Thursday, January 26, 2012

Are you Hiding His Light?

Recently Rachelle Gardner (literary agent with Books and Such) wrote about a controversy brewing underground for awhile now, ever since publishers started promoting books by offering a limited-time free download. Many of the Christian publishers have done these promotions, but whenever Christian novels are promoted on Amazon as free downloads, many people download them without realizing they’re Christian. They start reading and when they realize it’s “Christian” they become enraged. They feel like they were hoodwinked somehow. And then they leave 1-star, angry reviews on Amazon. Here are some Amazon comments on a recent Christian novel that was free for a limited time:
·         “When you read the review for this book, no mention is made of the Christian nature of the book. This is misleading.”
·         “I resent the absence of the Christian fiction label. ”
·         “This book is not a [genre]. It is a Christian morality tale.”
·         “Why is it that authors of Christian fiction often hide that fact in the descriptions? I am simply irritated when I buy a book based on a secular description only to find that the predominant thread throughout the book is Christian proselytizing.”
·         “It is an excuse to promote a Christian agenda. When a book is Christian Fiction it should be promoted as such.”

            These responses are leading people to ask whether Christian fiction needs to be clearly labeled as such, maybe in the “Book Description” on the Amazon page.  She (Rachelle) went on to describe this problem as a classic “Do unto others…” moment.  She sees no reason to disrespect people of other faiths (or no faith) by refusing to label Christian fiction as “Christian.” I agree, in fact, here is my full response to her question:  
              What do you think? Should Christian fiction be clearly described as such in the book description? Why or why not?
                This is an excellent question Rachelle, thank you for this post. I guess I have been operating under the assumption that Christian Fiction is a genre, that it is well known and understood, even highly sought after and popular. It is the focus of my writing efforts and how I desire to serve the Lord. In fact, I currently have several written works underway in this genre. I am not quite ready to seek representation as I have yet completed my first novel, but plan to do so shortly. When the time comes I will be clearly and (dare I say?) proudly marketing myself and my work in the Christian Fiction genre.
                I think perhaps the scenario you describe comes from either the author or publishing house desiring (understandably) to market to as large an audience as possible. Political pundits call this approach searching for the “Big Tent.” When this happens, the problems (so very well described in your posting) are possible results. These negative comments not only hurt the sale of the particular novel in question, they hurt the growth and integrity of the entire genre.
                Perhaps more that any other genre we, as Christian fiction writers, need to be very careful how we present ourselves. We are after all trying to represent Christ to a fallen world. We are called to be a bright light, shining on a hill. We should not hide (His) light beneath a basket. If we are honest about whom we serve and do not “overreach” our calling, He will honor our efforts and in the end the glory will be all His.