Friday, December 28, 2007

For the record

So I was over at TeddyPig's blog, as one does when one makes the rounds of erotic romance fan blogs, and I saw a post that said, essentially, why don't more ebook merchants take PayPal?

The answer, I suspected and still suspect, is that since *erotic* romance ebooks are sexually oriented, their merchants are understandably wary of the big honking "not to be used for sexually oriented products" clause in Paypal's TOS. I also added that Paypal has track record for flip-flopping on what is and isn't acceptable sexually oriented material.

He replied. Things went on from there. But more than one of my comments haven't been approved as of this point, which I suspect may make my rather rambling and repetitive (as one tends to be when one's comments are repeatedly mischaracterized) argument even less coherent than it could have been. That's his blog, and is totally within his right.

Still, I've got copies of those comments, including the one with the links to the proof he kept demanding (links he kept characterizing as links to porn sites) so I thought I'd reconstruct the exchange here, with all my comments included.

My comments are in red, his are in blue, the original post is quoted at the top for reference. One quote from another commenter that I responded to is included, in black. The three comments he decided not to approve are in italics.

I don't mind a healthy discussion, obviously. I don't mind that he's able to pick and choose what comments appear on his blog. I do mind when I'm told to give examples supporting my argument and then those examples are both withheld from and mischaracterized to the audience, particularly the part where he said each and every one of my links were for sites with hardcore porn ads, and one of them went to All About Romance while another went to an archived forum thread on sitepoint, a mainstream webmaster forum that has, on occasion, threads regarding adult webmastering and had no ads (apart from those in sigs) on it whatsoever. It seems I forgot to add that link into the original comments. Oh well, my point stands. AllAboutRomance != a porn site, last I checked.

I think you're all smart enough to decide for yourselves whether Paypal is worth the risk, and I respect your decision either way. I also respect your ability to take a look at his arguments and supporting evidence and mine and decide (or decide not to care.)

But I also know - for a fact - that selling erotic entertainment, anything at all related to sex (even if it's in a "romantic", chick oriented context) is fraught with issues that those who sell non sexually oriented material never have to worry about. And I think that turning up your nose at the lessons learned by others in related industries (and in this context, since they're both in danger of violating the same TOS clause, they are) is foolish.

So anyway, here is our original exchange, cut and pasted, nothing changed (including some of my 3:00 am related typos and dropped words.

Click the "Read More" link to read the ... unexpurgated exchange. ;)

PayPal Is Your Friend

08:20 am on Dec 27th 2007

Wells FargoPayPal

Dear ePublishers,

Some of you might be asking yourselves… What does the Pig do all day?
Well, let me tell you the world of the Internet Bank Security Expert is a fun filled trip into the bowels of the Internet. A crazy ride that encompasses everything from Mobile Phones, SSL Certs, Single Sign-ons to PayPal Processing. Oh, PayPal you say. Why yes, PayPal, see I also helped my other half start his own business this year. He does Handmade Silk Screen Printing. He is a press in the old school sense of a press.

Redrum Press to be exact.

So when he asked me how to setup an online processing account for his business I reached into my bag of Internet Banking tricks and put him on A PayPal Merchant Account and QuickBooks Pro which integrate very well and got a Business Accountant to setup his books for him and added a module to QuickBooks Pro that is specifically for the type of sales he does. I also set him up on the Google Apps For Business. He is now way over the amount of sales he projected in his initial Business Plan and he is doing very well and with this setup. Most importantly he has the option of having his customers pay through PayPal with a few doing the old standard snail mail but it is all about the options and PayPal is an immediate thing and a lot of businesses are using it because of this integration and capacity. Nothing helps a small business more than money up front customers.

If having a strictly PayPal Merchant Account still bothers you remember there is another less well known option. A Wells Fargo Internet Merchant Account. Feel free to call them up and ask the questions as far as I know it is simply a choice of Brand Names. It can’t hurt and from my POV eBanking like this let’s you stay focused on the ePublishing business not on the process of maintaining the books. Are you secure? Yes, my logs tell me you are. Would I send my partner to something I thought was insecure or problematic?

Oh, and if you ever need T-Shirts check with my partner Jason and his Redrum Press it’s really convenient to do business with him. He uses PayPal just like Fictionwise, All Romance eBooks (Who needs to update their FAQ), Books On Board and tons of great ePublishers. He did these book cover shirts for a certain author that so rocked. Enjoy!


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 01:03 pm 2

The problem is, Paypal has a notorious history of being very, very squirrely when it comes to dealing with adult transactions. It got out of the business of doing any payment processing for adult entertainment several years ago and to this day, if you’re caught sending or receiving funds for adult entertainment/service/products, you can have your funds confiscated. They are both strict and (at times) maddeningly vague about what does and doesn’t constitute “adult”.

The spiciest erotic romance ebooks/text skirt the line between “hot” and “pornographic” and while you can argue either way, living in that grey area can make taking funds online a very tricky business, because when it comes to selling adult products/services online, there are far fewer payment processors to deal with and they charge a lot more.

I don’t know if most of these sites have bothered to get adult merchant accounts, I suspect many are winging it, but PayPal is very, very clear about not permitting transactions for adult products, and *no* legit adult merchant out there who knows what the hell they’re doing will take paypal as payment. It’s just way too risky if you get caught. Now, whether any individual merchant is able to secure an okay from PayPal to sell products that it labels “adult only, sexually explicit” is their deal, but unfortunately, when it comes to selling sexually explicit entertainment (which many of these ebooks unquestionably are) PayPal’s answer is no.

(and btw, most of these issues aren’t puritanism so much as an astronomically higher rate of chargeback for adult)


# Dec 27th 2007 at 01:18 pm 3

PayPal Merchant Account

Here you go Anne! Yes a merchant account does help in that situation.

Sorry but if you are reading false accounts from PayPalSucks web site then understand they are owned and operated by a major competitor. You are simply being taken in by a viral marketing campaign.

Marshall Golub who registered that site is also the name of the National Sales Director for a rather nasty little company whom I would never do business with due to some interesting things in their TOS.

It’s just way too risky if you get caught.

Really? Do you have something a bit more recent to prove your accusations against PayPal? I mean it might not hurt to show us your evidence since you make it sound so easy to find a “real” ePublisher having their account frozen and I mean you seem so involved in this disclosing the conspiracy thing.

What I remember of those posts (It was dated 2000 or 2001) that described those accounts being frozen the examples given were pretty obvious porn. But again, they were provided on a site run by the competitor who hides their ownership and involvement and identity and basically provided a highly tin foil hat view of a company they are losing to. Funny thing is none of their accusations were supported by CNN or even Yahoo News site.

For the last big mess PayPal got in around 2002 look here
It’s not like they are perfect but they did clean up their act.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 05:26 pm 9

As a matter of fact I do. I have close friends who have worked in the adult industry for over ten years, friends who make a good living at it in an above board, professional manner and have to pay a pretty penny for adult merchant accounts. I’m not going to go into details but I know this stuff and the fact is, Paypal doesn’t just not allow adult, they will freeze your account if you dick around with them, end of story. Trust me on this one, the sticking point with Paypal (and paypal in particular) is adult.

