It’s a common reaction when you tell someone you write romance, right? You can just see them picturing a half-naked Fabio, hair billowing as he rips open some buxom damsel’s bodice. And you want to explain that there’s a lot more to writing romance than Fabio, and that you actually have a story and a message, and that just as God is a creator, you’re being true to your calling when you write these stories of growth, loss, overcoming trials, and of course, love.
I’ve been there. And I get a similar reaction from some friends when I tell them I write for the general market instead of the CBA.
I get it. Not everyone should write for the general market, but it’s where I’m meant to be. To be honest, it took me some time to accept that. My hesitation was in part due to the aforementioned reactions from friends, and in part due to misinformation about what this would look like. The following are some comments I heard and believed but have since discovered the truth about.
1) It’s cutthroat and unsupportive.
I went to my first RWA conference last year and was pleasantly surprised to meet wonderful successful authors who went out of their way to help others. I met a fantasy author who offered to read my manuscript. I have chapter-mates who have cheered me every time I’ve had success with a contest. And currently I’m in an email group with 45 other finalists—nine of whom are in my same category—who have become a sisterhood. We root for each other’s success, commiserate over each other’s disappointments, and help each other with query letters and pitches. The truth is, all romance writers are a sister—and occasionally a brother—hood of people who understand that we’re artists, and the success of one is a success for all of us.
2) You have to write smut.
Sure, there’s a lot of “edgy” stuff out there now. But there’s also a lot of rich, emotional, wonderful stories that focus not strictly on the physical, but on the beauty and vulnerability of falling in love. And the world needs those books too. I firmly believe that we need to put as much light out there as we can because readers may not know what they’re missing until they find it. We need to demonstrate what real love is and stir a hunger and a motivation to seek that.The difference between Christian publishing and general market is greater than just overt spirituality. Your characters probably won’t have the same worldview as you do. Their language won’t include spiritual references, and no one gets saved. But there’s still room for, and a need for, truth.
3) It’s much easier to get published.
Yes, it’s a much larger market. But that also means there’s a lot more people trying to write for it. There are five major publishers and they didn’t survive this long by putting out lousy material. They’re still looking for the best of the best.Self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it used to, since there have been a number of highly successful authors who’ve taken that route. But the reason they’re successful is because they’re good. So in the end, story wins no matter what market you’re pursuing.
4) It’s much harder to get published.
Almost immediately after making the transition I gained more traction than I’d gotten in all my efforts to pursue publishing in the Christian market. I’d found the place I’m supposed to be. And while I don’t think success is always a sign of God’s favor, for me it was the encouragement I needed to forge on. It’s a good fit for me. As a single girl living in the city I know what it’s like out there. Writing about the world as I experience it enables me to relate to my readers. To acknowledge their frustrations, their longings, their expectations, and hopefully to stir in them a desire for something richer than this world’s typical experience.A desire for love that never fails. Plus, my somewhat irreverent sense of humor seems to fit better.
5) It’s just entertainment instead of a calling.
The truth I’ve come to embrace is that there’s a need in every realm for good literature that points to light and truth. There are some things that transcend genre that I hope and pray speak through my words to those who need to hear them. The foundations of my faith are still there, still the most vital parts of character growth. Hope. Love. Freedom.
I heard an author I love speaking once, about the power of story. She’d gotten a letter from a woman who left an abusive relationship because the heroes of this writer’s stories gave her hope that better men existed. That moved me.
No matter where we find our place in the writing world, we never know how our stories will be used. But if we put them in the hands of the Creator, we can trust they will.
Kimberly Buckner writes contemporary loves stories set in the South. She is active in ACFW and RWA as a PRO member, and has used what she learned to teach at local chapter meetings and conferences. Kimberly won the 2014 Maggie for Single Title Romance, and the 2015 Emily for Contemporary Long Romance, and is a 2015 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist for Contemporary. After fourteen fabulous years below the Mason-Dixon, she currently lives in Denver.
She can be found online at: