We need to promote Spiritual/Visionary Fiction as a genre

Examples of new age fiction and spiritual fiction

Editor’s note: I’m no longer convinced that New Age Fiction is the appropriate genre title; Spiritual or Visionary Fiction seem to be more useful at this time. I will rewrite this article soon.

Remember Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of it. Since its publication nearly 40 years ago, Robert Pirsig’s novel has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into dozens of languages. What has made this book so popular for nearly 40 years is not his analysis of the convergence of Eastern and Western philosophy–many quibble with his assertions.  Pirsig’s real triumph is that he combined a complex metaphysical theme with a compelling story. His goal was to both entertain and edify, and he succeeded on both counts.

Other novels have aspired to the same goals: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (over 20 million copies sold), Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions by Richard Bach, The Monk who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma, The Star Rover by Jack London, The Alchimest and other books by Paulo Coelho, Tuesdays with Morrie and other books by Mitch Albom,  Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain, and many more.  Some  include several best-sellers such as The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown in that list.

These novels are hugely popular even among mainstream readers, many topping bestseller lists and spawning sequels and movies. What they all have in common is that the authors weave new age, agnostic spiritual, and metaphysical themes into strong story lines that keep readers turning the pages in spite of their sometimes pedantic or didactic tone.

So why isn’t there a recognized New Age Fiction genre? In the bookstore, the Spiritual Fiction section is about 80% religious fiction. If you ask if the store has a New Age section, likely you’ll be directed to a shelf of mostly nonfiction with everything from The Belly Button Book for preschoolers (seriously) to Deepok Chopra.

The problem is that few novels manage to combine a truly compelling story with spiritual principles. Many are fictionalized memoirs that fail to incorporate the fundamentals for a good novel:  A great story and engaging characters. Others are instructional guides thinly draped in fictional trappings. Even if the spiritual message is strong, weak writing skills drive the reader, who first and foremost wishes to be entertained, to drop the book before any edification can take place. New Age Fiction must appeal to both the emotions and the intellect.

An explosion of nonfiction spiritual education and self-help books have overwhelmed bookstores  since Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was released. In Amazon, a search for “new age” includes 122,000 books; “Mind body spirit,” 109,000; “Spirituality,” 133,000. Fiction searches are similar: “new age fiction,” 33,000. “Spiritual fiction” returns nearly 8,000 books, although there’s no way to tell if those novels are religious or agnostic. However, many of the books listed in the “fiction” searches are actually nonfiction. An amazon category called “Fiction–Visionary and Metaphysicial” lists more than 3,000 books. But what does that mean? Many in the list fall more clearly under Science Fiction or Fantasy.

So why establish a and promote a new genre called New Age Fiction? Because readers want to be entertained and edified. They want to settle down on the couch or park bench with an enthralling story that captivates their emotions and nourishes their spirit. They are keenly interested in all things spiritual but not necessarily religious, and they want to have fun learning about it instead of wading through yet another nonfiction volume explaining how to attain enlightenment in five easy steps or unlock your personal power through spiritual transformation. Worthy subjects all, but not a book I’d take to the beach.

Publishers and booksellers need to clearly define a genre that differentiates among Christian-themed novels such as “bonnet romances” (typically categorized as spiritual fiction), psychic thrillers (which get shelved next to Sylvia Brown), metaphysical fiction (which on Amazon includes Project June Bug, a beach read about a teacher coping with an ADHD student), and the like.

Writers need to produce high-quality novels that illuminate genuine spiritual values. Publishers need to recognize that a substantial market already exists for nontraditional spiritual fiction. Readers need an easy way to identify these books. And your local bookstore needs a brand-new shelf labeled New Age Fiction.


72 thoughts on “We need to promote Spiritual/Visionary Fiction as a genre

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! I agree. There is *such* a need for this genre and why it isn’t already in existence I don’t know. But I do think that a groundswell movement is forming as around the internet I’m seeing more and more calls for exactly this. Luckily with the sweeping changes in the publishing industry, doors are opening wide for writers of these stories and, as long as we as writers of esoteric fiction keep to a very high standard of writing, I think exciting new paths are waiting!
    Judy Croome, South Africa

    • I’m definitely going to follow your blog–I’m just getting into this whole “social media” thing as an author, so it’s a little overwhelming right now. Can you recommend any blogs/sites/people/resources I should also check out to get more connected into the New Age society at large?

      It’s great to speak with a kindred spirit :->

      • PJ, I’ve been involved in teh social media for a while,but my focus was mostly on writers; I’ve suddenly woken up to the fact that I want to connect with spiritual seekers as well, so I don’t have that many sites.connections yet. One website that I found that looks good is http://www.dharma-talks.com/ You can connect with them on Twitter too! 🙂
        Judy, South Africa

  2. Hi PJ
    This is a great site! I dislike the term “New Age” because most of these truths are ancient ones that are being either rediscovered, or people finally feel they can discuss them more freely. I’m not sure what the correct term would be. When I wrote about auras and Indigo children on Hubpages, people started writing like mad, telling me that when they were kids, they could tell if people were good or bad, that they saw colors around people, and their parents told them to keep quiet so others wouldn’t think they were nuts! The Soul’s Plan by Robert Schwartz is a collection of individual stories about people born who recall prior lives, and it was pretty good. They remember enough detail to go back to the places they lived in the previous life, and prove it. I think that historical one you mentioned above would really intrigue me!

    • Yes, I very much struggled with the term “new age” as well. That’s why I ended up calling the site Fiction For A New Age–the 21st Century. Spiritual Fiction has too many religious connotations. I just couldn’t think of anything better.

      There are so many people with their own interesting stories to tell. I wish the terms we use weren’t already so freighted with previous generations’ baggage that it makes it difficult for us to use them–words like new age, spiritual, auras, Indigo children–even the word “God”–make it difficult to have rational conversations about real experiences because people assume we’re irrational as soon as we start using those terms! It’s almost like we need a new language to start fresh with.

      • I just entered my newly released novel, ANGEL THROUGH THE STORMS, in a contest sponsored by USA Best Books within two of their genre categories, one of which was “New Age Fiction.” So someone has already responded to your call. I found your web site looking for a formal definition of this genre, as my book can’t be pigeonholed into any of the standards the industry has established. I feel like you do, that the truth principles expressed and exemplified through the works of fiction you’ve mentioned are timeless and universal, so the term “New Age” is confusing. So I see the genre as putting forth a body of inspiring fiction that is helping propel the process of spiritual transformation out of “age old” thought patterns.

      • Good luck to you! Let me now how your book does. And by all means, feel free to submit the book here for review. If you were able to create a new genre, what would you call it?

  3. Clement, I have the same difficulty with defining my novel ‘Dancing in the Shadows of Love”. So I put it in the Amazon category “Fiction/Visionary & Metaphysical” and it seems to have found a home there. Because of that I was thinking about this question you raised, PJ, that we need a new genre for these type of stories. How does the term Visionary & Metaphysical resonate with you?

    And could I please send my book to you for review as well? I’ll contact you off list with some links so you can see if i’s what you’d like to read. 🙂

    Judy, South Africa

    • PJ, I have no idea what I would name a new genre because no matter what I named it, it would be open to interpretation. I like the term “metaphysical” as a genre, so I’m pleased to see Judy’s recommendation. I didn’t know Amazon had the “visionary/metaphysical genre” for fiction. I’ll check it out. PJ – I’ll take you up on your offer to submit my novel for review.

  4. Clement and Judy, you’re both welcome to submit. Pleas read the submission guidelines so there are no surprises, and then contact me on the email address listed there. I’m looking forward to reading your books!

    I had not thought of using visionary/metaphysical as a tag for this site. Maybe I should. Would that have made it easier for you to find as a user? What’s the difference between “new age” and “visionary/metaphysical” in your minds?

    • Hi PJ – I’ve sent you an email off list re reviewing my novel, hope you received it.

      Re the difference between “new age” and “visionary/metaphysical” – “new age” is never a term I’ve taken to, because many of the religions (or perhaps philosophies of faith is a better term?) being rediscovered and touted as “new age” are not new, but have been around for thousand’s of years. So, as an evolutionary astrologer for over 15 years, when someone said, “Oh you’re into that new age stuff,” I’d cling desperately to any remnants of self-mastery and prevent myself from snapping, “Well, actually, astrology isn’t new at all, it’s been around for over 5000 years!” So, defining my novel as “new age” is bothersome to me, although it may not be so to others.

      Why I like the term “visionary/metaphysical” over “new age” is that any literature (fiction or non-fiction) that explores the abstract ideal of a spiritual world beyond the physical is dealing with metaphysical issues and – whatever the basic faith is, from Christianity to Bahá’í ; from Buddhism to Shintoism – arriving at any idea or thought of this metaphysical world requires a certain amount of visionary ability to express that idea in terms of faith or a belief system. The fusion of the many different faiths we have may create a new ideal or tenet, but this fusion is more “visionary and metaphysical” than it is “new age.”

      There is an urgent need in the world for a fiction category that deals with visionary & metaphysical ideas and concepts. Not everyone always wants to read a non-fiction book. Sometimes one wants enjoyment/entertainment as well as spiritual growth and learning. I’ve blended both in my novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love.

      Judy, South Africa

    • Hi PJ:

      I’m late to this conversation but I want to chime in anyway. I’m glad you didn’t name your website for visionary/metaphysical fiction, which, as some have noted, is a specific fiction genre. That category doesn’t cover all the books I think would fall under the heading of New Age Fiction (or your title, Fiction for a New Age, which I think is brilliant).

