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#cleanreads and the death of common sense

Twitter is a great place for righteous indignation and manufactured controversy. It also happens to be the best place for me to engage and interact with readers, so I'm there frequently. Yesterday I noticed some fellow authors loudly defending a publisher which only accepts "clean" submissions, so I went to Twitter to follow the hashtag # cleanreads to see what the big deal was.

Quick summary: a gay man was offended that this publisher (who uses #cleanreads to promote their books) doesn't accept submissions including gay story lines or characters. 

Much butt hurt and cyber bullying followed, on both sides. The man at the center of the firestorm was reasonable and kind in explaining his position. He seems like a truly decent human who felt strongly about something. I hope my post about why I think he's wrong shows the same restraint and respect.

 He gives the hashtag and the discrimination he feels he has suffered too much power because he thinks this publisher is calling his lifestyle dirty. I offer the following: first, being offended is a choice, and choosing not to be offended when you have been slighted (purposely or not) reclaims any power the other tried to take from you. Refusing to take little things on Twitter personally will bring a sense of peace to you that those purposely insulting or discriminating against you will never feel.

Second, I must address the idea of discrimination in publishing. Harsh truth:
Publishers are in business to provide a specific product to a target audience. There are LGBT publishers that only want to publish gay books for gay readers. And that's fine! Some publishers only want romance or thrillers or mystery, some want only books for kids, and some want books specifically for adults. Does this mean the publisher is discriminating illegally because they have chosen to focus on a specific demographic? Nope. Their discrimination is based on their business model.

I did a quick search for publishers that want the opposite of "clean" content. Screen cap from one such publisher is here.
The words this publisher has chosen to describe the books they want: Dirty. Naughty. Wicked. Brazen. (***update/edit*** These publishers themselves use words that are antonyms of the word clean. It makes sense, then, that readers not interested in such content would seek out something tagged 'clean' by the authors and publishers.) Readers who want books like this can shop from this publisher knowing they'll get exactly the kind of book they're looking for. I posit that "clean" publishers are doing just what these other publishers are doing--catering to a specific reader who wants to pick up a book and know exactly what to expect. Other businesses can and should be able to choose who they do business with (no shirt, no shoes, no service...sound familiar?) and not be accused of discrimination because of it. 

Does this mean I support homophobia or discrimination of any kind? Absolutely not. I'm a live and let live kind of girl, and I think it's a good idea to let people choose who they want to work with and where and how they want to do business.  I'm not a fan of the thought police, and I'm really not fond of attacking others for the egregious sin of not thinking like I do. 

The world can be a scary, ugly place. As a gay man, he's likely seen more than his fair share of that. Let's work together to end discrimination where it actually exists instead of getting our boxers in a bind because a publisher isn't telling the stories you think it should, or because you feel personally insulted by something that was never intended to be such. As a fellow writer, I can honestly say there's a place where your story is welcome, and that place isn't going to be in every single publishing house. (That would be nice, but it's just not reality.)  No story is worth the online outrage you've unwittingly spurred, or the anger you've brought to people who took up your cause along with their virtual torches and pitchforks. 

Let's support books and authors we love instead of attacking what we don't. Stand FOR something, not against its opposite. 

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