Hello! Long time, no blog. But I’m back with some wonderful announcements that I can’t wait to share with you.
AUDIOBOOKS ARE COMING! – After a confidence-busting false start and more angst than I’d anticipated, I’m incredibly excited to let you know that audiobooks are in the works for Training Season and the Wake Up Married serial.Michael Ferraiuolo will be narrating Training Season. He’s the voice behind the audio of Santino Hassell’s First and First and Sunset Park, amongst many others. I’m excited to see what he can do with the bratty Matty Marcus.
A newcomer to the field of gay romance, Jason Mitchell, of Voiceovers 911, will be narrating the Wake Up Married serial. His Patrick was utterly perfection, exactly what I hear in my head when I’m writing Patrick, and so after discussing things and working the financial aspect out, it was a no-brainer to make an offer. I was thrilled when he accepted and I can’t wait to see what he does with this serial!
I want to thank all patrons over at Patreon for making this monetarily possible. And I want to thank my $5+ patrons especially, for holding my hand while I fretted and worried, and for listening and giving their opinions on the various audio auditions. As a reminder, a $5 pledge on Patreon gives readers access to my entire back catalogue of books, access to new books for as long as they are a patron, and all kinds of extras and goodies. The $10 pledge gets all that plus access to any audiobooks produced for as long as they remain a patron. We have a lot of fun over there. 🙂
SLOW HEAT IS ALMOST READY TO GO TO THE EDITOR! – My next release, a non-shifter omegaverse book is nearly ready to go to the beta readers and the editor. My personal deadline is to have it out to them within the next five days. (Another reminder that patrons at the $10 level will be offered beta reading opportunities. Not a requirement, mind you! Because beta reading means getting a less than quality book and giving critics to turn it into a quality book, and that’s not everyone’s bag! But it’s an option.) I just need to go over it really thoroughly one more time and then off it will go to find out all the ways it sucks. 🙂
SURPRISES TO COME! – There is going to be a surprise coming to my Patreon in the next month or so. I’m not going to say much about it yet, because it’s still in the percolating phase. But let’s just say that I’ve had Dar Albert do something with this little picture to help promote the endeavor when the time comes, and we’ll leave it at that. It will be available to $1 pledges and up. Oh, and there might be a very grumpy doctor and a diabetic do-gooder involved in the storyline.
Looking back, did you write more than you thought you would this year, less, or about what you’d predicted?
I always overestimate what I’m going to get done, so I’d go with less. I always think I’m a super-human machine who will be endlessly inspired and motivated to crank out word after word after word. Then it turns out I’m human and have down periods and times when four pages just won’t “lay flat” and I spend a week on them.
What did you write that you would never have predicted in January?
I published Angel Undone. That was never in my plan for the year. It hit me in June that I was essentially done with the story. That it was finished in my heart and that it was either going to languish on my hard drive forever or I was going to send it out into the world. So I quickly polished it up and published it. I also never would have guessed that I’d be working on my current WIP. It was never, ever in the plan for 2016/2017, but events transpired with the fall releases that made me have to take a step back from my goals in October. This WIP hopped into that space overflowing with words and begging to be written. In my need for something to feel good/right/moving, I took it on, despite reservations about it. And now I’m nearly 50% finished with the book. I hope to have it out in early spring.
What’s your own favorite story of the year? Not the most popular, but the one that makes you happiest?
The unfinished book that makes me the happiest is the one I’m working on right now. It’s a bit top secret until I’m closer to the release date, but let’s just say that it involves, um, male pregnancy. The book I published this year that makes me the happiest is You Are Not Me. You have to suffer through Pictures of You to get to it, but everything about You Are Not Me fills me with joy. Maybe I’m weird, but, unf, I love these characters so damn much.
Did you take any writing risks this year? What did you learn from them?
Will & Patrick turned out to be a brilliant choice. It was crazy fun to write and has turned into a consistent little money maker, which, let’s get frank, is important.
Angel Undone didn’t really pay off in terms of critical reviews or sales, but it did get the hell off my hard drive and that, believe it or not, is a pay off that is priceless in some ways. No more agonizing over what to do with this little story. It’s out and done.
