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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sex Sells, Right? Maybe Not. Why you Might Want to Rethink those Steamy Scenes in Your Novel


When my publisher asked me to remove the explicit sex scenes from my upcoming novel, The Lady of the Lakewood Diner I thought he was nuts. Sex sells, doesn't it?

Maybe not so much anymore.

That screeching sound you hear is the abrupt U-turn the publishing industry is taking away from erotic material.


A number of factors have contributed to the change:


1) Erotica Fatigue

After the breakout success of Fifty Shades of Grey, there was a surge in copycats, and the industry seems to be suffering from overload.

Agent Ginger Clark tweeted from the Frankfurt Book Fair that she was seeing a lot of "erotica fatigue" in traditional publishing.

2) The Global Marketplace

As we reported here last month, the marketplace for ebooks is now global, and as Smashwords' Mark Coker says, "Major retailers set their sights on a global market where the cultural, religious or political norms in some countries will find certain categories of erotica too objectionable."

3) Apple has No Erotica Category

More and more people read books on their iPads and iPhones, but Apple steers clear of anything that could be called porn. Perhaps with the global market in mind, the Apple store banned hard-core erotica over a year ago. The heavy-handed purge removed entire publisher accounts from the site because of a few offending titles. 

4) Amazon's "Erotica Ghetto"

Beginning last spring, Amazon, too, has sought to rein in the hard core stuff. It has created an "adult filter" that has been separating erotica from other books for suggestions and also-boughts. Authors find when they're put in this "erotica ghetto" it greatly reduces their sales.

5) No Sex, Please, We're British

In July of this year, the UK's Conservative government announced a "war on porn" that among other things, requires "family friendly" filters on computers and has made it illegal to possess material depicting rape.

6) The UK Tabloids' "Epidemic of Filth" Brouhaha

Worries about "An Epidemic of Filth" in the book industry escalated a couple of weeks ago, when UK tabloids brought up the problem of unvetted self-published porn, which can veer into illegal territory. The Daily Mail used it as an excuse for an anti-Amazon diatribe and the online magazine, The Kernel attacked even venerable UK retailers like W. H. Smith, Foyles and Waterstones. 

Retailers blame indies: 


Of course there's a lot of traditionally published erotica that gets into the wrong searches, too. But the tabloids chose some particularly vile examples of illegal porn that was self-published or put together by low-rent marketing companies, and people were disgusted.

Amazon simply removed the offending books immediately.

W. H. Smith, however, "solved" the problem by shutting down their entire website and not going back online until they had removed ALL self-published and small press books. Permanently.

Kobo, the mega-retailer that supplies W. H. Smith and many other bookstores worldwide, followed suit and removed all indie books from their UK site.  Kobo has since returned most of the books. They seem to have worked out an algorithm like the ones at Amazon and Smashwords to filter offending books. If your book hasn't been returned, you can contact them at writinglife@kobo.com

What this means for authors: 


Although the handful of books presented in the complaints were obviously offensive and illegal, the nuclear response sent a chill through the industry. You can read indie author Michelle Fox's take on the whole mess at the Indie Reader.

As Ms. Fox points out, aside from the question of censorship, the big problem is that algorithms are never 100% accurate. In fact, she reports some of the "offending books" mentioned in the Daily Mail article  weren't offensive at all.

She says Amazon's erotica filter sometimes labels a book cover as porn just because it has a face on it. It seems the algo measures pixels of skin tones, so a baby's face will show as large a percentage of skin as hard core porn and can be labeled as such. And I've also heard that Amazon's algo originally put Fifty Shades of Grey into "Christian fiction" because the protagonist's name is "Christian". That may be an urban legend, but anybody who's received Amazon's title suggestions knows they often get things comically wrong.

Amazon's algos are constantly being revised and updated. They may get more restrictive following the recent bad press. 

Smashwords' Mark Coker thinks they will.

Mr. Coker said this on his blog on October 15th: "Smashwords erotica authors can now assume that erotic fiction where the predominant theme, focus, title, cover image or book description is targeted at readers who seek erotic stories of incest, pseudo-incest or rape will find that their content is not welcome at the Kobo store. I've heard multiple reports that Amazon is cracking down on the same." 

Smashwords was one of the first retailers to deal with the erotica filtering problem, when PayPal refused to deal with them unless they censored hard-core erotica. Erotica was banned for several weeks in 2012 until Mark Coker installed a new filter and made a deal with PayPal, so they're now ahead of the game.

Now it seems the Smashwords filter developed for PayPal isn't restrictive enough for Kobo and Apple, so Coker is working on a "two tier" system for erotica.

He says: "Smashwords is considering adding new metadata fields for erotica authors so they can voluntarily tag their books as NSFAK (not safe for Apple/Kobo), but because these titles meet the Smashwords Terms of Service they are allowed at Smashwords and other Smashwords retailers. This will allow us to omit certain books from certain distribution channels while maintaining the flow to the Smashwords store and others."

There's no question that some filtering was needed. Parents were understandably freaked when their kids got suggestions to read wildly inappropriate books. And not every adult is into kink. The "romance" category is a huge umbrella these days, and cover images can be pretty shocking to people who aren't used to looking at contemporary erotica.

But because the filtering is done by robots, a lot of mistakes happen. And the algos are secret, so nobody knows what words and images will tag your book as porn.

If you write erotica and want to know what might trigger the algos, there's a breakdown here at Smutwriters.

But what if you don't write erotica? It's bad enough for an erotic book to be shifted off to an "adult" section, but if your novel only has a few sex scenes, erotica buyers will think it's totally lame, but nobody else will see it.

This means that being flagged for adult content could kill your book dead.

That's why publishers like mine figure it's better to be safe than sorry. If you can tell your story without explicit language and descriptions of body parts, you might consider leaving them out, since those are most likely to trigger the algos.

I've deleted "f" bombs as well as explicit scenes from my new novel. It was too long anyway, and I don't think the story loses anything.

But does this herald a return to the Puritanism that banned books like Lady Chatterley's Lover and Lolita? Are we going to return to something like the Hays Code and let algorithms become the new Catholic Legion of Decency?

