Over the last few weeks I have repeatedly been asked, “What shall I write?” I received the question from both not-yet-published and already published fiction writers, as well as non-fiction writers. Fiction writers had opportunity to have that question at least partially answered during the ACFW fiction conference as they listened to editor and agent panels. Non-fiction writers have numerous conferences in early 2014 to have that question answered.
In fiction, writers face a rapidly changing market. There’s a sense among some agents and editors that probably the fiction market became overloaded and a correction is taking place. One editor opined that too many free novels on the e-book market is depressing sales of new books. Both the B&H Group’s standard fiction list and the Guideposts fiction group, Summerside Press, were shut down over the summer, dumping dozens of books already under contract back on the market. That’s at a time when others are reducing their fiction list because of a slowing Christian fiction market. Kregel is one of the latter, admitting to less than satisfactory sales of suspense novels. A Revell editor revealed she was only interested in contemporary novels, that the fascination with historical novels had peaked and was on the decline. When asked about humor in novels, Love Inspired and Heartsong Presents editors broke into smiles and revealed they loved humor in their novels. None of the editors I connected with were interested in Christian thrillers.
In non-fiction, Christian publishers remain focused on authors with a platform, having had to come to terms with several thousand Christian bookstores closing in recent years. The newer Christian marketing channels are most easily accessed with a “name author,” or as some editors put it, “authors with enough visibility.” I continue to find that books with genuine added value by authors with a limited platform can still find a publisher. That’s illustrated by the excellent sales of Kristen Feola’s The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast and her getting a contract for a second book from Zondervan. Another illustration is Len Bailey’s Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, The world’s most famous Detective Tackles the Bible’s Ultimate Mysteries, which is getting an immediately positive response whenever I describe it. It’s getting a test as a women’s Bible study in our church and resulted in attendance more than doubling.
It’s not easy being a book author when the market is churning like it is now. Will e-books actually fulfill predictions? Will print books survive the e-book onslaught? In 1963 ABA publishers at a retreat in the Poconos heard one prediction after another that television would kill book reading. In reality, it boosted reading to its highest levels ever. Will the e-book have a similar effect? Only time will tell. What I do know is that exceptional books will always find readers. The journey of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling from one publisher to another to bestseller status is one such illustration.