The State of Christian Fiction

If you write or publish Christian fiction books, then you should know about the recent survey of Christian fiction readers and the results. Christian Fiction Readers: Worth Pursuing, Worth Keeping, a reader survey conducted through a cooperative effort of CBA, The Parable Group, The Baker Publishing Group, and American Christian Fiction Writers, used an online survey to compile information from around 1,500 Christian fiction readers—largely female readers (over 90% of respondents).

Fiction Reading

The survey found that Christian fiction readers are purchasing more titles today than five years ago, but their buying and reading behaviors have changed. Here are some key findings from the survey:

  • Christian fiction readers read more than the national average and are more frequent book buyers. Nearly 50% of Christian-fiction readers read more than 10 books annually; by comparison, only 36% of American adults read more than 10 books per year, according to a 2014 Pew Research study.
  • The top Christian fiction genres reported by surveyed readers were historical fiction (66%), romance (52%), contemporary (51%), romantic suspense (50%), suspense/thriller/legal thriller (47%), and mystery/espionage (45%), which also reveals that many Christian fiction readers read more than one genre.
  • Trade paperbacks are still the most popular format for readers at 41% despite what some may presume is the age of digital dominance, with 28% of Christian fiction readers responding that they read on ebooks or digital formats.
  • Nearly 50% report purchasing more Christian fiction titles today than five years ago.
  • Almost 50% of Christian fiction ebooks are downloaded for free rather than purchased.
  • The top sales drivers for Christian fiction are the story itself (94%), the desire to keep reading a story in a series (69%), recommendations about a book (68%), and author familiarity (89%).
  • Most Christian fiction readers don’t want their stories to include sex, bad language, or violence.

While the number of respondents to this survey represents a fairly small subset of Christian fiction readers, the findings represent good news for Christian fiction books and those who produce them.

One finding I found interesting was that over two-thirds of respondents reported that one of the top reasons they buy a Christian fiction book is the desire to keep reading a story in a series. If you want to sell more books, take this to heart. To keep readers coming back for more, write and publish series of stories.

Which finding in this survey caught your attention?

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Book Sales in 2014

The American Association of Publisher (AAP) recently released a report of the 2014 book market based on data reported from 1,800 participating U.S. publishers. Total 2014 net revenue for books and journals in the U.S. rose 4.6%, to $27.9 billion, while trade book revenue in 2014 rose 4.2%, to $15.4 billion, according to StatShot Annual, AAP’s yearly statistical survey of publishing’s estimated size and scope.

The term “trade book” refers to the following types of books: paperback, hardback, mass market, board books, ebooks, and audiobooks (both physical and downloadable)—basically most types of books sold.worldbooksales-300x220

Key elements from the survey include:

  • 2,421,896,606 trade books were sold in 2014. That is 76,510,171 more books than were sold in 2013. That is a lot of books! Children’s and Young Adult titles experienced the greatest amount of growth.
  • After years of decline, physical retail stores saw an increase of 3.2% in revenue and 4.1% in units sold in the trade category.
  • Online retail remained the top sales channel for customers in the trade category, selling 832 million units and providing $5.90 billion in revenue.
  • After slightly declining in 2013, ebooks experienced 3.8% revenue growth to an estimated $3.37 billion dollars. It’s worth noting that though the volume increased only slightly (0.2%), over 510 million ebooks were sold in 2014. That’s nearly on-par with the number of hardbacks (568 million) sold in 2014. This number doesn’t account for ebooks consumed through subscription services.
  • For the first time, the new survey also tracks revenue from subscription platforms. That segment of the market remains small, but subscription audio titles are so far besting ebooks. Among the twenty publishers reporting revenue from subscription services, some 3.88 million audiobooks and 2.47 million ebooks were distributed via those platforms.

Book sales both units and revenue slumped in 2013. While the unit sales figures for 2014 were not yet back up to the 2012 figures (2,474,995,518 books sold generating $15.7 billion in net revenue), the increase is good news for the book publishing industry.

People are buying books—lots of them. That is good news.

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The Importance of Following Trends

Electric cars are catching on. Solar power continues to grow in popularity. Ponchos have come and gone. The number of people taking a cruise is increasing. Trends: they are everywhere.

The book industry also has trends: trends in book topics, trends in book cover design, trends in interior design and layout, and trends in marketing and book promotion.
As an author or publisher producing books, being aware of book industry trends is important. Awareness of these trends serves two purposes:

  1. It keeps your books from looking out-of-date, old-fashioned, or self-published.
  2. It helps you stay on top of the best book marketing techniques to help you generate more exposure and sales.

I watch the trends in the book publishing industry. Trends such as:

  • Using the blank pages at the end of a book to promote other books or services of the author.
  • Including the author’s Facebook page, blog, or Twitter feed in the author bio.

Whenever possible I incorporate these useful ideas into my books and encourage other authors and publishers to do so also.

available as an ebook logo

A new trend I recently have seen occurring is the addition of a little icon to the back cover of a book (near the EAN barcode) letting the reader know that the book is also available as an ebook (see graphic above). I think this is a really smart marketing move.

First of all, not every book is available as an ebook. Letting a reader know the book is available as an ebook is a nice courtesy. It can also trigger those buyers who prefer ebooks to purchase the digital version of a print book they discover by capturing the consumer right then and there. Additionally, about 60% of Goodreads users report they read in both formats. Many purchase both print and digital copies of a book they are reading, switching between the two formats depending on their location. In other words, by using an “available as an ebook” icon on a print book, publishers are reaching both print and digital readers.

If you are publishing a new book, I encourage you to let readers know that the book is available as an ebook by posting a notice on the back cover of the book. It costs you nothing and helps you reach both print and digital readers.

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What makes a book stand out from the pack? The answer can be summed up in one word: Distinction.


Recently, a BookCrash reviewer wrote the following about one of the books she had read:

You can almost always tell which books were published by little publishing companies because they look different. The covers have a different shine about them (and generally there is something vaguely odd about the cover art), the book is sized differently from your average book, the paper is a different color, and the font is always slightly different.

This is not the kind of distinction—being different, odd, or out-of-place—I am referring to.

Standing out from the pack in an odd way that looks out-of-place does not help book sales. Rather, the distinction that drives book sales is that of quality. In other words, a more excellent and grabbing cover design, an exceptionally beautiful interior layout, and, above all, attention-grabbing prose that presents a message in a new light.

Fortunately, the same BookCrash blogger went on to rave about the book she was reviewing:

The Salt Covenants was published by Heritage Books. It was a fantastic discovery. I can totally guarantee the quality of this book. It is AMAZING!

That is the type of distinction required for a book to stand out from the pack—marked superiority. For readers to exclaim “Amazing!” when they have finished the book should be the aim of everyone involved in the publishing process of a book.

Strive for the right type of distinction with your books. Make sure that the outward appearances of your book conform to industry standards, but then amaze your readers with distinction in your message or story.

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A Book Becomes a Tree

Books come from trees. Now trees can come from books.

jacaranda Tree

In an effort to promote environmentally friendly literature, an Argentinean publisher, Pequeño Editor, has created a children’s book that can be planted after reading and will grow into a tree. Using eco-friendly ink and acid-free paper that has been infused with seeds from the Jacaranda tree, the book will decompose in fertile soil, leaving nothing but the seeds to grow into a tree.

The book created by Pequeño Editor is for children between the ages of eight and twelve. It closes the loop in the tree-become-book scenario, bringing it full circle to tree-becomes-book, which becomes a tree again.

Watch this promotional video describing this innovative new book coming full circle.

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