I don't think so.  

Michael Tamblyn at Kobo wrote in the Writing Life on October 25, "Many of our readers have no problem with an erotic title in their library next to their romance, literary fiction, investing or high-energy physics books. And we are here for the readers, so erotica stays, a small but interesting part of a multi-million-title catalogue, in all of its grey-shaded glory."

But, he cautions, "…if your dream is to publish "barely legal" erotica or exploitative rape fantasies, distribution is probably going to be a struggle for you. We aren’t saying you can’t write them. But we don’t feel compelled to sell them."

If you need another reason to avoid explicit sex scenes, consider this quote from Julian Barnes, "Writing about sex contains an additional anxiety on top of all the usual ones: that the writer might be giving him or herself away, that readers may conclude, when you describe a sexual act, that it must already have happened to you in pretty much the manner described."

For more quotes from famous writers on the subject, check out the great post from Roland Yeomans called "Sex, Must We?" at Writing in the Crosshairs.

And good sex scenes are awfully tough to write well. If you don't get it right, you could be shamed by the "annual bad sex award" from the UK's Literary Review. Here's a link to this year's nominees. They're pretty bad.

With so much explicit "mommy porn" available to peruse discretely on our e-readers, maybe the time has come when we no longer need to sprinkle our mainstream books with those titillating scenes that became de rigueur in the heyday of "steamy" novels by authors like Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. (As Spock called them in Star Trek IV..."the giants.")

At the moment, I think writers need to treat sex scenes like adverbs. We should always ask ourselves, "is this necessary to the story?"

What about you, scriveners? Have you been affected by the recent erotica purge? Do you think sex scenes are necessary in mainstream novels, or would you prefer that authors leave things to the imagination? And do you remember that scene in Star Trek IV? 

Coming up: Next week we'll  have a great guest post by Melodie Campbell, Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She teaches writing as well as being a bestselling author of comic fiction. She's going to give us a hilarious lesson in humor writing.

A note to my Canadian readers: My boxed set of Camilla comic mysteries has been selling briskly in Canada (and had reached #2 in women's fiction) until I got a sock puppet one-star review on the Amazon CA buy page this week. This now registers it as a one-star book, in spite of 50 good reviews in the US, so Canadian sales have screeched to a halt. If any Canadian reader who enjoys comedy would like to give it a fair review, contact me for a free review copy at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com.


BOOK OF THE WEEK

Okay, Halloween is over, but it's a nice spooky cover for this time of year
only $2.99 at Amazon US, Amazon CA, Amazon UKNOOKKobo, and iTunes


Set at a Writers' Conference in Central California, Ghost Writers in the Sky is #2 in the Camilla Randall series of comedy-mysteries, but it can be read as a stand-alone. 

"Ghost Writers is set in a writers' conference in Santa Ynez Valley, where I've lived for twenty years....This book is hysterically funny AND accurately depicts the Valley. Anne Allen gets it right, down to the dollar bills stuck on the ceiling of the Maverick Saloon. It was so fun to read as she called out one Valley landmark after another. Allen got the local denizens right, too, the crazy characters that roam our streets...I love Camilla Randall, her ditzy, former debutante heroine, and all the rest. The action gets pretty frenetic when dead bodies start showing up. I heartily recommend this book. I can hardly wait to read the rest of the series"...Sandy Nathan

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS

Tin House Shirley Jackson Story Contest. This is a fun one. The prestigious litmag Tin House has acquired an unfinished Shirley Jackson story. They invite readers to finish it. Submissions should be 2,500 words or fewer (not including Jackson’s prose). Entries should be sent, with the text of the story in the body of the e-mail to shirleyjacksoncontest@tinhouse.com. Winners will be published on the Tin House website and be awarded some Tin House swag and the collected works of Ms. Jackson. Deadline November 17th.

J.F. POWER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION NO ENTRY FEE. The winner will receive $500. The winning story will be announced in February, 2014 and published in Dappled Things, along with nine honorable mentions. The word limit is 8,000 words. Deadline is November 29, 2013.

The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction: Stories may be previously published or unpublished. Length up to 10,000 words. Entry fee is $5, and authors may enter more than once.The editors will select a winner and nineteen additional finalists. The winner will receive $500 and publication in The Lascaux Review. Both winner and finalists will earn the privilege of displaying a virtual medallion on blogs and websites. Deadline December 31, 2013.

Boomers: The Huffington Post's Huffpo50 is publishing short fiction! The rules: You must be 50 or older to enter. Writers can submit only one story per year, and all pieces must be 5,000 words or less. Send your original submissions, as well as your contact details, to 50fiction@huffingtonpost.com

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January 2014 only.

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65 Comments:

Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sex has certainly come up in the world. What's called "erotica" today used to be referred to DBs (Dirty Books). They used to have plain brown wrappers and were sold under the counter.

Ah, the good old days. ;-)

Now it's gone upscale & is published in hard cover at hard cover prices. Alfred Knopf is spinning in his grave while the publisher of 50 Shades is laughing all the way to the bank as are all the employees who got a nice year-end bonus.



November 3, 2013 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

Well, I maintained not writing sex for all these years in my Regencies and I'm finally vindicated. Sort of. I mean, reading sex is like being a voyeur. I don't want people looking at me while in the act, and I certainly wouldn't want any of the mommies at school wondering where my head is at if they chose to read what I wrote. If I had written it. I guess I always had my daughter's best interests in mind as I made that decision.

Thanks, Anne for this post. I feel much better about my books now.

November 3, 2013 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not a chance I would write a sex scene. I barely managed one where there was a kiss. My genre isn't one that features sex anyway. So it would be odd to include it.

November 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

Honestly, I believe writers shouldn't let their work be pushed and pulled by the whims of public attitude. Erotica was in, now there's a backlash and it's out, then there will be a backlash to the backlash and it's in again. It's like the lengths of skirts in fashion--just wait long enough and it will cycle around.

If your story doesn't need superfluous fan service, don't throw some in just because "sex sells." And if your story is enhanced by sex scenes, don't take them out just because you're afraid Kobo will blacklist you. Just wait a few months for the tabloids to get bored and the retailers to calm down. Everyone will forget about smutty books and find something else to panic about soon enough.

