Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Post by Selena Kitt Part 2

As promised, I'm going to continue hosting guest bloggers who have done exceptionally well self-pubbing. In the upcoming weeks I'll have posts by Terri Reid, Aaron Patterson, and Stephen Leather.

It's 11am on the 14th of January, and so far this month I've sold 9319 ebooks and 392 self-pubbed print books.

This is the California Gold Rush of 1849. Will everyone get rich? No. But damn near everyone who tries will make more money than they would if they try the traditional publishing route.

Selena Kitt has posted here once before, about Amazon's removal of her erotic incest fiction from their website. A month has now passed. This is her follow-up:

Banned by Amazon
by Selena Kitt

They say the only bad publicity is no publicity. Perhaps they’re right.

In mid-December, Amazon decided to ban three of my books (Back to the Garden, Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed and Naughty Bits) because they were in “violation of their content guidelines.” I could deduce (Sherlock that I am) that the common theme in all three was erotic (consensual and adult, I might add) incest. Then I discovered that several more authors had received the same notice from Amazon, and their books, too, dealt with taboo topics.

Now, I’m a big supporter of free speech and intellectual freedom and my hackles get raised when we start walking down slippery slopes like these. Censorship in general, whether it comes from a government or a corporation, is abhorrent to me.

Principles aside, though—those three books earned me roughly $3000 a month on Amazon Kindle. That was nothing to sneeze at and I was understandably angry. Why had they removed these books and yet left books like Daddy Helps Out, which, if reviews are to be believed, involves incestuous sex with an eight-year-old? (That book is still on Amazon’s shelves a month later, by the way). I wanted and demanded an explanation.

What I received from Amazon was silence. For a week, no one would talk to me or return my calls. I talked to other authors whose taboo books had been removed and they, too, were getting the silent treatment. To me, this spoke to Amazon’s poor business ethics. If they were making a new policy, why wouldn’t they contact publishers and tell them about their new guidelines, give them time to prepare their authors and make other arrangements? Anthologies that contained offending material, for example, could have been reworked and re-uploaded instead of being removed, without any penalty in loss of ranking. Amazon didn’t give anyone that opportunity. Instead, they clandestinely removed titles, informed authors and publishers days or weeks later, and most importantly, refused to tell anyone what they were doing or why.

I finally talked to an “executive customer service representative,” who gave me the runaround (we literally talked in circles for half an hour) about Amazon’s content guidelines. She told me that Amazon was refusing to tell anyone, now or in the future, how or why any book violated their content guidelines. But while she wouldn’t give me the reason that my titles had been removed, when I asked if "all titles that violated the content guidelines in a similar way" were going to be removed, she confirmed that yes, that was their intention.

Then when I asked if Amazon had any intention of removing books that violated their content guidelines in other ways, she said that while they would exercise their right to revisit their policy, she thought it was now pretty well set. Of course, that was before two gay male books with “rape” in the titles were removed. And then, just a few weeks later, Amazon told the author they would be restored to the site.

Just what in the world is going on over at Amazon?

No one knows. And their backhanded removal of books and stonewalling practices aren’t helping. Look, I shop at Amazon. I enjoy the variety and convenience as much as anyone else. I also love my Kindle. But my estimation of them has gone down considerably. I don’t like the way they have handled this situation, but it isn’t the first time they’d done something like this. Look at what they did with the ped0phile book. And Wikileaks. And then there was that “technical glitch” that stripped gay and lesbian titles of their rankings last year. Oops.

Honestly, I have no objection to retailers deciding what they will or will not sell in their stores or on their sites. Wal-Mart does this. And I choose not to shop at Wal-Mart. Their choice, my choice, free country. However, a distributor like Amazon has an obligation not only to their customers, but to their vendors as well.

If you’re a business, and you’re going to make a policy, then your vendors and customers have a right to know where you stand. Wal-Mart makes it public knowledge to vendors and customers that they don’t accept music with explicit lyrics, for example. But Amazon hasn’t made any such statement about books. And Amazon’s arbitrary removal of books, lack of transparency and waffling on their decisions doesn’t inspire much confidence in their business practices.

And I’m in business with Amazon.

Before this incident, I would say I was 80% happy with that relationship. There were a few issues I wasn’t thrilled about, the same ones other authors complained of—things like not allowing authors to offer books for free, for example. But Amazon was the heavy hitter, the only game in town when it came to big numbers. I was earning a majority of my income with them, and while I had my complaints, there wasn’t much I could do about them.

For example, when Amazon switched my books from their Mobipocket feed over to Amazon DTP, they took six months to do it. They hadn’t anticipated that someone with excellent rankings would lose those in making the transfer to DTP and might be a little upset about that fact. (Doh!) But they were determined to switch all Mobipocket books over, so they had their tech people develop a program that would transfer the rankings. That took them six months. And when they did transfer my titles, it didn’t work. I lost a considerable amount of rankings due to their technical glitch, and my books dropped from being in the top ten in erotica to the top twenty-five or fifty, and they still haven’t recovered. Ouch.

Again, although I was angry and disappointed, there wasn’t much I could do about it. Amazon was still the biggest online book retailer around, and if I wanted to sell my books in large quantities, theirs was the only place that offered that kind of opportunity.

But maybe that won’t be the case for too much longer.

I did a survey with Amazon about six months ago. They were calling high-earning self published authors for feedback about their experience with Kindle DTP. I was asked, at the time, to keep the conversation confidential, but since Amazon currently refuses to offer me an explanation about my books and I didn’t sign anything legally binding about nondisclosure, I really don’t feel obligated to keep quiet about it anymore.

During that survey, the Kindle DTP representative I talked to was thrilled with and actually pretty smug about the market share that Amazon Kindle had cornered. I confirmed, with my personal numbers, that they earned me about 80% of my sales. That was true at the time.

Last month, all that changed.

I sold 18,000 books on Barnes and Noble after Amazon “banned” my books (from December 15th or so until the end of the month). And 4000 of those were copies of banned titles. Erik Sherman over at CBS was interested in this information (he’s diligently been covering this issue since it started while the rest of the press seems to just ignore it) and did a blog post about the power of “banning” a book.

So I earned double from Barnes and Noble what I made from Amazon in December. And I’m sure I can (oh so ironically) thank Amazon in part for this shift. Banning books always makes people interested—"What could be so bad that it had to be banned? Maybe I’ll have to check that out…" So I’m sure there were people who heard my book had been removed and went over to Barnes and Noble (the biggest online retailer next to Amazon) to buy it.

But I also think it may indicate a real shift in the market. I think it also had something to do with the holiday season and the new color Nook and people getting ereaders for Christmas. I think ebooks are just starting to get going, and perhaps this upswing in Barnes and Noble sales (and the news seems to support this idea as well) is an indication that Amazon won’t always be the big dog (i.e. bully) on the block anymore.

And frankly, I’m actually a little relieved. Amazon might not have had a monopoly on ebooks, but a “majopoly” is still a bad thing for the free market. I’ve always said (in my Chicken Little way) that it’s dangerous to keep all your eggs in one basket. Someone once remarked on this blog that Joe Konrath was “working for Amazon now.” Up until last month, that’s been primarily true for me as well, and it made me a little nervous. Of course, right now I’m working for Barnes and Noble. My hope, though, is that in the future, things even out a little more in the market so that Google Editions and Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and Borders, if they survive) and whoever else is going to come onto the scene as an ebook player, are on more equal footing.

I know that all of them are going to have their problems and issues. Amazon totally messed up my rankings, but Barnes and Noble was much more prepared, it seems, in that department. The books that came over to Barnes and Noble from my Fictionwise feed did so seamlessly, with no loss in rankings at all. Why couldn’t Amazon have done that? Of course, Amazon’s accounting is up to date, real-time sales, to the hour, but Barnes and Noble has been hit and miss, to say the least. I have no idea how much I’ve sold with them in January so far, because their reports don’t say – although they assure me that “all sales are being recorded correctly.” Let’s hope so.

