Censorship of sexual content by self-publishing company

Hi everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving to all US-based readers, and happy weekend to everyone else!

Today I’m calling out for ideas, similar experiences or advice when dealing with the self-publishing company I am using to create soft-cover books for my “A Life Singular” serial.  I have submitted the manuscript and cover design for Part Two of six, paid their fee, proof-read the galleys and was hoping to have books available for the holiday season, only to find out that they will not publish due to “under-age sex” content, which they define as anything more explicit than kissing with characters under 18 years of age.  I can’t believe I’m the first person to write a sex scene involving a 16-year-old woman?

After checking the age of consent in various countries around the world, I have confirmed that my characters are not in fact having under-aged sex.  However, it appears that although one can participate in such activities at 16, one is not able to write about it.  The publishing company’s representative has suggested I change the character’s age to 18 or omit her age altogether.  This is not a viable solution, since the central theme of this part in the serial is the dilemma faced by all teenagers as they gradually mature through the various aspects of their life:  legal majority, smoking, parental control, school, voting and drinking alcohol (which of course is 3 years older in the US than in most other “western” countries).  The sex scenes are only part of the general struggle for independence which all teenagers go through, and are fairly representative of reality, I would dare to suggest.  Therefore, if I were to already make my leading female character over 18, the whole message of Part Two of Six is negated.

In an era where our popular fiction is “dominated by” BDSM <sorry, couldn’t resist :-)>, I am thoroughly disheartened by this censorship of a normal, non-abusive, non-exploitative story about a couple who are dating and later end up getting married, having children of their own and becoming celebrity role models.  I have already fallen foul of the cultural divide when describing the series as “inspirational”, because I hope it will inspire people suffering from mental illness to rise above it and make a success of their lives, since apparently in the US and Canada “inspirational” tends to imply a Christian or religious message.

The refusal to publish is yet more infuriating when the same company published content including under-aged drug-taking in Part One without a murmur!  They are happy for us to write about under-aged drinking, smoking pot and driving at speeds in excess of the limit, for example, which are all illegal, but not about characters over the age of consent exhibiting behaviour that nature intended…  “A Life Singular – Part Three” contains more drug-taking references, so am I doomed to have a one-part serial?

I also refer to the excellent exposé of today’s teenagers in “just_a_girl” by another Australian author, Kirsten Krauth, which has been traditionally published and tells of a 14-year-old girl who corresponds with men online and then arranges to meet them face-to-face in hotel rooms.  If Kirsten was allowed to publish this accurate reflection of today’s society, it appears that over-protective self-righteousness is not universally applied across the publishing industry!

This stuff happens, people!  We read about it every day in the newspapers…  My story contains no sex toys, whips, pain, restraint of people against their will, etc.  Simply two young people in love who are fighting for their independence.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has been through the same exercise with a  self-publishing company and can offer me some advice.

Thanks in advance!

3 thoughts on “Censorship of sexual content by self-publishing company

  1. It seems the dilemmas faced by Romeo & Juliet are fine to teach young people moral lessons; but a modern story of reality is too much for our neo-conservative minders. This is like time travel to the 1960s, where these same censors tried to quell a whole generation rising up against their Victorian era impost. If there existed a moral problem it only existed because they created it.
    This censorship is appalling, one can only assume the publisher is: 1/ American; and 2/ run by reality denying God bothering wowsers.

  2. Thanks for the mention here. I think this has become a common problem, and it’s pretty outrageous. Is there any way you can get your money back and find another publisher? It’s laughable, I mean, it wipes out a lot of great literature, when you think about it. I never had any issues with censorship with just_a_girl, but I always wrote it as an adult novel. However, there is just no doubt, that sex (for as young as 14 year olds) happens a lot now, and did when I was a teen too (in the 80s) and during Puberty Blues era (70s) too. I mean, come on parents (and publishers), time to stop sticking your heads in the sand – especially now sexual escapades are more ‘public’ than ever with social media.


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