Chip MacGregor wrote an interesting blog post a few weeks ago that got him in hot water with just about anyone that has something to do with Christian fiction. I read the article wondering what he had to say that had everyone is such an uproar. Well to be honest I am still wondering as I have read and reread the post a few times now. I guess mainly because I think he is correct in his thinking.
It is true that many of the publishing houses that use to be strong in fiction have dropped their fiction lines and it is getting harder and harder to find Christian fiction in any bookstore. I am not sure why that is happening as more and more people are reading fiction, especially Christian Fiction.
It is also true that more and more authors are writing Christian fiction, but why are we having such a hard time finding it. Well I do have a strange thought on that. It is not easy to find a book of an author you don’t know to look for. Okay that sound even strange to me, but if the only place we end up looking for books is online, I can almost guarantee that readers do not and will not “browse” those shelves like they would a bookstore.
Readers love new books. But we do get stuck reading our favorite authors over and over again. Or at least waiting to read their next release. When we discover a new author it is because someone recommends them or it is on sale and we decide to take a chance on them.
So bookstores are still a needed component in the equation of readers and books. For some reason a few years ago when e-readers were becoming the big thing and it hit the fiction market hard, bookstores started carrying fewer titles. Well when the excitement wore off and readers returned to the traditional books, bookstores seemed to not get back on board.
So now we have a problem. Readers looking for and waiting books, but have no one to buy them from. Bookstores, we need to get back in the game and start bringing those (fiction) readers back into the stores. If you wonder if they are reading, go to a Barnes and Noble and decide for yourself if fiction makes money or not. Over 3/4ths of a B&N is fiction and they are busy.
But fiction selling takes more work than just sitting the books you like on the shelf and figuring the readers will be fine with that selection. You must carry a variety. Ex.- I was at a conference and attended a workshop about selling fiction. When asked what kind of fiction books the other attendees (all bookstore owners/workers) carried, about 1/2 of them mentioned only Amish or Historical. I can tell you right now I would have not shopped at their stores. Why? I am Christian I should support that store right? But they don’t carry what I read and not because I read trashy novels.
Now I am not saying those genres are bad, but they are not the genres I read. I am here today to say, bookstores the other genres are alive and well in the Christian fiction market, yes it takes a bit of effort to find them and carry them. But I will also tell you that fiction readers are loyal to a fault and once you win them over they will shop you store all the time.
You will have to let them know what you are doing, start a bookclub, advertise to local libraries and church libraries. Throw a special fiction reader event. Have authors in. More than one variety. Yes some of those visit will be poorly attended, but don’t stop. Work at it and they will come. (sorry couldn’t resist).
Okay off the soapbox I am on, but it is an issue that I find near and dear to my heart. Fiction is easy to sell, but you do need to get started and that is where the work starts.
P.S. Here is the link to Chip’s blog post if you are interested.