I think it’s hard to have confidence in any big company, and small and indie publishers and authors need to stick together to keep calling the big boys on their incongruent business practices. Yes, a business has a right to make a policy—but do they have a right not to tell you what that policy is and how they’re going to enforce it? I’m sorry, but I just have to call Amazon out on that one.

For example, most publishers (and Amazon is a publisher now, whether they like it or not) are clear about what they do and don’t accept. This is even more true for erotic publishers in the ebook world.

At Excessica, we’re very clear:

No sexual situations featuring characters under the age of eighteen

No bestiality (fantastical creatures exempt)

No necrophilia (fantastical creatures exempt)

No incest

Yes, we added that last guideline recently, thanks to Amazon’s ham-handed censorship tactics. We have caved and self-censored in anticipation of Amazon’s rejection of future work. It’s unfortunate—and I’m sure it’s exactly what they intended.

I’ve also personally self-censored my books, releasing a new version of Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed without the father/daughter incest titled, “Plaid Skirt Confessions,” and a different version of Naughty Bits without the sibling incest titled, “Foreign Exchange.” I’ve clearly stated in the descriptions that they are reworked versions of the originals, so readers will know.

And now we’re in the business of censoring ourselves. Big Brother has won that round, I’m afraid.

But at least when it comes to business practices, we are still being clear about our policies. I don’t think it’s all that hard to do and it’s certainly not too much to ask. If we can do it, so can Amazon. I hope that, at some point, they do. Or if they continue to refuse and act without transparency, I hope the free market will work and they get knocked off their high horse so they’re not the only viable ebook game in town anymore.

My sales at Barnes and Noble last month has given me a glimmer of hope in that regard.

In the meantime, I’m going to cash my December royalty check and hope that B&N doesn’t decide to follow Amazon down their slippery slope and start banning books from their virtual shelves as well.

87 comments:

Tuppshar Press said...

Thanks for the update, Selena. None of our titles have been taken down (though we did lose rankings last year when Amazon went after Gay lit), but this whole mess has encouraged us to branch out to other sellers and distributors, rather than rely too heavily on Amazon. So far the sales outside of Amazon have been good, confirming what you have reported.

In publishing as in nature, diversity is a good thing.

A book link elsehwere...

Wren Emerson said...

I'm not especially well versed in the world of ebooks, but it seems to me that if you consider retailers like Amazon and B&N to be marketing tools for promoting your brand (in this case your name), you could still sell what you want on a site you own.

What stops the average person from selling titles online really? I don't own a Kindle or a Nook so I don't know the ins and outs of their formats (such as whether they are proprietary or not), but assuming you could offer your books in acceptable formats an author stands to make 100% of the profits from any ebooks sold this way and you have total control over the content.

By all means diversify the distribution of your product, but once you've got brand recognition, I'd assume that your fans will seek you out and buy directly from you. I could be wrong, of course, but I'm really curious why I haven't seen more of this.

Joe Konrath said...

@Gareth-Michael - I deleted you for being rude. Be respectful or don't post here.

Hope Welsh said...

I've seen this topic discussed on Amazon Community boards.

Amazon does need to make a clear distinction as to what is allowed. I posted that in my reply to the threads of pulled books.

While my books continue to sell on Amazon--I'm not happy that I can't put a title up for free for a week or two to introduce writers to my books.

The insertion of Mobipocket titles, personally, as a nightmare. It literally took me months to get a book pulled from Amazon that I had not put up--nor was I being paid for its sale--while the title was removed finally, and re-listed by me, I've yet to be paid for the sales from the Mobi insertion. It was literally a month before I found out that it had been listed from Mobi.

I'm not too impressed by B&N. Someone has stated there are glitches--but for January, I don't show one sale at B&N and I find that hard to believe with the sales I've had at Amazon.

Amazon is doing a poor job allowing changes. One of my titles still won't come up unless you find it from my author page--search all day, and LINKED does not come up.

Will I continue to sell via Amazon? Sure--I'd be a fool not to. Will I continue to sell Indie? Most definitely.

As to the censorship issue, I must say that I do feel a retailer, publisher or vendor has the right not to carry specific types of material. There are places that won't even review my work published under a pseudonym-but I know their guidelines!

Amazon's guidelines are so ambiguous, there is just no way to know what might set off their flags.

I'm glad your sales picked up on B&N due to being banned on Amazon.

My two cents--for what it's worth.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Selena,
Thanks for the update! If there is a market for the uncensored work (and from your postings it appears there is) then this should be looked at as a phenomenal business opportunity. That may be difficult to hear now, but it's true.

Joe, this certainly is the gold rush! So much so that at a meeting of Kindle owners (we have one now in San Diego), a new member stumped me with a question:

"Why with your experiences and resources are you follow through with your traditional publishing deal when you could do it yourself?"

I wasn't quite sure what to say. 2011 might be the year that established and newbie authors alike are better off taking a shot at an Indie eBook release than waiting until mid-2012 or 2013 for a book release from a traditional publishing deal.

Stephen Prosapio
=================
Author, DREAM WAR

Daryl Sedore said...

I remember when all this happened last month and got concerned.

I don't have sex scenes or anything they would deem questionable in any of my eleven titles on amazon, but I do become nervous when over 80% of my income is also coming from them.

What could become the next topic to ban? What enables the minority can be shocking.

One person complained to a St. John's Newfoundland radio station about the song, "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits, and it was banned across Canada from radio airplay this week. A 25-year old hit. Banned, because of one complaint!

Sickening!

Hearing what you went through right before Christmas and then the good news about Barnes & Noble has a twist of fate happy ending.

Wishing you all the best in the future...

Daryl

CJ West said...

Selena,

Amazon is definitely a tough partner, but I am surprised to hear you say the market is turning to other vendors. I am new to ebooks (since 2010), but have not made comparable sales at BN.com or the iBookstore. I wonder how others are faring and how many are using Pubit to take advantage of BN.com.

CJ
The End of Marking Time

Hope Welsh said...

CJ, I could be wrong--but I think most of us indie's are using Pubit, too.

Like you, though, my sales are only good on Amazon.

I've sold more this month than in any other month...on Amazon...but is that luck or my .99 price? Who knows?

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

Fair enough, Joe.

To put in less rudely:

I'm surely not the only one who thinks that "Big Brother" analogies are a bit hyperbolic in this case -- and that content restrictions, when that content covers pornographic depictions of incest (let's be honest, "erotica" is just a nicer way to say porn), aren't necessarily a bad thing?

Stephen Prosapio said...

“If you’re a business, and you’re going to make a policy, then your vendors and customers have a right to know where you stand….

I think it’s hard to have confidence in any big company, and small and indie publishers and authors need to stick together to keep calling the big boys on their incongruent business practices.”


-- I couldn’t agree more. I feel as both customers and business partners with Amazon we have a right to know what their policy on content restriction. If half of us who follow this blog can convince a handful of people each to write emails to Amazon requesting they post their new policy, that should translate into hundreds if not thousands of emails. At some point you’d think they’d listen.

They can't ignore us forever...can they?

Tina Folsom said...

CJ,
I'm actually selling 3:1 on B&N vs. Amazon - no idea why. And I'm also relatively new. I started around May 2010 on Amazon, and October on B&N.
Could it be that certain genres sell better on Amazon than B&N and vice versa?
I write romance.
Tina Folsom
www.tinawritesromance.com

Hope Welsh said...

No, Gareth, erotica is not just a nice way to say porn. I wouldn't be caught dead writing porn...but I have written erotic romance.

Porn: Sex for sexes sake
Erotic: A plot with very detailed sexual scenesmni

Mark LaFlamme said...

