Selena Kitt's Blog: Selena's Mewsings
November 27, 2013
I have to confess – the thought of going out on Black Friday makes my eyes roll back in my head and my ears bleed. I.HATE.BLACK.FRIDAY. There, I said it. A girl who doesn’t like shopping — as elusive as that infamous unicorn! So I won’t be heading out at two in the morning to hit the stores, that’s for sure. I’ll be chillaxin’ with a turkey sandwich in my jammies all day, watching my husband carry in all the Christmas decorations. I’m the one who has to put them up – he’s the one in charge of all the heavy lifting!
But as much as I hate Black Friday, I love my readers, and I’d hate for you to have to go anywhere on Black Friday to get the good stuff. So I’ve joined together with a whole bunch of amazing authors and we’ve each lowered the price on one of our books to just $0.99 so you can stay home and curl up with a great read! (If you haven’t gotten your hands on MODERN WICKED FAIRY TALES, the COMPLETE Collection, now is your chance!)
Not only that, but since we all adore Cyber Monday (oh the bliss of shopping online!) we thought we’d have a Facebook party too! And YOU, reader, are invited!
So, get a $0.99 book from one of these talented authors on Black Friday!
Michelle Fox ~ Tawny Taylor ~ Kami Kayne ~ Tamryn Ward ~ Tabitha Conall ~ Danielle Duncan ~ Adriana Hunter ~ Aspen Hayes ~ Charlotte DeCorte ~ Amy Valenti ~ J.E. and M. Keep ~ Dez Burke ~ Marina Maddix ~ Starla Cole ~ D. H. Cameron ~ Karolyn James ~ London Casey ~ Claire Charlins ~ Julianne Reyer ~ Malia Mallory ~ Ava Lore ~ Clara Bayard ~ Julia Kent ~ Michelle McCleod ~ Molly Prince ~ Selena Kitt ~ Emme Rollins
And THEN, join our CYBER MONDAY FACEBOOK PARTY!
I know what you’re thinking – ohhhh no, I have to “like” more Facebook pages and join mailing lists, uggghhhh!
We’re going to have FUN! We’ve got trivia, games, contests, you name it. You can wish cash, prizes and there will be FREEBIES too!
So remember, just two things:
and ONE-CLICK to load up your ereader with the the $0.99 titles below on BLACK FRIDAY!
Modern Wicked Fairy Tales (COMPLETE COLLECTION) by Selena Kitt
Rock Star Romance Boxed Set
New Adult Boxed Set
Shifter Romance Boxed Set
Lucky Girl by Emme Rollins
Heartstrings by Adriana Hunter
Burning For Him by Michelle Fox
My Alpha Billionaire by Tawny Taylor
Naughty (Box Set) by Kami Kayne
Hopelessly Broken by Tamryn Ward
Protecting The Pack by Tabitha Conall
Evading Nevah by Danielle Duncan
Wild Impulse by Lexi Lane
Need Me – Being Trevor’s Toy by Charlotte DeCorte
Little Tease by Amy Valenti
The Warlord’s Concubine by J.E. & M. Keep
Skin Deep by Dez Burke
Vegas Knights by Marina Maddix
Syria’s Seduction by Starla Cole
Havana Curves by D.H. Cameron
All Access by Karolyn James
The Stronger, Safe Kind by London Casey
West For Love by Clarie Charlins
Alice’s Steamy Wonderland by Julianne Reyer
Dominating by Malia Mallory
The Billionaire’s Wife by Ava Lore
Rocked by Clara Bayard
Her Billionaire’s by Julia Kent
Psychic Appeal by Michelle McCleod
Curves For The Lone Alpha by Molly Prince
October 20, 2013
That’s right – I’m in Salon. I know, you’re jellin.
Thanks to Noah Berlatsky for writing the article – who knew you could find so many themes in “porn!”
Wait, if you can find themes, is it still porn? Maybe it’s it’s own thing now. Like a cross between women’s erotica and porn. Worn? No that’s not right. We’ll work on it. Because Mommy Porn is just silly. Although it does kind of fall into the themes Mr. Berlatsky talks about. Maybe it’s apropo after all!
Anyway, here’s the link: A Self-Published Erotic Novelist Pioneers a New Kind of Porn. Go read it. Great article! I can only take credit for writing the book, Babysitting the Baumgartners. (Now stupidly titled Sitting for the Baumgartners on Amazon. And without the original cover too. See this blog post for the reasons why Amazon is retarded. And reactionary. And retarded some more. And no, I don’t want to hear why it isn’t PC for me to call Amazon retarded. I can use that word if I want to – I can use ALL the words – I just, apparently, can’t use them all on Amazon. *sigh*)
Do you think they’ll let me back on Wikipedia, after they deleted me because there weren’t enough “relevant sources?”
Am I special enough NOW, Mommy?
October 15, 2013
One of my all-time favorite movie scenes is from Doubt.
A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew— I know none of you have ever done this—that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing.
“Is gossiping a sin?” she asked the old man. “Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?”
“Yes!” Father O’Rourke answered her. “Yes, you ignorant, badly brought-up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!”
So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness.
“Not so fast!” says O’Rourke. “I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!”
So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed.
“Did you gut the pillow with the knife?” he says.
“And what was the result?”
“Feathers,” she said. “A world of feathers.”
“Feathers?” he repeated.
“Feathers everywhere, Father!”
“Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!”
“Well,” she said, “it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.”
“ And that,” said Father O’Rourke, “is gossip!”
