Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I’ve had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.
Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.
The underage erotica is not a problem for us. We already have some of the industry’s strictest policies prohibiting underage characters (we don’t even allow non-participating minors to appear in erotica), and our vetting team is always on the lookout for “barely legal” content where supposed adults are placed in underage situations.
The other three areas of bestiality, rape and incest were less well-defined in our Terms of Service (https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos) before today. I’ll tackle these one-by-one below, and I’ll provide you a summary of the changes that will go into effect immediately.
*Incest:* Until now, we didn’t have a policy prohibiting incest between consenting adults, or its non-biological variation commonly known as “Pseudo-incest.” Neither did our retailer partners. We’ve noticed a surge of PI books over the last few months, and many of them have “Daddy” in the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if the surge in “Daddy” titles prompted PayPal to pursue this purge (I don’t know). PI usually explores sexual relations between consenting adult stepchildren with their step parents, or between step-siblings. Effectively immediately, we no longer allow incest of any variety in erotica.
Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords. Regardless of your opinion on incest, it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.
Incest, however, carries thorny baggage. The legality of incest is murky. It creates a potential legal liability for Smashwords as our business and our books become more present in more jurisdictions around the world. Anything that threatens Smashwords directly threatens our ability to serve the greater interests of all Smashwords authors, publishers, retailers and customers who rely upon us as the world’s leading distributor of indie ebooks. The business considerations compel me to not fall on the sword for incest. I realize this is an imperfect decision. The slippery slope is dangerous, but I believe this imperfect decision is in the best interest of the community we serve.
*Bestiality:* Until now, we didn’t have a stated policy regarding bestiality. I like animals. Call me old fashioned or hypocritical (I’m not a vegetarian), but I don’t want to be a party to anyone enjoying animals for sexual gratification, for the same reason we’ve never allowed pedophilia books. I don’t want to publish it, sell it, or distribute it. The TOS is now modified to reflect this. Note this does not apply to shape-shifters common in paranormal romance provided the were-creature characters are getting it on in their human form. Sorry I need to clarify it that way, but we don’t want to see bestiality erotica masquerading as paranormal romance.
*Rape:* Although our Terms of Service prohibits books that advocate violence against others, we did not specifically identify rape. This was an oversight on our part. Now we have clarified the policy. We do not want books that contain rape for the purpose of titillation. At Smashwords, rape has no longer has a place in erotica. It has no place anywhere else if the purpose is to titillate. Non-consensual BDSM – or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person – is prohibited.
*NEXT STEPS:* If you have titles at Smashwords that are now expressly forbidden, by the end of day Monday (Feb 27), please click to your Dashboard at https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard and click UNPUBLISH then click ARCHIVE. This will also cause our automated systems to remove the titles from retail distribution.
DO NOT try to hide or obfuscate violating content by changing book titles, book descriptions and tags. If we discover such shenanigans, said authors/publishers will risk account deletion and forfeiture of any accrued earnings, per our Terms of Service.
We take violations of the TOS seriously, because such violations jeopardize the opportunities for your fellow authors.
We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.
The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair. Our decisions today are imperfect. Please, act responsibly, don’t try to game the system or publish content that pushes the limits of legality. Help us continue to help indie authors around the world to continue to publish and distribute with freedom.
*THINGS TO AVOID:* Avoid using words such as ‘bestiality,’ ‘rape,’ ‘incest,’ ‘underage,’ or ‘barely legal’ in book titles, book descriptions or keyword tags, otherwise Smashwords may conclude you’re violating the Terms of Service, or trying to push the limits. If you’re writing non-erotic works, and any of these words are necessary, then you’re okay.
On Tuesday (Feb 28) we will begin removing content that we deem in violation. When we remove a title, you will receive an email notifying you of such, and that email will append this letter along with instructions on how to notify us if we made an error. I promise you, we will make mistakes, so please work with us, take a deep breath and honor us with your patience.
If you believe we removed something in error, please click “Comments/questions,” mention the title we removed, provide the hyperlink to said title, and provide your *calm* reasoning for why we should reconsider.
Our support team is backlogged, so it may take several days for them to respond. As we mention in the Terms of Service, we reserve the right to remove anything for any reason. That said, we will also try to make our decisions with care and prudence.