      My novel, Downward Dog, Upward Fog, for instance, is not metaphysical fiction in the sense of Celestine Prophecy or Richard Bach’s works, so, like other women’s novels on all kinds of themes, we slugged it general fiction. I personally call my book “spiritual women’s fiction,” along the lines of Christian women’s fiction (a huge genre) or (much smaller) Jewish women’s fiction. I agree that “spiritual” has been a bit co-opted by the Christian market (the term “inspirational fiction” even more so!), but maybe it’s time non-religious spiritual books took the label back!

  5. The term “New Age” tends to turn a lot of people off, as they associate it with “space cadets” and “woo-woo.” I use the term Visionary because (1) it fits, and (2) it has a respectiable ring to it. Third would be that Amazon has a category for it — which is where my fiction is situated — and that alone will give it credibility.

    I love how this article precisely sums up what my writing is about: spiritual edification in an entertaining way, without religion. People are moving away from organized religion, yet they yearn for a spiritual connection, spiritual insights. Some may not pick up a “new age” book or one on personal growth, but they may read one of my novels and find inspiration and hope — that is my mission. To encourage and inspire such readers, as well as offer high quality fiction to others like me on the spiritual path who prefer *not* to read mainstream negativity.

    Currently there is barely a handful of metaphysical novels on the bookstore shelves, mostly Paulo Cuelo and James Redfield. That means the field is wide open for authors like me. I just find it too bad that this site only accepts commercially published titles, as the publishing world is changing rapidly and more and more authors — including big names like Stephen King — are moving into self-publishing, especially for Kindle and Nook. The profits are substantially greater, and the author finally has control over her own work, as opposed to selling her soul to a big publishing house.

    It’s the new way of publishing, and some authors are even turning down huge contracts to self-publish: http://www.techdirt.com/blog/casestudies/articles/20110321/00183913568/best-selling-author-turns-down-half-million-dollar-publishing-contract-to-self-publish.shtml

    Either way, we definitely need a new genre for this kind of fiction. Those of us who write it are here to stay.

    • You are absolutely right, Karen. And your insightful comment has prompted me to change my policy – I will accept self-published novels now. I was burned early on when I purchased a number of self-published novels that I couldn’t in good conscience recommend to others. I didn’t want to waste any more time and money. However, the industry is changing.

      I want to do everything I can to promote quality novels with spiritually agnostic themes. I also feel there’s a huge audience for books that enlighten and entertain, and we need to open up new avenues to satisfy that audience.

      I’m still struggling with the labels. I have purchased a number of “visionary” novels, only to find out that they are more science fiction and fantasy. I, too, don’t care for the label “new age,” and each week my opinion changes on what we should actually call our work. I hoped that the name of my site, “Fiction For A New Age,” would better express the kind of spiritually agonostic/visionary/metaphysical work we’re trying to promote, but that doesn’t translate very well into a tag. I wish the publishing industry would better define the plethora of labels and tags that are currently being applied! It would immediately boost sales if readers could trust that they were purchasing the novel that they truly want to read.

      Thanks for your great comments! Check out my (updated) submission guidelines for your own work, and please submit reviews of books that you’d like to recommend as well.

      • Thank you very much, PJ! It’s wonderful that you’re staying open, especially since that’s exactly what Visionary/New Age fiction *is*: an open field we’re just now exploring.

        I agree it can sometimes be misleading when some authors label their novels Visionary when really they’re just sci-fi/fantasy, etc. The really tricky part is that some classic sci-fi fantasy stories are quite metaphysical and/or contain valuable spiritual lessons: Lord of the Rings and especially Star Wars come to mind.

        Unfortunately when mediocre writers self-publish it gives the emerging genre a bad name.

        Very tricky ground, indeed. My own works show up in all sorts of guises, according to how my Muses see fit . . . trying to categorize them is like herding cats. The common theme, however, is, in some form, the healing power of love and higher spiritual values. If other Visionary/New Age authors could perhaps use spiritual aspects as a guideline, we as readers could better know what we’re getting. The only drawback is, “spiritual” is so subjective.

        All we can do is keep trying!

  6. Hi PJ,
    I enjoyed this thread. I have loathed the term “New Age” for years, for many of the above reasons. It’s not NEW, most of these topics have been around for thousands of years. I find that the Metaphyscial Society has classes on all kinds of topics, Astrology, Tarot, Ghosts, Auras, Chakras, Mediations, Mental visioning, and people take them all seriously because the tag “Metaphysical” seems to carry more weight. I have also heard “The Women’s Spirituality Movement” used, not for the old 1970’s Feminism stuff, but for women who practice Wiccan as a religion, or Pagan, of which I know men who practice as well. Your Fiction For A New Age is still good though. I ordered several books, never read the Celestine Prophecy. Maybe I can review my tarot book here when I publish it by the end of October? The Tarot covers every situation you will find yourself in all through life! The Major Arcana, the first 21 cards are called “The Fools’ Journey”, as to mature properly your soul must experience all those things. Many can be accepted as successsful if they only master 7 or 8 lessons, but will need more incarnations.

