What Christian Fiction Readers Want

Do you write and publish Christian fiction? The good news is that Christian fiction is a thriving genre.

Did you know that Christian fiction readers are the most devoted Christian book readers? On average, Christian fiction readers read 10 times more books per year than the average American.

The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) recently conducted an informal survey via social media of Christian fiction readers regarding their reading habits and wishes. The survey uncovered two major desires readers of Christian fiction possess.

1. Readers want more.

Most readers expressed that their reading habits had grown in recent years. They are reading more books and more widely. These readers want more good Christian fiction titles to enjoy with more genre choices.

2. Readers want meat.

Many survey respondents reported that they wanted to see more “tough topics” addressed in the stories. They want more books that address real needs through compelling story in a realistic, faith-based way.

Another reader survey by Written Word Media (a general market company) looked at what fiction readers really want. That survey found that readers expressed the following two desires.

1. Readers don’t have a strong preference for fiction series versus standalone fiction titles.

The overwhelming majority of survey respondents in the Written Word Media survey reported that they had no preference between series or standalone books. Two of the chief complaints readers had when it came to series were that it is often hard to find all the books in the series and that they dislike books that end with a cliffhanger.

2. The primary reason readers abandon reading a fiction book is because it is boring.

The most common reason given for quitting reading a book was because the reader found it boring. Readers want a plot that keeps moving and keeps them engaged. Other reasons mentioned by readers for abandoning a book were uninteresting characters and overdone descriptions.

If you write fiction, the findings in this survey should not be a surprise. Rather, they should serve as a reminder of what avid fiction readers want. The good news is that you don’t have to write a series to interest readers. Fiction readers are happy to read a standalone book.

The takeaway from these surveys is that Christian fiction fans are hungry for more and higher-quality novels that address real needs with realistic characters presented with a compelling plot. Write to fill this need and your books will be successful.

Related Posts:
Is Christian Fiction Growing or Dying?
The Power of Christian Fiction
The State of Christian Fiction

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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