1. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Amazon forcing the removal of all BDSM and explicit Erotica

    Discussion in 'Erotica' started by Bryan Romer, Jun 18, 2014.

    My publisher Fiction4All has notified me that Amazon has pressured them into removing ALL their BDSM and explicit Erotica titles based upon this guideline -

    "Our guidelines state that we do not accept pornography and hardcore material that depict graphic sexual acts."

    Note the second the second part of that statement. No mention of relevance or importance to plot, no consideration of the quality of the book, just "graphic sexual acts".

    Amazon is not "censoring" individual books. Instead they tell the publisher that if the find a single book that they don't approve of, the publisher's account will be canceled and payments suspended, an act for which they do not have to justify or explain.

    I am fairly sure that my publisher is not the only one to be hit or that this the end of Amazon's latest drive to purge their library.

    Of course it remains to be seen if this kind of pressure will be applied to the big publishers too.
     
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  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This is bad stuff. Bad. What's next? Political books they don't agree with?
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Or cross out "political" and fill in the blank with...anything.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    :dry: That takes the indi publisher with whom I've spoken (Loose Id) completely off the Amazon map.

    How Koch-ian this all feels.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The wording is rather broad, but anyone who has ever searched "erotica" in the Kindle store and downloaded a few titles would understand why Amazon is doing this. Many of the titles, especially the free ones, are just plain pornography. I'm referring to "books" that are basically a quickie where guy meets girl (or girl meets girl, or girl meets well-hung minotaur, or guy meets horny werewolf, etc, etc) and the entire "story" is just one sex scene. No plot. No character development. Just a sex scene. IMO, (and, apparently, Amazon's opinion as well,) that isn't erotica.

    I don't know how far they plan to take this. Despite the broad wording, I don't think it will actually extend to banning all works that have sex. That would be incredibly silly on their part. Instead, I think the statement is meant to stand as a whole. Don't just single out the "graphic sexual acts" part. Read the whole thing. It's a pornography ban, plain and simple.

    Now, whether we agree or disagree with banning "pornography," or what that word even means, is an entirely different discussion...
     
  6. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, their action has forced my publisher to remove every one of the BDSM and erotica novels in their catalogue from Amazon, hundreds of books. None of them were free or single sex scenes, and includes books ranging from Erotic Romance to Heavy SM. My books range from 70,000 to 130,000 words in length and range in genre from SF to Historical War and 20 were removed from Amazon today. To dismiss their action as insignificant and "just" a pornography ban is simply insulting to all the authors whose hard work and income are badly affected.

    I reiterate, Amazon is not picking books and removing them. They simply told the publisher to remove all books that do not comply with the quoted guideline or they would withhold payments and cancel their membership. As simple as that. No negotiation, re-submission or review of individual titles. Self censor or be expelled. My publisher obviously could not risk the income of all the authors including the ones writing non-erotic titles, so he complied.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As confirmation to anyone reading this, I just noticed, @Bryan Romer, that your titles I had added to our Amazon portal just the other day are vanished.

    What a kick in the dick. :(

    ETA: It would seem that Loose Id has yet to bow to the pressure, tho. Their listings are still in place.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Bryan Romer - Would it help if we all wrote separately to Amazon to complain about this? Does anybody know of any other publishers who have been affected?

    I just put BDSM into the Amazon UK site, and lots of titles still came up. (And they look fairly ...um ...simplistic.) Have they focused on your particular publisher for some reason?

    I really feel this is NOT on, and would be happy to help, via a letter to the company. However, I think I need a bit more information before I start spouting off.
     
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  9. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Bryan Romer I can't speak to your individual situation, since I don't know what correspondence took place between your publisher and Amazon, but the notion that Amazon is yanking ALL erotica and BDSM from their site makes absolutely no sense. I'll believe it when I see Fifty Shades of Gray disappear from their front page. The guideline you cited has been in place for a long time -- at least a year, to the best of my knowledge, but I've seen instances of erotica writers complaining about Amazon's censorship dating back much farther than that.

    BTW, I never said it was insignificant or implied it was okay. My point was to clarify that I think it's a pornography ban, not a ban to "kill all sex scenes, erotica, and BDSM." The real issue is in defining what they consider pornogrpahy. I doubt Amazon will clarify their definition; for legal reasons, it's in their best interest to keep that term somewhat vague, giving them the freedom and flexibility to use their own discretion.

