A million dollars is at stake. That’s why contestants on CBS’s Survivor reality series are out for blood. They’ll cooperate within their team or alliance, but only so far. Then it’s every contestant for him- or herself. Only one can survive.
The mentality is rooted in the show’s tagline: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. The consequence is a culture of blindsides, betrayal, lies, sabotage, and strategies to create an environment in which the other players are doomed to failure.
One person walks away with a check for $1 million. The rest? Nothing. All but one have only their sunburn to keep them warm when they re-enter civilization.
The publishing and retail industry’s “reality” show follows a different model. Because what’s at stake isn’t a prize, but souls.
A social media group of retailers encourages posts like, “I lost my distributor for communion cups and a local church needs 500 by the end of the month. Can anyone help me out?” Within minutes, that retailer has an answer.
“Our store is phasing out its greeting cards. Does anyone need a 10-foot card rack in good condition?”
“Anyone out there have a caramel-colored Bible cover for a NKJV large print study Bible? I have brown, but the customer insists on caramel. Message me if you know where I can find one.”
Rather than plotting how to remove a fellow retailer from the game, they’re looking for creative solutions for each other’s challenges, for maintaining and growing our numbers, not whittling them for our personal gain.
CBA representatives who have served as industry guests at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference observe the same undercurrent of cooperation and collaboration valued above competition within the writing community. “United we stand. Divided we fall” is a concept that traces back farther than a brave soldier heading into battle. It’s expressed in Aesop’s fables. And in the strategies first defined in the Bible.
The ACFW conference is focused on fiction. Attendees—as many as 500 to 700 each year—are primarily aspiring novelists, veteran novelists, agents, editors, and writing instructors. For the past seven years, ACFW has intentionally invited select industry guests from a variety of branches of interest—retail (corporate and independent), library (church and public), professional publications (general market and inspirational), and others.
“We’re confronted with many of the same challenges,” says ACFW Conference Director and author Robin Caroll. “ACFW is convinced that the more we understand what other facets of the industry face, the more we can foster a spirit of camaraderie. We’re stronger together. And we operate more intelligently when we’re informed about how our actions affect others on this island, those surviving with us, learning how to thrive despite what’s hurled at us.”
CBA’S Christian MARKET Managing Editor Cathy Ellis, a repeat industry guest at the ACFW conference, says, “The industry as a whole can learn from the author community—how they encourage each other, form feedback and brainstorming groups, promote each other’s books in social media, etc.—lifting up a shared mission instead of treating each other like ‘the competition.’ It’s an excellent example for the rest of the industry to follow. Camaraderie when we come together at an event is one thing—but continuing those relationships and support throughout the year is key.”
Outwit. Outplay. Outlast. becomes a more God-honoring iteration: Outlove. Outgive. Outserve.
It’s a business and ministry model worth emulating.