The Selena Affair of '10-'11 is no doubt going to be recalled as an important moment in establishing footing in the Kindle world, but I suspect Ms. Kitt will ultimately be remembered for the eloquence of her writing style, as well. Selena weaves a good story, whether it's a tale of family secrets or her real-life travails with corporate giants. If she wasn't skilled with the pen, she might have flown under the radar a bit longer, and we'd be reading about somebody else's struggles (and subsequent fortunes) in 2012 or beyond.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm surely not the only one who thinks that "Big Brother" analogies are a bit hyperbolic in this case -- and that content restrictions, when that content covers pornographic depictions of incest (let's be honest, "erotica" is just a nicer way to say porn), aren't necessarily a bad thing?

Thanks, Gareth. A much nicer, and smarter, way to make your point.

I'm a libertarian. As such, I believe people should be able to do whatever they want to do, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. I also don't want anyone telling me what I can or can't do based on their morals or beliefs.

Amazon certainly has a right to sell what they want to sell. But they should be clearer about what is and isn't allowed.

While "Big Brother" is hyperbole, Amazon's decisions to begin restricting what they sell is a slippery slope. Morality isn't universal. Banning incest erotica could lead to banning all erotica which could lead to banning any book that has a sex scene in it.

Personally, I think adults should be able to make these decisions themselves, and that anyone who feels the need to tell others what they can and can't read should instead tend to their own garden.

Unfortunately, the need to control others is embedded in our genes.

gniz said...

As much as I love what Amazon has allowed me to do as an independent, it's a bit unnerving to read about this kind of activity.

I personally can't stand B&N, I think it's much more difficult for my books to get noticed there and the accounting, as everyone knows, has been nothing short of pathetic.

BUT Selena makes a great point here. We NEED competition in this market or our royalty rates, content, everything--will be up in the air.

The last thing we can afford is to have one dominant online published like Amazon dictating what we do and how much we earn.

An E-Publisher's Manifesto

* said...

Hi Selena,
I'm so glad to see you are selling well on B&N. Even though I wouldn't buy a story featuring incest,--I've said in the past that I have my own reasons--I want to be free to decide whether or not to buy such a publication. I think I have enough of a brain to make that decision. I still don't understand why Amazon can't come up with clear content restrictions and then add to that that they can pull any title as a just in case. Then at least authors have a vague idea. Good luck in the future!

Anonymous said...

Amazon is simply a corporation engaged in business. If it doesn't want to sell something, that's its right--for whatever reason it wants, even if the reason is arbitrary, stupid, popular, unpopular, articulated or ill-defined. The result is not "censorship." Nor is it a "slippery slope," because Amazon has no duty to readers, or to authors or to publishers.

To my knowledge, Amazon does not sell porn videos either. That's not a censorship of anyone, it's simply a decision as to what it wants to do or not do with its business. Amazon has no more obligation to sell porn or incest books than you or me.

wannabuy said...

@Selena: "I sold 18,000 books on Barnes and Noble after Amazon “banned” my books (from December 15th or so until the end of the month). And 4000 of those were copies of banned titles."

Success is the best revenge. :)

I'm glad for B&N's success with the Nook Color. I wouldn't have predicted it and made comments along how I had no desire for one, but all that proves is the old phrase "You are not the market."

I love these author interviews. Very inspiring. As a supporter of 'free speech,' I'm sad by the arbitrary and shifting censoring.

I'm glad to see the market share shift. Even better, your excellent income on B&N (noted in the blog post Selena linked).

Neil

wannabuy said...

-@Tina:"Could it be that certain genres sell better on Amazon than B&N and vice versa?"

Your onto something. Each ereader vendor has its own customer demographics.

@Joe:"Amazon certainly has a right to sell what they want to sell. But they should be clearer about what is and isn't allowed."

Exactly. Strong written guidelines are required. People might not like Walmart, but they are clear in what they will not stock. Amazon should be too.

As I customer, I would like to be able to decide.

Censorship is a slippery slope. If Amazon doesn't want to sell a book, B&N and Google will probably be very happy to do so.

Neil

Hope Welsh said...

@Joe:"Amazon certainly has a right to sell what they want to sell. But they should be clearer about what is and isn't allowed."

Most definitely agree. Authors and publishers NEED TO KNOW!

Personally, I won't read incest--but as I understand it, the titles were marked as such. To each his own between consenting adults. (I don't have to buy it)

Amazon had stated publicly they did not believe in censorship one day, and removed titles a few days later. (I will try to find the statement Amazon sent the news if anyone wants to see it)

I don't think this is a morality issue at all--it's an issue of Amazon kneeling to the demand of a minority of their buyers. This all started with the pedophile book, did it not? (As pedophilia is an ILLEGAL act, I have no problem with that being pulled from Amazon personally)

Ellen Fisher said...

I sold a bunch of copies of an erotic romance with B&N last month, and I couldn't be happier about it. Not because I care where my money comes from, but because I think it's really much better for the market when there are several viable e-retailers out there, and not just one. I'll keep rooting for B&N (despite those annoying accounting problems, grrrr) to gain some more of the market share-- not because I think B&N is necessarily any better than Amazon, but because I think competition is more likely to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

evilphilip said...

"To my knowledge, Amazon does not sell porn videos either."

Amazon does sell porn. They may not sell XXX porn, but they do sell everying that goes right up to that edge including the Girls Gone Wild videos.

I do a Weekly Release List every week that includes video games & movies and every week when I get to the end of Amazon's movie list there is always a bunch of porn videos.

Mark said...

"Personally, I think adults should be able to make these decisions themselves, and that anyone who feels the need to tell others what they can and can't read should instead tend to their own garden."

I agree. Selena can still sell incest books if she wants, just not on Amazon. She might have trouble getting print copies of a lot of her other books onto the shelves at the B&N stores too.

I just want to make that distinction. The government didn't step in and make Selena stop selling incest books. Amazon delisted just a few of her books but let the others remain for sale. They're not really being too much of a heavy here. And Selena seems happy enough to help Amazon continue to take a 30% cut of her book sales.

Writers who really feel strongly about this issue and who feel Amazon is in the wrong and is setting a dangerous precedent might want to think about not selling on Amazon.

What's the pricetag on principals here?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (who posted at 12:46 pm) - while many of us find it irritating that Amazon "appears" to be making moral decisions about appropriate content for it's consumers, that's not the main issue here. Selena's biggest concerns are lack of communication & lack of professionalism.

Amazon pulled 3 of her titles with no warning, no explanations, & has refused to give her straightforward answers when she asked questions. In a previous post, she also indicated that the titles were removed from consumers' kindles without warning, without explanation, & without recompense. The only common thread she can identify in those titles are incest story lines. However, books by other authors featuring incest story lines are still available from Amazon.

The concern is that Amazon has a vaguely worded policy about "acceptable content", refuses to clarify or even discuss that policy, appears to change their mind from one moment to another about whether a product adheres to that policy, appears to be reacting without objective grounds to the detriment of one of its business partners, & does not appear to be applying that policy equitably to all of its authors.

As a result, one of their business partners finds herself in loss of substantial income from those delisted titles, & is unable to address the specific problem because her business partner will neither confirm nor deny the problem.

It's unlikely she has the option of a lawsuit, as I suspect she is a small entrepeur without the resources to effectively engage in a legal battle with a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

Amazon needs to behave with professional courtesy to it's vendors. If they can get away with this, what's to stop them from changing royalty rates? Changing payment schedules? Providing less accurate sales information?

Amazon has every right to make decisions about the content it will make available for sale, & Selena & Joe have both said so.

What Amazon has a DUTY to do is to make those decisions & policies clear & straightforward from the outset, & adhere to them in a professional & equitable manner. They need to treat their vendors professionally.

This is why competition & diversity are so important, no matter what the industry.

Shawn R.

Edward L Cote said...

I wonder what George R.R. Martin would have to say about this. Uh, remember Jaime and Cersei? Is Amazon going to not sell Song of Ice and Fire, aka "Game of Thrones"? Yeah, that'll happen...

