Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What are the Current Trends in Best Sellers?

I enjoy looking at Amazon's best-seller lists. Of course on any given day the list may include a few non-fiction books, but usually fiction dominates the list.

Lately I've seen some books that sell well. Are they setting trends?

--a book with an expletive in the title, replaced by asterisks

--three books of edgy fiction by a deceased author

--some literary fiction, such as The Help, but mainly works more in the "thriller" category

If these indicate trends, do you think Christian fiction will follow?

What changes have you seen in the types of Christian fiction published this year? Do you see trends there? Have your reading preferences changed during this last year?

Please tell, we're listening!

22 comments:

Latayne C Scott said...

I'm not (ahem) implying that we need to find out how to work expletives into our titles. And I'm sure hoping that being dead isn't a prerequisite to having three books on the best seller list. I'm not prepared to pay that price :)

Jan Cline said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Christian fiction was the next trend in popular literature? We could sure make a big impact in a new way! All I know is that we have to write as if we will be on the list someday. What kind of message do we want to give in our 15 minutes of fame? Certainly not expletives or other kinds of shockers.
Interesting topic to mull over today...

Lynn Dean said...

I like to note what makes it to our grocery store book shelves. Glenn Beck's Christmas Sweater caught my eye and intrigued me for a number of reasons.

For one thing, it's as sentimental as It's a Wonderful Life. Conventional wisdom is that moralistic sentiment won't sell, but there are exceptions (Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember would be another), and when such stories sell, they sell well.

Then there's the "spiritual" aspect (though I hesitate to say "Christian"). It seems that Christian books on the Amazon lists invite a barrage of protests that they're "proselytizing tripe"--as if Christian literature should come with a warning label and be sequestered somehow like pornographic magazines lest the unsuspecting be damaged by an unintentional glimpse. Yet here is this bestseller with an overt religious message, published by a secular company...what to make of that?

The take-away, for me, was that anything can sell. Platform is important. Story rules. (The Christmas Sweater is not particularly well crafted.) But most of all, stories teach, and the Bible warns that teachers will be held accountable for what they teach. Our stories must accurately depict God, salvation, and the Christian life. If we present any "other gospel," God says it's anathema.

Latayne C Scott said...

Jan, what you said reminded me of what we told our children when they were teenagers --"Don't succumb to peer pressure, you BE the peer pressure."

Lynn, funny you should mention how our Christian books are labeled. I posted today on my own website about how some people have classed my non-fiction and fiction alike as "religious pornography." Go figure.

Nicole said...

I think thrillers are popular in both general market and Christian fiction (i.e. Steven James, Robert Liparulo). There's no question CBA set the tone for the bonnet books' popularity. It would appear historical romance occupies a tremendous amount of shelf space.

I've veered away from CBA romance in recent times: too formulaic. And I write romance (well, love stories really).

New trends? Until CBA publishers decide to address the market they basically skip/ignore with their attitudes about speculative fiction, literary fiction, and more "real" romance novels, I don't see much of a shift from current offerings.

Latayne C Scott said...

Nicole, I agree with your assessment of future changes. I think the economic climate has squelched much "out of the box" thinking. And since you and I write out of the box, we'll have to get our hope for the future somewhere else than the current status quo.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I'll read anything but I have read a lot more Christian fiction in the last year than ever before.

~ Wendy

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

I think you ladies have hit most of the trends. Amish is here to stay I am afraid. ;-) Mystery/thrillers is always exciting to read. It is an market that with the guy readers is starting to really mushroom. Spec fiction is starting to really make a nitch for itself. Marcher Lord Press is working really hard to get their name and their author's name out there. The only draw back is they are not really big on selling to bookstores. It is hard and expensive for me to carry their books.

Lynn your comment on how sometimes you feel like Christian books need a label made me laugh. If you protest over reading a book with language or sex issues you are a prude, but you can scream bloody murder about "accidentlly" reading a good with no language or sex, but a Christian message.

Latayne C Scott said...

Wendy, I appreciate your commitment to reading Christian books. I've made that commitment myself and am trying hard to put my money where my mouth is.

Chris, thank you as always for your insight. You're on the front lines of reader interaction and I really appreciate what you had to say. I also knew of Marcher Lord and admire what they're doing but it is too bad about the problems with bookstores stocking these books.

