kindle tagged posts

ScAmazon 2 – Mammoth Consequences: The Digital Sweatshop

About a month ago, I did a post about the scams that are rocking the self-publishing world on Amazon. I pointed to the scam Kindle internet marketing course that Dave Koziel was doing, and the 15-year-old German kid who made 130K using his methods.

Today, I saw a video from Dave Koziel on YouTube. He apparently felt it necessary to explain to his viewers that his methods weren’t really “scammy” and why he, himself, is not really a scammer. Watch the video for yourself. (I don’t recommend eating anything beforehand, though, if you have a tendency to get queasy…)

You see, Koziel admits he’s not a writer but more of an internet marketer who hired ghostwriters to write his hundreds (literally, hundreds) of 8,000-10,000 word “books.” He would then publish those books under pen names on Amazon. In KU 1.0, those 8-10K books would yield $1.30-ish a borrow. After KU 2.0, Dave clearly found himself with an abundance of short books that paid about half-a-penny per-page-read. So about $0.40-$0.50. That’s quite a pay cut.

Then Dave realized, if he bundled all his books together (and, you know, published them under different titles, changing up that order with every new title) he’d get paid more and could maximize his “Kindle real estate” so to speak. In fact, he discovered, if he got his reader(s) to click to the end of that mass of titles, even if they didn’t read them, he’d get paid for a full read!

This is particularly interesting to me because, as I revealed in a previous post, a representative at Amazon had directly told me, at the very beginning of KU 2.0, that “skipping to the end of a book” would not result in a full read. Dave Koziel, on the other hand, says that Amazon directly told him that yes, skipping to the end of a book does result in a full read, and that they somehow planned this by design.

So, Amazon – which is it?

Clearly, the evidence shows us that skipping to the end of a book does, indeed, result in a full read. We now have conflicting reports about whether or not that was intentional, or even known, by Amazon.

Dave Koziel took it upon himself to put a call out to his readers at the beginning of his books, asking them to click to the end if they wanted him to get paid for all his hard work (or in his case, his ghostwriters’ hard work and his cash outlay…) He explained to them that Amazon had started paying authors by the page read, and in order to get fully paid, they had to skip to the end.

What reader, who picked up a book because they liked the cover/blurb enough to borrow it, wouldn’t click to the end after that plea?

Koziel claims he was just being honest with his readers. And his scam wasn’t a scam, or even a loophole – that Amazon told him they’d designed the system this way on purpose. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I do know that Koziel and the others he taught his “system” to clearly had some ethically questionable morals, but they weren’t technically doing anything against Amazon’s TOS. As with the short “scamphlets” (making books so short, just opening them would get a reader to 10% and count as a $1.30-ish borrow, no matter what content was inside) this “loophole” was built into Amazon’s system.

The shocking thing, to me, was that Amazon decided to pay authors by “pages read,” when in fact, they couldn’t actually count those pages. They threw out a communal pot of money to the authors and like some literary Hunger Games, we were forced to fight over it. And the thing is – the game was rigged. Not just Amazon’s algorithms that favor their own imprints (they do) or Amazon giving authors sweetheart deals in Kindle Unlimited.

No, this game was rigged by Amazon’s own design. In the first version of Kindle Unlimited, they created a perfect storm where erotica authors (who already wrote short) could get $1.30-ish per borrow for a 5000 word story. This made authors of 100,000 word novels mad–and allowed scammers internet marketers like Dave Koziel to create scamphlets–so Amazon closed that loophole. But it turns out, Amazon had “fixed” the loophole in Krap Unlimited 1.0 only to create an even bigger one in Krap Unlimited 2.0.

So the game’s still rigged.

David Gaughran and Phoenix Sullivan recently pointed out how many of these scammers have taken courses like Koziel’s and run amok with them, adding even scammier ideas along the way to the mix. These scammers are using giant click-farms to drive their books up in rank on the free charts (and Kindle Unlimited subscribers can still borrow books while they’re free).

They’re stuffing their titles full of keywords (a practice Amazon cracked down on years ago and have since let run rampant again) even going so far as to put keywords at the beginning of each title so they’ll appear high in the search rank. (This has made it nearly impossible to find anything on Amazon – they’ve effectively broken Amazon’s amazing search engine.)

While many authors have learned that adding a “bonus book” at the end of their titles can increase pages read (a bird book in the hand, and all that) and actually add value for readers – scammers have taken it upon themselves to add thousands and thousands of pages of “bonus” content. Sometimes they just put all their ghostwritten books in to increase that page count to 3000. Or they translate those books with Google Translate into twenty different languages and put those at the back. Some are even so bold as to just put gobbeldygook culled from the internet with a link at the front with an incentive (win a Kindle Fire!) to skip to the end.

They’re also putting their books into as many categories as possible (most of them unrelated to the actual content) and sometimes aping the looks of covers, titles and even author names, to appear high in searches for popular books.

So… why isn’t every author out there doing this? Well, the reality is, some of them are. They’ve found out about the loophole and have jumped on the bandwagon because… if you can’t beat them, join them? After all, the loophole is still open. Amazon has done nothing to close it. Skipping to the end of a book still results as a full read, right this very minute. Amazon recently capped the amount of pages read per book at 3000. They have also now disallowed (sort of… in certain cases… about what you’d expect?) putting the table of contents at the back of a book.

Of course, none of that has actually fixed the problem. And that is ALL the action they’ve taken. That’s it. They still have a loophole big enough to drive a $100,000 a month Mack truck through!

As Phoenix Sullivan pointed out: “How many ethical authors are feeling pressured into adopting black hat techniques seeing how many black hatters are making bank on them with seeming impunity? Some days even I’m tempted to grab a few EINs and a handful of throwaway email accounts, put on a black hat and go to town. I understand the system—all I need is one good month to game it…”

Authors learned very quickly that Amazon is where the real money is. Amazon allowed self-publishing stars like Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and Hugh Howey to rise to the top after being rejected by the gatekeepers or legacy/traditional publishing, to make thousands, hundreds of thousands, from their work.

When self publishing first became a thing, everyone claimed that with no gatekeepers there was going to be a “ton of crap flooding the market!” Oh noez! Of course, what they meant was a “ton of crap writing” from authors who couldn’t write up to legacy standards.

I don’t think anyone thought, “from hundreds of ghostwriters paid by internet marketers!”

Forget devaluing our work by offering it for $0.99 or free. Forget devaluing “literature” by allowing self-published authors to publish directly to readers. That wasn’t the “race to the bottom” everyone worried about. THIS is the true race to the bottom.

Dave Koziel claimed he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He says he’s not a scammer (even though he admits he’s not really a writer.) He’s a self-proclaimed “internet marketer,” just looking to make a buck on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Actually, there is.

Koziel is just one example of his kind. (In fact, he teaches and sells internet courses to others who want to copy what he’s done.) And if Koziel alone has hundreds of ghostwritten books, and they’re not plagiarized or written like a third grader (two things he claims in his video…) then the reality is, he’s accumulated material at a rate that no reasonable writer could accomplish. Only a few outliers (Amanda Lee, I’m looking at you, girl! 😛 ) can reasonably write 10K a day without burning out. But Koziel can hire 10 ghostwriters a day. 100 a week, if he wanted to. He can mass-produce titles at will.