There are a variety of alternatives for payment if you’re going to be selling adult products (and boy, don’t get me started on how the online ebook industry is practically in the 19th century with regards to ease of payment in comparison to the online porn industry) but Paypal is flat out a non starter if you’re selling something that could be classified as adult. This isn’t rumor, this is well known fact to anyone even moderately involved/familiar with selling adult products and services online. And anyone who tells you otherwise might as well be telling you that paying agents upfront fees is normal.

Obviously, Ellora’s Cave has worked out some deal, but unless you can get a letter of “we promise that we’ve okayed this site even though you call it adult” from Paypal (which they don’t tend to do) it’s simply not worth the risk.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 05:48 pm 12
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

More links
They go to adult business sites/blogs and aren’t in and of themselves adult, but may have not safe for work ads/language on them. Scroll down or do a search for paypal on this page.

The final link ascribes this paypal forbidding adult as puritanism, but the reason payment processors get (got, in the big exodus at the beginning of this decade) out of adult is pure $$$. The rate for chargebacks or “Oh my goodness, honey, I have no IDEA how this charge for got on my credit card bill, someone must have gotten my credit card number, I’ll dispute it” is sky high, way way WAY higher a chargeback risk than anything non adult. The credit card companies, as a rule, side with the consumer on this, leaving the honest purveyor of porn holding the bag.

Does fraud occur? Of course, but the issue of fraud/chargebacks on the part of the consumer is what makes adult such a risky proposition. Most processors find that it’s not worth the hassle, and most adult vendors either pay an assload for their own merchant account or go through CCBill or Epassporte.

And the trouble with PayPal is that they have a proven track record of changing their mind with this stuff, or being fine for a few months, then something gets flagged.

This last thread was interesting, as it looks like paypal might be moving back into processing for physical adult goods, but digital is still a no no.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 06:15 pm 13

Also, I’ve never heard of this paypalsucks website, and only jumped in because of knowledge I’ve got from friends who have had to jump through plenty of hoops (and who have been burned) on the “just want a freaking payment processor who allows adult” side as well as the “perils of dealing with chargebacks once you manage to get an expensive merchant account for adult adult services”. Not conspiracy theorists, just honest people trying to make a living in porn. And as much as writers and readers and sellers of erotic romance might want to hold “real porn” at arms length and protest “oh, we’re not like them” there is plenty to be learned from an industry that a) is the most profitable online and b) has already weathered its goldrush boom/bust years.

Now we can debate all day whether futuristic gay bdsm novellas should constitute “adult” or not, or whether paypal might make allowances for it, or whether it’s safe to trust their word once they’ve given you an okay, but the information I’m sharing wasn’t gleaned from some propaganda site created by paypal competitors, it was gleaned from people I personally know and trust, and from a variety of legit, adult webmaster resources. And if Paypal decides that what you’re doing is adult (or they “catch” you) they shut your ass down.

It’s a very real issue that just doesn’t come up if you’re selling all PG rated items, but it will bite you in the ass if you dip your toe into adult and get caught. I absolutely believe there are scaremongerers out there and that they have a vested interest in spreading rumors, but using paypal for anything even remotely connected to sex (or even having a paypal button on a non sexual page on a domain that does have sexual content) is risky at best and idiotic at worst.


# Dec 27th 2007 at 07:07 pm 14

has worked out some deal Let’s see no it seems to be a typical deal there.
Ellora’s Cave
Liquid Silver
But wait there’s more…
Books On Board
All Romance eBooks

Sorry guys, just not buying it if you are not running a porno site then you’re not running a porno site. Again this is like the EPIC deal people attempting to equate porn with Romance is like equating Vanity Press with ePublishers which again is Apples and Oranges.
There is no argument in this case because PayPal does not seem to buy it either.

Oh and poser covers? Have you seen Ellora’s Cave covers recently?

It just proves the “real” ePubs providing customer service next to the ones who do not want to work at it. People seem to freak over adult and sex and it seems other more intelligent companies are selling Romance eBooks. Maybe it’s how you present yourself as a business.

All this tin foil wearing gets to look a little stupid.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 07:27 pm 15

Believe it or don’t, but it’s not just rumormongoring, it’s a real risk with real consequences. What you call tinfoil hat wearing, I call smart risk management.

# Dec 27th 2007 at 07:33 pm 16

Nope don’t buy because there are very good reasons not to allow porno sites. You have to carry more charge back insurance due to credit card fraud. There is a big difference between the porno crowd and the fanatic Romance eBook reader.



romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 07:43 pm 18

“if you are not running a porno site then you’re not running a porno site.”

And it really REALLY doesn’t work that way. LOL. If you have a site that has labels like “sexually explicit content” and “erotic” and “extreme BDSM” all over it, you will be classified by some people as a porno site whether or not you’re selling videos of housewives giving head. Paypal’s issues aren’t simply with what you think of as a “porno site”, what the industry calls a paysite. Selling *any* sort of sexually explicit products/services/text can and has been shut down by PayPal in the past. Do I think these sites will be shut down? Frankly? No. But it isn’t just tinfoil hat wearing, it’s a real danger, and an avoidable one, and it makes all sorts of sense to avoid it unless you get something *in writing* from paypal. And even then, as you can see from the above links, it’s not always enough.

We might make the distinction in our heads that a romantic erotica ebook purchased primarily by women is a completely different animal from a monthly membership to, but they’re both sexually explicit entertainment and for some people, they’re both on the porn side of the line. Some of those people work at payment processing places like Paypal.

Venture into adult (anything labeled erotic) and you are at the whim of whoever decides that your site is or isn’t “a porno site”. It’s not black and white, it’s not even a question of visual versus text based, it’s a question of paypal’s changing whim. Using Paypal for anything related to sex is extremely risky. Period. This is not tinhat wearing or rumormongoring, it’s fact. That these sites listed above have gotten away with it so far, or that they’ve gotten on Paypal’s goodside is lovely for them, but from a business standpoint, if you’ve got this one payment processor which has a proven (not just rumored, but proven) track record of flip flopping what they consider adult-and-therefore-banned, and *everyone else*, why on earth would you take payments from the one where there’s a proven risk?

It’s easy for you or any average reader to say “stop being a whiny little conspiracy theorist” but the owners of these companies have an investment, a business to protect and Paypal for sexually explicit materials absolutely is a risk, and while (considering the bang up webdesign job I’ve seen on some of these shopping cart pages) lack of paypal may be laziness, it’s also a smart business move, particularly if you’re a young business without the clout of serious $$ to wave under paypal’s nose. It’s cool that you’d be willing to take the risk, but it’s understandable and *IMHO* smart that those who’ve stayed away from paypal continue to do so.

# Dec 27th 2007 at 08:18 pm 19

Listen all you have sent me is a ton of phonesex and sex forums sites frozen by PayPal. All of them were advertising hard core porn! Yes they were frozen! Adult porn sites are a risk for any credit card ask AMEX who shut all of you guys off for abuse and fraud. A WHOLE CREDIT COMPANY!

It was up to the porn sites to clean up their act and they refuse, too bad.
Do you see me sticking hard core porno ads on this site?

Fuck you, I ain’t posting that! You know how much SPAM I get from assholes just like that? You want me to feel sorry for them?

That has nothing to do with Romance eBooks now does it?

