The Problem with Sensitivity Readers

Recently, some publishers have been hiring people called “sensitivity” readers to “scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content,” according to the Chicago Tribune article on the subject (which you can read here on archive.is if you are interested). It’s caused a minor stir among the circles I run in and, while I normally don’t comment on these sorts of things, I felt this was worth making an exception for.

To be frank, I think this is a dumb idea, possibly one of the dumbest ideas ever conceived of in publishing (and there have been lots of dumb ideas in publishing, believe me). I think it is nothing more and nothing less than certain individuals taking advantage of the fears that certain writers and publishers have offending certain groups of people in order to profit, to say nothing about how this could lead to extreme censorship at any publishing houses that choose to employ these kinds of people.

I’ve seen some people defend sensitivity readers by comparing them to having a friend from, say, a police background reading a police procedural to make sure that you get the facts about police work is right. But that’s a bad argument because there is a very big difference between fact checking and sensitivity reading (at least, sensitivity reading as I understand it; perhaps some do it differently).

For example, let’s say I wrote a police procedural; however, not being a police cop myself, I have probably gotten some details and facts wrong even if I thoroughly researched the subject beforehand. To catch the mistakes I didn’t notice, I employ a friend of mine who is a police officer and ask him to read the manuscript and report any factual errors or mistakes about police work that I might have unintentionally made due to my ignorance and lack of experience as a police officer.

Let’s say that my police friend reads the manuscript and gets back to me, but instead of providing me with the errors he caught, he takes offense at my portrayal of police officers in the book (for the sake of this example, let’s say my police procedural deals with police corruption and features a few bad cops as prominent characters). My police friend demands that I rewrite my book in order to make the police look better, even if I already have some good cop characters in the book. Perhaps my police friend even tells me that the way I portrayed corrupt officers is really problematic and offensive and contributes to society’s negative views of police, which makes life harder for police officers. Maybe he will even accuse of me being a cop hater if I don’t revise according to his subjective opinions.

Is that reasonable? No, of course not. Nor does it have anything to do with fact checking or even telling a good story. My hypothetical police friend did not tell me, for example, that I described characters using the wrong kind of guns or referring to each other with incorrect titles or something objective like that. He simply got offended by the fact that I portrayed some cops as corrupt or immoral or perhaps simply incompetent and he wants me to revise according to his personal ideas about how cops should be portrayed in fiction so I can push his agenda, instead of staying true to my own.

That, as I understand it, is sensitivity reading in a nutshell, and why I am against it. It is less about fact checking and more about making sure that writers portray things according to the tastes of certain easily offended people.

See, I have nothing against fact checking. As writers, we owe it to our readers to get the facts right as much as we can. That requires doing research and, yes, sometimes having people more knowledgeable about certain topics than you read the book to catch any errors you may have unintentionally made.

But I draw the line at people telling me how I “should” portray this person or this group of people, as if I broke some sort of unspoken and unwritten rule about how to portray certain minority groups. I especially would never pay for such advice; I can’t think of a bigger waste of money than paying someone to tell me how to censor myself to appease certain unappeasable groups who probably don’t even read what I write anyway. I have the freedom to portray anyone however I want, even if offends some people in the process. If my books offend them, they don’t have to read them.

Really, what sensitivity readers reveal is a lack of courage among certain publishers and writers. Instead of learning to trust their own opinions and experiences and to write what they want, they choose to let themselves be bossed around by people who, as far as I can tell, are not even successful writers themselves and care more about pushing a particular agenda or narrative than telling a good story readers will enjoy. Writers already suffer from huge self-confidence issues; all sensitivity readers do is make that problem even worse by causing writers to worry about being unintentionally bigoted. We need to teach writers that you can’t please everyone and that you will always offend someone, so it’s better to ignore those people and just write the best stories you know how.

Personally, I would never use a sensitivity reader myself, much less pay $250 (which is what some sensitivity readers charge, according to the article) for one’s services. I can understand paying for covert art, paying for developmental and copy editing, paying for formatting, but paying for sensitivity readers is nothing more than adding another unnecessary expenditure to your budget. Big publishers may be able to afford it, but smaller and indie publishers cannot, and I don’t want indies in particular thinking that they ‘need’ sensitivity readers; that money could go toward something more important, like cover art, for example.

In the end, though, I don’t lose any sleep worrying about sensitivity readers, given how I am an indie who doesn’t publish with any publisher, big or small, which makes it unlikely that I will ever use one myself. Still, I find it a disturbing trend in the industry, one I hope either dies out or stays small and insignificant, and I hope that this post has helped some people understand why sensitivity readers are not a good thing.

New release: The Superhero’s Son Omnibus Volume 3: Books 7-9

Hello, everyone! I’m pleased to announce that the third and final volume of The Superhero’s Son Omnibus Series–containing The Superhero’s Vision, The Superhero’s Prison, and The Superhero’s End, as well as the short story Don’t Fear the Reaper–is now available for purchase on Amazon and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Click the image above or this link HERE to go directly to its Amazon product page!

Also, I am pleased to announce that the first book of The Young Neos, Brothers, is scheduled for a late February/early March release date. Keep an eye on this website for the announcement of its release.

Enjoy,

Lucas Flint

Announcement: The title of the first Young Neos book

Hello, everybody!

As readers of The Superhero’s Son know, I am going to publish a brand new superhero series this year called The Young Neos. This series will be a sequel series to The Superhero’s Son, expanding the focus from Bolt to the other members of his team.

