The Empire that Erotica Built

This is the second post on censorship in a series.  Find the first post here.

Who else controls what you are allowed to buy?

Last post, we spoke of Amazon’s Adult Dungeon, but did you know that erotica helped bring Amazon’s Kindle to the top?

As erotica author Selena Kitt says in her blog, erotica readers created the e-reader market.  The demand for e-readers overwhelmingly came from people who wanted a private reading experience (see our post on privacy, ebooks, and censorship here.)  Without erotica driving the demand for e-readers, the Kindle probably wouldn’t have caught on as well as it has.

But Amazon is proving themselves to be uncomfortable with the empire they founded.  B&N, while not as hypocritical as Amazon is proving to be, still dropped erotica books’ sales ranks because it embarrassed them to have erotica dominating the charts.  And Apple?  Their anti-gay bias is the worst of all, as is their fear of erotica.

During the time we were ADULTed, we tried to figure out why Volume 1 was appearing while Volume 2 had completely disappeared off the search listings.  The answer was unsurprising, but disappointing.

Volume 1 has a paperback version.  That’s the difference.  From this piece of information, we can only draw two conclusions, and neither of them are good.

  1. Amazon still doesn’t think ebooks are “real books.”  Even though they had a major hand in bringing about ebooks, they still assign more weight to paper and ink, a throwback to traditional publishing.  All decisions they make about ebooks will probably be influenced by their reverence for the old ways.
  2. Ebooks with no print equivalent mean sex, and sex books are bad and don’t count as “real books,” either.

What about Amazon’s right to choose what they sell?

Do we think that a retailer has the right to sell — or not sell — whatever they want?  Yes.  We support policy, but this doesn’t look like policy.  Instead, it looks like a haphazard attempt to stuff the e-reader erotica genie back into the bottle.

If it were policy, Amazon would lay it out for their writers.  Instead, their rules are neither clear nor universally enforced. They used the word “confidential” in response to Selena Kitt’s inquiry, meaning “we ain’t telling” in corporate-speak.

They don’t even publish guidelines about what is not acceptable content.  (If they did, they would be shooting themselves in the foot because they’d possibly have to discontinue selling money-making Fifty Shades.)

Authors have to guess at what elements might send their books to the dungeon because Amazon refuses to publish its “confidential” guidelines for handling adult material.  Is it the cover?  The title?  The author’s own name?  Keywords in the description?  All we can do is grope around, blindfolded.

One way to avoid Amazon’s rules is to sell elsewhere, in our own shop.  But that isn’t without problems either, as we found out.

Generally, a business has to use paid advertising as part of their “marketing mix.”  Yes, Amazon serves its own ads in the form of suggesting similar books, but we also need to advertise outside of Amazon’s network.

So, we set up banner ads on Google, probably the biggest ad network there is.  When we created the ads, not only did the ads spend a long time in the queue to be approved, but they were ultimately disapproved for being adult.

Even though we specifically set our ads to be served only to those 25 and over.  Google, at least, was more up-front than Amazon by actually giving us a reason: they were not accepting adult ads at this time.

But we weren’t done.

As an experiment, we took the words “gay” or “yaoi” out of the ads and resubmitted them.  We used the exact same ads featuring our cover art of half-naked, beautiful men in a romantic pose.  It would take a fool not to realize that the books being advertised were gay romance, but three days later, they were approved.  We could show them anywhere at all.

The blatant and nonsensical discrimination of non-mainstream content is frustrating for us, but it should also be frustrating for you.  It means that your choices as a reader are also being restricted.  Your nanny is blocking channels from your TV, even though you pay the cable bill.

It means that there’s less of a chance of finding what you really want to read if your tastes fall outside mainstream-acceptable material.  It means that the deck is stacked against all of us.  In the next post, we’ll explore why all readers should care about this — even if they do not read erotica.

18 Responses to The Empire that Erotica Built

  1. Kari May 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I agree that the way Amazon works is unfair. If they do not explain what is acceptable and what is not, then they should have no right to reject just anything. Policies are set up for us to know what to do, but they are not using them.

    • admin May 23, 2013 at 12:10 am #

      It is the underhandedness that got to us the most. We didn’t know that the dungeon existed let alone that our very unsexy manga was in it. But then we thought about as readers, how is it fair that Amazon HAS this stuff on the site but squirrels it away and doesn’t tell us how to access it? Shows SOME of what it has, but not all? It’s ridiculous. You’ll have 50 SofG on front and center, but our manga put in the adult dungeon? Please!

  2. Laura May 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    This isn’t new news. A few years ago Amazon claimed it was a “glitch” in the system that caused the disappearance of LGBT-oriented books. However when the authors took gay etc. out of the book description they magically re appeared in search results. I guess the “glitch” is homophobic!

