Thursday, March 6, 2014

An Open Letter To Authors Whose Books Are Being Banned

I heard this morning that an author's book had been banned three separate times from Amazon. There are specific warnings on this author's book about the book's content, yet people are still trying to get rid of the author's book based on "content violation".

This is just one of the many stories I have heard over the past few weeks, and honestly, it makes me really, really sad. I've been keeping mostly quiet, but I wanted to write a small post about what I think about all of this.

I honestly don't know much about what is qualifying these books to get banned (sometimes multiple times), but I'm going to share what I know. Most of these books are on the darker side, are erotica, or involve some form of graphic content (which the reader is always WARNED about). These books are read by people who shouldn't be reading them, or people who think they are romance books (again, even though there is a disclaimer), and when the customer isn't happy with how the plot plays out, they return the book, saying that reason was because of the book's content.
Also, I don't know for sure, just speculating here, but I think there could be something deeper going on in some of these cases. What could be happening is that one person is offended by the book so much that they feel the need to get more people to buy it and return it for "content violation" and then the books are banned. Just a thought.

Honestly, this whole thing reminds me of high school.

When I was in high school, people were mean to me. Everyone is picked on during that time, it just depends on the reason. People picked on me because I was different. I carried around a coffin back pack, wore black lipstick, and hung pictures of Edgar Allan Poe in my locker. I wasn’t afraid to make art that reflected the darkness I was going through in my personal life at the time because that was the only way I could make it come out.
But people didn’t understand this, and they were afraid. So they bullied me until I changed what I looked like, until I stopped being different.

Perhaps the saddest part was that I told my parents, my teachers, and my guidance counselor, and although there were one or two who stuck up for me, most of these people “in charge” sided with the bullies by doing nothing. They told me I was overreacting. That no one would pick on me if I just tried to fit in.

Now that I look back, I wish there were more people who stood up for me. It’s easy to write things off as “just something that happens”. It takes a little more effort to say when something is wrong.

When you’re a writer, or an artist of any kind, you put yourself out there in ways that most people don’t even think about. I don’t know any of these authors whose books are being banned, but I feel so bad for them because I know how much hard work and emotion they must have poured into their work.

When I decided to become self-published, I saw Amazon as a safe-haven. No one in the “real” publishing world would look at my work, but here was a way to have thousands of people buy it with a click of a button.
Can we just take a minute to process how scary that is?
I spent years on my first book and it all came down to someone hitting “buy” on a website. That one small gesture would hang my book off a cliff, where the reader could save it (like it) or push it off (hate it)(Okay my analogies are weak, but I’ve been awake for two days so forgive me).

It’s hard enough trying to make the words happen. It’s hard enough trying to get everything perfect. It’s hard enough promoting and networking and getting people to review your books and like them as much as you do and to be taken seriously as a writer.

I have been fortunate enough that most people seem to enjoy my books. Even the people who don’t like them aren’t cruel or trying to attack me and my art.

I can’t imagine what these authors are going through. If it were me, I don’t know how easy it would be to keep going. But I think it’s important to say that no one should be forced to change who they are or what they choose to create art from just because it makes some people uncomfortable.
Then, when the authors tell Amazon that their books shouldn't have been banned, Amazon almost always does nothing. Eerily familiar.

I'd like to say that Amazon has been nothing short of awesome to me, and I do understand where they're coming from as well. They're a business and just like any other business, they do not like to have unhappy customers. 
However, in this case, their way of making their customers happy is flawed. Maybe something needs to change withing the format. Maybe there can be an agreement people have to check off to show that they read the content warning before the purchase the book, or there can be a way to prove a customer's age before they're allowed to purchase. The way they are handling things right now isn't acceptable.

The point of this post isn’t really different than any other: I want people to read it. I want people to share it.

I feel it’s incredibly important to never censor any art. There are so many things that I don’t personally agree with or see the beauty in, but that does not give me the right to take that art away from others who believe in it.

So, if you’re a writer reading this, keep going.
If one of your books were banned, I’m sorry. Keep going.
If you are a reader and don’t like certain genres or themes, don’t read those books.
If you read something that offends you, think about why. If you can’t deal with the reason(s), put the book down. You aren’t ready for it.
What I want to do is make people aware that these things are happening, so if you know of or if you personally are being affected by the book banning, please share what you know/your experience. The more people that stand up, the more art that gets saved.

Sign the petition to stop the bullying on Amazon HERE.

And support the authors whose books are being banned. Give their page a like or drop them a nice message. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a person behind those words.

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