    • I’d be happy to review your tarot book, although I can’t say I’m much of an expert. I’ve been doing my own spreads for years, but with only the most basic of interpretations. I look forward to learning more about it.

      One vote for “metaphysical” as a more appropriate term. I’ll keep that in mind moving forward. Thanks!

  7. My husband, Don Pendleton wrote the Ashton Ford, Psychic Detective series of six novels, considered to be New Age/metaphysical. When first published in the late 80’s, the books were listed as Fiction by Popular Library/Warner Books. I have put them back in print as ebooks and print books, under categories such as New Age fiction, metaphysical fiction. Don was creator of The Executioner: Mack Bolan Series, and the Joe Copp Private Eye series. He and I also wrote New Age nonfiction, including the popular book To Dance With Angels, and Whispers From the Soul.

    I also consider my book, The Dawning, a novel of mystery and suspense, to be New Age fiction. I also publish nonfiction New Age books, ebooks, and ecourses.

    I would guess most NY publishers shy away from labeling New Age–and most book stores don’t know how to shelve New Age books. e

    • Would you like to submit your book – and a good example of your husband’s Ashton Ford series – for review? You’re welcome to. I’m always looking for great metaphysical fiction to promote.

  8. I am an inspiring author. I am currently working on a collection of short stories that ask the question, what if God had multiple personality disorder and used it to save the world? The stories are based off of a mixture of many different world religions and mythologies. I don’t know of many new age fantasy books, or fantasy books that focus on spirituality. I might go the self publishing route, since this seems to be a very niche market.

    • What a fascinating premise! There are a few new age fantasies out there, which I try to identify and review at this site. One classic example is “The Kin of Ata Are Waiting For You,” which is linked on the home page. Let me know if you can recommend any other new age fiction I should add to this site, and keep me posted about your successes with your book — I do everything I can to help promote spiritual/metaphysical fiction, and especially new authors.

  9. Great work here at Fiction for a New Age. Much appreciated.

    As you know, PJ, I’m right there with you on this, though I do (perhaps stubbornly) prefer the phrase, “Spiritual Fiction”. as I put it in my post, ~ Spiritual Fiction ~ It’s not just for Christians – It’s also not necessarily New Age, at http://jesseshanson.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/spiritual-fiction-its-not-just-for-christians-its-also-not-necessarily-new-age/. No offense, please.

    Whatever it’s called, we need the genre and, as my friend Judy Croome stated in her comment above: “a groundswell movement is forming”.

    Best wishes to all who are writing in this genre.

    • Jesse, when I started this site last year, it seemed like spiritual fiction included a lot of Christian fiction. Now there seems to be a trend toward labeling that as a separate genre called “Christian fiction” and using “spiritual fiction” to identify spiritually agnostic work. I wasn’t happy with using the term “new age fiction” then and am even more so now.

      You’re right. I’ve been meaning to update this post to use the term “spiritual” instead of “new age,” and it’s time to do it. Thanks for the nudge!

      • That’s great to know, Judy, because I just requested a copy from Jesse. And thanks for the heads-up on VisionaryFiction.org. It doesn’t matter what we call it (although some kind of consensus would be nice for marketing purposes), it’s all the same set of principles. It’s great to find others fighting the good fight and promoting inspirational fiction. BTW, I’m giving up on the term “new age” in favor of “spiritual fiction.” You and many others convinced me 😉

  10. I’m so glad I found this site. My contemporary novel, My Shoes Don’t Fit, about a disillusioned married couple trapped in the American dream, is perfect for this category. I’ve come close to getting an literary agent, but those interested tell me there just isn’t a market for it right now. I disagree. I think people are hungry for fiction that depicts characters dealing with the same frustrations that they face each day. I am planning to release the book/e-book independently this spring and will keep you posted. I am also interested in reading others work in the “new age” (for lack of a better term, maybe enlightening fiction) genre. The best to all.

    • I agree! There IS a market for spiritual fiction, and it’s growing. Best of luck with your novel – keep me posted so I can do a review for you.

    • Paul and Carol – Your book sounds very interesting. If you posted the first chapter on your site, I’d be happy to take a look and perhaps request a copy for review on this site. We all need to promote good spiritual/metaphysical/new age/visionary fiction when we find it.

      How are you categorizing “Divided by the Light” for distribution? For this kind of book, what genre label would you use (spiritual/metaphysical/new age/visionary, other)?

  11. I definitely feel connected to the movement of spiritual fiction, and I think thanks to some of the titles you mentioned, and publishing companies like Hay House, the genre is gaining momentum. I am wondering if there are any lists of spiritual fiction agents or publishers out there? I am a spiritual fiction (scifi currently to be exact) writer looking to publish.

