Fifty copies of Mary in Transit were waiting for me when I got home from work this afternoon. The very first one is going to the parents of the young lady to whom I dedicated it. One was hand delivered to a local customer, six others have been requested, and two are on consignment at the local bookstore. That’s better than Heavens to Louie and Count Otto’s Dragon started out.
Mary in Transit is historical fiction. It is more likely to appeal to a broader market than my other books due to general familiarity with the story and characters. This is a good time of year to have such a book out. However, I wrote the thing not to grab an audience, but to flesh out a well known but poorly understood event in its historical context. Could the few Biblical items be laid into a believable sequence, given what we know about history and human nature? I think so.
Writing is fun. Selling is a pain. I wish my books would sell themselves, but that’s unlikely. Louie and Otto are oddities, most likely to appeal to people who aren’t looking for them. All three of my books are published by OakTara, a small Christian publishing house that isn’t afraid to take on unusual works.
A speaker at a writers’ conference several months back told us that the typical Christian book reader is an older female, not quite the demographic that Louie and Otto would most likely appeal to. Other popular fiction in the Christian market is more testosterone-driven, but these two volumes don’t quite fit that either. They are more in the skewed humor category, with Otto maybe appealing to Monty Python fans. Who is going to look in a Christian bookstore or booksite for that sort of humor?
In fairness, older women have enjoyed those two books, but they probably wouldn’t have gone looking for them if they hadn’t known me already. Not all men who read them enjoyed them, either. One Christian book site won’t sell Otto because it doesn’t fit their model. That’s fine; I’m glad they stick up for their standards.
One OakTara book I really enjoyed that should appeal to the “typical” market is The Accidental King of Clark Street by Diane Dryden. It’s set in Chicago, which is right across the lake from us, and I’m familiar with the sort of neighborhood she describes. Now she has written a sequel.
Historical fiction is popular because people already recognize some of the characters and/or settings. The trick is to stay true to history while writing an interesting yarn. Some people are very good at it. Two OakTara examples I particularly enjoyed were Centurion by L.D. Alford, and Among His Personal Effects by John Craig MacDonald. I am sure there are plenty of other good ones I haven’t read yet. Unfortunately, I tend to avoid reading other people’s books while I’m writing, and I’ve been writing quite a bit.