And then ’90’s Coming of Age (Pictures of You & You Are Not Me)… Well, guys, I don’t know. I have a lot of mixed emotions about this risk because it did exactly what I expected it to do: it was a financial and sales flop, but a critical darling, and, dammit, I lived off those reviews like it was ambrosia of the gods. But reviews don’t pay bills and they don’t put food on the table. For the first time ever, books I self-published didn’t pay for themselves or even come close. I’ll be releasing something in the new year regarding the plans for ’90’s Coming of Age, but I will state here that I can’t afford to put out more in the series until I produce something that refills the coffers.
So, the risk of publishing the ’90s Coming of Age series paid off in a few ways: wonderful reviews, dedicated fans, and starting the process of getting a 14 year old project put to bed. But now I’m looking at knowing that I have to invest another large hunk of money into two more books in order to finish it off, and I have quite clear evidence that those two books won’t be able to pay for themselves. So I have to be careful and very wise with my next publishing choices. Something my muses don’t understand–as evidenced by the male pregnancy WIP!
So, I guess, as you’ve seen, I’m diving into bigger risks this year, too. But more on that later.
Story of mine most under-appreciated by the universe, in my opinion:
Ha! Well, I think it’s pretty clear from my rambling above that Pictures of You & You Are Not Me didn’t get massive sales numbers (or even decent sales numbers) so that’s what I’d have to go with, though I will say the people who did read it, mainly reviewers and those who got ARCs, seemed to love the books so much that I felt they were quite appreciated by those who took the plunge.
Most fun story to write:
I have adored working on this current story! It’s just been delicious and fun and everything I’ve needed right now.
Story with the single sexiest moment:
Hmm, I think that You Are Not Me has a really sexy moment, but it’s not as graphic as some I’ve written.
Most “Holy crap, that’s wrong, even for you” story:
Probably this male pregnancy story? Or maybe the dark erotica I’m working on under a different pen name?
Story that shifted my own perceptions of the characters:
We Can Be Good. The third book in the ’90’s Coming of Age series. I wrote 90,000 words of it several years ago and in reviewing those words recently I was sort of horrified to realize that most of it has to go. (And most of it is sex. Apparently, I was really into showing ALL THE SEX and that just doesn’t fit the vibe of the books anymore.) So now, between realizing that I’m basically going to start Book 3 from scratch, and knowing that I haven’t even come close to paying for Books 1 & 2, I sort of quail in fear every time I open the document. I’ll move past it, though. Eventually. It will be released in 2017. I WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN.
*smiles softly* I think that’s pretty clear by now.
How well the Wake Up Married serial was received. I had been told that serials were a mistake and a disaster and don’t do it, but while they weren’t the rousing success of Smoky Mountain Dreams, they have proved consistent and worth the time and effort.
Most Unintentionally Telling Story:
Definitely the male pregnancy WIP I’ve got going. All my societal issues are getting dumped into it. Yay.
Do you have any goals for the New Year?
I do! I wrote a whole blog post about that a few weeks ago. Check out the second half of THIS POST for my 2017 goals.
I’ll update more on my plans for ’90s Coming of Age books in a week or so. Until then, let me leave you with the best New Year’s Wish in the world, penned by Neil Gaiman:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Wow, so I drafted the following in May of 2014 and never posted it. Well, here it is January of 2015 and I finished the book I was angsting about and am now in this exact same place with the next book. In a way, I find this comforting. In another way, I find it horrifying. Will this crippling self-doubt ever stop? It really sucks.
From the unposted draft archives:
Despite the fact that I’ve got four or five books out now, whenever I’m working on a new one, I always reach a point where the following thoughts go through my head:
“What the eff are you doing? Who do you think you are? You can’t write a book. You’re not even capable of writing a book. You don’t know what you’re doing and you will never know what you’re doing.”
That’s the worst part of writing. It’s the part that really gets me down sometimes.
For some reason, though, I keep on writing. I’m pretty sure it’s because I have to write to survive. So write I do. Hopefully I’ll be wrong and a book will come out of what I do. Still, that nasty little voice is there. Despite evidence to the contrary, there’s always part of me that thinks I can’t.
But I can.
And I will.
I DID. Here’s Smoky Mountain Dreams, the book I was certain I couldn’t write.
I love research. Seriously, it is one of my favorite things about being a writer. Because I wanted to make sure that this phrase was used during the time period I was working on, I stumbled on this, and it just thrilled me to know this slang has gone back so far!
