Friday, February 8, 2013

Fear of our books getting banned

In one of my previous posts I had mentioned that I had sent 5 chapters of my Middle Grade book on a notorious prankster to two publishers in India. Both had requested revisions giving me contradictory feedback.

For three days after receiving their emails, I was flummoxed. Whereas one editor loved the pranks in the first three chapters, the other editor wanted them to be toned down. One of my CP’s had urged me to write really evil pranks. And evil little me had gone berserk and did just that.

I had no idea how to go about doing the revisions. All of you wonderful people gave me some amazing advice through the comments. I appreciate everyone’s concern and advice. I not just heard the advice but also followed it up.

I have managed to revise the first 3 chapters by just following my heart. I walked where my gut led me. Yes, it was sheer torture to rewrite the first chapter as I had laboured over it for ages. With a heavy feeling in my heart I had to let go off all the funky pranks I had created. Let me tell you that I had fun creating the milder pranks. They made me laugh and laugh.

I have no idea whether the revisions will go down well with the two editors. I will leave aside the first few chapters for two days, read them over and over again later and then resend them to the two editors sometime next week.

Though I felt bad that one of the editors wanted me to go gentle on the pranks, I also got her point completely. In the past few days in India, there have been heavy protests by people on all kinds of issues: movies, books, paintings, twitter comments and sound bites voiced by celebrities. Things are getting banned like crazy. I would be heart-broken if my book gets banned, because parents or teachers find something offensive in it.

Have you ever feared your books getting banned because readers find something offensive in it? Does fear of a backlash makes you go easy on your writing? What’s your take on banning books? Please share your views.  


  1. Awesome that you figured out what to do. I think in India you have to worry about a book being banned for way less than here. I've only written an upper MG fantasy and I can't imagine there's anything in there that would get it banned. So no, I haven't had those worries yet.

    Fingers crossed for you that you'll get good news.

  2. I think you have to take your market into account. Would be interested to see how this particular story develops. Hope you'll let us know how the editors react to your changes.


  3. There is always a conflict of writing your heart out or tonig down for the sake of wider acceptance! I am sure an extreme posture can surely lead to complications, Rachna:(

  4. In the U.S., we have freedom of speech, so banning books is fairly rare. I don't worry about it much.

  5. Glad you managed to do the rewrites. My books are really tame, so no concerns there.

  6. I'm glad you figured out to approach your revisions!

    Here in the U.S. we make a big fuss about it, but when a book is banned it's usually one school or library or perhaps a neighborhood that banned it. You can still get the book everywhere else and online. Plus, because of the unfairness, it gets so much attention that banned books actually sell better than if they weren't banned and more people are actually reading it!!

  7. I don't have that fear.

    Well, I should say I used to worry something I wrote would be offensive and then I made my peace with that worry and moved on. Of course, my books aren't for kids and if they were maybe I'd worry more about it.

  8. A writer whom I just recently had the pleasure to meet said it best.

    "We are not just writing, I feel we writers are taking dictation from God. It’s He who wants us to tell the unique stories that reside in our hearts. Rejections and criticisms should not deter us, infact, they should strengthen our resolve to tell the best story that we can. We should strive to turn our detractors into our biggest supporters."

    If the milder pranks made you laugh and laugh and laugh, then you have your answer. No?

  9. I don't worry about my books getting banned--if something I wrote was banned I'd be nervous, but it wouldn't stop me from continuing to write.

  10. Anything put out there for public consumption is apt to offend someone. Every issue comes with its supporters and negativity.

    As a social worker, I understand the value of down-playing some issues sometimes when they're hot-topics, but you do have to be true to yourself also.

    Its a fine line to write on.


  11. Well done on the revisions.

    I think it would depend on the type of pranks you were doing. I am sure that, since it is a children's book, you wouldn't be writing about something that evil. And I would hope that the children's parents would have some kind of input in their behaviour and they are not just mimicking something simply because they read it in a book.

    That said, I have a pen name so people don't get offended by my book and people I know tell me personally they didn't like it.

  12. We don't have to worry about book banning in our country as well. But I get your point because pranks seems a big issue in India at the moment.

    I'm glad you managed to tame your pranks. Fingers crossed for you.

    All the best!

  13. often banned books end up with a bigger readership because of all the fuss surrounding them and the free publicity... the main problem is that you'd miss the school market if your book were banned, and that's a HUGE market.

  14. Honestly, I don't think about it. Many of my favorite books are banned. Yes, they get attention, and if people really want to read them they'll get read.

  15. Hi Friends, it was tricky and difficult balancing what my heart said with the editor's feedback. But I hope I have managed successfully. Only time will tell.

    Yes, there was the initial fear that if the book is banned, then I would lose the vital school market.

    Natalie, keep those fingers crossed.

    Mooderino, will surely keep you all informed of how the revisions go with the editors/publishers.

    Rahul, I am trying to avoid going off into the extreme.

    Richard, lots of people protesting about several issues is curbing freedom of speech.

    Alex, I am going to keep my books tame in the future.

    Laura, yes banned books get a lot of free publicity.

    Johanna, I am going to trek the middle path, write things that cannot be taken offense at.

    Scott, thanks for the reminder.

  16. The Golden Eagle, fear of banning has spooked me but not stopped me from continuing to write.

    Donna, I have downplayed a few issues in the book and at the same time also remained true to myself.

    Naina, I agree that parents should have some input in regulating a child's behavior.

    Nas, thanks for the crossed fingers.

    Lynda, I hope I don't miss out on the school market.

    Medeia, I agree that if people want to read a banned book they will do so.

  17. I'm in the U.S. and write for adults, so there's little chance of my books being banned here. I'm very thankful I don't have to worry about it. You did the right thing listening to your gut :)

  18. I'm glad you found a happy medium that left you amused! I hope they like it and you have competing offers! Fear of being banned is not something I've thought about having to face. It rarely happens here, I think, except from school libraries. Good luck as you finish your editing and send the chapters back.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  19. I've not given this much thought - for my book, that is. But I have considered the backlash a blog post or article might cause. I can see where it would be hard to swallow if one's book was banned.

  20. I've never experienced this problem. However, I say go with your gut.

  21. The concept of freedom/banning, in its many different forms, has been a highly sensitive topic in my country for a long, long time... it's complicated...
    ...but I say go with your gut feeling...

  22. I'm glad you finished those revisions, and it's good to go with your gut.

    Personally, I haven't worried about having my book banned. So many great books have been banned at one point or another, so it's probably a bit of an honor to have written something to produce such a reaction.

  23. A lot of my favorite YA authors have faced the issue of banning. And some of the stupid reasons their books were banned makes you want to kick the people in the shins for suggesting they need to be banned in the first place. Right after you wonder if they read the same book as you.

  24. I don't know, I don't really think about it, but I can understand why you do.

    Glad to know you managed to get through the revisions. :-)

  25. As an editor, I don't think fear of getting your book banned should stop an author from writing what he or she truly believes is correct. As long as you and your publisher accept the system of values in the book is something you are comfortable with, fear of external criticism should not stop you.