Thursday, February 23, 2012
Bookstrand Kicks Out "Most" Indie Authors! (Censorship?)
What do they mean by "most"? Well, good question! I wrote a very kind, polite letter to them to find out. Apparently the (implied) answer is "Screw you, you're not even worthy enough for us to respond to."
For readers who may be out of the author loop, Paypal has gone on the attack, sifting through retailer websites looking for "obscene" material. It is against the Paypal Terms Of Service to use Paypal to buy or sell "obscene materials". Of course, what is obscene to Paypal is very vague, ever-changing, and subjective. Name any kink that you're into, and Paypal probably calls is "obscene." Including, according to an email one author received, BDSM.
What? Consensual, adult sex play involving handcuffs is "obscene"?! Yep. If you've ever used handcuffs, or any other BDSM toy/play no matter how mild or innocuous, Paypal thinks you are a disgusting pervert. Nice, huh? Apparently Paypal is being run by the Amish.
Back to the topic at hand: Paypal contacted Bookstrand and demanded that they remove any "offensive" books. Bookstrand, which has been at odds with its erotica authors in the past, required that authors remove books that had "questionable" content, and gave out strict guidelines for authors to follow.
I personally understand why Bookstrand did what they did, even if I didn't like it. If my business was under attack by Paypal, and I stood to lose a huge portion of my income if Paypal pulled the plug on me, I, too, would have given certain stories the heave-ho immediately. It's not personal, it's not censorship, it's business.
However, some authors, whose bread-and-butter were stories that "pushed the boundaries", were understandably up in arms. A few started petitions and Twitter campaigns. Then a few days ago, Bookstrand sent out an abrupt email saying that they were choosing to discontinue "maintaining most indie author accounts". What the hell?
So instead of getting rid of authors who were complaining, they got rid of ALL indie authors? Yep. This was patently unfair. They could have just said "no PI, and if you don't like it, you're gone." At worst, they could have said "no more erotica, it's too much trouble, so only regular books or erotic romance--mildly erotic romances with a plot--will be allowed." But they're just going to throw the baby out with the bath water, and toss us all out, with no recourse? Nice, Bookstrand. Very professional. Not.
It seems like Bookstrand is the whiney crybaby of e-retailers. Can they afford to boot us out? Time will tell. With more and more readers buying new ereader devices which allow direct downloading from large retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, instead of pain-in-the-butt sideloading when you buy from piddly little retailers like Bookstrand...I see a dim future for Bookstrand.
Will All Romance Ebooks follow suit? They are currently modifying their TOS, and pulling certain books from the shelves. If it stops there, that isn't too bad. I see it as pre-emptive protection from Paypal. But if they follow Bookstrand's lead? It seems like it would be business suicide to me. Again, time will tell.
[Edit: ARe has now pulled five of my books, claiming they violate their policies. They do NOT!!! I was given no warning, nor was I told what the problem was with these books. The books in question do NOT feature any form of incest, bestiality, or underage sex. All characters are fully consenting adults. It is plain vanilla (though very hot) erotica. I am hugely pissed about this. Is ARe targeting indies too? I'm hoping this is a mistake, but I have a sinking feeling it is not. I will update you as soon as I hear a response from ARe...whenever that may be. Until this matter is cleared up, I cannot personally recommend ARe for purchasing my books. If you want to buy my book in ANY format, you can purchase ALL of my books from Smashwords.com. They have every format you need: PDF, mobi, epub, HTML, and many more.]
One thing I noticed is that Bookstrand said "most" indie accounts will be dropped. Most? Meaning, some will get special treatment? We'll never know, though, because Bookstrand doesn't appear to be answering any questions. At this point, I'm just hoping they pay me for the sales I've already made there. But why didn't they say "hey, we're getting rid of erotica, it's too problematic--but if you have a romance, or book from another genre, we'll take that." Nope. It's "You're an indie author--begone! The sight of you offends me!"
So what is a loyal reader to do, if you want to support and encourage those who pen the stories you love?
If are buying from Bookstrand because you read PDFs on your computer, then if you can afford it, buy an ereader from a big company which will allow you the convenience of direct download from their e-store. They start at $79. Amazon is a behemoth. If anyone has the guts to fight Paypal's prudish censorship crusade, it's Amazon. So dedicated erotica readers should consider that.
2. Switch to a different small retailer.
If you can't afford an ereader, consider supporting a different, more author-friendly small retailer. Smashwords has many formats, and allows you to download in any or all of them--so if you get a Kindle or Nook later, you can download your Smashwords books those formats, as well. And Smashwords pays the highest royalties to their authors of all the retailers...extra incentive for us to work harder!
3. Download the free apps that Barnes & Noble and Amazon have, so you can read Kindle books or Nook books on all your devices: phone, laptop, desktop, iPad, etc. (Cookbooks and children's books look awesome on an iPad--just be sure to close down your Giselle London erotica book first, before calling the kids over to read Dr. Suess!)
Indie authors work hard to provide quality reading at affordable prices. How much would you spend to go to a movie? To buy a cup of coffee? A decent erotica story is less than that, and can be read again and again, if desired. If you purchased it through Barnes & Noble or Amazon, it can also be loaned out to other Kindle and Nook readers...meaning if you and your best friend like the same smut, and read on the same brand of device, you are allowed to "trade" books for a short time (two weeks, I think?) by loaning to each other through your retailer's Lend Me program. Money saver!
In short, support your favorite indie authors by supporting the retail outlets that treat them like decent human beings. Bookstrand, which takes a full 50% of the book price (the highest in the industry, and 20% more than Amazon) , has never treated authors very well, and is now spitting in their faces.