -and Spirit- baptism, women preachers, etc. are also frowned upon. Issues such as abuse and domestic violence are usually only 'hinted at' and if delved into to any degree, must be handled with tremendous care. Even secular houses like Warner and Harlequin who've capitalized on the demand for Christian fiction, adhere to CBA guidelines for their imprints.

Inspirational fiction, is written more for those readers out there who are dissatisfied with the typical Christian fiction as well as those turned off by the normal secular romances. It is aimed for readers that like the idea of God/Christ in the books, but want more realistic characters, situations, etc. Though flavored with a bit more "sensuality and gritty realism" Inspirational fiction still adheres to biblical principles. It is a unique combination of the sensual and the spiritual. Almost anything goes in Inspirational fiction as long as it is done tastefully. If you're putting sex, profanity, or abuse in there simply for shock purposes, stick to secular fiction. Readers of Inspirational fiction want reality not morbidity!

A quick side note: "secular" fiction is the term associated with the 'no holes barred' guidelines.

Now that we've differentiated between Christian and Inspirational fiction, let's look at a few places to market it.

For Christian Fiction: Tyndale House, Barbour Publishing, Bethany House, River Oak, Steeple Hill (the Inspirational line of Harlequin), Multnomah and Warner Faith are just a few, but there are probably hundred's more.

The best thing a writer of Christian or Inspirational fiction can invest in is Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide. Much along the same lines as the traditional Writer's Market Guide, the CWMG focuses solely on Christian markets, their guidelines and submission procedures.

As for Inspirational Fiction, your best bet is to pitch to publishers who are not within the realm of the CBA. Some of these places would be new publishers or small presses such as Com Star Media, Wild Flower Press, Inc., and other independent publishers. Again, check both the WMG and CWMG. If the guidelines state they take 'inspirational' query!

Another great avenue is E-publishing. There are many E-publishers that are willing to give authors of Inspirational Fiction a chance to start making a name for themselves. Writer's Exchange, Echelon Press and Mountain View Publishing are just a few. Do a web search and see who else out there might take a chance on you. Most E-publishers also offer Print on Demand services for those authors that prefer printed copies of their books. Beware though, it is extremely difficult to get POD books into traditional chain bookstores. However, with the dot (.)com sites out there like: Amazon, Borders, Christian Book, etc. there's ample opportunity to sell a few books and generate some name recognition for yourself. And of course, there's always Self/POD publishing through houses like Book Surge, Publish America, Wine Press, Pleasant Word, and many, more!

Marketing Christian and/or Inspirational short stories and novella's are made possible by publications such as Melody of the Heart Ezine and Mountain View Publishing. For Sci-fi and Fantasy authors, try Dreams & Visions Magazine.

Whether you write conservative Christian or edgier Inspirational fiction remember one thing..everything that gives God glory deserves to be praised!

Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the co-founder and a member of the Bayou Writer's Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in fiction and non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as "Inspirational with an Edge!" and reviewed as "steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message."

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Previously featured in the May 8, 2005 issue of Funds For Writers Ezine, LongridgeWriters Group Website and other writing relates ezines.

Copyright 2005 Pamela Thibodeaux

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