It seems a little bit of gossip has gone a long way this week toward creating a lot of trouble in the ebook world. Jeremy Duns likes to gossip. That much is apparent from his voluminous Twitter feed. (How he managed to get any books written is beyond me!) He also has a history of attacking other writers. He and Kernel magazine owner Milo Yiannopoulos (self proclaimed gossip who even refers to his ezine as “technology gossip”) got into it with someone in the Twitterverse about erotica and all of a sudden, this… “article“ (and I use that term loosely) was born. It lambasted Amazon for not doing anything about titles he deemed unacceptable (i.e. those of a sexual nature) on Kindle. But that wasn’t enough. He then had to make a list of smutty titles. And then another one. Then he dug a little deeper and started accusing all the major retailers of allowing “filth” on their virtual shelves. (Never mind that he defends sending naked pictures of your ex to other people–but that completely fictional erotic story? That’s just wrong!)
Now, I have no idea if Jeremy Duns and Jeremy Wilson are the same person. The byline on the “articles” is Jeremy Wilson – but it was Jeremy Duns who was tweeting his prudish, pedantic heart out on Twitter before the articles appeared. I really don’t care if they are the same person, different people or conjoined twins. The result was the same. A little bit of Twitter gossip ballooned into three gossipy (and poorly researched) “articles” in a magazine that boldly claims it is all about gossip. I’m sure these gossip boys got off “researching” their topic–researching it real hard! I think they got so excited about doing it they forgot to include a lot of actual facts.
The Kernel has a history of presenting things in the worst light, twisting facts to suit their sensationalist needs. Want proof? The guy who runs it, Milo Yiannopoulos, doesn’t exactly seem to be the most ethical fellow, as this article proves. He even calls himself a gossip and identifies his blog as “technology gossip.” If you want some examples of the controversy Mr. Yiannopoulos has invented or stirred up, just check out this wiki page.
When Jeremy Duns Wilson pointed out the most shock-and-awe titles in his “article” (and I use that term loosely) in The Kernel, that’s when the notoriously extremely conservative UK rag, the Daily Mail, picked up the story. I guess that makes sense – they’re all about gossip too right? In a stellar act of journalism (not), they posted titles on their site they clearly did no research on. One of Excessica’s titles was listed. It’s a little romance story called Dog Gone It by Chelsea Fox. Ms. Fox is a romance writer. She even said herself, “There’s hardly any sex in it at all! This is crazy!” Apparently, the Daily Mail posted it simply because it had a dog on the cover, professing to all the world that it was “BESTIALITY!” I can assure you, as the publisher of this book, at no time do any humans have sex with any dogs and portraying this book and the author this way was a serious act of libel.
Then the BBC picked up the story and ran with it. You would think a mainstream news organization wouldn’t lower themselves to culling articles from gossip rags. And twenty years ago, that would be true. But today, gossip IS news, unfortunately. So the BBC spread the gossip further.
Once it hit a mainstream news source and they accused the largest bookstore in the UK of carrying erotica titles that they deemed “unacceptable,” that’s when it got real. (Never mind that most of these titles had been available for a very long time. Years, I would venture to say. At least since WH Smith launched the Kobo reader in their stores back in 2011 and started using the Kobo feed for their ebooks. I know my books have been on Kobo for years.)
What did WH Smith do? They acted like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. “What? Who me? I had NO idea! You mean there are COOKIES in this jar? What!? I’m appalled and disgusted! Get that offensive cookie jar away from me! That’s it, we’re banning all cookies from now on! No cookies for anyone!”
Brilliant. Bloody good show, ol chap!
So WH Smith took their bookstore offline. That’s right, completely offline. As of this writing, they are still offline. Even I could have told them that wasn’t a good idea, and the experts apparently agree with me. But that’s what they did. They shut down the presses and put up a statement saying they would be unpublishing ALL self-published books. Not just erotica, folks. All of them.
I wrote a blog post a long time ago called, “Self Published Authors Banned From Kindle,” talking about the possibilities of a backlash against self-published authors due to Amazon’s (and other distributor’s) perceived liabilities in publishing. Most authors said I was being too “Chicken Little” about it. Self-publishing wasn’t going anywhere, they said. They were safe, they said.
Hm. Not so much. When David Gaughan‘s entire Kobo account gets hit, now authors start to listen and perhaps realize that they, too, aren’t as safe as they once believed.
Unfortunately, many self-published authors not only thought they were untouchable, but they have acted holier-than-thou whenever the subject of erotica comes up. “Well, it’s good that they’re taking those books down!” But when suddenly their own books are being threatened? Now, all of a sudden, it’s a problem – it’s not fair, it’s censorship, it’s overreacting.
WH Smith obviously confronted Kobo about the material in question, and since Kobo is the one who feeds them their content, the buck now stopped with Kobo. They started by taking all self-published books down from their store. I could almost hear Kobo president, Mark Lefebvre, yelling, “Shut it down! Shut it ALL down!” Do you think they knew these books existed on their site? I know they did–they even created a “taboo” category for it. Kobo knew. So did WH Smith. What’s going on now is a bunch of damage control and whitewashing.
The only books of mine that currently appear on Kobo are the ones we uploaded via FTP years ago, before Kobo developed its self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life. Then books started re-appearing, slowly, one by one. Obviously, they were doing all of this to appease WH Smith. One vendor, who was up in arms about titles they a) knew perfectly well existed in their online store and b) who only professed to not know now simply because it was convenient and c) only paid attention to them now because someone (The Kernel) had started gossiping, a little doggie with a bone it just couldn’t let go. (They got bored and have moved on from erotica now, although they’re still targeting Amazon. This time it’s holocaust denial books.)
Amazon and Barnes and Noble, not to be outdone and having caught whiff of the stench coming from the other side of the pond, started working on their catalogs too. Barnes and Noble claimed to be working on ridding their virtual shelves of offensive titles. So far I haven’t experienced that firsthand, but perhaps they don’t have the manpower to put into doing it quickly. Amazon, on the other hand, came down like Thor’s hammer and started removing books from their store with lightning speed using all the keywords used in the articles like virgin, teen and yes, babysitter.
