Saturday, February 25, 2012
Now, most people who know me know I'm no supporter of banning books or censorship, but this is neither, for two reasons.
First, while Paypal is the largest secure on-line service for payment, it's not their only option - Visa and Mastercard are hardly likely to care, and the sites themselves could develop their own on-line secure purchasing platform. Many do. For example, Diesel E-books has their own secure ordering site, but some of these sites simply don't want to invest the money in doing something similar just to cover erotica. Paypal is simply more convenient. It's also much easier to slam them for censorship.
And if you look on Diesel E-books you'll find they still have erotica books listed - including bondage and (Step)Daddy does Debbie. In fact, they wisely spun off their erotic titles as a separate entity. Something I - an erotica writer - suggested to Smashwords months ago when I noticed that the listings were disproportionately weighted with titles that were going beyond erotica (generally erotic romance), into erotic fiction and verging into porn, much of the type that Paypal found objectionable - particularly rape and incest.
Why? Because in reality they're illegal and send a terrible message to both women and men. As with the difference in freedom of speech from yelling fire in a theater because there is one, to yelling fire in a crowded theater for fun causing a panic that threatens lives, it's a matter of common sense.
Again, most people who know me or have read any of my books know that I'm a firm believer that if you can show violence in a book you should be able to show people making love.
That's a far different thing from making rape and incest look appealing.
Some would even argue that most of the incest that takes place in some of these books is 'okay' because it's step-father/step-child, no direct blood relation. They forget the uproar around Woody Allen when he admitted he was shagging his step-daughter by Mia Farrow. No blood relation there, either, and Soon-Yi was also adopted. But as with any relationship where one individual has a position of power, influence and trust, taking advantage of that position is a minefield of psychological dangers. Where it might actually result in a healthy relationship for someone like Woody Allen, giving tacit acceptance to it by putting it in an open forum it may send the wrong message to someone else. And that's a scary thought.
Such content also belittles the victims of rape and incest, who know how devastating it can be, by making their pain a source of titillation, and fuels stupid comments by sports figures and politicians. (Do you think they don't read it? Really?)
So, am I advocating censorship? Isn't that what Paypal is doing? And how is that different from say Barack Obama requiring churches to provide contraceptives?
Well, first Paypal isn't saying all erotica, just the really objectionable and illegal stuff.
Secondly because it's not censorship, there are alternatives. Some would argue women have alternatives, too, they don't have to work for some Christian organizations. But that, again, is pushing someone else's views on individuals and it's wrong. As its wrong to push the view that rape and incest are 'okay' under certain circumstances.
All is should have taken was simple common sense to look at some of the covers and the blurbs during the vetting process and recognize that these books pushed the envelope. A decision could have been made, as Diesel did, to move those titles to a separate branch, giving those who wanted to read them the ability to do so. After all, you don't recommend putting those titles on the shelves of your local bookstore or supermarket, and in the bad old days of video rental stores you had to go into a separate room for those videos. In terms of bestiality you may not want to walk down an aisle to see Donkey doing Dallas or a 'rape' scene where the victim is clearly tied down and appears terrified. For the same reason, separating erotic romance into one category (story centers around the relationship with more graphic language) from erotica and porn (where the sex is the primary focus and the language is all hard core), isn't book banning or censorship, it's common sense.
We have a responsibility as authors for what we write. I make no bones about the fact that I write for adults whether as Valerie Douglas or V. J. Devereaux. I firmly believe that the act of making love is one of the most beautiful and sometimes the most fun things two adults can do, and that if you can show someone blowing away a couple dozen people with a gun, showing two people loving each other should be just as acceptable. But I don't write for children or YA. Where given the option, I make clear on my book pages and elsewhere that my content is for those 18 years or older. While I could wish our attitudes about sex and violence were more evolved and that all human beings could treat each other with respect, we're not there yet. If you doubt me, just read the headlines lately.
Until then, we have to rely on common sense. And I'm just putting in my own two...
Here is the link to what Mark Coker actually said https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27
Friday, February 24, 2012
To be honest, I was pretty anxious, I did the push the button/don't push the button dance. I had already taken the drastic step of self-publishing Song in print through CreateSpace, and pretty much accepted that choice was the kiss of death for the story according to common knowledge at the time and I grieved a little for that. It did make the decision a little easier. At least someone would see it and like it, or so I hoped. (I'm happy to say that Song of the Fairy Queen has gotten some wonderful reviews and is doing pretty well.)
So much was negative about self-publishing then. Sometimes it still is.
