Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Excitica - New Erotica/Romance Storefront - Selena Kitt

EXCITICA

exciticalogo
exciticascreenshotNOV2014

After a rocky start in March of 2014, we've now opened our doors again with a fully functioning web site that will become THE home for erotica and erotic romance!

EXCITICA is run by Selena Kitt (that's me!) New York Times bestselling and award winning author of erotica and erotic romance fiction with over one million authored books sold. She has run her own publishing company at eXcessica for six years and has been one of the most vocal authors against the corporate censorship of erotica. She has developed eXcitica to create a home for erotic works of all flavors.

EXCITICA like the rest of the distributors, still doesn't allow underage sex, bestiality (although shifters are fine, even sex in shifter form!) or necrophilia (vampires excepted!) but we do allow many of the things the other distributors don't, like incest, pseudoincest and nonconsent.

What does EXCITICA do for erotica and erotic romance authors?
First and foremost, we give you 60% of your profits! W00T! Cha-Ching! Secondly, with Selena Kitt's brand and name behind it, EXCITICA will soon be known far and wide as the place to go for HOT reading!

Small Publishers: You are welcome! We have room for your entire catalog and the uploading interface is simple!

Taboo writers: EXCITICA is home for you! EXCITICA will be known among readers as the place to go for the books they can't find anywhere else. Like yours!

Erotica writers: Even if you publish "just vanilla" erotica (and we all know that's still HOT!) EXCITICA will be your home too! Readers who read taboo don't JUST read taboo erotica and your books will be there to discover when they want something a little bit different!

Erotic/Romance writers: No one can live on taboo alone - and if you are an author paying attention to the market, you know that dark erotica readers don't just read taboo and dark erotica - they read romance too. A lot of it! And they're going to like yours! And if you write dark erotic romance? (And we all know how hot that genre is right now!) You've found your real home with EXCITICA!

What does EXCITICA do for readers?
One of the biggest problems with erotica at the big distributors is categorization. Some have none at all. Amazon, the largest distributor of ebooks, added a few token categories to erotica - two years after Fifty Shades of Grey was first published! It's hard to find the erotica you want on the big distributors (especially since places like Amazon often go out of their way to actually hide it from you, using the ADULT filter on certain titles!) and it's even harder if you're looking for anything out of the ordinary or taboo.

That's one of the things EXCITICA has strived to do - categorize things for readers (and writers) so that every fetish, every niche, has a place and can be found. The better a writer categorizes their work, the easier time a reader will have of finding it. From incest to pseudo incest, to cuckold to dubcon, to gangbang, pregnant, or creatures, EXCITICA has categorized it ALL! And if you write it or read it and you don't see it? Contact us, we'll add it!

Am I worried about EXCITICA being censored or shut down?
Only mildly. Of course, writing in the genre has its risks. I think we all know that, and it's been proven over and over as the corporate jackboot of censorship has come down harder and harder on our necks.

But my goal in creating EXCITICA was to give all erotica, in all its different flavors, a real home. A SAFE home. A place where almost everything was welcome, and readers nor writers would feel ashamed about it. To do that, I had to be sure that we wouldn't go through any more drama like we did during the Paypal fiasco.

But the good news is that, since Visa clarified its position about paying for the WRITTEN WORD when it comes to erotica (and Paypal reversed its decision not to pay for "certain" type of fiction) Paypal has nothing to fear, and neither do we. EXCITICA will accept Paypal - and Paypal has publicly stated they are fine paying for any and all erotica that doesn't have nudity inside the ebook.

That means EXCITICA does have a few tiny rules:
  • We do not publish picture books of erotica. Graphic novels and comics are welcome, but photographic stories inside ebooks are not.
  • We do not publish bestiality (shapeshifters are fine) necrophilia (unless you count vampires) or underage sex.
  • No sexually active characters under the age of 18. References to past relationships and sex before the age of 18 is fine, but no detailed sexual content with characters under the age of consent in the U.S, is allowed. We require that your work have an legal age disclaimer stating that all characters are above the age of 18.
What do I need to do to get my book on EXCITICA?

You should be approved right away and you can start uploading your books!

NOTE: We are in a soft launch right now - we're still working out a few bugs here and there, taking feedback from authors and readers alike. We won't fully launch (with big time advertising, contests and all that exciting stuff!) until the beginning of the new year. But we DO want to hear from you, so please contact us if you have any feedback for us!

And we would LOVE it if you'd check out all our social media profiles, "like" us and spread the word! And if you want to keep up with what we're doing?

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST!
We will be advertising new books and giving away free stuff!
Selena Kitt 
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hachette Authors Cry Censorship - Welcome to My World!

92583Hachette authors are crying "censorship!" 

Ursula K. Le Guin has been quoted as saying, "We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, 'disappearing’ an author." 

 Welcome to my world, Ms. Le Guin. Were you among the authors who, years ago when Amazon started banning erotica, slapping on the adult filter, making it generally difficult to find, who said, "Hey, listen, you whiners! Amazon is a corporation! Amazon can do what they want! It's THEIR store! If they don't want this filth on their site, then more power to them!" I hope you weren't. Because that would make you an awful hypocrite right now. 

And honestly, Ms. Le Guin, you haven't seen anything yet. You have NO idea what Amazon can do to you and your book(s) to kill your sales. You're only getting a tiny little taste of what's possible. You should see what it's like from over here, in the erotica red light district, where we're stomped on daily, for no reason whatsoever. Our books our disappeared, our accounts are blocked and banned. Have you ever been making $30,000 a month on Amazon, only to see that dry up practically overnight? I know erotica authors this has happened to. Have you ever released a book, had it hit Amazon's top 10, only to have it blocked, with no reason given other than it violates some vague Amazon guideline? I know erotica authors who have had to deal with that too. 

