Tag Archive | paypal

Princess Leia on a Chain

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a month and a half since I leaped into the indie publishing scene. It’s been a busy month and a half and much of it has been taken up with PayPal’s move to put Baby in the corner.

I think they’ve seen by now that no one puts Baby in the corner.

Eden Connor has been doing a terrific series of interviews over on her blog, titled Dirty Mind vs. Debit Cards. Thus far, she’s interviewed a number of excellent authors: Remittance Girl, Sessha Batto, and Anjasa.

A few days back I mentioned I’d also volunteered to be involved in the interview series. Because I am a dork, instead of waiting to actually be interviewed, I went ahead and wrote an essay. Eden was kind enough to indulge my excitement at participating and posted it today. You can read it in its entirety here.

Warning: I get up close and personal with my disclosures, and I do apologize if I make anyone uncomfortable because of it. If you haven’t had your morning coffee yet, I will understand if you wait to read.

More authors are to come. Eden has been posting one a day, and she’s still looking for others who are willing to discuss their experience in this. Clicky if you’re interested in either reading or participating.

In unrelated news, pardon me as I glee over breaking the 20 sales mark. A month and two weeks, and I’m at 21 total sales! Eeee!

Very small potatoes, I know, but those are 21 votes of confidence to keep me going. Thank you and thank you and thank you, you are awesome. The Zodiac Club should be up tonight or tomorrow; I just need to figure out a blurb for it.

You may have noticed blurbs are not my forte.

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Saturday Ramblings

I want to give a shout out to both Eden Connor and Remittance Girl for their blogging and actions in the past week. A lot of people have weighed in with some excellent thoughts and calls to action, but these two have stood out to me.

Remittance Girl has set up a home blog for anyone affected by the recent banning, and anyone who would like to join in the movement to get PayPal to wake the hell up. Check it out, you know you want to:

Eden Connor has put out a call for authors who would like to join a dark anthology of stories on the subjects banned by PayPal. You can contact her through her blog if you’re interested; I’ve already signed up! She’s also looking for guest bloggers who are open to discussing the titles they’ve had yanked, why they wrote them, why they feel erotica is important and how this has affected them. I’ve signed up for this as well so keep an eye out!

Mark Coker sent out an email this morning with recent Smashwords news. This included updates about Baker & Taylor signing on as a distributor and Read an E-Book Week kicking off on Sunday. More pertinent to recent events, he also had this to say about PayPal:

In case you haven’t heard, about two weeks ago, PayPal contacted Smashwords and
gave us a surprise ultimatum: Remove all titles containing bestiality, rape
or incest, otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal account. We engaged
them in discussions and on Monday they gave us a temporary reprieve as we continue
to work in good faith to find a suitable solution.

PayPal tells us that their crackdown is necessary so that they can remain in
compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn’t mention them
by name).

Last Friday, I sent the following email to our erotica authors and publishers:
https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/27 Then on Monday, I issued an update,
and announced we would delay enforcement of PayPal’s guidelines so we and PayPal
could continue our discussions: https://www.smashwords.com/press/release/28

THE PROBLEM:

PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction. Regardless of how one views topics
of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction.
We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers. This is unfair,
and it marks a slippery slope. We don’t want credit card companies or financial
institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read.
Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It’s legal.

THE SOLUTION:

There’s no easy solution. Legally, PayPal and the credit card companies probably
have the right to decide how their services are used. Unfortunately, since they’re
the moneyrunners, they control the oxygen that feeds digital commerce.

Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor.
That’s not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind
this, they’ll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere. PayPal works well for us.
In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store,
PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S. My conversations with
PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the
road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.

BUILDING A COALITION OF SUPPORT:

Independent advocacy groups are considering taking on the PayPal censorship case.
I’m supporting the development of this loose-knit coalition of like-minded groups
who believe that censorship of legal fiction should not be allowed. We will grow
the coalition. Each group will have its own voice and tactics I’m working with
them because we share a common cause to protect books from censorship. Earlier
today I had conversations with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National
Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). I briefed them on the Smashwords/PayPal
situation, explained the adverse affect this crackdown will have on some of our
authors and customers, and shared my intention to continue working with PayPal
in a positive manner to move the discussion forward.

The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read
Today, ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release: http://www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re-Ebook-Refusal-2012

I will not be on the streets with torch in hand calling for PayPal’s head, but
I will encourage interested parties to get involved and speak their piece. This
is where you come in…

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern
all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the
ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing
without the (fading) protective patina of a “traditional publisher” to lend them
legitimacy. We indies only have each other.

