Thursday, October 19, 2006

Changes Coming in Fiction?

[Sorry for the late post. Blogger's been gummed up.]

The October 16 issue of Christian Retailing ran an article titled “Emergent Church Growth Prompts Industry Debate.” The article gave examples of how many booksellers are broadening their inventories of nonfiction books geared to “emergent church” folks, who are “predominantly younger” while other booksellers are refusing to carry such titles altogether. Even amid the controversy, such titles as Blue Like Jazz (Nelson), The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan), and Velvet Elvis (Zondervan) are selling well and becoming something akin to modern classics.

Zondervan senior executive Lynn Cryderman told Christian Retailing that every Zondervan Emergent title has outperformed sales projections. Zondervan’s sales in this genre increased about 20 percent in the first half of 2006, while STATS figures show overall emergent book sales doubling during that time period from the same time period last year.

Meanwhile the November issue of CBA’s Aspiring Retail is running an article about attracting twenty-somethings to Christian bookstores. The article shows how most people in this age group aren’t attracted to the typical Christian bookstore. They want a place to hang out, to drink coffee with friends and bring their wireless computers for online cruising. They are about community.

So what might all this mean for fiction?

If the industry is paying attention to these issues, seems to me the results will seep over into fiction. Those same twenty-somethings might pick up certain kinds of novels if they’re wooed to a Christian bookstore. Those emergent church folks who are seeking nonfiction titles may appreciate fiction that speaks to them as well.

I know that Zondervan has hired a new editor (Andy—some of you met him at ACFW) who is particularly looking for the kinds of novels that will appeal to the twenty to thirty-five age range. Perhaps other publishers are also doing this.

Change is on the move within the industry—as apparent from these two articles in different publications. Doesn’t mean the old is being thrown out for the new, nor should it be. What’s gone before—whether fiction or nonfiction—is what’s made the Christian bookselling industry what it is today. We should celebrate that. But in a changing world there’s room for expansion. It’s exciting to think how the current concerns covered in these articles might eventually make room for new voices and genres within fiction.


Anonymous said...

I can't speak for all parts of this country, but I can speak for my west coast state where Starbucks originated, and you can literally find those coffee shops on nearly every corner in some locations. I taught Sunday School for teens for several years. Those teens now are the young 20 somethings.
Only a handful of those particular teens from middle class/upper middle class families for the most part can write, read, and spell well. Only a handful of them read AT ALL. A handful of them went to college or plan to, but I'd say only 1% truly know what God has for them to do. (To me that's the saddest statistic of all.)
My guess is if you really want to minister to these teens, you're going to have to start with excellent films and somehow incorporate the reference to books as an encouraging sidenote. Make the Bibles contemporary, but don't try to make them hip or leave out "the blood" or "born again". Let the truth speak for itself. Deal with all issues real-ly and deeply. This generation has been exposed to it all. Literature and film has to capture life in its good, bad, and ugly forms and deliver the Truth as the remedy.
I love teenagers, but they are not well educated in some schools or in some churches. Parents, they need you to be their godly examples, teachers, preachers, and they need you to stay steady when they rock the boat so badly, you think you're all going to flip over.
May the Lord particularly strengthen each parent to stay the course with Jesus and never waver in their faith.
Publishers, etc. can do all kinds of things to attract young people, but if it's not borne out of love for them, they'll see right through it and resent it, abandoning anything associated with it.

Eden said...

Change can be good. Although, I agree with Nicole about having good movies. I know alot of young people who don't read well and who are more into movies. But alot of them will struggle through a book that was mentioned in a movie, just because it peaked their interest.
Brandilyn, I'm currently reading Violet Dawn. It's good.

Kristin Billerbeck said...

Publishers should be excited about this growth! Emergent churches may be leaving the suit and tie at home, but I can tell you, they know how to PREACH the Gospel to a young, hip generation who is SO in need of unconditional love.

I think this generation looks at relationship differently and also at TRUTH from a standpoint where they cannot abide inauthenticity. That's why if you're preaching Christ to them, you better be living it!

I can tell you that my books already sell better in secular outlets AND that I've gotten more than an earful about how my characgters aren't really Christian. Let's leave the CULTURE of Christianity behind, and get back to the basics of the Gospel!! Ooh my soap box! Kristin

Tina Ann Forkner said...

Stay on your soap box, Kristin! ;)

I agree with what Brandilyn said about expansion. We shouldn't hope the old way in publishing CF will just pass away, but if the industry doesn't expand, then potential readers are going to be lost.

How exciting to see the change being talked about in Christian media!

PatriciaW said...

Sounds like you know something about reaching the emergents, Kristin.

Definitely need to think outside the box. Movies, yes but how about podcasts, mini videos, etc? My middle schooler thinks it's cool that I listen to Christian rap with him. Some of it works for me, some doesn't. But more importantly, it works for him. His preferred music genre. He enjoys introducing other kids, who listen to more offensive stuff, to this music, and ultimately to Christ. MP3 players with video screens are the rage. Granted these kids are much younger but hey, they'll be 20-something in less than 10 years (and some of them seem to have lots of disposable funds now).

So should we be surprised? I think booksellers who accurately read and react to youthful directions will be around for a long time.

allen etter said...

Well, that's encouraging news for recent atteps to get my manuscript to an agent met with tragedy...okay, a rejection slip isn't quite tragic...but, I am targetting 20-40 year olds. Maybe my series will find an audience after all.

Unknown said...

I like change, if it's a change due to growth. Like you said, Brandilyn, not throwing out the old for the new. I think there's plenty of market for both.

William G. said...

I guess I'm just fuzzy on what an emergent novel actually is...