November 3, 2013 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Claude Nougat said...

Very interesting post, Anne. I must say I immediately checked my book "A Hook in the Sky" (because it's got a female nude on the cover, a painting I did) on the rank site you gave.

And I'm happy to report it returned a no problem verdict, i.e. my book hasn't got "adult" in red next to the title. Perhaps this is not so surprising because the cover reproduces a painting and that's basically artwork, not an illustration...Maybe they do that distinction because when I first published that cover earlier this year I had a problem with Amazon until I was able to prove to them that it's my own artwork, dammit! No porn, but art, yeah!

So perhaps we're not sinking in the puritan doldrums quite yet. Though, I must say, that book of mine, in spite of the cover, really has very few sex scenes in it, and always short, with no references to "dirty" words - quite frankly, I don't enjoy them myself, I find sex scenes become easily quite boring! There's only one good reason to have them: if they push forward the story, otherwise, cut them! Anyway, that's my own opinion...

November 3, 2013 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger pat said...

I too feel very vindicated by this post. I've felt a little embattled at times about my unwillingness to write sex. But the fact is, put in a sex scene and, for me at least, the novel turns into a whole different thing. And I'm darned if I will spend years crafting an intricately plotted novel that loses focus once the readers hit those three paragraphs on page seventy.

I blogged about it a while back as the 'chocolate-chip cookie' theory of smut, if you're interested.

November 3, 2013 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--I remember when we called them Dirty Books. :-) And when video stores had separate sections for "adult films". But in this decade, dirty books have gone mainstream and video stores are dead. But there seems to be a return to "backroom" adult content.

Anne--I think part of the continuing popularity of Regencies (and all things Jane Austen) is a reaction to all the erotica in mainstream romance. Nobody's going to expect (or want) a sex scene in a Regency, and readers know they're "safe" if they don't want things to explicit.

Alex--Usually "space-opera" sci-fi is pretty free of the smutty stuff, but I remember when an elderly customer at the bookstore where I worked returned a standard-looking Tor space travel book and ranted about the "smut." I looked inside and it read like "the Story of O." Glad that trend didn't stick around.

Tamara--That's a great attitude if you aren't a professional writer. But if your books are the source of your livelihood, you need to be aware of what retailers will sell. Photocopying your books and hawking them on street corners might keep your art truly independent, but it won't pay the rent."Indie" writers are only as independent as the retailers allow us to be.

Claude--I think illustrations probably don't set off the same algos as photographs. But I had no idea you had to prove the art is yours. Amazon's rules always surprise me. I agree about boring sex scenes. Also they can get comical so easily. If the author doesn't intend the scene to be comic, that can backfire, big time.

November 3, 2013 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Deb Nam-Krane said...

There is nothing about the Star Trek movies I don't remember. Except Star Trek V, which I try to forget as much as I can.

When I'm crafting a story, I can't worry about the market trends. I have to go with what works for my characters. In my series, I have four heroines. For three of them, we know sex happens but I don't go into any detail. It doesn't work for them. For the other one, however, while I don't get explicit, I talk to it more. It's an important part of her story. If I had to take it out, I'd lose a lot of the character.

Having said that, I think there is ALWAYS going to be a market for sex, and in spite of the increased availability of erotica, I think people still want to read it interspersed into other forms of fiction. And that's fine- if it works for the story.

I thought I hadn't been affected by the purge- my titles were still up on Kobo- but I was crushed to discover that my local indie bookstore website, which takes its feed from Kobo, had pulled one of my titles. *sigh* It was never going to be a big channel for me, but I certainly liked having it there.

November 3, 2013 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger Marie Ann Bailey said...

Thank you for this interesting post. As a reader, I've been unpleasantly surprised by the extent of "erotica" in current romance novels. I put erotica in quotes because I'm seeing a very very fine line between erotica and pornography these days. I'm not a prude, but so many of the sex scenes I read in books has little if anything to do with the story. If I can skip a sex scene without losing any of the storyline, then that tells me that the sex scene wasn't necessary to the story. As a writer, I have the same anxiety in writing sex scenes as many others: are people going to assume that I have first-hand experience with this? But I also consider whether writing about sex adds to an understanding of my characters or the plot. It will be interesting to see where this goes in terms of censorship. Maybe writers and readers of erotica should start their own ebook reader press and sidestep Kobo, Smashwords, and the rest.

November 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Lexi said...

I'm not a fan of blow-by-blow descriptions of sex and don't write them - but you've alarmed me by saying you've eliminated what you quaintly call "f" bombs. Some of my characters swear - just like some people in real life do.

I'd hate to have to start using 'mucking' as Mary Renault was obliged to do in The Charioteer.

November 3, 2013 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Pat--Thanks for the link to your blogpost. Love it! Especially this line about "good smut" 'It’s a holdover from a time when any smut was thought to be a bad thing, and smut could only be justified at all if it was embedded in something that would hold the reader’s interest without the smut. Does anybody really need to maintain that fiction any more? Perhaps the people who would are off in the lounge, reading Playboy for its articles."

Deb--A lot of romance walks a fine line these days. I'm sorry to hear your indie store pulled your book. That's what I see may be a trend. I have some whips and chains in Sherwood, Ltd.--used strictly for comic effect, but it might get the book pulled in some places. When robots are doing our thinking for us, it's hard to know what to do.

Marie--Very interesting suggestion! An all-erotica retailer could work. Porny romance does not work for me--although I admit I was fond of the steamy feminist novels of the 70s like Fear of Flying. Now I prefer chick lit, which tends to be funny instead of smutty. Maybe that's my age :-)

November 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Lexi--I fear we may be going in that direction. Of course real people don't say "mucking" or "effing" unless they're around Great Aunt Harriet. I've avoided the problem in my Camilla books because she's an etiquette writer and people do treat her like their great-aunt. But The Gatsby Game has some seriously "offensive" language by one character because it's intrinsic to the plot that she's foul-mouthed. I get one-star reviews from the "swearing" police, but so far the book hasn't been pulled. Let's hope it isn't. But in the future, I'm going to be more careful.