“Though the phrase “you’re not the boss of me” may owe some of its current popularity to the TMBG song, this bit of rebellious kid-speak has been kicking around since the late 19th century.
When I checked up on this a few years ago for the American Dialect Society mailing list, I was able to trace “you’re not the boss of me” back to 1953 using then-available digitized newspaper databases. Now, thanks to the wonders of Google Book Search, it’s easy to take it back another 70 years:
His sister was going to put her arms around him, but he whirled, and facing her with a very angry face, snapped — “Let me alone; you are not the boss of me now, I tell you, and I’m going to do as I please.”
—”As by Fire,” The Church, New Series Vol. III, 1883, p. 70
“For me, daily word count is not an adequate measure of productivity. However, I was also formerly a manager known for creative definition of realistic measures for productivity and success. So I’ve been thinking about how to understand my own productivity as a fiction writer without focusing only on word count and number of publications per quarter. I’m sharing some of those ideas here for other fiction writers, especially those who don’t write fiction full time as their principal income.”
In a book where sexual activities promoted and illustrated character growth and, ultimately, the denouement of the character arc, it was imperative that I “stick the landing” for the final, reunion sex scene. The trouble was…that didn’t come easily.
In the first draft of the book,the reunion sex scene was pretty much just a complete fade-to-black. I wanted something warm and intimate, something loving and gentle, and the characters weren’t interested in showing it to me. It was baffling. They’d shown me everything under the sun up until that moment, why were they holding back now?
I hoped that maybe the reunion sex wasn’t really necessary. Maybe that was why they weren’t showing it to me, because no one needed to see it. I sent it off to my beta readers and, without fail, all of them commented that, hey, we really need to see this reunion sex.
So, I sat down and forced my way through it. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The characters just wouldn’t behave, though. They laughed, they joked, they didn’t have hot sex, instead they just had weird-but-okay sex. I’m going to post that sex below because I thought it might be funny or of interest to some people to see the original scene. So, look for it behind the cut.
I sent it off to my chief beta reader, Jed, thinking, “Well, I tried my damnedest and maybe this is okay.”
No. It wasn’t okay. It was just wrong and off and not hot.
So, I sat down again and I asked myself “Where’s the lie in this scene?” Because I read somewhere some pretty great advice by some author–and how horrible is it that I’ve forgotten who said it or where I read this advice?–that if you’re stalled in a book or scene, it’s because you’re making the characters tell a lie.
I went back over the scene and asked myself, “What’s the genuine response of Rob to this situation? What’s he been like in the past when confronted with this kind of behavior/frustration from Matty?” And I realized, yes, I’d been making them lie about their reunion sex–that was why it’d felt so off and false.
That realization meant I had to go back up into the story and change some other key issues so that the activities could take place as they needed to. Then I re-wrote it and all the beta readers agreed, “Yes, this is what happened. Of course it is.”
I’ll let you buy the book to discover what the reunion sex ended up looking like, but for now, as promised, here’s the lie version behind the cut.
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE END OF CERTAIN STORY LINES WITHIN TRAINING SEASON ARE REVEALED IN THE FOLLOWING CUT SCENE!
This book is brilliant. The end. This book is flawed. The end. This book is real. The end. There are so many ways I could start this review and so many ways to end it. Over the months that I took to read it, I’ve written tons and tons of reviews in my head. This book was infuriating, frustrating, amazing, brilliant and beautiful. It took me a very long time to read, in part, because I had to take immense breaks from the hyper-realism portrayed between its pages. Every line is so vivid that I could see it all in my mind perfectly and it was at times overwhelming.
This book took me from hating the characters, to liking them, to growing to love them, to aching for them, but, more importantly, it then took me one step farther into forgetting that they weren’t real people. I admit this wasn’t the easiest read in the world, but the writing was so compelling that I kept on with it. The reason I say that is because it took about 25% of the book for me to stop disliking the protagonist, Sean. This was complicated by the fact that it’s Sean’s head we’re in and not liking him is a tough thing. But the thing is, Sean didn’t like himself, and that is an uncomfortable mind to be inside. It took, probably, another 25% to let go of that dislike and to move into a place where I was willing to like him. That was kind of amazing to me and a testament to this author’s skill. She moved me from one place to another with this character and did so in some pretty unexpected ways. There were some things I wasn’t sure I’d ever get past, and by the end I absolutely had.
