Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Corporate Fail

badboyclubThere's been a lot posted about the corporations behind book selling lately, and to me, it just smells like a whole lot of "fail."

This is what happens when corporations gain so much power that people forget that corporations aren't really "people." Corporations are FOR people. They serve people. They consist OF people - the people who work at them, from the lowest paid to the highest. But when corporations forget that, when people forget that, suddenly we all become slaves. Corporations becomes slaves to their stockholders (and the stockholders to the almighty dollar). People become slaves to the corporations, relying on them for everything.

Sometimes I think people forget about the *people* involved, all the way around.

I had a conversation with Amazon last week about the Adult book filtering going on. It was a reasonable conversation with a real person. She understood my point of view, said she appreciated my feedback, and really wanted to help as much as she could. Because of my feedback, they made changes in the ways they now handle appeals to the ADULT filter. If your book has been filtered and you attempt to get it unfiltered, Amazon will now tell you whether the problem is on your COVER, in your TITLE or in your DESCRIPTION. While they still refuse to tell us exactly *what* the problem might be on the cover, or in the title and description, at least they're now pointing us in a direction! At least it's something...

Now if only everyone who worked for her company would get with the program and treat people the same way... *sigh*

When we are faced with the people behind the corporations, or when corporations are faced with the people (the actual customers they serve or the vendors who supply their products) the whole dynamic changes. Suddenly things become personal - and real. The decisions corporations make have huge implications for REAL PEOPLE. What Amazon is doing with adult books is hurting a lot of authors right now who have quit their day jobs in order to do what they love -- write -- full-time. It's hurting readers who can't find the books they're looking for. It's hurting customers and it's hurting parents who STILL have no work-around or real solution to the plethora of adult books on Amazon's store.

A simple switch, Amazon. That's all it takes.

I wish we could all sit down and have a reasonable conversation. I'm tired of dealing with a faceless corporation who doesn't care about me or even the customers who are complaining to them about the books showing up in their also-bought feeds.

Amazon FAIL
  • Putting ADULT filters on books arbitrarily, with no rhyme or reason.
  • No transparency - not telling publishers and authors when a book gets an ADULT filter. Not telling authors or publishers what got the book flagged in the first place.
  • Not creating an "adult" on-off parental control function for their site instead of using the clunky and unfair ADULT filter.
Barnes and Noble FAIL
  • Misrepresenting their "bestseller" list by keeping certain adult books out of the top 100. They are tagging certain books in their system somehow, which weighs them down in the ranks, like an anchor. Once a book is flagged, it won't go past the "anchor." This happened to my box sets, which sold more than enough to get me into the top 100, but my books wouldn't go past 126, 127 and 128 respectively. So instead of dropping the ranks by 1000 (which they were doing for a long time to erotica books) now they're doing something a *little* more subtle. But still as damaging to sales. We caught you, Barnes and Noble!
  • Pushing Erotica and Adult titles to the back of their search engine function, so that those titles appear behind those which are ranked below them.
  • Not creating an "adult" on-off parental control function for their site instead of manipulating their bestseller lists.
  • While Kobo hasn't (yet) started filtering or suppressing adult titles, they have erotica categories that simply do not function if you put your books in them.
  • Kobo's search engine is very poor, so those missing categories make a difference. And they refuse to allow you to put key words where they would be useful.
Apple FAIL
Apple's uber-prudishness is known far and wide.
  • Apple has manipulated its bestseller lists - it's removed books they found "offensive" right from the list!
  • Apple has removed erotica books from their store - they have wiped out ENTIRE publisher accounts that contain erotica (even when they also contain a great deal of sweet and inspirational and Christian romance!)
  • They have no erotica category and no way to see erotica bestsellers at all.
  • They reject adult and erotic books outright. Even when a title is sent back censored (someone put apples over the offending floppy bits) Apple STILL rejected it.

If I had the people from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Kobo and Apple in front of me, maybe we could have a real conversation, person to person. Maybe they would realize that, as a parent, I don't want kids to find these books either. I want their business model to succeed - and I'd like to be part of that. I'm sure there's a way to do it. I have lots of great ideas.