# Dec 27th 2007 at 08:33 pm 21

I am sorry Lisa. I ask very clearly for an example of one professional ePublisher that had their account frozen and I get someone who thinks I am an idiot that does not know the difference between Badpuppy and

# Dec 27th 2007 at 09:33 pm 27

Sure they pick and choose and if you saw the list I was sent each and every one had hard core porn ads running and made no attempt to look like they were selling anything but more porn escorts porn 900 lines porn movies.

It’s silly to say you cannot tell or that PayPal made a mistake when I keep getting handed such fine examples of tasteless sites I block everyday.

I am not against the porn I have a huge collection of old Drummer Magazines and early 70’s gay erotic mail order books.
Hell, I went to and worked at bathhouses for a while. I love sex. But… If PayPal does not want to put up with the fraud and credit card hassles continually provided by porn sites and they have the statistics and the police reports to back them up then good for them. I would rather work with customers that I did not have to worry about scams.

This was about Romance eBook Publishers not porn sites. Different, way way way different customers and people and talent.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 09:47 pm 28

Actually no. They weren’t all advertising hardcore porn.

And the reason Amex got out of the “taking payment for adult” biz along with others wasn’t fraud on the part of the pornmongerers, its the high rate of chargebacks on the part of customers who think they can dispute the charges and get away with it, or who run up their credit cards and then try to weasel out of it by claiming fraud. Does fraud happen in adult on the part of the pornsellers? Of course it does, as it does in any industry, but the issue that makes adult so risky is the high level of fraud on the part of the consumers, not the sellers.

And you can say *hardcore porno* over here and *romance* over there until you’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that for many payment processors, sexually explicit is sexually explicit.

And for the record, the people spamming you aren’t the porn sites themselves, they’re third party affiliates who get a sizeable bounty for sign-ups on the sites. If you get caught doing that, most of the major porn companies will ban your ass (as an affiliate), and it pisses off the vast majority of legit adult industry professionals because a couple of assholes give the rest of them a bad name.

And with all due respect, while a HEA and “mutual love and respect” and characterization and all that lovely stuff does make erotic romance ebooks and what is traditionally classified “pornography” different beasts, there’s still a hell of a lot of overlap. And both are sexually explicit entertainment that is intended for adults. One may spend more time getting to know the characters and their feelings and their relationships and the other may spend more time waggling some 19 year old’s butt in your face, but both are pieces of entertainment intended to arouse.

That Erotic Romance also has a storyline and a love story and comes in the form of words obviously makes it different from male oriented, visual pornography. That male-oriented, visual pornography is a hell of a lot more upfront about the fact that it is intended to be used as masturbation enhancement - and that that is its primary purpose - separates it from erotic romance.

But they are, at the very least, cousins. I don’t have issues with or look down on hardcore porn, so I don’t say that as an insult. I say it because, from the point of view of *those who are the gatekeepers* it’s a very subjective line. I’m not saying that any of these sites are likely to get screwed over by paypal. I’m not saying paypal is retarded and can’t tell the difference between women’s erotic romance and men’s hardcore smut. I”m saying that this area of e-commerce is an *extremely* shifty one.

You suspect and I suspect that the rate of chargebacks is far lower with ebooks, but the people who make these rules don’t always take the time to parse the details. Sometimes, just sexually explicit text *period* is enough. You’re saying it’s tinhattery. I’m saying I know for a fact that it’s happened. Obviously, we’re going to have to agree to disagree there.

It’s real easy to lump the dirtybadwrong porn over there, and say our nice, pretty, flowers ‘n’ posers fated mate shapeshifters ‘n bondage “love story” is the “good erotica”. IMHO, they’re two sides of the same coin and frankly, I like both sides. But sprinkling a love story on (or deftly weaving one through) sexually explicit material doesn’t make it not sexually explicit. And the fact that these books are romantic and sold primarily to women doesn’t make explicit bits any less explicit

And PayPal’s ban is on sexually explicit material, not “sexually explicit material without redeeming value or a love story to make it mean something because they’re in love” or “sexually explicit material that only dirty men wank to”. It’s nice that the sites that have gotten away with it have done so. I hope they don’t get burned.

But selling adult (and anything that is sexually explicit enough to be marked “adults only, please” which many of these books are) *is* a very, very delicate business, and one where the gatekeepers (moneychangers) have a tendency to change the rules at the drop of a hat and those selling the adult materials are often told “oh, you’re shit out of luck, and who cares because you’re a smut peddler”. This is not tinhattery. This happens. I’m not saying the tinhattery doesn’t exist, but the epublishers are very wise to tread *very* carefully because while there’s certainly a qualitative difference between this example chosen at random and the average (to be fair with our comparisons) story found in penthouse variations, it’s a question of degrees. And if you’re looking for the fact that it’s sold to women or that smutty bits happen during a love story to protect you when and if PayPal decides to enforce their “no sexually explicit materials” clause, more power to you.

Are erotic ebooks different from hardcore visual porn? Of course. Are they any less sexually explicit or vulnerable to same sort of across-the-board discrimination that sexually explicit materials enjoy? No. Will the ebook publishers who use paypal stay in their good graces? Probably. Chances are chargebacks are low and if the money’s there, Paypal has a tendency to look the other way.


It’s a real, avoidable risk. And it’s surprising that someone who trumpets professionalism in e-publishing as much as you do, Teddy, would advocate what is essentially risky, terms-of-service bending, “no one’s been caught yet so I guess we’re safe” behavior.

romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 09:51 pm 29

And for the record, none of those links above were to porn sites. They were links to blogs and industry sites that service professionals who sell porn, and the ads weren’t selling hardcore porn, they were selling affiliate programs that sell hardcore porn. A fine line, sure, and some of the people busted were busted for trying to accept payments for hardcore porn.

The phonesexdiary link in particular, recounts an exchange where the woman was told by paypal that selling her phone services (which isn’t necessarily any more or less explicit than the text in many ebooks) was perfectly fine, only to later have all of her accounts frozen without warning.

# Dec 27th 2007 at 10:00 pm 30

I am saying from the examples you gave me your argument does not wash.

I asked for an honest ePublisher who got his account frozen. You danced around that and sent me porn sites. I asked you to prove your accusations. You have not, you instead go on and on how porn is romance and romance is porn. It ain’t, you failed.

Did I say porn itself was bad? NO.

Did I say porn websites had a horrible track record anyone with half a brain could Google… Fraud cases and police reports and courtroom proceedings left and right which is why the main credit card processors will have nothing to do with them? YES.

Are they the only ones with this problem? NO, but they were the worst.


romblogreader Dec 27th 2007 at 11:16 pm 31

The examples I gave were the first ones I googled, and were in response to your assertion that the last time this shit happened was 2001, 2002, and that “google has cleaned up its act” not in response to your request to busted epublishers.

I didn’t send you porn sites, I sent you to porn webmaster resource sites, and the blog of a phone sex operator who cut-and-pasted an email exchange with Paypal engaging in the very behavior I was describing (saying sexually explicit material is fine the one minute and changing it the next.)

At no point did I say porn was romance or romance was porn. What I pointed out was that sexually explicit, *erotic* romance, books that have labels like “this is sexually explicit material intended for adults only” - which some of these erotic romance do - is quite obviously at risk for being lumped into the same category as other material that is labeled adults only and sexually explicit.

Did I say you said porn was bad? I don’t recall doing that.