Selena Kitt said...

Thanks for having me, Joe! :)

@Wren: I do sell my books on my own site (www.excessica.com), and created a "banned on Amazon" page (and am running a "banned on Amazon" contest giving away the last three print copies of the book I own). I have definitely attempted to make lemonade from these lemons! :)

@Daryl: They banned "Money for Nothing?" WTH for??

@Gareth-Michael: As I said, I have no problem with Amazon making a business decision - it's HOW that decision is made and handled that matters. They have done so very poorly. As to your judgment that "less porn" is better for the world - that's your judgment, not mine, and not necessarily a lot of other people's either.

@Mark - if Amazon had come to me and said, "Hey, we have this new policy, we're not allowing erotic incest fiction anymore," I wouldn't have any problem. They didn't do that. They gave me no notice, they gave me no reason, they threatened to cancel my account if I "continued to submit content in violations of the guidelines" - yet they refused to tell me HOW I violated those guidelines. They have handled this very poorly, but as I said, I'm in business with Amazon, and I'm working on that relationship. I can only hope they'll listen. They have, in the past, and maybe they're listening now. Vendors are their customers, too. As a distributor, they need buyers, but they also need sellers. It's a delicate balance for them, I'm sure. As for principles - I believe I said this last time (and I think it was to you) I believe I can currently do more good ON Amazon than off. If I am still a presence on the site, posting on the Kindle boards about this issue, bringing it to light, that's more beneficial than if I took my bat and ball and went home in "protest."

----
About working B&N and Amazon - it seems to me, to go with the gold rush metaphor, that this is the wild west of publishing and there are just things these companies didn't anticipate. It didn't occur to Amazon, for example, that someone with high rankings would lose those in switching over to DTP from Mobi. They didn't have anything in place to handle that. Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, misjudged their reporting system. They didn't think ahead and realize that their PubIt system would appeal to more than just self-pubbed authors, that indie pubs would use it, too, and they would have more than one author on their report. They set their reporting up as cumulative, and didn't break anything down by author. At least now they've changed their reporting to include the ability to break sales down by month, although they seem to have done it so fast that their system can't handle all the numbers coming at it, as our lack of reporting this month illustrates. I'm sure they'll work the bugs out eventually.

I, too, was surprised by the popularity of the Nook. I'm so not interested in reading on a backlit screen. I got an iPad for xmas, but I still read on my Kindle. I love eink. Color eink would be great, but I can wait.

Obviously, other people felt differently and don't mind backlit screens, which is great. Lots of Nooks were sold and now people are loading them up with books. It's a good thing!

Michael said...

I wonder if/when the later Heinlein books get released as E-books if they will also ban them for incest?

Hope Welsh said...

I seriously doubt if VC Andrews has been banned, either. The Flowers series, if memory serves--has incest.

MeiLin Miranda said...

I self-censored. My protagonist in my fantasy series was originally 16, only because it was the age that made sense in the world I'd created. Nowhere was a big deal made that he was underage (and then in America; in several EU countries, at 16 he'd be of age). There is erotic content, though, and there was such a freak-out on an erotica writers' list I was on that I was actually called a pedophile and forced to leave the group. I wasn't having sex with a 16-year-old myself. I'm 50. That would be gross. Plus also, ask any adult man about what they knew about making love to a woman at 16 and you'll get crickets. I was called a pedophile for writing about a barely underage fictional teenager having fictional sex with fictional people close to his own age in a fictional society where 16 was coming of age.

To get clear on this for myself, I took a quick tour through the underbelly of Internet porn and read some teen stuff--it's a whole category to itself, apparently. Every third word was about the character's age, either the word "teen," the actual age, "high school," and so on. I wasn't writing that. My character's age was important sociologically for his society, but it was far from the erotic focus. The erotic elements weren't erotic *because* he was 16.

When the time came to finish the draft and put the book out there, I caved and made him 18. It doesn't make quite the internal sense it did to me as before, but in the end some artistic compromise was necessary to avoid potential trouble down the road. It's stupid, but there it is.

Ellen Fisher said...

"I wonder if/when the later Heinlein books get released as E-books if they will also ban them for incest?"

LOL. I recently reread "Time Enough for Love," and I seriously wondered about this, too. However, I think in Amazon's eyes there's probably a difference between erotic incest and what Heinlein writes. But of course, since Amazon won't clarify their policy, we don't KNOW that... we'll just have to keep guessing.

Conda V. Douglas said...

I hate censorship of any kind, even of creative works that I can't stand. And yes, a business has a right to do/sell what it will. But I believe, rather, in letting grown up people be warned as to content and letting them decide if they want to purchase. I hate the idea that morality and opinion can be forced onto others. And I think that Amazon may be cutting off their noses, etc. You never know what people will want. I've published a horror short story as an e-book and warned older friends and family before they purchased. A 78-year-old friend liked it, a lot! And she's never read horror.

Selena Kitt said...

there was such a freak-out on an erotica writers' list I was on that I was actually called a pedophile and forced to leave the group.

This doesn't surprise me. It makes me crazy, but it doesn't surprise me. Our culture is so sexually repressed (consider our puritanical roots I suppose) that any mention of underage sex makes us go wild with rage. Partly because the "Puer" (i.e. the eternal child) is our 2nd God (the first, of course, is the Almighty Dollar). We worship at the altar of the child - we're living in a sibling society, all kids playing with money basically. It's a scary situation for our planet and our future, to say the least.

But your situation is very common. People react VERY strongly to any mention of sex before the age of eighteen in fiction.

If Lolita were written today and submitted, no publisher on the planet would touch it. It wouldn't matter who wrote it. They wouldn't publish it.

Marie Simas said...

The Flowers in the Attic series does have incest-- nasty, graphic, brother-on-sister incest-- some of it when they are minors, too. I remember reading the series when I was in middle school. But now it's a dubious classic, so we allow it.

Selena, I'm glad this happened to you-- your story will probably help other authors navigate Amazon's DTP system, and the publicity will propel your series into the stratosphere. plus, it has already made you a bestselling author. The sky's the limit, girlfriend. I hope you sell 200K copies this year. Looks like you're well on your way.

Sometimes you just have to trust that the universe is going to help you and run with it.

A Catholic Girl's Memoir

wannabuy said...

Mark,

You note that Amazon isn't being a 'heavy,' but they are also not being clear or consistent.

For my friends who read *any* erotica I now recommend the Nook or reading on another tablet. Who knows what will be banned next?

@Tuppshar:" but this whole mess has encouraged us to branch out to other sellers and distributors, rather than rely too heavily on Amazon."
That might be the #1 cost for Amazon. Publishers & Authors following the readers 'pushed' to the Nook.

I estimate that ~10% of B&N's Nook buyers in December where either protesting or avoiding the Amazon censorship. Judging from the various authors success selling erotica at B&N, it looks like Amazon just handed over a niche to their competitor. Those that buy erotica also buy lots of other genres...

Neil

Gareth-Michael Skarka said...

@Joe: "While "Big Brother" is hyperbole, Amazon's decisions to begin restricting what they sell is a slippery slope. Morality isn't universal. Banning incest erotica could lead to banning all erotica which could lead to banning any book that has a sex scene in it."

Could, I guess -- but not likely. At all.

I'm not seeing a slippery slope in a fairly mainstream-standard retail decision to not stock "erotica."

@"Selena" -- "Our culture is so sexually repressed (consider our puritanical roots I suppose) "

I'd find sanctimonious lectures about our supposedly puritanical repression a bit easier to swallow if they weren't coming from someone writing behind an obvious psuedonym.

Have the courage of your convictions, at least.....

Selena Kitt said...

I'm not seeing a slippery slope in a fairly mainstream-standard retail decision to not stock "erotica."

Two very mainstream erotic titles were removed - they just had "rape" in their titles. There have also been several mainstream anthologies removed because they had one or two stories involving incest included.

