I had an interesting email from a publisher the other day. They really love my verse novel and are thinking of publishing it. As usual (welcome to my life) there is one caveat. There’s a plot point in this novel that concerns the use of the , ahem C word. Now, in nowhere in the book is the c word actually spelled out, but I do make coy references to it, for example like this:
When my C
Is hung Up
No more will I be
Anyway, long story short, the publisher isn’t going for it. They suggested some big changes to this plot point that would eliminate this word all together. I started with an offer to take out the coy spellings out and just refer to it as “the c word”. We’ll see how that goes. I hope it works for them.
Look, I know the c word is powerful, but the manuscript also contains the word, completely spelled out, bullshit. And there are another couple of instances where characters say “f*ck”
My question is, with all the violence in YA books, with all the implied sex, how is a little profanity going to hurt teen readers? Teens talk this way, they certainly watch movies with this kind of language (apparently you are allowed one “f bomb” before a movie goes from PG 13 to R rated, or something like that). Maybe books should be rated like that too. I wonder what the movie rules are for the c- word?
Personally, I might support warning labels on books (can you imagine how this would improve sales?). I would certainly support them if, in addition to profanity warnings, there were other options such as “This book contains weak and cliched plot elements” or “This book contains a passive heroine” (I’m looking at YOU Bella Swan).