What I said was that *erotic* romance, sexually explicit ebooks are clearly at risk for violation of Paypal’s terms of service because they are, well, *sexually explicit* and that is kind of prohibited by Paypal’s TOS. And that Paypal has an actual history (not just the bullshit conspiracy theory history you keep going on about) of changing its mind about what does and doesn’t constitute a violation of their TOS.

Your argument seems to come down to “Paypal can tell the difference between the good smut and the bad smut” (the good smut being sexually explicit erotic romance novella) ” and it hasn’t happened yet that I’ve heard of, and besides, it’s probably all bullshit from paypal sucks anyway.”

And I suppose you’re right on the middle point, I haven’t heard of any epublisher being fucked over by paypal. Bully on them. But what does and doesn’t constitute *porn* and what does and doesn’t constitute *sexually explicit material that paypal will shut you down over” is a fuzzy, moving line. And HEA-Loving Relationship-n-characterization it all you want, but sexually explicit ebooks are in fact sexually explicit and they exist in an area that is at the very least adjacent to that line.

The links above weren’t a failed attempt to show you screwed-over epublishers, they were a successful attempt to show you that it wasn’t the tinhattery you summarily accused me of. They weren’t all people trying to sell hardcore porn, and while you and I may distinguish between the words of Lora Leigh and the phone sex services of Doxy in the above link, both are potentially obscene, and both are sexual, and the TOS of paypal doesn’t distinguish between romantic text and kinky audio and the harder core stuff you keep bringing up. It simply says sexually oriented, which these ebooks unquestionably are.

Anne in comment #4 said it best, “It all comes down to that little term “sexually orientation or obscene” and the interpretation of that by who ever happens to reviewing the reported infraction on that particular day.”

Your argument seems to come down to “don’t worry, paypal can tell the difference between romance and porn”.

My point is, Paypal doesn’t necessarily make that distinction the way we do, and when we’re talking about something as basic as how you get money from your customers, just trusting that PayPal will *know the difference* and continue to look the other way is … risky. Not *simply* lazy. That was my original point.

And while I’m not saying that romance is porn or porn is romance, sexually oriented is sexually oriented and *erotic* romance is quite obviously sexually oriented. And sexually oriented is banned (a ban which is selectively enforced) by Paypal. And if they do decide to enforce those rules (which it is totally within their rights to do) no only do you lose your stream of income, you get your funds frozen. This is not merely tinhattery as you claim, this is fact. Fact gleaned from pornographers, true, but the rule that they infringed to get frozen is the exact same rule that erotic romance risks breaking.

Your argument seems to come down to “don’t worry, erotic romantic ebook sexually explicit material is nothing like that dirty, often criminal, ev0l spamtastic hardcore porn” but when it comes down to a question of “Is the service or product you are selling sexually oriented?” the answer to both is yes. The line crossed is the same. That someone is trying to sell email based domination or phone sex services or webcam services or hardcore gay gangbang DVDs is a question of degree. The fact that some people cross way the fuck over the line doesn’t change the fact that the line is “sexually oriented” and notoriously changeable.

That an ebook that contains “M/M/F, M/M, M/F, light bondage, anal sex, bloodplay, some graphic violence” in addition to what I assume is wall to wall screwing hasn’t yet gotten paypal’s panties in a knot is lovely. But I’m telling you, all it takes is a prosecution or two of the harder stuff to make people who deal in the greyer areas get a *lot* more strict. These rules about what is and isn’t obscene, what is and isn’t “acceptable” sexually explicit material change, not just with paypal, but in any industry that deals with both sex and money (which erotic romance ebooks do, even though they’ve got romance in them too.)

My point isn’t any of the straw men you’ve listed above. My point is that *technically* these ebooks very clearly violate PayPal’s “no sexually oriented materials” rule. And while accepting Paypal hasn’t bitten anyone in the butt yet (that we know of), it unquestionably leaves you open to the whims of Paypal’s selective enforcement.

Your arguement seems to be “Don’t worry, nothing’s happened yet, and besides, it’s not *real porn*, so they won’t go after you.”

My point is, when there are other options that don’t *as rule number one* prohibit a major component and selling point of your product, why the heck take that risk?

# Dec 27th 2007 at 11:45 pm 32

It’s very obvious that PayPal by it’s own actions is getting smarter and differentiating between porn and ePublishing websites. Just like I can.

But hey, instead of coming up with anything to support your argument despite the fact I stated the smarmy reasons porn sites are not in the same realm as ePublishers which is easy to figure out with Google but obviously not as easy to find one name of a reputable ePub that had their account frozen.

And with headlines like this it is obvious porn sites have not become any smarter.

I simply state as I did in email…
There is a huge difference between Anaïs Nin and Penthouse Forum.


romblogreader Dec 28th 2007 at 01:02 am 33
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Explain to me again how a data breach by a porn company (something that has happened to PLENTY of various non porn companies and government entities and oh hey, this little company more than once) has anything to do with the fact that Anais Nin, Penthouse Forum and the BDSM ebook “Dare to Dominate” are all sexually explicit and therefore all, technically, in violation of PayPal’s “no sexually oriented materials” rule number one and therefore all subject to the exact same penalties should some random dude at the violation reporting center.

There’s obviously a difference between Nin and Forum and “Amber Heat Sheets” but *should* paypal decide that the last violates their “no sexually explicit” rule, it gets treated like any other violation. Once they decide that a thing counts as a violation, it doesn’t matter if it’s “porn” or “erotica” or “spicy romance”, it’s going to get treated the same as porn, penalized the same as porn.

No one’s saying there’s not a huge difference between the three. What I am saying is that selling any sexually oriented material puts you at risk when it comes to paypal, they state that up front. And trusting them to forever and always classify this material as okay just because … why? Because it’s romantic? Because it has a plot? Because it’s words not pictures? Sure, there’s plenty of reasons for them to look the other way w/ erotic ebooks .

But that doesn’t change the fact that you are still at the mercy of Paypal’s whims on this subject. You’re convinced they’ll never change their mind or move the line or say hey, she’s fucking a dog in this one, that’s not cool! And then you’re left trying to explain the finer points of sentient shapeshifters and how *this* book with fourteen sex scenes and bondage and triple penetration totally doesn’t deserve to be classified as sexually oriented.

I’m not saying they’re like to change their minds, but they’re well within their rights to do it, and why the hell leave your income up to their whims and goodwill? Because “anais nin is not penthouse forum” and *obviously* paypal can see the difference and will continue to? A gamble you’re likely to win? Probably. A gamble worth risking a fledgling business on? Particularly since they’ve moved the line with no warning on others before? For my money, no.

That those others sold sexually oriented materials that you think were a clear cut case of “porn” is besides the point. They had sexual explicit materials or services that weren’t “hardcore porn”, they contacted paypal like good little users, and asked for permission, got it, and got the answers summarily changed on them. It happens.

And just because they’re the dirty pornographers and we’re the fated mate threesomes with bondage romance one day doesn’t mean that Paypal couldn’t move the goal posts tomorrow and all of a sudden, Liquid Silver or whomever (probably not EC because of the kind of $ they generate) has been slapped with a label of dirty pornographer not fit for PayPal usage.

