{Coffee with Kara}: Clean vs Christian Fiction

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of discussion online–on both Twitter and in Facebook groups–about the difference between clean fiction and Christian fiction, and considering my own experiences with this recently, I figured…why not talk about?

Christian fiction are books that are inherently “clean” in that they usually don’t contain cursing / coarse language, sex, or graphic violence. All Christian fiction also contains an element of faith–whether that be a crisis of faith, a reliance on God to overcome life’s hurdles, or a character’s path to finding God. Sometimes it can be as simple as characters who love Jesus and face the obstacles in the book with Him by their side.

Clean fiction, on the other hand, are typically books that refrains from showing anything graphic, whether it be cursing, sex, or violence. The big difference, though, is that most clean fiction does not contain mentions of faith, God, prayer, or inspirational themes / messages. (Now, allow me take a small detour here to say that I’m not fond of the term “clean fiction” because the opposite of clean is dirty, which implies any book that isn’t clean is somehow “dirty” or “wrong” and that’s not the case at all. But, that’s a different post for a different day.)

For me, the similarities and difference are quite clear, but there’s a correlation here that I think get’s missed a lot…

Christian fiction IS clean fiction.

Clean fiction IS NOT Christian fiction.

This leads me to my own experiences… About a month ago, I searched on Amazon for “YA contemporary Christian fiction,” and I was thrilled with the amount of results that popped up. Like a kid with carte blanche in a candy store, I loaded up my Kindle and promptly began to read.

I quickly realized that a lot of the Christian fiction titles weren’t Christian at all. They were clean. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t what I wanted to read. I wanted books with a clear element of faith. So, as I often do, I began to obsess—Did I not search correctly? Did I misread the blurbs? Surely I’d made a mistake along the way, right?

Well, I went back to Amazon and looked closer at the book details. All the books I’d purchased were in fact listed in “religious” “Christian” and “inspirational” categories. I was baffled, to say the least. As I dug deeper, I realized I wasn’t the only one encountering this issue–lots of readers purchased books listed as Christian or inspirational only to realize what they’d gotten was a clean book. Misrepresentation, anyone? False advertising? A bait and switch, maybe? Okay, I’m admittedly being dramatic here, but I think I’ve made my point.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either type of book–I avidly read both–but I personally take offense when I think I’m buying one thing only to get something else. This has led to some lengthy discussions with fellow writers and readers about the market and categorizing books and genre definitions. Is this a new trend to appeal to a wider audience? Is it a way to straddle the secular and Christian markets? Or is it something more sinister–like gaming the system so books can rank higher in certain categories?

I don’t claim to have the answers, but this mislabeling is troublesome, to say the least. And no one person can change the whole system, but individually, we can each do our own part–which is exactly what Anaiah Press will be doing!

Come back on Monday, February 25th for an exciting announcement about the direction Anaiah Press is headed in 2019 🙂

9 thoughts on “{Coffee with Kara}: Clean vs Christian Fiction

  1. Kara,

    Thank you for continuing the conversation here. I don’t think you’ve taken it too far when you’ve called it a bait and switch because as a consumer, I feel like it is exactly that. Crossover fiction is a farce!

    I look forward to your Feb. 25th post.

    Amanda Geaney, Blogger
    Christian-Shelf Esteem

  2. It’s an important distinction. I wonder if it could be partly the fault of booksellers–do they really know the difference between them? They probably do, which leads to the possibility that they’re just lumping them together to get higher sales from Christian fiction readers.

    1. Hi, Becca!

      Thanks for stopping by! I agree, it is a very important distinction, especially when a reader is looking for something specific, thinks that’s what they’re getting, and then it ends up they’re not. It’s very misleading.

      It’s hard to know with any certainty WHY these genres are lumped together. I can make a lot of guesses, but I’ll probably never know the real reasons. It’s frustrating to say the least.

      ~ Kara

    1. Hi, JWillis!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I think, like with everything related to writing and publishing, it really depends on the author, the book, and the publisher. If you’re writing on a topic such as unwanted pregnancy or a couple wanting to wait to have kids, I think it’s fine to discuss birth control. Now, if it’s included as a means to engage in pre-marital sex with multiple partners…that’s probably not the best fit for clean or Christian fiction.

      Same goes for cursing–it depends on the story, the author, and the publisher. Here at Anaiah, we almost never publish books with cursing.

      My rule of thumb is always: If you can remove it from the story and still have it make sense while keeping the characterization on point, then chances are you don’t really need it to begin with. There should always be a reason for every word you choose to put on the page.

      ~ Kara

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