 Honestly, Ms. Le Guin, and all the rest of the Hachette authors, I get it. It royally sucks when Amazon decides to bring its jackboot down on your neck. I've been there, done that - have been doing it for the past five years, thank you very much. This is why I cried "censorship!" back then. This is why I tried to get other authors to rally around erotica authors and their books. But do you know what I got? Crickets. Either that, or I heard, "Stop whining, Amazon is a corporation and can do what they want! It isn't censorship unless the government is doing it, so shut up!" 

Well guess what? Here it is, five years later, and Amazon is now turning the tables on traditionally published authors. They're taking away all the fancy bells and whistles you're used to getting because you publish with legacy. Trust me when I tell you that I'm tempted to just laugh in your face. Or to say, "I told you so!" But I know what that's like. I know what it's like to be beaten down time and again, with no recourse, no way to fight back. You can make all the petitions you like. You can even get Stephen King and James Patterson to appeal to the mass media. But you aren't going to win. 

 How do I know? Because I've lived under Amazon's regime and have been subject to their thug tactics a lot longer than you have. 

The reality of this fight is that Hachette is going to have to adapt or die. And I'm afraid they're heading for the latter. Instead of screaming at Amazon - which isn't going to do you any good and is only going to make you hoarse - I am going to tell you, from a very long, arduous experience with Amazon's stronghold on the market, that you'd better do the same, authors. Adapt or die. 

Erotic writers have had to do a LOT of adapting in the past five years, and I imagine we'll have to do a lot more in the future. But that's part of the business. We're used to it. We know that Amazon is a retailer, they're out to make money, and we're simply a means to their end. And the fact is, we're replaceable. And, Ms. Le Guin (and all the other Hachette authors) SO. ARE. YOU. 

 Don't think for a minute that because you've sold X amount of books, Amazon cares about you. In the end, you're expendable, and if you (or your publishing company) don't want to sell books to Amazon on Amazon's terms, well - there are plenty of authors lined up behind you who will. Books aren't "special" simply because they're books. And you aren't special simply because you write them. 

Trust me when I tell you that there are plenty of talented people in the world who can write books. And many of them are leaner, hungrier and smarter than you are. Many of them have already begun self-publishing and making a name for themselves as the higher echeleon of legacy publishing crumbles. 

So my advice to you, Hachette authors, coming from someone who has had Amazon's hand around my throat more than once -- is adapt or die. You can cry censorship all you like - I have, and will continue to do so. You can stomp your foot and say, "It's not fair!" And you're right, it isn't. But life isn't fair. That's one of the first things we learn, right? Complaining about Amazon's tactics, signing petitions, it's all well and good, but it's not going to change anything. 

The fact remains that the face of publishing is changing. The writing is on the wall - and it's about time you started reading it and paying attention to it, instead of trying to run from it. Adapt or die, authors. Your
mommy
publisher isn't going to do it for you.  



Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget
www.selenakitt.com
LATEST RELEASE: Highland Wolf Pact
180+ Amazon Reviews - 4.8 Stars!
  highlandwolfpactMED

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Amazon's Continued Double Standard - About What You'd Expect

If you're an erotica writer, you know that Amazon has a double standard. If you publish a title and put it into the "erotica" category, there are certain things that aren't allowed in the title or on blurb. But if you put that same title and blurb into the "romance" category, it's fine. Half-naked couples in a hot, torrid embrace are just fine in romance, but strangely, in the erotica category, they're often filtered and sometimes even blocked. Earlier this year, I posted the double standard about covers, comparing my cover with Mia Sheridan's, both with what we call "Hand-Bras" (i.e. hands covering breasts). Mia's cover was allowed in the romance category, but mine wasn't allowed in the erotica category.

It seems strange that the "dirtier" covers, blurbs and titles are allowed in romance, but not in erotica. You'd think erotica is where those types of things would be located. I mean, isn't that where the adults are looking for more adult reading fare? It seems a little backwards to me to allow STEPBROTHER DEAREST in the New Adult/College Romance category, but Amazon banned, blocked and ADULT filtered every title I had with the mention of a family relation. They absolutely killed my sales of these books, forced me to change not only titles, but blurbs, take out ANY reference to a family name (we had to resort to phrasing like "man of the house" and "mother's new husband" when referring to a stepfather, for example) and even pay to have covers changed to match the newly stripped titles.

After all that drama and work, after bending over backwards to comply with Amazon's crazy, ever-changing rules in self-publishing erotica on their site, now a title like "STEPBROTHER DEAREST" appears and hits #2 on the Amazon charts.

The irony is, if Amazon wasn't gaming the system, I'd have books hitting #2 too. Easily. If readers were actually able to find our books, if they weren't pushed down the ranks, hidden with filters, constantly beaten down by Amazon's efforts, erotica writers would be able to have that same success. When Amazon's top lists started filling with erotic titles and books, they started making new "rules" about what they would and wouldn't allow. Of course, as you know, Amazon never tells us those rules. They continue to simply say, "We don't allow pornography or obscene material" (they clearly do) and they define that as, "About what you'd expect." Right. So helpful.

