Thursday, May 06, 2010
Kindle Freebies--Can You Take the Heat?
Since the beginning of this year I've been watching the phenomenon of authors allowing their Kindle editions to be downloaded for free for a set amount of time. I myself allowed this for two of my books--Exposure and Dark Pursuit. And in fact two more of my books--Brink of Death (first in Hidden Faces series) and Violet Dawn (first in Kanner Lake series) will be free for a set time in June. The marketing tactic for Exposure and Dark Pursuit was a successful one. The books went to #1 and #2 on the Kindle bestseller list and stayed there for 9 days. Altogether they were on the bestseller list for weeks. And their position there fueled sales of the print editions and my other books.
The free downloads also fueled some negative comments from readers who didn't like the Christian content.
Since then I've watched the same thing happen to other authors whose books were downloadable for free. "Why," critical readers ask, "can't they label these books as Christian?" They feel duped for getting a free novel--and finding out it's Christian. I've wondered about that. Do these folks not read the back cover copy first? Most of the novels mention God or faith in some way. And should they be so critical--when the book was free? It's as if the very presence of the manuscript in their Kindle will somehow taint it. On the other hand, I've thought-well, should we somehow label our novels as Christian--just for such readers?
Recently the same thing happened to Rita-Award-winner Irene Hannon. She wrote a post for Forensics and Faith on the topic. Here are Irene's thoughts:
A few weeks ago, in conjunction with the release of the third book (In Harm’s Way) in my Heroes of Quantico romantic suspense series, my publisher released the first book in the series, Against All Odds, as a free Kindle download on Amazon for about two weeks. It seemed like a good promotion, since this book made both the ECPA and CBA bestseller lists and had just won the Reviewers’ Choice award from RT BOOKreviews for best inspirational novel of 2009.
So I was unprepared for the backlash.
Numerous readers wrote reviews vociferously complaining about the Christian content. Their hostility was palpable.
I’m not super sensitive to bad reviews. In fact, I’ve learned from constructive criticism. I’ve even written thank-you notes to reviewers who have provided helpful insights. But many of the Kindle-generated reviews were simply anti-Christian. Here are a few examples from some of the one- and two-star reviews:
- “The story is just window dressing for the usual Christian propaganda.”
- “This book was proselytizing at its worst.”
- “I’m with Samuel Goldwyn about messages—if you want to deliver one, send a telegram.”
- “I did read it from beginning to end but felt quite angry that I had done so!”
These same reviewers went on to call the book sophomoric, trite, shallow, predictable, clichéd and preachy.
In light of all this negativity, here’s what I wish I could say to these readers:
1. People who order free books should do their homework. Read the product description, third party reviews or the section marked “Most Helpful Customer Reviews” on the book’s Amazon page. If there is Christian content, that should be apparent.
2. If you order a book without doing the above and discover there is Christian content (or any other content you find objectionable), STOP READING! How hard is that?
3. You got the book free. If you don’t like it, fine. But don’t broadcast your anti-Christian bias to the world. Just write it off as not your kind of book.
My novel isn’t the only one that’s been slammed by readers who find Christian content offensive. Debut author James Rubart’s book “Rooms,” which had a free Kindle promotion around the same time as mine, received comments even more vitriolic.
Many negative reviewers complained that there was no warning the book was Christian fiction. My comeback: There aren’t warnings on smutty fiction, either, and there’s no outcry about that. But I guess graphic sex, profanity and gratuitous violence are PC and Christian content isn’t.
Both my publisher and agent have reassured me they don’t believe such comments will hurt future sales. I hope not. In the meantime, I intend to pray for those whose outrage to the mild Christian content in my books was so strong that they felt they had to give virulent voice to it.
Though I’m sure they would find that gesture offensive, too.
What do you think? Should CBA free Kindle editions somehow be labeled as Christian fiction? And if so--how? (There's no normal place to add the label. Secular fiction isn't labeled secular.) Authors--would you allow your novel to be free on the Kindle, knowing you'll receive some of these kinds of responses?