Michael Covington, Information & Education Director, ECPA
E-Link, October 2010
(Hint: read the whole article for the really good stuff.)
You may have recently read a statistic that Christian fiction nearly
eclipsed Bible sales among Christians in 2009. This information came
from a new report from ECPA, 2009 ECPA Consumer Demographics & Book
Buying Behaviors Report (available here).
We all know statistics only tell part of the story, and this is one
story that many have picked up on. So, we thought it would be a good
idea to look at this fiction vs. Bibles issue from a few different
things first, it is important to understand who was polled and how we
classified them. The ECPA report was created using data culled from the
purchases of more than 40,000 book buyers in 2009. This same data was
used to create the larger report from R.R. Bowker that focuses on the
overall book industry (available in the ECPA Store).
Respondents completed online surveys of their book purchases throughout
the year, providing data such as the where, why, when and how of their
Prior to completing these surveys, respondents provide personal
information such as gender, household income, education, etc.
Additionally, respondents can answer a series of questions related to
their religious affiliation. If they checked "Christian," then they are
provided a series of questions that serve as diagnostics used to
categorize these self-professed Christians into one of five categories:
Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private and Cultural Christians.
The types of questions asked relate to spiritual practices such as
church attendance, ministry involvement, prayer, devotional reading,
Christian media consumption, personal evangelism, sacramental
participation and much more. The purpose of this is to more closely
understand the interests and various respective purchasing habits of the
In 2009, we began studying the Bible purchasing habits of these
groups in addition to Non-Fiction and Fiction titles that fall inside of
the most commonly used BISAC subject codes for Christian titles. This
is how we were able to determine that the total of all five Christian
groups purchased nearly as much Christian Fiction (19%) as Bibles
(23%). This bit of news created quite a stir in the blogosphere
(especially among agents and Christian novelists). That buzz is only
going to grow, for we didn't reveal additional statistics within each
Christian group, let's take a look now.
In the interest of space, we will look at the Active Christian group
only, which made up 61% of all Christian book purchases. The Active
Christians were the single largest Christian segment (25%) and spent
more dollars on Christian fiction than any other segment (68%). Among
this group of Christians, Christian fiction actually made up 20% of
their Christian book spend for 2009 as opposed to 18% for Bibles.
That's right, among the core consumer of Christian books, Christian
fiction has already eclipsed Bible purchases in units. The silver
lining for Bibles remains in the average dollars spent per unit. Active
Christians spent a little more than $25 (actual sale price) per Bible,
as opposed to the average fiction title fetching $8 per unit.
Is this surprising to you? If you had made this assertion 20 years
ago, no one would have believed it. But that was before such runaway
bestsellers as the Left Behind series or The Shack. More and more, ECPA
publishers are experiencing success and new found growth in the
Christian fiction category. Does this indicate a waning interest in the
scriptures or simply an increasing appetite for new ways to communicate
the truths found therein?
You know what they say: "Truth is stranger than fiction." We may also add that it doesn't sell as well either.
To order the 2009 ECPA Consumer Demographics & Book Buying Behaviors Report, visit the ECPA Store.