Sunday, October 13, 2013

Erotica Authors - Amazon Censorship Alert

Well. It seems one of my books has been censored by Amazon.

I received two emails.

The first is this:

Hello,

During our review, we found that the following book(s) is in violation of our 
content guidelines (see list below for details):

Out of the Dungeon (ASIN: B005ZJ4TX0) - Description, Cover Image

If you wish, you may make changes to your book (images, title, description, and 
interior content) to comply with the KDP Content Guidelines and re-submit it for 
publishing.

You can find our content guidelines on the Kindle Direct Publishing website: 
https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I

We’ve set your book to “Draft” status. Upon changing your content, please 
re-submit your book for publishing in order for your book to be made available 
for sale in the Kindle Store.

We appreciate your understanding.

Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com


I made the description MORE squeaky clean than it already was and resubmitted, because the email suggested there was a problem with the description and cover image. (WTF could possibly be wrong with the cover image? It's TAME compared to a lot of books covers).

The second email notifies me that my book will no longer be available from Amazon AT ALL.

Hello,

We’re contacting you regarding the following book(s) that you submitted for sale in our Kindle Store:

B005ZJ4TX0 Out of the Dungeon

During our review process, we found that your book contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines. Our content guidelines apply to the book interior, as well as cover image, title and/or product descriptions. As a result, we will not be offering this book for sale.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. To learn more, please see: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I

Best regards,

Carlos F

Thank you.

Amazon.com


For the record: Out of the Dungeon contains no underage characters, no rape, no kidnapping, no bestiality, no incest, no non-consensual acts whatsoever - well. One character gets hit by a truck, and I guess THAT wasn't consensual...

It's pretty straight-forward mostly gay erotica, with bits of power-exchange, and not even my raciest title. Oh, and Amazon has been selling it since October 25, 2011.

So this is what I'm going to tell you - if you write a sex scene of any kind WHATSOEVER in a book you publish with Amazon, be aware that Amazon can ban your book. And this book? THIS book is really similar to Fifty Shades of Grey, which is Amazon's #1 seller in the erotica category. Except the characters are gay. So... is Amazon homophobic?

What can we do about this?

Please - link to this post, copy and paste, tweet, and re-tweet, whatever you can do to pass this on. This is one of those "big bads" that NEEDS to be publicized. If we ever needed a shit-storm about anything, it's THIS.

Thanks heaps.

~SM


***Update: Amazon has set my book back to "draft" status and states I may edit it to fit content guidelines (still vague and not at all specific) and upload a new file for consideration. There's particular email address for alerting them the new file's been uploaded. Now to figure out exactly what they don't like about my book. This will be the tricky part. This was in response to my questioning my book's "blocked" status via the KDP Author Help area.***

***Final update: 10/16/13 Amazon has reinstated Out of the Dungeon, and it is again for sale at Amazon. It is possible a Real Person reviewed my book and determined that it does not voilate Amazon's content guidelines. I received and email letting me know this, another email when the book went live again, AND a telephone call this morning. I win. I also retract my pondering that Amazon might be homophobic.***

PS - Debbie Bennett, author of Hamelin's Child, Paying the Piper, and Calling the Tune, has a lovely post about what's going on in the UK with WH Smith, and with Kobo, and also offers some thoughts about censorship - should sites like Smashwords and Kobo put some form of gatekeeping in place? Read her post HERE (and check out her books while you're there - Hamelin's Child is one of my favorites!)

13 comments:

  1. Ouch! I have tweeted and fb'd. I'm not sure I understand Amazon's reasoning on this at all... it's not secret that the erotica section contains plenty of strange and beautiful things, I would think this quite tame in comparison?!?!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Others have faced this, but I can't recall who. They got their books reinstated (and I know a great publishing attorney, if you decide that's the route you want to take).

    BUT I'm one of those people who thinks that while Amazon is great and produces a lot of sales, competition is really where it's at. Move this book over to them and promote the heck out of it. Be the change.

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  3. thx for that post. i have many eortica books in the kindle store for the better part of this year now (in german) and all the sudden, amazon starts to send me such messages and already "paused" three books of mine.

