[TW gun violence, racism] Guns on YA covers UK

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MartaP

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Hi all, I'm a new author and publisher in the UK and am preparing to publish a contemporary YA (14+) political thriller with themes of anti-Black police violence. I've been told that retailers and librarians won't stock YA books with guns on the cover (only been told this by my Publishing lecturers at the end of a year-long course and after I've produced a complete book with an outline of a gun on the cover and spine, so imagine how thrilled I am). Is this true in people's experience?
Thank you very much in advance.
 

stephenf

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Libraries are changing in response the changing way books are being published and most libraries do accept donations . But the normal way is, books are bought in volume through a distributor/wholesaler . So the book will need initially have all the requirements of the book trade . Libraries have a tiny budget and have worries about books being challenged by someone and needing to withdraw the book . So it's not censorship as such, more a sensitivity to public opinion.
 
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neandermagnon

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I'm a UK parent of a kid in your target age range who's politically minded and who I think would be interested in your book.

I've not heard of libraries having a problem with books or banning them. There may be the occasional book that gets banned for blatant racism or other bigotry, but that's very different to having a gun on the cover. Librarians tend to be anti-censorship and I can't see the local library banning a book just for that. If the information from your lecturers is correct (never heard that before so I have no idea if it is or not) it might get shelved with the adult fiction rather than teen fiction but that wouldn't put my kids off anyway because they will look on the adult shelves too. Kids that read avidly tend to read up an age range or two. (And lots of adults read teenage fiction.)

Is the advice you were given specific to the UK? Issues like censorship, age appropriateness, etc, vary a lot on either side of the Atlantic. YA is an American age category. Libraries and bookshops over here classify it as Teen, in my experience.

For films, if it's glorifying gun violence it would get an 18 rating rather than a 15 rating, however American History X has a 15 rating so graphic gun violence in a context that shows how senseless it is won't get a film an 18 rating. Seeing as people are a lot more sensitive about these types of content in films than they are with books, and books don't even have age ratings (only marketing categories based on who the target audience is), I can't see any book with similar themes or levels of violence to a 15 film being considered as inappropriate for teenage readers.

ETA: I can think of quite a few 15 rated films with gun violence - The Godfather, for example. Just that American History X sprang to mind because of the theme of racist violence and one of the main characters being a teenager.
 
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MartaP

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Libraries are changing in response the changing way books are being published and most libraries do accept donations . But the normal way is, books are bought in volume through a distributor/wholesaler . So the book will need initially have all the requirements of the book trade . Libraries have a tiny budget and have worries about books being challenged by someone and needing to withdraw the book . So it's not censorship as such, more a sensitivity to public opinion.
Oh I never thought it was censorship! I think there are probably good reasons for a policy like this, if indeed some retailers and librarians do have it. E.g. it could trigger traumatic memories for someone who's been a victim or witness of a shooting. I'm just trying to figure out whether such a policy is in fact commonplace.
 

MartaP

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I'm a UK parent of a kid in your target age range who's politically minded and who I think would be interested in your book.

I've not heard of libraries having a problem with books or banning them. There may be the occasional book that gets banned for blatant racism or other bigotry, but that's very different to having a gun on the cover. Librarians tend to be anti-censorship and I can't see the local library banning a book just for that. If the information from your lecturers is correct (never heard that before so I have no idea if it is or not) it might get shelved with the adult fiction rather than teen fiction but that wouldn't put my kids off anyway because they will look on the adult shelves too. Kids that read avidly tend to read up an age range or two. (And lots of adults read teenage fiction.)

Is the advice you were given specific to the UK? Issues like censorship, age appropriateness, etc, vary a lot on either side of the Atlantic. YA is an American age category. Libraries and bookshops over here classify it as Teen, in my experience.

For films, if it's glorifying gun violence it would get an 18 rating rather than a 15 rating, however American History X has a 15 rating so graphic gun violence in a context that shows how senseless it is won't get a film an 18 rating. Seeing as people are a lot more sensitive about these types of content in films than they are with books, and books don't even have age ratings (only marketing categories based on who the target audience is), I can't see any book with similar themes or levels of violence to a 15 film being considered as inappropriate for teenage readers.

ETA: I can think of quite a few 15 rated films with gun violence - The Godfather, for example. Just that American History X sprang to mind because of the theme of racist violence and one of the main characters being a teenager.
Thank you very much for your reply. I'm definitely going to be doing more research into this before I worry about potentially changing the cover. I think the book has strong Crossover appeal anyway, so perhaps it's a case of leaning into that more. Anyway thanks again!
 
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MaeZe

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I agree with what stephenf said. Schools here in the US ban a lot of books because of parental pressure. But the public libraries here in the NW have a banned book day celebration. It's probably a national thing.

This is not your biggest problem. Marketing the print books is. You might find the cover objectionable to brick and mortars, the book aisles of retail stores, and even with people viewing the cover online.

How do you manage the topic in the story? Why does it need a gun on the cover?

I would think a gun on a cover represents a crime novel of some kind like film noir. So in my opinion what you want on the cover is something that leads the reader in a certain direction.

For the YA target market there are a lot of books/movies coming out which amount to fan fiction of video games. A gun on the cover of gamer fan fiction might be appropriate.

Bottom line, does the cover reflect on the story?
 

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