A few weeks back, there was an article in the Wall Street journal that brought up book banning. Now, I know that for many of us creative-types out there, the word just sends us into automatic lock down. How dare they!! But I have taken a step back from my immediate outrage at the thought of oppression of the freedom of expression and have been thinking about this issue more and more.
For any of you who do not know, the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) was formed back in the 1920’s in the industries’ direct response to a call by the people for government censorship. The ESRB (The Entertainment Software Rating Board) was established in the 1990’s for basically the same reason.
Books have been around far longer and have never had to resort to such methods, but times are changing and it may be something to consider. From all my research and observation it has become clear that there are books being written that are being marketed directly towards teens (in particular) that have content that may not be appropriate for teens.
Now I think that part of the problem is that the writers are not necessarily writing for teens. For example, Stephen King often has teen characters in his books, but that does not necessarily mean that those books were written for teens. There are genres that are marketed towards teens because the industry believes that they are the best primary candidates. (For example, paranormal stories.) I recently had someone inform me that my own first novel, a story about a 20 year old woman with psychic powers who teams up with the local detective to catch a serial killer, would be a great Young Adult book.
What?!?!? My book is not even remotely appropriate for young teens. It was not written for teens. I wrote my story for adults! There is language, violence, adult materials… If I had written it for teens, then there is a little scene at the end that I probably would have completely taken out!
But then my friend pointed out that other than language, my book really wasn’t that different from Twilight or Vampire Academy. Ouch… and yet at the same time, I could only HOPE my book could be that successful. But what made Twilight the multi-million dollar monstrosity that it has become? Teens. And as those dollar signs flash across my lids I have to slap my greedy little self and shout “NO!!! This book is NOT for TEENS!!”
But can I make my agent, publisher and everyone else in the industry NOT publish it as a teen novel? I don’t have that power. And if my book will appeal to teens, who are a major driving force of the book industry, then my publisher would lose money NOT marketing to them. Crap!
So how will the book industry get around this latest dilemma? Is it time to start rating books as we do movies and games? If the publishing industry does not step up; will regulations be forced upon us by the government, who is so ready to get into any and every little thing that effects Americans lives? What do you think? How would you address this issue if you were a major player in the publishing industry?