As a reader and/or a writer do you know how to answer that question? It sounds simple enough. Can you describe who you are as an audience of novels?
Let me tell you what kind of audience I am. I’ve learned to either shut down or restrict my inner editor when reading fiction unless what I consider to be excessive typos, bad writing, poor plotting, or throwaway characters prevail. Making note of those problems might give you the impression I’m a tryant-type reader. The truth is I’m a forgiving reader. And I give a first-time author a longer rope. If they’re somehow able to hang themselves with it, depending on which trespass of my reader’s code they managed to violate, I will determine if I sample another one of their books.
I’ve discovered a significant portion of the audience for Christian fiction can be unforgiving in terms of their reading choices. They’ve established tight boundaries for their adult material which reflects what they think their fellow Christians “should” be reading. Much of this judgment isn’t based on the factors I mentioned above but on personal preferences for story and word content.
The CBA contributes to this through the publishers, who feed their distribution of fiction, setting up restrictive requirements according to this demographic of readers. However, where publishers run into problems is when they decide to take a few inconsequential liberties with the restrictions because of the value of a particular story. The instantaneous feedback attacks the integrity of both author and publisher. This audience is neither forgiving nor bashful.
Every author makes choices before they begin a novel. Some pray hard, some pray “lite”. Goals vary from aiming for commercial success to achieving literary prowess while hoping for monetary returns. Some churn out novels like a wood-splitter after a windstorm. Others thrash and struggle to get a novel done in a year’s time. If an author serves the Lord Jesus Christ, they desire to make every choice right before Him. While those individual decisions might confuse or confound others, it’s not their place to condemn them. It’s simple not to like or “approve of” a novel. There are innumerable opportunities to express opinions about books. Just don’t forget that a Christian author is subject to the Audience of One, not a few or a bunch of disgruntled readers as an audience who’s decided the author’s work doesn’t suit their particular – and perhaps demanding – tastes.
As authors we tend to write what we want to read. As readers we search for those voices and stories that entertain and inspire us. As consumers we visit a Barnes & Noble or the local Christian bookstore and visualize just how many novels there are from which to choose. If we have reliable recommendations, we select and purchase. Sometimes we’re ecstatic with our selections and other times we figure we just wasted our money. Sometimes we realize it wasn’t a bad book – it just wasn’t what we like. And still other times we find a gem or fool’s gold.
Each novel produces a reaction. So what kind of audience are you?
Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. Visit her here.
Merry Christmas! Celebrate the One who gives us real life.