As a continuation of last month’s introduction to current Christian fiction trends, this article will expand on additional insights hinted at in the fiction segment of the Product Trends Event at CBA’s UNITE 2016 in Cincinnati in June.
The 2015 reader survey sponsored by CBA, ACFW, Parable Books, and Baker Publishing Group confirms what other fact gatherers show—that Christian fiction readers buy and read more annually than any other reader group. As Daisy Hutton, HarperCollins Christian Publishing VP and fiction publisher notes, those readers not only read inspirational fiction but general market fiction, increasing the pressure on authors and publishers of Christian fiction to woo those readers with compelling, quality stories. Enough to satisfy their voracious appetites for—as Abingdon Fiction once expressed it—“a novel approach to faith.”
What are readers observing about current trends in Christian fiction? Reflective of issues that show up in the news, in coffee houses, and on the prayer lists of those who view current events through the lens of biblical truth, reader/author Karen Barnett says she appreciates the greater diversity in storylines, settings, and time periods. “We have quite a ways to go [regarding] people diversity, though.”
An anonymous reader commented, “I’ve found a few books with multigenerational plots. I don’t mean books with an elderly neighbor thrown in for humor or window dressing—I mean stories with complex issues for all the characters.”
Readers who jumped onto the Christian fiction train at its revitalization in the late 1970s and early 1980s are aging. Are we attracting new generations of readers at a 1980s pace? What books, what approach, what style of retail experience will draw Millennials to Christian fiction? Right now, their attention is primarily riveted on what the general market is feeding them.
It’s no small task to undertake, but winning their hearts to God-honoring fiction could provide life-affirming, faith building, hope-giving stories through which Millennials can explore what matters to them in an environment of what matters to God.
THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL FATIGUE
A June 17 article in Publishers Weekly cited “digital fatigue” as one of the factors that explains the recent flattening of e-book sales. The article references an April Codex survey of shopping preferences that indicates that although “book buyers said they spent almost five hours of daily personal time on screens, 25 percent of book buyers, including 37 percent of those 18-24 years old, want to spend less time on their digital devices.” Other research indicates that content retention falls as much as 15 to 20 percent reading from a screen rather than a page.
ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTION
Novelists build their stories from a two-word question—“What if…?” What if we’re about to see at least a remnant returning to bookstores? What if we’re not done innovating? What if the best ideas are on the horizon, just coming into view?
What if we were the Joshuas and Calebs of the fiction content creation, publishing, and retail world? What if we saw the giants we’re up against, but focused on the weight of the fruit and the beauty of the landscape of redemption in our sights? What if— unlike the 10 scouts of the Old Testament who saw nothing but impossibilities—we daily reminded each other that nothing is impossible with God?
It will take all of us—authors, publishers, marketers, sales teams, distributors, retailers, media. But story is a powerful persuader. And we can’t get away from the fact that souls are at stake.
Are we ready for a wave of Christian fiction that rocks the unbelieving, doubting, hurting, confused, misguided world? That communicates truth in story form in way that compels them to listen? That proves God is the One who invented and perfected the concept of the arts? What if…?