Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?

It is surprising to me how many people assume that “clean fiction” is the same as “Christian fiction.” It’s not.

To be considered “Christian fiction” a book must promote Christian teachings or exemplify a Christian way of life.

Over the years, Christian fiction has waxed and waned. A few decades ago, there was a great push for Christian bookstores to carry more fiction books. Now it appears that Christian fiction may be on the waning phase for traditional publishing houses.

christian-fiction

Chip MacGregor, a Christian literary agent, recently wrote a few publishing predictions for 2017 on his blog. Here is what he had to say about Christian fiction:

“Christian fiction as we know it is going to almost completely go away. The days of people buying 100,000 copies of a new Amish romance are dead. The readership has aged, the readers have discovered there are quality issues with CBA mystery, suspense and thriller genres, so CBA fiction is going to morph into “clean romance” and “values fiction” and “apocalyptic biblical thrillers” aimed specifically at a shrinking group of hard-core conservative evangelical readers in their 50’s. There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days.”

Sales of religious novels began to decline in 2014, after many years of robust growth. As a result, a number of publishers began pulling back from that market. However, statistics showed that traditional publishing houses were only releasing around 250 new fiction titles a year (not counting the various Harlequin Love Inspired and Heartsong lines which publish over 200 per year) compared to thousands of nonfiction titles released each year.

While the traditional Christian publishing houses may be reducing the number of clearly “Christian fiction” books they produce, the number of “Christian fiction” books produced by independent authors and small publishers is growing. Subscribe to any one of the many Christian discount ebook newsletters (i.e. Vessel Project, Faithful Reads, Inspired Reads, Christian Book Readers, etc.) and you will find plenty of Christian fiction books by independent authors.

In fact, I believe that “Christian fiction” is growing with independent authors and small publishers. Over the past few years, the number of Christian fiction titles that have been nominated for the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award has grown each year. And, this year, for the first time, more General Fiction books were nominated than books in the Christian Living category (historically the largest category in the award).

If, indeed, the traditional Christian publishing houses are switching to more “clean fiction” to reach a crossover market and increase their sales, this leaves a gap that independent authors can fill. I believe there is still a strong market for good redemptive Christian fiction books, but the majority of sales for these will be digital. After all, one recent statistic showed that 70% of fiction book purchases are ebooks.

Related Posts:
The State of Christian Fiction
The State of Fiction Reading
The Power of Christian Fiction

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

5 thoughts on “Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?

  1. I find that redemptive and spirit-filled Christian fiction is growing into a powerful evangelistic tool of excellent stories. But no one will carry them in the CBA world. They are entirely self-published, for example, because no publisher will touch them. I had to start a vetted Christian bookstore just to get a place where people could look for them. It’s small yet, but growing.

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  2. I think the CBA has killed a lot of Christian fiction. The stories are too simplistic and unrealistic. Small publishers will pick up some of the slack, but writers need to put out more realistic stories. I’m tired of all the bad guys being non-believers and all the good guys are believers. Christians aren’t perfect. In fact, a lot commit crimes – just look at the news. Good storytelling and realism will keep readers interested – no matter the genre.

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