You might wonder if Smashwords should simply switch to a different payment provider. It’s not so easy. PayPal is designed into the wiring of the Smashwords platform. They run the credit card processing for our retail store, and they’re how we pay our authors and publishers. PayPal is also an extremely popular, trusted payment option for our customers. It is not feasible for us to simply switch to another provider, should such a suitable provider even exist, especially with so few days notice.
Please note our Terms of Service is subject to additional modifications as we work to bring Smashwords into compliance with PayPal requirements. Let’s hope today’s actions mark the limit of the slippery slope.
Significant gray area remain. Erotica is still permitted, though if authors try to push the limits of what’s permitted, we risk further clamping down. Please be responsible. Don’t go there. If you’re going to push the limits, push the limits of great writing, not the limits of legality.
Thank you for assisting our compliance efforts on such short notice. We know these decisions will be upsetting to some of our authors and publishers, and for that we apologize. We do believe, however, that these decisions will place us on a stronger footing to represent the best interests all indie authors and publishers from here forward.
Mark Coker Founder Smashwords
P.S. Please contact our support team for inquiries regarding this change in our Terms of Service by clicking the “comments/questions” link at the top of any page at Smashwords. If your inquiry regards a specific title, please include the hyperlink to the book page of that specific title.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
I am lucky beyond words to have Dawné Dominique designing my loveyoudivine covers. She's an award-winning cover artist, and it's not hard to see why. All the designs she produces for my books, whether they're ebooks or print, are just phenomenal.
Friday, February 17, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**PERMISSION TO FORWARD GRANTED **JMS Books LLC is pleased to announce its GLBT Young Adult imprint, Queerteen Press.Queerteen Press publishes YA titles appealing to queer teens as well as their parents, teachers, and librarians. Books are available in electronic and print formats. A handful of titles are already available through QT Press, with several more scheduled for release in the early part of 2012.We accept short stories, collections, and novel-length books in all genres of queer, literary, and genre fiction suitable for a young adult audience. This means books whose main characters are between the ages of 12 and 21.Submission Policy:* Electronic unsolicited submissions are accepted at any time.* We do not accept multiple or simultaneous submissions.* Submissions should include a QUERY LETTER, full SYNOPSIS, and 2,000 word EXCERPT in RTF format.* Submissions are acknowledged within 2 business days.* If we like your submission, we will request a copy of the full manuscript for review. Manuscripts must be in electronic format only. The review time is between 1-3 weeks. Contract terms:* Authors earn 50% net royalties on all sales (e-book and paperback) from all distributors.* Contracts are for a period of 2 years and auto-renew annually.* We require exclusive electronic and print rights, but can negotiate if the story has been published in an anthology or collection. Full submission guidelines are available on our website at http://www.queerteen-press.com/index.php?main_page=page_2Queerteen PressYA Imprint of JMS Books LLC
Thursday, February 16, 2012
5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …
(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents;
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Ministry of Transportation’s Identity Screening Regulations, which prohibit airlines from allowing a person to board an airplane in Canada if their appearance does not match the gender on their identification. This could, as you rightly mention, lead to transgender people being banned from boarding airplanes in Canada.
This new rule is extremely alarming to me and my Liberal colleagues, and MP Justin Trudeau raised it in the House of Commons during Question Period on February 1, 2012. I am sure you will agree that the Minister’s reply was not sufficient or acceptable. Here is a transcript of the exchange:
Mr. Speaker, since the election, this government's lack of tolerance for our minorities has grown. A new rule prohibits airlines from allowing a person to board a plane if their appearance does not match the gender on their identification, unless they have a medical certificate. This is a direct affront to the transsexual and transgendered community, which is outraged by this minister who has introduced discrimination under the guise of security.
Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, the security of Canada's airports is extremely important to our government. We believe that it is standard procedure for every individual who wishes to board a plane to be identified by the people at security screening. Since September 11, many screening measures have been improved, and I believe that it is normal for people checking the identification of those boarding the plane to be able to recognize them. We do not believe in half measures when it comes to air security. That is very important.
Thank you again for writing. Please rest assured that we will continue to raise this issue in the Commons and elsewhere.
If you're Canadian and you care about this (or any) issue, make your voice heard. We're stronger together.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I try, I really do.