That’s right, fans–my Amazon Top 100 Bestseller, Babysitting the Baumgartners, was taken down. They couldn’t remove the audio version, since Audible is far less reactionary and, in my experience, much more protective of intellectual freedom, so that one is still there. But they removed the CreateSpace paperback version. As of this writing, I have changed the title to “Sitting For The Baumgartners” (Really, Amazon? Really?) and they have restored the Kindle version. But not the print one. If you’ve read it, you know that there is no underage sex in it – the babysitter in question is nineteen, going on twenty. And while it does explore an alternative lifestyle, there is definitely a story being told, as there is in all my fiction. It’s not “porn.” It’s erotica.
Perhaps, if someone along the way had said, “Whoa, wait a minute – what’s really going on here?” instead of jumping to conclusions, shutting down big online book retailers, banning titles left and right or simply hiding entire accounts of books from view, this little witch hunt could have been focused on the “real” problem. Considering how out of hand it has gotten now, I’m surprised they haven’t started burning the books (digital or not) and hunting down the authors to burn them too–as witches, of course. When we look back on it, we’ll think of the Porn Hunt of 2013.
Most of the titles they referenced in their article aren’t even written by real authors.
What? How can that be, you ask? Well, let me explain.
Having heard there was “gold” in them thar hills, many black-hat internet marketers have entered the erotica field. That’s right–they go on Fiverr or other sites looking for ghostwriters, have them “write” a story (some of them just pull stories from Literotica or other free story sites instead and hope they don’t get caught) slap a girl with big breasts on the cover, title it for SEO keyword search (which is why they have such long, “porny” titles, in case you were wondering) and then “publish” them via Amazon’s KDP platform. Or Kobo’s Writing Life platform. Do they make money? A ton of it. Why doesn’t Amazon or Kobo stop them? Good question. I think they try. When they discover one, they delete the account. But black-hat internet marketers are just above the level of “criminal.” What they do isn’t technically illegal, but it’s ethically wrong. So they have no qualms about creating another account and publishing the same material again.
The Kernel references Shannon Leigh (whose once extensive catalog, you’ll note, has been decimated–she has one book left, and the term babysitting has been switched out for a ridiculous, clunky replacement, “teen worker”) who is clearly recognizable as a black-hat internet marketer. I knew it at first glance. She’ll lay low until this all blows over, and then she’ll upload those titles again, trying to get around Amazon’s “adult filter” by using phrases like “teen worker” instead of “babysitter.” Most of the ‘real authors’ of erotica and erotic romance don’t do what Ms. Leigh did. Most erotica writers have begun heeding my earlier warnings, toning down their titles, covers and blurbs. We all went through the Pornocalypse. We’re not stupid and most erotica authors want to play by the rules. We have conformed to Amazon’s rule changes over and over and over again.
But none of that mattered to the “journalists” (Bwahahaha! Ahem. Sorry.) at The Kernel. They found a little sensationalist bit of gossip and spread it like wildfire! Did they care who they hurt? No. They just wanted to cause some drama. And they succeeded.
So instead of going after who they should have all along, the retailers overreacted (to say the least) and started going after EVERYONE. Erotica writers who don’t have “porny” titles are being lumped in with black-hat internet marketers whose main goal is to game the system by trying to garner the most visibility by using shock and awe tactics. The Kernel was clearly taken in by their efforts. So are many readers, unfortunately. What Mr. Duns and Mr. Yiannopoulos did on Twitter and spread to their “ezine” was nothing but a bit of fear-mongering. Gossip. They didn’t check their sources, and neither did The Daily Mail. And the response to the original article was a huge overreaction.
The question now is–how far are they going to go?
They won’t touch legacy publishing’s books, of course. But I can tell you, a lot of my stuff is tame in comparison to what’s being offered (and protected by legacy publishing) out there right now. Tampa by Alissa Nutting is nothing but kiddie porn. It touts itself as a modern day Lolita, but Nutting is no Nabakov, and it comes off as blatant child pornography. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma contains incest between underage siblings. (Not step siblings, mind you – actual biological siblings). That one’s protected by legacy. Self-published erotica writers write things no worse than any of the above, or worse than any of the numerous romance, erotic romance and new adult/college romance titles out there, for that matter, but they are being singled out, simply because they CAN be. Kobo and Amazon aren’t removing Fifty Shades or any other erotic books protected by big publishing logos. But their content is quite similar to what’s being removed.
I’ve been through this enough times to know, this too shall pass. Perhaps the black-hat internet marketing folks will finally take the hint and disappear. It was those “authors” (using that term lightly too!) who started the ramped-up title and cover competition. Erotica authors (those who actually took the time to write a good story) who didn’t title this way saw themselves slipping in rank and felt forced to compete with “Daddy’s Anal Whore.” So they started titling using keywords and put out covers showing more and more skin. I warned authors this was going to happen. And so it has.
I’ve also called Amazon out again and again on how they lack any parental controls. The same goes for all of the other retailers. It isn’t there and it should be. That’s the only thing the gossip-mongers didn’t get wrong, and may be the only good thing to come out of this mess. I won’t let my children search anything on Amazon. I know what’s out there–and I know Amazon won’t protect them from seeing it. The only retailer who does this right is Smashwords. They have a simple parental control switch which is defaulted to “OFF.” Those who are offended or who have children using the search can simply switch it to “ON” and keep those titles from appearing.
Would some authors try to get around the parental control by labeling their book as “not adult?” Yes. The black-hat internet marketing folks sure would. But it’s certainly better than nothing, like Barnes and Noble and Kobo have done (until now). It’s also far better than Amazon’s “Adult filter” solution. And it would definitely be more useful. Amazon’s current solution simply puts a Band-Aid on the problem. It’s like trying to plug the Hoover Dam one tiny hole at a time. They “fixed” my book, Babysitting the Baumgartners, by simply having me remove the “offensive” word from the title. It’s still on the cover, but that’s okay with them. And it’s still the same book inside–titled as Babysitting the Baumgarters at every other retailer.
I think the message here is loud and clear–no one cares what’s inside the book. It can be the most raunchy tale of sex and debauchery since the Marquis DeSade started writing, as long as the title, cover and description don’t reflect that. Of course, you see the problem. Erotica writers are being asked to deceive readers. We have to pretend our books aren’t about sex. If they involve sensitive subject matter that could trigger some readers (pseudoincest, nonconsent etc) we aren’t allowed to label them as such. Of course, if one of my books gets into the hands of someone like that, they’re going to complain to the retailer–and the retailer is going to simply remove the book, because the customer is always right.
This puts erotica writers in a very bad position. And yes, it’s quite unfair. The retailers have put the burden on us, as authors, rather than assuming it themselves. Frankly, they should have anticipated this problem before the first Kindle was ever released. Everyone knows new technology is driven by porn. And it’s widely known that erotica pretty much made the Kindle. And even if they didn’t anticipate it, they have had more than enough time to come up with a real, workable solution. Unfortunately, until they do, many self-published authors are going to suffer–or live in fear of something like this happening again. So don’t shoot the messenger–in this case, erotica writers–put the blame where it should be, on the shoulders of all of the distributors who have done nothing, or next to nothing, up until now.
So what can you do? As a reader, you can:
“Like” the Facebook page: Banned Erotic Books - we are working hard to keep authors and readers updated when something like this happens
I’d just like to point out that erotica writers aren’t perverts–at least the ones I know. We write for a living, and what we are writing is fantasy. Words, not actions. This is fiction, folks. It doesn’t hurt anyone. And the “but it might make someone DO those horrible things!” argument has been debunked again and again. Books about serial killers don’t make people become serial killers. Books about rapists don’t make people become rapists. Books about incest (or pseudoincest) don’t make people go have sex with family members. In fact, research shows that most people who do read incest erotica don’t, in fact, fantasize about actual family members. As for rape–it’s also well documented that rape fantasies are common for women (the BDSM community flirts with this and there is a cross-over) and psychologists say that it’s completely normal. And, in the end, what we are talking about here is just words. Words, not actions. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. But telling other people they can’t write or read it crosses the line of personal and intellectual freedom.
That’s not okay.
And one last thing. There is a reason we look back at the witch hunts in Salem and cluck and shake our heads and wonder how people could have overreacted like that. Gossip is powerful. It’s insidious, it’s heinous, and the people who participate in it suffer from the need to feel superior to others, to compensate for their overwhelming feelings of inferiority. Gossip is a form of passive-aggressive violence and the people who run or write for rags like the self-proclaimed “tech-gossip” site The Kernel are far more offensive and damaging to humankind than even Ms. Shannon Leigh’s over-the-top erotica titles could ever be.
October 1, 2013
The “Happy Ever After” has an important place in literature, to be sure, but it isn’t the only way a story can end. I find it ironic that fairy tales have seemingly cornered the market on the happy ever after. Remember Pretty Woman?
Vivian: I just wanna know who it works out for. You give me one example of somebody that we know that it happened for. (i.e. the happy ever after)
Kit: Name someone? You want me to name someone?
Vivian: Yeah, you know a person that it’s worked for.
Kit: You want me to, like, give you a name, or something?
Vivian: Yeah, I’d like a name.
Kit: Oh, God, the pressure of a name… Cinde-fucking-rella!
And when Richard Gere wants Julia Roberts to settle for less, she tells him, “I want the fairy tale.”
Of course the irony is that many of Grimm’s original fairy tales were very dark and included themes of matricide, patricide, infanticide (all kinds of cides!) cannibalism, decapitation and a big, whopping dose of incest. But fairy tales have been Disneyified since then and all the princesses get their princes–without having to go through a lot of the darker tribulations of their original predecessors.
I’m not averse to “unhappy” endings, or even ambiguous ones. My most popular freebie, Taken, doesn’t have a traditional happy ever after, and romance readers *hate* that book because of it. No one dies, mind you. There’s no murder or rape. It just so happens, at the end, the main character doesn’t know whether or not the couple she’s been involved with ever stayed together. I could turn all those frowns upside down if I simply changed the last paragraph, giving the reader the assurance that yes, the couple made it. They were one of the lucky ones. They got their happy ever after.
Of course, that isn’t the way life works. And the naysayers cry, “But this is fiction, not real life!” True enough. But the ending of “Taken” is apropos–it’s far more interesting to me that our girl is still thinking about the couple in question and wondering about them, some time later. It says a great deal about her psyche and how that one liaison affected her. Should I have given that up in order to placate the reader?
Maybe. I know lots of authors who do. There are many publishing houses, big and small, that refuse to take “dark” romances because they’re… well, too dark. If an author doesn’t give everyone from the main couple down to the pair of hamsters sharing a cage in the story a great big fat happy ending, they assume no one will read it.
I think that’s ridiculous. I’ve done happy endings, even in fairy tale form (Modern Wicked Fairy Tales) and I enjoy them. But sometimes a story requires a not-so-happy ending. Think of The Time Traveler’s Wife, for example. (Hopefully that book is old enough I’m not giving anything away here!) I cried my eyes out reading that book, but I was still somehow satisfied when I finished. That’s a far greater trick for an author to pull off than simply pairing everyone up and saying, “Yay! It all worked out!” One of Excessica’s anthologies, “Heartache,” explored the darker side of relationship and romance, and as you might guess, it’s not one of our bestsellers. But it is poignant and at times, a breathtaking collection of stories. One of the best we’ve done, I think, and it saddens me to think the cult of “Happy Ever After” has relegated books like that to the bottom shelf.
So what about you? Do you have a preference between “happy ever after” and not-so-much?
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
September 17, 2013
Amazon is at it again. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore when Amazon decides to change the rules of publishing erotica on their site, but there are days when I feel like my career in this genre is a little bit like playing Calvinball. (Anyone else remember Calvin and Hobbes?) The only rules are the ones Amazon makes up – and they constantly change. And to make it even more “fun,” they don’t tell you what that rules are, or when or how they are going to change.
Can you tell transparency isn’t exactly this company’s strong suit?
So what’s new? Amazon is cleaning house. The message I got (and I actually talked to an Amazon customer service representative, in fits and starts, a bit like trying to crack a code or talk to someone speaking backwards Pig Latin) is that Amazon doesn’t mind selling or profiting from erotica, and it isn’t going to ban it or stop selling it—they just don’t want it to actually look like erotica is about… you know… (sex!)
They are specifically targeting pseudoincest (i.e. those stories where sexual relations take place between perfectly legal of-age step-siblings, or between 18+ stepdaughter and stepfather, stepmother and 18+ stepson, etc.) and monster sex (tentacles, bigfoot, etc). As far as I can tell, right now they are reviewing any new work or anything that shows up as new (i.e. if you tweak your title, change the price, upload a new cover, and republish). If they find a title too risqué, they are blocking it (not just slapping the ADULT filter on it or kicking it back into draft, mind you, but actually blocking/suppressing it) and sending an email out to the author letting them know where the problem lies (title, cover or blurb) if not exactly what the problem is.
They are currently only looking at NEW or REPUBLISHED titles, but be forewarned—you are going to want to clean up your catalog, because down the line, I got the feeling they intend to start going through already-published titles. So what, exactly, is the new policy? What’s ok, what isn’t?
Welcome to Calvinball Amazonball, where the rules constantly change and your opinion doesn’t matter!
It’s all hit and miss with Amazon, as usual, and there’s no telling what will or won’t be approved, to tell you the honest truth. I’m so tired of playing this game, I’m about ready to quit. Just when you think you know the rules, they change. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, Amazon throws another ball at your head. And of course, there’s no transparency.
The ADULT filter is still being used—completely arbitrarily and without warning to authors or publishers. I recently had a freebie of mine, Connections, ADULT filtered. But back in May, I put ujnderwear on the girl and they unfiltered it, no problem. Some time between May and a few days ago, when I noticed it was filtered, Amazon changed their mind. Of course, they didn’t tell ME about it. No notice. Months of lost downloads and exposure. Thanks, Amazon!
Why am I doing business with this capricious, duplicitous, unreliable company again? Oh yeah, because they’re the biggest distributor in town and provide me with the most exposure for my work. That’s really unfortunate, because I feel quite stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I want to sell (and this is my business, my livelihood, of course I do—there’s a real person here, raising a family, and I have braces and wrestling shoes and a mortgage to pay!) I have to deal with Amazon.
But they sure don’t make it easy.
Amazon’s so vague-as-to-be-useless “guidelines” they point erotica writers to when they reject a title don’t give me any idea what the rules actually are. When I talk to Amazon customer service, they speak in code. Their lack of transparency is truly appalling. They don’t tell authors or publishers when they ADULT filter a title. And until recently, when an author noticed and appealed, they simply pointed them to their vague (useless) guidelines. Thanks to a conversation I had with Amazon a few months ago, at least now they are giving us some direction (title, cover, description or content) even if they still won’t tell us specifically what the issue/problem is.
So in trying to interpret the new rules of Calvinball Amazonball, I’ve come to the following conclusions. Of course, your mileage may vary, and the rules may change tomorrow.
Anything containing nudity is now completely out (unless you want to be ADULT filtered). No breasts, no hand-bras, no bare bottoms. Thongs aren’t okay anymore. Even some lingerie is being rejected. You can have the hottest, smuttiest prose you want on the pages of your book, as long as the cover doesn’t reflect your content.
Also, couples are okay on covers, however, if they are touching each other in any way, and they look like they are actually enjoying it, it may be rejected. If the models are passive, you may get it through. However, if they have that “oh yes!” look, or happen to be groping each other? Nope. That’s right, Amazon has now pushed our sexuality back to the Puritan age. We can embrace, but we can’t look like we’re actually enjoying the sex! Anyone have a sheet with a hole cut into it we can put between our characters? *sigh*
Most of the same rules I gave you before still apply here. Keep the “bad” words out of your titles and descriptions. You’re a writer—you’re going to do some creative writing here. Mommy, Daddy, Sister, Brother, Siblings, etc, may get you blocked (not just filtered—blocked) if it’s in the title. The same goes for monster sex—tentacles, bigfoot, centaur, etc. in the title may now get your book blocked. Again, it seems arbitrary right now—some titles are getting through—but it’s better safe than sorry. I know, it’s frustrating. How is anyone going to find your story without a keyword in the title? But if you put it in the title, no one is going to see it, because Amazon is going to block it. How’s that for a nice Catch-22? Thanks, Amazon!
Again, you’re going to have to get creative. References to relations (i.e. Mommy, Daddy, Sister, Brother, etc) won’t necessarily get you blocked here (although they might get you filtered) but it depends on how explicit you are. The more tame you are in your description, the better. Amazon doesn’t want someone who accidentally stumbles onto your title to be “shocked” by what they find.