November 3, 2013 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Deb Nam-Krane said...

Ugh. No one is ever going to be able to come up with an algorithm for humor.

November 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

My first book, which was about a young lady who struggles with the ethical quandary of being an adult movie performer, created all kinds of grief for me, both in the real world and the cyber world and as such, has become pretty hard to pimp (no offense intended) for sale.

Having said that, the next two books I have on tap that I plan on self-publishing have at the most a couple of sex scenes, none lasting more than one-half to one full page.

While some may think to throw a sex scene in superfluous at best, I find it to be a necessary balance to the violence (which is not over the top) contained within the story.

As for Kobo, because of their knee-jerk reaction to the "smut/porn" issue with self-published books, I yanked my short story trilogy from their website.

It's one thing to not carry certain books because of certain content, but its a whole other issue when you can't properly interpret and enforce your Terms of Service the first time around.

No one likes a hypocrite. Especially if its a Internet based business.

November 3, 2013 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger J.B. Chicoine said...

I figure there's plenty of books out there with explicit sex and language--I'm happy to offer a good story without that. Though I must say this--since my latest novel has to do with a student-teacher relationship (no sex), it has attracted a few readers that may have been hoping for something a little steamier (I base that on other books in their reading lists and on Amazon's "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed")... which makes me wonder how close to offending their algorithms I might have come!

Great and informative post as always. Thanks!

November 3, 2013 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Molly Greene said...

Thanks for this post, Anne. Like Mary Anne above, I’m not a prude but I haven’t written a sex scene, even though I was told when I started writing that romantic suspense readers “expected” at least one steamy scene in every book. I wondered if I was the only one who didn’t agree – and now it looks like Mary Anne has made my day. And you, too, Anne. Thanks for the conversation!

November 3, 2013 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Deb--You're so right. And a lot of people are opposed to humor on principle--maybe because their own brains can't process it. Next week's post will talk about how humor gets no respect.

G. B.--I'm sorry to hear you've had a hard time with your book. I can see how it might be hard to market. I personally have much more trouble with lots of violence than with sex, and it's good to let people know what they're going to be in for.

I know other writers who aren't interested in dealing with Kobo since they went nuclear on indies. They were founded in Canada, which has much stricter anti-porn laws than either the US or the UK, so I'm surprised they didn't work this out earlier.

J.B. "Also-boughts" can be head-scratchers. I think that's because people often buy books as gifts and may be buying for very different age groups. I'm always getting suggestions to buy MG fantasy because I used to buy MG fantasy for my nephew. So people may see "customers who bought "Gone, Girl" also bought "Sea of Trolls." Algos can do some comical things.

But if you think the algos are defining your book as steamy, it might be worth it to look at keywords in your metadata and other things you might be able to change.

Molly--You'll enjoy Pat's "chocolate cookie" post she linked to above. She says if you're going to have sex, have a lot, or leave it out. (Decide if it's a chocolate chip cookie or not.)

I've heard that too--that romantic suspense must have those scenes. I used to write them, but mostly I took them out again because they got too comical.

November 3, 2013 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I'm a erotic romance writer so I do take offence to some of the things that have happened. Violence in books never seem to get taken off the shelves and even in YA, children killing children?

November 3, 2013 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger pat said...

The discussion about swearing made me laugh. The very first story I sold was the only one with a truly foul-mouthed character in it. And I sold it to a journal published at Brigham Young University! Well, you can imagine how much my poor character had to tone down his dialogue…

Ah, well. Stuff happens.

November 3, 2013 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger RandiK said...

I am very offended by this book burning frenzy. I have written three successful non-fiction books, but had a frankly sexual short story carried by Clies Press, which specializes in all kinds of erotica. I put just as much work into the story as I did the nonfiction. As a society we are such hypocrites.

November 3, 2013 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Tori Minard said...

Why is it we think people will believe we've had the sexual experiences we write about? Do they also imagine us murdering people because we sometimes write about murders? How about torture? Robbery? Child abuse...I don't think people should "have" to read or write about sex if they don't want to, but this notion that sex somehow requires a category of its own, as if it's so dangerous it has to be quarantined, seems incredibly sad and silly to me.

November 3, 2013 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Yes, Ruth and Anne ... and we can remember when Red Foxx was sold on the blackmarket, when Tropic of Cancer wasn't available in the US at all (my seaman brother who gave me God's LIttle Acre at sixteeen ... brought it home when I was eighteen) and for years Lady Chaderley's Lover was banned in many states. Anis Nin and several very prominent writers as ex-pats in Europe during the Hemingway years were paid by the page to write erotica for rich old men.

HOWEVER, all of those were beautifully written and Red like Moms Mayberry ... was ahead of his time. And the times they are changing shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

BTW I've been reading that amazon and many others are doing a 180 on indie books. Good grief ... he giveth and he taketh away :)

I don't like gratuitous sex or violence in film or books. But there is something so special when the reader can connect with something more creative than plug in porn ... many of the most beautiful love scenes are what some considered then and now as unfit to read. What was the song, girls? When everything old is new again :)

November 3, 2013 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Vera--I understand why you feel discriminated against. 50 Shades made billions for big publishing, but indies get blamed for the "epidemic of filth". I'm with you on the violence. I won't read most crime novels anymore because so many have "torture porn" scenes. I do not want those images in my head.

Pat--Too funny that you sold a potty-mouth story to the Mormons. Must have been a great story if they took it anyway, even if they were going to censor it.

Randi--I'm not sure anybody's saying that erotica doesn't take just as much skill to write, but discriminating against all small presses and self-publishers because of a handful of yucky books does seem hypocritical. Especially since big publishers make lots of money on erotica. I'm much more offended by scenes of torture than people having sex--and torture is de rigeur in those serial killer mysteries.

Tori--I'm amazed by the readers who think authors have lived through the things they write about. One of my favorite reviews of my Camilla books said the reader loved it because it was obvious the author really lived through all those things.

