Many of you are probably aware of the major rule changes happening in novel companies, but, perhaps, some of you aren’t, so I’m writing about the rule changes in the hopes of both informing authors (especially self-published) and opening a forum where authors and readers can have a healthy debate over the issue.
So what’s happening?
As of a few days ago, companies like Amazon, KOBO, and WHSmith are deleting self-published books that are deemed inappropriate or simply deleting all self-published novels altogether. Here are a few articles:
WHSmith removing all self-published titles: to summarize what’s happening here, WHSmith has received many complaints of titles that are “inappropriate.” According to the summary on their webpage, it started with uncomfortable or taboo erotica, incest, and rape themed novels. Then it moved into all self-published titles shortly afterwards, promising to keep self-published novels once they’ve gone through a screening process that has yet to be fully defined.
Upon doing more research, I found an interesting article by The Self-Publishing Revolution who talks both about WHSmith’s censorship and Amazon. Yes, Amazon is also removing titles. In short, this article discusses books that have simply been removed because they were flagged inappropriate while also asking, “What is inappropriate?” and pointing out that what might be offensive to some, could be completely acceptable to another, not to mention that some of these taboo topics, such as incest and rape, happen in real life. One author even goes on to say how his novel was removed simply because it had an orgy in his novel, which, again, happens in real life and isn’t considered inappropriate by many readers.
So I went to my Author Facebook Page, and I asked what you think of this censorship. Here were some of the answers:
Simone Lisbon: I guess that would depend on who gets to decide what constitutes ‘inappropriate content’. I smell 1st amendment issues all over this…
Zach Hitt: First of all, the U.S.’s concept of what “inappropriate” is seems quite…er, funny. I hate to do this, but to quote/paraphrase Miley Cyrus, “America is funny in what we think is wrong. Just last night, I was watching Breaking Bad. They were essentially teaching viewers how to make meth. Then, they soaked a dead body in acid and wheeled the pieces into the woods. Then, they blanked out “fuck” and “molly,” during my VMA performance.” I can’t say I am a fan of her music, but Cyrus has a point. At what point will the line be drawn?
Yvonne Cline Simpkins: The United States is supposed to be Land Of The Free, but nothing is free anyore not even our RIGHTS!!!!
What do I think?
I’m not entirely sure. Although I don’t advocate incest or rape in novels, I have to admit that I FEEL like this is a violation of freedom of speech, which I do have a problem with, but it isn’t. It’s the company’s right to say they don’t want to advocate such topics. It becomes very unclear on what these companies will do when we discuss taboo topics, especially when they happen in real life. What if it’s a story like Speak? This famous novel shows how rape can affect an individual. Would self-published stories like this now be censored? Or will they allow novels with such topics if they are only written in a serious manner instead of an entertaining manner? What about taboo, self-published novels that have been very successful, like the dinosaur erotica that erupted? There’s also a question of different laws and cultures between countries. For instance, age of consent and drinking age is different in the US than the UK. Will novels that don’t follow rules for one country be unavailable in another? This is a very thin line these companies are walking on.
I will be watching how these companies change as they release more information on their screening process and their expectations for novels.
Please comment below. Have you experienced any backlash because of these changes? What do you think? Do you think other companies will follow their lead? How do you think this will change the self-publishing industry and/or readers?
If you’re interested, there is a petition. But I’d suggest sending a letter to the CEO of these companies instead (or both.)