Another Ass Bitten, Another Wake-up Call Missed

i thought he liked thatI’ll admit I don’t know much about Ellora’s Cave (other than they more than likely would reject most of my books), but I do know that they are a somewhat major player in the area of erotic fiction.

A recent blog post I came across, Ellora’s Cave & E-book Sales: A Cautionary (First Amendment) Tale by Miss Primm, makes the announcement that Ellora’s Cave has found itself one of the latest victims of Amazon’s ever-changing and ever-elusive policies concerning the availability and accessibility of erotica within their illustrious web pages. To the tune of Ellora’s Cave losing upwards of 75 percent of their Amazon sales.

Okay, so maybe people like Ellora’s Cave and Miss Primm haven’t really missed the wake-up call, but reasons, reactions, and solutions being bantered about by most folks indicate that they are still dozing through the snooze button.

The basic premise seems to be fairly understood, according to Miss Primm’s words:

E-publishers like Ellora’a cave have a profoundly unique relationship with e-retailers like Amazon. Suckling at the teat of lower production costs and easy distribution, e-publishers have traded one evil for another. They aren’t dealing with the higher costs of print production, but they are at the mercy (of) the policies of their distributors.

So, at least people seem to be somewhat aware of the devil they’re dealing with, and the possible problems it poses. However, that seems to be where the awareness ends. Reading further, however, one comes to the realization that many are still just talking in their sleep:

Ever since Milton Friedman declared that that the only social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits, corporate types have used this argument to justify all sorts of schemes, most of which works at odds towards individual’s interests. So it is no surprise that Amazon will do whatever is in its power to maximize sales, even if it means hiding authors.

Well, in a big way, Milton is right. And most businesses are pretty much aware that the best way to increase profits is to give its customers what they want and treat people decently while doing it. However, many businesses will forgo the latter if the former can still be achieved. Solutions to this dilemma, however, continue to remain elusive to Miss Primm and the great majority of other erotica writers. In fact, the basic premise they’re working on seems to be majorly flawed:

It would seem that hiding content, and restricting cover art is censorship, something that violates our First Amendment rights to free speech. This battleground, whether a single entity can control the information flow of a publisher has been fought on other ground. The Supreme Court weighed in on whether a city or town has the right to restrict the location of news racks. Cities argued that they have the right to control “visual clutter” of the streets, while newspapers argued that such restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. The ultimate result gave neither side a clear victory. Cities can adopt a uniform code for newspaper distribution as long as it is applied to all forms of newspapers, paid daily and free shoppers alike. They can even issue permits and impose fees on newspapers for the placement of racks on city land. But they cannot pick and choose what news racks can appear on the streets.

First of all, this is NOT a “First Amendment” issue!!! Like it or not, Amazon is a private business, free to conduct its business as it sees fit. They can sell or not sell whatever books they choose, they can make available or hide whatever books they please. The example that was cited had to do with cities and towns, which are government entities, which is what the First Amendment is aimed at. The one basic factor that everyone seems to have forgotten is that the Constitution of the U.S. was basically framed to tell the government what it can and cannot do, not what the people can and cannot do. The Prohibition Amendment basically blew the shit out of that premise, and we all know (or should know) the fate of that particular clause.

Now this might seem as far away from the topic of Amazon controlling the sales of erotica as one might get. But think about how publicly traded companies like Amazon, on one hand, want the access to and the benefits of a free marketplace, and then assert their right to act as their management sees fit whether or not those goals mesh with public policy. This seems to me a bigger issue than a single publisher putting all their eggs in one basket and losing out to a corporation. And this is one fight that no one seems to want to take on. Ultimately though, someone is going to have to, otherwise, like Ellora’s Cave we will lose our rights to distribute our material to the vagaries of corporate profit strategy.

There are two reasons no one seems to want to take this fight on: First of all, it is an un-winnable fight. It has no teeth and really no basis for it to win on. Second of all, it’s the wrong “fight”. What erotica authors seem to want to be doing is to join Amazon and then “form” Amazon into what they want it to be. Sorry, people, it doesn’t work like that.

Bottom line? It IS an issue of a single publisher putting all their eggs into one basket. It really is no bigger than that. This is what most publishers, and what most independent authors do!!  The biggest mistake most indie publishers and authors keep doing is they KEEP PROMOTING AMAZON!!!!

There ARE other “baskets” out there. Carnal Pleasures and Excitica are two which come to mind immediately and there are plenty more, most of which do not have NEAR the restrictions that Amazon does. (Does anyone even remember that Barnes & Noble exists?) There is a demand for erotica. What erotica writers and publishers need to start doing is stop associating Amazon with erotica. Lead your audience somewhere else!!

Every time you keep linking your books to Amazon, you just keep feeding the beast. I’m not saying completely eliminate Amazon if they haven’t completely eliminated you yet… But start training your readers to look elsewhere. If enough erotica authors start doing this, Amazon will start to become less and less of an issue.

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6 responses

  1. Thank you for your analysis of my blog post. I’m afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on several points:

    “And most businesses are pretty much aware that the best way to increase profits is to give its customers what they want and treat people decently while doing it.”