    1- the books are not voilaiting anything in my opinion
    2- its random books out of many
    3- amazon does not reply when i ask for explanation
    4- many exact same books keep in the kindle store that are liturally the same

    its just random stupidity,.. what can be done? i am speachless :/

    thomas

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  4. Hi Thomas - I did write to Amazon through their KDP FAQ help menu and complained about my blocked book. They emailed me that it has again been set to "draft" status and I may re-upload after making content changes. WHICH content changes is still completely unclear, as the guidelines are still vague.

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  5. Author Debbie Bennett has a great post on her blog about books being pulled from WH Smith and Kobo. Read it here: http://debbie-bennett.blogspot.com/2013/10/an-indie-ebook-watershed.html

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  6. Hi again, thanks for that link. IT did clarify a bit more.

    On another page i read from a guy that had his book set to draft, but when he resubmittet it was removed from the stores completely. I have one book removed and two set to draft and some of those have been in the store quite a while.

    Its demoralising, but i understand that it needs certain rules. But it seems so random right now, when there is tons and tons of books that are very much alike.

    So i am hesitant to change the books and resubmit them again.

    I hope it works out for you just fine.

    Thomas

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  7. That's exactly what happened to me - set to draft, resubmitted, then set to blocked. Now they've set it to draft again. The problem is, I have no idea what to "fix" to make them accept it again. I'm not willing to change much, to tell you the truth.

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  8. I just read about something just like this on the blog of another author. You would expect that you would get more freedom as an author in this day and age, but I see more and more books that are banned because of 'moral' reasons.... As a reader this saddens me... An author should have the freedom to write what he wants, and I as a reader should get the freedom to read what I want. By deleting a book, someone actually says: what you read or write is wrong. It really makes me sad... And it also seems that they don't really understand themselves what is right and wrong, if you want to delete a book, give a specific reason. I am much more for clear content warnings, that way people can decide for themselves if they want to read books with that content.

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  9. Thanks for the comment, Luciatea. I agree - I should be able to write AND read what I want. The retailer should be able to sell what they want, that's their right, as well - but without clear content guidelines (Our idea of offensive is about what you'd expect) it's impossible for them to be consistent. No Kinky Sex would rule out my book, yes, but should also rule out Fifty Shades (and they'd lose lots of dollars). No gay erotica would be crystal clear, but again, they'd lose lots of dollars across the boards as gay people decided to boycott them. Capitalism sure is interesting, isn't it? Capitalism - based on someone's version of morality until the almighty dollar speaks.

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  10. Happened to me in a very similar way over my book The Chastity Belt (which is still doing fine via Lulu, by the way.) I had a brief dialogue with support and they wouldn't tell me what particular thing was in violation. I've opted to do nothing.

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  11. Hi Giles, well, I did nothing but have a tantrum, and Amazon reinstated my book. It seemed to work. I also did write them via their Author Help area, questioning the book's removal, and comparing it, content-wise, to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Good luck to you - keep writing and keep selling.

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  12. I think we need to form an erotic authors coalition, and look into the feasibility of a class action lawsuit for discrimination. Not sure if it can be done, but I feel like it should be done.

    And another thought for consideration: Did WH Smith or Amazon remove 50 Shades of Grey or any of the other traditionally published erotica/erotic romance?

    Hell no.


    http://www.whsmith.co.uk/search?keywordCategoryId=&keywords=50+Shades+of+grey&results=60&page=1


    This recent media witch-hunt is a blatant attack on self-published erotica. Suspiciously timed for the holiday season book rush.

    I bet if an investigator dug through emails and other records, at the bottom of this media scare and all this posturing by British lawmakers, you might find some major publishers' lobbyist funds being flung around.

    Its way too convenient to have all this self-published erotica removed from the shelves right before the holiday rush. And the only erotica remaining is that from major publishers.

    Any time you want to get to the heart of the matter in these things, follow the trail of money and ask the question: Who benefits from this act?

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  13. I wondered where my blog hits were coming from! Thanks for the mention. All my books are still unavailable at kobo and its subsidiaries, including a YA fantasy in which the most erotic thing is a brief chaste kiss.... go figure.

    What does concern me though is that these sites, and by extension amazon, will start content-filtering based on keywords. I write dark and graphic stuff. It's not erotica but I deal with rape and its aftermath and it isn't pretty. It's essential to the story and my books carry warnings in the product descriptions. I think I've handled it responsibly and sensitively. But keyword searches are going to ping results in my books, and that doesn't seem fair to me.

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