Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hope for Faith-filled Fiction's 2015 Forecast

At the end of each year, Library Journal publishes a Christian fiction preview for the upcoming months. Writing this update is something I enjoy as I get to hear from a variety of editors, publicists, agents, and other industry professionals and hear about upcoming releases. I love seeing the covers, too, so it is a labor of love! Here's a preview for next year.

Though I haven't written fiction for the last year or so, I love being immersed in books and it is exciting to see all the directions Christian fiction is going even at a time that many find discouraging. It is true that the number of acquisitions is getting smaller, houses are closing down, all things that can be depressing. But there's a lot to be hopeful for in the direction of Christian fiction.

1) Blurring of the mainstream/Christian lines can bring new opportunities for acquisition and marketing.

No secret that the Big Six becoming the Big Five and several Christian houses either closing or losing their fiction lines have made publishing news in the past few years. The good side of this is...new opportunities with mainstream houses.

This year I was thrilled to receive lists (albeit smaller ones) from publishers in the ABA world. For instance, Susan Meissner, winner of multiple awards in the CBA realm is publishing Secrets of a Charmed World with Penguin. Ted Dekker's books have long flitted between both markets showing suspense fans will clamor for a book with supernatural elements. 

Stacie Henrie is a newer author whose World War I novels Hope Rising and Hope Remembered release from Grand Central's Forever imprint. Henrie's novels are marketed to romance readers who read on both sides of the house with their inspirational messages and clean content.

Takeaway: Interest in hope-filled stories continues to be strong even at mainstream houses.

2) Small may be the new "big" when it comes to publishing.

Secant and Rosebud are two smaller publishers that I contacted. Rosebud was developed by several traditionally published authors with Lacy Williams as the managing editor. They use a print-on-demand model. Secant is an indie publisher based in the Southeast. Smaller size doesn't always mean limited options. Little houses might be willing to go places the larger houses won't and could provide a middle ground between self-publishing and the Big Five.

Takeaway: Don't overlook the idea of starting out small.

3) Christian media is improving and may provide new opportunities.

Christian movies were once thought of as a bit of a joke, but with newer movies like The Vow and Nicholas Cage's version of Left Behind the image is beginning to change. (I know Christian movies still have a long way to go, but at least this genre is growing). 

Chris Fabry's The Song and Rene Gutteridge's Old Fashioned are both examples of book/movie combinations that will be released this winter. Even media versions that don't fully follow the biblical texts, think Noah and Exodus are bringing new popularity to Christian-themed fiction. For instance, The Shadow of the Mountain: Exodus by Cliff Graham is poised to meet the interests of the audience of the upcoming film.

Takeaway: Consider how Christian media can provide a possible audience for your novel as you market to possible publishers.

4) Christian fiction is getting less and less shy about tackling the tough subjects.

Christian fiction has long left the realm of mere bonnet fiction, but is becoming more and more bold with the years. News events, whether abuse in the clergy, domestic violence or suicide are being tackled in Christian fiction. Mercy's Rain by Cindy Sproles tackles misconduct in the clergy and in the wake of Robin William's shocking death The Boy Who Loved Rain releases this upcoming winter.

It is encouraging to see Christians become more engaging in the culture with a realization that our children will learn about these topics either from us or from the world. Rather than a complete sheltering, Christian fiction is often providing a faith-filled context from which to view the world.

Takeaway: The very issue God is speaking to your heart just may be the story you need to write.

5) Its all still about a love of story.

In spite of the challenges of marketing and social media, its still all about story.  Bottom line a good story with a uniqueness to it and intense plot twists can overcome challenges in this brave new world of publishing. 

Takeaway: Tell YOUR story.

Comments: I'd be curious to hear what books you are excited about that will be releasing in 2015 and why.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I loved your Library Journal article, Julia, and this is a fantastic companion piece - what excellent takeaways! Thanks for sharing your expertise and in-depth research with us. It's so valuable for every author!! We're blessed to have you at the Alley, girl!

kaybee said...

Well, thank you, Julia. Looks as though All Is Not Yet Lost. My crit partner just signed with one of the smaller houses and she's happy. It's also good to know that mainstream publishers are open to inspirational content. It's an exciting time to be a Christian writer, if you've got the stomach for it. And it works both ways: mainstream books are showing spiritual content. Two I love: Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper series, though she hasn't done anything new for a while, and Carolyn Hart's "Ghost" series. I also love anything by Jennifer Chiaverini, whose books are not "Christian" per se but whose characters always make the right choices. Oh Julia you've got me started talking about books and I have to go to work...Have a good day...
Kathy Bailey
Reading in New Hampshire

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great post, Julia!
I was so excited to see my book in that article published by Library Journal. I just happened to see someone's post on Facebook and did a double take! "Hey, that's my cover!"
So many great books coming out!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post Julia. I haven't looked at the list of ABA releases for 2015. :) I should, but life hasn't allowed much time for breathing and taking care of today, much less next year. :) However, I am going to check out some of the books you mentioned. It really is an exciting time to be a Christian writer. And I loved your takeaways. Thanks for making this post practical. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Thanks, hope it will help encourage at least one person. I think good things are ahead for CF.


Yes, so true! many writers in the mainstream realm are including more spiritual content. I'm excited to see too that Lynne Hinton and Sharon McCrumb are now publishing in the CBA market! Much good can come from the mixing I believe and many told me they don't feel it is watering down the faith element, which is encouraging all around.

Julia M. Reffner said...


I was excited to see your cover, girl! Congrats! I agree, so many great titles to be excited about!


I understand the craziness and hope it will calm down enough for you to read at least a few of these releases!