    Unfortunately, that vagary is what probably led your publisher to wantonly axe any works that contain (in their opinion) the slightest whiff of "pornography and hardcore material that depict graphic sexual acts." In all likelihood, someone probably flagged a work (or multiple works) by your publisher as a violation of the guideline, Amazon caught wind of it and sent a warning, your pub reacted by axing anything they felt put them at risk of a ban, and you got caught in the crossfire.

    I sympathize, but what can you do other than write Amazon and ask for a clarification? Such is the risk of signing with a publisher who has risque material on Amazon. Most online vendors have a similar clause in their guidelines and you tread at your own risk. (Or, in this case, your publisher treads at their and your risk, because if they publish something that gets them banned, your books go bye bye too.) I'm not saying it's right or wrong, just trying to gain a wider perspective on the issue.
     
  10. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The wider perspective is that each book submitted to Amazon by my publisher already complied with a set of publishing guidelines issued by Amazon, and each book was approved by Amazon for publication. Any subsequent complaints about a particular book resulted in the book being removed by the publisher. The fact is that Amazon has been constantly and arbitrarily moving the goalposts regarding what is acceptable.

    As for choice of publisher, I would never choose a publisher who would NOT accept any story that was not illegal by definition. I believe in the freedom of people to read whatever they want, and every act such as this one by Amazon only narrows the choice of material available to everyone by one more degree. Since there is no absolute legal definition of "pornography" or "obscenity" the only way Amazon could be absolutely safe from complaint would be to ban any explicit description of sex.

    It is already the natural tendency of businessmen to take as little unnecessary risk as possible. It is up to the buyers to ensure that this does not result in a world where only cook books and nursery rhymes are left on the bookshelves. We must constantly push back or we will ultimately be pushed down and buried.

    There is no inherent right to not be offended. If a book doesn't suit you, don't read it. Any other approach is tyranny.
     
  11. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, the fact is that the guideline has been in place for a long time. The problem isn't that the goalposts are moving, it's that we don't know where they stand in the first place. "Pornography" is a subjective word, so if you put your material on a site that clearly says it doesn't support "pornography," you can expect to be at the whim of their subjective interpretation of that word.

    I should remind you Amazon didn't remove your works, your publisher did, out of fear that Amazon would ban the publisher. Amazon merely reminded them of what the guidelines say. Your best course of action would be to seek a clarification of what is and is not acceptable from Amazon, so you can make a case to your pub for why your books should be put back up.

    Trying to make a case for why Amazon is wrong and should put anything you want on their site is, IMO, the wong way to go and is in line with the very tyranny you claim to oppose. This isn't a public library. They have a right to support or not support anything they desire and who are you to take away that right?

    Your publisher threw in the white flag. Either find a publisher with a backbone or self-pub if you really want to fight that kind of battle.
     
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  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A publisher who declines to publish my work isn't banning my work, and no reasonable person would argue that they don't have the right to publish what they choose. Similarly, Amazon isn't banning anything, they are just saying that there are certain kinds of works they don't want to sell. Moreover, they are putting the onus on the publishing houses to police their own submissions to Amazon so that Amazon doesn't have to. They do not and cannot dictate to other distribution channels what (or whose) work they sell.

    The issue here is the sheer size and reach of Amazon. From the consumer's perspective, they are accessible, nearly universal, competitively priced and extremely responsive to consumer complaints. I haven't seen any data, but they must occupy a huge portion of the internet market. So, what would seem like a simple, reasonable choice in a mom & pop store takes on a much different tone when magnified to this proportion.
     
  13. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    So how will this affect little old me who will self-publish electronically?
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It means that if it's something that Amazon would consider pornography, you won't be able to self-publish it on Amazon.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's just :rant: I see Marquis de Sade and 'Fifty shades of Grey' are still on their books... All the call girl 'diaries' etc. Double standards, these guidelines won't be aimed at big money earners to be sure.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Naturally. The fact that they sell means the public accepts them. What they do not want to sell are items that might repulse customers. It is a business decision, period.
     
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  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And there's a part of me that feels there is some merit in this statement. I keep checking (by publisher) books published by Loose Id on Amazon (my hope has always been that Loose Id picks me up) and nothing has changed or moved in their listings. Loose Id doesn't seem to be budging, but Loose Id is a big indi-house for erotica. BIG. they don't do anything else but erotica and I've purchased many of their titles. The work is explicit. Fiction4All's footprint in Amazon is very small by comparison. From a purely business perspective, I can see why they might have flinched and toed the line so quickly.
     
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  18. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    *slaps forehead*
     

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