It'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!