    Here’s my website:



    • There are some spiritual/metaphysical fiction publishers out there, but I haven’t compiled any kind of comprehensive list. Do you have a personal list? Maybe we can combine our resources and get a few more writers to chip in. By the way, your specific genre has a name – visionary fiction! Check out the Visionary Fiction Alliance at http://visionaryfictionalliance.wordpress.com/. It’s a great resource.

  12. We didn’t like the term “new age fiction” either, back in the 80’s and 90’s when we started publishing fiction at Hampton Roads Publishing. And we thought that “spiritual fiction” had too many religious connotations and couldn’t be differentiated too easily from metaphysical themes. Thus we invented a new term called Visionary Fiction, and imprinted most of our titles with that category name. We tried mightily to convince Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble to put a shelf category for the term. Walden came close (but finally declined), and Barnes & Noble was too hidebound. The new age buyer kept saying, “Who will come into the store and ask for Visionary Fiction?” We kept saying, “If you build it, they will come.” Only Amazon bought the argument, and still has a list of 5,853 titles under the category listing called Visionary Fiction. At Hampton Roads (I was the co-founder, now retired but still playing around with a small line called Rainbow Ridge Books), we published quite a bit of such fiction, and most had no home or easy way to find in the stores. I suppose the bigger publishers, who do the Redfield, Bach, Millman, Coehlo, etc., books are reluctant to put a more limiting category name on the books, as they think it would scare off a lot of more general fiction readers who might buy the books. So they just call it Fiction, even though it might sell out of the new age section. So there might be something to build upon for those who want to take up the fight. We gave it a good try, but couldn’t convince the buyers to work with it.

    • I’m so pleased to hear from you, Robert. Many cheers to you for pioneering the term Visionary Fiction – that’s a great start, and a boon to many writers. However, I still think that that the Visionary label is self-limiting because, by definition (per the Visionary Fiction Alliance.org), it excludes some important fiction that falls into the spiritual (but not religious)/metaphysical/new age range. There’s a great article by Karen M. Rider on the Visionary Fiction Alliance site posted this week that attempts to lay out the divisions under Speculative Fiction – which currently includes paranormal. Our kind of fiction should not be lumped with werewolves and vampires!

      I’d love to see a new umbrella category arise that separates visionary/spiritual (but not religious)/metaphysical/new age from Speculative fiction into its own major genre. One suggestion was to call it INSIGHT fiction. What is your take on that idea?

  13. A newcomer to the site, migrating here from the Visionary Fiction Alliance, but a veteran of the “what to call ourselves?” dilemma going back to Michael Gurian’s now inactive visionaryfiction.org in the early 2000’s. After reading the article and all the comments, I see the naming convention remains unsettled. [I found Robert Friedmans’ comments his experience at Hampton Roads quite pertinent, even if traditional publishers no longer reign supreme with the advent of the ebook.]

    I could write a book on this subject of naming (perhaps should, although it would be better as a collection of the many ideas already out there or collaborative work) but will limit myself to a few comments here:

    – In choosing a label for our genre, is the impetus descriptive or marketing-driven (a brand name)? Much of the above commentary seems focused on the former, resulting in some clumsy combinations or associations with established terms (e.g. New Age) that are not quite what mean to call ourselves. IMHO, “genre” is more for convenience in classification, a marketing tool, than for inscribing content, which authors with any range find slopping indiscriminately across those genre lines.
    – Like Friedman and others, I was an advocate for “visionary fiction” because it was then relatively term without much baggage. But, as he points out and I can corroborate, the term did not catch fire. Why? Not sure, but it may sound too light and ethereal, or it was not promoted broadly enough. Doesn’t matter. Didn’t work.
    -From a marketing viewpoint the label’s meaning matters less than its recognition. “Xerox” is unrelated to “making copies,” but marketing made them synonymous. Science fiction was more fantasy than science at the genre’s inception, and even today few science fiction readers indulge in SF to improve their scientific knowledge. The genre name need not be the genre description, although eventually it must evoke a correct impression of that description.
    – Following the above ideas and dropping even my prejudice for “visionary fiction” and looking for a label inside and outside the current collection (also taking into account all those discussed above), I thought: What’s catchy, fresh, somewhat descriptive, in vogue, that New Age/visionary/transcendental/nonsectarian/spiritual/paranormal/etc. authors would be proud to call themselves? Believe it or not, an answer came, quite out of the blue, possibly off the wall, and perhaps because it sounds like its distant relative, Gothic Fiction. How about Gnostic Fiction? I don’t even think Dan Brown, the ultimate literary litmus test, would object to that tag on the Da Vinci Code. Because it is a somewhat unknown term (wonderfully defined in adjectival form as “possessing knowledge, especially esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters”) that is ancient (it’s fraught with “secret knowledge” connotations) and modernly relevant (the Gnostics were driven underground by the early Christian authorities but never really went away), it fits the needs of both marketing label genre description. Big drawback: it would be “brand” new to authors, readers, and distributors–no coattails to ride.

