Recently a friend offered to write a review of my novel, One Smooth Stone, for a local Christian newspaper. They replied that they don't review "local authors." Since I've been regularly published in that paper, I thought that strange and asked why.
This is the reply the editor sent -
"When it comes to book and music reviews we try to choose the major releases, the cream of the crop if you will. If that’s a local band or author we’d consider it. One of the reasons is we are read online by people around the world. We only include one fiction release per issue, if any. That’s just 6 a year. I’m sure you can appreciate we get tons of books sent our way looking for a review. We have tended to choose books by people such as Frank Perretti, Davis Bunn, Anne Rice and Ted Dekker for two reasons: they have crossover appeal (i.e. of interest to non-Christians and sold in secular bookstores as well as Christian ones) and they are supposedly the very best writers. I know w that’s not always the case, and you are an award winning author, but that’s the way we’ve gone up till now (I see this as God’s paper and that’s how I feel led). Perhaps one day we’ll review one of your books, you never know. I certainly pray it does well."
And this is my reply to that editor -
Thanks for getting back to me with your explanation. It's an argument we Canadian writers hear a lot but I was quite surprised to hear it from you. You have been helpful in publicizing Inscribe in the past and seemed enthusiastic about helping to encourage the writers in this province and across the country. I have appreciated the opportunity to publish my column in your paper on a regular basis, knowing it is reaching many people with the hope of God's grace and mercy. That's why I have trouble understanding your reasoning about not reviewing books by "local" authors.
Frankly it's extremely frustrating - both to me and to my fellow Canadian authors who have won awards, been on T.V. and radio across the country, yet continually hear that we are "nobodies" and therefore not worthy of notice.
Yes, the argument that, "we go with the top names," is a common one. My response is, the "top names" do not live in this country. The "top names" do not minister in our communities and speak to the hearts of Canadians in a way only Canadians can. And the "top names" certainly don't need the exposure - their books are already being stocked by Walmart and Cosco.
I understand that you can cover only a minimal number of books in the paper and that many want the visibility. But I ask, why do you focus on books from the US when there is a burgeoning and exciting Canadian publishing industry growing in our own country? You said - "We have tended to choose books by people such as Frank Perretti, Davis Bunn, Anne Rice and Ted Dekker (because) they have crossover appeal" But those names would be no more familiar to unbelievers that names like Deborah Gyapong or Paul Boge or Nancy Lindquist - all award-winning Canadian authors whose books are, in my opinion, equal to or better than the names you mentioned.
You also mentioned that you have online readers from around the world. What about your Canadian readers in Alberta and Saskatchewan? Do they not deserve to know that God is doing a tremendous work in the Canadian Christian publishing industry by raising up authors of faith who are following God's call?
You said, "Perhaps one day we’ll review one of your books." Will that be when I become known in the United States? Why is that the criteria? Why is it that it is assumed that top selling American writers are the only authors who are being used by God to touch lives? I have a large file of reader responses that say otherwise. Why is it that just because a writer becomes well known within the Christian book industry in the US it is assumed God is blessing his/her work more than that of a writer who does not have that kind of notoriety? If I read my Bible correctly, God doesn't seem to see it that way.
The Canadian authors and publishers I know are committed to community - our own community - the towns, the provinces, the country where we live. We are doing what we can to help expand God's kingdom in those places. So it is very frustrating when people who are in a position to help that happen refuse to do so.
So, I have a suggestion - if you will not review our books, why not do a feature on Canadian authors? (I'd be happy to write it for you). Maybe some of those readers from around the world will even begin to see that God is at work in Canada, through little known writers who are trying to be obedient to Him and thereby make a difference for His kingdom.