As always, fiction had a prominent place at this year's International Christian Retail Show. The 2012 Christy Awards, recognizing novels for excellence, were given at a Monday night banquet. More than 170 novels were submitted by 25 participating publishers for the 13th annual awards judging. Bethany House took home four awards, and familiar names also dominated the winners’ circle. Lynn Austin won her 8th Christy for Wonderland Creek (Bethany House); Julie Klassen won her third for The Maid of Fairbourne Hall (Bethany House), as did Steven James, winning for The Queen (Revell). Other winners:

Contemporary romance: Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig (Barbour)

Contemporary series: The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

First novel: Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H)

Visionary: Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House)

Young adult: Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren (David C. Cook)

The Carol Awards shortlist was also announced during the show, naming three finalists in each of fifteen categories. The awards are bestowed by the American Christian Fiction Writers, an authors’ group with 2,600 members. Thomas Nelson notched seven finalists, and Barbour placed five. Those awards will be given at ACFW’s annual conference Sept. 20-23 in Dallas.

The Carol finalists were announced at a press conference during which Thomas Nelson’s new fiction publisher, Daisy Hutton, shared statistics from a Nelson survey of 8,000 fiction readers, done last fall. Hutton noted that 70 percent of readers still preferred print to digital books, and that 58 percent of Christian fiction readers buy two or more books per month. She also noted that word of mouth recommendations are more effective in the genre than in other genres, as readers get and take recommendations from peers and bookstores. The fluidity of the influences on purchasing decisions means Nelson has been employing both traditional and non-traditional publicity and marketing methods to make readers aware of its titles. “ ‘Discoverability’ and availability [used to be] one and the same, but no longer,” she said.

Don’t expect a Christian version of Fifty Shades of Grey anytime soon. The hot-selling trilogy of erotic novels will likely influence “only the book design department,” said Ramona Richards, senior acquisitions editor at Abingdon Press.