Home > Uncategorized > Caveat Emptor is the Rule for Book Purchasing

Caveat Emptor is the Rule for Book Purchasing

A customer walks in your store and purchases a novel believing they are taking home something that comes under the umbrella of “Christian fiction.” Instead, they find the themes of the suspense novel a little too dark for their tastes, and a later online check reveals the movie version was rated “R”; while another customer takes home an “inspirational romance” story only to find the plot a little too steamy for her Baptist tastes.

Most of the times, it doesn’t happen; but in the general market, it’s happening in reverse. A Christianity Today story about an author whose recent title became a free Kindle download one weekend, is a story of upset readers who didn’t care to be confronted with Christian themes or a character who espoused Christian beliefs.

And those negative reviews:  Many had to do with readers’ failure to click on links that revealed the Christian identity of Mapes’s protagonist. Wrote one: “I have nothing against religion, but there is a place for it, which is not in a good fiction novel.”

Before the giveaway, Colorado literary agent Rachelle Gardner warned in a blog that if Christian authors fail to mention their books’ faith-based content, they are in danger of receiving nasty reviews. “The star ratings on [sites such as] Amazon and Goodreads do influence how people look at the book,” she said.

An underground controversy over the practice has raged the past two years, since Christian publishers discovered free eBooks could increase author awareness, said Gardner.

Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, says it’s hypocritical to complain that a book has a Christian worldview. After all, he says, Christians who pick up a general market novel don’t receive any warnings of potentially objectionable worldviews.

“In the marketplace, the reader is not always going to be aware of or happy with your content,” he said.

Many critics of James Rubart’s 2010 Rooms—given away on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com—failed to notice clear references to its faith elements. “It surprised me how many people must have downloaded the book without bothering to read the description,” said Rubart. “I understand it was free, but wouldn’t they at least want an idea of what they were getting?”

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Rubart’s comment may be indicative of another, mostly unreported, phenomenon: Many free or low-cost downloaded books are not actually being read. There is widespread anecdotal evidence of device-owners with e-reader memory packed with titles they have yet to open. There is no true parallel with print books for the e-book hoarding we see taking place.

In the meanwhile, on either side of the marketing equation, the rule of “Let the buyer beware” applies. Christian stores need to make sure that store staff either know the genre of a particular writer, or know where to quickly find the information to give to customers.

That is, essentially, why customers are paying more at brick-and-mortar stores.

We need to see ourselves less as cashiers, and more as the shoe salesman who brings out products for the customer to view, try on, and determine which one constitutes a good fit.  Anything less, and we’re not truly serving our market.

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