What percentage of your company’s sales comes from fiction? How does that compare to five years ago?
Pape, Cook: 9% of our sales this year from new releases are fiction. We used to be at 7% five years ago.
Clements, FaithWords: Right now, it is about 10% and that is up from about 4% in 2004.
Deshler, Nelson: Since launching our dedicated fiction division a little over five years ago, fiction revenue has exponentially exploded, increasing to almost four times what it was upon the start of this division.
Henrion, Baker: Fiction is roughly one-third of our sales companywide while it amounts to about one-half of the Bethany House and Revell revenue. Fiction sales are increasing in both divisions, as it is the fastest growing category for us to sell into CBA, ABA, and big-box sales channels.
Burns, Barbour: Fiction is 38% of our sales, and over the past five years this category has increased 17%. It has also been our fastest-growing category.
What do you think the greatest challenge is right now for marketing Christian fiction?
Clements, FaithWords: Media opportunities. There just are not many great options to get the word out about Christian fiction as there are for Christian nonfiction or general fiction. There are a few good radio interviewers and online is growing, but it is hard to find good media coverage.
Merkh, Howard: Breaking through the noise at retail and helping distinguish our books from competitors’ products.
Deshler, Nelson: A continued decrease in store traffic. This means less opportunity for consumers to see book placement in stores and requires us to think about the overall strategy differently.
Henrion, Baker: It seems everyone is now trying to publish fiction. The biggest challenge now is to fight through the genre saturation to the reader using every imaginable means.
What is your top subgenre (suspense? romance? bonnet fiction?), and what sales trends have you observed within that subgenre? How does the market for that subgenre compare to five years ago?
Burns, Barbour: Amish fiction is our top subgenre, with Wanda E. Brunstetter being our lead author. It seems that the trend for this type of book continues to grow, with almost every publisher now supplying the market with its own brand of Amish fiction. The market five years ago was mostly owned by Beverly Lewis.
Merkh, Howard: Our top subgenres are romance and suspense. We think that titles that combine these elements (as in romantic suspense) have huge potential. Women’s fiction remains the strongest genre, as the majority of readers of Christian fiction are women.
Sherrill, Harvest House: Amish fiction is our top subgenre. Sales have been and continue to be very strong. We’re seeing no waning in that category. We weren’t publishing Amish fiction five years ago; we’re really glad we are now!
Henrion, Bethany: For our publishing house, historical is consistently the bestselling category. Other strong categories are romance and romantic suspense.
How are you using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) to market your fiction line? What one strategy has been most successful?
Clements, FaithWords: This is a significant growth area and, I believe, the most important new trend in marketing fiction. Online provides a virtual community that provides recommendations from peers that just did not exist five years ago. We have Facebook sites for all our Christian fiction authors. We tweet regularly about them and their books and retweet positive feedback that we receive. We also have been very successful with blog tours, blogtalk radio, prerelease and first edition giveaways, and encouraging the authors to blog.
Deshler, Nelson: 80% of the Thomas Nelson fiction authors actively engage in social media, and this offers us great ways to build tribes online. The one strategy we’ve seen be most successful is a community approach to new releases—creating a series of messages, usually with a contest or free books offering—that is sent out by multiple authors and team members in a specific time period.
Henrion, Baker: Blog tours are one of the best uses of social media that we have seen. E-mail blasts and all the various mediums (Facebook, Twitter) are at times hard to measure as far as effectiveness. An author’s established platform seems to be the key in social media, as they use their existing network.
Burns, Barbour: We are using social media to help promote our fiction line on Twitter (@FictionforGals) and a Facebook fan page (Christian Fiction for Gals). Twitter has probably been most successful for us and has the most followers. It is fueled by book giveaways, which followers retweet to their friends.
What have your experiences been so far with the Kindle? Do you expect your efforts with the Kindle (and its competitors) to expand, stay the same, or diminish in the next year?
Pape, Cook: We put all our novels on Kindle. We have had varying degrees of success, but nothing compared to our print sales. In a series, we are currently testing the model of offering book one as a free download and then the customer purchases the other titles that remain.
Henrion, Baker: Kindle has seen exponential growth in the last quarter of 2009. E-books give you a lot of flexibility in marketing with almost zero cost (free copies, samples, etc.). We have 50% of our published list on Kindle now, and are working to expand that.
What is something unique or unusual that your company has done to market fiction—either for just one book, or for a whole line?
Sherrill, Harvest House: We created a consumer Web site around our Amish fiction: AmishReader.com. All our authors writing in this genre contribute content through posts, recipes, and exclusive material fans can get nowhere else (unpublished short stories, for example). We’ve also done giveaways on this site, which have been very popular. We wanted readers to have a place to not only engage with the authors they’ve read and loved, but also to discover a new author (or two or three) in a genre they love.
Pape, Cook: I am so delighted with the book trailers we produce for every fiction title—they really do hook the reader who is accustomed to sitting in a movie theater with popcorn and soda waiting to see the coming attractions. Through those, we have gotten a loyal following online at Facebook.
Clements, FaithWords: For our YA series, All About Us, we created a Web site with people blogging as the characters in the novels. We have also done sell-in campaigns with treats for buyers to get their attention and get them to pay attention to especially well-written works from unknown or little-known authors.
Deshler, Thomas Nelson: We’ve recently launched a new social community at www.amishliving.com for those consumers who love everything about the Amish. From recipes to travel information to forums on the different areas of Amish networks, we’ve created a place where people can come together to share stories, pictures, and discussion topics.