This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Seeking a Christian or Secular Literary Agent?

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When I first switched from secular fiction to Christian fiction, I wasn't sure what I wanted in an agent. In truth, I went from a secular agent to an agent that accepts both secular and Christian fiction to a Christian fiction agent. I've had three agents that ranged in all three categories. Now I know where I belong and what my niche is in the market, but you may not, and you might feel like you're swinging on a pendulum wondering where you'll land. Or perhaps you're like a flying leaf blowing where the wind blows.

Either way, it's okay. I feel confident that you'll end up where you're supposed to be--eventually. 

My advice is to think and pray about your writing. Are you called to write Christian fiction or fiction that may reach secular readers with an underlying message that they otherwise would never get because they would never pick up a book labeled as Christian fiction? This will determine your direction for not only your agent, but your editor, and how you'll market your books. 

It may be that you don't feel called or led to start a writing ministry, but you want to write as an offering to the Lord. My agent, Terry Burns, talks about this difference on his Testimony Page. I wanted to write secular romance fiction and ran when God called me to write for Him--just like Jonas. My journey took me a little longer because I was stubborn. I wanted to write for me.

If you're in limbo, unsure who to query or what to do next, I want to give you some food for thought. .A Christian agent will have more contacts and closer relationships with Christian publishers, but a select few with secular publishers and vise versa. One thing a Christian agent can provide that a secular agent may not is prayer and an understanding of your faith. Also, they may not give up as quick because they understand God's timing. 


My big New York agent thought I was going to be a fast and easy sale. When things didn't turn out that way, she wasn't so sure she wanted to invest the time in me. She accepted both Christian and secular writers, but her contacts with Christian editors and publishers were very limited. She only wanted to send my work out to a select few. When she had exhausted her contacts in the CBA market, she pushed me to switch back to secular fiction. 


I was being tested--offered what I had always wanted. It could have been a time of confusion. I could have seen this as a sign for crossing over into both the secular and CBA markets, but I saw it as a test. I knew what was happening. We agreed to disagree, and with a broken heart, I agreed to end our agreement. Once again I was agentless. Yet, I was determined to write for God or not at all. 


Don't think everything in this business is going to come with clear green and red lights. You will be tested. You will become confused. Your journey will take side roads because you'll have lessons to learn, and therefore, detours to take. You will come to deadends and you may have to make u-turns. Just keep going. Don't give up. 


Recently, I've talked to some CBA authors who are toying with the idea of moving from CBA to secular so they can reach more readers. Yes, they are thinking of changing agents in this process. Perhaps God is leading them in that direction, perhaps not, either way their path will become clear. 

Sometimes we go through seasons. We may be called to do something for a season, and then God will call us to move on and do something else in a new season. We must be open to the changing of His will and make sure it isn't our own. 


Other points of consideration are the limited options in CBA. There is a wider market in secular fiction than CBA. If you're in this for the money, there is a possibility of making more in the secular market simply because there are more readers, more publishers, more agents. But--there is also more competition. You'll be swimming in a bigger ocean with bigger fish and more sharks. I know--because this is where I started out.


If you're seeking a CBA agent, I recommend The Christian Writers’ Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart. 

If you're seeking a secular agent, I recommend, The Guide to Literary Agents.

Don't miss my post on The Agent Search, It's All About Faith

7 comments:

Great post today. I am in the "trenches" so to speak right now, looking for an agent. I have been praying over it and hoping God leads me to the right one. I am sending queries to agents who handle Christian fiction right now. I am prayerful the Lord will lead me to the correct one, for my Christan teen fiction novel Faith Hope and Love, Thanks for sharing such wonderful words of advice and support, looking for an agent is a very hard process! Many Blessings to you!

Heather, You're welcome and I hope the best for you in your search. Hang in there!

This is very helpful for me right now. I love your honesty here. It's a tough decision for Christian writers to make. I am to the point in my journey where I am looking at agents and it's very intimidating. I will re-read this post and meditate on all aspects of this issue. You are right - we need to think this through and prayerfully consider where we are supposed to be.
Thanks so much.

Great and timely post for me this morning. I was just saying to myself yesterday that I must stay true to myself and my belief. I don't want to chase money or readers, but glorify God in the gift he gave me. God bless you for this post!

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your experiences. Great post and great words. Your honesty rings through loudly. What advice would you have for a writer in severe poverty in need of a read and critique? I cannot afford to pay for a critique and my local writers guild said, "no membership, no critique." Might you have any ideas on a make-shift read and critique? I wrote a children's picture book story. Thank you and congratulations on your hard work and success. Doc G

I am sorry u r having such financial hardship. You can join a few online writing groups for free. I cannot recommend any as I am no longer participating in critique groups. If u can save up $40, I recommend joining American Christian Fiction Writers www.acfw.com. They have free critique groups u can try and their membership is less than the Christian Writers Guild.

Thank you for the advice Jennifer - I will give the ACFW a try. Best to you and again, thank you. Doc