Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who Cares About a Reputation?

Happy fall, you all! I’m loving the weather we’ve been having here and the start of leaf changes. . .and I’m enjoying the discussion over on Susan’s last post.

Comments on it made me ponder “reputation.” What does it mean to have a reputation? And why should we guard ours?

Reputation is a perception of quality, value, or character that has usually taken years to develop. But it seems to me that people in general have become more willing to ignore the importance of a company’s, a politician’s, a salesman’s, etc. – including an author’s – reputation if what they have to offer is served up with “sex appeal,” a bargain price, a pie in the sky promise, or whatever. We are told to ignore what other junk a company produces if they can offer us the best soap, or we are persuaded to ignore a politician’s home life if he/she can offer us a promise of change in government or lower taxes. It comes down to us being more concerned about what we can get out of it now than if this thing I’m buying into is going to become harmful to me and others in the long run.

Back to authors. I was browsing a couple copies of Christian Retailing magazine today and noted that there sure are a lot of books in the market. It would also seem from my perusing that there are quite a few authors out there with no apparent foundation of reputation who are trying to tell me that they’ve found the secret to spiritual bliss, church growth, physical health, relationship building, and everything else under the sun. It is tempting to run after the “sex appeal” of such promises, but then I’m reminded that if I’m grounded in the Word and in the Spirit, I don’t need to chase every new promise that comes along because I already have the best answers available to me.

Yes, promises in Marketing sell books, but “We don’t need more books, we need more great books!” as the quote on our office wall reminds us. I personally feel we also need to be more discerning about what books we bring into our homes and heart. Reputation of publisher and author do need to matter to us.

For example, I’ll read pretty much anything by authors like Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis Higgs, Karen Kingsbury, Tracie Peterson, and many like them because I’ve personally met them and had a peek into their souls. I know they love Jesus above all else—and they value their reputation as a Christian author.

As a reader, can you say that you make good discerning choices in the books you gobble up? What about as an author, is your reputation built on a solid foundation? If you have a mistake in your personal life, is there a clear line between your past and your present or does it still muddy your spiritual life? Are you concerned with word craft, being factual, following the rules of writing, and so on, or do you get lazy, focusing more on the end result of a book in hand with a royalty check?

Comment about reputations. Do you find value in them? Are you easily swayed by pie in the sky promises, or do you have set guidelines for what you need to see in a reputation before you let something into your life?


Cara Putman said...

I'm well aware of the fact that I'm at the beginning of what I hope is a long career. I am reputation building, and should be for the rest of my life. So deadlines are important to me. Turning in a product that honors Christ is important to me. And as a reader, I do care about what I read. I am willing to try an author once, but to come back, there has to be that indescribable something that clicks. And I do care about the house. It makes a difference -- you reach a place where you know what to expect based on publishing house as well as author.

Debby Mayne said...

Like Cara, I care about what people associate my name with. Before I ever sold my first book, I made the decision to only write books that were uplifting and wholesome, which has worked out well for me. Fortunately, I've never been asked to compromise my faith. As for the craft of writing, I try to improve, with each book being better than the last.

Anonymous said...

I think reputation is important in every aspect of life.

However, as an unpublished author and even as a reader, I don't always have the ability to know much about an individual or a publisher and their underlying integrity.

Ideally, I like it when the people with substance aim for healthy "sex appeal" as well. Everyone should attract the widest audience for their message they can.
The Barbour cover for "Along Came A Cowboy" is a good example :)

I also think the Heartsongs cozy covers are appealing. I enjoyed when Susan explained how those are done.

I'm not sure if I'm addressing what you meant. But as someone outside of the book industry (hoping to get in), it's difficult to determine reputation.

Do you have some tips on how to do that, aside from personally meeting them as you are able to do?

Darlene Franklin said...

I enjoy a good book based on good writing. Period.

Having said that ... knowing the author, knowing the love for Christ that shines through everything they do ... only makes a good book better.

But also ... if that shining example of faith doesn't carry through with good writing, I'm unlikely to read that author again.

Becky said...

Just a thought for readers. If you find an author who you want to read more of, before you invest in a full library of books by them, try checking out their website and blog. You can tell a lot about the heart from things posted on such sites.