And what recourse do they have? The terms they violated - the same terms a “real” pornographer violates to an arguably greater degree - are right there in black and white. They agreed to them when they signed up. And all the “oh no, it’s *romantic* erotica for *women*, see” in the world doesn’t change the fact that it’s sexually oriented and therefore at the mercy of PayPal’s whims. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to risk my business on “oh, don’t worry, they can tell the difference, nothing bad’s going to happen” when you are in constant, flagrant violation of their TOS and counting on them to continue to look the other way.


romblogreader Dec 28th 2007 at 01:20 am 34

In closing, I hope you’re right that Paypal will continue to classify erotic ebooks as acceptable sexually oriented materials, but I believe you are absolutely wrong if you think there’s no risk and no possibility that they might some day reclassify them as unacceptable just because they’re “not porn”. Erotic ebooks and *every other sexually oriented entertainment on the internet* might very well be apples and oranges, but they’re both fruit, and Paypal has known (not just rumormongered but known) issues with fruit, and it might be a small risk, but it’s a real and avoidable one and one that fledgling ebook businesses would do well to avoid, IMHO, particularly if they’re just slapping the merchant account up there and not getting any sort of okay from Paypal before using it to sell sexually explicit materials, even if those materials are romantic ebooks.

And with that, I respectfully bow out because it’s three in the fucking morning and I think I’ve been repeating myself for a while now. Good evening, sir, it’s been lovely debating with you. :)

# Dec 28th 2007 at 07:56 am 35

You know it is really telling that you keep harping on how these top shelf Epublishers and eBook Sellers that I choose to do business with are doing something wrong.

Those assumptions you make about how they are getting away with something here and not one of those 6 companies I listed could have possibly talked to PayPal and you demand they show you proof when they are using PayPal and some of them have been for years.

That really says a lot.


Anne Douglas Dec 28th 2007 at 08:43 am 36


Can’t accuse Teddy P of not having a lively blog now, can we ? :D

I can see both sides of the problem, being that I’m a regular user of paypal as both a buyer and seller. I think the one point everyone can agree on is that paypal makes up/interprets the rules as it goes - which sucks being that they have the monoply on this style of virtual transaction.

# Dec 28th 2007 at 09:07 am 37

It’s not a locked Monopoly though you can get the same service from Wells Fargo or the new guy Google.

PayPal is just a conduit or gateway into traditional banking systems it’s not magic and their rules are similar or as arbitrary as any other banking establishment. There is nothing new here folks.


romblogreader Dec 28th 2007 at 09:53 am 42
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

“I think the one point everyone can agree on is that paypal makes up/interprets the rules as it goes - which sucks being that they have the monoply on this style of virtual transaction.”

Apparently that’s one point that Teddy Pig can’t agree on, since it was pretty much my main point, one refuses to concede and that he flings vague insults at me for and puts words in my mouth about (see comment #35) rather than, you know, considering the possibility that “paypal has a track record of waffling when it comes to what does and doesn’t constitute violation of its sexually oriented TOS clause, and that this might possibly be applicable to people selling sexually explicit ebooks, so it might be wise to tread carefully with them” might be more than me parroting a viral campaign and being a chicken little and somehow never having considered the differences between romance, erotic romance and porn.

Obviously, the companies using paypal may have (and probably have) talked to paypal about it, and at no point did I ask them to show me proof of that. He’s the one repeatedly demanding proof. All I said was that it wasn’t quite as easy as slapping a paypal merchant account on your site - as he seemed to be implying in his original post - on account of the unquestionably sexual nature of the product in question. And that there is a real, not just rumoredmongered by competitors, history of Paypal changing its mind after it has given said assurances.

But hey, that probably has nothing to do with an industry that sells products labeled “Warning: Contains rough sex, forced sex, biting, anal sex, oral sex, voyeurism“. And it’s way easier to accuse me of having read something on paypal sucks in 2001, fling a meaningless article about a databreach at a porn company (something that has happened repeatedly to one of the alternatives he trumpets above), and assume that nothing about the experiences of people selling adult entertainment online could possibly have any bearing on people who sell erotic ebooks than it is to, say, address any of my actual points or admit that theres a possibility that PayPal might ever actually pull something squirrelly on merchants of (romantic but also) sexually oriented materials and that’s something to - at the very least - take into account when considering whether or not to use them. Or way less boring. Or something. *shrug*

But maybe the people that I know of, and that other commenters have mentioned were stupid pornographers who did something wrong and deserved to get screwed over by Paypal’s incredibly vague and changeable and “we know it when we see it” attitude toward sexually oriented materials. And maybe the fact that this is women’s erotic entertainment will totally protect any new ePublisher that comes along and it’s foolish to worry about any of this or take steps to get assurances from PayPal.

I mean, Teddy says they can tell the difference between romance and porn, and obviously everyone who has every been screwed over by Paypal was either part of a competitor’s viral marketing campaign or a dirty pornographer who probably deserved it anyway.

And I’m sure he’s right that the fact that I’m counseling caution about a well know, real issue with Paypal “says something about me.” Maybe even something other than the fact that, apparently, I’m a lot more familiar with the real life issues involved with selling sexually oriented material online than he is - considering he won’t even allow for the possibility that Paypal might decide to selectively enforce their no sexually oriented materials clause on people other than those selling hardcore pornography. As they have done in the past.

I never said half the stuff he’s accused me of saying in comments, all I’ve said from the start, before he started (possibly willfully, since it makes for a livelier arguement) misinterpreting everything I said and meeting it with “well it hasn’t happened to anyone who counts, yet so you’re crazy to think it could ever happen here” was that when it comes to Paypal and sexually oriented materials, it’s wise to tread carefully and maybe it’s that prudence and a desire to play by the rules that has some ePublishers avoiding Paypal, and not just the laziness and poor customer relations he points to in his original post.


romblogreader Dec 28th 2007 at 09:55 am 43

(minus the point on the monopoly, since teddy’s right about that, they don’t have a monopoly. Forgot to edit that out.)

Read more!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Romance Roundup and a Request

  • Over at Lust Bites, we had an ode to the beauty of the male armpit.

  • Smart Bitches, Trashy Books had a great post bemoaning the lack of truly, intensely *dark* black moments in the romances they've read lately.

  • Dear Author has an equally thoughtful post on genre loyalty versus genre content.

  • I haven't read the book, so I can't say whether the criticism is true or not, but Paperback Reader didn't hold back with their opinion of L.L. Foster (nee Lori Foster)'s Servant: The Awakening.

  • And Tess Gerritsen shares some valuable insight on what she's learned from two decades in the writing business.

    AND, in romance READING news, I'd love to hear from you, occasional readers. Share some books (with a 2007 pub date) that have impressed you this year. Romance preferred, but any fiction suggestions will do. Give me your best of 2007!

    Read more!

  • Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Best Search String Ever

    From the wonderful world of "why are you searching for that and why did MY site come up?"

    This blog comes up #2, apparently, when you search Google for "what does it mean when someone says they want to lick the peanut butter off your pants"

    As for the ANSWER to the age-old question... I think I'm going to go with "nothing good."

    Read more!

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Dionne Galace Contest

    There's one day left to vote on the "Skin on Skin" fan fiction contest over at Dionne Galace's blog, and one of the entries is mine. :) If you liked it best, you should vote for me. :)

    Read more!

