Banning Indie Books

17 October 2013


It’s been a wild ride in indie publishing the last few days. A media attack on erotica quickly spun out of control, shutting down book stores and wiping some indie authors off the face of the internet. Below, we recount the sequence of events wreaking havoc across the publishing industry…

On Wednesday October 9th, an article in UK ‘news publication’ Kernel Mag triggered a widespread banning and blocking of self-pubbed books. Action was taken across multiple booksellers, and, while the initial focus was on erotica, the problem soon spread to other genres….

The first flaw in Kernel Mag’s anti-porn campaign? The article portrayed the problem as (mostly self-pubbed) erotica and then featured books published primarily by internet marketers, not authors….Internet marketers routinely outsource story production to third world countries and are known to publish hundreds of stories at a time. The quality is low, the covers are in-your-face graphic and the titles are keyword stuffed to the point that even Google gags on all the search terms. It’s not an issue of genre, but a business model used by some marketers to extract profit with no concern for quality….

Other indie books originally targeted by Kernel Mag, ones written by actual authors, were wrongfully accused of bestiality and rape….Dog Gone It by Chelsea Fox was singled out because of a dog on the book cover, not because ‘journalists’ read the content to verify their assumptions. When asked for a quote, Miss Fox said, “This is crazy. There is barely any sex at all in Dog Gone It….”

Multiple self-pubbed authors had books blocked because of the word ‘virgin’ in the blurb or title. Books that were unblocked on appeal were immediately blocked again. Covers featuring only faces were deemed to be offensive and blocked. Fully clothed people on covers, alone, not touching anyone, were blocked. Author Alexx Andria resorted to creating ‘brown paper wrapping’ covers for her books, which were eventually reinstated….

On Monday morning (October 14th) Kobo began wiping indie published books off their website. Not just erotica, but all indie ebooks, including David Gaughan, who is well known for his how-to guides Let’s Get Visible and Let’s Get Digital….

It’s important to note that this latest round of self-pubbed book banning (there have been two previous large scale attempts to control fiction in the past three years) stems from the United Kingdom, which has some very controversial anti-porn and criminal laws up for vote. Police now have expanded powers to arrest anyone suspected of the potential of being a sex offender–no crime necessary….

Further, still sells a wide variety of sex toys with no inhibitions. It seems, the only thing they won’t sell are books that the media–particularly British media–tells them not to. …

Amazon continues to erratically ban self-pubbed books, put them back up for sale only to ban them again, and generally act without any coherence. By late Monday afternoon, had a petition up urging Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo to stop removing erotica. Over 7000 readers signed within hours….

Books about serial killers don’t make people become serial killers. Books about rapists don’t make people become rapists. Books about incest (or pseudo-incest) don’t make people go have sex with family members. In fact, research shows that most people who do read incest erotica don’t, in fact, fantasize about actual family members. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. But telling other people they can’t write or read it crosses the line of personal and intellectual freedom. And that’s not okay. …


Read the rest at

This is an important issue right now in the romance writing world. Although other genres have been hit as well, it’s romance writers who are bearing the brunt of this. This year, for the first time ever, the RITA awards, the Romance Writers of America equivalent of the Hugo or Edgar or McCavity, is allowing self published authors to participate, and also for the first time includes a category for erotic romance. The Executive Director of RWA issued a notice on the RWA forums that the RWA is closely monitoring this situation. It would be hoped that other author industry groups are doing so as well.


~guest host Kat Sheridan

Books in General, Ebooks, Romance, Self-Publishing, Uncategorized

17 Comments to “Banning Indie Books”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Kat. The whole thing makes me sick, how it was deliberately blown out of proportion by a couple of rags in the U.K., and then nuked by the retailers.

  2. I think this will blow over pretty quickly. I haven’t seen much about it in the general media, so I don’t think it has much traction in the wider world.

  3. Though I don’t want to jinx it, I tend to agree with you, Daleo. I hate that it’s happened and feel bad for those affected, but I suspect it’ll be business as usual soon. After all Christmas retail is ramping up. The fanfic sites do a similar purge every few years after there’s an outcry, then everyone panics, a few stories vanish, then everyone continues writing lemony smut as usual.

  4. It’s a typically hysterical reaction to an admittedly serious problem, but a problem that is very easy to solve. I also wonder whether it’s not an attempt to discredit self-publishing per se, and I wonder who that would benefit…

    All that’s needed is for Amazon et al to require publishers to rate their titles as suitable for Under-18s or not, and then offer safeguards so that browsers have to explicitly opt-in to adult content. Perhaps they might also introduce a level of checking to ensure that content does abide to their own terms and conditions – i.e. be a bit more proactive?

    I should also apologise on behalf of my fellow countrymen. The UK is increasingly acceding to the hysterical bleatings of our right-wing press, particularly the Daily Mail, to the extent that we are dangerously close to losing some fundamental freedoms of expression.

