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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

How do you rate?


It seems there are always new ways to regulate our lives. Not all of them are beneficial, and in fact some of them are intrusive, obnoxious, and unnecessary.

So. It's been suggested that Christian Fiction use a ratings system on their books similar to those used to identify films, i.e. R for Restricted viewing for anyone under 17 without an adult all the way down to the totally inoffensive G for General audiences including children.

I've been pondering this idea and discovered I'm not totally opposed to it. I'm not convinced it's a great idea, but neither am I staunchly against it. It only solves the problem of noting the separation of types of novels for readers. I seriously doubt it will halt the outcries of the Christian Fiction Police who will complain that no Christian should be writing an R-rated novel, exclamation point.

I've put together my Suggested Rating Categories as follows. Feel free to add your own.

C: (Children) For infants to young readers

AC: (After Children) From young readers through elementary readers

MG: (Middle Grade) For pre-teens through young teens

T: (Teens) Through high school

YA: (Young Adult) Some teens through early 20s

Adult: Advised for adult readers

F: (Female) Women's Fiction

M (Male):Geared to Men

G/M/F: General Audiences (Male and Female)

MT: Mature Themes

R: Restricted due to Extreme Violence and/or Sexual Situations and/or Language Issues; Adult Themes

We all know sophisticated young people who've graduated to Adult reading long ago - whether or not they should have. This ratings system only clarifies categories and can be combined with a genre label. For example: F/R could indicate Female/Restricted citing Women's Fiction with Sexual References. Or H/G Historical for General Audiences.

Shown in a circular label on the back cover beneath the back cover copy, unobtrusive but evident to potential readers? Your thoughts/opinions?

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. And a little rebellion.

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  1. I like the idea of ratings on books. I'd like it to go a bit further with letting us know about curse words and sexual situations. Nothing ruins a book for me like finding the "f" word in every other sentence.

    Whenever I do book sales, I tell people that my inspirational romantic suspense books are fine for any age over 13. I let them know my secular books are clean but a bit more edgy so maybe over age 15. Then I let them know my humorous mystery has a bit "off-color" humor that might offend some people.

    I don't want anyone to be upset by reading one of my books and not knowing what to expect.

  2. I tend to make the same "disclaimers" with my novels, Kathryn because even though they're redemptive, they're more what has been termed "edgy" for some.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts and experiences.

  3. I don't mind the ratings if they aren't too complicated. My publisher uses a sweet, blush, warm, sensual, intense rating, with each one clearly defined (and this is a no-erotica publisher). They also include content warnings that readers should be aware of: domestic abuse, premarital sex, gambling, alcohol consumption -- things of that nature. It keeps things clear for those who might be offended by anything beyond prairie-romance-sweet.

  4. Naomi, where do they publish these labels/warnings?

  5. I like those designations you suggested, but they do seem to lean more toward reading age than content rating. For childrens and preteen books we probably don't have to worry about offensive content for the most part, but for YA and above, I really think we should have the G or PG or PG13 rating, and then use the R and X for books with lots of violence, graphic sex, language, etc.

  6. Maryann, I would agree with you completely if we weren't discussing rating Christian Fiction. I don't see Christians writing "X" rated novels, although to read some comments on inoffensive romance novels in CBA fiction, you'd think the authors had. And I know some readers think some of the violence in CBA thrillers rates an X, but for Christian Fiction, I think an R covers it which could specify the area for the R rating (as suggested above).

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. I really hate the idea. Perhaps they can list the genre on the back in a way more easily read, but that should already show if it is YA or J for age. The ones you list for F or M would give the impression that only certain genders should even try a book, which isn't fair to either the reader or author. I know I would not like for someone to say, that is for men, I'm going to read it anyway. A mature themes rating might be helpful, but for the most part, reading reviews before picking up the novel can tell someone if those are in there, and a lot of publishers and authors (I know Francine Rivers did this in Redeeming Love) put a let in the front saying it contained MT.

  8. P.S. Maryann, I agree content definition could be included with YA or even MG and Teens due to potential violence, etc.

  9. Bookishqueen, good to have your opinion added. Although I agree with your assessment, I never read reviews before reading the novel. I know many people do and can get a generally good idea if that book is going to fit with them.

    I don't particularly like a M/F designation either because generally speaking I read more novels that would be considered geared toward men than women - as do many of my reading/writing friends. However, it could be a way of alerting men to books they might enjoy - that is if they ever picked up the book in the first place.

    A rating would mean little to me. I read back cover copy - and only a couple of sentences if it's too long - to make my decisions about novels. It's just that some readers seem so shocked at rather un-shocking items in Christian fiction that a possible ratings system is primarily to ward off such offense. And not sure it would since some readers seem to gravitate toward being offended.

  10. I totally hate the idea. Not to put too fine of a point on it. LOL

    Seriously, I do not like the idea of someone picking up my book (one day...) and NOT buying it simply because it would deal with what someone at the publisher thought might be a "mature" theme.

    Mature to me, mature to you, mature to my wife, mature to ... whom?

    Plus it encourages people NOT to use their brains ... a bad thing.

    1. I agree with Michael. I think it would be more restricting than helpful and could cause authors to lose readers.

      This is one of those scenarios where you're never going to please everyone so don't even try. :) The people who love a type of book will find it, and those who don't like it will know to avoid it. And maybe even the bad press they give it will draw the right readers in.

    2. Good points all, Sally. (See my reply below.) I wonder if an optional note from the author on the back cover (as in one or two sentences) under the copy might clarify who the intended audience might be.

  11. Tell us how you really feel, Michael. ;)

    Hey, good point. I would want to determine my own rating. And to avoid all the heart palpitations from the Christian Fiction Police Force, I would give my work an R/MT/Sexual references. How 'bout that?

    I'm not always sure people use their brains when they select their reading material - or in some of what is published, quite frankly - or in their criticisms of what they've chosen to read. So . . .

    1. To me, though, that rating would mean graphic sex scenes which I know you don't write. It's just so hard to pin this down so that everyone's on the same page. Oh, the beauty of the nightmare that is the English language...

  12. Good point, Sally. And I agree with the naysayers: this is a potential nightmare for both of those who might try to establish the ratings and those who receive them. I think some readers would appreciate them, but it wouldn't make any difference to me. Frankly, I would tend to gravitate to the R rating because to me that indicates a more serious approach to story. I know that declaration might bring me some scorn, but the "sweet" stuff sticks in my writing teeth, mostly because much of it never gets beyond cliche.

  13. I don't like the idea of rating by gender or age group. That's usually negligible, based on a child's reading level. And I'm a huge proponent of parents reading the YA books before their kiddos do, so they know what their kids are reading in the first place.

    But I do like the idea of AUTHORS having the power to let readers (esp CBA readers) know things that might tick them off and make them give a 1-star review. That way, they've been warned ahead of time. Just like those who give poor reviews when religious beliefs (esp. Christian) intrude into a story. If they KNOW it's a Christian-worldview book at the outset, they can't say they haven't been warned.

  14. Heather, agreed that the authors can perhaps negate a few things by leaving a "warning" or some such suggestion for readers. Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.

    (And I definitely would want to preview the reading material.)


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