I don't begrudge Ms. Ward her success. I'm glad her book is doing well - I hope she makes a million dollars. Honestly. Go buy her book - I did. I read it, I enjoyed it. It's a romance between a girl and her estranged stepbrother. But let's call a spade a spade. This book is, in effect, what we in the erotica industry have labeled, "pseudoincest." It is a relationship not unlike anything I've written about myself when exploring "pseudoincest." It's a taboo relationship, on the fringes of what is acceptable in polite society. Woody Allen had a relationship with his stepdaughter. He wasn't charged or arrested for that, but it was certainly taboo.

People like taboo subjects. They're fascinating and intriguing, and when relationships push the boundaries between "right" and "wrong," we're interested. That's one of the reasons Ms. Ward's book is selling so well. With a title like, "STEPBROTHER DEAREST," she knew she was pushing some hot buttons. And good for her! She found a niche and capitalized on it.

But what about all the other pseudoincest books? We can't even SAY the word "stepbrother." Not in our descriptions, and certainly not in our titles! We have been slammed again and again by Amazon for using family-relation words and have learned to be good little writers, if we want to continue to play in Amazon's pool.

But then a book like this comes out and it rankles me. Not the book itself--what I'm angry about is Amazon's double standard. Penelope Ward can write pseudoincest, put it in romance, call it "STEPBROTHER DEAREST," and make it to #2 in the store. But I can't do that, at least not in erotica. In fact, if *I* published that book - same story, same title, same cover - and I put it in romance, Amazon wouldn't just ADULT filter it, they'd block it. A book by Selena Kitt (even if it contained the exact same material) is already marked. I've been labeled. I would have to create a whole new pen name (and likely a new account) to get away with what Penelope Ward is getting away with right now.

Of course, that's like starting from zero, and Amazon knows it. I can no longer capitalize on my own brand. Amazon has tied my hands, bound and gagged me,  and thrown nipple clamps on for good measure.

Ouch. The hypocrisy is stunning. And their stranglehold on the market gives us all no choice except to comply. Theirs is slowly, inevitably becoming the only game in town.

I've been in this business since 2006 and I suppose Amazon's continuing double standard shouldn't be surprising. It's about what you'd expect.

As erotica writers, we continue to change and adapt. We've all self-censored to the point of insanity. We now have all sorts of different phrases for things that are no longer allowed on Amazon. We can't say daughter anyore (or even stepdaughter) so we say, "Brat" or "Princess." We can't say stepfather, so we say "Man of the House." We can't say incest, or even psuedoincest, so we say "Taboo." We can't say cheerleader (really, we can't say cheerleader? yep...) so we say "Spirit Squad." Penelope Ward has no such restrictions. She can publish a title like STEPBROTHER DEAREST without the fear of Amazon's backlash.

I'd love to live in a world where I could do that too. But I don't. I live in a world where I get "just about what you'd expect..." Thanks, Amazon.

Let's take a best guess at what Amazon is attempting to do. I'm going to say, on the high road, what they're trying to do is "protect the children" from sensitive topic. On the low road, they're trying to protect the sales of their upstanding, vocal, moral minority by keeping the smut from their innocent, adult eyes. The irony is, Amazon's policies are pushing taboo topics OUT of erotica, into the mainstream! Instead of finding those topics only in erotica, people can now find them all over in romance. Subjects previously only tackled by erotica writers - taboo, pseudoincest, dubious/nonconsent/rape, monster sex - it's all finding its way into Romance instead of saying in Erotica. Way to go, Amazon! You've accomplished the exact opposite effect you were looking for.

So instead of "Daddy's Favorites: Anna," I have to title my work, "Little Brats: Anna." Instead of telling you it's a story about adult girl and her stepfather, I have to tiptoe around that and tell you the "new man in her mother's life" has a thing for her. It's taboo - it's pseudoincest. It's no different than STEPBROTHER DEAREST. None of these are. They're stories about taboo relationships that intrigue and titilate us. I hope you enjoy Penelope Ward's book. I hope you enjoy mine too - if you can find them. If you're looking for taboo subjects and type in "stepbrother," you'll find Ms. Ward's book. But you won't find any of mine, because I'm not allowed to use that word.

So here are my books - just $0.99 for a limited time and free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Enjoy them while you can, before Amazon changes the rules again! (Don't blink!)

littlebratstinaLARGE

Chubby Tina thinks she couldn't hate herself any more than she already does, when she overhears the women who raised her telling a friend, "We're going to be stuck with Tina forever. No guy is ever going to want her." Even though it's her freshman year in college, she vows to quit school and run away. That is, until the new man in her mum's life catches her with going out the door in the middle of the night with a suitcase. Tina finally, tearfully, confesses, and is surprised by the man's insight and perspective--and how willing he is to show her just how beautiful and loveable he thinks she really is..
littlebratsannaLARGE
Bookworm Anna is always reading something, but never what she should be! When someone close to her comes up with an ingenious incentive plan to motivate her--Anna tells him she wants something far more dirty than money.
littlebratsbeccaLARGE
Tomboy Becca has always been the girl who caught frogs, made mud pies and climbed trees. She's never cared for or even paid attention to boys much, unless they were tossing a ball in her direction, but when a new girl shows in up at her school during her senior year, all that changes. How does the new girl get so much attention just for wearing skimpy clothes? Becca discovers she does want the boys to notice her after all, and decides to find out how to make that happen. And what better place to start her experiment than at home?
littlebratschristaLARGE
Spoiled Christa has never wanted for anything in her life. All the boys want to date her and every girl wants to be her--but Christa wants someone she can't have. Someone very, very wrong for her. But spoiled Christa is used to getting what she wants--and she's determined to get her way this time too!
littlebratsclaraLARGE
Clara lives a typical farmer's life, getting up in the morning to gather eggs and milk the cows. She knows the man who raised her can use all the help he can get, now that the woman who should have helped him raise her and take care of the farm left them both for a richer life in California with a younger man. The two of them have picked up the pieces and developed their own routine, but when Clara approaches him with a question about boys, both discover that they are far lonelier than either of them ever realized.
littlebratsdarlaLARGE
Sheltered Darla knows the the man who raised her has a whole new life, but she still wants to be part of it. When she takes an opportunity to ask him to prove his love for her, it surprises them both.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Banned (Erotic) Books Week 2014

