The Deliverer
Sue Brower

Sue Brower is Executive Editor for Fiction at Zondervan. She finds it a pleasure to work with such best-selling authors as Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Brandilyn Collins, and many others. Prior to taking on this role, she was Sr. Director of Marketing for Fiction and Inspirational product for over thirteen years. Fiction is business as well as pleasure for Sue because she is an avid reader of both inspirational and mainstream novels. Early in her career with Zondervan, Sue’s focus was on book and Bible research and store research for Family Christian Stores. Sue is also on the Advisory Board for the Christy Awards and a member of ACE (Academy of Christian Editors. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with husband, Todd, and “kidz,” Pepper and Shep.

Andy Meisenheimer

Andy Meisenheimer is in his seventh year at Zondervan, his tenth year of marriage, his third year of fatherhood, and his first year playing in the band Group Dancing for Dutch People, an accordion duo cover band he co-founded with band member Jim Kast-Keat. While at Zondervan, he has worked with important, influential and talented authors writing in many different impressive genres. One author writes, "Andy is the nerdy yet paternal editor you always wanted," though Andy was quick to edit that sentence down to its essence: "Andy's super cool." However, better than all of that, Andy lives with his best-friend-and-muse Mandy and their three-year-old cutest-little-boy-in-the-world near Grand Rapids, MI. They are the best part of his life.

It’s All About the Story

The primary subject of fiction is and has always been human emotion, values, and beliefs
—John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

Some of my favorite people never left the pages of the books they inhabited: Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Claire Randall (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), Margaret Lea (The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, and David Herrick (Silver Birches by Adrian Plass) included. For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for immersing myself in a story and coming up for air only when absolutely necessary. So it only seemed logical that when the opportunity came for me to participate in a task force assigned to grow the fiction category for Zondervan, I jumped at the chance. That was in 1992. Zondervan had dabbled in fiction, but it was known as Bible and Christian Living book publishers.

Fiction has become a major category for us in the past couple of years with our first ECPA Gold Medallion in the fiction category and the first fiction novel to be ECPA’s Book of the Year being awarded to Karen Kingsbury’s Even Now in 2007. Getting to this place has been a gradual process, first focusing on the Suspense and Contemporary genres. Now we publish in all the major fiction genres. Our strengths still lie in the Contemporary and Suspense genres with Karen Kingsbury, Terri Blackstock, Lori Copeland, Brandilyn Collins, Robin Jones Gunn, Ace Collins, Laura Jensen Walker, and Elizabeth White.

But we have spent the last few years growing our core Christian consumer business with Robin Lee Hatcher and other additions to the Historical category—Jill Marie Landis and DiAnn Mills. Allison Strobel’s first novel with Zondervan will debut in the spring, and we’re very excited by Amy Clipston’s debut Amish novel, which hit both CBA best-seller lists. I’ve also been privileged to acquire several first-time authors like Camy Tang, Deborah Vogts, and Lisa Harris.

My partner in acquisitions at Zondervan, Andy Meisenhiemer, works on a different part of our broader strategy. “In addition to core Christian fiction, Zondervan is diversifying our fiction program through non-traditional or unconventional genres, reaching out to readers who aren’t typical Zondervan fiction customers—and not assuming most of our readers are Christian. It’s not easy to reach the everyday fiction reader, but we are committed to doing it.

For instance, we are the edge of launching a program to publish several hardcover mainstream thrillers each year. We’ve signed several New York Times Best Selling authors, including James Mills ("Few thriller writers handle the milieu better," says PW.) and Left Behind co-author Tim LaHaye.

Taking a cue from successful genres in the rest of the publishing world, we’re offering up solid spy thrillers from veteran author Noel Hynd (The Enemy Within, Conspiracy in Kiev) and a unique vision for fantasy author Bryan Davis, publishing both a YA and an adult series in the same fantasy universe.

For the more postmodern-minded among us, we have several new talents, including satirist Rob Stennett (The End Is Now), whose thought-provoking novels are garnering awards and critical acclaim, and Michael Snyder (Return Policy), whose depth of characterization and unique recipe of heartbreak and humor is equal parts John Irving and Douglas Coupland.

In a category of their own are authors such as Mary DeMuth (Defiance Texas Trilogy), who sketches with deft, dark strokes both depravity and redemption. And just wait until you experience the paranormal visions of veteran screenwriter Coleman Luck ( beginning this fall with the dreamlike fantasy Angel Fall. Last but not least, we have Karl Bacon’s Civil War novel Eye for Glory.

So what are we looking for now? I am looking for the best stories I can find. My most recent acquisition was the winner of the Zondervan/Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Competition, Susanne Lakin. It happens to be a contemporary novel set in the Pacific Northwest. Whether it’s contemporary or historical, romance or suspense I am looking for compelling plots, intriguing characters, and unique themes. Our list is full for novels releasing now through fall, 2010.

Andy is still on the lookout for some great science fiction, but it’s one of the hardest genres to write convincingly, so he’s not surprised that he’s still looking. But for the most part, our problem isn’t finding good writing, it’s figuring out how to succeed in publishing and marketing it, since the audience is so broad or so narrow that we’ve never tried reaching them before.

I am convinced that the fiction market will continue to grow for us. Not because more Christians are reading fiction, but because more Christian authors are writing compelling stories that feed the imaginations of the fiction reader—someone like me . . . who always has their nose in a book. Excuse me while I go finish . . .