I remember that first check from Smashwords for a whole $15 and change, but by then I had discovered Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble's PubIt, and I'd uploaded there as well. Now I would rather find another way to measure success, but dollars does seem to be the best measure.
I had made an agreement with my husband - he would agree that I could quit my day job, if I was making money from my writing within a year. That was predicated at the time on my relationship with my traditional publisher. I had been pretty confident that I had something moving forward with them, unfortunately, I was wrong. I had to make a decision - commit myself to the old traditional path or go all in as an independent writer - if I was to meet that goal.
That meant I had a LOT to learn, and fast. Like how to self-edit. I couldn't ask my sooooo patient and supportive husband to cough up a couple of hundred dollars for an editor, which meant I had to do it myself.
I scanned editor/agent websites for editing pet peeves and made a list of them, to complement what I'd learned from my editors.
I pulled books off my shelves to use as examples, searched for stock images and learned to create covers - some of which I'd already learned making the covers for Song and Heart of the Gods.
I had already learned to make book trailers as part of the marketing for my traditional publisher, so I wrote a primer on how to create them, documenting the steps necessary. I already knew more than a little about marketing from my past experience with my publisher (the idea that they'll do all the marketing really is a myth), but they went mainly through select yahoo groups. I decided to try Facebook instead, because its popularity was growing. I also started to use twitter.
I was very lucky in those first few months to have two people offer to feature my books on their blog/websites for free, giving me exposure I couldn't have gotten elsewhere. I wish I'd been able to thank Kenneth Wayne and eLTC in a better way.
Getting the courage to ask for reviews was tough, especially from those I didn't know. What I also didn't know was that in the Indie community, for a while at least among some reviewers, was that you could ask for the opportunity to fix anything a reviewer found wrong. In traditional publishing, that wasn't an option. (Sadly, it isn't any more for most Indies, either, after a few abused the privilege.)
That though is how I met Kai Wilson.
One of the things I had noticed was how much Indie writing was really awful. Bad spelling, grammar, story lines, ugly or too busy covers.
So in conjunction with Kai and a few others (some of whom were just shanghaied) I started the Indie Author Group with the idea that we would help writers become better authors. (Neither and none of us knew what we were getting into.) And of course, help ourselves by creating a place to consolidate all this information. The IAG now has nearly 700 members. I'm really proud of that group and what we've done there.
Suddenly I realized it was nearly August, and I started anxiously looking at my checks. I was startled to see that those checks had been steadily increasing, doubling and tripling as I put more and more books up. My poor husband was horribly neglected. Editing 200/300/600 page novels just does not happen overnight and that all had to be done, but I had set myself to a one book a month schedule in order keep the sales ball rolling. (By then I had a backlog of quite a number of books.) I had read from Joe Konrath or Barry Eisler or someone that more books equals more sales. I'd also seen it through my friend Laurann Dohner, an erotica author who by then had several series going and was making very good money.
August came, and with it the first check that would equal what I had been making in my day job - or at least enough that I could start paying some of my own bills, like gas for my car.
With that, and to my husband's relief, I cut back on my release schedule, moving to a bimonthly release, and I also changed some of my work habits. I'd been so focused on editing and getting my existing books out that I had no time or inspiration for actually writing. I need to reschedule, put my priorities in order, so I did.
One thing I had learned was that holidays and holiday tie-ins were the best opportunities for book buying and selling, and with the new Kindle release, it would be better than ever.
Thank heavens for Kindle Select. I had my reservations, particularly after what I was still going through, so I checked it out carefully, weighed the pros and cons and then decided to toss a few eggs in that basket. It paid off in a big way. ( I remember commenting that it was sure to slow down and getting called on that remark by a member of the IAG group, but it has - a natural function of a new opportunity and system - and I'm still doing well.) Will it last forever? Time will tell.
The possibilities are expanding, there's some talk of interactive books, and there are some cases where I wouldn't mind being able to tie in either the music that helped inspire a certain book (Nike's Wings - She Don't Want the World by Three Doors Down) or an image - the statue of Descending Night I saw on a visit to Hearst castle that gave birth to Song of the Fairy Queen.
Still, it's been a long strange journey. I've made some great new friends - Kai, Rik, Ed and others - someday I may actually meet them. *laughing* I've slowed my release schedule again to allow for more writing, and I'm already working on a sequel to Nike's Wings, as well as preparing another book for release in March. There are new opportunities popping up - Apple's iBooks, Barnes and Noble's new program.
It'll be interesting to see what this next year brings.