17352184_sIt's "banned books week" so of course I'm going to talk about banned books. Specifically, banned erotic books, since, that genre happens to be my bread and butter. Recently, Michelle Keep wrote a scathing (and oh-so-accurate) commentary about Amazon's hypocritical stance on erotica. They advertised "banned books" in a public email, but behind the scenes, they continue to suppress erotica to a great degree, and most customers aren't even aware.

And for those of you who are rolling your eyes and think that the whole "erotica censorship thing" is over, I can tell you that in the past few months, I have heard from authors about:

  • Audiobooks being filtered. Not from Audible/ACX but on Amazon itself. Check salesrankexpress.com for your audio books and see if they're filtered. I've also heard from authors who have received notice of "unacceptable content" from Amazon about audio books that have been filtered - which have corresponding ebook versions. The ebook versions have not been removed in these cases. The notices seem to be strangely impotent, as Amazon and Audible, while owned by the same company, seem to be operating separately under different rules (or guidelines, as it were.) But that Amazon is going through titles and sending out notices about audiobooks is disturbing.
  • Account blocks. Not BOOK blocks. ACCOUNT blocks. This happened to the aforementioned Michelle Keep, who submitted a book, after making significant changes, after it had been blocked. Amazon has taken a hard line when it comes to resubmitting blocked books. No longer will they "draft" a book and allow you to make changes and resubmit. Now, a book is blocked outright if it is in violation of "content guidelines" - and if you resubmit that book, you may actually have your whole account frozen. Amazon let the Keeps have their account back, after they promised to be good, but I've heard of at least one other author who had their account completely removed. Banned from Amazon KDP entirely.
  • More blocked books, specifically dark romance, dubcon and rape fantasies. These are still the focus of the latest purge. Much of what is being reported as blocked involves those topics.
Now that the Kindle Unlimited program has given short erotica new life, we're seeing a surge of it again in the Amazon store. I imagine the Amazon cockblockers KDP reviewers are being inundated with the stuff, and much of it is being clearly either stolen or outsourced, slapped with copyright-questionable covers, and put up quickly in order to cash in on "borrows." I'm sure some of them are gunning for those "Kindle Unlimited" bonuses, but I can assure you, no pure erotica author (who isn't a romance crossover) will be allowed to wear the Kindle Unlimited bonus badge of honor. Amazon will make sure of that. But this is going to cause a backlash for erotica authors, I have no doubt. I predict the noose is going to get even tighter, and punishments are going to be handed out more quickly and with even more force.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much recourse anymore, and the lines of communication -- informing authors whether the problem with a book was in the title, cover or blurb, for example -- have been closed. Amazon has no interest in telling erotica authors what the rules are, how they may have violated them, or giving them a chance to fix any problems. If you violate the vague, inconsistent, untransparent rules, your book is out. And there's no three strikes. Two at the most, it seems. If you're lucky.

I'm sure this is in response to KDP users like the above, who abuse the system to such a degree that jackboot tactics are necessary. Does it annoy me that there are people peeing in the KDP pool? Yes. But Amazon annoys me more. They apply the same punishments to people like the Keeps - who write some pretty amazing erotic fiction - that they do to the blackhat internet marketers outsourcing their stuff and stealing covers for it. Amazon has plenty of money - I think it's time they invested in more than a few (also outsourced - to places like India) KDP reviewers to handle these issues. They're a publisher now - it's time for them to take responsibility for that fact and stop trying to sweep it under the rug.

Instead, they continue to ignore the problem and place the responsibility (and the blame!) for what appears in the Kindle store on erotica writers. How is it our fault one of their cockblockers KDP reviewers approved something that was "in violation of content guidelines?" The fact is, it isn't. We aren't the ones responsible for what is or isn't allowed to be published on Amazon.

But we are the ones who are going to pay the ultimate price.

I've been in this business for the past eight years, and that, I'm afraid, is just about what you'd expect from Amazon.

As always, support erotica writers by liking and following "Banned Erotic Books" on Facebook and Twitter.

And read a few banned erotica books this week. We have lots of them on Excessica Eden. Enjoy!

Selena Kitt Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget www.selenakitt.com LATEST RELEASE: HIGHLAND SHIFTERS

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dear Plagiarizer: Breaking Bad - A Bad Idea

19843099_s
Dear Plagiarizer:

You are obviously confused about what plagiarism is and how copyright works. Since plagiarism and copyright are important to me, being a writer who spends hours creating the original material I publish and all, I thought I would educate you about the topic. The first place I would have thought you might look, plagiarizer, is to the internet standard, Wikipedia:
Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author''s "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work.
I can see where you might have become confused, plagiarizer. When the subject of plagiarism came up in school, I remember teachers saying, "Put it in your own words." And that was the extent of their lesson. But there's a problem with that phrase--put it in your own words--oft repeated by teachers and professors everywhere. It gives students, writers, and possibly future authors, the idea that putting something "in your own words" makes it yours. It doesn't. Putting something in your own words allows you to express the idea without directly quoting the person who said it--but that doesn't mean you don't have to cite the work the idea came from. That's the basis of research.

