Many years ago at a Christian writers conference, I heard an author remark that he wished he could crack “the homeschool market.”
Homeschool students love to read, he said. They’re smart. They’re dedicated. And they often prefer Christian-made books.
Back then—and even more so now, homeschoolers don’t just love books—They love fantasy. And they love Christian-made fantasy.
But somehow he couldn’t figure it out. And I, being a homeschool graduate and conference newbie, didn’t know how to help.
Enter the Realm Makers Bookstore
More than a decade later, we’re “cracking” that market, for God’s glory and to share his people’s fantastic fiction.1
This year, the Realm Makers Bookstore has already appeared at Great Homeschool Conventions in Fort Worth. (I joined them; here’s my mission report.)
Just last weekend, they hosted the store at the same convention, appearing in Greenville, South Carolina.
This weekend (Thu.–Sat., March 28–30) they’re sharing great Christian-made fantastic fiction with new fans at Teach Them Diligently in Nashville, Tennessee.
Scott Minor: ‘These are the stories today’s generation wants to read’
On the way to Nashville, bookstore operator Scott Minor2 told me about their South Carolina success.
“There were about ten to fifteen percent fewer attendees in Greenville, compared to Fort Worth,” he said. “But we sold thirty-three percent more books.”
To date, that means the bookstore set a new sales record at the Greenville conference.
“Everybody who came to the booth was excited to see the books,” Scott told me. “Groups of kids would come by four times looking at books. Then they would come back on the last day and buy the books that they wanted. … Some parents drag their children to a booth to check out something. … It seemed like our booth was where children dragged their parents.”
“Everybody who came to the booth was excited to see the books … Some parents drag their children to a booth to check out something. … It seemed like our booth was where children dragged their parents.”
— Scott Minor
I asked Scott if homeschool students really do uniquely value Christian fiction novels. Absolutely, he said.
“There’s a lot of Christians whose kids are reading these books, who don’t go to homeschool conferences,” Scott said. “The homeschool community is one that talks and communicates a lot amongst themselves when they find something good. They do spread the word pretty religiously. And they go there to buy books. That’s the purpose of going there.”
We both agreed that Christian creatives must share positive joy and win trust with new fans. That goes double when it comes to books with, say, dragons (or even vampires). Some books with these critters rightly trip the discern-alert for a Christian parent (or conference organizer!).
Scott said organizers and parents alike appreciate the bookstore‘s online catalog for homeschool parents. The catalog provides info about each novel the bookstore carries, along with author-supplied notes about the story’s content and themes.
Bookstore staff also reassure organizers that many of these authors were themselves homeschooled, Scott told me.
“They have come through a classical Christian model of schooling, and they are becoming writers,” Scott said. “When they use their imaginations, these are the stories that they come up with. These are the stories today’s generation wants to read.”
At several of these events, Realm Makers Bookstore hosts have met other fantasy authors, such as Andrew Peterson and N. D. Wilson.
Each of these creatives, often with his or her own publisher or organization, shares the goal of exalting Christ through fantastic tales.
“We’re hoping to open up the Christian side and change opinions about fantasy,” Scott said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, there’s good fantasy and bad fantasy’! The hard part for Christian parents who don’t read fantasy is knowing one from another. You can’t go reading it all. I try in my conversations to mention quickly for people that we have curated fantasy and sci-fi by Christian authors.”
Gillian Bronte Adams: ‘I loved seeing readers’ faces light up’
I asked Gillian, “Would you like to write a brief paragraph or two about the South Carolina conference?”
Here’s what she said.
Because of our position in the convention hall, everyone walking down the aisle came face to face with our display full of books with robots, mermaids, fantasy creatures, and spaceships, and I loved seeing readers’ faces light up as they realized what we had to offer and made a beeline over to explore it all. Some of my favorite moments included:
- Opportunities to talk with parents about how “subcreating” and using our imaginations gives us a unique opportunity to grow in our understanding of God’s character as Creator. One mom expressed her thanks for the comment, explain that she had never considered it in that way before but wants to encourage her daughters in their creativity too.
- All the readers who came back to the booth to tell us they had already started reading and were “50 pages in” or had “stayed up way too late reading!”
- The teenage boy who explored the bookstore for a while before migrating toward Catherine Jones Payne’s Broken Tides mermaid series. “I don’t think there are books that are just for girls or just for boys,” he explained, “as long as the story is good!” Having heard many conversations about how most boys prefer reading about only male main characters while many girls seem to enjoy books with both male and female main characters, I was so encouraged by his perspective.
- The groups of young readers who visited the bookstore every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I understand the pull. When I was their age, I would have pitched a tent by the bookstore if I could!
Lauren H. Brandenburg: ‘It was like we opened a whole new world to them’
Lauren told me that last year’s similar event in Nashville was fantastic.
The homeschool catalogue. Parents loved that there was a place they could go to get detailed descriptions of a book’s content. As a homeschooler and author, comfortably telling parents that the books we provide were not only safe but written by Christian authors was so fun. It was like we opened a whole new world to them. Homeschoolers are readers and quite a few love the speculative genre. Personally, I just loved hanging with Patrick Carr and Rachelle Dekker. It was their first homeschool conference, so watching them being loved on by the readers was really cool. The conference is a special place and unlike any other book signings that I do. Scott and Becky have really stumbled onto something. Authors are fighting and scouring for ways to get books into the hands of the right readers. The Realm Makers bookstore is doing it for them. It’s a win, win.
I’ll hope to share more bookstore updates in the future, perhaps as soon as next week.
Meanwhile, I’ll represent Lorehaven magazine and aid Realm Makers Bookstore again, next month in Cincinnati!
For the future of Christian fantasy,
- Several Christian authors of fantasy, such as Bryan Davis and Chuck Black, have been touring the homeschool convention circuit for some years. I hope to catch up with them for any of their comments in the future. ↩
- Scott and his wife, fantasy novelist Rebecca P. Minor, also co-founded Realm Makers: the conference. ↩