    OK, all of the above is stirring the pot to an effect undetermined. I do know, though. that at some point, we have to latch onto a label, perfect or not, and make it go viral so our readers know how to find us.
    PS: if nothing else, the above was fun to write and share. Maybe even on to something

    • Wow, what a comprehensive, insightful comment. Would you like to turn it into a guest blog post for me?

      Point 1: “In choosing a label for our genre, is the impetus descriptive or marketing-driven?”–I think our label is purely for marketing purposes, and is most relevant to Amazon categories and rankings. A recent presentation I attended said Kindle/Amazon is the source of 80% of online eBooks and print copies. That’s the market we need to reach. Of course, it’s not really about market, it’s about readers. But we must figure out the best way to reach out to those readers.

      Point 2: “Gnostic Fiction?” I like that we’re all getting as creative as possible about coming up with a genre label we can all promote. The real problem we have, however, is not in coming up with a clever description or label – it’s getting the likes of Amazon to adopt it. Visionary fiction actually exists as a genre on Amazon, which is a huge advantage. However, Rod Pennington’s terrific “Fourth Awakening” series is going bangbusters in the mystical/new age category on Amazon. Does the name even matter as much as getting readers to identify with it? I like the idea of Gnostic Fiction, because I think it’s descriptive–but what would our readers think?

      I appreciate your pot-stirring, because I think this is an important conversation for us like-minded writers. The really, really big issue you point out is “How do we make it go viral?” The answer is for one of us to break out with a new Celestine-like series and then promote a genre from that platform. It’s just a matter of time, I believe. I hope we as writers have a widely accepted label ready at that time, whether it be Gnostic, Visionary, Metaphysical, New Age, Spiritual, or something else. Let’s just pick one and stick two it. I personally don’t have any preference; it’s all about what the readers want.

      Thank you so much for your contributions!

      • Thank you, PJ–
        Will definitely work the original post into a guest post for you. Give me a week or so and I’ll submit. If ok, will focus on differentiating between the genre description (which no one word can do) and a marketing/classification label (which one word has to carry). Will also slant more towards online marketing, where the average author has more control, than traditional publishing, where the bottom line reigns supreme. (I spent many years of my corporate life in a publishing conglomerate!)
        Re the label itself, I am going to assume for now that “visionary fiction” already has traction (evidence to that in Margaret Duarte’s new post, The Puzzle of Visionary Fiction , and its many comments on the VFA site). Am brimming with ideas, excited to be discovering this pod of like-minded writers, and optimistic that we are headed in a direction with salutary implications for many in the near and distant future.

    • Hi, Tahlia – so good to find another like-minded writer! I also am becoming more and more convinced that Visionary fiction is the way to go. I’m certainly looking forward to reading your articles and the list of contemporary metaphysical fiction. Thank you for sharing this information.

  14. Hello PJ and all,

    I have just come to this site from Goodreads in pursuit of a review for my oddball book The Seven Gifts, and I found this discussion rather interesting.

    I am surprised at the number of comments disparaging the use of New Age as a genre. I appreciate that it has been somewhat hijacked by the crazies and the ‘5 steps to success’ charlatans, but it does seem to me to have just the right connotations as well as being sharp, modern and striking. I am also at a loss as to why commenters deride it for examining beliefs that are not new, when the name clearly refers to a period of time, not a belief. Humanity is moving into a new age (The Age of Aquarius) – a sort of cosmic change of season – and the main quality of this approaching season is not increasing cold or heat but increasing spirituality. One could liken it to the increasing new life in our Spring. This must surely encourage the study of any system – religious or secular, new or old – that believes in any non-material dimension of our lives.

    Thus, in gloriously cavalier fashion ‘New Age’ traverses from Quantum Physics to religion via every ‘dotty’ belief between, placing a supportive umbrella over anything that addresses the awakening of this new, spiritual age. That sounds to me like a pretty good genre to be associated with, so perhaps rather than running away because the charlatans are taking over, we should hold fast and wrest it from them – show the reading public that New Age means precisely what it says – new, exciting, unusual ideas, ranging over science, religion and other odd beliefs, to help them explore, through imaginative stories, a life destined to increasingly transcend the material.

    I think names like Gnostic, Metaphysical, Visionary and so on all suffer from an impression of rather old-fashioned, neo-religious, rarified unworldliness, full of funny chants and strange beings. New Age has no such baggage and does not create the same limiting preconceptions. Its writing can be expected to cover literally anything that questions the idea of our material world being the only manifestation of existence. I think the title of this blog is good, and the sub-title perfectly explanatory. Novels about this dawning New Age do not have to be ‘visionary’, just thought-provoking; and probably the better for that. Our stories should present questions, not answers.

