There ARE New Christian Fantasy Authors Out There …

Did you ever wonder why your kids aren’t finding much in the way of Christian fantasy books in the library or the bookstore?  There’s plenty of fantasy reading to be found, but the worldview requires lots of discussion, shall we say.  There are plenty of Christians who are fantasy fans. There’s a wonderful legacy left by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. So why is there so little Christian fantasy easily available?

Snooping around the Internet, I found Marcher Lord Press, which specializes in publishing Christian fantasy books.  The founder, Jeff Gerke, tells his story: he was editing fiction at traditional Christian publishing companies, and was unable to satisfy his yen for the weird.  The companies, he said, target consumers who love chick lit.  That’s who buys books at Wal-Mart and Christian bookstores, apparently.

It’s true. My sons who are Christian and who are fantasy fans do not look for books at Christian bookstores or at Wal-Mart. They look in the library and in the big chain bookstores.  So any books the traditional publishers might publish will not reach my sons.

So it remains to ask these questions: why aren’t libraries buying recent Christian fantasy books?  And why aren’t Borders and Barnes and Noble local stores stocking them?

Marcher Lord Press and other similar outfits have decided to go directly to the consumer using the Internet.  They sell through Amazon and other online bookstores, and through their own Web sites.

It remains to be seen whether this is a way to reach kids like my 16-year-old sons. So far, I’d say they aren’t Internet consumers. None of them has a credit card. They know how to check prices on e-Bay. That’s about it.

I looked on Amazon for the top-selling Christian fantasy books. The top one, featuring a soccer mom as main character, falls more or less in the chick lit category and is in fact published by a mainstream Christian publishing house, Navpress.

The second one in line is self-published and sold over the Internet only (like many similar books). It would likely appeal to my teenage sons: Heroes of Old, first in the Heroes series by Jay L. Young, which apparently has quite a following. This book is described as a cross between the Bible and the X-Men. This author is definitely not available in our library, nor in the local Barnes and Noble.

There is a disconnect here. The marketplace isn’t providing for the teen Christian fantasy market.

For one thing, i think we need to lobby our libraries to buy the best Christian fantasy books. They’re certainly buying the non-Christian ones. We need to demand our share of those library dollars!–Phyllis Wheeler

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26 thoughts on “There ARE New Christian Fantasy Authors Out There …

  1. Cynthia MacKinnon

    >>So it remains to ask these questions: why aren’t libraries buying recent Christian fantasy books? And why aren’t Borders and Barnes and Noble local stores stocking them?<<

    I can address these questions although I am not sure the answers will be very interesting or helpful!

    Libraries: As one can well imagine, librarians don’t have the time to read or even skim through each and every new book that is published. They rely on recommendations. Here in the U.S. those recommendations come from journals such as BookPage, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly.

    None of these journals (whether print or online) will review any self-published book, any book that uses print-on-demand technology, or book which is published by a house that doesn’t use a large distributor. (Or so they say. They make exceptions all the time, for instance, most university presses use POD technology for printing as well some imprints of larger publishing houses. It makes economic sense for them and the journals forgive them.)

    If the journals won’t review the books, then likely the library won’t run across the title.

    The big brick and mortar bookstores like B&N and Borders (Chapters and Indigo books in Canada) are a slightly different story. They have shelving for a limited number of books and they are in the business of making a profit. Most of the new Christian speculative fiction comes from small traditional presses — companies that don’t have the same economies of scale to draw from when marketing. While larger houses spend very little to market individual authors (exceptions would be for the Dekkers and Kingsburys) they spend to market their entire catalogue of titles. They can reach the bookstores economically while small presses are lucky if their books are added into local stores as “local authors.”

    There is another aspect that keeps small press books from bookstore and library shelves (though books can always be special-ordered in): politics of the Christian book industry. For the past couple of decades the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association houses have been considered the definitive source of Christian fiction of any kind. If a book isn’t published from one of these houses, then it carries a stigma: if an ECPA member doesn’t like it, it is likely not really Christian. This myth is perpetuated by the ECPA and subscribed to by many—including bookstores and buyers.

    Though the above saddens me, it is related without bitterness. If we (small presses and the buying public) want to see more Christian speculative fiction on bookshelves and in libraries, we will have to do the legwork involved. Anyone up for it?