Sean did so many fucked-up, human, annoying, wrong-headed things that hurt people, but most especially himself. At first, I couldn’t understand why he did such awful things, but as the book unravels, as you see him in more and more situations the understanding arrives. Though it doesn’t erase the desire to reach into the book and shake him.
The prose is amazing. The scenes are rendered so clearly that it’s like walking through a film, or being a ghost in the scene, living it with them. Or perhaps it is most like being actually inside Sean’s head, existing as Sean, or like you’re his best friend, more intimate even than his best friend, hearing his every thought, seeing everything in his unique way. That is, of course, what truly wonderful first person POV writing allows, and Ms. D’Souza manages it amazingly.
This next bit will cover the book’s biggest flaw: too many sex scenes. It stuns me to even write those words because I adore sex scenes. And for about the first 70% of the book there wasn’t a single sex scene that, when I looked at it honestly, I felt I’d drop. Even though there were an overwhelming number of them, sometimes one after another. Each one did a specific thing that was important for the reader and for the character. They moved the story along and there was an overarching theme to the sex scenes. However, when the theme is finally completely understood by both the reader and the character, I felt like some of the scenes became redundant. (Though they were always beautifully rendered, always intensely intimate.) Several could have been cut. There were several points when I actually thought, “Oh, man, not sex AGAIN.” And that’s a very bizarre thing for me to think because I’m a huge fan of the sex scene in books and like lots of them. I can honestly say I’m not sure I’ve read another book in my life with as many sex scenes as Calling Pomegranate contains. And, again, most of them were needed and important and accomplished something specific for the characters/plot/emotional arc.
The book is long and it was a time investment for me. It took me months to read it because of the above mentioned sex scenes–as a mom with a nosy kid, as a person who is usually reading in a place like my kid’s gymnastic’s lobby, there aren’t that many places I’m totally comfortable reading sex scenes, and my reading time is often limited, so I’d have to leave this book aside for long swaths of time.
Back to the good things: there are several reveal scenes in the book that are breathtaking in their humanity and emotional impact on the readers and characters. This book took me on a journey into these characters lives in a really intense, emotional way. And, just as one of the themes in the book suggests, growing to know these characters changed things for me. I went from thinking Sean was an asshole and that Cary was frustrating, from thinking that their sex was brutal and fucked-up, to finding the dark, sweet heart of their humanity, to understanding them and loving them like they were real people, to having understanding of their motivations like I do for my closest friends. And, well, that’s a damn triumph.
I’m severely disappointed that this book has such a limited audience. It’s a sad testament to the fact that some brilliant books will never get the audience they deserve. This isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s a book worth reading. There aren’t many people who can write like this. It’s a shame that so many people will miss out on reading Ms. D’Souza’s prose.
At the same time I understand why it might be less accessible to some people. It’s full of references and fannish love of music, movies, books. It’s got characters who are obsessed with these things in a way that goes deeper than the average joe and they use this fannish love to communicate with each other. There’s a nerdiness here that some readers might loathe and others might see as shallow–because you have to know what it is to love some media deeply to really understand how using that media to communicate can work and buy it as a valid form of communication of emotion and meaning between characters.
Regardless, it’s brilliant and I’m a little angry that I’ve had this intense reading experience and I doubt that many others will end up sharing it with me. If you do read it, let me know. I’d love to discuss it with you.
It might be an associated blog, and it might not be a review, and it might be that many other releases were also featured, but, dude, I’m still excited. *twirl* So, yay! That was super cool! I’ll definitely take it and call it a win.
In other news, this weekend was eaten up by swim team and that’s that. I am making progress on ’90s Coming of Age Novel. I’ve also determined how I want to release it and that has freed me up emotionally to start getting excited about it. Of course, it’s probably another nine months from a release, but slow progress is still progress.
I always look like a woman about to run a bunch of miles in the early morning sun when I’m writing. I’m just that determined and eager and open to the plodding step-by-step that it will take to progress from here to there, and open to the beauty that can be absorbed with each stride forward, too. Okay, so not always, but on a good day, for sure.
