Over the past year or so, Amazon has selectively decided not to sell some of my titles. Actually, most of my titles seem to bang against the vague TOS guidelines. I have 8 titles with a 9th on the way soon. Amazon has only published 4 of them. Basically, they hate half of what I write. I've seen titles and stories raunchier and more explicit than mine in the Amazon store. Stories with rape directly in the title or description. It's frustrating. With that in mind, I thought maybe I'm not disclosing my content transparently enough. I have content warnings on the first page, but maybe it's not enough. Amazon might like explicit titles so that no unsuspecting reader gets an eyeful of a trigger subject. I redid the three non-consent covers that Amazon allowed on their site and put "Non-Consent" across the cover.
Yesterday, they took down Seen.
On Facebook, blogs and other social media sites, I'm reading about the massive sweep Amazon is conducting on erotica titles. My story was not alone. I have a few problems with this, of course!
My first problem is how Amazon cleans out the erotica titles like a politician trying to distance himself from a sex scandal. Acting like it doesn't know us. "Why how did all those erotica titles get into our store?! We knew nothing about this!" I believe Amazon leaves the content guidelines vague so erotica titles can sneak in, but then when anyone shows the slightest outrage about adult material, they can sweep it under the rug. Amazon needs to stop pretending. Give clear guidelines and an adult filter instead of this massive clean out like we're a scandalous secret affair.
My second problem with this is more personal. I have three covers that are almost exactly the same. Based on how vague Amazon's guidelines are, should I fix them all now? Or should I wait until Amazon gets around to the others? I don't know what the problem is. I'm assuming it's the words Non-Consent on the bottom, but who knows since they won't tell you.
My third problem...well it's not a problem exactly. I'm seeing a lot of people who are upset and refuse to change their titles, covers or material to conform to vague guidelines or compromise their creativity. They're offended and rightly so, but where do you go from here? Do you allow a retailer to dictate your work? Do you conform to get along with the new gatekeeper which is Amazon? Or do you stick to your convictions yet shoot your writing career in the foot by not writing anymore at all out of frustration? As self-publishers, we're a little spoiled by the ability to write whatever we want without a publisher making demands or asking us to change our stories. We have to make hard decisions to continue and prosper in our chosen careers. Each author will find a comfort level of their own but if you give up writing altogether, maybe this isn't the career for you.
I don't have answers for anyone else. Personally, I'll write what I love whether it's non-consent, BDSM or capture erotica. Amazon has never loved my work, but I don't write for Amazon. I write for myself and my three fans! *grins* There are other retailers out there that will publish my books. Amazon is a shark in a fish pond. We kind of have to play their game to a point or lose sales. Fearful Cravings has done really well there, so I can understand not wanting to anger the 'Zon God when most of your sales come from them. Diversify your titles to other retailers. It's a bit more work, but you should never count on one retailer anyway. Don't let the shark eat your writing career.