Posts tagged Amazon censorship
Well, yesterday the tutting grandmothers and maiden aunts that work out their sexual frustrations stoking the boilers on the Censorship Engines of Amazon.com saw fit to relegate our new title, Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath, to the unsearchable dustbin that is their ‘mature content’ tag. What did this mean? It meant that until an hour or so ago, you could still find Conqueror Womb, if you knew where to look (ie. the Kindle store, specifically), and it also meant you wouldn’t find it, if you searched for, say, Lovecraft or Shub-Niggurath in the general search terms for Amazon.com itself.
Is this kind of thing a big deal? I mean, don’t most readers come to MMP titles because of something MMP authors say or do or post? Who goes searching for the term “conqueror womb”, anyway? Precious few, I’m sure, and I’m not sure I’d want to know anyone who would. (I’m sure you’re lovely people, but … you understand.)
So, why’d the grannies hit us, and hit us so fast? Conqueror Womb was released on the 10th. Of February. That’s right, a mere three days ago. We were alerted to the fact of our change of status by one of the collections authors, the sharp-as-a-goddamn-tack Jacqueline Sweet. Alarmed that they had moved so quickly, and just before Valentine’s Day, which was, you know, the whole reason for releasing this book this week, Scott immediately got on their case with this letter…
According to their spokes-granny, the cover (by friend-of-the-show and genius Glaswegian illustrator Garry Mac) was deemed to be “mature content”. Ladies and gentlebeasts, the original cover…
Beauty. That’s EIGHT breasts, at least. And, like Scott said, monstrous. And not all that sexual, even. In fact, Garry Mac’s Shubby here is feeding her Dark Young. Amazon, what do you have against breastfeeding mothers? she asks in something nearby to complete seriousness. Well, whatever problems they have with that particular miracle of nature, the upshot is they asked us to change this. Remember, too, that we had to confront them on this issue: if we hadn’t noticed their action, they wouldn’t have mentioned it to us at all. If you’ve never seen one of their your cover is too smutty emails, they look like this.
Well, gosh, Cecilia, thanks for being so up front and honest and understanding about Amazon’s behind-the-scenes manipulation of our product!
So, yeah, we changed the cover. And if you think it was easy for us to move the text elements north to cover up our beautiful, regal Shub-Niggurath, then let me tell you honey, IT WASN’T. (Sorry, Garry! We’re sooo sorry!) Here’s the revised cover…
Not exactly a hatchet job, but we are saddened, still.
Now, here’s the thing: Amazon asks you to choose two categories for a title, and we, in an effort to be honest about the content of Conqueror Womb, chose Horror (obviously!) and Erotica (also obviously)… certainly CW is far more horror than erotica. Even we don’t think it appeals to prurient interests enough for anyone to reasonably get their rocks off, although you’re welcome to try. Scott felt, and I concurred, that we had been penalized for our transparency. And so the Martian Migraine response was a little testy, naturally…At this point, we pretty much threw up our hands. Wiser heads than ours nodded sagely and advised us that once a title had been flagged as mature, it was effectively done, kaput, as good as disappeared. Certainly, this has been my own experience with the first two Blackstone books (Red Monolith Frenzy and Green Fever Dream both got hit about eight months back, and sales of those has dropped noticeably — but hey, there’s the links, go, now, and buy a copy of each, just to rub it in their noses, please) and so we resigned ourselves to obscurity.
Then, this happened…
We fought Amazon.
We fought a rear-guard battle, granted, and we gave up some territory (those lovely mutant mammaries!), but we fought Amazon…
AND WE WON! We won. It can be done.
But, just to spite ’em, remember this, Migraineers: buy DIRECT from MMP and you’ll get the uncensored glory of the original cover AND exclusive website bonus content! Delivery may not be as swift as Amazon’s Whispernet (generally under 12 hours to your inbox) but you get our chummy personalities and sweet extra swag with the transaction, and our gratitude for supporting independent presses. It’s Valentine’s Day! Show your sweetie some weird love and pick up a copy of Conqueror Womb: Lusty Tales of Shub-Niggurath for a little light pillow reading!
We open our inbox this morning to find a little encouraging missive from the Amazon content mavens: Your book is available in the Kindle Store, it says. Huzzah! Seems our response to the giant’s request for a cover change to JustineG‘s Summonings: Anicka & Kamil was met with approval by whatever bizarre metric they use. Now, considering that THIS is what upset them…
… we wonder how it is that THIS met with a nod (electronic or otherwise) of acceptance?
Again, we feel it’s very likely that the bare midriff and possibly the almost discernible navel piercing in the original cover was what put the censor-bots on alert. And yet! And yet the second, revised cover is clearly far more porn-y than the original. Our second girl isn’t even wearing a top and her expression is about as cheesy and wanton as you could expect. That’s some straight-up Hustler-style imagery there. (Note: image is fair use, not taken from Hustler)
All that being said, it’s not even the cover imagery that is at issue here. That we’re putting down as simply an interesting experiment. The issue is the moral tempest-in-a-teacup that the recent ebook censorship blow-up illuminates. As Daily Grail contributing editor Ian Vincent @catvincent tweeted yesterday…
I’ll believe the Amazon/Kobo/WH Smith erotica ban is a moral act the second they pull 50 Shades Of Grey. No? Didn’t think so.
To that sentiment we heartily agree. Especially when we consider that much of the fury surrounding this issue is ebooks with “questionable” or “immoral” content, content that the censors apparently scan for using keywords provided by the authors. Now, Summonings: Anicka & Kamil, as we mentioned in our last post, is a transgressive little bomb of a book in this regard. In fact, “transgressive” is one of the keywords we used when originally putting the thing on the Kindle Store shelves. But that’s only one of the seven keywords we chose. Here are the others…
Yup, the ancient privilege of royalty and gods, right there in the open, and still there after the first sweep of the Amazonian censors. Hell, we’re not even shy about it in the description of the book!
Blackstone readers briefly met Anicka, teen witch and High Priestess of Stregoicavar, and her handsome idiot brother Kamil in BLACKSTONE Book 1: RED MONOLITH FRENZY. In ‘SUMMONINGS: Anicka and Kamil’, we learn what these wicked siblings get up to when the incense is smoking and the incantations are called. Dark sex and black sorcery like you’ve never read before!
Oh Kamil. You handsome idiot. What a pair you and your sis are!
So, just what is going on over at Amazon, we ask? Based on this, our admittedly limited experience with censorship at their hands, let us venture this as a fair estimate of Amazon business practice vis a vis erotica ebooks and the prudish “think of the children” fuss they occasionally have to deal with (we seem to remember something similar to this blowing up a year and a half ago?)…
It’s nothing, folks. A wrist slap here and there, a hoop or two to jump through to satisfy groups that, once mollified, will forget that such books even exist. Certainly such people aren’t reading them now and if they do, well, that’s their dirty little secret and they’re welcome to it. It’s our hope that Amazon and Kobo et al. get the whole thing sorted out in a way that benefits all parties, and we’re reasonably confident that they will, because despite all the public hand-wringin’ and mollycoddlin’, erotica titles are a large part of their profits. The smut is not going away. So keep writing, keep putting it out there. Yes, the times are interesting for erotica production and consumption, but hey! News flash! It’s always been interesting out here in the smut mines.
Having posted all this, perhaps we’ll get hoisted on our own petard soon and find our entire catalogue of Justine’s books pulled from the shelves. (Orgy in the Valley of the Lust Larvae, anyone?) We’ll keep you updated, Migraineers.