It’s official – the world is black and white.

Censorship rules OK – response from Xlibris Publishing’s “Customer Satisfaction Specialist”:

Hello Ms. Lorraine Pestell—

Good day! Thank you for your email, and for bringing this matter to our attention.

We understand that there is a reason why you wanted your manuscripts to be published the way that they are; however, as a professional publishing company we are required to do our due diligence to help ensure that all of our books pass the industry standard for content acceptability. As such, we have to abide by the Content Evaluation team’s assessment of your manuscript, and reiterate that the only way for us to move forward with the publication of your book is by adhering to the guidelines provided to you by the team, as relayed to you by Ms. Ann Porter.

Our underage sexual content policy is as follows:

We do not permit any explicit or graphic descriptions of sexual situations featuring individuals under the age of eighteen. This does not mean that we are opposed to the characters in a story being involved in sexual situations for character development, because that does occur in real life, however, we want to make sure that all the details of the sexual situations are avoided. Avoid descriptions of the act entirely, specifically the following: kissing in a sexual manner; sexual touching; visible signs of arousal or sexual attraction; Sexual or erotic descriptions of the bodies of underage individuals; double entendre.

This policy is in black and white; there is no gray area.

We understand and agree to your statement that “this stuff happens” in the real world. We understand that you have a story that you wish to tell. However, we believe that you should be able to tell your story without putting yourself at possible legal risk.

We also understand that there may be other publishing companies that are less concerned with these things. Should you choose to publish with them, you are most free to do so, and we sincerely wish nothing but the best for you and all your future endeavors.

Let us know how you’d like to proceed. Thank you and have a great day!

Sincerely,

To which I responded:

Dear Mr Kane,

Many thanks for your response to my e-mail. Your title as “Customer Satisfaction Specialist” is very much a misnomer in this instance!

On this sad day when we learn of Nelson Mandela’s passing, I find it particularly ironic that you say “This policy is in black and white; there is no gray area.” In fact, this tiny phrase contains a grey area in itself, since in Australia, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK we spell this word differently. The world is not black and white, and indeed there are countless more nuances that can be expressed as gray / grey (certainly more than Fifty anyway…), which is why we have colour / color.

Also, to say that your policy only applies in black and white to sexual content is also a gray / grey area. It is narrow-minded in the extreme to think that explicit sexual content among characters over the age of consent but under 18 years old is more harmful to impressionable readers than under-aged and illegal drinking and drug-taking, with which Xlibris saw no need to take issue in Part One of my serial. Surely this is gray / grey too?

To change Part Two of my serial in the way in which Ann Porter suggests would be to completely negate the story’s main premise, and therefore the whole serial is compromised. Please refund all moneys paid to Xlibris in connection with Parts Two and Three of “A Life Singular”, since I now have no alternative but to begin my whole publishing journey all over again.

Yours regretfully,

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