The dilemma of labelling Christian fiction… or not

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Last week agent Rachelle Gardner posed a question on her blog that has generated almost two hundred comments, and the discussion is still ongoing. She asked, “Should we label Christian fiction?”

“There has been 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….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.” [Rachelle Gardner]

My response was that I like to know what I’m buying, so I favour labelling, but I foresee great difficulty in labels accurately reflecting content.

Since making that comment I’ve had conversations with two people who hold widely differing opinions. When I look at some of the faith-based novels on my shelves I find only one that admits to being Christian. The others are listed as History/Fiction or not labelled at all. I’ve come to the conclusion there isn’t an easy yes or no answer about labelling that would satisfy every reader and writer. I had no idea it was such a controversial subject!

What’s your opinion? Indulge me. I’m curious.

Do you check back cover blurbs and labels, or perhaps research writers or publishing houses for clues about what to expect before you buy a book from an unfamiliar author? Would you steer clear of a book labelled as Christian fiction? Would you be annoyed if you picked up a book that was not identified as having Christian content, and later discovered it did?

And if you haven’t already read Rachelle Gardner’s post and ensuing comments, I highly recommend it.

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