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects
women disproportionately. Women write a lot of the erotica, and they’re also
the primary consumers of erotica. They’re also the primary consumers of mainstream
romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies
were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think
this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in
mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your
were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality? The insanity
needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor
of legal fiction should have to answer.).

All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial
services companies censoring books. Authors should have the freedom to publish
legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

These corporations need to hear from you. Pick up the phone and call them.
Email them. Start petitions. Sign petitions. Blog your opposition to censorship.
Encourage your readers to do the same. Pass the word among your social networks.
Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story. Contact
your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local
author’s perspective on this story of international significance. If you have
connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story. Encourage
them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, “PayPal
says they’re trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies. Why are
you censoring legal fiction?”

Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and
you’ll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses.
Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers
to do the same. Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring
legal fiction.

Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell
your ebooks without censorship or discrimination. Let them know that PayPal’s
policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept
your books as they are. Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email)
and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives. Post open letters to them
on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters. Force the
credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship. And yes, express
your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well. Don’t scream at them. Ask them
to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship. Tell
them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.

Visa:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=V+Profile

American Express:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=AXP+Profile

MasterCard:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

Discover:
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=DFS+Profile

Ebay (owns PayPal):
http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=ebay+Profile

Starting Sunday, if our email systems can handle it, we will send out an email
to several hundred thousand registered Smashwords members who are opted in to
receive occasional Smashwords service updates. The email will combine Read an
Ebook Week with the censorship call to action. Let’s start a little fire, shall
we?

Thank you for your continuing support of Smashwords. With your help, we can
move mountains.

Best wishes,

Mark

And finally my own little update!

I would like to say thank you to the readers who’ve made the past week the best one yet for my stories. I have no illusions about either my visibility or my ability as a writer of erotica yet, but each sale encourages me to continue and improve.

Stories currently in the works are Zodiac (title under consideration), a dark and gritty exploration of the Zodiac Club, described as “the dark heart of Chicago, the apotheosis of sin”. The main character is Gemini, who is a rake, a scoundrel, a modern-day Puck who enjoys pushing boundaries. It’s going to have elements of public sex, BDSM and forced sex, which readers seemed to appreciate in The Perfect Belt (currently my best seller). I’m also working on a m/m story (my first!) called Losing It about a man struggling against his sexuality who finds what he’s been denying himself in the arms of the private detective his fiancee hired to follow him around.

Yes, two stories in the chute at once! Double your pleasure! Are you excited? I’m excited. So much to do, so much to look forward to! And as upsetting as recent events have been, so much more has come out of this– there are opportunities here for authors and readers both to not only increase their presence but to establish themselves as legitimate. And why not?

We are.

Captivity and The Wild Hunt (briefly) unpublished

Captivity and The Wild Hunt are no longer available at Smashwords; I’ve just swept them into the archive over there. Bummer, right?

Except no! They’re not disappearing entirely. Tomorrow I’ll be submitting them both to the folks over at No Boundaries Press. They’ve gone above and beyond to provide an option to those who’ve seen their publishing library stripped of content. I have to give them kudos for not only providing this option, but also for responding quickly with all of the information I needed to make my decision.

Thank you, Kaleigha and Kharisma. You’re good people.

If anyone else has been affected by this, I can’t recommend No Boundaries Press enough as an alternative for your too naughty for PayPal books. See that hyperlink there? Click it.

Once everything’s been submitted and accepted (I know you folks must be swamped over there), I’ll be updating the Library tab above to reflect new links.

In a way, this has turned out to be a positive thing. Instead of just remaining content with one site (convenient as Smashwords is to those of us without experience in indie publishing), I’ve gotten off of my pert little derriere and also looked into publishing through Amazon. More options are a good thing, right?

Right.

More thoughts on PayPal’s latest erotica ban.

I’ve had an evening and most of today to think more about this and how it affects me. I’m still not sure if I’m more angry or more worried about the future implications.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to many female readers of erotica, but I like me some rape fantasies. Now, I say that as a survivor myself. I’ve been through the real thing and yet I still enjoy reading erotica that contains force, non-consensual and dubious consent themes. It’s just one of those things and I haven’t really put a great deal of thought into the hows and whys of it; it simply is, for me. If I were going to get intellectual about it, I’d probably say it allows me to take back control of my sexuality but really…reading a well-written force scene curls my toes, end of story. Writing one gets my pulse racing. I like the stuff.

I’m also a lifestyle submissive who has a love for BDSM themes, another area that tends to draw sidelong looks and raised eyebrows for those with no interest in the area.

PayPal has said no depictions of rape. Mark Coker has said depictions of rape have no place anywhere, not even in erotica, if the purpose is to titillate. Judgments are being made that have an effect not only on what I hope will become my livelihood but on me as a person.

