Shannon Stacey

Rating books

Ratings on books (see Jordan taking about the March RWR article by agent Ethan Ellenberg) is an issue I’m still on the fence about. When it comes to movies and video games, I’m a parent–I’m all for them. But for romance novels? Unless they’re marked YA, they’re for grown-ups, right?

And isn’t it one more division in a genre growing more divided by the day? One more classification a reader can apply to “I only read…”

Then again, as pointed out by Mr. Ellenberg in his article, surprising a reader–possibly offending her– isn’t a good idea, either. There’s been talk of Walmart, and their policing of America’s values. I can’t buy Bravas at my local Walmart. Cetainly not Ellora’s Cave novels. (Although I can pluck Angela Knight from next to the Mary-Kate and Ashley books.)

I bought The Bane Affair and Wicked Women On Top from Would another reader be surprised–even offended–by them? I don’t know. I’m all for hot sex on the page, so I can’t put myself in the shoes of readers who like their romances more tame.

I still can’t see books with the equivalent of the MPAA’s movie rating system on the spine:

NG–This books contains no genitalia.
TS–This book contains throbbing shafts
C–This book contains c-cks.


Anyway, perhaps a blurb along the bottom of the back cover–This book contains scenes of a sexual nature and This book contains scenes of an explicitly sexual nature. Readers might find it helpful, but I don’t know about retailers.

I can’t argue with any of the comments Mr. Ellenberg made in his article. They’re all valid points. But I just can’t see any practical way to implement an industry-wide rating system.

6 comments to “Rating books”

  1. Meril
      · March 1st, 2005 at 1:45 am · Link

    Who needs the government to shut down our Constitutional rights here in the States? No, we let private industry do it.

    This sort of thing irritates me so much I can’t possibly be rational about it. I don’t want my books rated. First they came to not sell politically-left books, now it’s sex that’s the enemy? The Comics Code all over again?

  2. Bec
      · March 1st, 2005 at 8:17 am · Link

    lol What about – “May contain traces of nuts”?

  3. Shannon
      · March 1st, 2005 at 10:52 am · Link

    LOL, Bec! Especially with my books. *g*

    Just a random thought, but how many of us who are against a rating system have “comfort levels” that the system wouldn’t effect? I think only the hardest-core BDSM would be outside my confort zone, so I have no desire to have a rating. I don’t -need- one.

    But what if I didn’t mind love scenes, but explicit language makes me uncomfortable? Now I’ve got a book in my hand with a cover and back blurb that make it clear it’s a sensual romance, but will it have the C and F words? At $7-15, it’s too much to spend if I won’t enjoy it. Maybe I’ll just put it back and pick up a well-loved comfort author.

    I’m as against censorship and rights-encroachment as the next person, but I’m trying to see all sides of the issue. I also don’t believe a rating system falls under either of those issues, UNLESS booksellers start playing it safe and buying only PG-13, light-R books. Playing it safe with the readers is something this industry does too much of already.

    Then we’ll start seeing the same manipulation we see with movie ratings. Too many PG-13 movies should clearly have been rated R. You can almost see where there was a bad-word here and an ass-shot there taken out to drop it down to PG-13. Why? Because teens are the hot demographic for movie tickets, and that R rating costs them millions.

    Start applying that to books, and you’ll have publishers knowing they’ve got to come in uder the ratings cap to get to the booksellers, who want to play it safe with the bookbuyers. Then editors will be editing not only for quality, but for the ratings. And that’s not good for writers.

    All MH-still-sitting-on-the-fence-O, of course. ;)

  4. Shannon
      · March 1st, 2005 at 10:57 am · Link

    (I wonder what I put in there that sent my comment to request approval? Moderating myself? Excellent! :grin:)

  5. Larissa
      · March 1st, 2005 at 11:23 am · Link

    Love your rating system, Shannon! *g*

  6. Jaynie R
      · March 2nd, 2005 at 4:52 am · Link

    Oh classic – I’m rolling around PIMP. I wish they had a rating system to warn me that a book was going to be unrealistic, and boring as hell so I could avoid the next one with a 25 year old virgin in it.

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