sara-09BoingBoing today carried posts about a pair of books that haven’t been able to find publishers and so are going self-published. Although both originate in the UK, one of them couldn’t find a UK publisher because UK publishers thought Americans would find the book offensive, and the other couldn’t find an American publisher because the American publishers thought most Americans would not be interested.

The first book is a children’s book by Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson about a pear tree that was damaged in the 9/11 terrorist attack and brought back to life by relief workers as a symbol of hope. The Daily Mail quotes an anonymous source saying that no UK publishers were interested “because the Americans regard works of fiction about 9/11 as insulting.” Ferguson will be self-publishing the book as an e-book, and donating all proceeds to charity.

Personally, I’m a little puzzled by this attitude that Americans would be offended. Maybe some would; you’ll find some people who will be offended by just about anything. But one of the ways that humans deal with things that happen in the world is to write stories about them. It’s how we make sense of them. As long as the tone of the story is respectful, and it doesn’t try to promote some sort of “Americans-brought-this-on-themselves” agenda, I can’t see what’s worth getting upset about.

paranormalityThe other book is called Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there by Professor Richard Wiseman. It takes a skeptical look at claims of paranormal powers and activities, and has done well in the UK and other countries. But Wiseman writes that American publishers were unimpressed—some even suggested he rewrite the book to suggest that the paranormal actually existed! Given that 75% of the American public believe in the paranormal, apparently publishers didn’t believe the book would have a chance of selling.

Hence, Wiseman is also going to self-publish the book in the US through Kindle and Amazon importing print books from the UK. He calls it a “scary but exciting experiment.”

One of the benefits of the e-book and print-on-demand revolution is that it removes some of the power of publishers to prevent a book from seeing the light of day. With all the press about Ferguson’s book, and various blogs including BoingBoing promoting Wiseman’s, it seems likely they will both sell pretty well. Of course, not everybody has the benefit of such wide exposure, but just being able to publish the book at all is a significant step toward finding an audience.

(Found via BoingBoing: Ferguson, Wiseman.)


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