And that’s really what it comes down to. A year ago, Amazon’s erotica bestseller list was full of shock-and-awe titles. It was like erotica authors thought they had to outdo each other in order to gain any visibility on the charts. Well, that’s changed. Go look at the erotica titles on top now—they have titles, covers and descriptions more in line with Fifty Shades of Grey. They’re tame, soft, romantic. This is clearly the erotica image Amazon wants to present, and that’s what these “policy changes” seem to indicate.
I predict that a year from now, erotica on Amazon is going to look very different—even the hardcore stuff. Amazon isn’t just hiding it behind the ADULT filter anymore, they’re outright blocking and suppressing titles they don’t want their customers to see. Is it corporate censorship? Yep. Is it unfair? Yep. But Amazon can do what they like and life is unfair.
In this business you either change and adapt, or you… well, you don’t die. You just lose visibility and fall into obscurity. Which, for an author, is pretty much the same thing.
So erotica writers, now you have the new “rules,” such as they are. You need to decide for yourself what you’re going to do.
I do have some predictions. I imagine a lot of authors who jumped on the gravy train a year or two ago (writers who had scoffed at erotica with disdain who suddenly started writing in the genre looking for a big payout) will fall off. It won’t be worth it anymore, because it won’t be so easy for readers to find them and the money will dry up.
Some will switch genres and find success there. Some will go back to their day jobs. But the pool of authors writing erotica is inevitably going to shrink because of this change. I don’t like the corporate censorship and self-censoring that’s happening because of Amazon’s policy changes and I don’t like any company big enough to force such a change on the face of literature. But the bright side, if you want to find one, is that the authors who remain will be the ones who truly love writing it, who care about their craft and their readers.
Those authors, I believe, will adapt—their covers and blurbs and descriptions will become less shocking and titillating, but I think the quality of the work will rise. I think erotica itself as a genre will become better. The writers who love it will stay, and the readers who love it will find those authors and stick with them.
At least, that’s what I hope.
For those authors who aren’t willing to give up—this is a time when building a name for yourself in the genre, creating a brand, cultivating a relationship with fans and building a mailing list is going to be crucial. It’s once again going to get harder to find what you want in the erotica category on Amazon, so you as an author need to find a way to directly connect with your readers.
I truly wish you the best of luck in your game of Calvinball Amazonball!
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
September 3, 2013
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in…
–Leonard Cohen – Anthem
That’s how the light gets in. When we are damaged, broken people (and everyone, yes all of us, have a measure of dysfunction, however small or large) there is only one way out into the light, and it’s through the wound itself. It seems strange to us at first, because pain is hard. Pain hurts. Who wants to go there, to explore those deepest, darkest recesses of our psyche, when it all hurts so much?
But without those broken places, without the cracks in the finish, we would never find the light, it would never be able to shine through. Those cracks make us who we are. Every bit of pain and hurt and sorrow, loss, regret, those heart-breaking moments in our lives that define us in ways that will change us forever–those are necessary, and in the end, they create the most beautiful things in our world, if we let them.
I have a soft spot in my heart for my most damaged characters. I think the most broken character I’ve ever written is Lindsey from Hussy (originally titled Falling Down). She’s a girl who has been molded by circumstance, but she’s no shy wallflower or shrinking violet. Lindsey embraces her wounds–she lives them, like returning to the pain of a missing phantom limb. She knows she’s seeking something from her sorrow–she’s just not sure what that is.
Of course, most of us end up losing our way in our broken places for a while. We fall into addiction, destructive patterns of behavior. We hurt ourselves, like we have been hurt, repeating the process again and again, becoming our own unwitting perpetrator. Lindsey is no different. She loses herself in the process of trying to find herself, and as with most of us, it’s through a connection to someone else who can love us through it all she manages to find her own redemption.
And it takes a while to get there–but there is no way to get there without those cracks in the surface. That’s where the air and the light get in. Where we can breathe again, see again, love again. Be again. This is the true transformation of the soul, and for that alone, I love my little Lindsey, both before and after her change in behavior/action… and in feeling too.
Being loved can change everything.
If you’re interested in Lindsey’s broken story and haven’t read it yet, Hussy is available on Amazon. I’ve been looking for readers willing to give an honest review of her story in exchange for a free copy, so if you want one, just leave your email in the comments section and let me know what format you’d like, and I’ll send you one!
I’d love to hear what you think of Lindsey and her journey toward the light.
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: HUSSY
August 6, 2013
I wanna be a slut.
There, I said it. I want to be able to have sex with anyone I want, anywhere I want, without strings, without consequences. I want to do it in public places. I want to flash people from my car or in the supermarket. I want to masturbate in a restaurant, across from my lover, my hand up under my skirt while he watches.
I want this man.
And this woman.
Separately and together, thank you very much.
Yeah, I wanna be a slut.
But I’m not.
The truth is, I’m a very happily married woman. I have kids–who definitely don’t need to know any of the above! And there are real life consequences to “slutty” behavior. If the Baumgartners had really been having that much sex, at least one of them would likely have a venereal disease. And think of all the chafing! Herpes is forever. AIDS kills. Pregnancy happens–even when you do everything you can to prevent it. Those are sexual realities. They’re quite sobering and often put a damper on the fun of being a slut.
So what do you do, when you want to be a slut, but you have a husband you love, a relationship you’re committed to, a lifestyle that just doesn’t lend itself to all those slutty fantasies you imagine?
You write about them of course.
At least, that’s what I do. As an erotica writer, I get to explore all those slutty fantasies–the gangbangs, the multiple partners, the public sex, things that just might get me arrested or divorced–or both–if I decided to actually do them.
And you, my readers, get to explore them with me. It’s sort of like we’re having sex, even though we’re really not.
Which is a fun fantasy in and of itself!
