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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Indie Novelists Tackle Controversial Subjects Ignored by Legacy Publishers

The creative class, comprised of artists, novelists, playwrights, comedians and the like, pride themselves in pushing boundaries with their unique abilities to use words or images to address sacred and controversial topics. For centuries, they’ve played a leading role in tackling hot button subject matters ranging from religion to war to politics to general social commentary. Society generally celebrates and even encourages their activities. A Broadway play satirizing Mormons recently won a Tony Award for Best Musical. Art and literature that mocks the beliefs of Christians, Jews and other groups routinely wins accolades from certain sectors of the public. The Simpsons and South Park have been mainstays on television for over a decade.

Despite the creative class’ perceived enthusiasm in tackling controversial topics, not all subjects and persons are fair game. Put differently, a majority of the creative class implicitly grants waivers from criticism to certain groups. As journalist and blogger Nick Cohen recently explained in the Literary Review, there is substantial self-censorship among the creative class with respect to a particular topic: Islam. Cohen outlines in his article numerous instances of legacy publishers censoring their talent and the creative class itself intentionally avoiding Islam out of fear. Ask yourself: would Dan Brown write a DaVinci Code version of Islam?

A culture where some groups or ideas are open to satire or ridicule while others are exempt is not healthy. It creates distrust and resentment among groups. Commentators such as law professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds have even argued that censorship out of fear from the target group incentivizes violence for groups that are peaceful and ordinarily don’t receive such favorable treatment.

image via Amazon.com
While all of that is true, this paradigm combined with new technologies also provides positive and constructive incentives. A market devoid of creative works that address politically incorrect issues is ripe for exploitation. Enter the burgeoning DIY/Indie epublishing industry.

In the past, if a legacy publisher deemed a book topic too controversial, they declined to publish the book. This despite the book being beautifully written, gripping and/or having mass market appeal. Nevertheless, the legacy publishers weren’t willing to risk controversy or offending a particular group by publishing such work. That is especially true of groups that threaten violence when offended. At that time, a declined author had few options to bring his or her work to the masses. Self publishing was difficult and most importantly, marketing to a widespread audience, was nearly impossible.

Internet based epublishing and marketing technologies have broken the gatekeeper function of the legacy publishers. They’ve unleashed a wave of authors willing to tackle politically incorrect topics and satisfy a market void. My political thriller 28 Pages is but one example. 28 Pages deals with a Saudi Conspiracy against the U.S. The book weaves in themes such as Muslim prison converts, honor killings and sharia law. These are taboo topics among the mainstream creative class.

There are other indie authors that also aim to fill this absence of criticism about Islam in books and popular culture. I refer you to the novel Jihad Joe by Rob Hoey. Or Reggae Jihad by Caleb H. Smith. Indie authors are also setting their sights on other controversial topics ignored by the mainstream creative class. Gerald Meunier’s thriller Rogue Patriot tackles illegal immigration, as well as jihad, a double-dose of politically incorrect topics.

Epublishing tools offered by Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords make it easier than ever for authors to publish their novels, both in print and digital formats. The proliferation of kindles, nooks and iPads create millions of potential customers. Marketing, once the largest hurdle to self published authors, is now easier (but still challenging overall) thanks to services such as twitter and facebook. These three internet based components provide an indie author with the tools to fill a potential market gap created by the self censorship of the creative class.

Blogs were probably the first example of how the internet is a powerful tool to circumvent a seemingly all powerful gatekeeper and satisfy a market gap. As with bloggers, Indie authors use technology to exploit a market need and provide content to the public that was long withheld from them. The internet based indie novelist phenomenon is only a few years old. As more indie authors enter the market, technology improves and the right incentives exist, expect more self-published novels tackling controversial and politically incorrect topics to become available.

Maybe some aspiring DIY epublisher will take a chance that there's a market for The Mecca Code.

Allen Mitchum is the author of the new political thriller 28 Pages  involving a shocking Saudi conspiracy against the United States. To contact Allen or learn more about his novel, please visit his website at www.allenmitchum.com.

1 comment:

  1. Mecca Code--great title. What about Lolitastan? Very interesting and informative blog, Allen