The Fiction Readers Summit, presented for the first time by independent Christian bookstore Baker Book House, took place in Grand Rapids, Mich. from May 10-12, providing authors with a chance to exchange ideas with both fellow writers and fans.

With 50 total attendees, the brand new event was formed in order to connect readers with authors, books, and fellow believers. It was led by Chris Jager, fiction buyer at Baker Book House. “We created the Fiction Readers Summit because readers and writers have fewer chances to meet face to face,” she told PW. “Social media is great, but meeting an author in person can connect you on a human level. We created a community.”

Panel discussions included Digging Deep: Bringing Stories to Life with Vivid Detail and Turn the Page: How Reading Shaped Our Lives. Authors also asked readers questions during the conference, such as how “steamy” should scenes in Christian romance novels be?

Stephanie Broene, senior acquisitions editor for Tyndale, enjoyed hearing from readers about their favorite themes and buying habits. “These conversations contribute to the larger conversation we have as a Tyndale team about what to continue, what to change, and what new acquisitions to pursue,” she said.

Additionally, authors signed copies of their books during a five-hour Signings & Selfies event, which was open to the public. According to Jager, 412 novels sold in the five-hour span. While the Fiction Readers Summit won’t change Jager’s fiction buying habits, she said it has opened the door to planning more activities during the year around novels and authors, and a second conference has been announced for August 8-10, 2019 in Grand Rapids.

“The conference reminded me of why I write,” said Lynn Austin, a Bethany House author.