Convincing librarians to buy Christian fantasy fiction

How can we help our librarians choose more Christian fantasy fiction?

The children’s librarian in my library, Webster Groves Public Library, says she will buy a book I suggest:
* if it is published by a mainstream publisher
* if she can find a favorable nonbiased review in a publication she trusts such as Publishers’ Weekly, Library Journal, or similar publications,
* if there is money in the budget,
* if she perceives demand.
She will watch the track record of my suggestions to see whether to take me up on more of them. I suspect her policies are fairly typical.

(In fact, she is in the process of making a couple of purchases I suggested that meet her guidelines! I am very happy about that.)

The stumbling blocks for the Christian fantasy genre are the requirements that the purchased book be published by a mainstream publisher and reviewed in a journal like Publishers’ Weekly.

As I have mentioned before, mainstream publishers have been leery of this genre and haven’t picked up much of it. It doesn’t sell well at Wal-Mart and in Christian bookstores, where other more female-oriented Christian genres can be found. As a result, plenty of interesting works are out there that aren’t published by the mainstream publishing houses. They are being effectively sold over the Internet and through word of mouth, though. The genre has even got a moniker now: the “Lost Genre.” (See http://arjaybb.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=886 for more info on the “Lost Genre.”)

Many of the works being sold on the Internet are self-published. Publishers’ Weekly doesn’t review self-published works, and in fact reviews only a fraction of the books sent to it for review. So it’s pretty likely that at least some of the books I would like to suggest for my library would not be mainstream published and/or would not be reviewed in Publishers’ Weekly etc.

That doesn’t mean you can’t suggest these for your library though, dear reader. Your library may actually be more flexible than this. For example, I have a friend who buys books (for adults) for another municipal library in the St. Louis area, Dawn Y. At her library, Christian works are quite popular. In fact, I am wondering whether the popularity of Christian works at her library might have something to do with the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I homeschooled, we spent a LOT of time at the library. Many homeschoolers are Christians.

Dawn answered my questions:

How do you choose which books to buy? I take into consideration the majority of our reader population, their likes and dislikes, the appropriateness of the material. I also look at reviews in 4 different main stream publications. I also am open to authors sending their own solicitations. I also check Fantastic Fiction.com, and Amazon and Barnes and Noble for upcoming works.

Do you ever choose a book that is self-published? Yes, if the author sends a good summary, etc. I have been approached a few times and have purchased them if I feel they have a market with our readers.

Do you ever choose a book that is available only on the Internet (Amazon etc.) but not in bookstores? I am somewhat restricted in that area, because we get our books through a book jobber and have a discount policy. We seldom get books from outside that system.

Roughly how many times must a book be requested by patrons before you decide to buy it?
There are a few variables with that—how many other libraries may have it, if I feel there will be enough call to warrant the cost.

I am particularly curious about the genre of Christian fantasy fiction. Are you aware of this genre at all? I have seen a few authors who might fall in this category. We have a couple of them and the genre is increasing in popularity. It seems anything Christian goes at our library.

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4 thoughts on “Convincing librarians to buy Christian fantasy fiction

  1. Veronica Holden

    Thanks for doing this Phyllis! It seems sad that the library is more interested in what is popular and mainstream than what is educational and welll-written.

  2. Cynthia MacKinnon

    Ditto Veronica.

    Phyllis, I realize you are doing this to provide good reading material for readers, however, your hard work helps the authors of whom you speak.

    This is a great example of what to do in order have the books you want to read (or think you may want to read) on shelves of both libraries and bookstores.

    A sidebar: The Lost Genre mentioned above is a name coined by Frank Creed who founded the Lot Genre Guild. You can read more about the Lost Genre at various places depending on your level of interest:

    –http://www.lostgenreguild.com is the guild’s official site
    –http://blog.lostgenreguild.com that features genre news and events (book signings, new releases, interviews, reviews, etc.)
    –http://www.guildreview.com for reviews of works of Christian and Biblical speculative fiction (they give preference to novels not published by the big Christian houses)
    –http://lostgenreguild.com/files/LGGcat.pdf is the current catalogue of Lost Genre offerings

    There is also the site of Frank Creed (http://www.frankcreed.com) the founder of the guild.

    (hope you don’t consider this spamming — just thought folks might want to get a better idea of what is available in the way of information.

  3. Rebecca LuElla Miller

    Phyllis, a couple titles that meet the library standard (including a PW favorable review): George Bryan Polivka’s The Legend of the Firefish and Karen Hancock’s Arena (now out of print, but possibly still available from the author or from the publisher, Bethany House.

    There could easily be others, but those are the ones that came to mind immediately.

    And from what editors say over and over again, the secret to getting more Christian fantasy in print is if the Christian fantasy out there already sells and sells and sells.

    Believe it or not, in the last two years there have been some very positive strides made, but of course we have a long way to go before we see Christian fantasy outweigh, say, historicals or even suspense.

    Becky

  4. Editor Post author

    What I can’t figure out is why this is such an orphan genre, in the wake of two major movie series–the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia tales. Maybe we need to be trying to promote Christian fantasy movie scripts instead of Christian fantasy books.

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