Granted, the system itself is the problem when everyone is vying for a piece of the same pie. The more scammy you get, the more money you make. Yay you! But as the system starts to erode, and more and more mercenary types get on board, the further things collapse. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring a ghostwriter (Patterson does it all the time in the legacy world – and no one cares) there’s a problem when people start taking advantage of ghostwriters and working it all like a “system.”

If you pay a ghostwriter well, and that ghostwriter does a good job, that’s a legitimate business transaction. But most (if not all) of these odesk-type ghostwriters are undercharging (that hurts legitimate ghostwriters) because they’re overseas (there’s outsourcing again) and IMers can (and do) take advantage of that. There’s a difference between an author who has a story to tell who hires a ghostwriter (either because they don’t have time to write it, or because they don’t have the skills) and an IMer who gives an army of ghostwriters the trope-du-jour and says, “write me as many stories as possible.”

These guys may hire click farms, as Gaughran and Sullivan noted – but guys like this are also getting legitimate readers and building a following. (They talk a lot about building mailing lists so they can accumulate a way to sell all their scammy internet marketing things, not just books…) So what’s wrong with what he does? Clearly he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. But there is something wrong with it. I call it the Jurassic Park problem. Remember Jeff Goldblum’s speech to Hammond about cloning dinosaurs? When Hammond asked (like this guy Koziel) what’s wrong with what he’s done?

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it – it didn’t require any discipline to acquire it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it. Well… you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should…”

Since Koziel likes YouTube videos so much – here’s one he and all of his minions should watch:

The problem is now we really are competing for readers with this guy. It’s like the outsourcing to other countries that corporations do to trim margins in any business – it’s a slippery slope. And now what do we have? A digital sweat shop environment. Writers terrified of falling off a 30-day cliff, utilizing voice software like Dragon to keep up and write as many words as possible as fast as they can, creating shared pen names to try to get a foothold in a flooded market.

It’s hard enough to gain visibility on Amazon these days, when there are plenty of excellent, legitimate writers out there putting out some great books. Because the reality of the gatekeepers was not that there was too much “garbage” out there to publish – the reality was always that there was never enough room at their table. There was plenty of stuff leftover that just went to waste – that’s the stuff that writers can now self-publish, now that the traditional gatekeepers are gone. And much of it is great stuff – books readers prove, with their buying dollars – they actually want to read.

Today, self-publishing authors don’t have to worry about getting past the gatekeepers. But they have to compete with internet marketers who see Kindle as a “business opportunity” and who are using it, solely, to make money. We’re competing with someone who can scam Amazon’s system (which, admittedly, is Amazon’s fault – they’ve made it “scammable”) and they’ve proven with hard numbers that they can take upwards of $100,000 or more a month out of the pot.

There are people in the world whose ethics are very fluid. Who think, “Why shouldn’t I take advantage of this giant money-making loophole?” And when those people don’t stop to think if they should, just because they can, and they decide to take advantage… there are plenty of people who come afterward who feel like they have to, as well – just to level the playing field.

How can a “real author” (as opposed to a scammer internet marketer) compete in a self-publishing world where scammers internet marketers can buy and publish hundreds of titles at a time? Where they can make enough money scamming publishing their deluge of titles to spend those ill-gotten gains on Amazon marketing (Dave Koziel says he was paying Amazon to market his “books”) and Facebook ads, outspending legitimate authors by thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands?

Who can compete with that? Unless an author is going to throw up their hands and decide (a temptation that Phoenix Sullivan so eloquently expressed above) “The hell with it, if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them!” how is that author going to have a chance?

In his video, Koziel says he can see why authors might be angry at him… but I don’t think he really does see. He feels he’s simply taking advantage of a legitimate business opportunity. Like most internet marketers, he’s looking at the short-term gain, and not paying attention to the long-term consequences. Or any consequences at all.

Granted, Amazon created this monster. All of these loopholes, from the scamphlets in KU 1.0 to today’s garbage-stuffed tomes in KU 2.0, could have been prevented with a little forethought on Amazon’s part. I told them this was a risk when they decided to change to paying by pages-read and they either a) lied to me, knowing readers could skip to the end for a full-read or b) they actually didn’t know that skipping to the end would result in a full-read. I’m not sure which is worse.

But if Amazon hadn’t started down this road to begin with, most of these scammers “internet marketers” wouldn’t have gained a foothold in the first place. Now they’re like sharks circling in bloody waters, and they’re not about to leave, unless someone cleans up this mess. And even if Amazon takes action, KDP and self-publishing is now a hunting ground they’re not likely to give up any time soon.

Even if Amazon cleaned up the waters tomorrow, these scammers internet marketers would continue to work the system, looking for ways to game it. Like the raptors in Jurassic Park–they have no ethical dilemmas whatsoever–they’ll continue to test the fences for weaknesses.

As Koziel’s video goes to show. These internet marketers will say and do anything to make money in the system. They haven’t paid their dues. Goldblum’s argument applies categorically – no discipline was required to obtain it, so they take no responsibility for it. Because they’re not writers, because they don’t care about the craft, telling a story, supplying a reader with real value and creating a real relationship between author and reader (rather, they just want to collect mailing list subscribers so they can spam them…) They remove themselves from the “system” they are gaming, and see it as just that – a system to game.

To them, it is a game. And thanks to Amazon’s lackadaisical attitude, they’re winning.

It’s readers and real authors who are losing. Because of the crap (real crap – now we know what it looks like) flooding Amazon’s virtual shelves, because of the keyword-stuffed or deceptive titles muddying up the search waters, real authors and readers are the ones who lose in this game. Readers can’t find what they want to read (I know, as a reader, I can’t find anything on Amazon anymore in the Kindle store, because of the keyword stuffed crap) and authors can’t compete with scammers internet marketers who could care less who they hurt with their scams.

They do hurt people. Real people. Because KDP Select is paid out of a communal pot, there is a finite number that decreases when scammers internet marketers decide to make “books” their “business.” Except they’re not writers, and they don’t really care about books. Or readers. Or the self-publishing community. Their idea of “paying it forward” is to monetize their scams “knowledge of the system” and sell it to others so they, too, can be scammers internet marketers.

Not once do they talk about craft–about plots and voice and point of view. Those are pesky details they outsource to someone else. They’re not even providing outlines – just pointing to the best-selling trope of the hour (what is it this month? is it shifters? billionaires? navy seal shifter billionaires?) and letting the ghostwriters do all the heavy lifting. While they sit back, package and re-package the “work,” publish and republish titles (sometimes dozens of times – and Amazon doesn’t care) with new ASINs when they drop too far in rank (to gain those extra five free days in KDP Select) and find any possible way to scam internet market themselves as high of a paycheck as they can manage for the month.

Never once thinking about or caring about the authors who are writing real stories, for real readers, who can’t humanly produce on the mass level in the digital sweatshop environment these scammers internet marketers have created – where Amazon has allowed them to flourish. This is where we all work now, thanks to the scammers internet marketers.

Thanks to Amazon.

I hope Dave Koziel meant it when he said he could understand why authors were angry with him – perhaps his video is proof that maybe, just maybe, he’s growing the seed of a conscience. Maybe he’s finally thinking, albeit a little too late, whether or not he should do something, instead of focusing on whether or not he can. 

But I don’t live in a fantasy world. I know Dave Koziel and those like him are just doing what they do. They’ve found a lucrative hunting ground, and they’re going to continue doing what they do (while occasionally justifying or spinning it in a YouTube video) until they can’t do it anymore.

