Brian Michael Zick operates as a relatively unknown illustrator, writer, and teenager. He showcases his work on his website. Living as a homeschooler, his interests vary from computers, and reading, to skateboarding. He also expresses a strange interest in letters and fonts.
What do teens want from Christian fiction? Or perhaps the better question is: Do teens read Christian fiction?
A friend and I asked twenty-five teens at the Catalyst, a skateboard ministry and youth group at New Hope Church in Sierra Vista, to answer my second question. We also asked “Why not?” to those who answered negatively.
Survey results from New Hope church (please note that many of the teens at the skate ministry are from the neighborhood and not Christians who attend the church):
“Do you read Christian fiction?”
Yes - 5
No - 20
Don't read - 7
I dunno - 6
Never been introduced - 2
Can’t read - 2
Don’t feel like it - 2
Only read Playboy- 1
That only five of those surveyed read Christian fiction is a little disconcerting. So I had my friend run another survey at Battle of the Bands (for homeschoolers), Veterans Memorial Park, Sierra Vista. With the second survey, my friend also asked for a comment from those who responded.
Survey results from Veterans Memorial Park:
“Do you read Christian fiction?”
Yes - 6
Like it because it’s tense with a spiritual message - 2
Very encouraging - 1
Only thing to read in the house - 1
Read one book and liked it - 1
Like C.S. Lewis because it appeals to non-Christians as well as Christians, and it has a good message- 1
Christian fiction is reading material that you can actually get something out of rather than just entertainment -1
No - 8
No comment - 2
Never got into it - 1
Too busy - 1
Don’t care for it, like classics better - 1
Don’t read as much anymore - 2
Can’t find any good books - 1
This time, six out of fourteen teens read Christian fiction—a bit more promising. It seems a higher percentage of teens in the Christian/homeschool community read Christian fiction than those we surveyed at the church.
Although Christian fiction offers many great books, based on my survey only 28.2 percent of teens read these books. Authors and publishers need to get the books to teens, because teens aren’t coming to the books. Hopefully one day more teens will pick these books up and read.
Though teen fiction is in the bookstore, that doesn't guarantee teens are going to read them. Whenever I go into a bookstore, most of the teens I see browsing around are in either the graphic novel department or looking at game guides. So it appears most teens aren't even hanging out in the section where they'd stumble upon Christian fiction.
A good marketing plan to get teens interested in books would be using word of mouth, or even discussing novels at youth groups, or creating a new kind of book. Like maybe Christian Manga. “Manga” is Japanese for comics, and Manga generally fills 90% of the graphic novel section. There are many kids who only read this style of writing.
I've never seen a Christian Manga graphic novel, but maybe someone has come up with an idea first. It takes a dedicated artist and talented writer to come up with something interesting, but I believe there's a need for this style of fiction.
Christian Manga: a new genre?
Manga is the Japanese style of comic storytelling. It puts more emphasis on emotion and character than American-style comics. In the US, it has also swiftly grown into a $150-million-a-year business with approximately 60% of its readership being female. Sales of manga in the United States and Canada last year surpassed $207 million dollars.
One of the premiere studios in the inspirational market is Realbuzz Studios.
They are an international enterprise blending American and Asian talent in this breakout contemporary media. They have created exciting and original stories, art and video entertainment for family, ‘tween-to-teen, and inspirational audiences.
Westbow, the Thomas Nelson Christian Fiction Division has taken the leading edge of the inspirational manga market with Serenity and other series.
SERENITY, America’s Premier Inspirational Manga™, is a story about an unhappy girl who finds a happy ending. While the world at large thinks Serenity Harper is an obnoxious little bundle of attitude, anger, and animosity, in her heart she’s a scared and lonely teen who fears no one will ever love her. This inspirational comedic teen soap opera follows her ups and downs as she and her friends face exciting real life challenges and situations in fun, entertaining stories!
New Serenity issues from Thomas Nelson - January 1, 2008
There are a few other authors breaking into the graphic novel market. One of the forerunners is Ted Dekker, with these three choices below: