I mentioned previously that The Faith and Fantasy Alliance will have two pursuits, the first being an event where we can gather and do all things writerly and artistic together. The second goal is aimed specifically at making sure we sell more books, which will involve creating what the business world is calling an Author’s Cooperative.
Most of us churchy-types who write fantasy and science fiction do so for small publishers. Small publishers have many excellent qualities, but rarely is wide market reach one of them. That means if we new authors are going to sell more books, we need to work harder at it than authors who are getting big print runs done by conglomerate publishers and seeing their books on the center tables of the local Costco.
How will this Author’s Cooperative Work?
What I plan to do is to bring together authors from across many publishers and take their books to live events for the sake of sales–specifically, homeschool conventions and sci-fi/fantasy cons. Why homeschool conventions? Homeschoolers love books, generally, and many of them are the quirky types who also love speculative fiction. The homeschool conventions will present buyers that significantly overlap our current sphere of influence, and it’s always good to get in front of your known audience as much as we can.
The first such event I’m angling to attend is the CHAP homeschool convention in Harrisburg, PA, which runs the Friday and Saturday before mother’s day each year.
As for the sci-fi/fantasy cons, these are far riskier, but have better potential to raise wider awareness of the existence of speculative fiction written with a Christian worldview. I sincerely believe we need to be reaching beyond our echo chamber to find those readers who would like what we write, but have no idea we exist. I was one of those people six years ago…shocked to learn there were Christian publishers who produced fantasy books at all. The convention scene will be a bit of a wild card…but for those who are willing to attend as volunteer representatives of the organization will have an opportunity to interact with a huge number of potential fans. This won’t be for the faint of heart, for certain.
Wait, what? Volunteer representatives? What’s that about?
As with all grass-roots organizations, the people who want to see it work will need to be willing to put in some sweat equity, though it won’t be without potential profit. Say you’re an author who wants to sell your books at ConnectiCon…if you are one of the people who goes to ConnectiCon to work the Faith and Fantasy Alliance table, the sales of your own books would be exempt from the sales fee the organization would charge. (This fee per book will be very small–not for making profit for the organization, but simply to cover the costs that come with having your work at an event in front of buyers.)
Once we’re established in the marketplace, I anticipate we will also be able to get our members on panels and provide teaching at these events, which will offer volunteer representatives an excellent boost in sales. The beginning will be about exposure and establishing reputation, and although I foresee it will be hard, I also sincerely believe the end result will be a wider audience for those who invest in the effort.
I think tackling the homeschooling conventions is a great way to start. I remember being dragged around those things as a bored teen. I’d have loved to have seen some juvie fiction with nifty spec fic covers. Heck, that’s pretty much the whole reason I read Gilbert Morris’s abysmal fantasy series, because it had great covers.
Lol…yes, in Spec-Fic land, we can’t afford to ignore the power of a great cover. And what homeschooling parent can resist a child who is begging for a book, after all? 😀
Love this! There is a HUGE homeschool convention here in Michigan, up in Lansing every May. I wanted to go last year, but it didn’t work out. This year is not looking good either, due to impending child birth around that time. 🙂
Well, you have a good excuse not to make it this coming year, but it would be a great location to have be Diminished Media Group be the featured publishing house. *wink, wink*
Im there every year! (www.inch.org) No, not associated with them, I just go. First as a homeschooled teen, now as a parent of a pre-schooler.
I’ve been thinking of getting a booth there anyway. One word of caution: Homeschoolers are a good potential market, but be prepared for an extreme bias against sci-fi and fantasy (from the parents, speakers, and other vendors. Not from the kids, so much.) I think Im the only guy at INCH wearing a sci-fi shirt… I feel this is mostly from lack of knowledge of Christian spec fic, so it’s a great opertunity, just be prepared…
Love your vision, Becky. Sign me up. I was just talking to an editor last week who admitted that the reason big CBA publishers aren’t handling SpecFic is because they don’t know how to reach the readers. This is going to take some out-of-the-box thinking (This is going to take ignoring the fact that there is a box!) and hard work, but we can do it! Thanks for leading the way.
Yeah, the usual “put it in the catalog and depend on Family Christian Bookstores to pick it up” model isn’t going to do the job on weird books about people with cybernetic corsets. The thing we have to prepare ourselves for is to come under fire from both sides, because it will happen, guaranteed. But I’m confident the benefits will outweigh the challenges.
Which two sides? The conservatives who hate all things spec and…
LOL — I need a cybernetic corset!
