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October 2012

Reporter: Lynette Sowell

Lynette SowellSowell is the author of over a dozen titles for Barbour Publishing, with one title winning the Carol Award and two others finaling. When Lynette’s not writing, she works as a medical editor and part-time newspaper reporter. Lynette lives on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband and a herd of cats who have them well trained.

Presenter: Daisy Hutton

Daisy HuttonHutton joined Thomas Nelson as VP of International Licensing in 2008. She is a passionate fiction reader, and her areas of particular interest include mystery/ suspense, fiction in translation, and the 19th century novel.

Presenter: Amanda Bostic

Amanda BosticBostic is an acquisition editor for fiction at Thomas Nelson. She traces her love of story back to her first reading of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when she was in 2nd grade. She’s still amazed that she’s getting paid to read books.

Workshop 30: What Christian Fiction Readers Want Next

Amanda Bostic, acquisitions editor for Thomas Nelson, and Daisy Hutton, vice president and publisher, also of Thomas Nelson, gave authors a firsthand report straight from Christian fiction readers in their ACFW conference workshop What Christian Fiction Readers Want Next.

Hutton noted that authors these days get high marks for what they already know. “Authors understand more than ever before what readers want,” she said. “Publishers have been busy being the gatekeepers.”

The two then tag-teamed a presentation highlighting the results of a survey given to readers of Christian fiction. “We’re giving you some hard facts behind some of what you might already know intuitively,” Bostic said.

Discoverability issues

Times have been changing. There’s a crisis of discoverability for authors—How do we help readers find us? But there’s also a crisis of relevance—How can we find our readers in the crowd?

MegaphoneWith the changing times, there’s what’s called a “digital megaphone” in the marketplace, with Amazon being front and center of the independent author explosion. These can lead readers to “good enough” content.

Before the recent changes in publishing, discoverability and availability were the same. Now, readers are no longer the ones finding books, but books are finding readers. One thing readers of Christian fiction are looking for, regardless of genre, is relevance. They want to find meaning in a book—not just entertainment. Right now, readers are finding more content than at any other time, with the number of e-books growing

In the survey, 51 percent of readers learn about new books offline, with 29 percent learning about books from a friend, and 13 percent discovering books in a bookstore.

Demographics: No surprises

When it comes to demographics, the study did not reveal anything new.

  • 84 percent of readers are female
  • 47 percent of those readers are 30-55 years old
  • 70 percent prefer a hard copy of a book
  • 37 percent use e-readers (this is growing)

Breaking down book preferences by genre among those surveyed, showed:

  • General Christian fiction—17.8 percent
  • Amish fiction—15.5 percent
  • Suspense—12.9 percent
  • Historical—10 percent
  • Mystery—9.2 percent

One key element mentioned from the survey results: Readers enjoy interacting with authors and are now more apt to seek them out online, whether at an author page or website. 

Megaphone image courtesy of stockimages/

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