Plagiarizing fiction is a little different from plagiarizing an article or an essay. Two authors can take the same idea and write a completely different story. Let's take the example one of the forum posters used in their response--that two authors are both writing about a small town girl who falls in love with a vampire. One is Twilight, the other is Vampire Diaries. They both have similar ideas--tropes--but they are very different in their expression, their characters, their happenings, even if they share some of the same vampire lore. Vampire Diaries didn't plagiarism Twilight, or vice versa, no matter which came first. The authors simply used the same trope (girl in love with vampire, love triangles, etc) on which to base their fiction.

There is never, ever a time, when writing or publishing fiction, that it's okay to use someone else's work and "put it in your own words." Let's be clear about that. It is wrong to ever rewrite fiction and call it your own.

Apparently, plagiarizer,  you didn't get the memo or you took your teacher's word for it that "putting it in your own words" made it all okay. Aubrey Rose has come forward about this issue, but I personally know several other authors this has happened to who are afraid to come forward in fear of retaliation from the plagiarising author. And if the forum post above is any indication, it's clear you believe you did nothing wrong. After all you said:

"I looked at a selling genre and wrote a book around them. I didn't think it was going to be this severe. I didn't copy anything. The story stayed in my memory and I had significantly altered it."

Altering a work does not make it yours. You probably weren't around back in 2008 when the Cassie Edwards extravaganza happened. She was a traditionally published author whose publisher dropped her because she plagiarised. And being banned from Amazon KDP or dropped from a publisher are the least of your worries when you plagiarize something, plagiarizer.

As to how severe the consequences may be, let me enlighten you, plagiarising author, about just how serious it is. While plagiarism isn't technically illegal - you can turn in a completely plagiarised school assignment and not get arrested, although you're likely to fail the course if you get caught, and maybe even kicked out of school, especially at the college level - plagiarism can also be a copyright violation. That's where you can get yourself into trouble and pretty big trouble at that. And I'm not just talking about your book being removed from Amazon, or your account at Amazon being closed, and your IP and ISP address being blocked by Amazon. Obviously that's bad enough--it really hits you where you live, when: "This is my only income-stream ATM!" 

(Just an aside - I find it ironic you used the acronym ATM, which I assume you meant to indicate "at the moment," because you are currently using other author's hard work as your own personal ATM--automatic teller machine. Well, plagiarizer, your bank account has now been closed. And that's not all that may happen to you. I'll get more into that later.)

If you are taking someone else's work and simply rephrasing it, as was the case with Aubrey Rose's book (and quite a few others I've seen as well) - you are violating copoyright. There is a concept in intellectual property rights that you may not have been aware of, naive plagiarizer, called "substantial similarity." Check this glossary of intellectual property terms for its definition. I'll repeat it for you here. (Note I've cited the source... that's how not to plagiarize, plagiarizer. I've bolded the most important phrase in the quote.)
SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY [copyright]. The degree of resemblance between a copyrighted work and a second work that is sufficient to constitute copyright infringement by the second work. Exact word-for-word or line-for-line identity does not define the limits of copyright infringement. U.S. courts have chosen the flexible phrase "substantial similarity" to define that level of similarity that will, together with proof of validity and copying, constitute copyright infringement.
I'm pretty sure, plagiarizer, even if you have not read this particular term, Amazon's copyright lawyers have. And banning your account is the least of the actions that could be taken against you. Perhaps, plagiarizer, you aren't as naive as you claim. Maybe you thought you would pick authors you assumed couldn't pursue you with a lawsuit and decided to rewrite their popular works as your own in order to cash in on the gold rush of KDP self-publishing?

Did you think you wouldn't get caught? That avid readers wouldn't notice the similarities between your book and hers? Or did you just not care? You figured, if you got caught, you'd take the money and run?
Here's the problem with your theory: a) you did get caught, and eventually, anyone who does this, will get caught--someone will find out and you will be exposed and b) you can still be sued. I don't care what country you live in, how protected you feel you are, or how "innocent" this crime feels in your head.

You think the author you're plagiarising has no recourse? But how do you know who that author is? I have more than one pen name, plagiarizer, and you could have chosen one of mine and not even know it. I have more than enough resources to come after you. And I would -- on principle alone. As self-publishing becomes more lucrative, as more and more authors make money from their creative endeavors, they are branching out into other genres. Hugh Howey is currently writing a romance novel. He has more than enough money - and integrity - to come after you, plagiarizer. What if you plagiarise his pen name "by accident?" What if you plagiarise a traditional author who has branched out and self-published erotica or erotic romance? Anne Rice wrote her erotica under the name A.N. Roquelaure. What do you think would happen to you if you chose to plagiarize her, before anyone knew A.N. Roquelaure was Anne Rice?

Don't think you're protected, plagiarizer, that even if you're found out, the author won't come after you, because you could be wrong, and being wrong can be costly. Do you know what happens, plagiarizer, if you are sued and you lose?

You give up all profits from the plagiarised work. You pay back the profits, plus damages. The law says you have to pay up to $150,000 for each work infringed. You will also have to pay the author's attorney fees and court costs. That's right, plagiarizer--the author won't have to pay to sue you, in the end. You will pay to be sued. The court can also issue an injunction against you or even send you to jail.

Was it worth it, plagiarizer?