If they called, I'd have a lot to say. But I won't hold my breath or spend my time sitting here waiting for the phone to ring like some girl waiting for her bad boyfriend to call. None of them are worth it, in the end. It's like dating a pit viper. You never know when they're going to strike (again).

Enough with the bad boys and their little club. I'm tired of being a member and paying their dues (and being used at their convenience, like when KDP first started and they called us all eager for us to put our books exclusively with them!) and not reaping any of the benefits.

I think it's time I started implementing some of those good ideas I have all on my own.

Stay tuned...

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget

Friday, May 24, 2013

New Adult Marked for Deletion on Wikipedia

The New Adult category has been marked for deletion on Wikipedia.

But don't worry, lots of people have come in to protest and comment and tell Wikipedia what's what! You can go leave your comments if you want to make your voice heard. I'm pretty sure NA is here to stay, in spite of Wikipedia's control issues. 

Wikipedia clearly thinks NA is a fad, a made-up marketing ploy designed to suck us all in so we can be St. Martin's buying zombies.

To Wikipedia, NA seems like the hula hoops of the 50s.
(Are these two girls or Siamese twins?)
Or the mini skirts of the 60s.  
(Psst! Fashion designers everywere - my ass is begging you not to bring these back!)
Or the pet rock of the 70's.
pet rock
(Care and training of... heyyyy, wait a minute...)
Or the Gremlins of the 80's.
(First page of Google, folks!)
 (Not to be confused with this Gremlin...) 
Gremlin car
(Will never be cool. Ever.)
Or Tamagatchi's of the 90's.
(To be thereafter thrown in every kid's face when asking for a puppy, as in: "You couldn't even keep your Tamagotchi alive!")
Or the Furbys of 2000. 
Furby 1990
(Not cute, just creepy.)
And again in 2012...
(Beyond creepy, now their eyes glow, they talk to each other and I'm pretty sure they're planning world domination...)
But Wikipedia was wrong! NA isn't a fad!
 So people were all like:
amazon new adult
And Wikipedia was like:
And that, my friends, was that. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Adult Category on Amazon - But What About the Indies?

So there's good news and there's bad news.

Amazon has a new category: "New Adult & College Romance."YAY for readers! Now we can find more of the books we're looking for! That's always a good thing, when things are classified well and readers can find them. 

The bad news?

Apparently, it's only for the traditionally published, or for the "uber-super-mega selling" indie authors who clearly have some pull or clout with Amazon.

Folks, something smells bad here...

Maybe I'm just being crazy or paranoid. But so far, on Amazon's KDP platform, there is no way to choose this new category for self-pubbed authors. I looked, I checked, I searched, I hunted. I scoured the category listing in my KDP dashboard. There is no access for indies to this awesome new category. Which makes this "new adult & college romance category" a little bit of a coup for traditional publishing, does it not?

Let's just hope I'm jumping the gun here, and Amazon just hasn't programmed it into their KDP platform... yet. Although to give to traditional publishing with one hand, while withholding from self-publishing with the other, seems quite unfair and a little hypocritical, especially given the fact that most of the names on the New Adult & College Romance bestseller list were once actually self-published...

So what's the deal Amazon? Are you just slow in implementing your new category (that's bad enough, really) or are you going to withhold this indefinitely from indie authors?

Either way, it seems like a little bit of #amazonfail to me. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Survival Tips for the Pornocalypse 2 (Erotica Readers Unite!)

