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?
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!