And for anyone out there still doing this, or considering it, because all your black hat internet marketing friends are doing it too, ask yourself this: is it worth the risk? Are you ready to pay the consequences for breaking bad in this instance? Because you never know who you're plagiarising, especially in erotica and erotic romance. The names you see on the covers? 80% of those are pen names. And they might be pen names of authors who have a lot more money, resources and integrity than you do.
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Authors if this has happened to you, check out this resource: Authors United Against Plagiarism. The more authors united against this - and the more authors reporting it - the worse it will get for plagiarizers who believe they can continue to do this and get away with it. 

EDITED TO ADD: Plagiarists, THERE ARE AND WILL BE CONSEQUENCES for your actions. 

If you are plagiarizing someone else's work, I would suggest you re-think your "publishing strategy!"
Selena Kitt 
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Amazon's Midnight Booty Call to KDP Authors - Are You Amazon's Bitch?

Jeff Bezos' O-Face?
As an erotica author, every time I get a letter from Amazon's KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) in my inbox, I have a brief moment of panic. If you're a self-published erotica writer, I'm sure you know the feeling. When erotica authors get notices from KDP, it's usually the Amazon Book Team writing to tell you to bend over, because they're about to screw you in one fashion or another. Today, however, I received a very strange email from KDP - although I suppose it's no surprise, they're still asking me to bend over and be their bitch.

By now you've all read Amazon's latest PR move in the Hachette feud. I've kept my opinion to myself in this matter, for the most part - at least in terms of my blog - because I don't have a dog in this fight, a pony in this race, a chicken in this... well, you get the  idea, let's not beat a dead metaphor. I'm not a Hachette author and I've never been legacy published, nor will I ever likely be, nor am I (technically) published by Amazon or any of their imprints. Taking sides in this fight, to me, is like being the grass rooting for one of two elephants fighting overhead. Either way, I'm about to be trampled. But I'm an erotica writer in the self-publishing world, so I'm used to it by now.

Apparently, Amazon wants me to take up arms and protest against the horrible injustice being carried out by legacy publisher, Hachette. Amazon (seriously MIS)quotes George Orwell, they claim Hachette hasn't played fair, and essentially come across as a whiny girlfriend who thinks we should all get together and beat up some guy she doesn't like - a guy she's actually been cheating on us with all along behind our backs.

So Amazon is asking me to take sides - to specifically choose their side. Why should I do that?

Most self-published authors would jump if Amazon said how-high - and many of them will, in this case. I won't. I've heard the arguments of the Zonists. Yes, Amazon has given self-published authors a platform they never had before. Yes, Amazon has offered up their store/traffic to self-published authors, which is far greater than we could have generated on our own. Yes, Amazon markets self-published books, their algorithms/also-boughts drive more sales, and they process secure payments and hand us money every month. But they haven't done so out of the goodness of their hearts. They haven't done so because they truly value authors as content creators and want to invest in our collective futures.

I know, because I've been spending my own time actually helping authors, for years, before Kindle even came to the forefront - I started Excessica to help not only myself but other authors like me, who wanted a chance to run with the big(ger) boys. (At the time, it was a little outfit called Fictionwise - but they were the biggest dog in town!) I spent a lot of my own time and effort and money (when I could have selfishly been creating more of my own content, mind you, which would have made me far more cash in the long run) editing, doing cover art, formatting, uploading, marketing for other authors. I did it because I DO value authors as content creators and I DO want them to make as much as they possibly can from their own work (which is why Excessica only takes 10% - and we didn't take anything at all in the beginning.)

Does Amazon put its money where its mouth is when it comes to truly valuing authors as content creators?

No, I'm afraid they don't.

Amazon likes to say they support self-published authors, but what they support is their own bottom line. They use us when it's in their best interest (like when Amazon came knocking on my door, desperate to increase their numbers, asking Excessica's 100+ authors and 500+ titles to go all-in with Amazon KDP Select before it was first announced) and discard or discount us when it's not (who found out about Kindle Unlimited before it was unveiled? Anyone? Were you asked if your KDP Select book could be included? Of course not--they already had you
by the ballsunder contract in KDP Select for at least 90 days...)

Of course, that doesn't let Hachette off the hook. They don't support authors either (and, to be fair, treat them even more poorly than Amazon currently treats self-published authors). These are two giant corporations in the middle of a feud, and like all "feudalists," (ha) they believe we peasants/authors are around for their profit and amusement, to be used at will and tossed aside when we're no longer of interest. Ask any midlister whose contract has been cancelled how sympathetic Hachette is. Ask any erotica author whose account has been cancelled by Amazon how sympathetic they are to "their" authors.

Hachette has already pulled out their big guns, asking their authors to name-drop and get involved in this fight, and like trained monkeys, they've danced to Hachette's tune. Now Amazon is attempting the same trick--see, Hachette, we have trained monkeys too, says Bezos! In fact, our trained monkeys are even better than your trained monkeys - look how many of them we got to sign a petition! (And we didn't even have to take out a full page NYTimes ad to do it!) Amazon asked authors to CC them in their emails, I'm sure in part so they could tally up the number of responses and rub it in Hachette's face.

The fact is, Amazon is using me again. They want something from me that will pad their bottom line--and they're taking money out of the pockets of the very authors they're asking to support them! They tell self-published authors to ask Hachette to "stop using their authors as leverage" - while Amazon decides to use "their" KDP authors to try to leverage their own position in their little feud! This is Amazon-logic. It's the logic of elitists, of a 1% who think the 99% consists of stupid sheeple who simply do whatever they're told. Because if you follow this action to its logical conclusion, self-published authors are being asked to slit their own throats. I'm being asked by Amazon to tell a legacy publisher to capitulate, stop colluding, and lower ebook prices to reasonable levels. Why would I do that? If legacy publishing keeps their prices high, self-publishers benefit. We can easily, consistently undercut agency pricing, every time. That's a huge advantage. Amazon wants me to tell Hachette to lower prices so they can sell more books - so that Amazon can sell more books - and in the end, decrease my own piece of the pie?

