Epic Failure

Banned By Association

Banned By Association

Guilt by association? Banned by my own hand? You be the judge ...

Guilt by association? Banned by my own hand? You be the judge …

 

Okay, maybe it was my fault.

Maybe …

So I hit a BIG learning curve here.  Epically so.  Why, you might ask? Because my first work, a novel that was released to the world from several selling platforms, Amazon being just one of them, got BANNED! But since it all took place this past week I didn’t want to do a knee-jerk blog post about it. I wanted some distance from it to sort it out. I’m like that. I can be wordy and preachy when my ire is provoked, but at times, like this time, I was able to quell that rash desire to lash out and opted instead to think things through.

I’m glad I did. And while I might not like Amazon’s decision, I recognize it was theirs to make.

I mean, they’re the big guns in the literary world, like it or not. Even the big publishing houses have to play ball with them. So a little guy like me doesn’t have much pull. I haven’t brought enough money to the table. And I know that it is all about the money.

I mean, I think it is interesting that my book, with a rough sex scene (the hero in the story is raped physically by the bad guy in the series) near the end of the book, could be blocked/banned because of that scene when say EL James 50 Shades (of crap, if you ask me) gets a pass. Though to be fair, I guess rape wasn’t in the cards for that drivel. But what about the Bible? It has rape, pillaging and all sorts of violence spread throughout the work.

TO BE CLEAR: I don’t consider the Bible (or any other religious text, for that matter) to be holy or sacred. They are books like any other – written BY MAN. So yeah, I so won’t get into that debate ’cause to my way of thinking that’s just messing with 9 bags of cray-cray (as my granddaughter says).

But as a newbie author, doing the self-pub thing on my own, I know I have a learning curve ahead of me. I know that my works will stumble and I might make some epically bad moves. I get that it’s part of the process. I don’t expect to be “the next BIG thing” when it comes to literary works. Though to be honest, I do write literature. I write character studies. I find them infinitely fascinating to write from. I want to immerse the reader into the psyche of the character who is telling you the story. All of the inner monologue that we all have in our day to day lives that never gets said to the outside world.

Those monologues are deeply fascinating to me. At times I listen to my own mental ramblings as I interact with others. Not that there are voices in my head – well, okay there are, but they are my characters working out their upcoming scenarios that I need to get sorted before I write them down – I SWEAR!

Anyway, so my first work was out there on all platforms –

 

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

 

Amazon   (Sold as The Shrill of Sparrows – abridged edition – A point I’ll come to later) 

 

The Shrill of Sparrows - the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

The Shrill of Sparrows – the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

 

Amazon had the original work – HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega  as it was originally released (with the rape scene in the next to last chapter). But here is where I think I misstepped and it only became apparent to me as I woke up this morning.

 

Inspiration for Hank O'Malley in my story

Inspiration for Hank O’Malley in my story

 

The book does have sex scenes in it. This is for three reasons:
  1. It was meant to be a fluff, fun and slightly scary read as part of my NaNoWriMo 2014 writer’s challenge project that I won last November -writing the bulk in what made it into the published work within 26 days out of the 30 for the challenge. The werewolves have this ease with themselves where sex comes into it because that is how pack life is for them. The sex keeps them rooted to their human existence.
  2. It was meant to be a story for my very first fan, Michael, who has a penchant for sexy guys and werewolves. I wanted to do some thing for him. I even made him one of my wolves IN the story. He loves it and I couldn’t be happier. The hot and heavy man action was a nod to him.
  3. Sex within my packs of werewolves (which are ONLY male, btw) is a way of exchanging power. It is a metaphor I am using in that submissiveness doesn’t equate weakness. Sometimes, it actually takes far more courage to be there for another in that way. I wanted to play with that dynamic. My wolves keep telling Hank (Henry) that, as the pack’s new Omega, he doesn’t belong to them – they belong to him!

 

That is a very distinct but important difference. But that isn’t the topic at hand here. What is is how I classified it and where I think I went wrong with it all.

 

Amazon, like many of the distributor options out there for self-publishing authors, has their own guidelines and category systems to publish your work.

 

Where I think I went awry is that I classified it as erotica because of the sexual nature of my wolves. It really wasn’t that. That was my misstep. I see that now. BUT, what I do rail against is how Amazon handled it. I got this as my only warning regarding the work:

 

 

Hello,
We’re contacting you regarding the following book:
HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale. If we identify additional submissions with similar content that violates our guidelines, we may terminate your account or you may lose access to optional KDP services.

