The American Christian Fiction Writers 2020 conference, which was originally slated to take place in St. Louis, Mo., Sept 17-20, instead kicked off virtually on that same Thursday. Among the digital programming was a panel featuring industry experts who discussed challenges, trends, and changes within Christian fiction and the religion publishing industry overall due to Covid-19 and other present-day issues. Participants included Stan Jantz, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association; Sue Brewer, COO of the Munce marketing group, and Carrie Schmidt, founder of the blog Reading is my Superpower.

Each panelist noted the increased use of social media by booksellers, publishers, and authors amid the Covid-19 pandemic as well as new opportunities online to be collaborative, including Zoom meetings. Additionally, the participants reported an increased interest in suspense stories, including what Brewer described as “real life problems being worked out in story," as a result of the uncertainty and upheaval caused by the virus.

Looking to the future, Jantz quoted librarian David Lankes who wrote for PW: “The crises we face today—in public health, in our economy, and in confronting the structural racism in our society—demand that we rethink everything, including what we’ve always considered virtuous institutions, like libraries, schools, and publishers."

“Within the Christian publishing industry, everybody is rethinking,” Jantz added. “We’re going to get back to some kind of normal, but its not going to be the way it was.”

Also presented virtually, the ACFW Awards Gala recognized Jocelyn Bailey of HarperCollins Christian Publishing with its Editor of the Year award, Books & Such Literary Management’s Cynthia Ruchti (Agent of the Year), and debut author Naomi Stephens (Shadow Among Sheaves, Barbour).

For a full list of winners, click here. ACFW 2021 is tentatively scheduled to take place in New Orleans from Sept. 9-12.