Selena Kitts, a well-known writer of raunchy “pornography”, has written an interesting post called Survival Tips for the Pornocolypse (Erotica Writers Get Armed and Ready). It was of interest to me for two reasons. One, I write romantica under the pen name Leta Blake. You can find links to my books anywhere on this page, but to make it easy for you, here. Two, I write some really raunchy erotica under another Super Top Secret Pen Name. I do it mainly for fun and to blow off steam, and to feel like I’m giving the finger to some of the issues I have with traditional and e-publishing, but I wouldn’t say I’m doing it to make a ton of money. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to make some money from the endeavor. Otherwise I’m just throwing away time and money on covers, etc.
There were many things I found interesting about Selena Kitt’s post. I almost don’t know where to start. I suppose I could break this down into a few posts to make it more digestible. Perhaps I will. Let me start at the beginning of her post and respond as I go.
First, off, kudos, Selena, on having such an attractive site for your porn. I know this sounds like I’m being facetious, but I’m serious. It’s very nice and it would definitely encourage me to click on something and possibly buy it. One day, when I’ve got more to offer, I want to have a site like yours!
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.
I’ve noticed the books I’ve published under Super Top Secret Pen Name do not show up under the All Department Search. I’ve never entirely decided how I feel about that. I suspect some of the roads my brain has taken on this issue are similar to the roads taken by Amazon itself while other thoughts diverge. I usually start out frustrated because if someone is searching for erotica books featuring a cheerleader losing her virginity to her step-brother (as a completely made up example, I didn’t write a book like that–yet), then they should be able to find one without having to jump through extra hoops. Right now, if I go to the Amazon home page and type “Cheerleader loses virginity to step-brother”, I get a result back that says, “No products match your search.” I know damn well that’s not true, but only because I know that damn well. If I was your Average Joe Internet User, I might think, “Oh, well, I guess there are no books for me to buy like that.” But, if I go to the Kindle Book Department and type in the same search, I end up with this small, but existing, selection of titles. No perfect match, but there are some dirty books there all the same. Hooray for dirty books!
I suspect that the next thought many of you are going to have is similar to mine and probably the main motivating thought of Amazon and those who encourage its policies. Won’t someone think of the children!?!?! In the days of books and mortar stores, the dirty books would be housed either in a separate room, away from children’s eyes, in a separate store altogether, or covered in dark plastic to keep them from looking. Amazon is likely trying to do the same thing. But even in the days of books and mortar stores, I always took the position that it is the parents’ job to police what their kids are reading, not the stores’ job to police what they kids have access to within the store. Does the internet make that a ton harder to accomplish? Hell yes, but it doesn’t shift the onus onto the stores necessarily.
I do recall not too long ago, I was looking up a children’s book recommended to me by a friend. My search on Amazon brought up two results. One was the book I wanted and the other was titled something very similar and looked like a possible sequel. I opened it up to read about the book, and it was, to my surprise and amusement, an utterly filthy rape erotica story and not a sequel at all. In that moment, I though, “Oh, there are going to be Christian crazies all over this shit before long.” I have no doubt that kind of thing played a role in what is happening at Amazon.
[ETA: Interestingly enough, if I search Amazon’s main search page for various raunchy dirty books while I am not logged in to my account, I find a much wider selection of offerings. And I find that curious under the Won’t Someone Think of the Children argument, since kids are much less likely to have their own accounts than bonafide grown-ups. So, why would the search be more liberal for people without accounts than those with accounts? Curious.]
Still, my next thought is, okay, fine, thinking of the children and all, what’s the harm in moving these books out of the line of sight? They’re still there and a user who really wants to read about cheerleaders sleeping with their step-brothers can still find those books if they work hard enough. It’s only two extra clicks to be able to find the books you want!
And yet it does seem to make a difference in sales. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Are we reducing the number of sales to 14 year olds whose Mommy and Daddy don’t do spot checks of their e-book readers? Or are we reducing the number of sales to full-fledged adults who don’t know they have to make these two extra clicks to get what they want? I suspect it’s a bit of both, but more of the second. There’s no where on the Amazon site where they say, “Oh, psst, you can still find your dirty books! You just need to work harder at it!”
Uh, back to Selena’s post. I’m rambling and possibly getting ahead of myself here.
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.