  2. Bruce

    Hi Phyllis, and well said.
    I think the days are gone when we can expect Xtian bookshops to
    deliver all our needs. I think is is only 5% of Xtns who visit them, so the market gets squeezed.

    Perhaps, at a local level, we could run workshops with pre-teen/ junior high kids, getting them to create their own stories or act them out. It is building in small doses but it is necessary.

    We cannot avoid building things at “grassroots level.”
    Isn’t that why churches are failing: striving to build big and
    using less of the personal approach?

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy

    The founder, Jeff Gerke, tells his story: he was editing fiction at traditional Christian publishing companies, and was unable to satisfy his yen for the weird. The companies, he said, target consumers who love chick lit.

    I call their target demographic “Born-Again Bored Housewives”.

    For the past couple of decades the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association houses have been considered the definitive source of Christian fiction of any kind. — Cyn

    And their pitch sheets all read “Bonnet Romance”, “Altar-call Ending ROmance”, “Just like fill-in-the-blank, except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”, and/or “Just like Left Behind, except…”

  4. Jay

    well look at it from the libraries. they try and buy the best Fantasy books and lets just admit it right now Christian fantasy for the most part isnt that great they all deal with basicly the same things and their Just isn’t much imagnation put into them from what I have read I don’t think it should matter if its christian or not i just think it should be intresting and uneque.

  5. Stephanie

    I had to comment on Jay’s comment that said:
    “lets just admit it right now Christian fantasy for the most part isnt that great they all deal with basicly the same things and their Just isn’t much imagnation put into them from what I have read.”

    I guess that Jay hasn’t read Littluns and the book of darkness. Google littluns book and you will find all sorts of information on it. Ever since I read it, it has stuck with me. What a story and imagination. Although the animation makes it fantasy, but real life from the past, present and future makes it something other than fiction. Don’t worry mom’s about it being appropriate for children. It won 2 GOLD Awards from Mom’s Choice. I hope you read it Jay. It may even change your life!

  6. Bev Colquett

    My 12 yr. old nephew has started reading a series called Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
    and I am trying to find out something about it. What is your opinion of it? Would it
    be suitable to put in a church library?

  7. BlueCat57

    I just ran across the Alex Rider series. I haven’t found any reviews that address the worldview but no one is saying it is anti-christian. Here is a review of the movie from Dove. You’ll have to check out who Dove is but they may be Christian.

    http://www.dove.org/reviewpopup.asp?Unique_ID=6084

    I’m going to find the first book at the local library for my 11 year old son. He is more into fantasy but he may like them.

    You know what is even harder to find than good Christian fiction, good Christian non-fiction. That whould make a great discussion topic. Sure non-fiction is about facts and facts are worldview neutral, or are they? Where do I find Christian non-fiction?

  8. BlueCat57

    The fist thing that is keeping Christian fiction out of libraries is that you are calling it Christian. Way back in the 70’s when I was at a Christian college I formulated the view that if it isn’t good enough to be called just X, then it isn’t good enough. There should be no such thing as Christian X (movies, music, fiction, etc.). If it isn’t good enough to make it in the mainstream then it isn’t good enough for God.

    Then comes all the other stuff. As I was spending several more hours looking for books for my son I was asking myself the same thing: How do I get more books with a Christian worldview into my local library? I don’t know. Maybe if bloggers like these folks could identify the way to do it (e-mail the purchasing departments?) then we could it. Maybe we need a top 5 list every month that we can send that have professional reviews.

    For now I’ll continue to search the Web, identify books and they buy them from either Amazon or the publishers. NOTE TO PUBLISHERS: I would buy a lot more books direct if you offered free shipping. Skip the authors signature, I’m not going to keep these books in pristine condition for 50 years until they might be worth something. My son is going to read them, beat them up and then loan them to his friends.

  9. Editor Post author

    Hi BlueCat57, you have some great ideas!

    You can find Christian nonfiction books in homeschool circles.
    There are actually plenty of them.

  10. Jake Benson

    I was beginning to believe what Stephanie above said about Christian Fantasy, until I stumbled across VRIN: ten mortal gods. I don’t know if it is a self published book or not, but the story was amazingly inventive and current. Why this book isn’t published by Zondervan, Tyndale, or Navpress, I have no idea. When I was done reading it, I was left with two powerful emotions. The first was a sense of satisfaction, for having finished the kind of book I had wanted to read for quite a while. The second was a sense of betrayal toward the big Christian publishing houses for pushing out titles based on profitability. I gave VRIN to my sister and she was up till one in the morning … and she is supposed to be the demographic for these publishers. Something doesn’t click.

