Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Amazon versus Virginity

As some of you may know, JA Rock and I have been advised by our publisher to change the title of our Mark Cooper versus America sequel, which was called Brandon Mills versus Virginity. Because Amazon would refuse to list it with that title.

When I mentioned this on Goodreads, a few people pointed me towards this book:

Why is this book allowed to use the V-word, but we aren’t? I suspect that it’s all to do with the way this book is tagged. While this book, for all I know, might be full of sexy good times, it’s not listed as erotica or erotic romance, so it escapes the cull. Here’s how it’s categorised on Amazon:

Actually, there is a heap of books on Amazon with the V-word in the title. There are books about this woman:

And this man:

And this product:

And, yes, even virginity exactly as it pertains to sexual experience, or lack thereof:

The title, if you can’t read it, is Virginity: A Treasure. Personally an idea I find more disturbing that a lot of stuff in erotica (yes, even counting monster porn) but that’s a discussion for another day.

So what’s the big deal about the word virginity in our title, Amazon? Brandon Mills is nineteen. He’s an adult, who happens to be a virgin. It’s not unusual. It’s also not unusual for a nineteen year old college boy to spend a lot of time obsessing about his status.

What’s frustrating about this, as JA pointed out in an email, is it’s about sex. It’s fairly obvious that Amazon is only targeting erotica and erotic romance titles. You don’t see the same rules being enforced on writers of chainsaw blood-splattering gore, do you? And why should you? It’s ridiculous. Adults have the right to read what they want to read.

Except, apparently, when it comes to sex. Then a quick glance at the title – not the content, mind you, but the title alone – will allow Amazon to make the decision for you. Because there is absolutely no content in Brandon Mills that crosses any boundaries. The sex is consensual, and it’s sweet and funny and awkward. There’s not even any kink in it! Okay, there’s a mild dinosaur fetish, but that’s kept out of the bedroom.

Here’s what JA wrote in her email, which sums it up nicely:

I think the way they're doing it now does come off as an attack on sex. Because I don't see the same kind of scrutiny being applied to books in the thriller genre--notorious for exploitative depictions of maimings and murder and sexual assaults. So why should a romance that depicts those things--as long as it's in a negative light--be any different?

Come on over here, double standard. Step into the light so we can all see you. 

And, you know what’s most annoying about this entire thing? The fact that Amazon pretty much owns the universe. What Amazon wants, Amazon gets. As much as a part of me wants to says “Fuck you, Amazon!” and publish only to other retailers…well, that would be a pretty dumb financial decision. Amazon is the market.

It would just be nice if the market took its head out of its arse one day soon. 

In the meantime, I hope you'll all enjoy Brandon Mills versus the V-Card when it comes out! 


Anonymous said...

Sometimes authors need to band together to get changes because what bothers me is how arbitrary this decision was -and it doesn't seem to make sense- so basically they can do whatever they want to without any clear guideline. I know that there are chapters for mm writers. There's the RWA chapter and the Rainbow Romance Writers, so maybe someone needs to bring this concern to a formal association that could get the attention of Amazon because it affects all mm authors.

Lisa said...

Hi Milan,

I think the main problem is that nobody is big enough to stand up to Amazon. They can make all the rules, and then apply them as unevenly as they want.

I'm not that upset about changing the title really. A few people have said they prefer the new title! But yes, it's ridiculous that there's no way to seek clarification or have someone from Amazon respond to the issue.

J.A. Rock said...

I agree about banding together. It's hard, because we aren't big enough to stand up to Amazon, and no one wants to risk their income. But sooner or later, I think we're going to have to. Even an article I read recently about the Hachette battle said something like "well at least so far Amazon isn't using their power to promote their own views." Uh...really? So it seems there's a lack of awareness of what's happening in the romance/erotica/erotic romance genres that we'll only ever remedy by working together and kicking up a big stink.

I mean, calmly raising awareness.

(Kicking up a big stink).

Lisa said...

I would kick up a big stink with you any day!

Anonymous said...

Both authors and readers need to band together. I stopped buying from Amazon 3-4 years ago, when they targeted first LGBT books, removing them from searches, and then incest books removing them from searches and user's bookshelves(!) (Borgia family was left untouched for some reason). Since then I only bought exactly two books that I couldn't find anywhere else. Boycotting Amazon as a reader is very doable.