She’s right, you realize. I mean, to a degree, she’s right. My mother has purchased thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of Kindle books. What are most of them? Erotica and romantica. She’s admitted that she loves the dirtiest stuff she can find on Kindle because no one ever has to know she’s read it. My mother is sixty-six years old. Who is Amazon to try to make it harder for her to read her books? And did the two additional clicks make a difference to her? You bet it did. She didn’t even know she had to make some additional clicks. She’d stopped buying from Amazon and switched to Smashwords and other online sources because Amazon had stopped carrying her dirty books. Or so she thought. How many other perfectly legal grown-ups also faced this?
And Selena Kitts makes a really good point. If Amazon actually marketed filth to those who like to read filth, they could make good money doing so. Why is it their business model to fail to do so? I assume we could say that it’s stand-up morality. But I’m pretty sure it’s stand-up stupidity. Or possibly fear. What, I wonder, are they afraid of? (Hell, probably. Oh, hell, you shiny, dark stinkhole of fear.)
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.
Now this? This is problematic. And revealing. There is money here, more money than they care to lose. Because Fifty Shades, while terribly written in many ways (sorry!), is just as porny as a ton of the stuff they’ve filtered. Maybe more so.
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.)
I’m not at all sure what Selena is suggesting here. Is she suggesting that these changes only be made to the cover, title, blurb, etc? Or is she suggesting that these changes be made to books themselves. I’m going too assume she means the former and not the later because otherwise the books would be censored.
I am not sure, though, I think doing as she suggests is a good idea? If authors of the raunchy erotica/porn follow these suggestions, then how will their books ever be found? Porn readers want to know what they’re buying before they buy it. In fact, up until now, the suggested way of doing the entire raunchy porn book thing was the exact opposite of these suggestions. The advice my Super Top Secret Pen Name received when she began was:
a) make the title very obvious so people can find what they are looking for. If it is about having sex with an alien from another world, then title it something like, “Alien Tentacle Sex” or “Bred by Aliens” or whatever.
b) make the cover very sexy/obvious so people know, yes, this is the porn I seek.
c) use tag words when uploading that make it easy for the person to find the porn they want to read.
d) use the blurb area to be descriptive of the contents so people are very aware of what they are buying. Describe the sex acts within and mark it as 18+.
Now, Selena is advising that we not do these things, and I understand why she’s saying that. At the same time, readers like to know what they are getting and I don’t think people who can’t figure out that they can find what they are looking for by clicking two more times into the Kindle store are going to be able to figure out that a book called “Professor’s New Suit”, in which the blurb reads, “In a dressing room of a high end department store, meeting with a tailor who happens to be a former student, the professor’s full measure is taken and he gets something unexpected in return” is, in fact, all about dirty gay sex in a dressing room between a professor and his former student. Well, maybe they would. Who knows? But it seems more likely that “Banging My Professor” will be what someone looking for erotica about Professor/Student is going to search for. Covering it up in order to avoid Amazon’s filter doesn’t seem any more likely to bring sales than just letting it sit with its original filthy name under the Adult filter. Thoughts on that?
I suppose what most bothers me about this entire situation is the fact that Amazon made/makes a ton of money from these kinds of stories, and clearly capitulates to the likes of 50 Shades of Grey, and yet screws over the little guy making a buck. I suppose my main question is why?
Weirdly enough, because I know that the majority of people buying these books are women, I feel the reins of misogyny pulling at me when I hear about this kind of thing. Women are reading things that men don’t want them reading, that society doesn’t want them reading, and as their minds are getting free, along comes a big company, run by a man, who wants to put the brakes on it at the very least, and maybe introduce the idea of some non-sexy shackles. Gotta control access to the vagina, y’all. Gotta keep the women from getting ideas about their vag and what they might do with it! It’s for their own good, of course.
Or perhaps Amazon should create a new television ad after they follow their clear precedent and ban the book the woman is reading in the advertisement on her Kindle (“Sleepwalking” by Amy Bloom) which tells the story of a 19-year-old boy who has a sexual encounter with his stepmother, which, in some states, is legally incest.”
Before I die, I want to earn my living writing books. Here’s the interesting thing, when it comes to this part of what I want to do before I die, I’m not sure that I care too terribly what kind of books they are. I don’t care if they are smut or deeply good, important books. I just want to make my living by writing them. Before I die. So, sometime in the next sixty years if I am lucky.