Gee, Mr. Bezos, if you wanted me to bend over and take it, you could have at least offered me some flowers and candy! Maybe if Amazon had started by offering me a higher royalty, it might have softened me up a little? I mean, there are a lot of things, and I mean A LOT, that Amazon could do to sweeten things up for self-published authors. They could do them out of the goodness of their hearts. Of course, they won't. They could do them because they value self-published authors as content creators and believe they should receive a fair wage for fair work. Of course, they won't. They could do them because they want us to say "how high" when they say "jump." But, apparently, they feel they don't have to. Apparently they think they can yank up our skirts and give it to us whenever they feel like it. Amazon = alphahole? Not a bad analogy...

If you want me to put out, Amazon, perhaps you could, oh, I don't know...

1. Give self-published authors an Amazon representative. Every self-published author should have one - that's only fair.
2. Give self-published authors back the pre-order button. You took it away when you deactivated Mobi as a publishing platform and never gave it back. Now you dole it out to authors you feel are "worthy" of the pre-order button.
3. Allow self-published authors to join Kindle Unlimited WITHOUT exclusivity.
4. Give self-published authors something reasonable - say 60% of list price for borrows - in Kindle Unlimited.
5. Hachette got to pay for coop on Amazon to get their books out in front of the reader - offer the same thing to self-published authors. Why can't we pay to get our books out in front of readers too?
6. Hachette gets full control over their books - including choosing more that two measley categories for each book. (Or, in the case of erotica, just one!) Give self-published authors the same treatment.
7. Stop serial book returns. You give readers carte blanche, let them return dozens of books, and take money out of self-published authors' pockets.
8. Define your terms of service more clearly and make your policies and guidelines transparent.
9. Actually TELL us when you're going to start a program like Kindle Unlimited and ASK if we'd like to be included, rather than opting us in and telling us we can opt-out if we like.
10. Let us make books free at will. Let us price at whatever level we like. In fact, let HACHETTE price their books whatever way they like too. Let the free market be... you know, FREE.

Those are just ten easy things Amazon could do to sweeten up their relationship with self-published authors, to show us that they take us seriously as content creators. Just as seriously as they take Hachette and the other legacy publishers. Will they do them? Oh, maybe. Eventually. In their own time. But not because they value self-published authors. That, I'm afraid, is a delusion. Self-published authors talk about being afraid of biting the hand that feeds them, but what they really need to be worried about is being trampled underfoot of the giants fighting over their heads.

To me, Amazon's letter smacks of desperation. This is a midnight booty call, folks. Do we answer midnight booty calls? No - we have more self-respect than that. Don't we? I sure hope so.

Amazon's calling self-published authors to unite and that's all well and good, but in the end, we have to have a reason. Indies are independent. It's right in the name. Simply providing a platform for us to sell on doesn't cut it, I'm afraid. That's not enough incentive for self-published authors to rally around a retail giant asking us to cut our own throats in order to keep ebook prices down for consumers, while they pay their own warehouse workers minimum wage, cut off affiliates in states where they might have to pay sales tax, and an overall 6% effective tax rate.

Not that I think self-published authors shouldn't unite. I believe they should. And some day, there may actually be a good enough reason to compel most of them to do so. I doubt that reason lies in supporting Amazon's fight with Hachette. But if I were Amazon, I'd pay closer attention to the self-publishing community, because we're not playing peasant to their feudal lord and we only look like sheep. We're really wolves in sheep's clothing, every one of us, and we have quite a bit of bite, especially as a group. Amazon knows this to some degree - they're trying to activate that rabid capability to their own defense.

What Amazon doesn't want you to know, what they don't want self-published authors to wake up and realize, is that we have far more in common with Hachette and legacy publishers in this matter than we do with Amazon. I know this because I've been a small co-op publisher since 2008, and have been using Amazon as a distributor since then. In fact, through Excessica, I have more power than most self-published authors in fighting against Amazon's strong-arm tactics. Most self-published authors, even though they are, essentially, publishers in their own right (they simply have an author stable of one), have little to no power in negotiations with Amazon. Right now Amazon is dictating terms to Hachette. They can choose to play ball, or they can take their bat and mitt and go home. What are you going to do, when Amazon decides to change your publishing terms? When they want to tell you that you can no longer sell your book at $0.99? When they tell you your royalty rate is now 50% instead of 70%? Or 35%?

I know some self-published authors will rally around Amazon, afraid of biting the hand that feeds them, but I also know that many will not. Many authors will find Amazon's midnight booty call just as offensive and appalling as I did. And in the end, if we don't unite for Amazon, we may still combine our forces and use our powers for good. Amazon should watch their backs, because self-published authors may unite all on our own - some of us have already begun. The numbers Amazon is trying to leverage surely do exist - but I'm afraid they may not always come down on the side Amazon wants them to. Marie Antoinette threw bread to the peasants and told them to eat cake - before those peasants all grabbed their torches and pitchforks and decided to storm the castle. She ended up headless. In the end, I'm pretty sure the full force of united self-published authors is not an opposition Amazon ultimately wants to deal with.

