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Christian Inspirational Romance Market 2008-2009
by Lyn Cote


(Excerpted from Lyn's workshop at the 2008 RWA National:  "Is the Christian Romance the Right Fit for You?")    
“The appetite for new Christian fiction seems to have no end…” Publishers Weekly, 6/2/08. 

According to Book Trends 2007, religious books in general show “the highest growth in dollar sales” across the industry. And Christian romances lead the charge, accounting for 11.4 percent of all romance paperback sales. That’s a 30% increase from 2005 with numbers continuing to grow.

I began investigating the inspirational romance market in the spring of 1994. At a group appointment, Wendy McCurdy (NYC editor) told me I was writing for the inspirational market. I went to my first RWA conference in Hawaii and met Karen Ball and Francine Rivers and began research for my first article for RWR on this market. By my second National RWA, I was a Golden Heart finalist for the new inspirational category. At that conference, Ann Canadeo announced the launch of the Love Inspired line under the imprint of Steeple Hill. This was made possible by Ingram (nationwide book distributor) to begin to handle inspirational titles. In 1996, primarily Heartsong Presents (Barbour) and Love Inspired, Palisades (Multnomah) and Bethany House were the publishers of romance. The intervening decade was a wild ride. Houses and lines popped up, folded, and the market continued to grow in spite of all the trial and error. By the time I wrote my 2005 RWR article, the big box stores—like Costco, Walmart, Sam’s—had begun stocking their shelves with inspirational romances.

Then all the major secular publishing houses that hadn’t dipped into this new lucrative market got busy.

  • Random Doubleday Dell started WaterBrook Press (and recently acquired Multnomah).
  • Simon and Schuster acquired Howard Books.
  • HarperCollins already had acquired Zondervan, but in 2007 launched Avon Inspire, for trade inspirational titles.
  • Penguin Group USA started Penguin Praise.
  • Warner started Warner Faith which after a buy-out became Hachette.
  • Steeple has expanded from Love Inspired Romance to LI Suspense, and now LI Historical lines.

So the market is still growing; every publisher now has a stake in it.

What are the present trends?

  1. Historicals have revived.

  2. Chicklit has waned. By that I mean, this subgenre is settling down. And the best chicklit voices are still going strong.  (Trend chasers beware!) Chicklit is also being blended with romantic suspense. Another variation is Ensemble fiction, such as Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group stories.

  3. YA in both secular and inspirational markets was on the critical list until recently.

    PW-6-2-08: “Young Adult literature is HOT. According to YA Library Services Assoc., sales of books aimed at the 12-18 age group grew 20% between 1999-2005. With general market YA such a hot commodity (and the religious lit growth)..., it’s  no surprise that Christian Publishers are scrambling to marry these two success stories.”

    The growth of the YA market is due to the large numbers of YA with disposable income. Zondervan research found that 41% of YA’s buy their own books with their own money. And publishers want in and are trying to figure out how to gain readership. CBA (Christian Booksellers Assoc.) houses are flirting with edgy and finding it hard to strike the right balance between what the teen wants and what the parents want their teens reading. Try Shelley Adina’s new YA series, All About Us.


  4. Amish stories are another subgenre of this market that appears not to be weakening any time soon. To date, Beverly Lewis’s Amish collection has 4.5 million copies in print. (PW) Publishers think that the popularity comes from a utopian fantasy, a desire to return to a simpler time.

  5. Suspense, romantic suspense is growing along with Thrillers or Chillers (Kathryn Mackel’s combo of Christian & Thrillers) Try Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins. According to the editors of Love Inspired, readers want the edgier romantic suspense. But authors like Ginny Aiken are doing well with lighter R-S like Married to the Mob.

  6. African-American stories are in great demand in both CBA and ABA (American Booksellers Assoc-secular) markets. Angela Benson, Felicia Mason, Sharon Ewell Foster, Cecelia Dowdy are some of the new AA voices. Check my website for more information on this market.

  7. CoAuthored Books that hook up a known non-fictional CBA author and a CBA novelist is also a possibility. Example –Gary Smalley, writer of the classic Five Love Languages, and Karen Kingsbury teamed up to write the Redemption series.

  8. Crafty books—Quilting related books such as Judith Pella’s quilting series.

  9. Smaller Presses and Ebooks—drop by my website www.LynCote.net and read about these.

RITA nominee Lyn Cote is the PAN liaison for Faith, Hope & Love, the inspirational romance chapter she helped found. Her latest venture is her blog www.strongwomenbravestories.blogspot.com where she invites readers and writers to tell their stories about strong women they have known or admire.  Her latest release, The Desires of Her Heart, was released on February 10.            

Updated Feb. 13, 2010