1. Vincible

    Vincible New Member

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    Objectionable content

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Vincible, Apr 7, 2021.

    Hello, aspiring first-time author here. I'm not sure if this belongs on the self-publishing section.

    My first novel is about complete. It's cross-genre, but I think it could be classified as literary fiction. I'm not expert on denominations, however.

    In any case, the issue I'm facing is that the content of this book is potentially controversial, in the extreme, even. I am mostly concerned about themes of terrorism and discrimination presented therein. I would prefer not to remove them.

    This makes it very problematic to find a publisher. Even self-publishing platforms such as Amazon have restrictions on "content they find offensive" (which wasn't the case until late January 2021, but I digress). I have not yet attempted to publish this work, but I wish to ask if you know of any publisher that would not object to indulging such contents.

    Thank you in advance for any insight you can provide.
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I don't think its likely to be an issue unless its an apologia for terrorism and discrimination... there are thousands of books both trad published and self published that deal with these themes

    and incidentally amazon KDP have always had rules about objectionable content... its not a new thing, but they also define what they mean by that at great length in the terms and conditions
     
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  3. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200164670

    Seems entirely open to interpretation to me, mainly the 'promoting intolerance' bit.

    I agree that @Vincible probably doesn't have to worry, though.
     
  4. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    I think the issue would be with readers, not kdp/amazon. Kdp would likely approve your book unless it looked dangerous (aka actually promoting hate or terrorism). If readers find it offensive though, they might report it and amazon would then look into the claim and make a decision to block the book or not. Although, I don't have much experience with the topic of terrorism on Amazon so I'm not sure how strict they are with that specifically.

    Smashwords is a distributor that's known for having very lax rules though--if you're concerned.
     
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  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

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    If you write it to trying to give an honest perspective of both sides like '5 Minutes of Heaven' I think you're fine.

    There's always a risk with any media that if you write a certain section to be too sympathetic to whatever the current most hated society villains are which parallel your plot, someone will take that part out of context and make it seem like you are defending the indefensible.
     
  6. Javelineer

    Javelineer Member

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    They still allow the Bible on their platform, right? Surely you can be less offensive than the Bible.

    You ever read the Bible?

    "27 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.
    28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
    29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.
    30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."


    That sounds to me like a fairly positive portrayal of a suicide attack against a non-military target leading to massive loss of civilian life. That's terrorism.

    As for discrimination in the among Iron Age Israelites, well... :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    But seriously, this question seems to pop up here often enough. It's a good question. And fact of the matter is there's damned little that can be done to answer it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
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  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

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    I get your point, but that's about a guy that had his eyes gouged out and forced to grind grain by spectators potentially mocking him. But I'm sure there are other examples that could be more objectionable by today's standards.
     
  8. SapereAude

    SapereAude Member

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    A friend of mine recently wrote a novel about a terrorist who assassinated the president of a country. The book was sympathetic to the terrorist.

    It's available on Amazon.
     
  9. Vincible

    Vincible New Member

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    I believe this does not apply to books, as also stated on that section:
    However, the guidelines that do apply to books, contained on this site [https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200672390] are as follows:
    According to Wayback Machine, this "offensive content" segment was added somewhere between 20th and 26th January 2021.
     
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  10. Vincible

    Vincible New Member

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    Thank you for the suggestion, although I find that the platform is also governed by similar restrictions, specifically:
    (Source: https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos)

    Regarding the "promotion" of hate/terrorism, does this include the actions and beliefs of fictional characters and/or their justification of them?
     
  11. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    I appreciate the correction. It still appears to be open to interpretation, though.

    Which is fine. They're a private company, after all. When Harry Became Sally was up for about 3 years until they decided to take it down, probably due to complaints. Other books with similar content have stayed up, though.

    I think if your book has mass shootings in it, then there is reason for concern, as that's another thing that's 'hot' right now.
     