I'd find sanctimonious lectures about our supposedly puritanical repression a bit easier to swallow if they weren't coming from someone writing behind an obvious psuedonym.

Have the courage of your convictions, at least.....


Lots of people use pseudonyms, whether they write erotica or not. But perhaps if the world wasn't so puritanically repressed, pseudonyms for erotic writers wouldn't exist at all. *shrug*

Not Normally Anon said...

"Amazon has no duty to readers, or to authors or to publishers."

HUH??????

That's as idiotic as saying GM has no duty to drivers, or to steel manufacturers, or to labor unions.

Amazon has a duty to its shareholders which means not pissing off a significant portion of its customers. Period.

wannabuy said...

@Gareth:"I'm not seeing a slippery slope in a fairly mainstream-standard retail decision to not stock "erotica."

True. Their rules were clear.

But it was a long term strategic mistake. A year ago the #1 driver to ebooks was selection, often those books the bookstores wouldn't carry for whatever reason.

By not having clear rules on what is allowed, Amazon pushed quite a few publishers & authors to publish on Nook. This 'pulled' a bunch of readers to the Nook. Another strategic mistake.

Once a company 'spooks the market,' the consequences are out of their control.

Neil

Joe Konrath said...

But perhaps if the world wasn't so puritanically repressed, pseudonyms for erotic writers wouldn't exist at all.

Perhaps if the world wasn't so puritanically repressed there would be less violence as well.

History has shown us what repression does, and none of it is good.

Rebecca Stroud said...

Good God, whatever happened to "personal responsibility"? If you don't like a book's subject matter, don't read it! Same with TV. Turn the freaking channel!

Honestly, this decision by Amazon amazes me. I could maybe understand a small mom&pop store balking at certain genres but Amazon is so huge that it boggles my mind why they kow-towed to - most likely - a miniscule of complaints (and these were probably lodged by people who were full of sour grapes at Selena's success).

Oh, (big) brother...

Ellen Fisher said...

"By not having clear rules on what is allowed, Amazon pushed quite a few publishers & authors to publish on Nook. This 'pulled' a bunch of readers to the Nook. Another strategic mistake."

I agree, and this is what is amusing about the whole situation. Look at all those erotica books selling like wildfire on B&N! And of course erotica readers don't just read erotica, so they'll probably hang around B&N and keep buying other kinds of books, too. Amazon may have inadvertently helped B&N get some additional market share... which is probably best for everyone, IMHO.

Well, everyone except Amazon, anyway:-).

Anonymous said...

"Amazon has no duty to readers, or to authors or to publishers."

HUH??????

That's as idiotic as saying GM has no duty to drivers, or to steel manufacturers, or to labor unions."

IDIOTIC?

OK then, tell me what duty Amazon has to readers? Does it have a duty to make everying in the world available to them?

Does Amazon have a duty to publishers or authors to sell everything they submit?

Amazon is big, granted, but don't confuse size with rights. Amazon, just like the mom and pop bookstore down the street, has the right to sell whatever they want for whatever reason they want.

They could turn around tommorrow and decide they only want to sell books on knitting.

It's their business, period. Some people may be making money off them, but that doesn't elevate to some type of entitlement. Nor is it a promise of what things will be like tomorrow.

Watcher said...

When it comes to works of art featuring incest, let's not forget Wagner's Die Valkyrie! I think this is why Amazon refuses to get to "explicit" about their standards (pun slightly intended). There's no way to enforce it consistently without excluding a lot of things they'd look idiotic excluding.

What really bothers me about Amazon's practices is a comment made by somebody who had purchased one of these books. That person had deleted it from their kindle, and SHOULD have been able to reclaim it at any time from her archives. But Amazon eliminated it from the archives, with no refund.

I use an iPad - I'd be much more comfortable with the kindle app if I could save my files independently. I haven't stopped buying books on the Kindle App, but I'll definitely give preference to Apple's iBook app if the same time is available and price isn't more than 25% higher.

Daryl Sedore said...

@Selena Kitt asked...

@Daryl: They banned "Money for Nothing?" WTH for??

Because it contains the word faggot as in the lyrics...

...Custom kitchen deliveries We gotta move these refrigerators We gotta move these color TV's (See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup Yeah buddy that's his own hair That little faggot got his own jet airplane That little faggot he's a millionaire) Gotta install microwave ovens Custom kitchen deliveries...

We're all adults, but I guess in Canada we could become affected in a negative way mentally if we hear that word....according to ONE person.

I'm saddened by the power minorities wield...

Selena Kitt said...

@Daryl

Wow. That's mind boggling. It reminds me of the publisher that just replaced the "N" word in Huckleberry Finn with the world "slave."

Has the world gone completely mad?

Joe Konrath said...

I'm saddened by the power minorities wield...

The free world has become hyper-sensitive, over-protective, and litigious.

But I suppose that beats oppression and discrimination.

Maybe they should start teaching tolerance in schools.

Jason W. Chan said...

I agree that Amazon needs to start being more professional to its vendors. Without vendors, they would have nothing to sell.
Furthermore, they have to be more transparent. I remember that CNN news video in which reporters tried to interview the Amazon Customer Relations Department about that pedophile book and the reporters were ignored, just like how they're ignoring Selena.
Third, I don't like Amazon's discriminating policy. They singled out that pedophile book (By Greeves, I think), but there are still other pedophile books on Amazon. If their new policy is banning books on pedophile, why not ban all books on pedophile?

Marie Simas said...

It reminds me of the publisher that just replaced the "N" word in Huckleberry Finn with the world "slave."

They recently did the same thing with Conrad's Nigger of the 'Narcissus': A Tale of the Sea

Seriously... do a search on Amazon. There's a book called the "N"-Word of 'Narcissus'

Not kidding.

Justin Jordan said...

"If their new policy is banning books on pedophile, why not ban all books on pedophile?"

Well, there are books that have pedophilia in them, like Lolita, which is one thing.

The pedophile book that got banned was a how to manual, which is an entirely different animal.

Now if they're banning one pedophilia how to manual and not another, that'd be inconsistant. What they've doen so fair is not.

Ty Johnston said...

@Anonymous @ 4:32 p.m.

Idiotic? Not necessarily.

But unthinking and definitely overly critical.

A vendor, in this case writer-publishers, do indeed have a contract with a distributor-publisher. There are stipulations within a contract that set forward the legal rights of all parties involved. In the case mostly being discussed here, the one involving Selena Kitt, those stipulations have not been spelled out very well by the distributor-publisher.

Sooner or later Amazon is going to pull this stunt on someone who is going to find an attorney and sue them. More than likely that person is going to win because the court systems tend to not like poorly-worded and vague contracts, even (or especially) if it comes from a major corporation. It is not even impossible that several writers could band together, find a good attorney, and force the issue, possibly even with backing from some of Amazon's competition.

That is not suggesting Amazon should be forced to distribute material they do not want to distribute, but there will come a time when the company is going to have to clean up the wording in its contract with writer-publishers.

Or they'll get out of the distribution-publishing business altogether. Which is unlikely.

Anonymous, this is a business relationship, not a social/moral one and not some kind of Constitutional rights issue. It's potentially a legal issue, but one that's likely to not have anything to do with the subject matter itself, at least not directly.

dr.cpe said...

@selena, thans. your head for business is more than good

@anon, re porn videos on amazon; yes they are there, interesting even 'anniversary editions' of classic xxx

@maria simas, yes, there are over 200 titles on amz as of tonight that have the word nigger in title.

@to add to daryl sedore who mentions canadian oversight regulator trying to ban Dire Straights song... radio stations are not complying, in fact several are playing 'marathons' of the song... which was written about the words used by a delivery man in a store that had banks of tv's tuned to MTV. The lyrics are repeating some of the working class guys comments of the 'rich mtv musicians' he was seeing on the tvs.

