Hendrickson Publishers, long known as an academic and reference book house, is partnering with Christian fiction publishing industry veterans Gary and Carol Johnson to establish a new fiction line. Publisher Rick Brown told PW that the impetus for adding fiction is that the category is the number one traffic driver to Christian retail outlets, accounting for 19 visits a year.

The plan calls for selecting out of print titles that seem marketable to new audiences, Carol Johnson said. The Johnsons declined to name specific authors or titles under consideration and said they "have no plans" to acquire first-time novelists or solicit new releases from established authors. The first titles - probably four -- from Hendrickson should roll off the presses in summer 2011 under an imprint yet to be determined.

"With the right expertise, and the right selection, we can revive some stories people have loved to read over the years," Brown said. Hendrickson will try and keep its investment in the fiction line low; "we're going to start off modestly." Gary Johnson noted that repackaging and reintroducing stories together at one house as a fresh entity "will give these books a better chance of getting attention from retailers and their customers."

The Johnsons have been involved with Christian fiction for more than 30 years. "I've known the Johnsons a long time - they are the best," Brown said. Both Johnsons currently have three-year contracts through February of 2011 with Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, which purchased Bethany House in 2003. Gary is formerly president and CEO of Bethany House and currently associate publisher, and his wife Carol is formerly vice president of editorial and now senior editor at large. At Bethany, Carol acquired then unknown Christian novelist Janette Oke (30 million copies sold) and Beverly Lewis (12 million copies sold). The Johnsons will continue in their current roles with Bethany House.