by Nicole Petrino-Salter
Cynthia Ruchti, an award-winning fiction author and American Christian Fiction Writers professional liaison, said fiction readers are real fans, but their interests range beyond just the most popular genres.
“What matters to readers is the story itself,” Ruchti said. “That suggests a broader selection of genres help create a destination in the store for fiction readers. It’s important to understand the opportunity to present a broader appeal to fiction readers who are often going elsewhere to purchase books.”
Cynthia is spot on with her assessment. Publishing often adheres to trends to take advantage of the purchase power of certain niche readers. However, as we’ve pointed out countless times here, there are multiple readers who are virtually ignored by some publishers which I think is a significant reason for Christian booklovers to seek out more genres in the general market and gravitate away from Christian bookstores and what they offer.
Christian bookstores have taken a hit in recent years. Although many prefer real books to e-readers, the e-readers offer prices anyone can afford and an endless selection of all kinds of genres.
Those of us who’ve owned, run, or worked for businesses realize the expenses to operate can be daunting. The overhead for buildings, stock, and employees means the profit margin for keeping a store open and above water must be significant. Nevertheless, as prices for books can be noticeably cheaper to purchase online – sometimes even with shipping costs – the convenience factor of running to the store for that novel – if the store has it in stock – is not always considered a favorite choice.
The main factor for many of us pursuing writing and reading Christian fiction sold by CBA stores is the little variety in genres and overpriced books. I think the general concept of Christian bookstores has suffered from keeping so much other “stuff” in the stores besides bibles, books, greeting cards, and a few decorative items reasonably priced. The competitive market demands books be sold at a slimmer profit margin which means budgets must accommodate the market to stay in business. And a business needs all the consumers they can find. By limiting the inventory to bestselling, familiar authors, three or four genres, employees who don’t have a working knowledge of fiction in order to recommend authors and genres, all equal a formula for failure.
Times are tough right now for CBA bookstores. Publishers need to rescind their return policy so retailers will only order what they think they can sell. This is one way to determine what’s really going on from the buying public. Publishers can then make adjustments to what they need to look for and just maybe more authors can earn out those advances – if there are advances being offered anymore.
Just some same old, same old thoughts on the Christian publishing/selling/buying perspective.