Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Protests and Publishing

And now, a conservative Christian group protests Luv Ya Bunches.

Of course, this was only to be expected; that's the way conservative Christians roll, and it's their absolute right to do so. But if you disagree with them -- as I do, as a Christian myself, a reader, and a human being -- then please think about this: This Christianist* organization is bringing negative economic pressure to bear by threatening to boycott an entire company based on one title. This hurts a lot of people -- my company**, sure, and all my authors, but also the authors from other companies who are represented in the Fairs, and their respective publishers.

But we readers can create positive economic pressure in a way that actually benefits the publishing industry and the authors we support. And that's by buying books with gay characters -- either the book in question if it's in a Fair, which will prove desire for such books outweighs the repressive effects of the Christianists, or other books in the bookstores, which does the same in the trade.*** I'm suggesting this because publishing is a business, and, as we all know from Capitalism 101, sales success speaks just as loudly as moral indignation in the business world -- even more loudly, in some ways, because it means consumers are literally putting their money where their mouths are. That's what this Christianist organization has done by threatening to withhold sales from the company simply because it has dared to list a book with lesbian moms. And that's what we fans of lesbian moms can do too, and counteract the organization's effects at the same time, by buying Wide Awake, or Absolutely Positively Not, or Absolutely Maybe, or Totally Joe, or Everywhere Babies (one of my personal favorite picture books ever), or Twelve Long Months, or many other wonderful titles.

If books with gay characters sell well, more writers will feel free to write them, it will be easier for editors to acquire and publish them, and there will be more of them in the world. But that responsibility for sales rests with readers and book-buyers as much as it does with publishers, to show that there's a demand for such characters against those who'd like to repress their very existence. If you care about this cause, then read the books, write the books, but please, also, buy the books and get other people to buy the books. Every book really does make a difference.

* A term borrowed from Andrew Sullivan to identify people who use their Christian faith for a right-wing political agenda. See his explication of it here.
** Yes, this relates to a division of the company for which I work (not my division), and so the caveat in the sidebar of my blog applies here more than ever: All opinions expressed here are only my own, and are not the official views of said company. But I would feel the same way and say the same things if it were a different company.

*** Actually, this could also apply to books with black characters, or Native American characters, or differently abled characters, or any group whose existence is underrepresented or often challenged in literature and you would like to see more books with them. It is more Capitalism 101 to say that the business world loves success and tries to duplicate it endlessly -- witness the spate of paranormal romance titles in the wake of Twilight. Make a real success happen for a book you love, and more books like it will follow.