Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Future of Hope-Filled Fiction, Part I

Big house mergers such as Penguin and Random House.

"Realignment" of Christian fiction houses (i.e. B&H).

E-book only originals.

These are just a few of the factors changing the face of Christian fiction in the past year.

Blogs such as Books and Such (the agency who represents Krista and Karen) and Chip MacGregor's blog (he represents Amy), as well as the magazines Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal (and their websites) are great places to go to find our more about what's going on.

Library Journal devoted space in its recent November 1st issue to the changing face of Christian fiction and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute an article on 2014 trends in Christian fiction.

I interviewed associate publishers, acquisitions editors, public relations directors, and a few authors to learn more about what we can expect for the upcoming year.

As a writer, I was encouraged and excited about what's upcoming. We're always hearing about what a challenging time it is to be an unpublished author, but we are writing in a time when Christian fiction is changing and morphing into something new and different.

Yet still it is retaining that HOPE-FILLED quality that makes it distinctive.

Here are some upcoming releases I'm excited about because I think they represent some new directions in Christian fiction:

1) The Fight by Luke Wordley:

Wordley is a self-published author whose book will be rereleased by Tyndale. In a female-saturated genre, it is refreshing to see more books geared toward a male audience. It deals with the theme of anger in men. The Wish by Jake Smith  is also a novel men as well as women might enjoy with its baseball theme and an issue-oriented theme (bone marrow transplant).

Significance: It is encouraging, although it is still rare, to see more self-published authors being discovered. Also, it is fantastic to see more books being geared toward the male readership, who are more likely than the average population to read ebooks.

2) Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg:

Rosenberg's latest is a significant departure from recent hits. A New York Times bestselling author, his themes are as fresh as today's headlines and noted for eerily accurate prophetic detail. This is also a great example of how a "genre jump" can fit well into an author's brand. His books are about unpacking world events heading toward the end days. Rosenberg's books have featured the nation of Israel and the prophetic significance of the Jewish people. So with a Holocaust novel he has jumped from contemporary to historical, yet written a book that fits perfectly into his unique brand.

Significance: Not only is this is new novel from a well-known name, but it demonstrates making a genre shift while still maintaining a unique brand.

3) The Wedding Planners of Butternut Creek by Jane Myers Perrine:

E-readers have allowed a more mainstream audience to pick up Christian fiction. With the vast number of free books available through Amazon, B&N, and Christian Book Distributors many new readers are discovering the Christian fiction genre. The morals and values are very appealing to these readers who desire a less heavy-handed (as they view it) approach to theology. Perrine's series, compared to Jan Karon's Mitford series, have humor, take place in a charming small town and feature a sweet church-centered romance.

Significance: More cross-over novels are releasing and are easier to find in this electronic heavy market. These books can be "shelved" in various places to cater to those who might never find their way to a traditional bookstore. Can your book be marketed into this market?

4) The Hatmaker's Heart by Carla Stewart:

Downton Fever has been hitting the U.S. shores with a vengaence. A number of novels releasing in 2014 will have 1920s settings. I've pegged Carla's in particular because: a) serious big time cover love, 2) focus on costumes has always been a part of the Christian market but the new focus on elegant eras such as the 1920s and the Regency era bring out the beauty of wonderful clothes. I'm noticing costumes on book covers seem to becoming more and more lavish and I love it!

Signficance: Downton Abbey has given the always-popular costume drama an extra surge and there is a particular draw towards eras with fabulous clothing.

5) A Season of Change by Lynette Sowell:

Amish and the circus? This is not your mother's Amish, the variety has increased in recent years. Readers typically pick up these novels looking for tales of simpler times and peaceful settings. Sowell's novel also takes place in the community of Pinecraft, where some electricity is used. Readers don't expect an Amish story to take place on the beach.

Significance: Amish fiction seems to be here to stay but it is undergoing its own evolution. Cross-genres such as mystery are becoming more popular. Some Amish books now contain significant departures from what we expect and even show characters leaving the Amish. The Amish angle just isn't unique enough, readers need to find ways to add twists to the typical Amish story.

