Christian Retailing

Books focus: Fiction remains the big story and main draw at show Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 27 July 2009 01:58 PM America/New_York

Category identified as entering 'golden age,' with wide range of genres and great potential for more sales


Christian fiction, identified as a growth area of publishing, was once again spotlighted during this year's show in seminars, luncheons and signings.

Marketing the category was the subject of a Product Intelligence Tour led by Bethany House Publishers' Steve Oates, who told those in attendance that fiction buyers are the most frequent purchasers in Christian stores.

In a "Know Thy Customer" seminar, Christian fiction was identified as now entering its "golden age," with a wide range of genres and great potential for more sales in Christian retail stores.

Rebeca Seitz, author and owner of Glass Road Public Relations, teamed up with consumer research specialist Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for R.R. Bowker, to present findings from recent surveys.

"Active Christians"—those with strong beliefs and involvement in a local church—made 53% of all fiction purchases at Christian retail stores, but only 17% of the novels they bought from all sources was Christian, attendees heard. The rest were general adult fiction titles—pointing to a great opportunity for Christian stores to recommend more Christian fiction to their core buyers, Seitz said.

Fiction was also the focus during Saturday's pre-ICRS Christy Awards, celebrating its 10th year. Nine awards were handed out in a variety of fiction categories, including the splitting this year of Contemporary Romance and Historical Romance, replacing the Lits category. The awards were downsized from a dinner show to a dessert reception, but managed to keep nearly the same attendance of 160, Director Donna Kehoe said.

karen kingsbury-icrs09Best-selling novelist Karen Kingsbury hosted the new Heart of the Author luncheon, which gave retailers a behind-the-scenes view of books from fiction and nonfiction authors. She opened the event telling the room comprised mostly of retailers that "we love and appreciate what you're doing. We are not down, and we are not out. ...We consider you our co-workers."

Along with Kingsbury, who revealed the inspiration behind her upcoming novel Shades of Blue (Zondervan), which centers on the abortion issue, 18 other authors gave attendees a peek inside their newest releases. Participants included Terri Blackstock, Jamie Carie, Patti Hill, Arron Chambers and Brenda Garrison.

Kingsbury revealed that as a teen she was pressured to drive a friend for an abortion appointment and recently met with that friend years later to seek her forgiveness. Blackstock said the inspiration for her upcoming novel Intervention came from struggling with her daughter's addiction.

Deborah Reilly, manager of Together in His Name bookstore of North Hampton, N.H., said the stories behind the books would help her guide customers in making product decisions, especially in light of the personal stories some of the authors shared.

"I already know some people who have to read some of these books," she said. "We go through some hardships so we can share with others."

Making a personal connection was a priority for authors doing book signings throughout the week. Authors doing signings included Kingsbury and other fiction authors Beverly Lewis, Tamera Alexander, Brandilyn Collins, Robin Jones Gunn, Blackstock and Lori Copeland as well as nonfiction authors Gary Chapman, Anne Graham Lotz, Kevin Leman, Tom Osborne, Don Piper, Sen. Jim DeMint and Stephen and Alex Kendrick.

The Kendricks, co-authors of The Love Dare which sold more than 3 million copies, are currently working on The Love Dare Day by Day Devotional, which is due to come out before Christmas from B&H Publishing Group. The book will offer daily studies and reflections and a weekly dare for couples who "want to take the love dare to the next level," Stephen said.

With 23 years' marriage experience and 10 children between them, the Kendricks will then work on The Love Dare for Parents, with hopes of having it in stores before Christmas next year.

FaithWords promoted the newest release from Windblown Media, publishers of megahit The ShackBo's Café by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, arriving Sept. 25.

Chapman's success with The Five Love Languages, underscoring the importance of backlist, was celebrated with a VIP reception given by Moody Publishers. Steve Lyon, publisher, spoke on the book's sales and the need for its continued success, pointing to a recent Time magazine cover story on the state of traditional marriage.

John Hinkley, marketing director, followed with the news that Moody will re-launch the book in January with its "most aggressive marketing in a decade," including new covers and an interactive Web site where readers can take the love languages assessment test.

"We hope to reach the younger generation," he said. "Our goal, our vision, is reducing the number of divorces."

In addition to royalty publishing, self-publishing, recently heralded by World magazine as a "bright spot" in an otherwise "gloomy" environment, was represented by a number of companies promoting their authors and services, including WinePress, which held a publishing gala and B&H Publishing Group's CrossBooks, which made its trade show debut.

Phil Burgess, CrossBooks director, said since the division debuted just nine weeks ago, 23 titles have been published by established authors such as Ken Hemphill, as well as first-time authors.

"We built this around what authors are wanting and what retailers are wanting," he said, adding that in the current climate, some authors are facing difficulties in getting published because of the risks associated with unsure sales.

Burgess, who said he was surprised to see interest from several "big name" authors during ICRS, said he believed the division will succeed because of a win-win-win strategy.

"We want retailers to win, the author to win, and we want a great product," he said.