As some of you may have heard, the sad truth is that in our industry, fiction sales are presently in a bit of decline. At least if what agents and authors are telling me is true. I say “presently” in decline with some optimism that we will have another upturn in the future.

But in the meantime, what’s a fiction author to do? Stop writing?

Certainly not.

Here are some suggestions on what to do while waiting for the hoped-for turnaround in Christian fiction.

1. Although I’ve long said that following trends is not the way to write fiction, still it’s going to be important to notice what types of fiction are still doing well. If you’re a versatile writer of fiction, you might turn your talents to an up and coming genre. A quick look at the present bestselling fiction shows that although Amish fiction is strong, the books on the list are by the better-known Amish fiction authors: Beverly Lewis, Wanda Brunstetter, and Cindy Woodsmall. How many of the authors on that list have you read? Can you determine why those authors are successful and what you can do to emulate their success? Can you hazard a guess as to what kinds of books will be on that list a year from now?

2. Prepare a “one-sheet” for about 5-8 different novels. Describe each one in a paragraph. Create a good lead character for each. Let your imagination go. Maybe try an Amish novel, a contemporary romance, and something out of the box, like, perhaps The Shack. Pretend that someone has said to you, “I will give you one million dollars to write a book like ___________.” Could you do it? I bet you’d at least try. So do try. What have you got to lose?

3. Read more. The best writers, by far, are also readers. What fiction are you reading now? If you’ve been too busy to read, then be assured it will show in your writing. If necessary, devote part of your writing time to reading.

4. Make yourself stay excited about your writing. When you’re down in the mouth about your writing future, head over to Barnes and Noble, buy a chocolate chip Frappuccino and spend an hour browsing the fiction shelves. Open several intriguing novels and read the first couple of pages. See if the author succeeds in capturing your interest. Tell yourself I can do better than that.

5. Many fiction authors fail because they assume that good writing is all that’s necessary to succeed. They think that “platforms” are for non-fiction authors only. Not true. You need to do the things that will put you on the radar screens of potential readers. Make a list of ten things you can do in the next year to build a platform for your fiction.

6. Don’t overlook the option of self-publishing your first novel. At Harvest House Publishers we have occasionally picked up a novel or an author that started through self-publishing. Yes, distribution is harder for self-published books, but it may be the only way you can break through. Count the cost before you take this step, but don’t discount it as a viable option.

7. Last and certainly not least, make sure you’re writing dreams are in line with God’s will for you. Are you writing what He wants you to write? Are you daily praying over your writing career? Has God given you a word of encouragement about your writing? LISTEN to Him. He may even tell you that writing isn’t your calling after all and it’s time for you to move on to something else. Something that IS your calling.

Okay, your turn. What are YOU doing right now to advance your fiction writing career while waiting for an upturn in the fiction market? How are you avoiding discouragement? We’re all ears!

9 replies
  1. Beverly Nault
    Beverly Nault says:

    Cue the Twilight Zone theme, because I was just saying to myself, “self, I wonder what will be selling in a year, and how can I tap into that?” and here’s your post.

    Another reminder to myself is that I have to meet the keyboard every day with the original joy and a tinge of childish glee, or it’s a lonely, long road if I worry about the future before it’s even finished. I have to write first, and worry about who will read later. Thanks for your list!

    Reply
  2. Richard Mabry
    Richard Mabry says:

    Nick, I think the downturn in sales has all of us worried–published and unpublished (or pre-published as the politically correct call it) alike. You’ve given good advice, but I’d temper it by emphasizing that it’s virtually impossible to “write to the market,” since the wheels of conventional publishing grind so slowly that it may be a year before an accepted first draft becomes a published novel. Nevertheless, it’s good to notice the trends.
    As my English teacher, Mrs. Billie Casey, used to drill into us: Be not the first to take the new, untried, nor yet the last to cast the old aside. My problem is knowing when the crest of that wave has hit and is about to start going down while another is rising.
    As always, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Jane Daly
    Jane Daly says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, Nick. Sometimes I forget Who is my ultimate audience. If I’m writing to please God, then He’s in charge of the outcome, whether it’s getting a novel or book published, or whether it’s to bless my mom with a Mother’s Day tribute written solely for her.
    In the meantime, what I’m doing to fight discouragement is first of all to write every day. I’m also researching publications that are looking for freelance writers. I plan to start regularly submitting articles to build my resume.

    Reply
  4. Jenni Brummett
    Jenni Brummett says:

    Number four sounds productive and delicious.
    Since my fervor for my story isn’t in decline, I’m on the brink of querying my novel. Praying that I remain teachable and humble. But it would also be awesome to reintroduce a genre that has been missed and hasn’t been very prevalent in the CBA as of yet.
    Thanks for your encouragement Nick!

    Reply
  5. Shelley L Houston
    Shelley L Houston says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’m on a writing retreat to finish up the end of my second novel. I self published the first in the series, as you suggested and have had a very positive experience. I recommend the book “POD for Profit” (on how to become your own publisher) for anyone who is considering “self publishing.” When I did my research, I realized that becoming an independent publisher gave me the most control and largest profit on each book. When an author pays a company to publish their book there are often hidden costs. I have heard of many unsatisfied authors who have chosen that route so shop around. Hope that’s helpful.

    Reply
  6. Lindy Swanson
    Lindy Swanson says:

    I’m studying the elusive business side of writing: author’s platform, social media, marketing, website design, and SEO techniques. I’ve purchased domain names and applications to develop new websites at wordpress.org. I keep outlines of what I’m learning so I can teach it to others as my career develops. I analyze what successful authors do, and participate in their online training. Chip MacGregor recommended the training at http://www.mybooktherapy.com by Susan May Warren and her team of writers. I’ve just scratched the surface on this. Judy Gann recommended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s classes at http://www.acfw.com. I’m praying for provision of time and money for this.
    I pray, pray, pray for guidance. While I wait expectantly for God’s answers, I practice patience . . . with “the glacial pace of an author’s career development” (thank you, Nick, for teaching that class at Oregon Christian Writer’s 2012 summer conference) and . . . with the growth paces God takes me through, even when the paces appear to diverge from my desire to write. I relate to Hannah, a character in Hind’s Feet on High Places, whose God-directed journey appeared to wind away from her desire. For example, I’m developing my hyperbaric business as I transfer it into a doctor’s practice. Once it’s fully in his care, I can transistion out of it, in order to focus on writing. In the meantime, I add to my list of blog and book ideas.
    Learning the balance between gluing my butt to the writer’s seat and honoring the temple in which God dwells by moving my body for health’s sake challenges me. Recent research shows that sitting still for long periods leads to rapid aging–statistically earlier death. Right now, I’m striving to undo the damage done from sitting too long, too often, earlier this year. It’s ironic that the demands of writing take a toll on health, especially in light of the fact that I love to write about health: spiritual, emotional and physical. This will give me fodder for writing, too. Have you ever written a blog on that balancing act, Nick? I’d love to hear what you have to say on that topic. How much time do you spend sitting versus moving?

    Reply
  7. Nick
    Nick says:

    Lindy, it would seem like I have covered in the five years of blogging, but I don’t remember for sure. Maybe I should revisit it. Thanks.

    Reply

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