@wanna buy: you and others are right, I think. And, from my brush with law school, I'd speculate that Amazon legal dept (a huge bank of lawyers) are paying close attention to both Flynt and other Supreme Court decisions. (If you want to read the decisions, go to Supremes website and keyword obscenity... that's the place to start in order to understand Amazon's ambiguously stated policy. There is likely a wiffle-waffle stance about what is not acceptible as a line between being dragged into an obscenity charge that will lead to the Supremes eventually (expensive) and being sued by author(s) for tortious interference of business advantage... meaning interfereing with an author's ability to make a living. Both are high litigation risks. I think these considerations are a part of this seeming unevenly applied policy... and the last thing a legal dept is going to do is discuss strategies like these with users, readers, authors... as those are, by those lights, their potential litigants.

@Gareth, sorry, but I didnt understand who is the 'sanctimonious' one you were referring to? Surely no one here, right?

thanks again Selena and Joe K for this great lyceum

Selena Kitt said...

"your head for business is more than good"
-------

"Got a head for business and a body for sin...." :))

You're probably right, doc. They're never going to tell us why and this is surely coming from some lawyer's mouth to Amazon's ears.

Hope Welsh said...

"You're probably right, doc. They're never going to tell us why and this is surely coming from some lawyer's mouth to Amazon's ears."

I'd think that same attorney would tell them that if they remove ONE title of a certain topic, they should remove ALL titles of that topic. No?

Selena's books aren't okay, but VC Andrews are?

Rules are allowed everywhere--but they do need to be consistent.

This isn't even a debate about censorship so much as it is one on consistency.

wannabuy said...

Dr. CPE,

I enjoyed your post. Most certainly it is some lawyer keeping the policy 'murky.'

I never recommended the Nook prior to the start of the ban... Now I always bring it up as an alternative. I'm certain this was the final push to have three coworkers buy the Nook color. (Bought for their wives. I swear 30 to 50 coworkers bought ereaders this holiday season for their spouses!)

Neil

Mark said...

"I think this is why Amazon refuses to get to "explicit" about their standards (pun slightly intended). There's no way to enforce it consistently without excluding a lot of things they'd look idiotic excluding."

Yes, Amazon is not going to ever get into extended discussions about why any given book is objectionable and they refuse to sell it. All it will result in is others flinging at them examples of other books for sale that may fit their definition of being objectionable. It would be like arguing with a bunch of 13 year olds. If you've ever had kids, you know they continually test you and look for any inconsistency and then use it to make their case.

If writers are truly concerned, form a group and threaten Amazon with a boycott. Go to the mat over it. Otherwise it's just a lot of handwringing.

I think there's one other thing that bothers me. These books are clearly commercial products. The work that went into them was much more about making something that will sell than about artistic expression. All Amazon is doing is reacting like a commercial company. They worry about their reputation, about negative publicity, etc. They are certainly not trying to censor artistic expression because that's not what is going on here. This is erotica, a nice word for porn. It's not Nabokov writing Lolita.

Suzanne said...

Joe, I'm really enjoying your blog. Thanks for hosting these interviews.

Selena, thanks for posting on a topic that provokes a discussion we need to have.

Back in 2007, I did a book signing at a national battlefield with several other historical fiction authors. Book store personnel affixed a warning to my book stack. It advised potential buyers that my book contained adult content and might not be suitable for children. (Adult content = war violence and one brief love scene.) My initial disappointment at seeing the warning quickly vanished. Adults who read the sign snatched up the book, thumbed through it, and proceeded to the cash register. It was one of my best selling days ever.

Historically, restrictions on any products often have the effect of increasing demand for them. I'm not surprised that you've sold so well at B&N. Best of luck.

Suzanne Adair

Joe Konrath said...

Otherwise it's just a lot of handwringing.

Every revolution begins with handwringing.

Action happens when people have had enough.

I'm far too pleased with what Amazon is doing right than unhappy with what they're doing wrong.

But I said the same thing about traditional publishing for most of my career. ;)

Tara Maya said...

@ Suzanne,

Your story made me chuckle.

A similar ruckus has just made Etsy pull a vendor's material.

Tara Maya
get a free novel

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed what happened to the author of the book on how to be a nicer sex offender? A copy was bought by a deputy in Polk County Florida and he has been arrested and charged with obscenity.

I think it's probable Sheriff election grandstanding. I can't think of any other reason why a law enforcement official in Florida would want to import more sex offender problems to Florida-- the author lived in Pueblo.

But this sort of thing can and does happen.

Scath said...

@MeiLin Miranda, that's ridiculous.

Sixteen, in fact, fifteen! is the age of consent in some states. In the past, the age of consent in some states has been as low as 12.

Not to mention, children as young as 10-11 were routinely married off to secure political alliances and money in medieval times.

Anyone who doesn't believe that children as young as 12 or so today aren't experimenting with sex has their head in the sand.

Sex is a fact of life, it pervades our society in subtle and not-subtle forms, and curiosity about it has nothing to do with a certain age.

Considering your character was in a fantasy setting, it just boggles my mind that anyone would call you a pedophile because he had sex at 16.

What boggles my mind even more is that people will get so upset over what imaginary characters do.

They're not real. They're figments of imagination. Give me a freaking break!

@Selena Kitt

I'm personally glad that you're seeing such sales at B&N after having those titles banned by Amazon.

I read Flowers in the Attic when I was 14 or so. Reading it certainly never made me want to go jump one of my brothers' bones. I mean, EWWW!

Incest/pedophilia doesn't float my personal boat, but then again, if it's consensual and no one's being forced/harmed, I don't believe it's any of my business either.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't whoop somebody's butt if he went after my 12 yr old daughter. I would, with a vengeance. =)

Censorship is an ugly animal, especially when welded by people who claim to be calling for it for the good of all. Or good of the innocent.

All of this sanitizing of classics has made me nauseous. I didn't even remember the N word (check me being politically correct, LOL) was used in Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Didn't remember the word 'faggot' being in Money for Nothing - and I've listened to that song thousands of times over the years.

At the time classics were written, that was the commonly used word for slaves.

Slavery was/is a vile practice. I'm pretty sure everyone can agree on that. I think the usage of the N word just socks that point home, and removing it causes a loss of the vileness of such a practice.

But of course, your particular situation does boil down to the fact that Amazon doesn't clearly state its acceptable content guidelines, and failed to respond to your questions with clear answers, or any answers at all.

That's not good business behavior. Clearness and consistancy are key factors in maintaining a good working relationship between business partners.

Content providers give them something of value that Amazon can make money from. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

Failure to treat their content providers with some modicrum of respect is a bad business decision.

But then again, we're talking about Amazon here. Even when they handle something badly, they continue to grow.

Until they get their hand slapped, and slapped hard, they'll continue on their merry way.

Justin said...

"Sixteen, in fact, fifteen! is the age of consent in some states. "

Most states, in fact, have an age of consent of less than 18 - 16 is the most common. Only 12 states have 18 as the age of consent.

The various laws about sexual acts tend to have fairly random age limits, though.

Selena Kitt said...

If writers are truly concerned, form a group and threaten Amazon with a boycott. Go to the mat over it. Otherwise it's just a lot of handwringing.

That's one way to handle it. It's not the only way, or even the "right" way.

I think there's one other thing that bothers me. These books are clearly commercial products. The work that went into them was much more about making something that will sell than about artistic expression. All Amazon is doing is reacting like a commercial company. They worry about their reputation, about negative publicity, etc. They are certainly not trying to censor artistic expression because that's not what is going on here. This is erotica, a nice word for porn. It's not Nabokov writing Lolita.

This statement is just bait. I'm not going to take it, sorry. I have plenty of fans and know many, many erotica readers who would adamantly disagree with you.

Amos Keppler said...

All publicity is good publicity

Coolkayaker1 said...

