Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Censorship Experiment... (you'll find this VERY interesting)

Yesterday, I reported that the ebook retailer Kobo had declined yet another transgender erotic romance.  This time it was my anthology My Mistress' Thighs: Erotic Transgender Fiction and Poetry. 

Kobo never gives me a reason for declining my work (they don't even send me an email to inform me the way Amazon does), but it's hard not to notice that every one of the five ebooks Kobo has declined included "transgender" in the metadata.

So I decided to try a little experiment.  Last night I happened to be uploading a short story called Glitter in the Gutter. You might remember it from Rachel Kramer Bussel's anthology "Twice the Pleasure."  It's quite a beautiful little story about Connor and Dotschy, whom you may recall from "Spring Fever." 

In Glitter in the Gutter, Connor finds himself in a dark place.  He's having a crisis of conscience about cross-dressing, and the only way he can get over it is to toss all his girl-clothes into garbage bags and get them out of the house.  I think this should ring a few bells for many gender non-normative individuals.

Now for the "experimental" part:

Glitter in the Gutter belongs to a series called Transgender and Genderqueer Erotic Romance.  Kobo has already mysteriously "declined" five of the ebooks in this series.  So when I uploaded Glitter in the Gutter, instead of filling in the series slot with Transgender and Genderqueer Erotic Romance... I left it blank.  The metadata is basically just populated by the title and the following blurb:

Dotschy didn’t mean to fall in love with her cross-dressing co-worker Connor. Now she’s in way over her head.  When Connor stops returning her phone calls and tells their boss Dotschy's a bad influence, she’s baffled. She thought they had something really special. Dotschy forces her way into Connor's house only to find that he's getting rid of all his girl clothes and purging his life of feminine presence.  When Dotschy discovers the source of Connor's shame, can she convince him not to discard the clothes he loves so much?

This love story contains explicit romance, heartfelt moments, and a hint of dumpster diving. Originally published in the anthology “Twice the Pleasure.”

And, lo and behold:

Glitter in the Gutter is available from Kobo.

I think you get my drift, but if I need to be blatant about it, here's what I'm saying:

Kobo censored FIVE ebooks when I included the keywords "Transgender" and "Erotic Romance" in the metadata.  When I uploaded a similar story from the same series, but DID NOT include "Transgender" and "Erotic Romance" in the metadata, it was made available for sale with no issues.

Well, maybe Kobo's just censoring anything with "erotic" in the metadata, right?  After all, they did overreact hugely in recent memory, and all because of us evil erotica authors. 

Okay... but take, for example, my ebook Milady's Bath. That's available through Kobo with the subtitle "Gothic Lesbian Dark Erotica" as a part of the series "Paranormal Erotic Shorts."  So that book's got "Erotica" AND "Erotic" in the metadata, as do many of my 20+ ebooks available through Kobo.

It seems to be the combination of "Erotic" and "Transgender" that gets my ebooks censored.

Do I need to explain why that's so wretchedly offensive?

I don't think I do.


btw if you want to buy Glitter in the Gutter from a retailer that ISN'T Kobo (hey, it's only $0.99), it's also available from:

All Romance Ebooks:


  1. Kobo's problem is that they never invested in search technology. We are not allowed to enter search keywords and Kobo instead takes the title, subtitle, and metadata that we provide and figure a place to put the title.

    An effective search technology combined with proper filters would avoid this problem. Well, that and actually adhering to their terms of service.

    Unfortunately, they are years behind companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon in this respect and I fear that despite their global footprint they may fall in a similar way to Research in Motion did when the iPhone came onto the market.

    Also, Kobo has a category titled 'Taboo' under Erotica. What did they expect to be found there?

    I get that one of the major problems is 'taboo' subject coming up under safe searches but that cycles back to investing in proper search technology and filters since Kobo is the one creating the search results from the information we give them.

  2. Bloody hell. This is ridiculous.

    Drop Mark Lefebvre an email and ask him to explain it; he's been remarkably responsive to other writers who have encountered nonsensical issues with Kobo.

    Good luck!

  3. Let me know if you need another contact to follow up with, hon. I know somebody on the affiliate management side of the business and he's always been very responsive.

  4. I love all y'all!

    I didn't get in touch with Kobo, but they got in touch with me: