Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Survival Tips for the Pornocalypse (Erotica Writers Get Armed and Ready!)

The Pornocalypse has begun. Amazon continues filtering erotica out of their All Department Search in large numbers. Don't stick your head in the sand and think it's going to all go away. By then, it may be too late. It's time for you, as an erotica writer, to take action. (And erotica readers, if you stumbled across this, you too!) Readers and writers, please "like" the Facebook page Banned Erotica Books. Check our "About" section for the addresses and emails of those you can contact. Let them know that you don't appreciate Amazon hiding the books you want to read!

For those of you who are authors writing in the erotica genre, for those of you who have quite your EDJ (evil day job) and are pursuing writing as a career and paying your mortgage with your words for the first time in your lives, take heart. There’s no need to jump off the proverbial cliff. You will survive this. You will move forward, and you will continue to make a living from your writing.

I have been doing this since 2006. That’s seven years in the erotic publishing business, and I have survived a great deal of persecution of my genre and attempts to suppress or eliminate it. I ran down the list of those instances in this recent post. No need to rehash them again.

The fact remains—the dirty secret that drives technology? It’s “porn.” Erotica, as a genre, has been Amazon’s dirty little secret from the beginning, driving sales of the Kindle to astronomical numbers. Does Amazon really believe that it was all the free copies of “Huckleberry Finn” and “Moby Dick” (Moby Duck on Apple?) that drove readers to buy Kindle devices? Nope, sorry. It was erotica. It was “porn.”

Jeff Bezos may have put out the product, but I made the Kindle into what it is today. Me, and legions of other erotica writers who were already writing it, and those who came later, who saw how much readers were clamoring for it. Readers could suddenly read erotica without anyone seeing the cover. The Kindle device made that possible, Amazon made the Kindle available… but I provided the content readers were surreptitiously reading under their desks at work and on the subway home.

Erotica writers made the Kindle what it is today. Not mystery writers, not horror writers, not even romance writers. Certainly not big publishing, who have been brought kicking and screaming into the ebook world. It was erotica writers who provided readers with the titillating books that made this new device so convenient and advantageous. So you could carry 500 books at a time… big deal, who’s going to read 500 books while you’re at the doctor’s office? But women everywhere realized they could read sexual fantasies, stories about BDSM, about dubious consent, about sex toys and infidelity, all those fantasies that we know women have been having since Nancy Friday wrote Secret Garden, and they could do it without anyone knowing, at the doctor’s office or in line at the supermarket.

THAT is what sold Kindles. Porn. Face it, Jeff Bezos. You owe the success of Kindle to me, and to every erotica writer out there making a living writing “porn.”

And what thanks do we get? None. Other writers (ala Konrath and Crouch and Bella Andre—the latter whose books are just as “dirty” or “porny” as some that have been relegated to the ghetto behind the ADULT filter) get special treatment from Amazon. They get spotlights and highlights. They get mentioned in Amazon newsletters.

Erotica writers get stepped on. We get shoved into a corner, we get relegated to back rooms and top shelves. We get “filtered.” Now, before you say, “But come ON! This is ADULT material, shouldn’t it be targeted just to ADULTS?”—my answer to that is “yes!” I don’t expect Amazon to highlight erotica writers in mainstream newsletters or even to highlight us at all (although if they were smart, they would… we make them a lot of money. A LOT of money. They should target us to readers they know read us… it only makes sense!) but I DO expect them to treat us with transparency and good business ethics.

Neither of which we have ever seen from Amazon. I’m tired of trying to figure out Amazon’s policies about what I write. They seem to change every five minutes. I’m tired of being treated like some crap Jeff Bezos stepped on and is trying to scrape off his shoe.

Back when I hit the top 100 on Amazon, the competition wasn’t anywhere near as fierce as it is today. They didn’t know quite what to do with a naked woman’s bottom on their bestseller list.

That’s when they began the system that we are seeing them implementing now – what we in erotica circles call the “ADULT filter.” Back then, you were only filtered (which means that you were excluded from the all-department search, and your book didn’t appear in the also-boughts of any books that were not filtered, which was very limiting at the time!) if your book contained nudity on the cover.

So I slapped a thong on the woman on my Babysitting the Baumgartners cover and Amazon “unfiltered” my book. Sales resumed at their usual pace and life went on. But I had to figure out myself what the problem was, the reason the filter had been applied in the first place. There was no transparency on Amazon’s part. None. Nada. I even talked on the phone to an “Amazon executive customer service representative” who would only “confirm or deny” my suspicions.

I felt like Woodward and Bernstein talking to Deep Throat in a parking garage somewhere. That’s how bizarre and surreal the conversation was.

The media has recently picked up on Amazon’s latest attack on “porn,” but the Pornocalypse looks as if it’s just begun.

The filtering tool that Amazon previously only used to exclude nudity on covers is now being applied to books arbitrarily, but in very, very large numbers. We haven’t seen a purge this big on Amazon since they banned incest and bestiality in erotic work.  