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  12. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

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    There's really no way to answer this without knowing the actual plot of the book, how sympathetic the characters are, whether it will be popular and become a target of crusaders, etc.

    'The Turner Diaries' was recently removed from Amazon. So that's at least one reference point but I'm sure your book won't incite violence since it's probably a more reasonable plot.
     
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  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    When the big platforms use this kind of vague language laced with political keywords like hate and discrimination, it means they're going to let themselves be dictated to by the Twitter mobs, and if anything they publish comes under fire by them they'll immediately acquiesce to their demands.
     
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    it's actually much simpler than that they don't want to break the law, so they arent going to allow you to publish anything that breaks the law

    they also want to make money so they aren't going to allow you to advertise stuff that other users don't want to see in their recommended carousel... you can generally still list it, but since you can't point adverts at it is a bit of a waste of time
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    its about the tone of the book - if the bad guys are terrorists who get their just desserts there won't be a problem unless the violence is horrifically graphic... there are literally thousands of books where the antagonists are terrorists

    If the good guy is a terrorist who's arc shows him beginning to doubt what he's doing and turn away from violence there also won't be a problem... again thousands of books

    but if your good guy is a terrorist for the whole book, never stops being a terrorist and the basic message of the book is 'hey kids terrorism's a great way to challenge the established order, and by the way these are some bombs you can easily make at home'... then yeah that's going to be a problem

    like wise with the mass shooting issue - if the bad guys do the shooting it shouldnt be a problem... if the hero of the story does the shooting and its framed as a perfectly reasonable thing for him to do... then yeah they're going to have an issue with that

    in essence its not about what the characters advocate,its about what the book advocates
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  16. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    So, with regards to When Harry Became Sally, Barnes and Noble are breaking the law? Indigo too?
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    i believe amazons response was "'We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness" that seems perfectly reasonable to me... and in the UK doing so would contravene the Equality Act

    Even if its not illegal to discriminate against trans people in the US, a company has a perfect right to make principle based policy choices... either because of genuine principles or the low road option that they exist to sell stuff and don't want to make decisions that will lead to them selling less stuff
     
  18. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    I 100% agree with that last part. The hang nail for me was the proposition that Amazon is merely avoiding illegal things—that's clearly not the case. If this was in violation of something in the UK (genuine discrimination) the book would have been dropped by other sellers, I would imagine (edit: at least in that region).

    Gender dysphoria is a documented mental condition... but I guess that's not your problem as you're not Amazon or a UK legislator and it's a bigger can of worms anyway.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    it is, but i guess amazons issue is with the contention that everyone who's trans is suffering GD... however lets not take this into debate room territory... my core point was that amazon or whoever aren't just reacting in a knee jerk way to a twitter mob when they say 'we won't sell books that promote hate and discrimination.

    its more a straight forward issue of a) avoiding legal consequences and /or b) avoiding offending their core customer base... with b probably being the bigger issue from a purely commercial point of view.

    Going back to the OP its not something i'd worry about until it happens (which it won't for 99.99% of authors) - the exception being if you are writing some kinds of erotica or steamy romance... amazon have a long history of dungeoning certain sorts of erotica and fetish titles (which again is their right as a private entity)... if you're writing in that field you're best off selling your books from your website using payhip and book funnel and advertising them through niche marketing.

    I had a little dance with them with my post apoc book alphadog - which is nothing to do with erotica or fettish - that just took a request for review and a couple of emails to sort out... but looking back if i was doing it again i'd call it something else and avoid the issue.

    People waste a lot of air and energy jawwing about how amazon (or xyz market place) are infringing on their freedom of speech or constitutional rights or whatever... and its just not worth the oxygen to debate, those rights are about the government not interfering in your expression, theres nothing at all that says a certain book seller has to stock your book, they're a private entity and what they stock (within the law) is their choice...
     
