At a time when print sales of Christian fiction have been steadily declining and some houses have stopped doing fiction altogether, several Christian publishing veterans are launching a new Christian fiction publishing house. Gilead Publishing LLC opened its doors on April 18, in a rented conference room at a hotel in a Chicago suburb.

President and publisher Dan Balow and CEO Bill Giarratana are co-owners of the company that will soon have offices in Wheaton, Ill., and Grand Rapids, Mich. Balow was head of marketing for the Left Behind series for Tyndale and, for the last three years, a literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency. Giarratana has worked in marketing and in ministry fundraising at the American Bible Society and Biblica.

Gilead execs—and many in the publishing world—have seen a pendulum swing in Christian fiction publishing over the last few years, with less room for midlist authors as publishers chase big names and guaranteed bestsellers. The shrinking midlist is where Gilead aims to do most of its business. Balow said Gilead’s mix of titles “won’t be too far off the beaten path of what people expect from Christian publishers.”

Gilead will stick to the traditional publishing model of paying authors advances and royalties, and will focus on off-set print runs instead of print-on-demand (e-book editions of titles will be available), and growing a stable of midlist and debut authors. Balow forecasts publishing 100 titles a year within five years.

“We want to offer really good midlist authors a place to grow their careers,” said Balow. “We’re able to keep costs low, grow authors over time, and make a profit at levels the larger companies can’t.”

Gilead plans to release their first half dozen books in Fall 2016, with 40-50 titles in 2017, and are only accepting agented submissions. Details about the house’s first list will be announced soon, along with distribution arrangements.

Susan Brower, formerly executive editor for fiction at Zondervan and Harper Collins Christian Publishing and a former literary agent, has been named v-p of editorial and will manage acquisitions. Kristen Gearhart, formerly managing editor at Keys for Kids Ministries, has been named managing editor. Both will work out of Grand Rapids.

Update: On Friday, April 22, Gilead Publishing acquired science fiction and fantasy publisher Enclave Publishing, forming a new imprint, Enclave. Publisher at Enclave Steve Laube will oversee the new imprint, which is set to release eight titles for summer and fall 2016.