    Actually no. Some businesses do follow this policy, but talk to any customer who uses AT&T, Bank of America, and Comcast, to name a few and you’ll hear horror stories of how those companies treat their customers.

    “First of all, this is NOT a “First Amendment” issue!!! Like it or not, Amazon is a private business, free to conduct its business as it sees fit. They can sell or not sell whatever books they choose, they can make available or hide whatever books they please.”

    A company that trades its stock publicly is not a private business. You can argue the rights of the corporations all you want, but we have plenty of instances of private businesses that because they own a monopoly on a good or service must adhere to government regulations in pricing, how they sell their services and how they deal with suppliers and customers. Utilities companies come to mind as one example. And as the largest distributor of printed and e-printed material in the country and therefore having immense control over that material, they certainly do not have the right to enforce censorship through search algorithms.

    ” What erotica authors seem to want to be doing is to join Amazon and then “form” Amazon into what they want it to be.”

    I do not understand your reasoning here. Erotica authors are no different than any other authors. However, they are being treated differently because of the product. It is Amazon that is doing the “forming” not Erotica authors.

    “The biggest mistake most indie publishers and authors keep doing is they KEEP PROMOTING AMAZON!!!!”

    They use Amazon because it is the biggest distributor out there. Again, this is my point. The largest distributor should not have the power to determine whether or not their customers see what authors have to offer, no matter what kind of fiction they right.

    Thank you for reading and responding to my blog post.

    Angelica Primm

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    1. I certainly expected us to disagree on many points, because we are taking very different approaches to the same problem. Your approach seems to be to sic the “rule of law” on them. The fallacies behind this approach would be a whole other blog post unto itself.

      The one thing we can agree on is that Amazon is the biggest distributor out there. However, that does not make it a “monopoly” by a long shot, therefore treating it as such as far as the law goes is doomed to failure. What you seem to be proposing is somewhat akin to walking into any Walmart and demanding that they carry magazines like Hustler and Juggs because they are “just like any other magazine”. Taking an issue like this to any appellate court would certainly get thrown out on its face. If Walmart were the ONLY source of magazines anywhere in the nation, perhaps that issue might have a fighting chance. But there are adult book shops all over the country where magazines like that can be found. If I want those types of magazines, I will go there instead of at Walmart.

      Your approach seems to be to keep making Amazon the “only game in town”, and to make it adhere to the wishes of erotica authors and readers. My approach is to steer those authors and readers elsewhere. Personally, I have been promoting the shit out of Carnal Pleasures the last few months. The result has been a very noticeable increase in authors and readers there. In fact, from my sales reports, the month of August has been my best month on Carnal Pleasures to date. Who knows how big these other independent publishers and distributors would get if an influx of other erotica authors would follow suit.

      You say it is Amazon doing the “forming”, not erotica authors. And that it exactly MY point! It’s time to start turning that around.

      In any case, I thank you for your reply.

      Like

  2. After reading the Miss Primm article, I posted this comment on their page, but it’s still awaiting moderation, so it may not show up for a while. I’d also like to share it on your page, in the hopes of raising awareness with fellow authors:

    “Good article…but you’re wrong about the First Amendment violation. If Amazon was the country’s ONLY publisher, then denying authors the right to publish their works would be a First Amendment violation. But since they aren’t…there are legions of small independent publishers willing to publish almost anything an author can think up…Amazon’s refusal to publish certain authors or genres is simply a matter of their corporate policy. The problem is that their TOS is so deliberately vague that they can enforce it as arbitrarily as they choose…and no one can do a thing about it.

    What they ought to do is create an adults-only section, like eBay has done. All erotica, all adult movies, toys, lingerie, etc. should be marketed from there. That will solve every single problem, keep “adult” products and stories away from the “vanilla” mainstream public, and maybe even placate the so-called Moral Majority (of which they are neither) in the process.”

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  3. The Second Amendment argument only applies to government entities abridging the rights of citizens, It does not apply to corporations, public, private, or monopoly. Consider – “Corporations are people too!” quoting a recent presidential candidate reflecting on the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

    Nothing can or will be done about this issue during the current presidential administration, IF the following administration gets around to changing the direction of a rolling boulder. Amazon has gone after erotica publishers, including Ellora’s Cave, at the behest of Eric Holder, US Attorney General and the Justice Dept. who put on a slide show to pursuer the likes of Amazon and credit card processors, not to sell romance erotica. In return, the Justice Dept, has agreed not to pursue anti-trust and monopoly cases against Amazon. A little tit for a little tat, as they say in erotic cliterature.

    Phaedrus T. Wolfe
    Lot’s Cave
    Publishers of Erotica other Publishers Refuse

    Like

    1. Ah, so it’s a backhanded attempt by a government agency to abridge First Amendment rights using a corporation as a defacto agent of the government.

      If it walks like a duck….

      Like

      1. I had not exactly thought of it that way, but your point is excellent. And yes, I made a mistake in referring to the second amendment when the issue at hand is the first amendment.

        Like

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