In this post—Left Behind world, it's hard to imagine that when Christian fiction first came on the scene some 30 years ago, it was greeted with suspicion by Christian readers and scorned (or ignored) by general trade publishers and booksellers. Today, these novels have earned wide acceptance, if not critical accolades. The genres have multiplied, the quality has improved and fiction has become a high-growth part of the programs of the largest Christian publishers, as well as showing up on the lists of major general trade houses.
In this issue of Religion Update, we examine some of the challenges of publishing and selling faith fiction. Editors aim for better quality, but must still work within the limits of what is acceptable to the core market. Booksellers must decide how best to lead customers to the books they want. Awards programs hope to encourage quality, but face the question: Do they help sales? Lately, there's also been plenty of acclaimed literary fiction that treats religious and spiritual themes, and we expand our vision to include those books, which draw readers who care about both faith and fine art.