On March 25, word started to spread on Twitter that a multitude of LGBTQ books—many of them by debut authors—were inexplicably missing from Target’s website, despite a number of the titles having previously been listed for pre-order. Brian D. Kennedy, whose book A Little Bit Country (Balzer + Bray, 2022) was affected, became one of the first to bring his concerns forward on social media.

Kennedy told PW that, while he wasn’t interested in being “alarmist,” the current environment for LGBTQ authors and their stories makes him and the community wary.

“Like I said online already, given the landscape we're in It's hard not to assume the worst. I think as queer authors, because of LGBTQ books being banned and the ‘don't say gay’ bill, this is something we really have to watch out for and try and protect ourselves, and our readers, and our books. and make sure that we're not being censored.”

Having seen the tweets of Kennedy and others, author Miel Moreland started tracking the books that had been removed through a crowdsourced spreadsheet. She said that the first concern was that this might have been a blanket ban on LGBTQ books on Target’s part, but that didn’t seem to be the case after discussions within her sphere.

“Really, in all the conversations that I was having yesterday [March 25], people did not feel it was a deliberate, malicious act on the part of Target," Moreland said. "Target overall is a much more queer-friendly corporation than some others, like Disney for example. But it does beg the question of why did this happen? Why is it primarily queer books?"

In an email statement to PW on the same day, Target echoed what it had told some authors who had inquired: it claims the issue was related to a website change.

This is not the first time that Target’s book listing practices have come under scrutiny. In 2018, Target was forced to respond to complaints that it was redacting select words from product descriptions, much to the chagrin of authors and publishers at the time.

“We offer hundreds of thousands of books on Target.com and update our assortment regularly to provide our guests with the latest offerings,” a company representative told PW on March 25. “During a recent website refresh, we learned that several books were inadvertently removed from our assortment. We’re looking into the changes with our team and publishers and working quickly to return any books that were removed in error.”

Moreland said that, in the conversations she’d had and from the knowledge that had been shared with her, Target’s messaging seemed less than clear: “I wish there had been an earlier and more complete explanation from Target. Because the information that we got didn't really address what had happened in a coherent way.”

By March 27, the majority of the books on Moreland’s now-locked list had repopulated on the website. As of the morning of March 28, Moreland said that 94 of the 118 books appeared to be back on the website. No official announcement has been made on Target’s Twitter feed or press pages as of press time. Both Moreland and Kennedy told PW that, in the midst of the palpable concern, it was good to see a community come together to rally behind the authors affected.

“That was reassuring to see that,” said Kennedy, “This problem, while we didn't know exactly what it was, people weren't going to let it be ignored or just dismiss it outright. They wanted answers as well.”