Last week, I received this email from Draft2Digital about my short story collection Whips & Fangs:
This afternoon, I sent this response:
This is a reply to your automated message about my power exchange short story collect, Whips & Fangs, being banned from B&N, Kobo, iTunes, Tolino, and Vivio for noncon and dubcon content.
Barnes and Noble sells Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, a ‘romance’ that involves the rape of an unconscious woman and sexual slavery — both meeting your definition of noncon
Kobo sells the 50 Shades trilogy, which includes ignoring safe words, stalking, rape, nonconsensual sadism, and a good bit more. Content that covers your definition of noncon and dubcon.
I expect the other etailers listed sell both these books, as well as the Carpathian series by Christine Feehan (full of dubcon and rape) and Iron Kissed by Patty Briggs (explicit rape scene) and many others.
You claim to support and empower indie authors. These bookstores saying they will not accept noncon or dubcon is not part of a reasoned attempt to protect readers or control the type of books that are sold. It’s a punitive policy against self- and small-pubbed authors.
Yes, my story collection contains noncon and dubcon. (Though over half the stories in Whips & Fangs don’t even have kissing, never mind sex of any sort!) I openly tag and label the specific stories with that content so readers can choose to read or avoid them as they prefer. This is a far better and safer option for both readers AND authors than a wholesale banning small-time authors who openly tag stuff while not just selling but actively promoting big-name authors who don’t tag their ‘normal’ romances with the same content. Your automated review only caught my content because I tagged and labeled it for reader safety.
By programming your automated review to block books like mine you are enabling these etailers harmful policies and making it more likely that readers are harmed by untagged, unlabeled noncon and dubcon content, as authors will avoid tagging and labeling to avoid being blocked.
If Barnes and Noble and Kobo and Tolilo and iBooks want to block my books let them do it. Stop doing their dirty work for them.
Stand up for the authors and readers who trust you.
I do not expect D2D to pay any attention
They and the etailers in question can get away with this only because this policy targets self pubbed and indie authors who don’t have the reach, social support, or financial backing to fight back against this kind of bullshit.
Etailers are never going to pull the mainstream books in question, without a concerted public push. (I don’t want them too.) They are not going to require major publishers and big name authors to tag their dubcon and noncon. (I think they should.)
And none of those parties want to deal with the backlash from mainstream romance readers seeing their beloved favorites labelled as ‘evil’ dubcon and noncon. (Who need to take a good long look at themselves for this kind of attitude.)
But having these policies and requiring D2D (and, I assume Lulu and other self pub platforms) to enforce them allows these etailers to proclaim their commitment to ‘protecting’ readers from dubcon and noncon while not actually doing anything about this content they claim not to want.
Me? I’m a disabled ‘deviant.’ My book sales bring in about enough money each book to pay the cable bills.
They can afford to fuck over me and authors like me. And Draft2Digital, who claims to be on our side, is perfectly content to help them.
These policies are a problem
The more marginalized an author is, the harder it is to get accepted by a mainstream publisher, the more likely we are to get hit by this kind of punitive censorship.
There is a conversation to be had about violence in media. Some people cannot handle reading noncon or dubcon (or torture, or car crashes, or…) and how we balance supporting authors who write these things while helping readers protect themselves is a whole thing we can talk about.
But this is not the answer.
So if you really care about noncon/dubcon in media, or protecting small authors, or supporting marginalized creators just trying to survive, please:
1) Boost this story (or share your own)
2) Email Draft2Digital at email@example.com saying why you consider this a bad policy (feel free to quote the reasons I’ve given rather than writing your own).
3) Reach out to folks with actual social reach (big name authors, etc) and ask them to help get a real convo about how to help readers avoid content they don’t want without screwing over marginalized authors
4) if you have the resources, get an actual petition or social media campaign or something going.
These policies do not exist in isolation
They are part of the same cultural bullshit that needs to ‘protect’ kids from cross dressing actors and the word ‘gay,’ but can’t come up with a coherent and effective response to school shootings. The mainstream books I was talking about are accepted because they are ‘normal’ (aka cis, het, patriarchal) romances and erotica that reinforce the status quo.
(Add in ‘classist’ and ‘white supremacist’ there. It’s no surprise that the male leads in all those books are rich and white. If Christian Grey was a poor black man, those books would have burned on street corners and James would have been torn apart in the court of public opinion.)