The two sides: the factions of Christianity that think if you read fantasy you must be a Satan worshiper, and the antagonistic atheist side that thinks that Christians are far too simple minded to write anything worth reading in their pet genre. I know Kat Heckenbach ran into a situation where a speaker at a con said Christians had no business writing sci-fi.
Right, Becky–that did happen! But fortunately not all non-Christians feel as he did, and I do think we can market at regular sf/f cons. I was surprised last year to find several authors at the con I go to selling both their speculative fiction AND inspirational! I’m doing serious reconnaissance this year when I go to see how Christian spec-fic will be received.
And I think your ideas are awesome! I’ve thought about the homeschool convention here in Florida, too. My concern is the cost for a booth, but I’m going to look into it anyway.
Definitely looking forward to hearing more ideas from you and contributing where I can :).
Don’t forget the power of having a friend in an independent Christian (or any Indie) bookstore. We hand sell what we love, we often have great freedom (hey, I am the one in charge of book signings/events for my store) and most of the time, we’re also reviewers. I work for TCM (The Christian Manifesto) and review spec fiction for them, Christian and non-Christian.
Make friends with the foot soldiers 😉 Write well, treat us with respect, and then turn us loose.
Absolutely! The indie stores are an existing industry structure we definitely need and would want to partner with, for certain. I’m all about tying in people’s talents. connections, and passions however makes sense. 🙂
I agree with Aaron that some homeschoolers will have preconceived notions about fantasy and sci-fi. And this would be true for some conventions more than others. I also think the majority of homeschoolers would LOVE the idea of meeting authors at the convention next year. The opportunity to speak to these avid readers would go a long way to making them aware that Christian authors are trying to get excellent books with Christian morals back into the secular marketplace.
Each convention is a different animal. Some are cheap for vendors to attend, and some are expensive. Some are Christian. Some are secular. Some make it very easy to participate as a speaker and some have a more cautious gatekeeper over speaking opportunities. It is going to take local authors, like the ones commenting here, scoping out local conventions to find the out-of-the-box solutions that will make these opportunities most fruitful.
Perhaps there’s an existing bookseller at your convention that would find it so desirable to have a published author, you, at their table that they would let FAFA use a corner to sell the books of member authors without FAFA having to be their own vendor… at least at the beginning.
I just got back in from out of town, so I’m way behind the eight ball here, but I was jut thinking about the idea of there being a core group of us that can represent the FAFA in our local regions and have a table selling the FAFA member’s books. Clearly you were already thinking such wonderful thoughts Becky 🙂
I think this may be the most useful part of the group because we wouldn’t just be having an insular pow-wow, but doing something proactive to reach our ACTUAL demographic. And clearly that is not Zondervan.
One quid pro quo though: If I am going to give the FAFA my books than I want the person manning the table at whatever conference we’re representing at to have read it. Like wise, If I’m at a table with a stack of Curse Bearer, Finding Angel, I am Ocilla, and the Book of Sylvari, I’d better be able to talk about more than just my title. I need to be able to speak with confidence about all of them, or at least have read enough titles by the author to make a very educated pitch on the general quality of their work. Basically we need to be as competent as humanly possible. Image of the FAFA aside, it just makes for better sales folk and thus better sales.
Also, we need to recruit. See if we can’t collect a few folk to give us the widest possible representation of the speci-fi genre. They all can have a place with us as far as I’m concerned, though we’ll have to develop some official guidelines as to what will be accepted on what sorts of tables. In other words, I may do fine on the table at a con, but unless I sanitize my act I would probably be harmful to FAFA if I wound up on the table at a homeschool convention… unless moms are now ok with beat-up, naked men cursing while running away from a monster who is trying to eat him… but I’m guessing they are not.
So you may know me and my writing like the back of your hand, but certainly there needs to be some up-front review process of the books coming in so someone other than the author can decide which markets the FAFA can safely support which books in (like i said, naked-man-running-down-hallway and a Christian home school convention would probably stir up some bad mojo). So there is that to think of too, though I honestly feel any gate-keeping we do needs to be minimal. I’m personally all for Christians-who-write vs. Christian fiction and I’d hate to see us evolve into another rule-a-saurous.
So those are my thoughts at the moment. I’m super-excited about the model that allows us to represent our group in our local areas! We might actually go somewhere!
i wonder if it you could include working with publishers instead of or in addition to working with authors. it would probably be publishers who furnish the books unless you’re seeking to promote self pub authors who don’t have established outlets. Just a thought. great ideas. love it.