f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: <em>Bad Ground</em>: A Call to Action

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bad Ground: A Call to Action

Something special happened last week that I didn’t comment on. Since we’re in the midst of a long series, I thought I’d break here and spend at least a moment on it.

Dale Cramer (who’s given an interview you can read here) had his book Bad Ground honored yet again. This time Publishers Weekly selected it as one of their best books of the year. (Unforutnately, it’s an internet exclusive that’s only available to subscribers.)

Publishers Weekly reviews, on average, twenty-five or so novels a week. That’s 1300 novels a year. From this massive list they ended up selecting 47 novels. (Plus lots of comics, nonfiction, religion titles, etc.)

Some other titles on the list? F*i*F mentioned Heaven Lake by John Dalton, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and The Preservationist by David Maine. The Narrows by Michael Connelly. Ha Jin’s War Trash. Booker Prize-winning The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. Books by Peter Straub, Neal Stephenson, Philip Roth, and Nora Roberts. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

Frankly, it’s pretty rare air. So, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Dale and his editor, Luke Hinrichs. Awesome work, gentlemen.

Moment over. Now, I’d like to get serious.

Dale’s book isn’t selling so well. I’m not sure that’s a confession I should be making here, but I am because, honestly, it should scare the crap out of us as writers (and publishers).

Here we have a book that had phenomenal prepublication reviews, was following up a decently received first-novel, has a superb title, a stark, evocative cover, and a decent, if not overwhelming, marketing and publicity campaign.

The Christian book buyer responds with stony silence. And because they do, the B&N, Borders, and Wal-Marts of the world pass by it. They skim the cream off the top of our industry, cherry picking books by pure dollar signs and not quality or merit. And so Bad Ground threatens to go quietly into the night.

Something failed this book. Perhaps it was us. Perhaps it was the industry. Perhaps it was the CBA book buyers. Or the Christian book buyers who clamor that they want well-written Christian fiction. Most likely it was a combination of all.

But listen, I do not want to let this book go quietly into the night. And so I’m going to ask a very dangerous thing.

If you have the means, I would like to challenge you to buy this book. Order it at your local B&N or your local Christian bookstore. Buy it online. Wherever.

I have been writing F*i*F for over a year now. I have specifically made this a place that doesn’t hawk the wares of my company. I’m risking your trust now because A) I believe this is a book that you will like. and B) We need this book to do well.

Listen, if we sell more BHP books, I will benefit from that. That’s the 800-pound-gorilla here. I can't do anything but admit it. But I think you know me. I hope you trust me.

Plus, supporting Bad Ground is not just good for BHP. It’s good for a whole lot of people.

It’s good for readers who want variety, who cherish both literary and storytelling excellence.

It’s good for writers who are doing things that don’t quite fit the standard mold in CBA. Because it will succeed and we can point to it and smile and convince our sales people that, "Yes, your wonderful book is one that also can find critical and popular success." And then perhaps we can publish your, just slightly out-of-the-ordinary book, too.

It’s good for other publishers. Expanding the breadth of books that the industry can support will only help other publishers broaden their lists.

Frankly it’s good for the industry. The other books on Publishers Weekly Best of 2004 are mostly massive bestsellers. It seems odd that the Christian industry manages to ignore its honor.

So that’s today’s post.

If you have the means, consider picking up a copy.

If you want to help in a different way, post a mention of Dale’s honor to your blog. Mention it at other discuss boards to which you belong. Spread the word, if you can.

This is, after all, a CBA author going toe-to-toe with the biggest names in the industry.

Thanks.

I won’t do this again for a long time, I promise. I felt strongly about it, though. That’s the point of the site after all, championing those titles that stand at the intersection of faith and literature. Tomorrow we’ll go back to dialogue.