In the meantime, authors and readers continue to lose – and their trust in Amazon wanes.

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SCAMAZON – Amazon “Kindle Unlimited” Scammers Netting Millions

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How are scammers making millions off Amazon? (And off any author enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program?)

It’s easy. So say digital entrepreneurs scammers like Dave Koziel – who admits to outsourcing his material, he’s not an actual writer or anything. You see, all you have to do it just upload “books” stuffed to the gills with anything, even unrelated material (romance books, cookbooks, South Beach diet books, foreign language texts, any and everything you’ve got at your disposal) then use a click-bait link at the front of the book (something like “Click here to win a Kindle Fire!”) to take the reader directly to the very back. A German blog has detailed these tactics as well, although it seems the German Amazon store (much smaller than the U.S. one) is cracking down on this now.

Why does this method result in big bucks? Because of how Amazon has changed the way it pays authors enrolled in KDP Select. Authors know that when Kindle Unlimited was first launched (rather quickly and in direct response to other book subscription services that were just popping up like Scribd and Oyster) we were paid “by the borrow.” It was similar to a sale (on sales, we were paid 70% of list cost on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99) except now we were paid out of a general fund instead of a set percentage. (Like a “pot” or “kitty” – a communal pool of money – except in this case, Amazon was the only contributor and authors the recepients.)

But Amazon changed that payment method from “per borrow” to “pages read.” Not pages written, mind you – but how many pages a reader actually reads.

Except, the problem with this method that’s recently come, shockingly, to light, is that there’s a loophole in the system. Apparently, if you put a link at the beginning of your book to the very back and a reader clicks it – the author is paid for all those pages. A full read. Even though a reader just skipped over them.

Remember when Amazon capped the KENPC count at 3000? This is why.

Except Amazon didn’t want us to know one important thing – they lied to us.

They have no idea how many pages a reader actually reads.

Let me say that again, just so you don’t miss it:

AMAZON HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY PAGES A READER ACTUALLY READS.

Wow. A little bit of karma coming back at you with these scammers, Jeff Bezos?

Because Amazon has been scamming authors in the KDP Select program all along.

They decided to pay us by “pages” read, when in fact, they can’t count actual pages read, and they can’t time how long a reader actually takes to read those pages (last time I checked, no one could read 3000 pages in less than two minutes…)

Oh, they can email me and my publishing company that I’m missing a “page break” at the end of my novel, or threaten to take my book off sale or label it problematic for typos (that may or may not actually be typos), or actually take my book off sale (which they recently did – Bear Necessitiesjust after a great freebie run, too, while it was on sale for $0.99 – thanks, Amazon!) because I provided bonus content in the front of a book instead of at the back – but they can’t actually count how many pages a reader reads in a book.

Yet… this is how they have decided to pay authors. Per page read.

See anything wrong with this picture?

I sure do – and it smells like fraud and class-action lawsuits to me.

How do I know Amazon can’t count how many pages a reader reads?

Because, if Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, a link at the front of the book that took the reader to the very back would result in two pages read.

Just two, not every single page in the book.

But as Dave Koziel and company have proven, that’s not what’s happening. There’s a little loophole in Amazon’s system. When a reader clicks a link at the front of a book that takes them to the end of a 3000 page “book” – it gives that author 3000 “pages read.” Not just two.

If Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, placement of the TOC (table of contents) at the front or back of the document would be irrelevant.

But as this post proves (and man, do I feel awful for author Walter Jon Williams – he’s out a hella lot of money because of Amazon’s knee-jerk reactions and lack of planning and forethought) Amazon has suddenly begun removing books from sale that have a TOC at the back of the book. As usual, they decided to shoot first and ask questions later, and damaged legitimate authors in the process, as David Gaughran first pointed out.

If Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, placement of “bonus material” (an extra story or book along with the original source material, which many authors have started to do, including myself, in the Kindle Unlimited program) would be irrelevant. You could put it at the front or back of the book, and it wouldn’t matter, because the table of contents tells the reader what’s where, right?

Except the truth is, Amazon is showing us through their actions – their cap on KENPC, their insistence that the TOC needs to be at the front of a book, and their recent email to me about “bonus” content not being allowed at the front of a book – that they have no idea how many pages are being read in any given book.

All they know is where a reader STOPS reading.

That’s all they can actually calculate.

That’s why a TOC needs to be at the front (because TOC defaults as the “start” point of a book, and if it’s at the back and a reader goes to the TOC, an author has just been given credit for a full read even if the reader didn’t read the book) and why they are no longer allowing “bonus” content at the front of a book.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there are legitimate, non-scammy reasons to put a TOC at the back or bonus material at the front. The TOC (especially if a book is long or a boxed set) takes up valuable real estate in the “Look Inside” feature or “Sample” on Amazon. Placing it at the back avoids that issue.

And the logic behind putting “bonus” material at the front?

Well, this is how I explained it to Amazon in my letter to them:


I had a very legitimate reason for putting the bonus book/content at the front of this title.

The last time I put a bonus book at the end of the book, I had reviews complaining that the original title ended at “50%” – and they thought it was much longer, because the bonus book was taking up real estate at the back of the original text.

In this case, I put the bonus book up front (and labeled it clearly on the title page and in the table of contents) so that when the reader finished the main book, it would be near 100% and they would understand they’d reached the end, and wouldn’t feel “cheated” or “ripped off.”

It’s easy to look at a Table of Contents (TOC) and navigate to the book they purchased.

You see, I was under the assumption that, since Amazon is paying us by PAGES READ, that you, at Amazon, actually had a way of knowing HOW MANY PAGES A READER ACTUALLY READ.

I assumed, since it would be fraudulent otherwise, per our contract in publishing with you, that since you were paying us by pages read, if a reader skipped over a book in the table of contents, we wouldn’t actually be paid for those pages. So that putting bonus content at the beginning of a book would be no big deal, no harm, no foul.

Apparently, that isn’t the case. And you never told us that. As a matter of fact, you, personally, (rep’s name redacted), lied to me and said that skipping to the end of a book would NOT result in a full-read. We emailed about this and talked about it on the phone when KU 1.0 was originally rolled out, and you assured me that yes, Amazon had a way of tracking the pages a reader actually read, with time spent on each page.

Turns out, Amazon hasn’t been able to correctly count pages read since the very beginning, even though that’s exactly how you’re paying us. 

If you think this isn’t fraud, and that there aren’t authors out there already talking about a class action lawsuit, you’d be very, very wrong. There are a lot of wealthy authors out there who are beyond furious about this new information. 

I suggest you plug this leak as fast as you can and make some apologies and remuneration for it. 

And restore my book to published status immediately – and its rank as well, since you took it off-sale for a reason that shouldn’t have been a problem or caused an issue if you hadn’t lied to authors about your ability to actually count the pages you were oh-so-generously paying us less than half-a-penny for. 


On my part, it was completely unintentional. I was directly told that skipping over content in a book would not result in pages read. But that was clearly a lie.

I thought I was creating a better customer experience (kind of like Walter Jon Williams and his TOC placement) when in fact I was unknowingly using a tactic commonly utilized by scammers.

Unfortunately, it’s not the only scammer tactic I unwittingly adopted.