That's high praise indeed, since it's all wildly fictional. Nothing that happens to Camilla is remotely like my life. She's an excruciatingly polite NYC fashionista born with a silver spoon and I'm a Crocs-wearing CA hippie with old-lefty parents. (And I drop "f" bombs way more often than Camilla would approve of. :-))

November 3, 2013 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence--Thanks for the nostalgia! I remember when one of my Dad's friends got him a copy of Tropic of Cancer on a trip abroad. I was forbidden to read it so of course I did. I was young enough I didn't get most of it though.

I'm much more worried about what this will do to indie publishing in general than I am about erotica. I think it will always sell. But if big retailers like Kobo stop publishing indies, readers are going to lose out on a lot of good books. Thank goodness for Mark Coker. I was pleased to see him take a stand and I'm glad he's planning to help indie erotica authors keep publishing, by establishing the "two tier" system.

November 3, 2013 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

Thanks for the nod to my post"Sex? Must We?" I've always sought to "Casablanca" the romantic element in my novels. As with horror, sexual content that is merely suggested seems more appealing to the majority of readers. Intriguing post.

November 3, 2013 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Roland--I meant to give you a heads-up that I'd linked to your blog. Loved that post. I personally find the suggestion more appealing than the whole blow-by-blow shebang.

I love the idea of "Casablanca-ing" your stories. I adore the films of that era because of the elegant way they portray sexual tension. The "screwball comedies" of the late thirties and forties are the inspiration for my novels.

November 3, 2013 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've never written 'steamy' romance though one of my books had a cover that made it seem like something erotic.
I'm not sure what I think about the book filters. Though I find the content they're filtering disgusting, I'm leery of censoring.

November 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Lots of interesting comments on this post. I'm reading a YA novel now where the characters use the F word all the time. I'm writing YA and don't want to go there. Or need to with my characters.

I agree with the comments about violence. So sad that our culture is so tolerant of violence and intolerant of natural human behavior. Children killing children...really? Should be intolerable but was widely embraced.

November 3, 2013 at 5:30 PM  
OpenID lnahay said...

As far as algos go, my protagonist is a mother. Will my book start getting flagged because I often say 'breast', as in she's nursing?? I'm not taking the word out. Apparently, people need reminding that our bodies are not purely sexual in design or function.

November 3, 2013 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--I'm not sure that filtering necessarily has to = censorship. When we go into a department store, we don't expect to see dildos or fetish outfits on display next to the socks and gloves. Online marketing is still a wild frontier, and they're making a bumbling attempt at organizing things. I think they'll get better at it as customers give feedback. Meanwhile, authors and publishers need to be aware of the pitfalls.

Christine--I think a few years ago people felt that there had to be vulgar language for things to be "authentic." But not all kids use that language and that reality should be allowed to be expressed, too.

And I agree about violence. Why is that OK when normal bodily functions aren't? I turn off half the TV shows I try to watch because of horrible torture scenes. I'm not entertained by torture.

Inhay--I wrote this post to give authors a heads-up. It's not a question of what "should be" but what is. Because our livelihoods are now controlled by algorithms, we need to be aware of them. It it a good thing that robots run our lives? No way. But ignoring the reality might put an end to writing careers. I sure hope a book about breastfeeding won't be flagged as porn. But if your book is pulled, you'll know why.

November 3, 2013 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger Trekelny said...

Hey Anne, what is it about Sunday near noon that locks me away from my PC? I volunteer to always go last on your blog posts.
Great stuff as usual. What this recent anti-porn movement SHOULD be doing is further hurting the mindless big-box publishing mentality by exploiting how much more nimble and inventive the internet can be. I've called before for a boatload of online imprints to get started, find the best titles in each genre and treat them right to make a name for themselves. Erotica, fantasy, mystery, horror- in each area, a couple of dedicated folks searching for the best material in their language could steal a lot of business away from (gaspity-gasp) Zon and the others who just dump and run with petabytes of stuff And if they charged another 5% off my retail price for this service, why wouldn't I pay it?
Online publishing is like a river; censorship is not a dam, but a flood-wall along the bank. This stuff isn't really being stopped, just channeled- I hope there are folks out there who "get it" and will take advantage. There are millions of drops-in-the-ocean who write great material and need someone to help them really reach their intended audience.

November 4, 2013 at 2:33 AM  
Blogger Christine Monson said...

If bestselling authors such as Nicholas Sparks and Dan Brown can get away without writing the actual sex scene I believe other writers can too. I'm not a prude, but I've put a book down before because of the play-by-play. It's not for me and I'm sure there are others who will say the same.

It seems sex scenes in books are like those in movies, they are only needed if the storyline is weak.

November 4, 2013 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger Martha Nichols said...

This is a great overview of what's going on, Anne, something I also got wind of in a piece I'm editing now for TW. I will also be forwarding this link to our Talking Indie columnist, David Biddle. Let me know if you want to expand on this kind of blanket censorship of indies in another piece for TW. Thanks!

November 4, 2013 at 7:13 AM  
OpenID writerchick said...

I can't say this makes me unhappy at all. I always feel a little squeamish when facing the decision of whether or not to include a sex scene. Maybe I'm just too wholesome but even as a reader I don't particularly enjoy them either. I think we've become so over-saturated with sex in movies, books, advertising, jokes, and even political campaigns (remember that 'first time' video in the last presidential election?)that generally we want a break.

I also think that too many writers turn to a sex scene to pump energy into their stories when something else would work as well or even better. And let's be honest, a lot of writers don't write sex scenes well and it just comes off as pandering, as opposed to a meaningful plot point or character revelation.

I don't believe in censoring but I do believe that if you are a writer you have to write what your readers want to read - if the public is turning away from this type of material it's because they don't want it. So to me, it's not about the publishing industry, it's about the reading public.

Great post!
Annie

November 4, 2013 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

I don't usually read EVERY single comment on a blog post, but I've read all of these. I find it alarming that so few see this as a slippery slope of censorship. Censors never see themselves as prudes,yet they put themselves in charge of choosing what should be read/seen/heard. Have none of you read "Handmaid's Tale?"

I like sex, I sometimes like reading about sex, I have sometimes written about sex.