Your experience, Selena, is a vivid example of two concepts: (1) Censorship, like it or not, reigns in USA (you’ve given many clear examples, including Wal-mart), and the individual is essentially powerless—even in a legal forum—to stop it. Like racism, death and taxes, it’s one of those things we just have to take a big deep gulp and accept. Any arguments for first amendment right to write on any subject matter are quickly countered by first amendment right for a store owner to not sell what he feels is offensive. (2) The existence and survival of multiple publishing and book distribution platforms (traditional print, big box stores, mom and pop bookshops, e-books, all of it) helps the author. It is in no way harmful. Without the “old school” ways of publishing, which are admittedly “on the ropes” now, the author will have absolutely no choice but to accept the censorship and eventual low author payments. That’s right—wait until Amazon is the only game in town for all things published: authors can get ready for payout percentages dropping from 70% to 20% , slowly, like the death of a witch being stoned in Salem.

Your blog article presages the inevitable , and I thank you for flicking on the flashing red “warning” sign, Selena.

Hope Welsh said...

"Incest/pedophilia doesn't float my personal boat, but then again, if it's consensual and no one's being forced/harmed, I don't believe it's any of my business either."

I was pretty much on board til I got to this paragraph.

Pedophilia DOES harm--and it's everyone's business. Protecting those with no voice--children--has to be the concern of all adults.

bowerbird said...

all you people saying that
"amazon has the right
to decide what they sell"
need to be reminded that
we have the right to _yell_
if we don't like the decision.
so no, we won't be quiet...
this is pressure-politics and
both sides can play the game.
deal with it.

all you people saying that
"amazon must be consistent",
watch out what you wish for.
it's _much_ better for them to
be "inconsistent" and remove
the occasional book that gets
complained about rather than
_every_other_ "similar" book,
now and forever more. really.
deal with it.

all you people saying that
"it's a good thing that we
now have multiple vendors"
are just fooling yourselves.
every one of these retailers
is a huge corporation that
will act exactly like amazon,
once they get complaints,
and they will get complaints,
from the same small minds.
deal with it.

all you people saying that
"americans are prudish"
are totally correct, of course.
but let us also remember
that lots of children were
_victims_of_sexual_abuse_
by members of their own
family and/or household,
and now carry deep scars,
so they will react to stories
about incest in a way that
will never be fully rational.
and we cannot blame them;
that'd add insult to injury;
so we have to understand.
deal with it.

there are no easy answers...
these are difficult questions,
with lots of conflicting forces.
deal with it.

there is, however, one thing
you can do that will help you
to better ensure your future,
and that is to get your fans
to come _directly_ to you,
instead of going through
those middlemen retailers...
how many of you are now
offering incentives, so as to
encourage fans to do that?
too few of you, as far as i see.
you need to make it happen.
do that work to _guarantee_
you are not at the mercy of
others who care not for you.

why are you giving amazon
1/3 of your money anyway?

-bowerbird

Scath said...

@Hope

Allow me to clarify (and remind me to read my comments over more than twice before posting).


I believe true pedophilia to be harmful, because it seems to begin when the child is very young and has no frame of reference to make any decisions - not that m/any are actually given choice.

But I do know of cases where men have been tagged pedophiles and forced to register as sex offenders due to a girl lying about her age and having consensual sex with them.

A fifteen year old who looks & behaves older, hanging out in a place where IDs are required, that agrees to have sex with a 21 year old isn't being harmed.

If the 21 yr old is then accused of rape or whatever by the 15 year old, or her parents who are horrified that their daughter is sexually active, and has his life pretty much destroyed over a mistake, then he's the victim, though society will see him as a pedophile.

Which is why some states allow 'Mistake of Age' defenses.

But a pair with a couple of years difference in age, having consensual sex even though one is under the age of consent; the older half is technically a pedophile - but they're not harming each other.

That's why some states have Age Gap clauses.

And that type of relationship is none of my business.

Hope Welsh said...

@bowerbird We give Amazon 30% because we know that the people that have that awesome new Kindle or Nook or Sony or iPad aren't going to go look for "Hope Welsh", they are going to go to Amazon, and B&N and type in "paranormal romance"

Selena Kitt said...

We give Amazon 30% because we know that the people that have that awesome new Kindle or Nook or Sony or iPad aren't going to go look for "Hope Welsh", they are going to go to Amazon, and B&N and type in "paranormal romance"

Yep. And Bowerbird makes it sound easier than it is. I get 100% of the sales from my site. But I only sell about $3000 a quarter directly. Which is a nice little supplemental income, but not enough for my family to live on. I would LOVE to sell the volume of books I do directly from my own site, sure. I just don't have the traffic Amazon has, and no amount of incentives is going to gain me that kind of audience. So I'll give Amazon 1/3 of my income to get that audience, because it's financially worth it. Heck, up until last month, I was giving Amazon 65% of my income and it was STILL worth it.

asrai said...

@Bowerbird
Most people are too lazy to go out and search for new fiction. They would rather go to amazon and have it reccommended to them at the bottom of the page for each item they look at. It's even better if you can get on the kindle ranking pages.

One of the worst things I've ever written is given away for free on smashwords and has FAR more downloads then my better written, better edited 1.99 title. I bet more than half of those downloads are never read.

Most of my sales from Amazon and people who buy on a whim.

People are lazy and cheap.

How do I market to people who aren't looking outside amazon? People who want their fiction fed to them.

They might find me on amazon THEN look elsewhere for me.

I bet if Amazon shut down tomorrow a lot of people would just stop reading. At least for a time, because they got used to having amazon on demand and fed to them.

It doesn't matter how many promotions I run if no one has ever heard of me and can't see me. Becuase Amazon is the best way for a new author to get seen.

wannabuy said...

@asrai:"People are lazy and cheap. "

And time is money.

For any alternate site to have the impact of Amazon/B&N they need a believable system of ranking and reviews. I've posted before how I was burned by pre-buying in 2010.

e.g., one of my new 'favorite Indie authors' took an 'agenda tangent' with his #3 book on Kindle. The reviews paid off.

Neil

Guy Dragon said...

What is an agenda tangent?

author Scott Nicholson said...

Selena, I would suspect Amazon is constantly adjusting policies and procedures. In fact, they clearly are. Sometimes it will be a policy change brought by internal efficiencies, other times by market decisions (such as threat of boycott by a powerful group?) or even a decision of convenience--"Would I rather be continually pestered by a small, rabid group complaining about incest erotica or would I rather lose some spare change (to me) by dropping a few books?"

It's easy to foresee how no one can foresee all the issues of throwing open a wide publishing gate for everybody with an idea. Would they publish Mein Kampf today if it were a living document inspiring a movement actively leading to genocide rather than a piece of history? Would it be "responsible" of them to do so?

Those are tough choices, and Amazon is not a government, and smart businesses (and writers) are constantly adjusting to deal with reality instead of ideals.

Scott Nicholson
http://www.hauntedcomputer.com

bowerbird said...

hope said:
> We give Amazon 30% because
> we know that the people that
> have that awesome new Kindle
> or Nook or Sony or iPad
> aren't going to go look for
> "Hope Welsh", they are going
> to go to Amazon, and B&N and
> type in "paranormal romance"

those are _amazon_customers_.
so it's only fair that amazon gets
30% of the take if you're gonna
use _their_ customers like that.

i'm talking about _your_fans_.

people who know they like you,
and look specifically for you, yet
buy your book from amazon, so
amazon still takes a 30% cut...

why are you letting that happen?

***

selena said:
> Bowerbird makes it sound
> easier than it is.

if you look back at my comment,
you'll see i specifically called it
"work", so i'm under no illusions
it is "easy". on the other hand,
though, it's not all that difficult.

if you look back at my comment,
you'll see i suggest incentives...

it's simple to give fans something
a little "extra" for coming direct.
it's a reward for being your fan!
it's "pay" for connecting directly;
make it worth their while to go
out of their way just a little bit.

and no, of course you'll _never_
get as many fans as amazon has.
you'll always have to stay there,
to make use of their customers,
and convert them into your fans.

but paying a 30% surcharge on
sales where you could get 100%,
where your fans would _rather_
have you receive all the money
and _not_ split it with amazon,
well, that's just bad business...

and when, on top of all of that,
you start _complaining_ about
the way that amazon treats you,
well, i hope you will understand
if i don't have much sympathy...

just obtain your independence.