BK said...

It's definitely not a trend, but I am ever and always hopeful of seeing some NON-romance historical fiction added to mix in the CBA market.

Latayne C Scott said...

BK, I wonder if publishers realize how many of us skip over the romance part in books unless it is really, really, really compellingly a part of the plot.

For me, the romance part often seems either tacked-on or even worse, an attempt to manipulate the reader's emotions (perhaps to make up for lacks in that area elsewhere in the book?)

Chris Jager - Baker Book House-fiction buyer said...

Amen to BK and Latayne. It is the one thing I meantion to publishers all the time. Why is every historical fiction have so much romance? Jane Kirkpatrick is a great example of good historical fiction with little or at least not over done romance. I hate to say it, but I skip a lot of historical books just because of the romance part of the books.

Bonnie Grove said...

I agree, BK. And Latayne.

I've noticed when it comes to Christian fiction, most historical and biblical fiction is simply romance novels in a different wrapper.

Pass.

(There are notable exceptions which can be counted on one hand.)

Sharon K. Souza said...

BK, Chris, Bonnie, Here! Here! Or should I say, Hear! Hear! I wish publishers would listen to other voices out here crying out to be heard.

Megan Sayer said...

YES!!!!!

I've recently been trying to push through and find the gold in Christian fiction. I diligently read the Christian Bookstore catalogue that came out the other day, and was so disappointed to find that the blurbs of all the stories that looked a bit interesting followed on with a "little did she know that the ruggedly handsome man next door...etc". So I know where that story is going. No thanks.

I'm not bitter and twisted about love. Yesterday we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! (yay!!!). I. Just. Don't. Like. Romance Novels.

There are so many interesting stories out there to tell. Why doesn't the Christian market notice?

BK said...

As a reader, I struggle to define what I’m looking for in historical fiction. I deeply hunger for a historical novel (preferably American history but any great historical piece could woo me) that is broad in scope—something that addresses a situation, a problem, that affects a wide swathe of people in a region, even a nation---a novel with a panoramic lens in place. Something more than will Jack and Jill get together. I want something that will reach deep and tell me something about humanity at large. I guess there’s a part of me that longs to make sense of human kind today through the prism of the past---and to me, that’s what historical fiction SHOULD do.

That's not to say that this can't be accomplished while Jack and Jill get together, I just have yet to hit on a book that satisfies that yearning.

When I do, I'll come back and shout it from the rooftops. 8-)

Karen Schravemade said...

Hurrah! Non-romance-readers of the world unite!

Perhaps we should begin an underground movement for other Christian readers who are afraid to "come out"... ;)

BK said...

LOL Karen. Well if nothing else, seeing others reply who are likeminded makes me hopeful that the addition of non-romance historicals WILL one day be a trend. I truly thought I was the only one in the universe who wanted to read that. I'm glad to hear I'm not all alone in the world.

Elisabeth said...

I agree with you folks. I get the feeling sometimes that so much 'historical romance' seems to have cheapened the historical fiction genre, or gotten it slightly pushed aside as 'genre fiction.' I think of my own writing as serious historical fiction, which frequently happens to have a love angle as a part of the plot, but definitely not romance novels.


Do you think this affects marketing? That people interested in serious fiction would be less likely to pick up a historical because they've associated it with 'just romance novels'?

Latayne C Scott said...

I don't know what makes publishers afraid of historical fiction that lacks a strong romance element. Perhaps a psychologist would say romance books fill an important need, or a marketer would say that's what sells. But as one who has written several novels that lack that element, in the main I've had an underwhelming groundswell of silence.

BK said...

I'm sorry to veer off the original topic of this blog post. But, RE: Marketing historical fiction--I don't know about from the publisher side, but honestly, I quit looking at historical books in CBA fiction. If you pick up book after book after book, and the back cover blurb focuses on the romance element, you finally just give up and go away.

And for those precious few who DO write historicsl fiction non-romance, how do they get the word out so that we who make up that niche can find out about it?

Latayne C Scott said...

BK -- getting the word out ---

Maybe this blog is a forum for such things. I'm the only one writing historical fiction right now, but I know that none of our books are romances even though all deal with male-female interactions.

You keep reading and we'll keep writing....