Bookstrand cuts self-pubber accounts

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Maryn

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Paypal seem very arbitrary on where, when and how they enforce those rules.
You get to do that when you're the only game in town.

Maryn, sighing
 

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I have the reverse position. Paypal may be arbitrary but it makes sense to try and accept it if you can. i would be more worried if the distributor was applying their own arbitrary moral standards rather than having to apply them for business reasons.

It's different for me because PayPal is so far reaching that when they make a decision like this, they really affect the entire market. If one or two distributors choose to specialize, for whatever reason, that's not going to affect either authors or readers very much; they just won't use that distributor. But when it's PayPal making the rules, it's going to be really hard for authors or readers of these types of books to find a marketplace.

I don't write books that include any of the listed topics, but I support authors who do. The most troubling for me, rape-for-titillation, is actually the one that I suspect will end up sneaking through the ban, as long as it's put out by a big enough publisher.
 

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Can you use Paypal on Amazon or Barnes & Noble?

They seem to be doing okay without PayPal...

:)

But Amazon is hardly a model of openness and good-will towards alternate expressions of sexuality.

Barnes & Noble I don't know much about.

But is that what we're left with? PayPal controlled, Amazon controlled, or Barnes & Noble controlled.

In the days of bricks-and-mortar stores, it was possible for a bookseller to be truly independent and make their own decisions about what to stock (baring gov't obscenity laws, etc.). I think small, independent bookstores serve a vital function, especially for marginalized communities. If PayPal is making decisions about what content is acceptable, then a lot of the smaller e-book distributors are no longer really able to chose for themselves which books to carry. I don't like it.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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Teddypig made a good argument for starting a website for just these types of stories. What's stopping the authors from banding together to create such a place? If the hard-core pr0n sites can survive I think a virtual bookstore could...

Besides, they'd probably make more money without having to go through another layer of paperwork...
 

Sheryl Nantus

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AFAIK Paypal's decision isn't morally-based - from what I've seen and read it's a case of constant charge-back requests from sites with sexual content that drove them to this policy. It's a case of doing what's better from a business-driven POV.

If anyone can find a statement where PayPal declares otherwise, I'd appreciate the link. From where I'm sitting it's basically a business matter; not a religious/moral/I'm in a bad mood decision.
 

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Teddypig made a good argument for starting a website for just these types of stories. What's stopping the authors from banding together to create such a place? If the hard-core pr0n sites can survive I think a virtual bookstore could...

Besides, they'd probably make more money without having to go through another layer of paperwork...

Absolutely, I think it would be great if they were able to do that. But how would they get paid, without PayPal?

I mean, people CAN use regular credit cards, but the fact that PayPal got as big as it did suggests that a lot of people don't want to.
 

ViolettaVane

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I think the majority of people use PayPal as a credit card processor. That's how I use it. It's just much easier for me to log into PayPal than it is to walk to my purse, take out my wallet, take out my credit card, type in the numbers and my address and everything, then put the credit card back.
 

Sheryl Nantus

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Absolutely, I think it would be great if they were able to do that. But how would they get paid, without PayPal?

I mean, people CAN use regular credit cards, but the fact that PayPal got as big as it did suggests that a lot of people don't want to.

Plenty of bookstores survive without PayPal. Amazon and B&N, for example.

It'd take a bit of organizing but if the authors want to avoid this sort of kerfluffle they're going to have to realize that not every ebook website is going to welcome them with open hands. Maybe the answer is to go directly to pr0n websites already established and ask them to open up another section for books.

The options are out there for those looking to take charge of their futures.
 

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I don't see why PayPal is more convenient than using your credit card directly. Plenty of web merchants takes credit card orders directly. If you are worried about PayPal's dominance, maybe you should take out your credit card instead of relying on PayPal for its convenience.

As Sheyl Nantus said, PayPal is making a business decision. Porn sites are notorious for having a large percentage of charge backs: people claiming they have no idea how all those charges appeared on their credit card! (Which in fact may be true, since one of the most common uses of stolen credit card numbers, unsurprisingly, is porn.)
 

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Absolutely, I think it would be great if they were able to do that. But how would they get paid, without PayPal?

I mean, people CAN use regular credit cards, but the fact that PayPal got as big as it did suggests that a lot of people don't want to.

The same way pr0n and gambling websites get paid. As I mentioned before, there are credit card processors that cater specifically to the adult entertainment industry.

ETA: Sorry, didn't mean to repeat what everyone else said.
 
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Amadan

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Not everyone has a credit card.