***

asrai said:
> Most people are too lazy to go
> out and search for new fiction.

go shmoe with "most people"...
i'm talking about _your_fans_,
and your not _rewarding_ 'em.

you're the ones being lazy here,
letting amazon do all the work;
then you whine when amazon
protects its business interests,
and it affects you adversely...

that's what you get for being
dependent on someone bigger.

make your fans offers that are
too good for them to refuse...

-bowerbird

Selena Kitt said...

but paying a 30% surcharge on sales where you could get 100%, where your fans would _rather_ have you receive all the money and _not_ split it with amazon, well, that's just bad business...

Not necessarily. You're forgetting about rankings on Amazon. The higher your ranking, the more visibility, the more "new" people who aren't fans (yet) find you. So if your fan base buys your book from Amazon and shoots it up in the rankings, more people are going to find you there than on your own site.

Once you get enough fans, this equation ceases to matter. But when you have THAT many fans, you probably already have a gazillion dollar deal with one of the big six ala Stephen King or Nora Roberts and you don't care anyway.

and when, on top of all of that, you start _complaining_ about the way that amazon treats you, well, i hope you will understand if i don't have much sympathy...

I don't care if I have your sympathy, but I do expect a company to treat its customers and vendors professionally, and if they don't, those customers and vendors have every right to complain.

wannabuy said...

@Guy:"What is an agenda tangent?"

The author has a political viewpoint/agenda that turns the whole novel. Ironically, the author was less direct in the first novel and that book was quite entertaining.

My point was that the reviews on Amazon provide a value. Quite a number of Kindle owners (or Nook) are not likely to buy straight from the author due to the lack of reviews.

Neil

Ellen O'Connell said...

"but paying a 30% surcharge on sales where you could get 100%,"

Perhaps I shouldn't admit this on a blog frequented mostly by authors, since I'm an indie author myself, but I'm going to. As a reader, I don't care how much the author gets out of what I pay. Until I published myself that thought never even crossed my mind.
I want the book I want, and I want to get it easily and at a reasonable price.

So the fact is I'm not going around to a bunch of author websites to get the books I want. I have a Kindle. I go to Amazon. I've passed on free books from authors who had them on their websites in formats I'd have had to make an effort to convert. I've passed on free books when it meant going to some obscure website and it wasn't a book I was dying to read anyway.

The biggest effort I make for books is putting a hold at the library on ones unavailable for the Kindle or that I consider overpriced. I swing by and pick them up when I'm in town.

Maybe I'm unique in this, but I suspect not. The idea that any indie author is going to sell more, as many, or close to as many books on his/her own website as through Amazon strikes me as pie in the sky.

As an author, giving Amazon 30% for access to their site strikes me as a rare bargain.

Ana Buculenciu said...

Selena's site just got hacked!!!

Coolkayaker1 said...

Maybe Jeff Bezos took it down!

Paul Skelding said...

Selena, do you know if the take down was the result of complaints about your titles?

It seems to me that this must have happened and Amazon "caved in" to a minority opinion instead issuing a refund with apology and leaving your titles alone. It wouldn't surprise me if the complaint came from an Amazon exec's family.

bowerbird said...

selena said:
> Not necessarily.
> You're forgetting about
> rankings on Amazon.

that's value that amazon adds...

it's worth something. might even
be worth the 30% they charge,
when added to everything else
they give. but now suddenly the
equation isn't so lopsided, is it?

amazon does _a_lot_ to ensure
that its customers return to it...

are you doing as much to ensure
your customers return to you?

that's what you should consider.


> I do expect a company
> to treat its customers and
> vendors professionally, and
> if they don't, those customers
> and vendors have every right
> to complain.

as i said above, you and i have
"every right to complain", and
nobody's trying to take it away.

and i would submit that if/when
amazon unshelves books because
some of its customers complain,
that _is_ acting "professionally".

i'd further submit that if/when
they decide that they will _only_
unshelve the specific books that
are receiving complaints, _not_
all books that might be "similar",
so as not to give the complaints
more power than they deserve,
that's also a case where amazon
is acting "professionally", even if
the action displeases some of us
as being "inconsistent", because
the world at large is complex...

like someone wise said, it'd be
like arguing with 13-year-olds.

***

ellen said:
> As a reader, I don't care
> how much the author gets
> out of what I pay.

maybe a reader shouldn't care.
that's why amazon is a success.


> I want the book I want,
> and I want to get it easily
> and at a reasonable price.

as do most customers. well-put.
that's why amazon is a success.


> I have a Kindle.
> I go to Amazon.

yet another example of the ways
amazon adds value for readers...


> I've passed on free books
> from authors who
> had them on their websites
> in formats I'd have had to
> make an effort to convert.

what a hassle. amazon solves it.
more added value for customers.


> I've passed on free books
> when it meant going to
> some obscure website
> and it wasn't a book
> I was dying to read anyway.

many readers will pass on that.

so... you have identified here
a number of author-obstacles.

as a reader/customer, you want
things to be _convenient_... ok!
that's why amazon is a success.

but none of that applies to fans.
because fans are _dedicated_...
fans will go to extreme lengths.
that's _why_ we call them "fans",
since "fan" is short for "fanatic".

and i'm talking about _fans_...


> The idea that any indie author
> is going to sell more, as many,
> or close to as many books
> on his/her own website
> as through Amazon
> strikes me as pie in the sky.

well, good, then i am glad i said
you'd never be able to do that...

but if you try, you can sell more
to fans directly, from your site.

because your _fans_ want _you_
to have the money, not amazon.

but i dunno, maybe none of you
_have_ any fans. what a shame.
all those customers, but no fans.
all those readers, but no fans...


> As an author, giving Amazon
> 30% for access to their site
> strikes me as a rare bargain

that's part of this exercise, is to
get you to understand just that.

and to factor it into bellyaching.

-bowerbird

Noel Bodenmiller said...

Joe, hopefully you can make use of the improvements at smashwords: they have lengthened the amount of characters available for describing your books.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, we added that last guideline recently, thanks to Amazon’s ham-handed censorship tactics. We have caved and self-censored in anticipation of Amazon’s rejection of future work."

Why not sell the incest erotica elsewhere, and just not send it to Amazon?

Errol said...

"And when they did transfer my titles, it didn’t work. I lost a considerable amount of rankings due to their technical glitch, and my books dropped from being in the top ten in erotica to the top twenty-five or fifty, and they still haven’t recovered. Ouch."

Selena, this also just happended to me on the 18th January 2011, after Amazon migrated my books from Mobipocket to DTP. Amazon assured me I would not lose my sales rank. Well guess what, I did lose all my e-books sales rank and I'm not happy.

Coolkayaker1 said...

Authors: This post and some of these replies tell the tale: Amazon is the 800 lb gorilla. It's now sitting on some authors, it seems.

But fear not, change is around the corner. When traditional publishing becomes extinct like the woolly mammoth, guess what? The 800 lb gorilla will be the new king of the jungle.

Try not to poke him too much with a stick. He's going to eat all your food, as he'll get hungrier and hungrier. But don't get under his skin or Mr. 800lb gorilla will toss you, the author, around like an organ grinder's monkey. And your livelihood with it.

san diego divorce lawyer said...

I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains wonderful and helpful posts. I have read most of them and got a lot from them. To me, you are doing the great work.

Kenny Chesney Tickets said...

Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also... Big thanks for the

useful info i found on Comentari de categoria nova.


Kenny Chesney Tickets