Last week I wrote about Amazon's latest push to get erotica out of the sight (and presumably out of the minds) of readers. But while this Pornocalypse continues, and I've given writers tips on how to survive Amazon's jackboot on the throat of their genre, I now want to give erotica readers hope for their reading future! 
Look, I hate to burst Amazon's bubble, but erotica not only made the Kindle the success it is today, erotica is going to continue to be one of the biggest selling genres in the ebook business. It has a proven track record already, but it's not just that. Erotica and ereaders have a special relationship. Erotica + ereaders = a unique combination. Readers are discovering they can read anything they want without having people ask about the title or cover of the book. Ereaders make that age-old question, "Hey, what are you reading?" on the subway or in the doctor's office far less likely to be asked at all--and ereaders also make it easy to fib, even if the question is asked. With one click, you can switch from, "How I Became a Sexy Cum Slut" by Trinity Jane (a book that is still accessible from the all-department search, by the way, while my book, Sybian Sorority, has been excluded, proving how arbitrary Amazon is being in their filtering process) to something nice and safe for work or church like The Great Gatsby
One click and you can hide it all. 
That makes ebook erotica very appealing, even to readers who previously eschewed the genre because of the perceived stigma or possible judgment of others. Erotica no longer has to be hidden or even read in private. Women can read it on their lunch break (and they are!) and men can read it on the subway home from work (and they are!) Readers are reading more erotica now than they ever have before (the success of Fifty Shades of Grey is just the tip of the iceberg, as books filled with explicit sex are flooding the market, even if they're not being put into the "erotica" genre, or announcing their spicy content with titles like Ms. Jane's "How I Became a Sexy Cum Slut" above) and the "problem" of erotica isn't going to go away. 
The customer is always right--and Amazon's customers want erotica. They are voting with their dollars, again and again, pushing so many erotic books up in the ranks that Amazon has had to resort to this crazy, arbitrary filtering system in an attempt to keep the "naughty" titles and covers from appearing before too many eyes. Amazon might be making it harder for the casual reader to find what they're looking for, but readers who already devour books in the genre aren't going to stop looking. They're just going to find better ways to search. 
Already I've heard readers say they search books they want from Goodreads instead of Amazon, or they search Google for the author and title they want. If they don't want a specific author and title, they simply search their particular fetish, "BDSM spanking" for example, and add "Amazon"--and lo and behold, far more search results pop up in Google's search, because they include all those results that Amazon has filtered out of the "all-department" search. 
So readers, take heart. Your smut has not, I repeat, has not disappeared! Someone told me that their mother (their elderly, sixty-something mother) switched to Smashwords for her "dirty books," because all the books she liked to read "seemed to disappear from Amazon overnight!" Well, readers, the smut isn't gone. It is still there on Amazon, right where you used to find it, it's just a little harder to get to. Honestly, it's not even that much harder to find--a few clicks--if you know where to look. 
And this is where my best, favorite, number one tip to survive the Pornocalypse for readers comes into play. Fellow erotica writer Mercy Faulk has done all your search work for you! That's right, erotica readers, you can download How to Find Paid and Free Erotica, Erotic eBooks and Sex Stories for FREE, and it will tell you how to get around all of Amazon's crazy filtering process! No more frustrating searches that don't return the results you're looking for, that make you scratch your head, wonder if you're crazy, and search again and again, thinking all your smut has disappeared! Finally, you have at your fingertips a clear, easy-to-read, step-by-step way to find all those books you were looking for (and some you didn't know you were looking for, but will be glad you discovered!) 
The best defense is a good offense. Take your ereading experience into your own hands, reader! If you own a Kindle and like reading erotica, you NEED this book
And as always, don't forget to support erotica writers and JOIN BANNED EROTIC BOOKS on Facebook. We will post books there that have been banned or filtered by Amazon's censors, we will share the latest news and updates about erotica and censorship, and give you a place for readers and writers to talk about it! 
So erotica readers, grab your Kindles, download this how-to search guide, and start searching! Amazon won't be able to deny or stop the avalanche of erotica flooding its virtual shelves if readers like you keep telling them that YES, I READ EROTICA by voting with your dollars. And the more reading choices you have, the better. That's the basis of capitalism and the free market itself (something Amazon is attempting to circumvent by excluding an entire genre from the search results...) so now that you know how to get around Amazon's search engine, pass the word on to other readers, and let freedom ring!
Selena Kitt 
Erotic Fiction You Won't Forget 

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)