Well, there are other alternatives. Or you could get a credit card. Or you could mail a check.

I mean, I understand that PayPal is the most convenient option for a lot of people, but if you're going to rely on them, then of course you're going to be subject to their business decisions.
 
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Never going to get a credit card, and cheques are being phased out over here anyway.

I've been perfectly happy with PayPal so far. I only ever use it to buy smut online anyway. Oh, and to receive royalties.
 

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It'd take a bit of organizing but if the authors want to avoid this sort of kerfluffle they're going to have to realize that not every ebook website is going to welcome them with open hands. Maybe the answer is to go directly to pr0n websites already established and ask them to open up another section for books.

This actually makes practical sense because I suspect more of their target audience would be at pr0n sites than at romance sites. Doing this might boost their sales far beyond what they had at ARe and Bookstrand.
 

c.m.n.

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I do agree, there should be a reliable option for us kinksters than Paypal. They have always had little hissy fits over the porn sites. Basically, if they find out that you do anything prOnz related online and make money doing it, they'll cut you off in a heartbeat.

Sucks it's now erotica, clearly different than porn, but they don't see that.

Has there ever been any other options in the past?
 

Anjasa

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I'd be really interested in a website made for hardcore kinks/erotica/porn that's not allowed through traditional places, but unfortunately it takes technical and legal know how - not to mention financing - that I don't have access too.

However if something like that did get started, I would help in whatever means I could.
 

Anjasa

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Just got the following from Smashwords:

Dear Smashwords Authors, Publishers and Literary Agents,

This email is being sent to all authors, publishers and agents who have published erotica at Smashwords. We will also post this message to Site Updates and the Press Room.

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. If you write in any of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and archive such works if you are affected.

I apologize for the short notice, and I’m especially sorry for any financial or emotional hardship this may cause the authors and publishers affected by this change.

As you may have heard, in the last couple weeks PayPal began aggressively enforcing a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of "obscene" content. For good background on the issue, see this Selena Kitt post here - http://selenakitt.com/blog/index.php/2012/02/19/slippery-slope-erotica-censorship/ or here - http://theselfpublishingrevolution....ry-slope-erotica-censorship.html#comment-form or this Kindleboards thread here - http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,104604.0.html

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.

Best wishes,

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.
 
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Just got the following from Smashwords:

Dear Smashwords Authors, Publishers and Literary Agents...

Wow. I really like the way he's handling this. It's a thorny issue, but he seemed really direct and honest and open about it all.

Doesn't make things any better for the authors whose work is being pulled, doesn't make me any happier about PayPal effectively censoring the market, but makes me respect Smashwords a lot more.

But, to clarify, I'm assuming that:
Non-consensual BDSM - or any other form of non-consensual violence against another person - is prohibited.
only applies to erotica, still. Like, Smashwords can still sell books in which human beings are tortured and mutilated, bought and sold, murdered and, yes, even raped, as long as these acts do not occur in a title that's considered erotica. I'm not blaming Smashwords, but the differing standards are maddening.
 

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I feel bad for the self pub authors on bookstrand who didn't violate the TOS but are still effected by it, but do understand why it had to be done. I'm not a fan of those categories at all, but if people write it and others like it power to 'em.

But I do think they could make WAY more money if they got together and started their own site. Those vendors or PayPal shouldn't have to accept that type of content if they don't want to, but I do believe that they shouldn't accept it from anyone not just the self pubbed authors.
 

Anjasa

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The entire email was obviously written with compassion and sincerity. I appreciate his email and I know that it certainly isn't an easy ultimatum to be offered.
 

Amadan

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But, to clarify, I'm assuming that:

only applies to erotica, still. Like, Smashwords can still sell books in which human beings are tortured and mutilated, bought and sold, murdered and, yes, even raped, as long as these acts do not occur in a title that's considered erotica. I'm not blaming Smashwords, but the differing standards are maddening.


Actually, if I read it correctly, rape for titillation is forbidden in any title, while rape as rape (i.e., a crime of violence) can still be present in any title. Same would presumably apply to torture, slavery, etc.
 

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Actually, if I read it correctly, rape for titillation is forbidden in any title, while rape as rape (i.e., a crime of violence) can still be present in any title. Same would presumably apply to torture, slavery, etc.

In that sentence, it just talks about "any form of non-consensual violence" - no mention of titilation, or anything else. Again, I'm hoping that it's a poorly worded sentence, but based on that sentence it sounds like I can't have my cowboys in a shootout before they go home and get it on.
 

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