Indie Bookstore Draws Fiction Fans

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Top Christian fiction authors descended on Grand Rapids as part of the Fiction Readers Summit. From left, Valerie Fraser Luesse, Becca Kinzer, Nicole Deese, Toni Shiloh, Sarah Brunsvold, Amanda Wen, Mesa Andrews, Tracie Peterson, Kimberley Woodhouse, Robin W. Pearson, Morgan Busse, Kelly Flanagan, Jocelyn Green. Courtesy Photo.

Baker Book House, one of the largest independent Christian bookstores in the nation, drew crowds of readers to the store on a recent Friday night for Selfies & Signings, part of the three-day Fiction Readers Summit (FRS) which took place May 18-20.

More than 100 fans gathered at the East Paris Avenue bookstore to meet their favorite Christian fiction authors, take selfies, and get books signed. Baker’s fiction buyer and director of FRS, Chris Jager, says that sales numbers at least doubled for a typical Friday night.

“I saw large shopping bags full and the store’s shopping carts full of books,” said Jager, who helped found FRS in 2018. This year was the fifth live event; the 2021 FRS was virtual. Only the Friday night event is open to the public, with the rest of FRS by registration only and taking place at the nearby St. Nicholas Cultural Center. There were 51 registrants, up from 45 last year, and from as far away as Southern California and Houston, Texas.

“FRS is the absolute highlight of my year!” said attendee Karen Rhoades. “I love getting to meet new authors, reconnect with authors I’ve met here in previous years, and broaden my reading content. I learn so much from hearing the authors’ writing experiences, and I also become a more astute reader from listening to what my reader friends are saying and asking authors.”

Thirteen authors came to Grand Rapids for the chance to meet their readers, a rare opportunity for many authors. The Thursday evening dinner, Friday’s multiple panel discussions, and Saturday morning breakfast afforded authors and readers plenty of chances to get to know each other.

One of the highlights of FRS is “Flip the Panel,” in which authors get a chance to ask readers questions about likes and dislikes, favorite topics, social media outreach and more. This a departure from the usual readers-ask-authors format, and one of the most popular panels at FRS.

“As authors, we get to explain the ‘why’ behind a story, not merely the ‘what,’ and learn what readers need and want from the stories we create,” said Robin W. Pearson, author of ‘Til I Want No More and Walking in Tall Weeds, who came from North Carolina to be part of FRS.

This year’s authors were Mesu Andrews, Sara Brunsvold, Morgan L. Busse, Nicole Deese, Kelly Flanagan, Jocelyn Green, Valerie Fraser Luesse, Becca Kinzer, Pearson, Tracie Peterson, Toni Shiloh, Amanda Wen and Kimberley Woodhouse. 

“It was my first FRS, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” said Wen. “But it was much-needed bucket-filler for me. I loved being able to put faces to the names of my readers and to connect with other authors.”

For Jager, FRS “is about the relationship between readers and authors. It gives them both a place to land, a space where they can get to know each other. For the bookstore, being able to facilitate that relationships is so important and has been since the beginning for Fiction Readers Summit.”

The next Fiction Reader Summit is set for May 16-18, 2024.

 

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