who qualifies | publishing | inspiration | conferences | letters | essays | home
      Spiritual Fiction Sells

by Judy Alexander


Read about the current state of Christian fiction in an update here.

      Spiritual fiction is a growing business. Here’s some proof:

Impressive sales figures
In Publishers Weekly, 06/19/00, an article titled “Fiction: the Hottest Story in Religion” states: “The USA Today “Top 150 Best Sellers” special section distributed at the BEA convention mirrored the latest market share figures announced that Friday by BISG, with 20 of the top titles (15%) dealing with religion or spirituality. Confirming the industry trend of healthy growth for religious fiction, nine of these were novels, including two by Viking’s Jan Karon and five from Tyndale House’s white-hot Left Behind series.”

“A Common Life" hit store shelves with a bang, debuting at number one on PW’s hardcover fiction bestseller list – proving, in case there are still any doubting Thomases, that fiction with strong Christian themes can hold its own with King and Grisham… (Carolyson Carlson, Karon’s editor at Viking): “What people feel so passionately about is the sense of relationships in the book – people helping each other, caring about one another.”
(from PW Religion Bookline, May 8, 2001, from Publishers Weekly, regarding Jan Karon’s “A Common Life”)

Editor enthusiasm
“I see a real growth in fiction with Christian themes,” says Renee Sedliar of HarperSanFrancisco.

“There is a really sophisticated market for spirituality, as evidenced by Kathleen Norris and Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott,” noted HSF executive editor John Louden in Publishers Weekly, 11/8/99.

New publishing imprints, such as the Walk Worthy Press, which is a partnership with agent Denise Stinson and Warner Books.
Stinson started the press because of her own faith, but also because she couldn’t find “Christian stuff that I enjoyed reading.” While the sensibility is Christian, the novels embrace the full range of contemporary concerns, with characters leading recognizably modern lives marked by betrayal, tragedy, heartbreak, and joy.

A discussion of Christian writing in Poets & Writers
“…Foremost is a cultural change – the Boomers, who’ve been generating business like no other single generation in the past, are aging. As they do, they appear to be moving in directions they believe will bring them toward peace, harmony, and goodwill…many, like Kathleen Norris herself, identify what they are up to as a kind of pilgrimage…In our time, the new, postmodern climate appears to have relaxed the anti-religious sentiment often associated with the modern age…In their member magazines, major book clubs offer subscribers inspirational and spiritual selections just a page-turn away from racier fare . Today there appears to be room for everyone, including Christians.”
Poets & Writers, January/February 1998: Singing & Preaching: Christians in Writing by James Calvin Schaap

Publishing success by so many “literary Christians”
David James Duncan, Annie Dillard, Clyde Edgerton, Fannie Flagg, Ernest Gaines, Kaye Gibbons, Ron Hansen, Lynne Hinton, Michelle Huneven, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Jan Karon, Anne Lamott, Billie Letts, Kathleen Norris, Reynolds Price, Lee Smith, Vinita Hampton Wright, and others.

Read about the current state of Christian fiction in an update here


But in 1999, some consciously Christian fiction (from evangelical houses) and some genre fiction (mostly from Catholic houses) shunned Bible lessons, talked about sex, occasionally swore, and quite often failed to convert anyone.
From Christianity Today article about Christian Fiction, by Susan Wise Bauer, April 24, 2000
. Read more.

posted March 21, 2007
Judy Alexander, webmaster