First of all, Amazon has now separated Erotica and Romance. I don’t know if erotic romance writers know this or have realized it yet, but Amazon has recently changed their policy (not that they’ve told anyone about it or anything!) and you can no longer put your book in BOTH Erotica and Romance categories. You have to choose one or the other. “Erotic Romance” as a category will now classify your book as “erotica.”

And be careful, because once you have labeled your book as “erotic,” they will not allow you to reclassify it as NOT erotic. The only exception to this rule I have seen so far is for traditionally published books (ala Fifty Shades). Self-published books don’t get this treatment.

So what are we supposed to do, as erotica writers? Bend over ask for another, sir? I don't think so. Amazon holds the stranglehold on the lion's share of the sales in the ebook market because of the Kindle--and the Kindle only became the front-runner because of erotica! As an erotica writer, I'm not going to let Amazon use me like a whore and then kick me to the curb.

No one puts Baby in a corner.

So I say to you now, erotica writers, we will get through this Pornocalypse together. We will prevail. We will flourish and thrive. Are you ready to hear how best to prepare for your survival during the Pornocalypse?

Here are some survival tips!
  1. If your book has two characters who fall in love and have a happy ever after, put it in romance. I don't care if they're men, women, or giant mutant chipmunks. Put that book in romance. 
  2. Check to see if your book has been ADULT filtered! Go to Amazon, make sure you are in the "ALL DEPARTMENT" search, and type in the title. If you can't find your book, you have been ADULT filtered. Another way to check is to go to Sales Rank Express. Type in your titles there. If you are filtered, a large red ADULT will show next to your book. Previously, if your book had been filtered and then unfiltered, it would show a black NOT ADULT beside it. Amazon recently did away with this, presumably so they could see all the erotica books and go through them and filter them again based on this new "non-policy" they seem to be implementing. 
  3. You can’t fight an enemy you can’t see, so you need to know how to avoid the ADULT filter. If Amazon isn’t going to be fair about applying it to ALL books (including Fifty Shades of Grey) that contain erotic content, then we don’t have to be fair about playing by their inconsistent and non-transparent “rules” and “guidelines.”
How do you avoid being filtered?
  • Keep nudity off your cover. Also keep it out of the inside of your book.
  • Keep your titles and keywords free of the “Amazon Bad Words List” below. Amazon’s current policy could be summed up in this way—if you dress up pretty on the outside, you can be as much of a whore on the inside as you like.
The “Amazon Bad Word List”
(who else is thinking about George Carlin right now?)
(And if you know of more words or things that are being banned, please go ahead and add to the list in the comments, or better yet, post it over on Banned Erotic Books on Facebook!)
  • Nudity on covers (this rule changes a lot – thongs are ok so far. “Hand bras” are not ok, i.e. a nude woman with her or someone else’s hands covering her breasts).
  • Incest is banned altogether. But pseudo-incest will get you filtered. Anything with obvious titles, especially “Daddy” and “Mommy,” but also sister, brother, siblings, uncle, family, etc.
  • Gangbang, rape, reluctant, reluctance, nonconsent, dubious consent (dubcon), forced, or “rough” sex, strap-on – careful BDSM folks, keep an eye out, because they may come after that next.
  • Breeding, bred or impregnation stories
  • Any profanity or obscene language: pussy, cock, cum, tits, fuck, sex, clit, etc. (Now I really feel like George Carlin…)
  • Lactation, breastfeeding, lactating, milky
  • Tentacles and other mythological creatures (minotaurs, centaurs, bigfoot, etc.) 
How do I get UNfiltered?
Make the above changes as they apply to your book. Then email Amazon at this email:

This is the letter I send. Feel free to cut and paste!

Please reevaluate the title ___________ by _____________. The title has been changed and resubmitted to comply with your current terms of service and should no longer have an adult filter placed upon it or be excluded from the all-department search.
Please mark this title NOT ADULT.
ASIN: __________
Thank you.

Authors, you will make it through the Pornocalpyse. I’ve seen it all happen before. If you’re new to this war, well I’ve just given you your helmet, so get ready, soldier. There’s no need to jump off the first cliff you come to. Just take a deep breath and arm yourself the best you can with the knowledge we have. It’s all you can do. Keep your head down and keep writing. I promise you, we’ll make it through this together.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget
LATEST RELEASE: GRACE (Under Mr. Nolan's Bed)


  1. This really is a shame. I can go to Amazon, then search for and buy a gigantic anal dildo if I wanted, but I can't buy an ebook? Pitiful. If the issue is "it's for the kids"...then make sure people designate their Amazon accounts as belonging to adults or not. If your kid uses your Amazon account, then set up a per-purchase PIN to allow such purchases.

    Amazon can find a better way around this. They just don't want to.

  2. If our audience is seeking erotica, will we make more money if we intentionally put ourselves in the erotica section? Or is there still more money if we put our books in the romance section?

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