As an author, part of my job is to decide where my books fit. In an actual bookstore, this would mean the singular big decision about whether I want my books shelved in Christian Fiction or Romance. Online, this becomes much trickier. Books can be placed in dozens of categories and subcategories in the online bookstore. I can also choose to promote them in (perhaps entirely different) categories in online newsletters like Bookbub or FreeBooksy.
This has put authors in an interesting position. I, like the other InspyRomance authors, write books with an obvious spiritual arc. That is a hard and fast requirement here at InspyRomance. In fact, Liwen Ho wrote a post last month about the Responsibility of Writing CCR.
Clean Romance, on the other hand is generally accepted to be a romance with no premarital sex, swearing, or violence, and generally “wholesome” content. Some IR authors also write books that fit these guidelines and don’t have the faith element of their other books. I think that is great too! Not every story has to include Jesus.
The question becomes… Is it okay to market (categorize) books with Christian messaging in non-Christian romance categories? What about vice-versa–Is it okay to list sweet/clean romances within Christian categories?
To be honest, it’s a tough choice. Some readers who don’t expect faith in their books will be turned off by the Jesus in our books and leave bad reviews. Some readers who expect more faith will be disappointed to find out a romance was only “clean”, not “Christian.”
Which leaves us in a tight spot.
So, I’m curious. When you see a book in a Christian Fiction or Christian Romance category — what do you expect? Does it bother you if it has no “faith content”? Narelle wrote a post about how the expectations in Christian Romance can often require established trust between readers and publishers/authors/bloggers.
Now… since I’ve traveled a bit down the rabbit hole, let’s go just a bit further. Because here is where it gets interesting.
There are LOTS of clean (not-Christian) romances out there in the reading world. And I love a good, clean romance novel as much as anyone. I think it is awesome that readers can now easily find the content they are looking for. HOWEVER, I also know that many of those authors don’t hold to a Christian worldview, even if those particular books don’t cross any lines. In fact, many authors who write Clean Romance also write “steamier” romance. Some… even write very explicit stories (far, far beyond what traditional Christianity would deem acceptable in relationships). In general, it would be very hard to readers to discover the overlap between the pennames of these authors.
I have to admit, when I see an author of clean romance promoting their books in Christian Fiction when I know they also write things that would horrify Christian readers… I get fairly steamed. To me, it feels incredibly disingenuous, as though they feel like Christian readers are easily duped and an easy way to get paid. This is probably compounded by the comments I see from authors about how “I just say my characters go to church on Sundays, and then I call it Christian Romance.” (And yes, I hate to admit that is a real quote!) For those of us who work hard to write characters who struggle and grow in their faith, it’s disheartening to see the genre become “watered down” almost?
I’ve debated whether to write this post. On one hand, it’s been eating at me for awhile. On the other hand, I wonder if I should let sleeping dogs lie.
But here I am, with a pretty serious question for you, dear readers. I’ll give one commenter a copy of an ebook by ANY InspyRomance author of your choice.
First, to repeat questions I asked in the text above: Is it okay to market (categorize) books with Christian messaging in non-Christian romance categories? What about vice-versa? Is it okay to list sweet/clean romances within Christian categories?
When you see a book in a Christian Fiction or Christian Romance category — what do you expect? Does it bother you if it has no “faith content”?
And the big one: If an author you discovered through a Christian Fiction category or promotion site was also writing erotic romance under a penname… Would it bother you? Would it matter even if the book had no “faith element”? What would you do if you found out?