In the end, that’s what erotica is for, right? It’s about letting your imagination roam free, to go where it will. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy writer, your imagination might take flight with dragons and spaceships (or dragons who drive spaceships) and if you’re a mystery/thriller or horror writer, your imagination might lead you down dark paths where serial killers or deadly viruses that turn people in zombies lurk (or maybe zombie serial killers with deadly viruses who knows?) If you’re an erotica writer, your imagination often takes you to a place where nipple clamps and hot wax and anal sex are on the menu. It’s like a sexual all-you-can-eat buffet–you can have a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Try it, you might like it!
I’ve had readers say things like, “I never thought I’d like X, but after reading this book, WOW, I’m hooked!”
And the great thing about being a slut in erotica is you don’t get arrested. There’s no punishment for fantasy. All fantasy is good. I can fantasize about a co-ed having sex with her older professor–and no one gets hurt. I can fantasize about a woman getting raped and gangbanged by five men–and no one gets hurt. I can fantasize about a stepdaughter seducing her stepfather–and no one gets hurt.
Of course, if any of the above actually happened, a lot of people could get hurt. Or arrested. Or both. And no one wants that!
That’s what so amazing about erotica. It lets us all be sluts without having to literalize our fantasies. I get to live vicariously through my imagination and my characters–and you get to live them through me, when I share them with you.
It’s like a great big orgy of fantasy where we all get to have what we want.
What’s not to love about that?
July 23, 2013
Well it’s happened to our friends across the pond. The Prime Minister has made it official – pornography will be blocked by default on the Internet in the UK unless you choose to “opt in” to receive it. (And of course, if you do “opt in,” your name will be forwarded to a UK government agency in charge of overseeing citizens who are seeking out banned material. Isn’t that special?)
I’m absolutely horrified by this development and the attitude of a government who believes it needs to step in and regulate adults and adult behavior. The prime minister claims this is about children having access to pornography on the internet – but it isn’t the role of any government to step in and regulate what goes on in people’s homes. Pornography isn’t illegal (yet) so why is it being denied to adults by default? I understand having a filter that can be turned on and off, although it is a bit of a slippery slope to have government supplying that filter. However, having that filter set to “OFF” by default makes it a much slipperier one.
When you have a child, do you expect the government to raise it? Do you expect them to feed it, care for it, change its diapers, keep it safe? I certainly hope not. It’s not the government’s responsibility, it’s the parents’ responsibility. As a parent, you’re in charge of keeping that child safe until it’s old enough to do so. If you have bleach, you keep it in a locked cupboard under the sink. If you own a gun, you keep it unloaded in a locked cabinet. If you possess pornography, you keep it locked away and out of a child’s sight. That’s a parent’s responsibility. Not the government’s.
A computer and the internet are no different. I’m a parent–I don’t let my children have access to the internet without my direct supervision. But as an adult, I don’t want my government making those choices for ME. I’m not a child and I don’t need a nanny. A government that steps in and makes those kinds of decisions for parents by default is effectively saying to adults, “You can’t parent. I must do it for you.”
Is this the level the UK has sunk to?
And how long will it be before politicians on this side of the pond start making these kinds of decisions for us?
We’ve gone down this road already in the realm of erotic ebooks with corporate censorship. Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Paypal–the list of companies who have attempted to or continue to deny adults access to adult materials while claiming they’re doing so to “protect the children” (never mind that they’re still selling sex toys, porn DVDs, torture-porn movies like “Hostel” and books like Jack Ketchum’s The Woman)–have all participated in some form of corporate censorship. Right now, the American government can get away with using corporations to do their dirty work–mostly because America itself is in the pocket of corporations, and government motivations are in line with the corporate bottom line.
But whistleblower Eric Snowden has given us a glimpse into just how much information the NSA is gathering about average American citizens while at the same time using the media to whip people into a frenzy with fear-mongering about vague threat of terrorists. What’s happening in the UK just may be a portent, a keyhole peek into the future of government control and the ever-growing nanny state in our own country.
For example, Tumblr has always had anti-censorship beliefs and policies in the past, so well known for their stance they inspired articles like this one in Salon about the best adult porn Tumblr blogs. But recently, Yahoo purchased Tumblr. Soon after that purchase was announced, users started to return “no search results” for certain terms relating to sex and pornography. Yahoo effectively made adult blogs invisible, in the same way Amazon’s ADULT filter makes adult ebooks invisible. Another example of corporate censorship? Yep.
Where does it end?
Right now, Americans are being offered a censored version of the world, and many don’t even know it. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the UK government stepping in and forcing ISPs to block pornography by default. The former is an insidious form of censorship, a creeping, crawling, sprawling sort of censorship that most won’t even acknowledge IS a form of censorship. At least the latter is more direct. As we’ve learned with the “war on terror,” or the “war on drugs,” the enemies you can’t see, the ones that come at you from behind or underneath, the ephemeral sort, are a lot harder to fight then those who attack directly.
This is a direct attack on personal freedom and liberty. It’s shocking and appalling, and if you’re not shocked and appalled, you should be. This is government censorship being wrapped up in a nice “protect the children” wrapping paper with a big fat bow on it. It’s a slippery slope that should not only horrify and frighten you, it should motivate you to act. At least I hope so. You can protest. You can sign this petition. If you’re in the US, you can write to your congressmen protesting legislation like the proposed SOPA. You can support the Office for Intellectual Freedom, Banned Book Week, the Open Net Initiative and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange or even just go and like our Facebook page – Banned Erotic Books, where I will post everything I hear about banned books or censorship – in all forms.