    The term New Age Fiction would weed out ‘The 7 Secrets of Sexual Success’ and its irritating financial cohorts, but warmly welcome any stories that explore the ideas associated with this New Age of Enlightenment. Vampire love stories and the like will hopefully find a happier home far away in the Fantasy department. And readers who are put off by the prospect of preachy, ‘do as I say and you will be saved’ diatribes will hopefully find a well-focussed source of thoughtful, stimulating fiction that is highly relevant to their fast-approaching futures.

  15. Hello PJ,
    I posted a comment here a few days ago which was flagged as awaiting moderation. It then suddenly disappeared. Did it encounter a problem or did you not like it?

  16. I’m so sorry, John. I’ve been on vacation and haven’t kept on top of comments. Now, to your articulate and well-presented argument:

    I very much agree with you – that’s why I chose the name “Fiction For A New Age” for this review site. I undertook the challenge of finding spiritual/metaphysical/new age fiction quite naively, assuming that “New Age” had the appropriate breadth of meaning to represent, as you so eloquently put it:
    “…a supportive umbrella over anything that addresses the awakening of this new, spiritual age.”
    Yes! However, as you already noted, there has been a huge amount of pushback from writers who feel that “New Age” carries too much baggage for a number of reasons. I’ve come to the conclusion (for the time being, at least) that there is no ideal name for this genre. As you also noted, Gnostic, Metaphysical, and Visionary are also fraught with negative associations, as is Spiritual.

    What’s a writer to do? I support Visionary as a label primarily because Amazon has adopted it as a separate, highly visible category, which is huge. However, I’m not convinced that most *readers* of spiritual/metaphysical fiction recognize that term as what they’re looking for. Rod Pennington, the author of The Fourth Awakening novel series, has done extremely well under Nonfiction>Religion>Mysticism in the US and Thought & Practice>Mysticism in the UK, so who knows where readers are actually looking? That’s our biggest challenge. I would not have assumed that Mysticism would be the best label for the genre, but it’s obviously worked for Rod.

    What category (or categories) are you having success with for The Seven Gifts?

  17. Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve take note your stuff prior to and you are simply too wonderful. I actually like what you have received right here, really like what you are stating and the best way by which you are saying it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to stay it smart. I can not wait to learn much more from you. This is actually a great site.

  18. PJ, you need to get Akismet for your site — you’re starting to get spammers. The comment above (“Fantastic goods from you, man. I’ve take note your stuff prior to and you are simply too wonderful…”) is spam. I was getting these all the time on my site, until I finally decided to get Akismet, and I have not regretted it. Note that this “person” does not have a name, but instead a website address – probably fake. He (?) is not saying anything about New Age/Visionary/Metaphysical fiction, just generic blah-blah that means nothing. I am not affiliated with Akismet, just wanted to let you know about the spam so we don’t have more of this nonsense show up in our discussion.

  19. Peace and Greetings! WOW, wow and wow! I am so excited and blessed to find this article and this website!. You are absolutely right! The Press Release for my Spiritual Spi-Fi novel, “The Azurean Trilogy” (available on Amazon.com and Kindle) is coming out tomorrow–and I will be sure to send you a copy! I look forward to keeping in contact and following your page. Thank you so much for posting this article!!! Peace and Blessings!
    ~Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim
    author of “The Azurean Trilogy”

  20. I’ve been a member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance for over a year having discovered it only that recently, but have been ‘labelling’ myself a V.F. writer for over a decade. My first book was more of an autobiog with a difference. The difference being that I’d discovered I was a healer and a channeller due to a serious illness the doctors couldn’t cure. I had an incredible experience, seeing, what turned out to be my Guide and Healer, Astrazurra. Until then I’d been a sceptic. However, I was then led through steps and stages to become a writer. (I’d trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art.) My first attempt at Fiction followed, and it was then I was introduced to the genre Visionary Fiction – and it fitted! My latest book to date, Dreaming Worlds Awake, has had several good reviews including one by Victor Smith whose comments above on this subject are wonderful and brilliantly thought through.

  21. Yes, the VFA is a great resource for us all. And I’m becoming more and more convinced that Visionary Fiction is the right term to use. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  22. Thanks PJ. Just in case any of your contributors to this discussion are interested, I was invited to do a guest post for the VFA on the subject(s) Who influenced you to write Visionary Fiction? or Is spirituality an important theme for VF? It seemed my post covered both subjects. Their link is: visionaryfictionallience.wordpress.com
    Maybe others would like to contribute their thoughts on that site too.

  23. The article in your link, How Author Esme Ellis Found Visionary Fiction, certainly is an interesting read. It’s always fascinating to find other authors’ stories.

    Have you seen the article Victor Smith just wrote for Fiction For A New Age? It’s a terrific overview and analysis of all the threads that come together to create a good Visionary Fiction novel: http://wp.me/p1lh2y-14E. Please let me (and Vic) know what you think.

  24. I just left my comments on Vic’s article, following your link above. Unfortunately the whole thing disappeared after I’d written it. Said my email address was not the one I use!!! Same one I’ve used the last 10 years! However I wrote it again, and this time it seemed to post. Yes, I do think Vic’s article is great, and doing a wonderful job for us all!

