Guest Blogger—Jeff Gerke, Part 1

As promised, today you will hear from Jeff Gerke, but first I wanted to pass on the official news that NavPress has signed Sharon Hinck to publish her fantasy trilogy. The first book is scheduled to release June, 2007, with number two coming out in September and the third, the following January. (Short time between release because the books are completed).

From Sharon (to the ACFW e-mail loop, quoted with permission):

Today I signed the contract for a three-book series with NavPress.

    What would happen if an ordinary soccer mom, studying the story of Deborah in Judges and longing to do something heroic for God, is pulled into an alternate world waiting for help–and she bears the signs of the promised Restorer? Susan uses all her skills as a mother—nurturing, negotiating, and building relationships—plus a few new skills she never learned at the PTA (like sword fighting and battling alien mind poison) to engage in epic drama and a very personal spiritual journey.

THE RESTORER is the book of my heart. I’ve prayed over this series, pitched the books to good-hearted editors who cringed at the word “Fantasy” and hoped for this day.

My test readers were women who read Kingsbury, Rivers, and many of our ACFW folk…most have never read sci-fi or fantasy. But they strongly identified with Susan and enjoyed the journey because of that.

God can truly achieve the impossible. This open door was a GIFT from Him, and definitely not caused by any savvy or skill at promoting on my part. He is remarkable and amazing.

Sharon also wanted to go on record as saying that Jeff Gerke is her hero for going to bat for her with his publisher. Signing Sharon is evidence, in my opinion, that Jeff is serious in what he believes about fantasy. So, with no other preliminary, Part 1 of Jeff Gerke on fantasy.

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This year was my first to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. What a blast. I think I made something of an impact there by briefly taking over a fiction editors’ panel I was on. I got to talking about the future of fantasy and other speculative genres in CBA, and when that happens people tend to duck and cover because I get a little passionate.

Poor Dave Long of Bethany House had had to sit through my little spiel on a previous panel, but he was a good sport and even lent a hand—literally. I’d been drawing a pie chart in the air with my arms, but Dave whipped out a pen and drew the chart right on his palm, which he then displayed for the audience. Then someone pointed to a flip chart on an easel beside us, and things really got going.

What I drew was a circular pie with a one-quarter-sized piece missing. The three-quarters of the pie that was there represented the kinds of fiction that Christian publishers release: romance, suspense, historical/biblical, etc. These genres are also published by secular houses. The missing piece represented the best-selling genre in secular publishing: speculative fiction, primarily fantasy. This was, I said, a kind of fiction that hundreds of thousands of Christians read, but that Christian publishers do not produce.

I waved my marker above the missing pie piece and said, “We’ve got Christian authors who write it and Christian readers who devour it, but very few Christian publishers providing it. What gives?” I then went on record with this: “I predict that within two to five years a Christian fantasy is going to go big—hopefully one NavPress publishes—and then every editor on this panel is going to come here and say to you, ‘Never mind about that chick-lit; do you have any speculative fiction for me?’” At which point the room burst into cheers. I took a bow, put my marker away, and sat down.

Incidentally, the “research” that went into that missing pie piece thing is unscientific and based on a very small sample. But I still like it :-). I went into my local Borders bookstore and just observed. I saw that the front fiction section in the store was Suspense/Thrillers, and it had 5 long shelves full. The next section was Manga, which had 2 shelves. Then the third section was Fantasy/SF, which had 6 shelves. It was the largest fiction section—indeed, the largest section, period—in the store. I asked the clerk what kind of fiction sold best in the store. He said, not surprisingly, “Fantasy, definitely. Followed by suspense and Manga.”

So then I did some thinking. (Dangerous, I know.) I thought, the people who come to Borders are a cross-section of people in my community. Which means that there is a certain percentage of Christians among that group. And if fantasy is the best-selling genre in the store, then it’s quite likely that that same percentage of people who bought fantasy were Christians. (Does that make sense?) If 25% of the people coming into the store were Christians, then possibly 25% of the people buying fantasy were Christians. If the general public purchased more fantasy than anything else, then it stands that Christians were buying more fantasy than anything else. And that’s when I got excited and started dreaming about pie.

If fantasy is the best-selling genre among Christians who shop in Borders, why isn’t fantasy the best-selling genre among Christians in general? Why isn’t Christian fantasy the best-selling genre in the CBA?

When you’ve got people who want it and writers who write it, there’s a need and a solution. All you need is the right product for them to want. And you need to let those Borders-shopping Christians know that Christian fantasy exists. But that’s a topic for another day.

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Part 2 tomorrow.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 6:47 am  Comments (28)  
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