You see, I have a link at the front of my books in my table of contents (I happen to place my TOC up front, so I dodged that particular bullet) that leads to the back and a link to sign up to my mailing list. I incentivize signing up to the list by offering readers five free reads. I’ve been doing this for years.

The thing is, I had no idea that doing this resulted in a full read in Kindle Unlimited. Because Amazon specifically told me directly that “skipping pages” wouldn’t work – that they could count pages read – and linking to the back page would not result in a full read!

I’ve been “cheating” and didn’t even know it was cheating. I wasn’t complicit in a scam but I’ll sure be blamed for it if Amazon shoots first and asks questions later. (And as we know, they usually do…) Especially since I write erotica and my name is mud Selena Kitt. I’m guilty already by default. 😛

The problem is, Amazon has been throwing the baby out with the bath water by taking books off sale for having a TOC at the back of the book or bonus content in the front. As David Gaughran first pointed out, real authors are being hurt by Amazon’s attempts to plug up a leak that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

And I’m afraid it isn’t going to end there, folks. 

Are links from the front of the book to the very back going to be next in Amazon’s line of fire? Could be.

The irony is, many people do what I do – put a link in the TOC to a mailing list with a free read to sign up. Many of those originally had their TOC at the back of their books – but now Amazon is forcing them to put their TOC at the front. In effect, forcing them to have a link now at the front of their book to their mailing list… which leads to the back of their book, and would result in a “full read” if a reader clicks that link.

Doh.

I don’t know how Amazon will close this particular loophole, but I know what I’m doing this week. *sigh* Time to reformat my Kindle Unlimited books and take out the link to free content at the back and put that content somewhere up front. It’s not “WIN A KINDLE FIRE” click-bait – it’s a legitimate offer – but I’m sure Amazon will see what they want to see. Their logic is “about what you’d expect.”

It’s better to get out of the way of a potential nuclear explosion if you know it’s coming than sit around and wait for it to happen – at least that’s my philosophy. And the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So if Amazon’s reaction to this KU 2.0 problem so far is any indication, I’d suggest you follow my lead and clean up those “links to the back of the book” now before they nuke your stuff.

The thing is, all of this cleanup was preventable. There was no reason to implement such a flawed program like Kindle Unlimited in the first place. Amazon certainly could have predicted the original “loophole” in KU 1.0 that they attempted to close with KU 2.0.

Remember when short books were all the rage in KU 1.0? That was because every borrow that was read to 10% paid out around $1.30 each (well, at last count, the amount kept going down every month…) Erotica writers were hit hard when Amazon switched to the “paid per page read” scenario, because erotica authors have always written in short-form. What we were once being paid $2.09 (70% of $2.99) per sale for (before Kindle Unlimited came along) became $1.30 per borrow in KU 1.0. When KU 2.0 was implemented, we were then being paid about $0.15 per read-through.

Ouch.

But the real scammers in KU 1.0 weren’t erotica authors (who simply benefited from the per-borrow payout by doing what we’d always done –   writing short stories) the real scammers put gibberish inside a book and made them so short that by simply opening the book on your Kindle, that first page would count as 10% of the book and result in a paid borrow.

Cha-ching!

Are you telling me Amazon couldn’t have foreseen that?

If so, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you.

Then KU 2.0 came along to “fix” the issues/loopholes/leaks of the “scamphlets” in KU 1.0. Amazon went to a “pay per pages read” scenario. It’s ironic that their solution to stem the money they were bleeding in the first Kindle Unlimited version was increased exponentially in the next one.

In KU 2.0, they weren’t paying out $1.30 a borrow to scammers who created their little “scamplets” and borrowed them in their little circles anymore. (Or to those nasty erotica writers who’ve always written short stories for readers who want to buy them… they clearly deserved to be punished for their dirty minds and “selling sex” in the first place, right? /end sarcasm)

That’s great, but… before the KENPC cap was very recently instituted, the pages you could get paid for per-read were unlimited. Which meant that anyone could release a “book” of unlimited length in KDP Select (these scammers are putting garbage in their books – foreign translations, articles from Wikipedia, just words for words’ sake) then put a link at the front of that book that jumped to the back –  and voila. A $100 download in one click. I’m not kidding. I know authors who have told me they’ve seen these scammers bragging about getting that much per-read before the KENPC cap.

Even when they put the KENPC cap of 3000 on it, with the payout last month at $0.0041 per page read, that meant the maximum payout was $12.30 per download. Still not too shabby. Especially if you have lots of scammer friends to borrow your book and just click a link to read to the end – and push up your rank in the process.

KU 2.0 is far worse, in terms of scamming and money lost, than KU 1.0 ever was.

Guess you should have just continued paying out for those dirty erotica shorts, Amazon… 😛

Amazon’s continued “fix” to these problems are like putting a Band-Aid on a bleeding artery. Because guys like Dave Koziel aren’t just making money off Amazon. He’s making money off selling this method to other scammers and telling them how to make money scamming, too. And the more they scam, the more money they take out of the “pot.”

Check this link out. Apparently a 15-year-old mentee of Dave Koziel made $64,000 in a month. That’s not a typo.

Do I think this kid wrote all those words? Not if he’s following Dave’s advice, he’s not.

I’m posting the screen shots here, just in case the link gets removed. (You never know…)

Quoted on those images, Dave Koziel says: “A screen shot I got earlier from my mentee and coaching student @justin8600 For those of you who don’t know what this is it’s a report from Amazon that shows you your actual royalty payments from the Kindle store. Take a close look at these numbers and you’ll see how much money he is actually getting paid this month from Amazon. Did I mention he’s only 15? A lot of you may look at this and think it’s fake. How can a 15 year old possibly make $70,000+ in a month online from selling ebooks on Amazon? The world is changing and fast. Opportunities are out there to make money and a lot of it! It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you came from, what your circumstances are etc.”

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Authors and readers –  does this make you angry? It should. You’ve been lied to and cheated, not just by the scammers, but by Amazon. Primarily Amazon, really. Scammers suck, but they’re like cockroaches. They do what they do. They go where the food is, right?

They’re on Amazon because that’s where the money is.  Whose fault is that? Scammers are exploiting a loophole that was created by Amazon’s short-sightedness and could have been prevented by Amazon in the first place.

The scammers are scammers – and they’re providing a poor customer experience to be sure – but Amazon bears the brunt of the blame here, let’s not lose sight of that.

If Amazon’s focus is “customer-centric” then their Kindle Unlimited program is a giant fail. KU 1.0 was called “Kink Unlimited” because authors (many who hadn’t started out writing erotica) jumped on the erotica shorts bandwagon and the market was flooded with them.

But KU 2.0 is now being called “Krap Unlimited” because of all of these crappy scam-books that claim to have great content, but really only contain a bunch of garbage and a click-bait link up front to take readers to the end, so the “author” of the book can get paid for all of those pages.

And when readers find these word-salad books, do they think, “Oh geez, a scammer, what a jerk?” No. They think, “Welp, everything they say about self-publishing and indies is true – their books suck!”

Thanks, Amazon, for perpetuating that myth. :/

And while the readers have to wade through crap (and boy, do they – I thought keyword stuffed titles weren’t allowed, Amazon?) authors are getting hit the hardest under KU 2.0. Not only are we getting paid less than half a cent per-page-read, these junk-books are forcing legitimate authors to split the “global fund”/pot with the scammers. The rate we’re being paid per page just keeps dropping.

Gee, I wonder why?

