Friday, March 14, 2014

Amazon Is Going Further to Hide Erotica...Even When You're Looking for It!

Well, if the weirdness with Red Phoenix's latest release, The Keeper Finds Her Mate (Keeper of the Pack #2), wasn't bad enough, Amazon is now hiding erotica books even when you're looking for them.

Late Wednesday night, I started poking around Amazon by entering my favorite authors or erotica writers I've met online. I got some interesting search results. If one or more of that author's books has been flagged with the dreaded ADULT label, those books won't show up, even you go to the Books>Kindle submenu. And it is more than one writer that this is happening to:

To get around the ADULT label, some authors, like Selena Kitt, are going through their library and changing covers and titles.

This is the original cover of Selena's book Connections and is still used on the Excessica storefront. Excessica is a cooperative of erotica authors headed by Selena.

By the time I downloaded the book from Amazon on July 25, 2012, Selena had to digitally add a bikini to the cover model, but the book was still listed as erotica.

(By the way, this is the cover that still appears on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.)

Jump forward to the Kernel Pornocalypse in October of 2013. Everything labeled as erotica was getting banned, regardless of how covered the models were.

So Selena tried a different tactic. Not only did she create a brand-new cover, she changed the category of the book. It is no longer in Erotica, but listed as New Adult.

In this case, a reasonable argument can be made that the story is New Adult. There's only one sex scene, and it's not all that graphic. Also, Selena would be the first to warn against misleading readers.

But to paraphrase a statement Kallypso Masters made on Facebook during the Red Phoenix incident earlier this week, just how many hoops do writers have to jump through?

And she's got a point.

How long will Amazon continue to pretend it's not selling erotica? And why are their rules so arbitrary?

DH commented that putting out a defined set of rules means people will twist them to get away with things. I responded that many of us are already gaming the system to get around Amazon's undefined rules that we are figuring out.

I guess the point of all this rambling is why does Amazon make it so hard to find things that readers do want to read. Is it worth pissing off readers by hiding things, or in Red Phoenix's case, refusing to put something up for sale without saying why, thereby unleashing hordes of furious fans?

And at what point are we writers going to piss off the readers by gaming the system, changing a blurb too far to where the readers feel betray?

Why the hell can't we just call a duck as duck?


  1. Whew! You had me worried there for a moment.
    But all I had to do was type in "Dinosaur Erotica" and all my old friends were there...

    1. But Amazon is blocking or hiding Bigfoot erotica, centaur erotica, minotaur erotica, etc.

      And werewolf erotica is hit or miss. If you can have your dino porn, why can't I have my werewolf porn?

    2. I'm not having trouble finding any of those. And when I looked up the same authors, I didn't get any mention of included or excluded Adult items. I did this both signed in and out.

      Maybe you should be taking this personally. I don't seem to be having the problem you are, or I am but can't tell I'm having the problem.

      I do wonder if Amazon's inability to provide authors with a set of standards as to what Amazon considers pornography (has anyone ever been able to define pornography?) simply means they don't have an in-house definition themselves? Perhaps they are relying on their employees and Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it." Each employee having their own standards could account for the seeming arbitrariness.
      If that is the case, and I do think DH has a point about defined rules (even if you are gaming the system-it's a lot harder without explicit rules isn't it? Kind of like life.), Amazon's failure to be forthright about is business-as-usual at just about every big corporation. They will always pick the option they believe will bring in the most money, or lose them the least. They will hide your niche market to avoid the possibility of offending the mainstream; and count on people into that niche going the extra mile to find it anyway.

    3. LOL And it could be that Amazon has tagged my computer's ID because I use their website so much.

      The new display criteria could be in beta test, which is why you don't see it. It wouldn't be the first time I've ended up in one of their tests.

      As for the rest, I do understand both yours and DH's points, but I hate hypocrites. It's why I couldn't handle corporate politics.

  2. Okay, I duplicated your searches shown above, even going to the Kindle Store specifically (which I never do -- I go to "Books" when I'm searching for books).

    Searching for "lyla sinclair" I got 1-16 of 37 results with no note about anything excluded, whereas you got 1-16 of 37, with the note about 2 excluded adult items.

    Searching for "Tonya Kinzer" I got 1-16 of 22, with no note of adult items. You got 1-16 of 22 with a note of two INcluded adult items.

    Judging by the "Tonya Kinzer" search, it looks like it's showing me the adult items with no note. But then why did I see 37 items for "lyla sinclair," with no note about anything excluded? :/ I have no idea what's going on here. I can imagine it turning the "adult item exclusion" thing on for only certain people, maybe because of searches you've made or something, but then it seems I should've gotten a different result on either one or the other search. Unless it's too late and I'm zoning on something? :/

    Annoying either way.

    The thing is, I think giving people the option to include or exclude adult items is a great idea. And it looks like you had the option to turn off adult exclusion, and did so before you did your Tonya search. If they'd just be up front about it, make it clear to the shopper how to turn it on or off, and clear to the writers what should be considered "adult" when they upload a book. [sigh]


    1. Well, this isn't the first time I've seen something on Amazon that no one else has. LOL The notes showed up for me Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday, I didn't get on Amazon. Today, it's not show up at all.

      My guess is I got caught in Amazon's beta test. As much as folks bitch about Smashwords, I like the way they handle adult material with their "Show/No Show" flag.

      As Stu Rat and DH pointed out, the whole lack of guidelines probably comes down to plausible corporate deniability.

      Selena Kitt has put together a new online store, eXcitica, that has the same, or similar, restrictions as Ellora's Cave and Smashwords. I think it will be worth checking out for some of my stuff that is a little too outrageous for Amazon now.

    2. I've been buying your stuff from Smashwords, because I am a fossil and I like PDFs, but I like the idea of a new storefront run by an erotic writer. Sort of like Archive Of Our Own, the fanfic archive owned and run by fanfic fans, who got to working on it (and some other things) after LiveJournal went insane at the poking of one crazy woman who pretended to be a whole watchdog group. Same idea, though -- having a place where people can find our stuff, where some hysterical corporate ignoramus can't delete our work with the panicked jab of a finger on the keyboard.