I do not(usually)want to read about rape or incest, but should "Game of Thrones" be filtered out for porn? What about "Outlander?" "Handmaid's Tale?" "The Sparrow?"

It's such a fine line. I would much rather take responsibility for myself and my children than rely on a "porn filter," or applaud the use of one.

I find it sad and alarming that ANYONE would be happy to have someone else make choices for them.

Anne, thank you for this informative blog. I doubt I will change any of my sex scenes, but may look at them and make sure they are necessary adverbs.

Thank you, I think I'll go read some Henry Miller now.

November 4, 2013 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Bryan Russell said...

Story is king. I mostly avoid explicit sex unless that explicitness is integral to the story. Which is almost never. Too me, it has to be really important if I'm going to show it. Not just that they had sex, which can be indicated and can occur off-stage (or mostly off-stage), but that the act itself is necessary to see in some way. I'm thinking of Ian McEwan's Atonement, in which the sex scene, and a witness's misinterpretation of it, is the hinge upon which the entire books swings. It's necessary. Otherwise, though, I lean away from it.

Makes me think of HBO's Game of Thrones, which is a wonderfully produced show, but has pointless nudity everywhere. And yet... my favourite scene from the show has a couple of naked people talking in the bath. But that was a vital scene, and played deeply into character and relationship. A lot of the rest is just needless (and often distracting) titillation.

November 4, 2013 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Cade said...

Great post, Anne. Interesting times in which we live and write.

I am somewhat taken aback by the commenters here who feel sex is included in a romance when that's the only way that author can fill the pages.

Um, no, there are some of us who enjoy reading and writing the bedroom (or wherever) scenes, just as some enjoy reading and writing horror or graphic violence.

I so agree rape, incest and other unlawful acts should be outlawed in publishing as they are in life, but sex is a part of our human makeup, and as long as we continue to do it, why shouldn't we be able to read about it if we choose?

May God grant speed and skill to those programming the algorithms to separate the heat levels--because children should not be faced with sexual material on their computer search screen!

And may the rest of us be tolerant of each other's tastes and supportive of each others as professionals.

best,
Cathryn Cade

November 4, 2013 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Trelkeny—What a great way of looking at it: "Online publishing is like a river; censorship [or I'd rather call it filtering] is not a dam, but a flood-wall along the bank. This stuff isn't really being stopped, just channeled- I hope there are folks out there who "get it" and will take advantage. "

It isn't censorship that they don't sell dildos at the local grocery store. Everything has its own place, and that's a good thing for consumers. And you're right that the time is ripe for new niche retailers to step in. All Romance Ebooks is one, but I'll bet more will spring up.

Christine—Interesting that you bring that up: two of our biggest authors don't include the "steam". But in the 60s, people like Michener and other biggies did. So we actually have more choice now. When you buy the Dan Brown "brand" you know what you're going to get (or not get.)

Martha—Thanks much. Love to do a piece for Talking Writing on the censorship issue. Tell him to contact me!

Writerchick—You're right that it's about what the public wants. The pendulum swings one way, and then the other. People may be bored by those scenes. I do sometimes treat a sex scene in a movie like a commercial—I can go get a snack and not worry about missing any plot points.

Unfortunately the public still seems to want lots of serial killer torture stuff, which I don't. So I'm all for filtering and labeling. I wish they'd have warnings on "mysteries" that have torture so I can skip them. A lot of people in this thread have brought up the problem of violence and that's much more of an issue for me. It's the same with film and TV. I turn off so many shows because they seem to have thrown in a torture scene because some exec. thinks they're necessary these days.

Tam—I don't think it's a desire to censor as much as it's a tech issue. Retailers need a way to tell what's porn and what's literature so they can put books in appropriate categories. And that usually takes a human. I hope they can figure out a way to do that. But it's like selling dildos. There are appropriate places and inappropriate places to display them. Most people don't want them at the supermarket checkout stand. That's not censorship, it's sensible retail management.

What I worry about most is that all indies may suffer because the tech for sorting is lagging behind the tech for selling. If people think they can only trust Big Five publishers to keep them safe from porn, all independent authors and publishers will suffer. So will the reading public.

Bryan—You're absolutely right that it's all about the story. I have a foul-mouthed character in The Gatsby Game who absolutely needs to use those words. It's based on a real incident, when an actress said a man was trying to "f-word" with her, meaning confuse her, and the police took it to mean the man was having an affair with her. Without using the word, I have no story.

Cathryn—There are many categories of romance and erotic romance is certainly as valid a category as any. And it takes as much artistry to write (probably more, judging by my own failed attempts.) What we really have is a problem of branding. We need to learn how let the reader know what to expect before they buy.

November 4, 2013 at 10:18 AM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

I've always felt since I write for an LGBT audience that my books were pretty tame by comparison to some others I've read, especially when it came to the sex scenes. I have to tell you I'm not a prude and grew up with the Hays Office and the Legion of Decency Pledge but then Mom and I ran right out and saw the movies our church condemned. But I still had the feeling that by comparison my gay historical novellas were pretty tame. In a way, your post, Anne, made me feel that maybe romance is..well enough. BTW I didn't get your post in my inbox yesterday and went thru a full day of Anne R. Allen withdrawal. Good thing you posted on FB today or I'd have missed this great article. :) Paul

November 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Paul--Look in your spam folder. Newsletters and blogs get dumped there fairly often. Sometimes they'll just block it though, so you won't see it in the folder. If that's happened, I can put you on my personal email list. You won't get the whole blog, but you'll get a notice.

LGBT books are different and I do think you can get away with more because it's already "filtered" out of mainstream "also-boughts" and such. I do think that romance should be enough, but it may be that readers expect more explicit stuff in LGBT fiction. Still, you could break the mold...

November 4, 2013 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger Donelle Lacy said...

I love your blog and need to post more comments on it. This is a very informative post and I can see both sides of the discussion it has stirred up. Though, as a writer, I guess I'd put myself in the Casablanca category. I think with every explosion of popularity a genre gets, there's an oversaturation of that genre. While there are readers who will still devour similar books, there are those who want a change in what they see on the shelves. Publishing seems to have ebbs and flows, and while I'm not too worried about it, it's worth keeping an eye on.