  20. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I think you misunderstood Moose a bit. Here's his quote you were originally talking about:

    The bolded part is all one phrase. He's saying it's much simpler than what's implied by this phrase, then he goes on to say what the real reasons are. It seems you thought he was saying they don't want you to break the law. No. He's saying that's NOT it. The real reason is the second part:

    At least that's how I interpreted it.
     
  21. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    or possibly i'm just shit at commas...*(they hide from me) anyway lets move away from the debate room canyon back into the fertile plains of the original question
     
  22. Vincible

    Vincible New Member

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    I'm unsure as to the dichotomy between "good guys" and "bad guys". What exactly is meant by "good guy"? If someone is a terrorist, does that not make him a "bad guy" by definition? Does "good guy" refer to the protagonist, regardless if his/her beliefs align with accepted standards? Why, then, is it a problem if the leading character's beliefs do not align with accepted standards but not a problem if a side character's beliefs do not?

    I also am not sure as to the proposition that a book has to "advocate" anything. Isn't the function of a novel to tell a story? If it describes for instance the thought process of a terrorist/arsonist/serial killer/hacker/other criminal, should this mean the author condones said character's actions or even identifies with his/her beliefs?
     
  23. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

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    From Amazon's perspective, 'good guy' or 'bad guy' can be based on the latest trend or viral cause. Any act that intentionally targets civilians to achieve a political goal by harming them could be considered 'terrorism'. Collateral damage is a gray area but as long as it's not intentional and efforts to reduce it when possible probably aren't going to raise a lot of alarm.

    The influence of social media is huge but when you write about controversial topics you probably should be cognizant of whatever the prevailing consensus on twitter or the media in general is if you want to publish on Amazon.

    You might think "Hey, my book doesn't support terrorism, if they think so, I'll just ask them to point it out and I'll explain it or change it." And that might work with editors, but recent events show that once some new person and their comments are a target, that won't work. It may go like this:

    "Your book supports terrorism! We want it banned!

    "No it doesn't, really. What parts support terrorism?"

    "Look, you wrote the book, it's not our job to point that out for you. Prove that it doesnt support terrorism!"
     
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  24. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Not if you write him as the good guy, meaning his motives and methods (terrorism) are correct and righteous and all the people he slaughters (likely a minority group) are bad and subversive and deserve to die.

    The simplest analogy would be a story about a Nazi who the author portrays as being awesome and all the Jews he slaughters as being rodent-like subhumans as portrayed by the tenets of National Socialism.

    Or take any 80s action movie and instead of having Arnold and Stallone waste entire towns of bad guys to save America or their kids, they slaughter ethnic minorities because the world needs to be rid of them. I know that sounds silly, but this is one of those things that can only be grasped by over-exaggeration sometimes.

    But they do. Not all of them, but many authors have agendas. The Turner Diaries, as mentioned above, advocates a race war against all non-Whites and--though a novel--became something of a manifesto (or at least a confirming symbol) for white supremacy. When Harry Became Sally (also mentioned above) has been accused of advocating an anti-trans agenda by conflating it with a mental defect, meaning it's a "disease" to be treated like homosexuality was depicted for a very long time (and still is in certain circles, I'm sure).

    Of course not. Else, we wouldn't have any books about terrorists, criminals, villain protagonists, etc. But if the author in their subtext and tacit opinions portrays the thoughts/actions of the bad guys as being righteous and a desirable course of action, not just to the characters but in the grander milieu of life, then, yes, the author could be considered a condoner.

    This is all about reading between the lines. It's not the words on the page, and it's the motivation behind writing those words. It's not what the characters do, but how the characters are treated and depicted by the author.
     
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  25. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Active Member

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    For clarification, I'm assuming you mean 'good guy' in the context of the novel, as in who the author is portraying as the 'good guy' in the narrative, not the common view of 'good guy' outside fiction.

    Not trying to derail this into a "who's on first discussion" but just want to make it clear for others.
     

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