6) Never to Live by Just B. Jordan:

The first significant fact about this book is that its author is only 17 years old. Its a psychological mind-bending fantasy. Jordan represents a growing market among teenagers in particular. Large numbers of young adults attend seminars such as One Year Adventure Novel (hosted by Jeff Gerke) to learn to grow in their craft. Because a vast majority of these writers are pursuing the speculative genre, fantasy may play a stronger role as these teenagers become adult published authors.

Significance: Everyone loves the fairy-tale stories of self-published authors who become discovered or young talents, Jordan fits the bill. Speculative fiction is also very popular not only among young adults who read but also those who write and as such we need to pay attention to this genre.

Do you have any books you are anxious to read that are releasing in 2014? What makes these books unique? I'll return in a few weeks with more thoughts on trends based on my research.

Julia Reffner loves to write when she can find an empty spot and five minutes of silence. She writes and reviews for Library Journal, a trade publication with over 60,000 subscribers. She is a wife, homeschool mama to two littles and lover of all things book-related.


Angie Dicken said...

Wow,great post, Julia! I hadn't heard about Carla Stewart's novel, now I am itching to read it! What a great list you've given.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Don't you love Carla's cover.

Am I the only one who occasionally picks a new book solely on the basis of the cover??

Pepper said...

Wow Julia!! This is FANTASTIC stuff!!! And I'm totally sold by The Hatmaker's Heart. Oh YES!!!

(Waving to other Downton groupies)

And The Wedding Planners of Butternut Creek? Yep!! 'charming small town"??? I'm in!

You've done such a nice job of giving some teasers for these new releases and the importance of their presence in the market. FABULOUS!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Yes, there are some other great Downton-era books releasing next year. You'll have lots to read!

For Downton fans: look into Allison Pittman's roaring twenties series, or recent release The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky. The Baron's Honorable Daughter by Lynn Morris is an upcoming release being described as P&P meets Downton.

carla stewart said...

Julia - what an honor to see The Hatmaker's Heart here this morning. FaithWords did an amazing job with the cover, and I can't wait for people to read this story of life in the world of high fashion! A little British twist, too, for lovers of Downton. Thanks for the nod.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Julia, what a great post! I love Carla's cover too. And I enjoy reading that era. I have to say though, that I also love Joel Rosenberg's books. I didn't realize he'd written a historical. I'm going to be checking out some of these books. Thanks for sharing!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Carla, You're welcome. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your cover. Would love to see more books on the world of fashion. Fun!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Joel Rosenberg grew up in my town so I'm a bit proud to see his releases. And I think it is so neat how he is taking a historical novel with prophetic implications. What a great new twist, yet maintaining his brand. Helps me to think about branding in a new way.

Angie Dicken said...

Oh goodness, Julia, I am so guilty of choosing a book by its cover! But luckily, I have had much success with writing that lives up to their covers!:)

Julia M. Reffner said...

So true, Ang. I think of Tamara Alexander and Laura Frantz. Their covers are ALWAYS fabulous. But then so is their writing.

Pepper said...

Ditto, Ang.
The whole "judge a book by its cover' deal has worked for me recently.
Laura Frantz's covers are breathtaking!!! (and they're ALWAYS a fantastic read)
But I tell you, there have been so many amazing book covers lately. Revell is at the top. Bethany House too. WOWZERS. And Carla's is stunning!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

What a great post, Jules! Love this list and the diversity shown! And I'll admit, I'm a cover snob too! Carla Stewart ALWAYS has great covers! This one is no exception! Now I need to go brush up on what else is coming out in 2014!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Ames, Your cover snobbery is well-warranted. Luckily, so many of our favorites have great covers!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Love this post. I especially appreciate when someone compiles the latest info into one package for me to read.
Great job!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh, I confess, I'm a cover snob. Is that okay? I guess I'm that because of all the book covers my dad did growing up. I don't know...but I do know what I like!

And Julia...these teasers were AWESOME! I am no good at book reviews but I really love how you spin the essence of a book.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Sherrinda, Wow, your dad wrote and did covers, too? He sounds like such a neat guy!