    Friday, April 06, 2007

    Spring, when a young reader's heart turns to thoughts of fancy

  • Angela James at the Samhain Weblog talks about the perfect pitch

  • Lit Agent X shares thoughts on and tips about hooks.

  • Elizabeth Massie at Storytellers Unplugged talks about fear of writing.

  • Tess Gerritsen on the second draft

  • Good reviews for Devil's Cub, Love My Way, and Magic Bites.

  • Avidbookreader is annoyed by spineless, witless, silly heroines

  • Over at Dear Author, a discussion of style in Romance novels.

    And, over at Penguin's spicy new site,, we have Kink authors, Sasha White and Saskia Walker interviewing each other.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Read more!

  • Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Word! To the Nth Power

    From Mrs. Giggles

    However, I don't find many ebooks that succeed in describing the erotic sensations of the sex act. Many of them are so perfunctory and half the time I'm convinced the author has no idea what goes in actual BDSM play when she writes such a scene because these BDSM love scenes follow the same old pattern from ebook to ebook, kinda like a bunch of virginal schoolgirls adopting another virgin schoolgirl's description of sex play to be incorporated into their own fanfictions. Same with threesomes. I laugh when an author describes a threesome simply as two men waiting for turns to get at the heroine.

    I don't think I've ever seen my issues with a lot of crappy erotic romance put so succinctly.

    Read More at Mrs. Giggles

    Read more!

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Romance fiction blogs

  • From Storytellers Unplugged, discussion of Writing and ADD as it applies to paragraphing from page turners like Dean Koonz.

  • The ever-sassy Smart Bitches talk about if romance novel conventions were venereal diseases.

  • Stupid writer tricks to avoid from Deep Genre.

  • Literary Agent discusses how to write the superb short synopsis and long synopsis.

  • Sharon at Writeminded discusses the inviolable HEA expectation and what happens when mislabeling throws that off. This was in reaction to this post on the same topic from Dear Author.

  • Over at the always intelligent Teach Me Tonight, they discuss paranormal romances,

    Read more!

  • Saturday, January 27, 2007

    Intellect vs Emotion

    I was in Google Reader recently, scanning down older posts on a blog I recently added there. I came across Genre Don't Want No Respect at the DeepGenre blog. I think there are some valid points in there, and I'm going ignore the somewhat condescending tone of the way she refers to the rise of "sex fantasy" (assuming she means the rise of paranormal erotic romance). That isn't what got me. It was the following paragraph.

    But instead of actively seeking out such readers, it sometimes seems that genre publishing is taking the opposite direction. I see a significant increase recently in romantic fantasy, in kinky sex fantasy, the kind of stuff clearly intended to engage the limbic system rather than the brain’s critical and analytical faculties. And in so-called science fiction, there is the sort of military SF that is meant to engage the reader’s primitive hindbrain in identifying with the good guys and vicariously pounding the shit out of the bad guys/evil aliens. It is not that I believe every work has to be serious or difficult to read. I, too, will often read for escape and mere entertainment. But when readers’ preference for the mindless stuff overwhelms their appreciation for more serious genre works, when the serious stuff doesn’t sell while the mindless stuff gets snatched up off the shelf, the consequence is the dumbing-down of the genre, creating a marketplace in which books for serious readers can not survive.

    When she talks about fiction that appeals to "critical and analytical faculties" vs. the stuff that engages the "primitive hind brain"/"limbic system", she's setting up a Brainy/Brainless divide. Serious vs Mindless. While that's one way to split them up, I think it shows bias and privileges the intellectual in a way that shows a lack of appreciation/understanding for why people read the stuff she calls "mindless."

    I don't think it's Mind/Mindless. I think that if you're going to split it up, Mind/Emotion is a more accurate way to go. Granted, I'm speaking as a romance fan, and as someone who doesn't tend to turn to fiction for intellectual stimulation at this point in my life. Right now, when I pick up a book, it's more important to me that it engage my emotions. I think there are extremes at both ends (dry, emotionless, brain bending exercises in high, literary technique and drippy, brainless melodramatic fluff). All emotion and all intellect...well, there are certainly people who prefer both.

    And, sadly for people who prefer the former, the latter is always going to sell better because frankly yes, a lot of people don't want intellectual stimulation, period, let alone from their reading material. And the number of people who will take their emotion without brains will always outnumber the reverse. And when you're in the hands of a capable craftsman, reading a story designed to appeal primarily to emotion (whether that's horror, lust, love, sadness, violence or what have you) then yeah, you can afford to disengage your brain somewhat as long as your emotions are engaged, because that's what you came there to do.

    Since the emotionally driven market is bigger...well, publishers are going to publish more of what people buy more of, which means a marketplace crammed full of lusty, romantic, brooding vampires and the spunky heroines who fall for them and have lots and lots of sex.

    And when the volume of something goes up, the percentage of quality stuff in that category doesn't necessarily increase. And if there aren't enough writers out there who can write GOOD lusty, romantic vampire novels, I don't think most publishers are going to let that stop them. They're going to snap up all the mediocre ones as well. And since the primary goal of those books is going to be to appeal to the emotions of the readers...whether or not they've got "intelligent" and/or "critical faculty engaging" plot lines or prose that makes you work for it a little...the literary quality isn't a top priority. Lusty and romantic and (above all) emotionally compelling is.

    I don't think this is an excuse for publishing crap. The excuse for publishing crap is money, obviously, but I think that utter crap is published on both sides of this (artificial) fence. I agree with someone in the blogosphere who's name escapes me at the moment (feel free to let me know in comments who originated this idea) that it's not "literary" vs "genre". "Literary" is a genre, one with its own set of customs just like Science Fiction and Mystery and (yes) Romance.

    And while I understand that it's frustrating to have other Authors dis your genre and say, "I don't want to be with *sniff* those books," it's also frustrating to hear someone refer to a genre you enjoy.. hell, a whole way of reading you enjoy and dismiss it as stupid.

    Because I don't think that reading for intellectual stimulation is any more noble or worthy or good than reading for emotional stimulation. And neither exists in a vacuum. Any book, even the most melodramatic, crappily written, cliche piece of category dreck has to engage your intellect a little. There are words and sentences and chapters involved. Reading forces you to think, even if it's just a little, to turn the letters on the page into images that engage that dirty, dirty lizard brain. And (while I have less experience with crappy literary fiction) I assume there's usually a little emotion involved in the most dry, cerebral literary exercises (even if that's just ennui or faint disappointment at man's inhumanity to man).

    But only hardcore fans of either side (intellect/emotion) are going to enjoy the emotionless brain-benders and brainless heartstring-tuggers. Most writers, I think, are going for some combination of both. Mystery writers and SF writers might privilege a really good workout for the brain and Romance and Thriller writers might privilege a roller coaster of emotions, but I don't think that makes Mystery fans heartless or Romance readers stupid. I think Mystery readers may be more tolerant of books that don't bother much with the emotional component but really made them think hard, and Romance fans are going to be more forgiving of a book that didn't make them think hard, but that perfectly and intensely evoked the feeling of that intense, heart-pounding, indescribable emotion of falling madly in love.