I don’t like that much and it does make me worry what might be stage two of the smut purge. Incest, even pseudo-incest (why is it a banning offense to write about two consenting adult step-siblings doing it?), rape and bestiality in written form, gone. Next? BDSM? It’s another of those subjects that raises eyebrows. It’s a grey area so far as consent goes. Yes, initial consent is given but for people who consent to and enjoy boundaries being pushed, we recognize that outside observers might not see it as being full and complete consent. So far it doesn’t seem that M/m or m/m stories are being targeted (quite the opposite, on some sites they’re being ignored even as their het pairing counterparts are being taken down?) but with it being election year and so many Conservatives making the perils of gay anything a talking point, that might well change.

And then there’s just the fact that I don’t much appreciate anyone telling me what I can and cannot write. Even if I never intended to write a blatant bestiality story for public consumption (most of my stuff tends to go into the realm fantastic for that sort of thing), being told I can’t makes me want to write that. All of a sudden, all of my non-best/non-incest/non-rape ideas have flown out the window and all I can think about are the story seeds I was saving that had those elements.

Going forward in this is also going to be a little like the literary equivalent of picking my way through a minefield, in which I second guess every step I make while wondering if I’m treading a little too close to some arbitrary line of disapproval.

That takes some of the fun out of it.

Mr. Coker, as an author on Smashwords I understand why you chose to make the call you did. I do get it, PayPal has everyone’s metaphorical balls in a vise. I would like to think that you are going to look for a way to allow those of us with tastes in literature that you don’t share to continue using your service. I like Smashwords, I don’t want to take my work elsewhere; you’ve created a site that has the ease of use and services that I have been looking for.

But I am very, very disappointed. And a little sad that you think my tastes have no place in erotica…although, upon rereading that, you know what? What you think doesn’t matter so much. PayPal too. Yes, what I can put out there for public consumption has been limited in several ways, but no one chopped my fingers off. May you never find yourself in a situation where your personal choice in fantasy is set up for public judgment. Really, it isn’t fun. But it’s also not the end of the world.

All right, ramble and mourning over.

Approaching this practically, my options are:

1) To continue writing whatever the hell I want and just vary my submission patterns a bit. Split up where I’m sending things. A little clunky (especially for someone who is still learning the ins and outs of ebook publishing) but it would probably allow me the greatest freedom from censorship. Might be a little tricky since while Amazon may allow pseudo-incest, last time I checked they weren’t allowing works of non-consent. Can anyone tell me whether that’s accurate?

2) Stick with Smashwords for the moment in the hope that an alternative presents itself for those of us who have certain tastes. Write what I want to write but stockpile the pieces that are considered worthy of censorship. Maybe even offer them for free (or some of them. I have bills accumulating!)

3) Write what I want to write and put publication in any venue on hold for now until the dust settles, and we get a better view of the landscape, post-purge. Maybe look into PayPal alternatives and setting up my own site where I can sell what I want without the morality police breathing down my neck about my (and my readers’) personal tastes in fantasy.

Right now, these all have their pros and cons. I suppose the simplest first step to take is to re-work My Lover, My Brother into pseudo-incest and throw it over to Amazon. The possibility of them being childhood friends and next door neighbors exists as well but I think that would require more re-working of the story and after spending the better part of a week working on it, I don’t know if I want to spend another week re-writing it.

Meh. Meh I say.

Ouch. Smashword’s new erotica policy.

Or I suppose I should say, ouch, PayPal turning the screws to force Smashwords to adopt a new policy.

I just opened up my email to discover a new message from Mark Coker outlining the changes regarding rape/noncon erotica, bestiality and incest. It’s a bit of a double blow (ha) to me: two of the five stories I have published so far involve non-consensual scenes, and the story I was intending to publish tonight was twin incest-themed.

It looks like I’ll have to pull The Wild Hunt and Captivity from my library, which is a shame. Captivity, especially. That one wasn’t written with rape as titillation in mind; it actually comes as the prologue for a novel-length exploration of an alternative historical world. I think it stands on its own as literature (but I admit to some bias).

I’ll be pulling them down shortly, if there’s anyone out there who wants to grab a copy ASAP. And it seems I’ll have to return to the drawing board to write up a new story for publication. A week’s worth of work, for nothing! Ah well, I’m pleased with the cover anyway and it was decent practice. See?

Now to dream up what to write next.

Edit: Just re-read the email. The Wild Hunt and Captivity will remain online on Smashwords (and presumably on Barnes & Noble, for the first) until Sunday night, then they come down. There’s your deadline, alternative historical fantasy non-con lovers!