Christian Retailing

Christian novelists draw record crowd at Mall of America Print Email
Written by Sam Townsend   
Monday, 10 November 2008 03:53 PM America/New_York

Book-signing event at largest mall in the country ‘raises awareness’ about inspirational fiction

More than 120 Christian novelists recently drew avid fans and new readers to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., in the largest book-signing event ever at the biggest mall in the country.

Sponsored by Barnes & Noble and Northwestern Book Stores, the two-hour signing Sept. 20 was held in conjunction with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference and Awards Banquet in Minneapolis.

Tables stretched down one of the mall’s hallways, the writers spoke from two stages and a steady flow of customers purchased books at a nearby register. Approximately 2,000 people met the writers and received autographed copies of their books during the event, organizers said.

“By every stretch, this is the largest signing we’ve conducted,” Randy Geurts, community relations manager for the mall’s Barnes & Noble store, told Christian Retailing. “I have never had such a large crowd gather for something like this. We had a steady line for two-and-a-half hours.”

Beverly Snyder—event coordinator for Northwestern Book Stores, a chain of seven Christian stores in the Minneapolis area—agreed that the signing was a success.

“This is an amazing thing and a great event for the (area),” she said. “I wish more people in the community had really gotten the word out and understood the impact.”

Jonathan Friesen, author of Jerk, California (Puffin/Penguin Putnam), joked that the event was “too good” because his first novel sold out in the first 20 minutes.

Stephanie Abbott said she was a little disappointed because she wanted to buy several copies of Friesen’s book—a Christian allegory featuring a Tourette’s syndrome teen who goes on a road trip to California.
Abbott’s 14-year-old daughter, Gabriella, said she went to the signing to hunt for “more good-quality girl books that don’t seem to be stooping down, and have good morals.”

Camy Tang—author of Sushi for One? (Zondervan), which won a 2008 ACFW Book of the Year award in the Debut Author category—said she enjoyed the event. “It’s been fun,” she said. “I’ve met so many readers.”

Aspiring author Lynn Dean, who traveled from Waco, Texas, to attend the ACFW conference, said meeting the authors at the signing and hearing their words was “brain candy.”

“You really learn as much from the interaction with other authors as you do from the formal sessions,” she told Christian Retailing.

ACFW spokeswoman Cara Putman said the event was not only a great way to help the authors meet their readers, but it also helped bookstores.

“We have to ask, ‘How can we better serve bookstores?’ because they’re really on the frontlines,” said Putman, adding that she got her start in Christian fiction writing after meeting an author at a signing. “I’m such a big believer in authors interfacing with bookstores.”

Putman noted that although Barnes & Noble garnered all the business from the signing, “we tried to drive people to Northwestern to buy their books.” 

ACFW President Robin Miller said she was pleased with the turnout. “I hope it raises the awareness of Christian fiction—that it’s out there,” she said.

Meanwhile, eight Christian fiction authors were scheduled to hit the road last month to fight adolescent literacy by encouraging youngsters to read, and helping them to mold positive thinking and behavior. In partnership with the nonprofit Character4Kids, the Motiv8 Fantasy Fiction Tour was set to visit hospitals, libraries and after-school programs in eight cities on the West Coast, including Seattle and Los Angeles, Oct. 3-11.