Published By: Excessica Publishing
Spend Valentine's Day with Lexi the Sexi Superintendent and her apartment building full of very naughty tenants.
Lexi the Sexi building superintendent (okay, assistant super) thinks she's taking Valentine's Day by storm. She doesn't do "romance" or "relationships." Casual sex with attractive tenants is more her style. After an exhausting porn-watching session with a cute guy in the building, the beautiful Mrs Suraj won't release her until those rusty pipes are fixed. The sexy super comes home to a pussycat pair of college friends desperate for someone to help them out with their Valentine gift to each other: homemade porn!
WARNINGS: This title contains m/f and f/f sex, mild BDSM, and graphic descriptions of cheesy 1980’s porn, including but not limited to fluorescent and animal print bikinis. Originally published as ‘All in a Valentine Day’s Work.’
To read an excerpt or get your copy of GOOD BI VALENTINE for only $1.99, visit such e-tailers as:
Now, this is the part where you're asking "What can I win?" This is a blog hop, after all!
Well, since I'm busy promoting Good Bi Valentine, a bisexual title, why don't I give you the gift of some other bi books I've written? I'll be giving away 10 books, 1 to each of 10 winners, and I'll draw those winners after the blog hop is over (Feb 14, 2012 at midnight). You have the opportunity to win:
Wonderful Wing Boys
The Birthday Gift
Friends of Dorothy
Future Histories: Transgender Sci-Fi Erotica
All The Way
Secret Confessions: 36 Erotic Encounters
I don't like forcing readers to post their email addresses online, so instead I use surveymonkey to collect your address and which book you'd like to win. Here's the survey link:
Good luck, everybody! And there are TONS of other prizes you can win from other authors, so check out The Blog Hop Spot!
Canada just got hotter!
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Thursday, February 9, 2012
I'm not generally one to over-punctuated, but I've got a cat story that's just begging for a long line of exclamation and question marks. It's a cat story, but it's actually a sex story too. Don't worry--it's not gross.
Okay, so my sweetheart and I were getting it on today and I tend to be pretty noisy in bed, but today I was SUPER loud. Not just "Oh yeah baby," but actually screaming. It was awesome. Good times.
I guess I closed my eyes for a while, because suddenly I wasn't the only one screaming. There were two sets of screams, and I knew the others didn't belong to Sweet, because she's not much of a screamer.
It was the cat. You know I have cats, right? So, it was Mr. Majestic cat, the regal cat, the cat who owns this aparment and everyone in it. He was SCREAMING at us. I've never heard him make a noise like this before. It wasn't exactly a scream, I guess, and it wasn't a growl or a hiss. It was actually more of a moaning meow-bark. It was kind of a cat-fight noise, come to think of it. He kept running down the bed and yelling at Sweet, then running up the bed and screaming at me.
Now, I don't claim to speak cat, but my rough interpretation was something along the lines of:
To Sweet: "What are you doing to my mom?!?!?!"
To Me: "Why are you screaming like that?!?!?!"
To Sweet: "You're hurting her! Unless... oh, don't tell me she loves you! Impossible!"
To Me: "I thought you loved ME! How dare you toy with my tender feline emotions?"
Something like that. Cats are pretty egocentric, so I think that's what he was saying.
Of course, I started laughing because... well, it was just hilarious. But regal kitty cats don't appreciate being laughed at, so he started head-butting my girlfriend at that point, just hurling himself at her, making that weird moaning cat scream the whole time, like "Get off her! She's mine. She's MINE!!!"
Nobody, cat or human, has ever expressed that kind of jealousy or possessiveness of me. Nobody's ever tried to beat up my girlfriend, and certainly not while we were in bed together. If it had been a human doing all this, it would have been frightening I suppose, but because it was a cat, it was funny.
I totally lost it. I couldn't stay in the moment while my cat was cursing and crying and throwing himself at my girlfriend. I collapsed on the bed, laughing hysterically, so I guess ultimately the cat got what he wanted... because I stopped screaming.
I'm trying to think up a moral to this story, otherwise it's just me telling you about my bizarre sex life. I guess the moral is that cats always get their way. Wouldn't you agree?
Giselle Renarde Canada just got hotter!
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