November 4, 2013 at 6:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Donelle--There's definitely an element of fashion here. Anything that gets overdone will eventually annoy people. (Are you old enough to remember shoulder pads? LOL)

There's also the "Wild West" element to the Internet. Everybody's making up the rules as they go along. There's room for all tastes, but we don't want to send the kids to the brothel/saloon to get a pint of milk.

They just need to find a way to separate genres that doesn't end up killing off the entire indie publishing movement. That would be a real step backward, IMO, and is a bigger issue than just censoring erotica. Smashwords is working on a system that will allow different levels of erotica to be organized, without any kind of censorship. I have a lot of faith in Mark Coker. Smart man.

November 4, 2013 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Judith van Praag said...

Anne,
You're so on top of it (no pun intended), I've been thinking about the points your make.
Treat sex like adverbs? Gosh, I haven't been using those for years, or at least try not to. It's true, if you don't use them you lose them.
Best,
Judith

November 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Katie Cross said...

I personally don't read erotica or anything with a lot of sex in it. Mild sex scenes I just skim over, but I have to say- props to the UK and all those others who are trying to put a cap on porn. I think that's awesome.

November 5, 2013 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judith--Thanks! I've been known to enjoy an adverb or two. :-) Some books need them and some don't. There's no one-size-fits-all.

Katie--I'm not opposed to erotica for the people who enjoy it, but I want to be allowed to choose whether it's in my face or not. That's what they need to work out: a way that's fair for people who want it AND the people who don't.

November 5, 2013 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

There's never any problem with guns or guts on covers, and it's sad. If much of the world, and American especially, would just get over their hangup on sex the world might be a better place.

Instead they cling to the idea that it's bad but embrace the idea that all things violent are good. We all know sex sells, and that's not going to change. But it'd be nice if it sold a lot more - perhaps we'd read more about students crying in pleasure instead of in pain.

November 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger Creaky door writer said...

Anne, your posts are always hugely informative but this one made my jaw drop, and had me reading it out loud in the office. Thanks for the warning - not so long ago I think all writers were thinking spicing things up would pay dividends.

November 6, 2013 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger Jhon Lockar said...

Hiya, I was reading one more factor about this on an additional blog. Interesting. Your perspective on it is diametrically contradicted from what I read earlier. Im still pondering of the opposite elements of view, but Im leaning to a great extent toward yours. And irrespective, that may be whats so perfect about contemporary democracy as well as the industry of ideas online.

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November 6, 2013 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--You're right about the violence. And actually, the sexual content the British government is worried about is more violent than sexual. Rape and sexual torture and that sort of thing. But as you point out, "mystery" authors don't get censored, even though people like James Patterson include that stuff routinely.

Creaky--I hope you didn't get criticized for reading "adult" content in the office. LOL. I just found out that my weekly notice of this blog got blocked by most spamblockers, just because it had the word "sex" in the header.

Jjon--I'm not advocating censorship. I'm just giving authors a heads-up so their work doesn't get lost in an erotica category when it isn't erotica. This is not a prescriptive post, just descriptive. I think we are always safer if we're informed than if we pretend the world is the way we wish it to be.

November 6, 2013 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

50 Shades of Gray? What? What are you talking about? I'd never read that... I don't know WHAT you're talking about. Me? I'm clueless. La.La.La... What's that? A decorating book? Cause I wouldn't know. Don't know nuttin' about THAT. La.La.La...

November 6, 2013 at 8:59 AM  
Blogger Kittie Howard said...

I think what's left to the imagination is more powerful than the reality -- so many old movies come to mind with 'pure sex' scenes that contained nothing beyond a kiss. But that was then; this is now. I'm personally not into violence, from a snake devouring a rat to graphic murder scenes. . . but I love Miss Marple! Having said that, we can't return to unreasonable censorship. I don't like scary Halloween movies, but I know people who think they're great fun. So what about sex in novels? I'm not against a bit of a physical tease -- but to my thinking that leaves out long-winded descriptions (pleeze). Rape and incest are NEVER acceptable. Porn is NEVER acceptable. As a Supreme Court justice said, "I don't know what porn is, but I know it when I see it." We're at that point today. Time to scale it back.

But omitting the f-bomb? No. People use it. That's a fact. Having said that, I think YA writers should censor themselves . . . role modeling is at play here.

November 6, 2013 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Churadogs said...

Like everything else, I suppose it's all in the writing. "Good" sex writing can enhance a story. "Bad" sex writing can stop a story cold and turn the scene into something as exciting as watching paint dry.

November 7, 2013 at 6:00 AM  
Blogger Jami Gold said...

Interesting discussion! I write paranormal romance, which is typically steamier than other romance sub-genres. But I've also posted before about my squeamishness at writing those scenes when I first started (http://jamigold.com/2013/03/dread-writing-sexy-scenes-5-tips-for-success/).

As I said in that post:
"I’m a firm believer in listening to my characters as I write. And the honest fact is that the first time we’re intimate with someone, we often feel lots of emotions—some good, some bad, and some a mix of we-don’t-even-know.

So “closing the door”—pretending that no realizations about love or lust or trust happen during the characters’ first intimate encounter—felt like a cheat to my characters, my story, and my readers. That meant I had to learn how to write those scenes or end up with a blank page."

That's still true for me today. Some of my stories are just kissing and some have 3 or so sex scenes. I do what's right for the story. I *couldn't* cut them or tone them down without losing the triggers for the emotional and plot turning points.

To me, that's what non-erotica sex scenes *should* be about--scenes that are just as important to the story as any other scene. So I hope that my stories wouldn't get slapped with a gratuitous label because of exploring the real vulnerabilities we expose in those situations.

Sometimes those scenes I write *are* uncomfortable because they're supposed to be. What the characters are willing to do in those situations reveals aspects of their personality that can't be explored with other methods.

In other words, I don't like seeing labels slapped on things without taking into account these considerations. But as many other commenters have mentioned, algorithms don't have common sense. *sigh*

Thanks for the heads' up, Anne!

November 7, 2013 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--That's right. It's a decorating book. LOL.