Let’s take a look, shall we:

  • -6.32% = December rate decrease
  • -10.72% = January rate decrease

We can thank the scammers – and Amazon – for that.

And here are some more numbers for you.

Amazon claimed recently that pages read were up by 25%. But I know that didn’t see a pages-read increase of 25%. Did you? I bet you didn’t. Want to know why?

Because those pages read were click-bait scammer reads, that’s why.

I can’t prove it – but other authors have speculated as much, and I believe they’re right.

Take a look at this graph. (Courtesy of my author friend, Michelle Keep – she’s awesome BTW, smart as a whip, and writes great books – and provides amazing services to authors – check her out!)

graph

Before November 2015, the pages-read increased steadily for months by about 100 million-ish a month.

Then, in November 2015, there was a 350 million pages-read increase from the previous month. A pretty sharp increase but we’d seen increases similar to it, from December to January the year before in 2014.

Then, between December 2015 and January 2016, look at the huge rise. There were 700 million more pages read in that month. How do we explain that? Christmas rush? Hm. Maybe.

Historically speaking, though, the program increases pretty steadily on that graph – but it started spiking in November 2015 and continued to climb drastically—far more than it ever had before—in December 2015 and January 2016.

Let’s look at the actual numbers.

  • From November 2015 to December 2015, the pages-read increased by 347,751,042. (about 350 million)
  • From December 2015 to January 2016, the pages read increased by 716,220,032. (about 700 million)

Can Kindlemas account for this gigantic rise? Can we just chalk it up to Christmas growth?

Well, let’s look at the year before:

  • December 2014 shows 1,154,321,678 pages read. (1.1 billion)
  • January 2015 shows 1,402,376,812 pages read. (1.4 billion)
  • Between December 2014 and January 2015, that’s an increase of only 248,055,134. (about 250 million)

That’s 1/3 of the increase we saw between December 2015 and January of 2016 (which was an increase of 716,220,032 – about 700 million)

Historically speaking, this giant increase is suspect.

So let’s go back and look at this year’s dramatic jump.

  • December 2015: 2,929,051,855 pages read (2.9 billion)
  • January 2016: 3,645,271,887 pages read (3.6 billion)
  • If we add those two numbers we get: 6,574,323,742 (6.5 billion)

Now, just for chucks and giggles, let’s subtract the “average” historical Christmas/Kindlemas jump in pages read (which last year we saw was about 250 million…) Or, hell, let’s go a little further, let’s add to that historical average and say we should have historically seen about a 300 million pages-read increase from Dec 2015-Jan 2016…

If we do that, we’re left with a 763,971,074 difference.

That’s a shocking, inexplicable 750 million pages-read increase.

For speculation’s sake, let’s say that huge page-read increase is actually the result of scammers. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say they’re the ones who have caused this dramatic rise in pages read.

If you translate those pages-read into dollars (multiplying it by the last known pages-read amount Amazon paid out, which was $0.0041 per page)… that comes to…

About 3.1 million dollars.

That’s a lot of money. 😮

Okay, I get it, I hear you – maybe it’s an exaggeration. Maybe Amazon did have a big jump in program growth this year, because they were pushing Kindle Unlimited around Christmas time and offering discounts. Okay, that’s possible.

So let’s account for that.

Even if natural growth increased enormously this year – what if scammers accounted for just 1/3 of that 750 million increase in pages-read?

That’s still a million dollars out of the pot.

But that’s not all, folks.

No, because not only are these scammers stealing money out of my pocket and every author’s pocket who participates in the KDP Select program, they are getting “All-Star” bonuses on top of it. Just to add a little insult to injury and rub some salt in those wounds.

Amazon awards All -Star Bonuses to its top-sellers in the KDP Select program. Some of those are $25,000. Scammers most definitely got bonuses last month – and legitimate authors who have gotten them all along for being top-sellers discovered that their usual pages-read didn’t qualify. The bar had suddenly been set higher, and not by real authors, but by scammers.

And there’s no denying the fact that Amazon could have prevented all of this. They could have anticipated all of these issues – just as they could have anticipated the problem of erotica surfacing on children’s Kindles and done something proactive and preemptive about that.

But Amazon works like the pharmaceutical companies. They make a lot more money ignoring root causes and treating symptoms.

The question now is – what are they going to do about it? And is it going to hurt?

I’m afraid the answer to the latter question is “yes.” As to the former one? Well, they’ll treat the symptoms again, I’m sure. They’ve already screwed over legitimate authors claiming they now have TOC and bonus content issues in their books, whether Amazon was aiming at the scammers or not. We’re collateral damage, as usual.

And frankly, I’m beyond angry. I’m appalled. I’ve become an unwitting participant in this “scam,” because Amazon lied to me. Amazon informed me in no uncertain terms that skipping over content in a book would not result in pages-read.

How can I ever trust them again?

How can you?

Whatever trust I did have (ha) has been completely decimated. I don’t even trust their royalty reports at this point.

And you know what really sucks? Thanks to Amazon’s deception, I’ve been cheating other authors without realizing it. I suppose, if I were in the Hunger Games (which is exactly what this whole thing feels like) I’d just end up dead. I don’t have the stomach for this sort of zero-sum competition they’ve set up in KDP Select between authors. But like Katniss, I don’t have a lot of choice, if I want to feed my family.

In the end, the worst thing of all, at least for me, is Amazon’s stranglehold on the market. They’ve forced me into this horrible, socialist program of theirs where it is a zero-sum game – and I have to fight or die.

If you want to make a living at this, Amazon has created an environment where we’re all getting in the same bread line and fighting each other for crumbs. We’re all hungry. And getting skinnier every day.

(And OMG if one person in the comments says, “You’re not ‘forced’ into the program! You have a ‘choice!'” I will delete you so fast it will make your head spin like Linda Blair. We’ll talk about Amazon’s algorithms and how they weigh the visibility of KDP Select and the decreasing ability to make a living on any other vendor some other time, okay?)

Authors – when we were selling books, did we feel we were “cheating” each other out of dollars? Nope. Because we knew there was (arguably) an unlimited amount of dollars to be had. Competition in the marketplace is great – that’s good for the ecosystem. But competition for a “pot” of something?

That way lies… this madness.

And that’s all on Amazon.

They created this KDP Select monster. And remember that their whole company is run at a loss. In effect, Amazon is being subsidized by their shareholders. Authors keep complaining about Nook and Apple and Kobo and Google and want to know – why is no other retailer challenging Amazon for marketshare?

Because they can’t afford to – THEY aren’t being subsidized.

And we, as a culture, have created the monster that is Amazon.

That, unfortunately, is on us.

selenasigsmalltrans

 

 

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NEW RELEASE – Stepbrother Studs Tristan

stepbrotherstudstristanareStepbrother Studs Tristan

Available NOW — $0.99 for a limited time!

Amazon

 

When Lyla’s sexy, brilliant stepbrother, Tristan, suits up and strides into a courtroom, everyone takes notice. He’s an animal, tearing up witnesses, convincing juries of his clients’ innocence with one cock of his sexy eyebrow, and making the D.A. shake in his loafers when Tristan’s on the case.

No one knows her stepbrother’s raw, instinctual prowess better than Lyla, who has been made junior partner in his firm and now serves as his right-hand… everything.They’ve both worked very hard to get where they are, and she’s not about to let him give up before he’s on top.

