This is a follow up to yesterday’s post and a response to some of the comments I received.
Let me begin with a personal observation. In my latest novel, Cannibal Hearts, I have a scene in which I describe, explicitly, a consensual sexual encounter between a male human and a semi-human who has both male and female sex organs (as well as appendages that humans don’t have.)
Is it an erotic scene? It wasn’t to me when I was writing it, but for complex narrative reasons I decided that it was important to the story to include details. Others might find it erotic. Objectively it is an explicit description of sex. It is definitely bizarre, not strictly heterosexual, and might be considered bestiality, since one of the persons involved isn’t fully human. (She’s partially plant, which I figures puts me well past the folks who do the werewolf/human thing.)
At the moment both of my books are listed as “draft” status on Amazon, which means, I believe, that they are under review. (It seems that Amazon is reviewing all of the self-published works.) That means that it is very possible that the scene in question may cause the book to be flagged for removal. If that happens, would I be willing to remove chapter twenty-four in order to keep my book up on Amazon?
In a heartbeat. I said the scene was important, not vital. I would have no problems cutting to a line of asterisks when the couple gets close to the bedroom and picking up the next morning. I believe that I have written enough chemistry into the characters that my readers can imagine the scene themselves.
Honestly, I don’t think that is going to happen. It’s one scene towards the end of the book, and as far as the descriptive language is concerned it’s rather dry and clinical. (I was more embarrassed than anything else when writing it. For someone whose sexual history is as checkered as mine, I tend to be a real prude verbally.)
The point is that by submitting my book to their platform, I agree to abide by their rules. I don’t have to agree with their rules, or understand the reasoning behind them, just obey them. Amazon doesn’t have to know why I wrote that scene, or how I felt about including it, all they have to do is make the call–do we want this up on our site or not?
It’s their site, their sandbox, and they get to make the rules.
They also get to enforce the rules. In an ideal universe, the rules would be enforced objectively, considering the work alone, and apply the precise same principles to every book in their catalog.
If anyone out there is under the impression that we live in an ideal universe, message me. I’ve got a couple of bridges that I can give you a great deal on.
Rules are enforced by individuals. I will give long odds that Jeff Bezos is not going to be the one reading my books. (Although I’d be happy to comp him copies if he’ll review them.) The procedure may be completely automated, or maybe there is an army of editors frantically skimming every single book. (And you thought your job was bad?) Maybe my book will get flagged by someone who happens to be personally squicked out by the scene. Maybe the editor who is skimming my books is in competition with the editor in the cubical next door and decides to flag my book just to keep up.
Who knows? The point is that the rules are not going to be enforced fairly. Life isn’t fair, and business less so.
This is why it does no good whatsoever to point out that Laurel K. Hamilton, for example, gets away with describing Anita Blake having a threesome with a ghoul and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. (I don’t know if that particular scene actually happened, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised.) Their sandbox, their rules, and they get to make exceptions for some and not for others. We can either play nice or we take our toys and go home.
It is counterproductive to publicly argue against the decisions made by e-book retailers. We may privately rant and rave (I know I do) but posting it isn’t productive and it isn’t professional. Talking about Freedom Of Speech and Censorship and other irrelevancies simply helps to perpetuate the myth that all self-published authors are amateurs who are not worthy of respect.
This is a business, not a town hall meeting.
I don’t have a problem with writers who write erotica, or sell erotica. I have a problem with writers who break the rules in order to do so.
Maybe the author of Daddy’s Rape Party had the best intentions in the world. He could have been brooding about the social decay caused by youth of America failing to heed the wisdom of their elders and decided to address the issue by penning an inspiring tale of a young girl who, under the firm hand of a strict yet caring older man, turned from her wicked ways and learned the joy of submission to her step-father and her step-father’s bowling team and her step-father’s dog. I can’t say he didn’t. I don’t read minds.
His intentions are irrelevant. The fact is that Amazon doesn’t want that sort of book on their site and the author went ahead and posted it anyway. Maybe he didn’t read the rules, or maybe he read them and didn’t think that they applied to him because his work had a socially relevant message.
I think it’s most likely that he figured he wouldn’t get caught for a while and could make some quick money, but again, I don’t read minds.
That author is not our friend. That author is not a lonely genius fighting for the integrity of art against an oppressive regime. That author is an asshole who is going to get us all in trouble.
I understand that there are gray areas. I know that there are authors who post work that they consider romance or fantasy or whatever that gets flagged as inappropriate for a particular site. As I’ve said above, I may end up being one of them. That’s simply a risk we take when posting work to a site that someone else controls.
There are also areas that are not at all gray. Step-Daughter Craves Daddy’s Cock is not a romance book, people. Yes, there is a market for it, and for all I know it may be a very well written book. But I am not going to support the author who posts it to a site where it is specifically forbidden, and I am going to do everything in my power to distance myself from that author.
If that author chooses to post his e-book to a venue that accepts explicit erotica, I have no problems supporting him in doing so. I have friends in the adult entertainment industry, and, in fact, I have attended Internext in Las Vegas. Twice.
But, you know, I don’t think Amazon was there. I don’t believe that mainstream e-book retailers want to be associated with the adult entertainment market, and I believe that we, as self-published authors, should support their decision.
That’s just good business.