Thursday, January 18, 2018

When it just keeps happening, how do you not give up?

by Giselle Renarde

Some people have the energy to fight endless battles. Well, that's some people. That's not Giselle.

When I first started writing, I wasn't so aware of the business side of things. I didn't know how publishing worked, and I didn't need to know. I wrote stories for anthologies, submitted them to editors, and the rest basically took care of itself.

Then, I became aware of ebooks. So I started submitting to publishers and getting rejected, submitting again, getting rejected again, and finally seeing some success in the form of acceptance letters. Happy Days.

But I still wasn't much part of the publishing process.

It was only when a lot of my old publishers went under and I started self-publishing that I learned about things that hadn't even been considerations, previously. Like staying away from certain keywords when you publish erotica, because they'll get your book banned, or at least relegated to an adults-only dungeon--which is so much less fun without the beaded curtains. Why can't cyber-dungeons have beaded curtains? Riddle me that, internet.

Anyway, I've learned a lot over the past... holy shit, five years? Did I really start self-publishing that long ago?  Feels like only yesterday. I feel like a babe in the self-publishing world, while simultaneously feeling like Methuselah for remembering what things were like before Amazon.

What is the point you're trying to make, Giselle?

Thanks for asking. I was getting off-track, there.

The point is, I've seen a lot of corporate censorship of my work. A lot. So much.  Like, it's crazy how much.

If you're an erotica writer, I guarantee someone somewhere is going to ban your books. How can I guarantee that? Isn't it true that only filthy nasty smut gets banned, these days?  Nope. Not true in the least. There are a lot of ebook retailers that refuse to stock erotica on their shelves at all.

Okay. Well. I guess that's their right.

Am I chill about that?  Should I be chill about it?  I don't even know anymore. I've just seen so much rejection. But this is different than the rejections I received as an author submitting my work to publishers. With publishers, if I changed this or that, or if I improved my craft or whatever, there was a chance the next submission might be accepted.

Not so in the case of retailers who don't stock erotica. Better erotica is still erotica. The best erotica is still erotica. And they won't have it. So there's nowhere to go from here. Not with them.

But, like, at least those guys are clear from the outset that they don't accept erotica. They don't sell it. They don't want it.

Is that better or worse than Barnes and Noble, which used to carry every kind of erotica under the sun and now... doesn't?

Here's what happened, if you're not aware: for many, many years, Barnes and Noble sold erotica of all stripes. That includes bestiality. That includes rape. That includes incest and pseudo-incest.

And then, overnight, everything changed.

Barnes and Noble decided they didn't want any of that extreme sexual content on their shelves. Okay. Again, that's their right. It sucks because I was just starting to make good money off Lexi's PI and a few incest titles, but nothing gold can stay.

The thing they did that was super-super-shitty was they actually closed down offenders' accounts. Immediately. Without warning! So one day it's fine to publish anything you like, and the next day it's against the rules and we see that, in the past, you've published content that offends us in the present, so bye-bye account?  That's ludicrous. But it happened.

Don't worry. I've saved the best for last.

The best of the worst has got to be Playster. They didn't want erotica on their shelves, so you know what they did? THEY REMOVED ALL GAY AND LESBIAN CONTENT. For real. This is a thing that happened.

Because everybody knows we queers are bound to sneak not only our gay agenda but also RAUNCHY SEX into everything from sweet romances to cozy mysteries.

If you do a quick google search, you'll notice a lot of the posts around this topic say the issue is "resolved." Which is true in the sense that all those innocent LGBT books have been reinstated on Playster's shelves. But "resolved" in the larger sense? I think not.  LGBT content is constantly being blocked, being banned, being quietly removed while the overseeing bodies hope nobody notices. A public outcry is bad for business, after all.

And here's where I circle back to what I said at the beginning.

Some people have the energy to fight these endless battles. Last year taught me that I'm no longer one of those people.

When I found out what Playster was doing, did it fill me with so much moral outrage that I blogged about it immediately? Sadly, no. It made me depressed, sure. But I sighed and said, "This again?" and I didn't do a thing. Because I've been through this shit so many times, as a queer writer.

And as a queer erotica writer? Well that's a double-whammy if ever there was one.

When Barnes and Noble took down the very books that were earning me the most money, I don't think I mentioned it to anyone. That was another momentary sigh. My battle wouldn't be with the company. My battle wouldn't even be a battle. My process would be to find the next thing that'll earn a buck.

Because a queer's gotta eat.


  1. Damn. I had written a long comment, then clicked "sign out" instead of "publish".


    Mainly I just want to say that you're a fantastic writer. I love your stuff, and I'm certain I'm not alone. Somehow you need to connect with those fans.

    Also - sex sells. Just because BN and Amazon won't sell it, does not mean that there aren't other channels out there. Just need to find them.

    Don't get discouraged.

  2. We must stay agile on our literary feet. They put us through hoops on what seems pure whimsey. Somebody new comes on the vetting scene at their end and caprice reigns. Never mind how much money they've made on our stuff, they don't want to offend the most reactionary complainers. Seems they like a race to the bottom.

    No pun.

  3. I agree with Lisabet and Daddy X, Giselle. There must be a way to connect with the people who want to read your writing, even when all the major distributors think they can avoid controversy by getting rid of all sex and all mention of anything queer.
    I'm reminded of being the divorced mother of a little girl whose dad rarely paid child support. When friends asked me if I had legal support & if I could haul him into court, I would explain that the time it would take me to try to dig some cash out of his pockets would be better spent finding other sources of money (part-time or casual work). When I was doing sex work, I couldn't afford to be visible to the legal system, but I was still better off than I would have been trotting to various government and legal offices to complain.
    Continuing to write is probably your best revenge, though someone here on OGG might know better than I do where your writing might get the most positive attention. (Excessica?)

  4. So many things come in waves, and we're on the downslope of erotica. Did 50 Shades fuel the upslope? If so, those of us already trudging along up hill didn't benefit much from it, and the flood of imitators washed erotica over a peak and then poured it all downward. Or something. I hate to say it, or even think it, but the current laudable rise of anti-harassment activism may be part of a general disfavor with adventurous sex, including erotica. The wave may eventually turn upward--Erotica Will Rise Again!--but not necessarily in the form we understand, the one have, or had, learned to do well. Sigh.

    1. I think you have something there, Sacchi. Much of what we write is about someone being taken advantage of, be it male or female characters taking the lead. Let's face it, stories about perfect, reciprocal vanilla sex would soon lack appeal. There wouldn't be many opportunities for story lines if everyone was on an equal footing. Save attempts at equity for the resolution of the story.

  5. Really good post, Giselle. I get demoralized by this stuff too. And it's not the first time and won't be the last that LGBT stuff gets roped in with "objectionable" content. I think we've just gotta recognize that we can't be ready to be activists all the time, and hope that enough people are at any one time to keep things moving. It's very hard, though. So best of luck and lots of <3 to you!


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