    • vessto May 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

      No doubts it is. Why didn’t disappeared the religious books for example? Brainless individuals are everywhere!

    • admin May 23, 2013 at 12:12 am #

      This is MORE news akin to the “glitch” but worse. B/c they are trying to do by subtlety what people slammed them for doing overtly. And Amazon has stepped up slamming books away. It used to be obvious incest, breeding, etc. Now its whatever they want to put in there.

      That glitch sure has a lot of ideas! Lol!

  3. vcious May 22, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    it would be cool if we gathered people around and made some sort of protest, like everybody sending amazon the same letter of complain on the subject. i can only imagine what they will do on GR when they take over.

    • admin May 23, 2013 at 12:14 am #

      I don’t want to break out tinfoil hats, b/c Amazon blew the doors open publishing and that was a good thing. And buying GR was a good financial decision, more likely to mine the data than to control it, but they’ve shown bad judgment about this stuff. It’s worrisome. And we need some way to push back.

  4. Jilrene May 22, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    It’s not just Amazon, though. Paypal has restricted the content available at other online booksellers such as All Romance ebooks. It’s really irritating.

    • admin May 23, 2013 at 12:17 am #

      I thought paypal backed down after Smashwords pushed back. But I could be wrong. Here’s the deal with paypal, I have an adult merchant account, i.e., I pay MORE to the credit card companies than a company that sells stuffed bears. Idea is that there’s more “fraud” and therefore “risk” to these “adult” sites. Paypal doesn’t have a ranked system like that. They have one rank for everything, for me, for the bear person, etc. It’s all about the MONEY.

  5. vessto May 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Sorry for these “flooding” replies but I just wanted to add the lines from Same Love of Macklemore:

    “When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
    A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are”

    Nothing can be justice in such world. The don’t have mercy to kids and what is left for the adults? Even in the art, in fact the art is ruled by not so art people. Rich people who cares only for themselves.

    • admin May 23, 2013 at 12:18 am #

      The retailers need to have more respect for adults. That’s for sure.

  6. vidya May 23, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    I wondered why, if you search for these kinds of books on amazon, you’ll only come up with the works of a few authors… Anyway, Amazon has the right to sell or refuse to sell books at their discretion. Even not telling the readers, while it is infuriating, is within their rights. However, the fact that they don’t even bother to tell the author that their book’s been blacklisted is unjustifiable. I don’t know exactly how the deal works between them and authors, but agreeing to sell someone’s product and failing to do so is incredibly unprofessional.

  7. MoonShadow May 23, 2013 at 5:14 am #

    *scowl* The more I read on this topic the less I like it.

    It’s insane, the world is changing yet despite people becoming more open minded to ‘morally grey’ areas (note not my words) and approving same sex marriage in some countries, on a whole it is still difficult to attain something as simple as fictional stories/manga.

    I don’t mind if they put yaoi in a different section or whatever since I completely understand some people don’t want to see it everywhere however I’d expect them to be upfront about it because the whole double standard and going behind your back thing really ticks me off.

  8. vessto May 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    From another side erotica fiction is the genre that allows GLBT characters to be represented most. I wish this to be changed in the all other genres, where the intimate plots are subplots and not leading. It is necessary to exist more sci-fi, historical, fantasy etc. books which are not erotical yet they have gay (couples) as characters. I mean GLBT characters as in GOT or Spartacus. Or like in the great Babel 17 of the awesome Samuel Delaney. When (not if but exactly when) this happen in every kind of art we’ll celebrate the end of the discrimantion.

  9. keleios May 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    that really ticks me off its.already hard enough to find stories i like. i was using amazons recommended list its how i was able to google.this site after readinf dark earth…guess i will have a harder time doing random internet searches to find other authors which ticks me off

  10. Meleeanna May 24, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    I don’t know if this might be ignorant to say, but maybe someone needs to create a site like Amazon that caters specifically to this sort of content.

    I’m not saying it’s the right way for things to be in fact it irritates me to think this is even possible. Bu maybe having someone else make the money.

    I know there are sites out there that already cater to the content, but it’s sometimes very hard to find something you’d like on them as there isn’t that comparison to other books.


  1. Welcome to Raythe Reign Publishing » Amazon’s Adult Dungeon – Or Why You Can’t Find What You Really Want to Read - May 23, 2013

    […] We can’t trust Amazon to determine what we get to read or sell.  The problem is not restricted to Amazon, though, as you’ll find out in the next installment. […]

  2. Welcome to Raythe Reign Publishing » Why All Readers Should Care About Erotica Censorship - May 24, 2013

    […] This is the third in a three posts on censorship. See the first here and the second here. […]

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