Change We DO Believe In

I use my blog,Reading, Writing, and the Stuff In-Between,” to interview Inspirational novelists and introduce their latest releases to my readers. As most interviewing bloggers do, I tend to use a set of questions that doesn’t vary significantly from author to author. The answers are what vary, since they reflect so many different viewpoints and experiences.

Still, each month I have a particular question just for that month’s authors. Sometimes I ask something very specific about their craft, sometimes about their joys or frustrations, sometimes about their readers. Not too long ago, I asked my featured novelists about the Inspirational publishing market. “What, if anything,” I asked, “would you change about the Inspirational fiction industry?” Maybe you’ll identify with some of their answers.

What would you change about the Inspirational Fiction Industry?

I think most novelists would just as soon write, write, write, and leave the promotional efforts to someone more talented in that department. Ronie Kendig, author of Digitalis (Barbour), says that, since the Inspirational market “ . . . is a dynamic, constantly changing industry, I don’t know that I’d change anything. Or perhaps I’d lift the burden of marketing from the author’s shoulders and return it to the marketing department. To me, this is like asking a dog owner to be able to perform surgery on his/her pet simply because it’s their pet.” I so agree. I’ve definitely seen my “pets” thrive more from the able efforts of my publishing houses’ marketing efforts than from anything I’ve been able to accomplish.

Part of the equation for the success of our novels includes shelf placement in bookstores. Mary Connealy, author of Sharpshooter in Petticoats (Barbour), says, “I love the Inspirational fiction industry. I think it’s the most exciting genre in fiction today, expanding in all directions, trying new things, reaching new audiences.” Still, she says, “I think my books are for everybody. I wish somehow I could get them in the general romance section and the Inspirational fiction section.

“That’s tricky.” Maureen Lang, author of Springtime of the Spirit (Tyndale), agrees. “I wish bookstores would place our books in the fiction section in their bookstores. If they’d like to set it apart as Inspirational fiction, that’s okay—I don’t want a reader to be surprised by Christian content, either. But so often Inspirational fiction is set far away from the rest of fiction, barely marked or under Religious sections without a clue to a browser that our books are even available. It’s so sad when I receive a note from a reader that starts out saying, ‘I had no idea there was such a thing as Inspirational fiction!’”

The higher-selling novelists in the Inspirational industry—those who have actually experienced placement on the famed bestseller lists—can have an unique take on how our books are presented to the buying public. New York Times bestselling novelist, Terri Blackstock, author of Vicious Cycle (Zondervan), says, “I wish there were more Christian stores that reported to the New York Times so that all of our fiction could compete with the best-selling secular books. In the past, none of our Christian book store sales were counted. To make the NYT list, you had to have stellar sales in the secular stores. But in the last few months, a couple of the Christian chains announced that they are going to be reporting their sales. That’s a major breakthrough, and it’s because the New York Times recognizes that Christian books are selling very well.”

That’s good news for all of us.

Still other authors focused their answers to my question on the content of the books themselves, and the restrictions novelists may experience in subject matter. Janelle Mowery, author of When All My Dreams Come True (Harvest House), says, “I’d like [Inspirational fiction] to be perceived as good entertainment rather than another means to preach. I’ve heard people say they avoid Inspirational fiction for that very reason.”

Gail Gaymer Martin, author of A Dad of His Own (Love Inspired), adds, “Although some publishers are becoming less conservative, I find that sometimes the stories I want to tell are bound by restrictions that don’t reflect real life. Christians are sinful and make mistakes. I want to write real and deal with characters who struggle with all of the life situations that so many of us face day to day. We can’t do this if we are restricted by too many rules.” In the short time I’ve been publishing, I can say I’ve experienced a bit more of what Martin craves. Just today one of my readers thanked me for using two divorced characters as my hero and heroine. I have my publisher to thank for allowing me to “get real” about an unfortunate but true sector of the reading public.

I ask all of my interviewees to imagine their novels in film version. When answering my question about the Inspirational novel industry Mary Ellis, author of Abigail’s New Hope (Harvest House), said, “I would encourage filmmakers to make more wholesome, family-oriented movies. Other than animated films, there are few good movies that aren’t loaded with violence, sex, and/or foul language.” Amen to that, Mary, and we Inspirational novelists could point the filmmakers to plenty of good material to choose from.

As Mary Connealy said, the Inspirational publishing industry is expanding and trying new ways to reach readers. Since every player in this particular market has the same ultimate goal, I like to think some of the above author suggestions might be given consideration. After all, if any wing of the publishing industry has a prayer of succeeding, ours does.

Rachel Stanhope tries to see the good in everyone.
But Josh Reegan tests even her good graces when they meet outside her Arlington, Virginia, dance studio in 1951. He’s attractive, yet his cynicism and cockiness are hard to tolerate.
A journalist and former World War II Air Force pilot, Josh considers ballroom dancing a frivolous waste of time. Although Rachel’s confident nature is a refreshing challenge, he wouldn’t tangle with her if his newspaper hadn’t assigned him to cover her studio’s competition in New York City.

Between the melodrama of ballroom antics and the real drama of political corruption, Rachel and Josh have their hands full. The last thing either of them expects is mutual need and support. But once they stop dancing around the truth, the results are unforgettable.