Tag Archives: incest

#SATurday: Content Disclosures for Novels

16 May

#SATurday: Content Disclosures for Novels

This past Wednesday, my content disclosure tree for Minutes Before Sunset released by Clean Teen Publishing. What is a content disclosure tree? Well, I’ll leave that up to my publisher to define on their website. (Click here to read the definition. Click here to read my full content disclosure tree.) I suggest reading both before continuing, but I’m going to write the article as if the links are broken.

yaclose27

In summary, Clean Teen Publishing allows readers to understand what they’re picking up when they choose a book—which I completely support for numerous reasons, but I will mainly talk about personal experiences, both from working with readers and from traumatic topics I’ve lived through myself, and how these examples have helped me understand the consideration of a content disclosure.

Starting off at my day job, I help authors find readers interested in their work. One of the topics I always discuss with authors is whether or not there is incest, rape, or other controversial topics in the story. Why? Because many of the reviewers I have worked with requested to know this for various reasons. By talking to numerous readers every day, I started to realize how many readers would prefer to know certain things up front—again, for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s triggering for those with PTSD. Sometimes, they are simply disinterested in that scenario. Sometimes, it’s just a preference of how they are feeling that day. While I’m not one to be against any particular topic in a novel, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to read about certain topics, especially involving traumas.

That being said, this sort of disclosure hasn’t happened without controversy. Simply Google “disclosing content in novels” or “content ratings for readers” and I guarantee you’ll find a forum discussing the pros and cons of this. The main arguments I see revolve around ruining surprises and the effectiveness of even preventing someone from reading something they won’t enjoy. And that’s what I want to discuss.

First, as a writer who has written about controversial topics—particularly with violence and language in November Snow and The Timely Death Trilogy, and drug use in Take Me TomorrowI would – by no means – want a reader to pick up one of my works and accidentally be triggered by something. Speaking from personal experience, my mother died from a drug overdose when I was eleven, which is why I wrote Take Me Tomorrow, but through years of counseling, I met many kids like me who reacted very differently than I did. Reading Take Me Tomorrow would be extremely upsetting for them, and knowing what they went through, I would never want to cause them distress about such a personal topic. As a fellow reader, I would also rather find them something else they might like to read.

Granted, I understand the “just put it down” argument, but—at the same time—why can’t we prevent readers from picking up a book they definitely won’t like in the first place? This isn’t about ratings or reviews. This is about caring about your readers’ feelings and time. Now . . . here is where I hear the “but that ruins the surprise” argument . . . which I don’t understand, because—if done correctly—the content disclosure will say the topic, not which character and on which page. Take my full disclosure for example (if you click on this link, it’s at the bottom of the page). Clean Teen Publishing lets us know that Minutes Before Sunset talks about a parent’s suicide. It doesn’t say which one. It doesn’t say how it happens or when it happens. It doesn’t even say how much it is discussed. If anything, I’ve given away SO MUCH more on my website about the topic of suicide in The Timely Death Trilogy and November Snow.

I know I write about controversial – and often violent – topics in my stories, and I, by no means, have an issue with readers knowing that up front, especially because my novels fall under the YA genre, and genres alone don’t warn about the insides. TV and movies have had ratings for a long time, and while I understand that it’s much easier to be surfing channels and accidentally comes across a movie (and a book takes much more time to get into), I think content disclosures can help a large portion of readers find more suitable books that they will enjoy.

Content disclosures can help those that feel like they need it, and those who feel they don’t need content disclosures can ignore them. If you want to be surprised about all the topics, for instance, don’t read the disclosure. It’s as simple as that. At this point, I will say that I don’t think it needs to be an industry standard but rather something that is up to an author and their publisher (and of course, the reader). Personally, I love them. I see too many benefits coming from them for me not to love them. Content disclosures can help those avoiding triggering topics and even help parents choose books for their children that they deem appropriate. Disclosures can help readers find exactly what they’re looking for, maybe even a controversial topic they’ve struggled to find. Everyone who wants them can read them, and everyone who doesn’t want them doesn’t have to use them, but as an author, I’m glad my novels now have one.

~SAT

P.S. On a fun side note, my publisher actually makes these for anyone interested! Click here to check it out.

P.S.S. I reviewed Ex Machina and talked about robots during my latest YouTube video on Coffee & Cats!

Censorship of Self-Published Authors or Something Else?

16 Oct

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.)

AEC Stellar's FB cover photo

AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. FB cover photo

~SAT

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