So when Lyla suggests she give her stepbrother a different sort of hand before he goes to trial, just to take the edge off, a surprised but grateful Tristan takes her up on her offer. 

But Lyla has to admit, she has an ulterior motive. She doesn’t just want to tame the savage beast in her fierce, tenacious stepbrother. She wants him to unleash it—with her.

 

Available NOW — $0.99 for a limited time!

Amazon

 

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Erotica Authors Pull-Out on Amazon KU – Time to Come To The Dark Side!

releasetherateErotica authors were impatiently waiting for July 1, for a look at the new dashboard and the opportunity for a glimpse into the Bezos crystal ball at what they might be paid for the month of July, when the Kindle Unlimited changes took place.

Looks like the numbers are (kind of) in… and the outlook is rather dismal. Erotica shorts authors knew it was going to be bad. I just don’t think most of them thought it was going to be quite *this* bad. Because it looks as if authors will be making about $0.0057 per page. That’s slightly less than half a penny a page, folks.

This was every erotica shorts author’s face when they heard this news:

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But we’re erotica authors. We are the most versatile, adaptive and scrappy bunch of people I have ever known. And if Amazon thought we were going to take this lying down?

Bwahahahahahahahahahaha. Then they don’t know us very well!


Introducing the #releasetherate campaign

The objective is twofold:

1. Get Amazon to tell us how many people are borrowing our books, without which our page counts are utterly useless

2. Get Amazon to tell us how much they mean to pay us – NOW. IN ADVANCE. No more of this, “Enroll your books, choose to go exclusively with Amazon, and we’ll tell you later how much you’ll make” crap!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

1. We don’t want to make Amazon mad at us!

Look, if we don’t stop this ride now, we may never be able to get off. And this particular ride ends at welfare-ville. So let’s not go there. There are plenty of erotica authors who have made a nice living from writing. And we are satisfying a very voracious readership. Why shouldn’t they have books they want to read, too? And why shouldn’t we get paid for them?

2. We’ll just opt out of KU and distribute our books everywhere!

That’s part of the message we need to send. If you haven’t already sign up for an Excitica Publisher Account, do that now.

3. Aren’t you overreacting? You sound kinda mad…

Yeah, losing 50-70% of my erotica shorts income? I’m mad.

Erotica authors are awesome. They provide you with some great, fun, thrilling, and let’s face it, damned hot stories to get lost in – they deserve to be paid for their work. Don’t you think?

I really don’t think a short story’s worth should be judged by the time spent reading or writing it. O’Henry would be appalled by this new system. Plenty of people pay a hefty ticket price to ride a roller coaster. That only lasts minutes. The length of something should not determine its worth.

AUTHORS: WHAT YOU CAN DO

A. PULL YOUR EROTICA BOOKS FROM KU. If you want to keep your longer romances in, great. But if you have erotica get it OUT.

B. COMMENT, LIKE, SHARE THE FOLLOWING FACEBOOK POST & TWEET:

TWEET

FB POST

C. EMAIL jeff@amazon.com

Don’t yell. DON’T USE ALL CAPS (even though I am 🙂 ) Be nice. Concise. And clear!

Tell Jeff, hey look, this is simply a courtesy for business owners. We need to know these things to run our business.

-Show us the borrows. How many people are actually borrowing our books?

-Show us the money. How much are you actually going to pay us?

-Tell him you pulled out (heh). I understand not everyone will. But if you pulled out, yell it from the rooftops!

D. ASK EVERYONE YOU KNOW to email jeff@amazon.com We want him inundated with letters. We want him yelling, “Oh Em Gee, STAAAAHHHHP these self-published authors, Jane, get me off this crazy thing!”


Here’s a form email you can give to your readers:


Hello, Mr. Bezos

I am an avid reader, and I am contacting you today on behalf of my favorite authors who participate in your Kindle Unlimited book subscription program.

Under the new reporting system, authors have no idea how many individual people are borrowing their books through KU. This is vital information and authors NEED to have it. Please amend the KDP reporting system to share this information, which you are already collecting anyway and shared up until July 1, with authors.

Also, authors have no idea how much to expect to be paid. The email they received today suggests the payout could be as low as $.0057 per page. As a reader, I want as many authors to keep as many books in the KU program as possible, and it would help if Amazon would tell authors how much they’re going to be paid. It’s not  fair that they have to guess and hope for the best when they sign up for KU and give up the fixed royalty rates they receive outside the program.


TEXT YOU CAN USE TO SHARE WITH YOUR READERS

(and feel free to right-click and use the graphic at the top of this page).

Thanks go to Natalie Deschain and Cassandra Zara for spearheading this campaign!


Help Authors Spread the Word – PLEASE SHARE!

Many of you know that I’ve been a HUGE proponent of the Kindle Unlimited program. It’s allowed me to gain a broader readership and new fans who would have never discovered me without being able to borrow my books and take a chance on them through KU.

That said, you may not be aware that Amazon made massive, sweeping changes to the KU program starting today. Beginning today, they will only be paying based on pages read, rather than books borrowed.

This change has left authors in the dark regarding royalties since Amazon isn’t telling us how many readers are borrowing our books or how much we’ll earn for each page read.

How can authors make good business decisions without knowing how much money they are earning? The short answer is, we can’t. And that makes many of us question whether we should remain part of the Kindle Unlimited program at all.

That’s why I’ve joined #releasetherate, an author-led initiative with a simple goal: getting Amazon to release more information to authors. We’re not asking for much. We’re asking for two small pieces of data that Amazon can easily produce that will help self-published authors make informed business decisions.

1.) Number of units borrowed per book — Amazon has this data; they have been providing it to us since the Select program began. Why withhold that number now? The only reason is to confuse authors. Give us the total number of customers who have clicked the “Read for Free” button on our book’s sales page. Or, at the very least, give us the total number of customers who have read a minimum of one page of our book.

2.) #releasetherate – Authors are aware that Amazon has a ballpark rate-per-page-read that they are expecting to pay for Select and KU pages read in July 2015. We hope it’s not the .0057 cents per page based on the June 2015 Select Fund and pages read, a rate that would decimate the income of many authors and make it impossible for us to remain part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

If you’re an author or reader who feels that Amazon should #releasetherate, please help us spread the word by sharing this post.

And if you’re as angry and frustrated about the lack of information being provided to authors, as I am, please let Amazon know by sending an email to jeff@amazon.com and letting him know that withholding basic business information from authors is making many of your favorite authors wonder if Kindle Unlimited is really the right program for them after all.

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
www.selenakitt.com
LATEST RELEASE: Highland Wolf Pact: Blood Reign

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Excitica – New Erotica/Romance Storefront – Selena Kitt

EXCITICA

exciticalogo

www.excitica.com

exciticaslider

After a rocky start in March of 2014, we’ve now opened our doors again with a fully functioning web site that will ultimately become THE home for erotica and erotic romance!

EXCITICA is run by Selena Kitt (that’s me!) New York Times bestselling and award winning author of erotica and erotic romance fiction with over one million authored books sold. She has run her own publishing company at eXcessica for six years and has been one of the most vocal authors against the corporate censorship of erotica. She has developed eXcitica to create a home for erotic works of all flavors.

EXCITICA like the rest of the distributors, still doesn’t allow underage sex, bestiality (although shifters are fine, even sex in shifter form!) or necrophilia (vampires excepted!) but we do allow many of the things the other distributors don’t, like incest, pseudoincest and nonconsent.