    • I agree, Matt. I think, further, that we in the rest of the Anglosphere should shame the government of the place where Great Britain used to be. This petty meddling is no way to treat the legacy of a thousand years of English letters.


    • All that’s needed is for Amazon et al to require publishers to rate their titles as suitable for Under-18s or not, and then offer safeguards so that browsers have to explicitly opt-in to adult content

      Uh, no. This is why less reputable erotica writers keep trying to scam the system to keep their books out of the adult dungeon. They don’t want that adult tag because most adults won’t bother to enable it, so they’ll never see books they might want to buy.

      Retailers need a ‘kid-safe’ tag, since there’s no incentive to try to scam your way in there. The world should be assumed ‘adult-safe’ by default, and kids (or adults who want to be treated like kids) should be the ones who get special treatment.

      • Seconded. This whole notion of trying to make the whole world ‘kid-safe’ is a fool’s errand and a waste of time.

      • I bought my 7 year old a Kindle Fire for his birthday this year, and set it up with Amazon’s kid-safe program. When it’s started up, it is automatically in kid-safe mode and he can only view/download appropriate items (categories, tags, etc.). For me to use it and see all the other stuff, I need to put in my password.
        TaDa! Easy-peasy!

    • All that’s needed is for Amazon et al to require publishers to rate their titles as suitable for Under-18s or not, and then offer safeguards so that browsers have to explicitly opt-in to adult content.

      That is very easy to circumvent. It demands trusting anyone who posts a file. The company would be inviting people to rely on a standard over which it had no control.

  5. I agree with Matt, there are some hysterical elements in the media and politics in this country. It is a shame they are winning this battle…so far…
    I wonder what it would take to wake these people up to the damage they are doing to our fundamental freedoms and rights, here and in other countries. Sadly, it often means others suffer before these people wake up. We need to find ways to manage the problem without prohibiting people’s right to speech. I support having age-warnings on books. Why not?

  6. ALL SELF PUBLISHED EROTICA is now suspect, and a target for removal in the UK, and the US, regardless of whether or not it touches on taboo subject matter like incest or bestiality (that’s what the scare was all about to begin with).

    Well, if online booksellers are afraid of selling smut, and the issue is erotic content, which is what they targeted by removing ALL SELF-PUBLISHED erotic content, then why does WH Smith have all these books available from major publishers:

    WH Smith still carries….

    There’s not a single self-published title left in their website to compete with any of the hundreds of erotic fiction novels available from major publishing companies. That’s quite a convenient boon to major publishers whose erotic fiction market was being steadily eroded away by a large number of popular self-published titles. I imagine they are very pleased to have all their competition removed, and just in time for the holiday internet book buying craze valued in HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

    There’s nothing remotely suspicious about that, is there?

    And Kobo claims, “We want to protect the reputation of self-publishing as a whole.” The company moved lightning fast to accomodate WH Smith’s demands for self-published erotica removal. ALL OF KOBO’S SELF-PUBLISHED EROTICA HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THEIR UK WEBSITE. It seems the only thing they have “protected” is their retail relationship with WH Smith.

    One might start to wonder what resources might lie behind this Machiavellian movement to scour the shelves of self-published erotica. Logically, to analyze a situation like this, you would look at who stands to benefit most from this act. Follow the money trail.

    Though I may seem to imply people have a right to publish erotic content, that right doesn’t exist. But can online booksellers legally ban one group of people from publishing erotic content, while allowing another group?

    I am no lawyer, but my eyes see discrimination, widespread discrimination.


    You can sit around and quote laws and whip out legal dictionaries and whatever. None of that changes the plain truth that self-published erotica is being discriminated against, and this is probably only the beginning. Will other retailers follow suit?

    Is this a form of discrimination that can be sued for? Probably not.

    But it should be.

    Is this a form of discrimination against one’s rights? Not exactly, no.

    But its still discrimination.

    I have blogged on this subject yesterday:

  7. This is one of the reasons I decided to invest in an estore plugin to sell directly from my website. Much as I’m terrified of what might happen given my fairly amateur skill with technology, I don’t want to worry about waking up to discover my novels have been pulled for any reason.

  8. You know something really ironic is that Amazon sells PORN DVDS AND MAGAZINES for men! But yeah lets ban erotic books aimed at women. Totally hypocritical. It’s a misogynist attack among other things.

  9. Every so often it seems Amazon lets one of their biggoted employees go nuts deleting random things I remember a few years ago there was some attack on gay books. The books about curing homosexuality remained untouched but they were removing all other books with gay in the title from being searched easily remember that?

  10. I published my first story, The First Time in December 2012. It deals with Becky a young graduate who enters the world of prostitution as an escort in order to clear her debts. The book is not intended to be erotic, however I worry that books such as mine will be swept up in the moral panic which appears to be consuming the publishing industry. Adults should be free to read what they choose with appropriate safeguards being put in place to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content.

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