But I had not actually announced the title of the first book of the series yet. This was partly to build anticipation and interest, but it was also because I honestly didn’t have a title for the book yet.

Now, however, I am happy to announce the title for the first book of The Young Neos, which is Brothers.

What is Brothers about? I’m not going to spoil anything, but I can confirm that it will focus mostly on Bolt and White Lightning, who will be the primary protagonists and viewpoint characters. Beyond that, I won’t say anything more because I don’t want to spoil it for my readers. Rest assured, however, that Bolt and White Lightning won’t hog the spotlight for every book in the series; they’re just going to star in the first book. The other members of the team will be the focus of later books in the series.

As for when Brothers will be out, I don’t have an exact release date yet, but I am aiming for a late February/early March release. No guarantees, of course, but based on my current writing schedule, I think that is the earliest you can expect Brothers to come out. But I will probably do a few more posts on the website here between now and then about the series, so keep an eye on this website for that.

Until then, see you later,

Lucas Flint

P.S. The third omnibus volume of The Superhero’s Son will be out next week. Just a heads up for those who are waiting for it.

New release: “The Superhero’s Son Omnibus: Books 4-6”

Following on last month’s release of the first volume, I have now released the second volume of The Superhero’s Son Omnibus Series. This volume contains the next three book in The Superhero’s Son series, The Superhero’s Powers, The Superhero’s Origin, and The Superhero’s World, and, like the previous volume, is currently available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, making it a great way to read the next three books in the series.

Click the cover image above or this link HERE to go directly to its Amazon product page.

The next omnibus volume, which will contain the next three books in the series, is scheduled for release in late January/early February. Stay tuned for that.

New release: “The Superhero’s Son Omnibus: Volume 1, Books 1-3”

Hey, everybody! Hope everyone is having a great Christmas season so far. With Christmas coming tomorrow (for us Americans; some of y’all in other countries may already be celebrating it), people are doing lots of last minute Christmas shopping for friends and loved ones.

A great Christmas gift for your friends and family who love superheroes would be my newest release, The Superhero’s Son Omnibus: Volume 1, Books 1-3. This omnibus volume contains the first three books from my series, The Superhero’s Son, available for the first time ever in one convenient ebook package!

And not only that, but it is currently available for 99 cents this week only! That means that you can get it for 99 cents until Friday, December 30th, at which point its price will go back up to $9.99. This is a great deal, especially since you can gift ebooks to friends and family on Amazon (if you don’t know how, check out this helpful page from Amazon that details the ebook gifting process here). It is also available in Kindle Unlimited for those who have a KU subscription.

If that sounds like something you’d like for yourself or as a gift for friends and family, click the cover image at the top of the post or this link HERE to go directly to its Amazon product page. Remember: It’s 99 cents until December 30th, so if you want to get it at such a good price, you should do it now before it goes back up.

And yes, I will be doing omnibus volumes containing the next six books in the series, most likely in early 2017. Stay tuned for that.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Lucas Flint

 

“The Superhero’s End” is now available as a paperback!

Hey, everyone! Just wanted to let y’all know that The Superhero’s End is now available as a paperback for purchase from both Amazon  and CreateSpace! And just in time for Christmas, too, so if you have a Superhero’s Son fan in your life, this would make an excellent Christmas present for them.

Free Superhero Giveaway December 12-17 only!

Hey, everyone! Just wanted to let y’all know that several other indie superhero authors and I are running a free giveaway on Instafreebie this week only! We’re offering several free superhero ebooks (or previews of superhero ebooks, in the case of my book, The Superhero’s Test) to Instafreebie users, so click this link to HERE go directly to the promo page and check out what we’re offering.

Remember, we’re offering these books for free for this week (December 12-17) only, so you’d better head on over there and get whichever books strike your interest ASAP!

Watch me talk superheroes on the SFF Marketing Podcast!

Hey, everybody! Just wanted to let y’all know that I was on the SFF Marketing Podcast recently, in which I talked about my experiences and tips for succeeding in the superhero genre, which you can watch on their website here: http://www.marketingsff.com/succeeding-in-the-super-hero-genre/

Speaking of superheroes, I will probably be doing a year end retrospective on 2016 sometime this month, most likely after Christmas. I’ll also discuss in more detail my plans for 2017, which I intend to make my best year ever, so stay tuned for that.

New release: “The Superhero’s End” (plus some updates)

the-superheros-end-200x300

Hi, everyone! The ninth and final book of The Superhero’s Son, The Superhero’s End, is now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited! Click the image above or this link HERE to go directly to its Amazon product page!

And yes, this really is the final book of The Superhero’s Son. I had a lot of fun writing this series and am very pleased with how it turned out and with how much readers have enjoyed it.

But this is not the end for Bolt and friends, because coming in early 2017, I will publish the first book of The Young Neos, a sequel series about the titular team as they take on new supervillains and threats to the world. This series will focus on the entire team, rather than just on Bolt, and will expand The Superhero’s Son universe considerably as a result, which I am just as eager to dive into as everyone else.

I have no firm release date for the first book yet, but it will probably be released sometime in January or February 2017. If you’d like to be the first to know about its release, you can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking this link HERE. Newsletter subscribers are always the first to know about my newest releases and are free to unsubscribe whenever they like.

Thanks and enjoy,

Lucas Flint

Listen to me talk superheroes on The Wordslinger Podcast!

Hey, everyone! I was recently interviewed by Kevin Tumlinson about my experiences writing and publishing superhero fiction. I had a great time and thought that you all might like to know that the interview is live as of this morning and ready for listening here.