Thursday, July 27, 2006

Promotion - Science or Fiction?

Romance Writers of America, currently holding their annual conference, lists a few statistics on their website. One is particularly noteworthy: fantasy and science fiction make up 6.4% of popular fiction sales (this figure seems to be from 2004). If we consolidate all the fantasy/SF titles in the latest CBD fiction catalog with the space presently given to them, it would be a two-page spread in an 80-page catalog, or 2.5%. To adequately represent the percentage sold, science fiction and fantasy need 5 pages (I am aware, however, that the percentages reflect the ABA, not CBA).

I did a book roundup for Church Libraries magazine on fantasy and science fiction a few years back - three pages of brief reviews (that was when I read White's books - didn't include them in the article). My editor passed one comment onto me from a librarian who had no idea what was good in the genre, but now knew what to order for her patrons. I believe we need more efforts like this - presenting books we love to those who will influence others.

The internet is a great resource, but many readers don't use it to determine what books to purchase. Print and word-of-mouth avenues are needed. I wish I could print up a full-color brochure, with covers and brief reviews of the fantasy and science fiction books I loved, and distribute it to bookstores. No one CBA publisher has emerged as a leader in these genres (though the Realms imprint could have had a chance to), and I believe this fragmenting has aided these novels getting lost among the big sellers: romance, historical, suspense, and women's fiction. I would love to see publishers getting together to promote their niche novels.

But wishing things were different doesn't change anything. If word of mouth is the best promotion, how are you promoting fantasy and science fiction to your friends and family this month? Today?

Stuart made an excellent point about instilling a love of fantasy in kids. I read the Chronicles of Narnia to my younger sister many years ago. I lent the DragonKeeper Chronicles to other siblings. I let a young friend borrow Tahn. And I convinced a peer to read one of my favorite books of all time, Arena. Will she pick up Karen Hancock's other titles? I can only hope.

Thanks, everyone, for all the comments. Stuart, I don't know how placement is made in the CBD catalogs. I know they've consistently had that one page for fantasy, sometimes mixed with classics, with Narnia and Anthropos holding center stage for years. Becky, I'm glad to hear a writer is including fantasy in her newsletter - your comment came in as I was writing this post.

Any more ideas for getting the word out?

4 comments:

Becky said...

Katie, another good post. I like the challenge to do something every day to highlight our genre.

I started a small newsletter for my family and friends but had not thought of including a list of suggested books, highlighting, of course, the best Christian fantasy.

If we don't spread the word, who will?

Becky

Mirtika said...

I remember earlier in 2006, I did a search on SF bestsellers at CBD, and it was just Narnia and Narnia and some Tolkien, and, after a while you got to others.

It might be that the movie started an upswing in interest, dunno.

I would ask: Is that the regular catalog you refer to or a fiction only one? I have been tossing the CBD catalogs lately, sight unseen (too many books to read here as is, piles and piles of the unread), but the ones I usualy get include Bibles and non-fiction and some music and some doodads. So, it makes a difference percentage wise if that was a mixed-resource or a strictly fiction catalog.

And yes, the question would also be: What % of popular CBA fiction is SF. And man, that's a stat I'd like to know.

Mir

Katie Hart said...

Yes, it was strictly a fiction catalog - Fiction Late Summer 2006 (if you want, you can view it online at www.christianbook.com). Thanks for the comments, both of you!

Stuart said...

One encouraging thing is that if you go to Christianbook.com today you'll find that Narnia has lost it's stranglehold on the top fantasy/science fiction bestsellers. There is a much wider range of titles presented now.

As for more ideas... a monthly or quarterly e-mail newsletter would be pretty interesting...but I'm not sure how we would get the word out about it :) (and archiving past issues of it on a website wouldn't be bad either)...

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