In addition to meeting, training, networking, and selling, the International Christian Retail Show, concluded this week in St. Louis, was the occasion for handing out a trophy case’s worth of awards:

The 14th annual Christy Awards, recognizing excellence in Christian fiction, were divvied among five publishers, with Bethany House and Tyndale taking home three each. Thomas Nelson, David C. Cook, and Delacorte also won Christys. Author Marilyn Sue Shank, whose Child of the Mountains (Delacorte) won in the young adult category, said she thought carefully about whether to place her coming-of-age novel with a Christian or general market house. She opted for the latter in order to have the widest possible audience. “I wanted it to go to the public schools,” she said.

For the first time, the Christys designated a Book of the Year, Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (David C. Cook), a debut novelist and former editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review. The new award recognizes not only quality, but also takes into account sales and life impact; Cantrell’s novel reached bestseller lists. “We wanted to identify a book that best matched the objectives of the Christy award, including broadening readership” for quality Christian fiction, said Christy Awards executive director Donna Kehoe. Another new feature, the Christy Award Hall of Fame, was introduced with inaugural inductees Lynn Austin, eight-time Christy recipient, and Karen Hancock, who has received four. An inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award was given to agent Lee Hough in a touching tribute. See the list of winning titles.

The shortlist for the Carol Awards, conferred by the American Christian Fiction Writers, was also announced; in addition, novelist Frank Peretti was named this year’s Lifetime Achievement winner. Peretti’s This Present Darkness (Crossway, 1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1988) together sold more than 3.5 million copies and did much to elevate awareness of the category of Christian fiction. The Carols will be awarded Sept. 15 at ACFW’s annual conference in Indianapolis.

Publishers also claimed their share of Christian Retailing’s Best, awards given to books, Bibles, audio, video/DVD, and gift products. HarperCollins Christian Publishing earned nine, six for Thomas Nelson and three for Zondervan products, and B&H snared eight. Voters, who include retailers, publishing industry professionals, and suppliers in the Christian market, designate products that have life-changing impact. See a complete list of winners.