  25. I completely agree! I am a spiritual fiction writer and have been putting my book proposal together. I tried to do some research to determine the competition and found it hard to pin point what was actually spiritual or religious fiction. I believe that spiritual is a good genre name because it encompasses all metaphysical or spiritual fiction. New age has a little bit of a stigma on it unfortunately. Great post! Hopefully my book will be up on your site in the future. Rachel

    • I agree that new age is a freighted term, but so is inspirational. When I look for books under the category of Inspirational on Amazon, it’s almost exclusively Christian in nature. Have you not found that to be the case? Let me know.

      More and more of us are using the term “visionary” because it actually has a category on Amazon that’s distinct from religious fiction. However, not that many readers are aware of that category yet. For more information, see .

  26. I agree with this sentiment. I have written a spiritual fiction book and have a hard time even finding an editor that will do developmental editing on a spiritual fiction novel. If anyone knows of one I’m all ears.

  27. I happily landed at this website where I see some of my favorite books. But, I have just written a novel and indicated that the genre would be “Body, Mind, Spirit” and now I am rethinking that. I have been a counselor with treatment centers for chronic pain, and addiction as well as in the public schools, and I realize that my way of working always centered on a holistic approach. That’s Body, Mind and Spirt=holistic, right? Well, I think I will have to try to redo the label to woman’s fiction. If you get a chance, do comment on where you think my book would fit. Go to SKCarnes.com and you will see this book: The Way Back. I could use some advise and thanks in advance!

    • B/M/S is a good label for nonfiction, but it doesn’t work so well for fiction. As you can see from all the comments, there is no “approved” label for spiritual/metaphysical fiction, and marketing such a novel is really a challenge. A relatively new label is “Visionary,” which I personally don’t care for (it connotes sci-fi for many people), but it’s gained traction in the marketplace. Amazon uses it as a label under its Fiction category, so there’s a great deal of benefit to that. But Visionary is not the only label that Amazon uses–it’s simply the easiest to find.

      I’ll check out your website, and the best of luck to you in marketing your book. I’ve found that marketing spiritual/metaphysical/visionary fiction was actually harder than writing the novel itself.

    • Sue, I just checked out The Way Back, and it sounds interesting. I may consider doing a review. How do you think it qualifies as a spiritual/metaphysical novel? That wasn’t clear in the description. Also, I couldn’t find a “Contact Me” link on your site.

  28. I will add one then. There are many incidents in the book (true incidentally) that qualify. One happens when the little girl (me actually) has been charged by a cow and survives because a very large rock is right in front of her. She picks it up and throws it hitting the charging animal straight on the forehead and then runs. John queries her-show me-what pasture were you in? Don’t you know that we picked all the rocks off that field? She says “yes I know, John. My dad finds 4 leaf clovers and I find rocks when I need ‘um.” They go on to have a discussion about fear. Please review the book. I just sent out a blog with a review and a poem from http://www.susancarnes.wordpress.com
    This is a poem I wrote from my other Blog-Expressions:
    Just Passing Through

    We buried our dogs, and planted some flowers
    Violets and bleeding hearts, over they grew
    Each petal reminds us of joy and devotion
    Of shape shifting spirit just passing through

    He saw me shivering, soaked in the rainstorm
    Shared his umbrella, and warm wishes too
    I later helped someone, also a stranger
    Abundance of kindness just passing through

    I had inspiration, for a way to move forward
    Spoke of my idea come “out of the blue”
    Then lo and behold others told me the same thing
    Enlightened by something just passing through

    Desperately clinging to accumulations
    Fearful of losing what’s me and what’s you
    We loosen our grip and relax definitions
    To realize all things are just passing through

    Last night I smelled cinnamon, fresh bread and cider
    Dad, darkly handsome, sang songs I once knew.
    He untied mom’s apron, they danced with snowflakes
    In the morning I cried, they were just passing through

    Then comes unbidden a quicksilver moment
    Transparent to what is inclusive and true
    When compassion transcends what stands between us
    And joins us to something just passing through

  29. I just today found this website! I have written a novel and could not find an appropriate genre for it. It’s about a young therapist who struggles with survivor’s guilt. The themes are psychological, spiritual, and to make things even more confusing, it’s humorous. What was I thinking??? I have been trying to pound this round peg into a square hole for such a long time, and feeling so uncertain about how to get it out there. But now I realize I just may be riding a wave into a “New Age” future! I feel renewed optimism and have subscribed to this website because I want to know about more books like mine.

    In peace and joy and great relief, Peggy

    • I’m so happy you found us, Peggy! Your genre problems aren’t over yet, since this is really a niche genre, but hopefully we can provide some guidance. To find out more about the term Visionary Fiction, I recommend you check out And the best of luck with your novel.

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