When I was a teenager, I would often buy a popular contemporary young adult fiction book—only to stop reading it halfway through. not because the writing was bad or the storyline wasn’t engaging, or even because I had book ADD (although that may have had something to do with it!). Rather, I couldn’t get through these books because of the raunchy content. It appeared that these YA writers of contemporary fiction assumed every teenager lived a party lifestyle and couldn’t care less about how their decisions affected the course of their future. Were there any books that were deeper than mere surface-level fiction? Books that could offer spiritual nuggets while helping me cope with my own life and teen-related issues?
One day, out of desperation, I decided to Google search for “Christian teen fiction,” despite the fact that I had never even heard of the term “Christian fiction” before. You can imagine how excited I was to find a plethora of contemporary books—the exact genre I had hoped to find! I devoured these books by Melody Carlson, Robin Jones Gunn, Jenny B. Jones, and Cindy Coloma.
Sadly, I still struggled to find these books in secular bookstores. The young adult fiction sections were crowded with books for the general market—but what about these inspirational, faith-based stories that I craved? And why did it seem as though this genre niche suddenly came to a halt, like they ceased to be published?
I soon realized that my assumption wasn’t entirely off: Eventually, these CBA (Christian publishers) stopped releasing YA fiction. Why? Simply put, there didn’t seem to be enough teenagers who wanted to read books labeled as “Christian.” And even if those readers were out there, CBA publishers struggled to know how to reach them.
This occurred about ten years ago. Throughout this past decade, the young adult fiction market in general has increased in popularity. This proves that teens do love to read YA fiction. Not just teens, either, because nearly half of the YA fiction audience consists of adults. Perhaps this is why there have been numerous film adaptations of YA fiction books in recent years.
What is the Current State of YA Christian Fiction?
Because of the lack of sales in the YA Christian fiction space, the larger CBA houses—Zondervan and Thomas Nelson specifically—have geared their YA titles toward the general market. These titles are not labeled as “Christian,” but many of these books are written by Christians, contain clean content, and may reflect Christian values.
Does this mean that those of us who write YA Christian need to water-down the spiritual threads in our books?
Not necessarily. In fact, there are still passionate readers who are hungry for entertaining stories that overtly feature faith-based topics in all YA subgenres.
This need is currently being filled by small-to-medium sized publishing houses.
Current Publishers that Publish YA Christian Fiction
If you hope to publish within the YA faith-based space, I advise that you first take the necessary time to research the market. Read books that teenagers adore in both the general and the Christian markets. Then, when it comes time to pursue publication, you will already be aware of readers’ expectations and how your book will fit in with the current YA market.
To begin, you may want to look at the YA titles that are published by the following Christian publishers.
- Little Lamb Books
Little Lamb Books has primarily focused on publishing faith-based titles for children and middle grade audiences; however, they do accept YA submissions as well. To learn about how to submit your manuscript, visit https://littlelambbooks.com/subs.
- Iron Stream Media
I helped to launch Iron Stream Media’s former YA line, Illuminate YA Fiction (which was originally the imprint of LPC Books) in 2017. We have published books in every YA subgenre that can be geared toward both a Christian and a general market audience. These stories reflect the authentic youth experience in a way that sheds light into the lives of these young readers. Although we are no longer accepting submissions for the Illuminate imprint, Iron Stream Media will still consider YA fiction to publish for their fiction line. To review the submission guidelines, go to https://www.ironstreammedia.com/submission-process.
- Mountain Brook Ink
Mountain Brook Ink publishes YA titles of all subgenres for the Christian market. They do not seem to be searching for YA submissions at the time of writing this article, but I advise visiting their submissions guidelines page occasionally and keeping an eye out for when their YA submissions reopen. Visit https://mountainbrookink.com/submission-guidelines-for-inquiries/.
- End Games Press
End Games Press is a new publisher that will consider YA proposals submitted through agents only (unless previously requested). You can find their guidelines at https://www.endgamepress.com/submissions.
- L2L2 Publishing
L2L2 Publishing primarily focuses on publishing speculative, fantasy, and science fiction for Christian audiences. They are not actively accepting submissions at the time; however, be sure to check their submissions page for updates: https://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/submissions/
- Elk Lake Publishing
Elk Lake publishes all genres for the Christian market, including YA. You can view their submission guidelines at https://elklakepublishinginc.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ELPI-Proposal_Guidelines-07192021.pdf.
- Enclave Publishing
Enclave is known as a leading publisher in Christian speculative fiction, including sci-fi and fantasy. Take a look at their submission guidelines at https://www.enclavepublishing.com/guidelines-2/.
- WhiteSpark Publishing
WhiteSpark is the fairly new imprint of WhiteFire Publishing that publishes Christian titles geared toward young readers of all ages. You can view their guidelines at https://whitespark-publishing.com/submissions/.
Should YA Christian Writers Remain Hopeful?
The best way to sell a book is to write a book worth selling. This means we must not write a story simply because we want it to be published; rather, we must remain educated on the books that teenagers adore, as well as the kind of books that they detest (such as preachy fiction and stories that “talk down” to them).
These stories are needed now more than ever. There are teenagers who, like myself ten years ago, are looking for books that can offer a beacon of hope. They need to hear from voices that can speak truth in a world saturated with deceit. Stories that can feature issues they’re wrestling with in ways that offer a helping hand and points them to the only One who can save them.
If we can do this—if we can provide teenagers with the faith-based literature they crave—then, yes, I believe there is still hope for this market. Those of us who feel called to write for teens can each play our part in resurrecting the popularity of the YA Christian market.
But it will only begin if we take the time necessary to read, research, and most importantly, to pick up our pens and write.
YA MASTER CLASS– September 18
Would you like to learn more about how to write fiction that appeals to the teen readers of today? Be sure to attend my YA Master Class with Write 2 Ignite! We will discuss how you can deliver a story that appeals to the heart of youth, all the while avoiding major pitfalls YA Christian fiction writers tend to make. PLUS– I am giving away copies of Purple Moon, Fallen Leaves, and Love Your Selfie as door prizes!
“Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.” Psalm 102:18 (NIV)
WRITE 2 IGNITE YA RECOMMENDED BOOKS – 2021
Recommended by Tessa Emily Hall:
- Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk
- Beautiful by Cindy Coloma
- Caleb + Kate by Cindy Coloma
- There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
- Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley
- Intermission by Serena Chase
- The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt by Stephanie Morrill
- Purple Moon by Tessa Emily Hall
- Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall
- Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett
Recommended by W2I team and W2I bloggers:
- Bound by Vijaya Bodach
- Ships, Secrets and Survivors by Helena George and Sarah Rodecker
- Sins, Sons, and Siren Songs by Helena George and Sarah Rodecker
- The Button Girl by Sally Apokedak
- Crazy by LInda Phillips
- Behind These Hands by LInda Phillips
- Playing By Heart by Carmela Martino
- Surviving Carmelita by Susan Miura
- A Silver Willow by the Shore by Kelli Stuart
- The Painter’s Portal (The Gallowood Files Book 1) by Daniel Blackaby
- Earthly Trinity (Lost City Chronicles 3) by Daniel Blackaby
Are you hopeful about writing for young adults or not? Which YA books would you recommend? Have you found any excellent mentor texts? Please let us know in the comments!