~Selena Kitt~
www.selenakitt.com

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Corporate Censorship: Amazon Targets Dark Erotic Romance and BDSM

4630218_m
Heads up authors: Amazon is targeting erotica again. This time, it's "Dark Erotic Romance" (read: DubCon and NonCon) and BDSM. I hate to say I told you so - but I told you so. I said, back when Amazon caved and stopped carrying the ped0phile's guide, that we were heading down a slippery slope. I said it again when my own work was first banned from Amazon. I've been saying it and saying it, and the slope just keeps getting slipperier. And not in a good way.

Now Amazon has started filtering and banning BDSM simply for being BDSM. For some books, it's all about perception. Titles with obvious references to abduction, kidnapping and reluctance are being culled. Descriptions with those identifiers are also being removed. And of course, covers are being targeted, now including things specific to domination and submission--chains, ropes, handcuffs, all the markers of the genre, may get a book banned.

When my original incest books were banned and many romance writers said, "Oh it's just taboo stuff? Well that's okay, then, I don't write that..." I warned the erotic romance community that it could be their niche next. Dark Romance as a genre has started to heat up Amazon's bestselling charts from Deviant to Tears of Tess, featuring heroes who have a dark edge, but some books have apparently gone too far, according to Amazon's ever-changing guidelines. Lily White's Her Master's Courtesan was outright banned on Amazon. Recently, the dark romance boxed set, Bend, was banned as well. Why? In these cases, it was likely enough customer complaint to warrant Amazon checking out the book and deciding that the line between consent and "dubious consent" was just too close for their comfort. Of course, this is conjecture, because Amazon won't ever tell us what is and isn't acceptable.

But this isn't good news for erotica or erotic romance writers, that's for sure. We're all standing on very shaky ground with Amazon and the line just keeps moving. It isn't easy to negotiate or find your way through the morass that has become self-publishing erotica on Amazon. Unfortunately, they still have the largest market share, so it makes the most financial sense to figure out a way to keep your books visible. To do this, you have to keep your fingers on the pulse of Amazon's ever-changing, unwritten "policy" and respond accordingly.

This will, of course, lead to a lot of self-censorship over time, which I'm sure is the point on Amazon's part, because erotica writers won't want to pay cover artists to re-do "inappropriate" covers and they won't want to write books that readers just can't find on the behemoth retailer. And dark erotica and dark erotic romance just seems to be upping the ante with every book, with heroes who are complete mysogynists, from drug dealers to human traffickers to violent criminals. Granted, the hero (usually) turns things around, driven by his love for the heroine, but the stakes are getting higher, the drama is getting stickier, and the darkness in these books is getting, well, darker. In the end, dark erotica/romance may have to go back underground, or at least be a little more careful in its presentation, if Amazon has anything to say about it. And, as usual, if a customer complains, Amazon will likely shoot first (by banning a book) and ask questions later (or not at all).
So what is a BDSM/dark erotica/erotic romance author to do?

What May Now Get Your Book Adult Filtered

Besides the list I updated recently, we can now add:
  • Words like reluctance, kidnapping, abducted, captured, master, slave and any other variation in the title or description MAY subject you to the ADULT filter. This is, of course, subject to Amazon's arbitrary enforcement.
  • Covers that contain elements of bondage, including whips, crops, handcuffs, chains etc., as well as heroines who look as if they are scared or in pain, may kick on the ADULT filter.

What May Now Get Your Book Blocked/Banned
In addition to the original list:
  • Content that involves rape for titillation, as well as nonconsent (even if the heroine ends up in love with the rapist at the end), dubious consent (where the heroine is being forced but clearly is physically enjoying it) MAY be subject to banning/blocking. Content that involves snuff (a character being killed during/after sex) will almost surely elicit a ban. (The bad news about this is that Amazon no longer will put a book back to "draft" status and allow you to change it. If a book is blocked, and you want to change it, you have to resubmit as a new book with a new ASIN. Unfortunately, this is disastrous for books that are doing very well in rankings.)
  • Covers that contain elements of bondage, including whips, crops, handcuffs, chains etc., as well as heroines who look as if they are scared or in pain, may ALSO get your book blocked or banned, depending on the Amazon reviewers' mood.
Enhanced Adult Filter
Authors have noticed a new feature on the KDP dashboard asking for appropriate reading ages for your book. Great news for authors of kids and YA books. The hope, of course, is that Amazon is creating a "safe zone" for kids, right? But there's another feature that's popped up in the past few weeks that is a little alarming for erotica authors under the ADULT filter. Now, when your book is filtered, not only does it not appear under an "All Department Search," as well as showing up very last in any search results in the Kindle store, regardless of title or keywords - it now doesn't even show up in the Kindle Store initial search results. Now a reader has to click the "excluding adult items" linkin order to see an ADULT filtered book. (see screenshot below)

excluding adult items

In lieu of this new development, it's becoming more and more important to keep your erotica and erotic romance books "clean" on the outside, even if they're dirty as can be on the inside, in order to avoid the ADULT filter. Hopefully (I'm crossing my fingers) this new age requirement will be a boon for erotica writers, creating a "safe zone" for the kiddies, while allowing adult readers to still find what they want. Your book(s) should be fine as long as you can keep them out of the erotica Red Light District!

And if you're a BDSM or dark romance author afraid your book(s) will be filtered, blocked or banned, all is not lost. You can navigate the choppy Amazon waters and hopefully allow readers to find your book. Unfortunately, I still predict storms ahead on the horizon, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for all of us. I know we can ride them out together!


 

Selena Kitt 
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 
LATEST RELEASE: Girls Only - First Time