What does EXCITICA do for erotica and erotic romance authors?

First and foremost, we give you 60% of your profits! W00T! Cha-Ching! Secondly, with Selena Kitt’s brand and name behind it, EXCITICA will soon be known far and wide as the place to go for HOT reading!

Small Publishers: You are welcome! We have room for your entire catalog and the uploading interface is simple!

Taboo writers: EXCITICA is home for you! EXCITICA will be known among readers as the place to go for the books they can’t find anywhere else. Like yours!

Erotica writers: Even if you publish “just vanilla” erotica (and we all know that’s still HOT!) EXCITICA will be your home too! Readers who read taboo don’t JUST read taboo erotica and your books will be there to discover when they want something a little bit different!

Erotic/Romance writers: No one can live on taboo alone – and if you are an author paying attention to the market, you know that dark erotica readers don’t just read taboo and dark erotica – they read romance too. A lot of it! And they’re going to like yours! And if you write dark erotic romance? (And we all know how hot that genre is right now!) You’ve found your real home with EXCITICA!

What does EXCITICA do for readers?

One of the biggest problems with erotica at the big distributors is categorization. Some have none at all. Amazon, the largest distributor of ebooks, added a few token categories to erotica – two years after Fifty Shades of Grey was first published! It’s hard to find the erotica you want on the big distributors (especially since places like Amazon often go out of their way to actually hide it from you, using the ADULT filter on certain titles!) and it’s even harder if you’re looking for anything out of the ordinary or taboo.

That’s one of the things EXCITICA has strived to do – categorize things for readers (and writers) so that every fetish, every niche, has a place and can be found. The better a writer categorizes their work, the easier time a reader will have of finding it. From incest to pseudo incest, to cuckold to dubcon, to gangbang, pregnant, or creatures, EXCITICA has categorized it ALL! And if you write it or read it and you don’t see it? Contact us, we’ll add it!

Am I worried about EXCITICA being censored or shut down?

Only mildly. Of course, writing in the genre has its risks. I think we all know that, and it’s been proven over and over as the corporate jackboot of censorship has come down harder and harder on our necks.

But my goal in creating EXCITICA was to give all erotica, in all its different flavors, a real home. A SAFE home. A place where almost everything was welcome, and readers nor writers would feel ashamed about it. To do that, I had to be sure that we wouldn’t go through any more drama like we did during the Paypal fiasco.

But the good news is that, since Visa clarified its position about paying for the WRITTEN WORD when it comes to erotica (and Paypal reversed its decision not to pay for “certain” type of fiction) Paypal has nothing to fear, and neither do we. EXCITICA will accept Paypal – and Paypal has publicly stated they are fine paying for any and all erotica that doesn’t have nudity inside the ebook.

That means EXCITICA does have a few tiny rules:

  • We do not publish picture books of erotica. Graphic novels and comics are welcome, but photographic stories inside ebooks are not.
  • We do not publish bestiality (shapeshifters are fine) necrophilia (unless you count vampires) or underage sex.
  • No sexually active characters under the age of 18. References to past relationships and sex before the age of 18 is fine, but no detailed sexual content with characters under the age of consent in the U.S, is allowed. We require that your work have an legal age disclaimer stating that all characters are above the age of 18.

What do I need to do to get my book on EXCITICA?

Sign up HERE for a SELLER ACCOUNT!

You should be approved right away and you can start uploading your books!

NOTE: We are in a soft launch right now – we’re still working out a few bugs here and there, taking feedback from authors and readers alike. We won’t fully launch (with big time advertising, contests and all that exciting stuff!) until the beginning of the new year. But we DO want to hear from you, so please contact us if you have any feedback for us!

And we would LOVE it if you’d check out all our social media profiles, “like” us and spread the word! And if you want to keep up with what we’re doing?

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST!

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

GOOGLE PLUS

PINTEREST

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
www.selenakitt.com

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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.

Kobo FAIL

  • 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.

 applecensors

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

www.selenakitt.com

LATEST RELEASE: The Dirty Show

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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!

DOWNLOAD How to Find Paid and Free Erotica, Erotic eBooks and Sex Stories IN THE US – FOR FREE!!

DOWNLOAD How to Find Paid and Free Erotica, Erotic eBooks and Sex Stories IN THE UK – FOR FREE!!

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

www.selenakitt.com

LATEST RELEASE: GRACE (Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed)

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

12295238_sThe 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:

title-submission@amazon.com

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
www.selenakitt.com
LATEST RELEASE: GRACE (Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed)

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Ch-Ch-Ch Changes!

I met another writer today. It’s funny how many people reveal that they are would-be authors, once I tell them that I write for a living!

This particular writer is a financial planner by day (which was the service we were seeking from her) but a young-adult fiction writer by night. When she heard my tale of publishing success and I talked to her more about self-publishing as opposed to the query-go-round of legacy publishing, she began to really understand the advantages. And of course, the idea that she might be able to publish her already-finished first book in her trilogy RIGHT NOW was thrilling. I sent her over to the Newbie’s Guide (which I always do with aspiring writers who are thinking about self-publishing – why try to reinvent the wheel?) and we moved on from talking ebooks to discussing finances. Apparently, my husband and I have official labels in the finance world. We’re called “young accumulators.” I was thrilled we got to be “young.” My husband was much happier with the “accumulator” part of the equation!

After we left her office, I got to thinking about my initial experiences with ebooks and ebook publishing and ereaders. When my first ebook was published in 2006, I wasn’t thinking of epublishing. I didn’t consider ebooks “real books.” And small ebook publishers were barely a step up from vanity presses, as far as I was concerned. I just saw that a small epublisher was having a contest for entries. Winners would recieve $100 and a publishing contract. Three runners-up would receive a publishing contract, but no cash. Me, I was looking to win the cash. I didn’t. But I did win a contract.

I was reluctant. But finally, I decided – why not? What could it hurt? These were the days before online ebook self-publishing was really viable. There was no Kindle Publishing Direct. There was no Barnes and Noble PubIt. So I signed a contract with the now-defunct StarDust Press to publish my story, Christmas Stalking. They gave me 35% profit and kept 75%. And that was pretty good, considering a legacy publishing deal would only give you about 17%, and they wouldn’t publish anything as short as 17,000 words anyway, except in an anthology.

I learned a lot at that little publisher. I dealt with editors (she was great, and I was insufferable) and cover artists (not so great – vector drawing covers, ugh!) I learned about marketing on blogs and in chat rooms and on Yahoo groups. I learned that there was already a large network of romance and erotic romance readers who had been reading on ereaders for years. Really, years! They liked to read their fiction anonymously and electronically. Especially the erotic romance, because no one could see the covers or ask what they were reading! It was like a whole little underground network that I’d never known existed.

Maybe I’d misjudged this ebook thing? Maybe ereaders really were going to be the wave of the future?

Little did I know!

It’s funny to me to look back now at my judgments and attitudes. I accepted the publishing contract, but I didn’t tell anyone. I mean, I wasn’t really published. Ebooks weren’t real books! Then Kindle came along, and even though my books were now all over the place, including on Amazon through their Mobi site (back then, Amazon only offered publishers 35% profit, not the 70% they give to authors now, believe it or not) I still didn’t consider ebooks as real books.