    ~jake

  11. Jake Benson

    I just checked out Marcher Lord Press, and I have to say, I am very excited. I’m new to this whole internet thing. My reading in the past has come from my church bookstore, or Christian Book Distributors. But I’m beginning to think eBooks and small niche publishers like MLP will be opening up a whole new world for me.

    ~jake

  12. Carol Henderson

    I was disappointed that
    Marcher Lord Press was not
    taking young adult fantasy.
    How I wish there were more
    publishers and agents out
    there that openly declare
    that they accept these kinds
    of manuscripts. Frankly,
    finding either one has been
    like looking for the proverbial
    “needle in a haystack.”

  13. Editor Post author

    Actually Marcher Lord says it doesn’t take YA, but it actually is publishing Jill Williamsson’s award-winning series “From Darkness Fled” etc., and that is YA. It’s also acceptable to adults. So maybe the key is calling it adult, but having young protagonists. I know the massive market for fantasy that’s out there in young adult–the problem is how to get to them. The kids don’t have e-readers yet, so e-books aren’t the way. Maybe that will change soon, with the price of the e-readers coming down.

  14. emma tcheau

    Hi all,
    I just completed a MG/YA Christian fantasy but it has been hard trying to get an agent who feels he can get a publisher for it. there seems to be a discrepancy–Christian kids who say they want more fantasy, and publishers and agents who feel the market is too small. Anyway, I just entered it for a competition. I don’t know how it will fare with all the other genres lumped together. I’d like to post the prologue somewhere but I don’t know if this would make agents steer clear off the work.

  15. Editor Post author

    Hi Emma,
    I highly recommend joining the American Christian Fiction Writers. They have SO much help for new authors. They’ve encouraged me and taught me so much. There is a bit more fantasy being published now than previously, but agents tend to steer clear of YA and middle grade, I have noticed–for them, it’s the same amount of work for half the pay (the book price is half as much as for other books). However, if your book is totally great, they might take it. So, the answer is, make your book totally great! And ACFW will help you do that!

  16. Meredith Leigh Burton

    I also wanted to comment about the lack of Christian fantasy titles on audio. I know that they are expensive to produce, but there are blind consumers like myself who love Christian fantasy. I have been longing to read Jill Williamson’s titles as well as many other authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl but have been unable to do so. Publishers, please take note. I hope you all have a wonderful day.

  17. Phyllis Wheeler

    Hi Meredith,
    A friend of mine just demonstrated her rather new Kindle to me, which will read an ebook in sort of a monotone. In your circumstances you might want to get such a Kindle with audio capability and buy ebooks, then listen to them. I know Kindles are not made for seeing-impaired people, but if someone could help you, you’d be able to listen to these books.

  18. Meredith Leigh Burton

    Hi, Mrs. Wheeler,

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you for pointing me toward the helpful resources. How nice that Ms. Williamson is taking the time to read her book. There are so many talented storytellers whom God has blessed with wonderful gifts, and I hate to miss opportunities of becoming immersed in their worlds. Imagination is a truly phenomenal gift.

    Regarding the Kindel: I am actually considering getting one. Synthetized speech doesn’t bother me in the least. If it did, my computer would have been pulverized long ago! My father has threatened to do that very thing, and I myself was tempted to do so when I first began learning to type. Thank heavens for earphones! LOL! God bless you.

  19. Stan Brubaker

    Hi,Phyllis:

    If you like family-friendly Christian fantasy with an unusual plot, I believe you might enjoy my new book just published on Amazon this morning. It’s called “Journey Into Darkness” and Part 2 (in the same book) is called “Love Awakening”

    Below you’ll find an Amazon link, and if you click on the Look Inside, you can read a quick overview of it in the Prologue.

    Thanks for checking it out, and blessings on you and yours through this new year.

    –Stan Brubaker

  20. Scathe meic Beorh

    Yes, we are here. My two fantasy novels are BLACK FOX IN THIN PLACES and WALK LIKE A PIRATE. I also have two story collections, ALWAYS AFTER THIEVES WATCH and CHILDREN & OTHER WICKED THINGS.

    All on Amazon. None self-published.

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