Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Labeling Fiction ~ Just How Would That Work and Should it be Done?

So I was on Amazon the other day and happened upon a thread in their forums. The original poster was complaining that they'd been "duped" too many times into downloading a novel onto their Kindle from the free list only to later discover that the book was Christian. They were lobbying for books to be clearly labeled as Christian by Amazon.

I had several thoughts about this, not the least of which was; there are only a few Christian fiction publishers -  learn who they are and don't download their books if they are so offensive to you. My second thought was about how many of the books being complained about have been tagged multiple times as "Christian." So I disagreed with the original poster who seemed to think this was something along the lines of spam that was being sneakily foisted on them by Christian publishers.

Still there is that little concept of not casting pearls, mentioned in the Bible. If people are not ready to hear a message, it does no good to speak to them about it because they will just stop up their ears. On the other hand, someone who is ready to hear might read a Christian story and be blessed, even changed, by it. Would labeling books mean that everyone who didn't want to read that particular book would be prevented from reading it? Doubtful. Would labeling books mean that someone who might be blessed by a book, wouldn't purchase it because of the label? Perhaps.

While I can see both sides of this issue, if Amazon does start labeling books, at what genre-differentiation do they stop? What if a Catholic wants Christian books but only those with a Catholic slant? Or what if a Baptist doesn't want any books that mention speaking in tongues? What of Muslim literature? Or Buddhist? Or republican or democratic?

It is a muddle... So I thought I would ask you all. What do you think?
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  1. I think just labeling a book by its genre can be confusing enough. If we start labeling not just Christian, but denomination, we'll really be in a mess--and we'll seriously cut down our potential readership.

  2. Since Christian is considered a genre unto itself, I think it's important that it be clearly labeled. Few readers would appreciate stumbling into a literary book, if they were looking for a thriller. It's just good advertising. Readers need to be able to easily sort through books to find what they're looking for - otherwise they're likely to overlook our books altogether or, if they do read them, be justifiably upset by the false advertising.

    However, it's also the reader's responsibility to *read* the tags to identify the genre.

  3. I am smiling as I read this. At one point I would have been one of those complainers. I just finished rereading a few Dee Henderson books and my reaction to the Christian message in them is far different. What I once wanted to drop kick across the room in anger at God, I now embrace as a comforting message. I pray that the labeling doesn't happen - because a seed planted here and there is a good plan IMHO.
    The book I'm writing now will be a tough one to place for it covers abuse, the occult and new age (which I spent 40 years in) and then finding Christ the real healer. Probably people will grumble at the Christian message, but I hope they find the healer as well.

    Have a blessed night.


  4. Also, different people have different ideas of what constitutes a "Christian" book. Some look for a redemptive message, which not all of them have. Some look for biblical themes, which not all of them present in obvious fashion. Some read the word "God" and call it religious because they've decided to hate Him, and hate being reminded of Him. So labeling would be subjective. Probably the tags are the best guide.

    ~ VT

  5. Good thoughts by all. Heather you bring to light a good thought - sometimes what we don't want to hear is exactly what we need to hear. I, too, pray that God would use my books to touch hearts and change lives for his Kingdom - that is my impetus for writing in the first place.