To learn more about our content guidelines, please visit our Kindle Direct Publishing Help page at:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U

Best regards,

Kindle Direct Publishing
kdp.amazon.com

 

That was it. No – “can you modify the work to address the issues we see here (and then list them)?” There was nothing much for me to go on. When I clicked the link they provided, I got this as the only explanation (which wasn’t much to latch onto):

 

The scarcity of Amazon's KDP policy with regards to content. There's precious little to latch onto and learn from.

The scarcity of Amazon’s KDP policy with regards to content. There’s precious little to latch onto and learn from.

 

Since the work was classified as Erotica, I assumed that the first two sections of this lack of direction was the Pornography and the Offensive Content areas of this little policy write up. But how was I supposed to work with that?

It could’ve meant that ANY of my sex scenes were objectionable, right? I had to question it all. So I went out and offered a “hey, I’m new – what do I do to address this so I can learn from it and not repeat it?” I just wanted something or someone to direct me to what was in violation of the policy.

All I got was this (the bolding and underlining of the email content are mine as I am just drawing attention to what stood out for me when I read it):

 

Hello,

We’re contacting you regarding the following title:

HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)

We’ve confirmed that your book(s) contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale in the Kindle Store. As stated in our guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what we consider to be appropriate, which includes cover images and content within the book.

If you wish to re-publish your book(s) with content that meets our guidelines, it will need to be submitted as an entirely new ASIN and go through our standard review process. Previous customer reviews, tags, and sales rank information are not transferable because the title will essentially be a different product.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.

To learn more, please see: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U

We appreciate your understanding.

 

So all I got was a ‘confirmation’ that they were right in their first judgement of the work, and that I better pay attention or my entire account with them would be cancelled.

 

For a publishing company, this is woefully short of any real direction and leaves it wide open to capricious interpretation that any given reviewer might object to. Indeed, there are works I know to be up there that are definitely in violation of their policy but somehow I got flagged because of it. I feel like I have a big old red flag waving above my head now with them.

 

So what have I learned from this? Words matter. DUH! I should’ve seen that one coming.

 

So I am gonna take this one on the chin. I’ll be much more clever about how I package something going forward. I am driven by this not because of this first work going through the wringer to get out there on the biggest publishing platform that’s out there, but because of the work that I have waiting in the wings.

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

The FINAL – FINAL version of the book cover for “Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot”

 

Angels of Mercy I do NOT want to be blasted or banned by this type of capricious labelling by Amazon or any other publisher. I know it’s literature and NOT genre fiction. It is a massive work. It is a deeply penetrating look at what gay young men go through to establish themselves in the context of sports and their personal lives. It is about the pressures of what society expects of them – the script they feel they must follow to succeed in their given sport. It is about choices and compromises that we, as gay men, must constantly do to eke out some sliver of happiness for ourselves in a world that is still quite homophobic about our existing at all.

 

Another of Hank O'Malley - tough luck lookin' like that, huh?

Another of Hank O’Malley – tough luck lookin’ like that, huh?

 

The tide is changing. I am emboldened by the success stories of young men and women finding acceptance with their loved ones. But there are still so many who are thrown out of their homes, who are shunned and abused for the lives they lead. This is why character studies intrigue me so. No matter the sub-genre I write in – whatever form it might take, I will always write from that inner-monologue perspective. It is the mindsets of those characters that I think is an immensely powerful viewpoint to write from.

 

So yeah, lessoned learned. I’ll move forward. I’ve made peace with it.

 

I’ve also become more determined to get Angels in front of a literary agent rather than self-pub it myself. I want that work to succeed on its own merits and not some capricious label that some fucktard reviewer who probably can’t write a sentence to save their life making a decision that has a bearing on my work getting out there.

 

HO’M,O (or The Shrill of Sparrows as it is now known at Amazon) is fluff – it’s not meant to change the world. I mean, I go dark in it. I want it to be more terrifying than just sexing man-on-man love action (though there’ll be plenty of that because I think the sex between the boys is what will keep them rooted to their human existence and deal with the horrors of the wolf that is within them).

 

Love a boy in wolf's clothing, don't you?

Love a boy in wolf’s clothing, don’t you?

 

Monsters are a way for us to examine our darker natures. Sexual violence, along with violence of any kind, is a strong metaphor to do that. I don’t intend to start pulling punches in that. But I also can see how I need to be much more exacting in how I classify the work going forward.

 

I’m learning. I’m trying to sort it out. And in a very real sense, I am intrigued by this mistakes and missteps. As always, I learn most from where I go wrong. So yeah, lemonade out of lemons and all that rot.

 

Face forward, looking to the bright horizon.

 

Time to press on…

 

Until next time.

 

SA C.

 

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