    I'm not saying there aren't a lot of crappily written romances out there, I've got plenty of them on my bookshelf. I'm not saying that intellectually lazy, cliche-ridden writing is to be preferred either. I would LOVE to read more smart, daring writing that ALSO engages my genre buttons, but at this point in my life, when I pick up a book, I want (besides a basic level of competence in writing) to have my emotions skillfully engaged and manipulated. I want my writing to make me feel, so, all else being equal, skillful genre-button pushing is going to get my genre $.

    I'd also like it to make me think, sure. But that's not the primary reason I'm buying books at the moment. Frankly, I think enough at my job. It's not that I want to turn brain off, though sometimes, that is what I'm looking for. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and it sure as heck doesn't make me stupid or intellectually lazy. It does mean that sometimes, it's not my brain that needs a work out, it's my emotions.

    And while (maybe, just maybe) it takes a lower level of writerly skill to adequately engage a reader's emotions, than it does to, say, adequately engage a reader's intellect (just go with me for a moment), skillfully running me through the emotional ringer is hella hard to do, and I don't think it's as easy as some people on the "literature rocks, genre is crap" side of the fence would make it out to be. Granted, they also might say it's a less worthy pursuit.

    Erotica, Erotic Romance, weepy Women's Fiction, what have you...and yeah, okay, sometimes they engage my lizard brain more actively than my cerebral cortex. But you know what? I'm both. I'm a smart girl. I'm also, sometimes, a horny girl. I'm a romantic girl. I have a mind and a heart, I have a synapses and adrenaline. And sometimes, it's the latter I'm interested delivering that vicarious experience to.

    Because that's what fiction does, it lets me think and feel things without having to experience them myself. It lets me think and feel things I never could experience myself. It expands my mental and emotional horizons. Genre fiction, particularly the one I'm most into at the moment (erotic romance) does tend to hold emotion as more important than intellect. Not to its exclusion, not nearly as much as the smarty-pants romance detractors who think it's all bodice ripping and goo would have you think, but the fact is, erotic romance's primary purpose isn't to engage your brain. A smart, intricately plotted but emotionally dry and unarousing erotic romance is a failure as an erotic romance.

    And maybe it might make a great Science Fiction novel. But without really working the reader's emotions - the romantic and erotic ones she or he bought that particular genre (erotic romance) to feel - the intellectually rigorous erotic romance will fail as an erotic romance. And, stay with me here, if the numbers that romance novels and thrillers and tearjerkers and all emotion-based genres do is any indication, there are simply more readers out there buying to fulfill emotional needs than there are readers looking to fulfill intellectual needs.

    Not that most people are going to actively think about that at the counter talks. Numbers talk.

    I think American Idol is the dumbest fucking show I've ever seen. I'm sorry. It grates on my nerves. But, no one who knows a lick about television will deny that it is a ratings juggernaut. My theory as to why? It shamelessly and skillfully manipulates a certain set of emotions that a large number of Americans seem to like. I? Don't give a crap about Tami Lou's dreams of stardom and heartwarming tale of overcoming adversity. It's really, really, really dumb. But. I will not for a second deny that it's very, very good at what it does. And what it does sells. Because with what it's selling, it's not about smart. It's about feeling.

    I'm sure there are some people who watch AI ironically, but I think that most fans generally like it. And they don't watch it because it's dumb. They don't go, "All my other options are too hard, my brain can't take it, I must turn my brain off now, thank god AI is so stupid." They watch it because it's really, really good at the emotional stuff, so good that they don't care about how smart it is.

    You look at other ratings powerhouses, 24, Grey's Anatomy. Both really make you feel. 24 happens to be smart too. Grey's Anatomy, which I enjoy, is kind of dumb sometimes. It shamelessly uses current emo-pop to slather emotion onto emotional scenes. Sometimes, stuff that's really emotionally compelling can be really smart too. But the sad fact is, it doesn't have to be.

    The sad fact is, there are more people who buy to please their hearts/limbic systems first than there are people who buy to satisfy their need for intellectual stimulation. Horror, Action, Romance. Death, violence, love. Sprinkle a little sex in and hello lizard brain, hello $100 million dollar opening weekend. Same goes for books, if the Romance share of the market is any indication. If the success of Chicken Soup for the Soul is indication. (I'm sorry, this is in the same category as AI for me, since it stimulates a type of emotion I find...annoying). Some people point to this fact and say it's the a sign of the end times, creatively and it'll be WWF and Soap Operas as far as the eye can see in a few years.

    And some people might look at this and see it as a march from intelligence. I don't see it that way. It's prioritizing emotion. It's saying as a fan, "Look, this is my thing. You can make it smart or dumb, but if you make it really, really heartwarming/hot/scary/hair-raising, I'm there. I will give you my money. I will preorder your books. I will watch Titanic sixteen freaking times with my girlfriend! *squeal*."

    So what do you do if you're a more serious writer? If what you do is more about making the mind do some work? Ms. Tilton suggests

    More serious readers, that’s what I think genre fiction needs: readers who don’t mind doing some work, readers who can appreciate the stuff that a writer puts into her work below the surface story, the stuff like symbol and metaphor and allusions, complex sentence structure, or techniques like Priest’s unreliable narrator.

    Those readers are out there. There are readers who care more about "the serious stuff below the surface story" and prioritize that over the emotional impact. There are readers who enjoy that exclusively and don't want emotion all over their literary allusions and complex sentence structure. But I'm sorry, there are WHOLE lot more who read for thrills or arousal or romance or horror first, and literary merit second.

    There are always going to be more readers who read for emotion, and I think most of don't mind symbol and metaphor and complex sentence structure. But their number one priority is emotional impact. And when she says "readers’ preference for the mindless stuff overwhelms their appreciation for more serious genre works, when the serious stuff doesn’t sell while the mindless stuff gets snatched up off the shelf, the consequence is the dumbing-down of the genre, creating a marketplace in which books for serious readers can not survive." she's starting from a flawed premise, I think. I don't think hoards prefer stupid, I think they prefer emotion. And if "serious genre works" in question are serious with their attention to intellectual and literary rigor yet lack the emotional impact that the reader-at-large goes to the bookstore to find, then no. They're not going to get a share of the "emotion-first" buyers.

    But you can't say, "Forget about the reason you came here, forget about whether or not it makes you feel, you should care about the skill with which I crafted my multi-layered literary allusions." Not if you're writing in a genre with those emotional requirements, not if you want find that audience and get them to open their wallets for you.

    I think if you want to get that audience, you can't say, "Forget about your mindless escapist drivel, stop being stupid and come appreciate my finely crafted metaphor." You have to bring the what they want into that finely crafted metaphor. Writing that best selling genre trash that stinks so bad it scares the "good" writers off your genre isn't a question of turning off your intelligence, it's a question of developing the ability to skillfully play with their emotions, which is harder than it looks. Successfully hitting a genre's emotional buttons is a different skill set than complex sentence structure and multi-layered allusions and writing at a college level. Not an opposite skill set, just a different one.

    You want a bigger audience for your book? There are plenty of factors, but there are whole herds of readers out there in the genre pens, just itching for a book that's just SO hot/heartwarming/horrific/thrilling. And they don't care if it's good or bad, they just want it really, really thrilling. They'll read smart, complex and multilayered, but it has to be thrilling.