And if you’re thinking, “Well isn’t this a good thing? Aren’t they protecting the children?”–think again. This isn’t about protecting children, it’s about control. Control of consenting adults that should be free to watch what they like. Maybe you think I’m alarmist, just being a Chicken Little, and you don’t believe in slippery slopes. If that’s the case, consider this – Scotland and Wales banned “pornography depicting rape” back in 2008. Now the UK has followed suit. This law now also makes it illegal to possess any sort of pornography depicting rape. So what does that mean? Is BDSM pornography illegal now? Even if it’s between consenting adults? Even if there’s a “safe word?” Who makes the decision about what is or isn’t rape, exactly?
By effectively “banning” pornography by forcing ISPs to filter it by default, politicians aren’t really solving any problems. It’s an easy fix. They haven’t done anything to keep actual children from being harmed in the making of pornography. They haven’t helped any actual rape victims by making stricter rape laws. They haven’t done anything to teach real children about real sex–its dangers and pitfalls, as well as its true nature, meaning, and significance in life. They haven’t done anything to help actual sex workers who endanger their lives in order to make more money than they could working at the local Wal-Mart. They haven’t helped the actual harmful practice of women being sold as slaves in human trafficking. They haven’t done anything about curbing the mainstream media’s portrayal of women as sexual objects. Pornography has nothing on Cosmo, folks. They’ve gone after pornography, but they haven’t gone after the “torture porn” in movies. It’s okay to watch someone’s head severed, to see a woman’s nipples cut off, her labia flayed in a horror film, but it’s not okay to watch two consenting adults with nipple clamps and hot wax?
They have gone after what they see as an easy target, something that can be perceived as “action,” but is, in fact, a non-action. It’s not a step forward, it’s a step backward. This law creates a false sense of security for parents. Worse than that, it encourages parents to take less parental responsibility when they should be taking more, and it sets up both parents and children (who will, in another generation, become parents themselves) to rely on the government to control them. If that isn’t the scariest slippery slope of them all, I don’t know what is.
So before you start cheering because you feel children are being “protected” by the law just passed in the UK, imagine a world where everything you read, watch or do is restricted by government control. Imagine China. Imagine 1984. It’s really not as far away as it seems. As Chicken Little as it sounds… sometimes the sky really is falling. Sometimes a slippery slope turns out to be far slipperier than you imagined.
Sometimes you wake up in a world you don’t recognize, and wonder how in the hell you got there.
But by then, it will be far too late. The time is now. The choice is yours.
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
July 9, 2013
And I do not allow my children to search anything on Amazon by themselves.
That’s right–a majority of my income is derived from book sales on Amazon, and yet I won’t let my own children search for babysitting books or squirt guns on their site.
Why not? Because searching “babysitting” or “babysitter” can turn up 100 titles about babysitters fucking their employers. One of which is my own. And “squirt,” in any variation, can turn up all sorts of titles about women “squirting.”
Amazon doesn’t protect children from those search results. Neither does Barnes and Noble. Both of my kids have Nook Colors–but I buy all their books. They’re not allowed to buy a book on their own. And they’re tweens (11 and 12) who have plenty of freedom in their day-to-day lives and are quite responsible.
But I can’t count on Amazon to protect my children, and I can’t count on BN to protect them, so I go out of my way to do so. Because I know exactly what’s out there. And that’s a parent’s job. Ultimately, it should be up to the parent to set those boundaries, and I do so.
Unlike Google though, I can’t even let my kids search on Amazon. With Google, I can set up a “safe search” function that blocks most, if not all, of the things I wouldn’t want them to see yet. Amazon doesn’t have that. Amazon has been making attempts, as we erotica writers know, to keep erotica out of the hands of minors by putting it behind a wall–labeling it with the “ADULT” tag and excluding it from the all-department search. And we all know this is a poor solution to a growing problem. In a post-50-Shades world, the rules have changed. “Mommy porn” has become a huge genre, and many, many new writers have come along to write it, flooding the market with erotica.
Amazon’s solution is arbitrary and non-transparent. It doesn’t keep children from finding books about babysitters having sex or women squirting, that’s for sure. They just have to be looking for a book about babysitting in the Kindle store and voila! There’s my book.
That’s not good.
I write erotica, but I write erotica for adults.
I never intended my audience to be under the age of eighteen, I make clear disclaimers in the front of my books that the intended audience should be of-age, and I don’t want underage children or teens reading my books far before they’re ready to handle the material contained within them.
I can protect my own children–but I can’t protect yours. Only Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc. can do that. And there is an easy fix to this problem. Google has one–parental controls. It’s a switch. On or off. Very simple.
So why haven’t they done so?
I can guarantee you one thing–their motivation isn’t to protect you or your children.
They are protecting their bottom line. Their profit. Period.
Follow the money.
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Nolan Trilogy
June 11, 2013
[image error]This summer is going to be HOT!
The Insatiable Reads Book Tour is sponsoring the HOT SUMMER ROMANCE GIVEAWAY HOP from July 18-21, and if you’re an author, I suggest you sign up. Blog hops, unlike blog tours, are easy–there’s little effort on the part of the author, no long blog posts, just sign up, grab the graphic, and plan a giveaway. Easy peasy! Readers love free stuff (I know, cuz I’m a reader!) so there’s a great incentive for them to go on the hop and enter all the blog hop giveaways. And while they’re on your site, they’ll check out your books, and if they find something they like, who knows, they just might buy it!
As a reader I love blog hops because, hello!? Free stuff! But as an author I love them for the same reason. I love giving away free stuff! It’s a win-win! And blog hops are a fantastic way to get new visitors to your blog and if we’re all out there fighting for visibility in the sea of available words, you have to love a promotion that brings writers together, and readers too. I’ve never been the most competitive writer in the world. Since Excessica’s inception, I’ve always been more about being inclusive, helping other writers, and letting the power of numbers buoy us all up to the top.
Blog hops are a great way to do that. So authors, go sign up! And readers, mark your calendars, because this summer is going to be HOT, HOT, HOT!