UPDATE--PayPal Reverses Its Decision and Allows Legal Fiction to be Sold on Smashwords--March 13, 2012. A Happy Day!
Read more information on the Smashwords blog.
I've been deeply troubled by a recent censorship movement led by PayPal (and being enforced by Smashwords, Bookstrand, AllRomance and other vendors). Why should we care? Because it's the first volley in a war against our rights of free speech by a well-funded and powerful foe against legal works of fiction.
This censorship is ridiculous and insulting. I'm an adult. I can decide, on my own, what fiction that I desire to read. I do not need nor want a credit card vendor to make my decisions for me (PayPal, I want the service, not your personal views or corporate values imposed upon me). We already have safeguards, in place, through voluntary genre/adult content labeling and a robust tradition of customer reviews.
Be aware that this censorship is actually targeting a genre known as erotic fiction that is most often written and read by women. It is blatant discrimination. We must speak out against it.
I'd like to introduce you to Heather McAlendin. Her journey as an author started as a child. "I have been writing, in some capacity, since I was very young," says Heather. "I was influenced a lot from family members, as all of us were—and still are—avid readers and creative thinkers." Poetry and short stories were also a way for her to work through the typical angst experienced in her teenage years.
Heather shared that she never set out to write erotica. Her first love remains paranormal fiction such as ghost/horror tales. "As these stories progress, however, there is generally some kind of romance or sexual involvement between characters. Erotica seems to be an extension of myself as I've grown older. I've become more comfortable with myself and my sexuality. Sexuality, in its many forms is a fact of life. As a writer, life, and how and why people live, or act they way that they do, fascinates me."
She was very surprised, when on Friday, February 24th, she received a letter from Smashwords. It asked authors to unpublish their erotic eBooks if they met certain criteria as Paypal had been threatening and, in a few cases, had froze accounts of people trying to purchase these forms of erotica. "I was stunned that in this day, and age, that any company, let alone a financial transfer company, feels that they have right to determine what readers can read and what writers are publishing."
Her first reaction, after shock, was to write to Mark Coker directly and relay her dismay regarding Paypal's attempt at censorship and at Smashwords' less than supportive stance towards authors. None of her own books were affected (in terms of the erotica that PayPal is targeting, her work is considered soft), but that wasn't the point. "As a writer, I do not appreciate being told what to write or how to write it. I figure if someone wishes to purchase a certain type of erotica, then they should be free to do so; or not do so, whatever the case may be."
Mark Coker response was not very reassuring:
Thanks for your note, Heather,
It's been tough, and upsetting. This is a bad precedent - that a
payment processor has the power to control what writers write. If
there's a silver lining in any of this, it's that we now have a
direct line of communication with the folks at PayPal. The
executives I've worked with there are great, but unfortunately all
of them are bound by a greater corporate construct.
In a second letter sent to all authors, publishers, and literary agents who publish erotica on Tuesday, March 27th, Smashwords further explained its position regarding this new censorship. Basically, Smashwords is trying to meet PayPal's demands.
I have to give PayPal credit on restricting their initial crusade to erotica that features bestiality, rape, and incest—it's a smart PR move. Even fans of Laurell K. Hamilton's wonderful books that feature were-creature sex (if not in human form, it's considered bestiality), the many bestselling romances by Rosemary Rogers and others in the 1980's (rape became a huge plot device after Luke & Laura's romance on General Hospital), and V.C. Andrew's Flowers In The Attic series, will be hesitant to stand behind this singled-out group of authors. The question that I have is what will be deemed unsuitable by PayPal, next, if they succeed at this first attempt at censorship?
As Heather states, we are on "a dangerous and slippery slope. This will eventually affect more than just the publishing industry. Paypal is the preferred online financial transfer company for many businesses and industries. What is stopping Paypal from dictating whether we can buy religious work or books/products about race or politics? Anything deemed remotely 'controversial' could be next. This is no longer a grey area... It's black and white censorship."
Heather pauses and continues, "If we as writers don't agree with Paypal's actions then, we have to continue to keep talking about these issues. If you love to write and read and enjoy the freedom to choose, then don't allow Paypal to flex its financial muscle in this manner. Speak up. Speak out and speak often."
I could not agree more with Heather! I implore all authors to write a blog against censorship; discuss the historic ramifications of book banning, book burning, and censorship and why in America we have freedom of speech; tweet and retweet to educate other authors about this threat.
Speak out against censorship!
You may visit Heather at her website, http://mcalendin.com, or her blog, http://curvesrfab.blogspot.com/. I sincerely thank her for putting a face on this troubling issue.
Author PR 101 Blogger: Carrie Green
Carrie provides marketing and PR services in the technology field. Her media hits include BusinessWeek, CFO, CIO, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Computerworld, Crain's Chicago Business, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, Industry Standard, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, among many others. Projects have ranged from PR to digital content marketing along with the promotion of traditionally published business books from McGraw-Hill, Jossey-Bass (Wiley), and Edward Elgar Publishing. She is the bestselling author of Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue and Sugar Is Sweet.
I love comments and I will answer any questions that are posted. Just know that if you're not registered (it's FREE) and logged-in to the site that your message will be trapped in a moderation queue. There is also a 2-step process to posting a comment, first hit 'PREVIEW' and then 'SAVE.' Happy Commenting!