    If emotions aren't your thing, if you prefer the intellectual over the emotional in the fiction you read or write, that doesn't make you a heartless robot. And chances are, some of the really incredibly groundbreaking, prize-winning, "good" writing out there - the kind the readers mentioned in the first quote get a literary boner for - some of that intelligent, "quality" fiction is also super-emotionally compelling. But some of it isn't. That's not what it's going for, that's not the goal. And that's fine, and it can still be very, very smart and very good. And people who know what they're talking about will talk highly of it.

    But it's never, ever going to sell as well as stuff that's smart AND emotionally compelling. And, sadly, it's probably going to drown in a sea of the stuff that is brain-hurtingly stupid and mind-numbingly formulaic but emotionally compelling.

    You want to write smart stories? Cool. You will automatically appeal to the (unfortunately) smaller herd that reads for smart/literary/quality/complex allusion kinda stuff.

    You want them to find a larger audience? You want them to be read widely? You want access to the genre herd? The herd wants emotion. The herd is a bunch of sappy, horny, schmaltzy, bored, angry, frustrated, romantic, thrill-seeking, guys and girls who will pick up a book, any book, that pushes their particular genre button well. They'll happily tolerate dumb, but I'm pretty sure they'll also tolerate smart if it comes along with a skillful push of their emotional button.

    Asking the herd to be smarter, or be more appreciative of literary quality or pointless. People like what they like. People buy what they like, and good portion of the ones who still bother to read fiction these days are reading for emotion. Bring them that, and I think they'll eat the intellectual stuff right along with it. Maybe even learn to appreciate it.

    But as one of that herd, as someone who'll pick a decent, hot, fun romance novel for my ride on the commute over a more intellectually challenging "literary" novel every time, I'm slightly insulted by the implication that I pick the hot, entertaining romance because it's dumb and easy to read. I'd love to read a hot, entertaining romance that also has all that stuff for "serious" readers she mentioned in the first quote.

    But. When I go into a bookstore, into my preferred genre aisle and spend my genre-herd dollar, I need you to fulfill the genre/emotional/limbic system needs I came here to fill. You will not change the nature of the genre herd beast. And you will not get the beast's dollar unless you tickle my lizard brain too. You don't have to make it dumb! You don't have to make it bad. You don't have to make it the opposite of literary quality. You have to also skillfully push whatever that emotionally-driven genre's button happens to be. And it can be harder than it looks. And it has nothing at all to do with complex sentence structure.

    And as a member of the genre herd, as a fan of the genre, I'm always vaguely insulted by the implication that if only I'd reengage my brain and set aside my childish things, my mindless entertainment, I'd be able to appreciate the big girl books with the big girl words and the big girl themes. And the implication that those who prefer the average escapist entertainment to the average Booker Prize winner are somehow dumber. You know what? I am capable of appreciating literary merit. I've got the B.A.. I think it's tacky to play dueling standardized test scores, but I usually end up winning. I'm a smart girl. I don't prefer dumb entertainment, and I don't think my genre-herd buddies do either. Not most of them, not even the dumb ones.

    What we prefer is emotion. We're not asking you to prefer it or to make your book any less literary, I think. But to appeal to us (and there are more of us than there are of you), to get our almighty dollar you must appeal to our emotions and you must do it skillfully, intensely, and within the boundaries of our genre. You need to have a romance central to the plot and happy ending in Romance. Do that effectively and evoke our emotions intensely and you are more than welcome to our 40% share of the paperback market. And feel free to be as smart as you want as long as as you give my emotions a vigorous workout in the meantime.

    We really, really do want more smart people, more smart writing, more daring writing here in romance, but when we're buying as romance readers (or whatever genre) you have to come to us. You need to stop thinking of us as mindless-consumers and start thinking of us as emotionally-driven consumers, I think. When we're in this mode and spending a whole lot of money on a whole lot of disappointing crap looking to satisfy this particular emotional need, we're not looking for dumb. We're just not looking for smart. There's a subtle but distinct difference.

    Value that need as highly as we do, or at least satisfy it real good, and we can take just about all the smart you can muster. But there will always, always, always be more emotion-driven purchases than there are intellectually-driven ones.

    I don't think you need to sell out or dumb down your product to appeal to this base; I don't believe this is a zero-sum game. And I do think there's a place for intellectually compelling fiction that isn't also emotionally compelling. And I'm sure really good examples of dry, intellectually-compelling prose makes someone money. It's got its place.

    I just think that if the "intellectual literary purist-peanut butter" fans could come to appreciate and incorporate the "emotional genre herd beast-chocolate" - rather than bemoaning its non-peanut-butterness and how it's nothing but nutrition-less empty calorie sugar that's not nearly as full of vitamins and protein and natural goodness as their more worthy, nutritious peanut butter - that they'd discover that chocolate and peanut butter can work well together. That a whole lot of chocolate fans might really like some peanut butter in their chocolate. And that by virtue of the fact that people are willing to spend a whole lot more $ on chocolate, if they add a healthy dollop of it to their peanut butter, they'll sell a whole lot more peanut butter.

    Both can be enjoyed separately, sure. But say "screw that candy bullshit, why can't more of you stupid candy lovers stop rotting your teeth and come enjoy my all natural organic peanut butter?" They're likely to respond by saying, "Screw you, this is my dessert, I'm eating my M+Ms." You're welcome to sell your organic peanut butter at the health food store. But if you put it inside a thin shell of high quality chocolate, the dessert crowd will eat it by the truckload and say, "WOW, that was a really awesome chocolate and check out that peanut butter," and you can laugh your organic peanut grinding ass all the the way to the bank.

    But the trick is, you've got to learn how to make some really good chocolate, and believe it or not, that's harder than it looks. You're free to dismiss the genre-herd as brainless thrill seekers, but the best selling crap you line your birdcage with is probably satisfying some need, even if that isn't a need for high quality, literary prose. If you come to us, if you find a way to satisfy that particular emotional need with your "more intelligent writing", we genre fans will be SO happy to welcome you with our $. I will, anyway. I don't mind if my chocolate is nutritious, it just has to be good chocolate.

    I'm not saying smart prose is always dry prose. That would be as silly as saying exciting prose is always stupid prose. I'm saying, smart isn't the end all and be all of fiction. And I'm saying that it's the emotion that's selling with the so-called crappy escapist genre fiction that the beast consumes by the truckload, not the stupidity.

    Read more!

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    Recent Links

    This will be a post in progress, with more links added as today goes on.

    A great post about professional jealousy over at Buzz, Balls and Hype.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Writing with a Day Job and other ruminations...

    Not directly romance related, but found via Galleycat, David Louis Edelman analyzes the effectivness of various methods of self-promotion, five months after the publication of his first novel. Interesting stuff.

    Over at Romancing The Blog, Jordan Summers discusses the narrowing and broadening of her reading list, and the benefits of reading outside of one's favorite genre.

    At Storytellers Unplugged, a wide ranging but fascinating post by Richard Danski about deadlines, genre and catching your breath.

    Super Librarian has found quite a few keepers this year, but bemoans the fact that "everything in between those gems has been blah, or worse - so annoying that I wanted to ram an ice pick through my frontal lobe." and points to a lack of emotional intensity in many of these recent reads.

    SB Sarah at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books rejoices over a call for papers for a book of critical essays on Jennifer Cruisie's novels.

    And finally, Alison Kent blogs about getting a day job again.

    Read more!

    eXTReMe Tracker