10 February 2017

Censorship and the Indie Writer

O'Neil De Noux

One of the freedoms of being an Indie writer is choosing the cover of your book. A writer is no longer at the mercy of a publisher who has no clue about your cover. One of my publishers let it slip how they planned to put a 'police shield' on the cover of one of my books. I asked what shield and found out it was a Philadelphia PD shield. I went crazy, asked if they read the book where I describe the unique NOPD star-and-crescent badge. I sent them a picture of the badge and prayed they'd listen. They said it was too late but did change the cover. I anguished for a couple months.

Since becoming an Indie writer in 2009, I've enjoyed commissioning art and taking photos for the covers of my books. Only recently, however, I ran into censorship. Amazon's Kindle Scout program blocked the original version of the cover of my WWII novel DEATH ANGELS because it had the flag of Nazi Germany along with the US flag and the flag of Free France with the cross of Lorraine on the cover. Apparently the swastika is taboo with the Kindle Scout Program. The Nazis were the villains ... never mind. Later, when I tried to PAY for an Amazon ad for my book HOLD ME, BABE, the book was rejected because there's a gun on the cover. It's a Private Eye novel. Private Eyes carry guns. So do cops so there's no advertising JOHN RAVEN BEAU.

At least Amazon and CreateSpace have allowed me to publish the books with my original covers, just not advertise or enter into certain probrams like Kindle Scout. Frustrating.

More disturbingly was the decision by Smashwords to refuse to carry my books THE BLUE NUDE and NUDE IN RED because of nudity on the covers. Uh ... we're talking about oil paintings of a woman's torso. I didn't invent the naked female body. Blame God for that. And the women in the paintings are simply posing. No sex act. Nothing but a woman standing.

The cover paintings are more than attention grabbers, the paintings appear in  each book and are important in the development of the characters and their relationships.

So what's next? Censorship of content? Will some tight-ass start counting how many times my characters use the word fuck in a book? Cops curse. We do so to let off steam, otherwise we'll explode.

So I guess I don't get to pay for an ad for my caper novel SLICK TIME because you can see a slice of the fully-clothed model's white panties. We'll see what happens with my next LaStanza novel. There's a young woman in a black bikini. Lotta skin there.

I just hate censorship.



  1. I'm with you, O'Neil: I hate censorship. I'm a free speech absolutist. It doesn't matter if I agree or hate what someone's saying, I think they have the right to say it, or in your case put it on the cover. Aside from that, context is everything. And the Nazis were the badguys in your book, so why not have that flag on the cover? It's very scary when we get into any degree of censorship. I guess it's the slippery slope argument. People used to say, I might disgree with what you say, but I'll defend you're right to say it, but I don't see much of that anymore. And it scares me.

  2. Interesting post, O'Neil. I'm definitely opposed to government censorship. I can understand why a privately-owned brand might decide to set some limits, for fear of offending people it sees as its target audience. But those limits should be reasonable. Objecting to a picture of a private detective holding a gun seems silly and timid.

  3. Self appointed censors are always fun to work with, especially when they have the power. As Tennessee Ernie Ford used to say, "Well bless their little pea picking hearts."

  4. Great post!! I agree with Paul: I hate censorship. I you don't like something, don't watch it, read it, or buy it--but don't tell me not to.

    O'Neil, I think you once told me a publisher wanted to say something about Mardi Gras on one of your book covers, and that novel didn't even have anything to do with Mardi Gras. Right?

    I've never ventured into indie publishing, but some things about it do sound good!!

  5. I don't care for censorship either. Some bookstores only sell the sanitized version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, without the "N" word, but Gutenberg still has a very nice scan of the original edition.

  6. This is the second time in less than a month I’ve come across a discussion of self-publisher ‘gatekeepers’ restricting what writers can actually produce. The other dialogue was by a woman who specializes in ‘hi-volume’ erotica. Her target platform is the Kindle and she ‘slams’ (publishes) an adult novella about every 10 days. She mentioned she’s learned ways to evade the censors and get her stories out to her public.

    I’m gobsmacked. I thought the whole point of self-publishing was to write what you wanted to say, that self-publishing doesn’t imply freedom of the press. This censorship makes PublishAmerica suddenly look desirable– their ‘editors’ never bothered to read their damn books anyway.

  7. SleuthSayers has staunchly resisted the fortunately few calls to censor (including a reader comment highly critical of myself). We depend upon the maturity of our writers to write sensibly and our readers to follow the intent of our authors. SleuthSayers is not a safe zone. We neither pretend or intend to be politically correct even as we rigorously defend the weak, the vulnerable, apple pie, motherhood, children, and small puppies.

    And alligators.

  8. Great post, O'Neil.

    When you write about crime--as all of us on this blog do--you're discussing anti-social, even awful actions by people. We can do them in sensationalist language and seem to glorify violence or sex or drugs...OR we can write about them artistically and show their effects on people, not just the victims, but the perpetrators, too.

    The first way shows something about the writer and his perception of the audience. The second shows us something about humanity. But NEITHER should be censored, watered down, or turned into a lie. That's not art. It's not really anything.

    One of my favorite parts of Hamlet is Claudius's monologue in which he shows how murdering his brother has changed him. He feels guilt, shame, and fear of the afterlife. He did it for lust and the desire for power, and now he's afraid and demeaned. Other artists can do that, too.

    But not if someone who wants to "protect" us from evil won't let us read the truth.

    Now...will someone please help me down off this soapbox?

  9. I can't say I hate all censorship. Canada has hate laws.

    However, we need to use judgement, and simply banning all swastikas or nudity isn't judgement, it's laziness and cowardice.

    Keep fighting the good fight.


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