Kittie--I never saw a problem with f-bombs in my writing and I'm with you on censorship--I don't care what other people see, but I want control over what I see. Unfortunately algorithms can't always tell how a word is used in context.

Churadogs--Unfortunately robots don't know art from schlock. Therin lies the problem. We are all at the mercy of the robots now, and I think that's scary.

Jamie--As I said, it's wise to ask yourself if the scene is so necessary to the story that you're willing to take the risk of being sent to the erotica ghetto. It sounds as if it's a gamble you feel you need to take. I probably would too, if I wrote in a steamy romance genre.

If you're with a Big 5 publisher, they'll know what works and what doesn't in terms of heat. It's small presses and self-pubbers who have to be more wary. But it looks as if Smashwords will continue to allow most erotic content with no problem. Some writers may want to concentrate more on making sales through Smashwords. (And I think the new Oyster subscription service will take whatever Smashwords sends.) If the Zon puts you into erotica, you might be able to appeal. I haven't heard how that works.

November 7, 2013 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger DarkSeductress said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 7, 2013 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger DarkSeductress said...

What gets me is that a lot of people are talking about rape and pain as a bad thing. The 50 Shades trilogy really made a mess of things because it was just not well written or well researched. But does this mean that all authors who actually write GOOD books and stories containing BDSM (yes, including psuedo-rape scenes) should stop writing things that their readers like and want? I'm a member of several bdsm group pages and websites. Combined, that's at least 100,000 people, if not more and that's just the groups that I am in. If I cannot post my writing that people are clamoring for on big retailers, I will simply find another way to distribute it to the masses. Censorship in ANY form is wrong. Use key words, let people decide what is right for them, but don't do a slash and burn approach or you risk alienating even people that didn't read those items in the first place. I'm not lesbian, but I have stopped using a certain brand of pasta as they said they didn't want gays using it. Other companies have likewise lost my patronage, simply for acting as if they were judge, jury, and executioner of others free will. And therein lies the problem. Your books may not be targeted in this round. But if even one person takes offense to anything in them, you could be next. Do we really want to start down that slippery slope? I don't.

November 7, 2013 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Dark--It sounds as if your books won't be harmed by being categorized as "erotica" and put in a separate category that wouldn't be shown to mainstream customers.

The problem with my books is they would sorely disappoint your readers, so I need to keep them in front of the mainstream customer.

This isn't a question of censoring, but of categorizing. I don't want my books categorized as erotica and when robots are doing the sorting, mistakes can happen.

If you read Michael Tamblyn's comments, you'll see that Kobo is going to allow erotica, but their filters will be tougher. That may mean that your books won't be accepted by Kobo or iTunes, but Amazon and Smashwords and B and N seem fine with standard erotica fare.

You can follow the link to Smutworks to get the keywords that may get your work put into the erotica category on Amazon. But I don't see how that would harm your sales.

But it would harm my sales a lot.

November 7, 2013 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

Erotica fatigue is my new favorite term. That's great.

November 7, 2013 at 3:36 PM  
OpenID katepavelle said...

Sometimes sex fits, sometimes it doesn't. I am not going to let some bureaucrat at Amazon or elsewhere dictate whether or not my work needs it.

November 8, 2013 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--I thought it was pretty funny, too.

Kate--That's very admirable. But if no retailer will carry your book, nobody will be able to buy it. If you set up a store on your own site and do lots of advertising, maybe you can sell a few anyway. Good luck.

November 8, 2013 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Interesting post! I haven't read all the previous comments, so someone may have mentioned this already, but I don't think writing erotica is the same as having a sex scene or two in your book. I have a few sex scenes in my memoir and am considering removing them in order to market it to a YA audience, not because I'm worried about erotica fatigue. But I'm happy to hear that people are sick of erotica. I'm not a fan of 50 Shades of Gray!

November 9, 2013 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan--That's exactly the problem. Many commenters (and the algos) don't see the difference between erotica and mainstream fiction. They think if mainstream fiction no longer has hard-core erotica scenes, it will harm erotica writers. I think the opposite is true.

All retailers want to do is label the books correctly.

Nobody's trying to censor erotica writers--but retailers don't want to put erotica in front of 10-yr olds or grandmas looking for a nice cozy mystery. In a perfect world, the categorizing would be done by actual humans, but with millions of new ebooks coming out every year, it has to be done by algorithms. That means we need to be aware of what might trigger those algos to label your book "erotica."

November 9, 2013 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Greg Field said...

Hooray for 'Erotica Fatigue'. I've been waiting for the tide to turn for a while. Hopefully the next trend will be for something wholesome and sensible -- like well crafted murder mysteries.

November 10, 2013 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Glenda C. Beall said...

I read this post with great interest and also read all the comments. I applaud the effort to categorize books in a way the public knows what they are purchasing.
In a conversation today with two writers about a poetry reading where the f-bomb was thrown around quite a bit, we had different opinions. One writer who grew up in the mid-west and lived in south Florida uses the f-word in her everyday language and sees no harm in the poets use. But we live in the mountains in the south and our culture is different. The guest poet who used the colorful language was a young man from Atlanta. His audience was an older group, many church going couples, who don't use that language and find it offensive
I say, know your audience. Write for your audience. Read what the audience accepts and enjoys. We do need a filter for many reasons.As Anne says, we aren't going back to ban the books days, but we need to know where to find books that are not offensive, and also to find erotica if that is what we want.
Great post on an interesting subject.

November 10, 2013 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Greg--It's all about fads in the traditional publishing business. One year everybody has to write about vampires, and the next it's steampunk or s/m erotica and it's like they've never heard of any other kind of book. With indie publishing, readers can choose their genres. Let's hope things will continue that way.

Glenda--As you say, it's about categorizing, not censoring. Just because some people want the "adult" content, doesn't mean everybody should be subjected to it. It's not "censorship" to protect people from seeing or hearing what they find offensive. Everybody should have a choice. The problem is, without gatekeepers, it's hard to to that, so it's going to be up to the retailers, and there are bound to be some glitches.

November 10, 2013 at 8:02 PM  

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