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Being Banned Ain’t All Bad

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Photo Credit: Besa Photography

Guest post by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

My colleague came bouncing into my office. “Put it up here!” He said, expecting a high-five, and confirming that being a banned author in the Middle East isn’t all bad.

He was referring to the news story that had posted the night before, on the national blog, that everyone, expat and national, reads like the rest of the world peruses the Huffington Post. The breaking news was that my novel, the one without any sex, atheism or politics, had been banned for sale in the country in which it was set because it was about the country and her citizens.

I published Love Comes Later, the book in question, in the summer of 2012 as an e-book. American literary agents told me it was too foreign, too male and therefore completely unsellable. After two years of reaching out to book bloggers, 72 Amazon.com reviews, and several paperback editions, the Ministry of Culture in Qatar was telling me it was too racy to sell in bookshops.

This was clearly a book without a home; a literary identity crisis.

But would the ban help the book’s sales?

Well, that’s not a straightforward story either. The night that the news daily posted their piece, the Amazon.com ranking rose swiftly, climbing for about a week, peaking in the low 80s of top 100 paid listings for Family Sagas and Literary Fiction.

When I logged into my Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales report, yes, the notorious Love Comes Later, was selling steadily.

I’m pleased not be in jail or to have lost my job, due to the decision by authorities not to sell my book in the country where it was set. Both of these, and far worse would have been the consequences – and still could be – in parts of the Middle East even five years ago. The congratulatory vibes from Arabs and Americans (and the lowered voices asking where, by the way, can they get the book?) are all indications of a changing ethos. 

~ Dr. Rajakumar is my most recent guest on the Cool People Podcast. Hear my interview with her about her books (and getting banned from distribution in Qatar) at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , ,

The Weak Censor Books (plus a travel advisory)

Somebody told me today that when you enter Cuba customs officials take  a hard look at the books you plan to read on the beach. If they don’t like your reading choices, they confiscate.

Anything that could be construed as promoting utopian themes, dystopian themes or revolution is taken from you. They’re really serious about wanting the last revolution they had to really be the last revolution they ever have. 1984, Brave New World, and  Fahrenheit 451 are on the list among many many others. I wonder if Catcher in the Rye is on the list? That’s teenage rebellion, but still. Rebel without a Cause, The Princess Bride, a whole whack of Shakespeare–the mind boggles. Where would it stop? Maybe Dickens is okay, and Crime and Punishment since that arose from another communist regime. I’m guessing Harlequin romances are huge there, and generally left behind by tourists sick of their beach reading.*

On the one hand, I’m appalled at any form of censorship of free speech. On the other hand, I have to give Castro a bit of quirky respect since he obviously thinks books are important, and ideas expressed in fiction can be dangerous. In the West, where in many ways the written word seems to matter much less, it’s actually refreshing to see somebody get excited about what’s in a book.

Cuba’s government must be awfully fragile to be so queasy.

*Harlequin bad for you. Rot brain. Me know. Me work there one and half years…chicks hot though. Me digress. 

BONUS: Funny post about Sarah Palin and Going Rogue here.

Filed under: banning books, publishing, ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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