Friday, January 31, 2014

Surviving the 2013 Pornocalypse

While the 2013 Pornocalypse came to a head in October with a smear piece by The Kernel, the actual event has roots back to the beginning of the year.

In the first quarter, erotica writers noticed weird events like they were no longer showing up in the Top 100 on various retailers despite selling in record amounts. (And yes, indies do compare sales numbers with each other.) Several authors compared rankings/sales and discovered on Barnes & Noble, no erotica author was ranked higher the #126. It was too much of a coincidence.

At the same time, erotica no longer appeared in the Amazon search function if you searched from the main menu, even if you knew the author and title. Indies discovered their books were being slapped with the super-secret ADULT label. The problem was none of the authors knew what the criteria was.

Through experimentation, and a few assertive conversations with Amazon, Selena Kitt mapped out some of the issues and developed survival tips.

Things got a little better over the summer, then the Kernel attempted to take down Amazon with their smear piece. At which point, Amazon, Kobo and a few other retailers overreacted. The sad part is the fake alarm didn't really hurt the retailers, but it did fuck over a few thousand indie writers, most of which didn't publish erotica to begin with!

I talked about my personal issues in November. It didn't get any better in December. In fact at one point, I was banned from Amazon for six hours. Why? I asked very politely why Amazon wouldn't tell their long-time vendors what the changes in terms and conditions were because they weren't posting the info on the KDP website, but something had obviously changed.

To paraphrase the one sentence answer I received from Amazon:  We don't have to tell you shit.

(And people wonder why I don't go exclusive with Amazon.)

While retailers have the right to decide what they will and won't carry, it's the hypocrisy in their decisions aimed solely at indie writers that burns my britches. It burns Selena's too, and she goes in depth here. Unfortunately, we are not protected from corporate censorship, only government censorship. (Something a lot of Americans just don't get.)

So that means we need to play the corporate game if we want to use their retailers. Would it simply be easier for a company to have an adult filter that ADULTS can turn off if they so desire? Yes, it would, and it's exactly what Smashwords does. You know, it's pretty fucking sad when Mark Coker can outthink Jeff Bezos.

First, go read Selena's survival tips. I'll wait.

Now, here's things that have happened to me and erotica writers I know:

1) Selena's bad word list now applies to the descriptions, too. And here's the thing, THE WORDS CANNOT BE IN THERE. PERIOD. I've had two of my books banned because those particular words WERE TAKEN TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT.

For example, one story was about a rape survivor dealing with her boyfriends treating her like a porcelain doll. I asked politely for Amazon to reconsider, and then asked them to confirm this was the new policy. (P.S. This is the one where I got banned from the site for six hours for daring to question their policies.) I can say, "brutal sexual assault" but I can't say, "rape."

Both another writer and I used the the word, "forced", in a sentence that had nothing to do with sex. As in, "forced to leave the state to find a new job." Yet, Amazon laid down the hammer on those, too.

2) Beast erotica is the latest target of Amazon. Dinosaur porn is okay, but Bigfoot, centaurs, and satyrs aren't. Pseudo-incest? Forget it! Ironic that Flowers in the Attic is still available.

3) Covers? The policies concerning clothing and position don't make any sense whatsoever already, but things have been added to Selena's list. No partial boobs. No butt cracks. Ropes, handcuffs and whips are now verbotten. Hell, you can't even put an innocent puppy on your cover without being accused of bestiality.

The only good news to come out of this? The retailers aren't restricting actual content, just the packaging and themes.

So far.

Like I said in my November post, once we erotica writers get past the initial fallout, things will get back to normal.

Until the next Kernel writer gets rejected at a bar.

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