Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Money rules PayPal censorship

The Smashwords PayPal censorship saga continues...much to my surprise.

One of the strangest ideas that I have seen being floated is that this is merely a ploy by Smashwords to get rid of all those "icky" books. The person who said this obviously does not realize that economics is driving this particular situation. If Smashwords actually just wanted to make the forbidden four disappear, they could have easily done so long before this point. But I imagine that Smashwords, like most indie writers sooner or later, realizes that some dubious books actually make a decent amount of money. And considering that Smashwords makes their money by taking a percentage of the money a writer earns, it does not make any sense for them to kill the forbidden four (at least one of the forbidden four is a gold mine).

On the other hand, PayPal has every reason to want to kill off the forbidden four. After all, PayPal is trying to run their business as cheaply as they can. And the forbidden four generate more costs than other types of transactions.

One thing that I have yet to locate is an actual figure for the percentage of returns/chargebacks that there is for ebooks. In fact, I cannot think of a single outlet that gives refunds on ebooks. Then again, I never thought about claiming that my ebook purchases were a mistake, fraud, or "not to my taste." Honestly, I am not sure that ebooks, even the forbidden four, really create more chargebacks than the normal stuff, like food and gas.

But Morgan, what about the two romance outlets that killed off the forbidden four. Well, one of the outlets killed off ALL indie writers using the forbidden four as an excuse, then left all their own in-house stuff with the forbidden four up. And the other one wasn't someplace I would have thought about looking for the forbidden four on in the first place. So I am guessing that the forbidden four were not earning that much money for those two outlets--at least, in the hands of indie writers.

And if you think Amazon counts, well, go over on Amazon and search for the forbidden four. Amazon is still knee deep in the forbidden four; the only real change is that Amazon has managed to get rid of their legal responsibility if the s*** hits the fan.

Of course, if you do not think that economics do not drive the engines of censorship attempts, just watch the matchup between One Million Moms and Toys R' Us. “Please remove all the same-sex ‘Just Married – Archie’ comic books immediately from your shelves. My decision to shop in your stores depends on it.” Whether Toys R' Us pulls the issue from sale will depend on whether they think that conservative moms outweigh the same-sex marriage rights market share--whoever represents a bigger slice of pie will win that battle.

(I find it interesting that there is research showing that the most conservative regions of the United States consume the most porn--I am guessing that they also consume the most forbidden four erotica also.)

And that brings me to tonight's final point about the Smashwords PayPal censorship saga: The only way that PayPal will allow the forbidden four to exist will be if PayPal discovers that they will lose more money getting rid of the forbidden categories than they will save. Money talks when it comes to corporate censorship.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paypal enforces vanilla sex only erotica

[Warning: the following post concerns writers writing adult material, some of it dubious in nature. Ye has been warned.]

Over the last few days, I have been watching some of my writing friends talk about how some of their erotica ebooks have been removed from various ebook publishing and distribution platforms. Tonight, I learned what is going on. What is happening is that Paypal is telling all the ebook distributors that they are doing business with that the payment service will be removed from any site that sells certain types of obscene erotica.

The letter from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords stated that "[Paypal's] hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica."

Now, this is a real blow for working writers for two reasons. At least one of these obscene erotica categories is a goldmine. And two, the rules are so grey and vague that completely innocent stuff is going to have to be removed to comply with Paypal's Vanilla Sex Only rules.

(I am not saying that this type of writing is ok---I am just reporting the news and making predictions here.)

For instance, two werewolves having sex will have to revert to human form to have sex...you cannot have two wolves making out with one another because that might be viewed as bestiality, nor can you have one werewolf in human form and the other in wolf form.

Pseudo-incest is also now wrong. You can no longer have an erotica character thinking that his date sort-of looks like his mother.

And the sad part is that these rules are only being enforced against writers of erotica. Other types of fiction are still going to be allowed to use those ideas and concepts.

An even sadder thing is that I expect that Paypal will decide to add things to their hot button list until the only sex you can write about (if you are labelling it erotica) is strictly male on top of female sex. Yes, I expect that consensual BDSM, gay and lesbian sex, and anything that is illegal someplace in the world to be next on the Paypal's chopping block.

But the saddest part is that the pervs will still find places to read this type of stuff---the only ones getting hurt here are the working writers that was doing some of this type of writing to help make ends meet.

(Of course, I am assuming that the only reason that anyone would write this type of stuff is for the paycheck---then again, I could be wrong on that front.)

Smashwords writers have until Monday to comply with the policy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Word counts for three fantasy series

During my research on word count based definitions and labels, I ran across some interesting triva---well, interesting if you are looking into the subject of how long a book is. For instance, War and Peace weighs in at 561,304 words. Of course, many of us are not terribly familiar with how long War and Peace is (I have a Kindle version of it---largely unread), so prehaps looking at the word counts of three of the most popular fantasy series ever will help (ok, maybe just one fantasy series and two who-knows-whats).
Lord of the Rings
The Hobbit 95,022 words
Fellowship of the Ring 177,227 words
Two Towers 143,436 words
Return of the King 134,462 words
Harry Potter
Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone 76,944 words
Chamber of Secrets 85,141 words
Prisoner of Azkaban 107,253 words
Goblet of Fire 190,637 words
Order of the Phoenix 257,045 words
Half-Blood Prince 168,923 words
Deathly Hallows 204,796 words
Twilight 118,501
New Moon 132,807
Eclipse 147,930
Breaking Dawn 192,196