It cracks me up that Fictionwise (before Amazon opened their self-publishing department) actually cancelled our account and deleted all of Excessica’s books because they’d found out that, as an author co-op, we had done all our own editing and cover art! *gasp* They were simply horrified by this fact. Horrified enough to actually just delete us! I had to go to bat and convince them that we were a business, an LLC, just like they were, and that I didn’t publish “just anything” and that we did have editors and cover artists on staff (never mind that they happened to be co-op volunteers… shhhh!) They finally reinstated our account.

I can laugh about that now. But back then, it was a big deal. Fictionwise was the largest ebook retailer at the time, and here they were saying “NO!” to self-publishing. Of course, that was before Amazon got into the game and blew them out of the water.

It was all so new, so strange, such uncharted territory. The rules in ebook publishing seemed to change every few months. I just continued to plug along, writing and (self) publishing under the umbrella of our little co-op at Excessica. But I still didn’t own an ereader. That’s right. I was making $10,000 a month via ebooks, but I’d never actually read one!

Then my husband decided we had to have a Kindle. I was reluctant. I liked paper books. I liked my hardcover collectibles. Here I was, an ebook author making my primary living as an ebook author–and I was still hesitant to actually own an ereader! How crazy is that?

But once I got my hands on my Kindle, I never looked back. I’ve now officially been assimilated. I write ebooks, and use print-on-demand services to provide them as paperbacks. I consider ebooks as “real” books now. I even primarily read ebooks as opposed to dead-tree books. In fact, I haven’t purchased a paper book in over a year, unless it was something out-of-print I couldn’t get on my Kindle. (And I get really, really cranky when that happens!)

And as my own attitudes changed, I watched the culture shift. Writers like JA Konrath, who had once denounced epublishing, were jumping on that wagon with both feet and huge backlists, speeding toward a six-or-seven figure income. I started seeing people reading Kindles in coffee shops and at the gym. When I got my first ereader, I got asked about it all the time when I was reading in public. “Is that one of those new Kindle things?” People were interested, curious.

Now, people glance at my ereader and then go on with their business. It’s commonplace. They know what it is. They probably own one or know someone who does.

And all of this has happened in a very short span of time. When I published my first ebook five years ago, they were less than 1% of the market. (Although the market did exist!) Now, the ebook market is about 25% of total book sales. Granted, the idea of self-publishing and ebooks hasn’t fully entered the collective consciousness… not quite yet. As my conversation with my financial-planner/would-be author can attest.

But it’s coming. Ch-ch-changes!

Back in 2006, I couldn’t have predicted where the epublishing market would be today. I never thought I would e-publish. I didn’t really believe that ebooks would become popular. And there was no way I was going to switch to an ereader over paperbacks! Yet here I am, making a (very, very comfortable) living writing ebooks. Self-publishing them. And I read almost exclusively on an ereader myself.

The prejudice against self-publishing is going to fade. Trust me – my own prejudices were quite strong, and they have all but disappeared. The world of publishing is going to look very different five, ten years from now. I feel as if I got into the game at a strange time, like being caught between the years of Betamax and VHS. Or MySpace and FaceBook. There are bigger things coming, I think. Bigger, even, than Amazon. I don’t know what they’ll be.

But hang on – it’s going to be one hell of a ride, folks!

Selena Kitt

Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget

www.selenakitt.com

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Amazon in the Book Banning Business

On December 9, 2010, I was contacted by CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print on Demand service) who publishes my print books. They informed me that my title, Back to the Garden, had been removed for violating their “content guidelines.” When I consulted their guidelines I found them so vague as to be useless—were they saying my content was illegal? Public domain? Stolen? Offensive? (All of these were on the list). When I inquired as to the specifics of the violation, they were not forthcoming, and sent a form letter response stating that Amazon “may, in its sole discretion, at any time, refuse to list or distribute any content that it deems inappropriate.”

On Sunday, December 12, the print title that had been removed had now disappeared from the Kindle store, as well as two of my other titles, Naughty Bits and Under Mr. Nolan’s Bed. I have over fifty titles selling on Amazon, all of them in erotic fiction categories. The only thing these three singled-out titles had in common, besides being written by me—they were all erotic incest fantasy fiction.

About this time, I heard that two other authors, Jess C. Scott and Esmerelda Green, both had erotic incest-related titles removed from Amazon’s site. After some research, I discovered one of Frances Gaines Bennett’s incest-related books had also been removed. As the night wore on, and public outcry about censorship and banned books began on Twitter at #amazonfail and #amazoncensors and on their own Kindle Boards, more and more incest-related erotica titles began to disappear from the Amazon site, so that the “Kindle Incest” search page began to look like swiss cheese. Teleread covered the story soon after.

When some of my readers began checking their Kindle archives for books of mine they’d purchased on Amazon, they found them missing from their archives. When one reader called to get a refund for the book she no longer had access to, she was chastised by the Amazon customer service representative about the “severity” of the book she’d chosen to purchase.

As of this writing, Amazon has refused to respond to my emails or phone calls in regards to this matter and has refused to further clarify what, if any, content guidelines the books in question violate. If Amazon had clear guidelines that were applied to all publishers across every platform and enforced them consistently, this would be a moot issue. By not clearly stating their position and choosing books either arbitrarily or based on searches of top-rated titles which are the most visible titles in the genre, they seem to be deliberately hiding a clear case of discrimination and what amounts to censorship (albeit ipso facto) because of their lack of transparency.


I want to be clear that while the subject of incest may not appeal to some, there is no underage contact in any of my work, and I make that either explicitly clear in all my stories or I state it up front in the book’s disclaimer. I don’t condone or support actual incest, just as someone who writes mysteries about serial killers wouldn’t condone killing. What I write is fiction. It’s fantasy, not reality. And I’m not saying what I write isn’t controversial, but it’s not illegal (at least in some states) or a threat to national security, and seems as undeserving of censorship as… well…


As fellow author, Will Belegon, noted, if Amazon is going to start pulling books with incest in them: “I just re-read Genesis 19: 30-38 and realized that Lot’s daughters got him drunk, had sex with him and bore sons. I demand you follow your clear precedent and remove The Bible from Kindle.”


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.


While it can be said that, for an author or celebrity, any press (including bad press) is good press, for a bookseller and publisher, that does not necessarily hold true. Can Amazon afford the bad press about book removal which may spark outcries from many corners, including self-publishing authors, the fastest-growing segment of their Kindle ebook distribution?

In speculating on the motivations of Amazon’s actions, as they have not been forthcoming with any statement or explanation, I am concerned that they may be acting out of reactionary fear. This may be based on pressure from a small number of vocal and complaining conservative and/or religious right extremists who object to and are afraid of sexual fantasies and erotic printed material (including incest fantasies). It may also be based on threatening governmental pressure related to the recently removed WikiLeaks. More speculation may point to overzealous lawyering as Amazon moves from just-distributor and bookseller to publisher.

While I am not a lawyer, constitutional scholar or legal expert on free speech and intellectual freedom, I am an author and publisher and know that, regardless of the technical legalities of Amazon’s actions, buckling to this pressure and the removal of books will hurt their bottom line. It will damage relationships with readers, authors, publishers and organizations such as the American Library Association and the ACLU, among others, who are interested in supporting free speech. I should also note that I am a professional psychologist and, while no longer licensed or working in the field, it’s clear that when individuals and organizations fail to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality, problems such as this result.

——–

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