With Karen Kingsbury’s new book, The Bridge (Oct. 23), Howard Books hopes the Christian superstar will make advances in the ABA market.

The first in a 10-book deal Kingsbury signed with Howard, a division of Simon & Schuster, The Bridge comes on the heels of Loving, her most recent book for Christian house Zondervan, which debuted on the New York Times bestseller list in April at #1. “We want to open Karen up to a whole new genre of readers,” says Jennifer Smith, Howard director of publicity. “This is a book for people who love books, for people who love fiction, and for people who love inspirational fiction.” In another Kingsbury first, The Bridge will release in hardcover and to maintain a link to her other books, all of them trade paperbacks.

The Bridge is a story of missed opportunities for love and of second chances. It is set against the closing of a local independent bookstore—the Bridge of the title—something Howard sees as a gateway to introducing Kingsbury to the ABA market. “The reason we are bringing it to BEA is the backdrop of the book is a despondent bookstore,” Smith notes. “It is very relevant in terms of our market.”

There are more than 20 million copies of Kingsbury’s 50 novels in print, many of them debuting on bestseller lists, and she has received numerous awards from Christian retailers and organizations. Howard has no plans to tamper with a good thing. “Karen has such a well-established brand, and she does it so well, we really just want to bring her to fans of books who don’t necessarily know her like they do in the CBA market,” Smith said.

Today, Howard is hosting a Retailers Tea for Kingsbury at 3:30 p.m. (invitation only). That will be preceded by another first, an in-booth appearance and signing, 12:30–1:30 p.m.

“My dad would always say there are no autograph lines in heaven,” Kingsbury said. “The only reason you are meeting people is to make new friends, and that is the approach I am taking to BEA.”