Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Shack" -- a Good Reason for the Public Library

Not to pound something until it is dead, but yesterday I remembered that I had two other issues with "The Shack".

The entire time I read the "The Shack", I felt like I was being played, manipulated. The reason why? "The Missy Project".

First of all, Missy is not a real person. So, to have a "Missy Project" is ridiculous. It sounds like her picture should be on the back of a milk carton. She doesn't exist. Hence, part of my disdain for the book. As I said before: when God is still alive and at work in this world in miraculous ways, why would we settle for made up stories about Him?

I really do like fiction (good fiction), so my issue is not that. I even like good redemptive fiction like Les Miserable or Ben Hur. I like God in my fiction. But I like my God stories to be true, since they can be.

The other issue with the "Missy Project" is that it is a sham. Yes, a sham. Movie rights have been sold for books that have sold far fewer copies than "The Shack". So, whether or not it becomes a movie is not directly tied to how many books are sold.

The beginning of the blurb about the "Missy Project" said, "A group of us who have been touched by The Shack" or something to that effect -- yes, that group would be the publisher and the author. The more books you buy the more money they get. "The Missy Project" struck me as a deceptive way to advertise and manipulate people into buying more copies of their book. It subtly tells you that in order to spread the Gospel "buy my book".

It reminded me of when I was in college and this guy who a barely knew told me that I HAD to vote for him for class president. Not because he would do a good job, but because he was a Christian. He had the audacity to try to use my faith to manipulate my will for his purposes. I felt this the entire time I read "The Shack" because of the "Missy Project".

If "The Shack" is truly such a great book that a movie maker wants it to become a movie, then let it stand on it's own merit.

I realize that I'm riding a fine line here, since my book will be released this summer, however, I would never start an "Anna Project" or anything so manipulative or cheap. There's a difference between promoting a book or a message than trying to manipulate people into generating income for you.

Another issue of honesty, I found on the publishers website. "A funny thing happened on the way to helping a friend with his new book. We couldn’t find a publisher who would treat it the way we felt The Shack needed to be treated to find its audience. Christian publishers thought it too controversial and wanted to dull its edgy side so as not to risk alienating their core audience. Secular publishers shied away because they felt the content put it clearly in the ‘Christian’ marketplace."

First of all, if a secular publisher had thought that it would sell, then they would have bought it. I highly doubt that Harper Collins would have turned it down on the basis of it's spirituality. In fact, many secular companies have either an "inspirational" market, or, as for fiction will just publish anything. If you read a lot you know that.

Secondly, there are Christian publishers that gladly publish controversial books. Specifically, I've seen some pretty funky stuff coming from Thomas Nelson as of late.

My issue here isn't with the fact that it was tossed out of other publishing houses. My issue is that they feel the need to make up reasons. Many a publisher has passed up a great manuscript because they don't know what they're doing. I'm sure Harper Collins would have loved the revenue from "The Shack". The issue was, probably, nobody thought it was a good book.

So, friends of the author started a publishing company. In essence, "The Shack" was self-published, maybe friend-published. So, BE HONEST ABOUT IT.

All of this just led me to feel like I read through one big marketing scheme as I read. Promoting a new publishing company started by the author's friends, trying to be convinced I should advertise for free for them. Trying to be convinced that I should help them try to make this a movie.

The entire time I read this book, I felt defensive, like I was being manipulated. It made for a frustrating read, in part because of the author/publishers behavior in marketing. It's hard for me to feel like I can be touched by God when I feel like the person writing the book is trying to get into my wallet as much as possible.

Perhaps it's a character flaw on my part, but I feel as though I should be able to read a book and the message, without interference by either the author or the publisher, should be able to get through.

So, "The Shack" -- if you want to read it borrow it from a friend or get it from the library!

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