I have been sick this week. Sinus and cold and unable to focus. So, I kinda missed the whole rank stripping thing over at Amazon in the beginning.
Late yesterday, I noticed that one of my books had been stripped of rank and categorized as Erotica. That's one out of 25. And not one of the MM. One of my three MF books. The erotic one.
But wait, you just said it's erotic? So... what's the problem? And what's the rank stripping thing anyway?
Well, the rank stripping thing, yeah, I don't know. The book didn't have the line "Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #------ paid in kindle store (see top 100 paid in kindle store)" ... that all books have. It did have categories with ranking in those categories. All erotica. I didn't list the book in any erotica or erotic romance categories. I didn't have any erotica tags on the book. The cover is not naked. It's two people embracing. I have dirtier MM books. I have the ranking line back. But the book is still categorized in all erotica categories.
And if you didn't know, Amazon suppresses erotica categories and has for years. Books in suppressed categories are only searchable by using exact title and author. They will not show up in 'also bought' recommendations. Or in generic searches. And books in suppressed categories are not eligible for any type of Amazon promotion.
Essentially, Amazon isn't saying they don't publish erotica, but they do make it damned hard to find. They put it in the backroom that says private, adults only, and make it hard to find.
And the thing is, Sunny with a Chance isn't even erotica. It is erotic romance. Most of my books are erotic romance. So, why was that one book singled out? There are no girly bits showing. There's nothing on the cover. The blurb is generic. I don't get it. I have fully nude men on two covers in MM. No peen. But still fully nude. Still in the categories I have them listed in.
Did they not include MM this time, because they feared a backlash, like last time they hid all the gay content books. Long time ago. Around the time Paypal decided to drop any service that carried sex books. So, about five years ago-ish.
I've written about the differences in sex content in romance before. Recently too.
So, let's talk about how Romance Writers of America defines sex content in romance novels. One more time.
Traditional, sweet, inspirational: When you see any of these terms in regard to a romance novel, it means there will not be any on page sex. Traditional might have some sexual content, but for the most part it's not graphic. It might be closed door sex. Or off page. If the sex is on page, it's very quick, and not written in a way to make one uncomfortable if sex is not your thing. Think prime time network television love scene. Kissy face. Cut to commercial. Sheets pulled up to neck the morning after, was it good for you. Sweet, is exactly that. It's sweet romance. There's no sex. None. It's a meet cute and a happy ever after running off on the honeymoon and the reader is not invited for the getting it on part. And inspirational... well, it's religious. And covers other things like Amish and... Amish romance is a thing people. I just.... anyway moving on.
Sensual romance: there is sex in sensual romance. On page sex. It can be anything from a basic later than prime time network television love scenes to quite steamy. But it isn't graphic. It's usually short. The sex is not part of the plot. There's no graphic body parts. The prose might drift a bit to purple, or maybe you know, lavender, if not quite purple. But there's no dick sucking or clitoral nibbling or double penetration or... well, it's sex light. No one says cock.
Then we get into erotic romance. Erotic romance is graphic. It runs in degrees from sensual, with more graphic wordage. Cock and pussy might not be the go to words. But they're not innuendoed into non existence. The scenes are longer. Steamier. Messier. Could be full on hard core graphic. The point of erotic romance, that separates it from erotica, is that the sex is between people who are seeking a Happy Ever After. I'd say a couple, but you can have HEAs in poly romances. Sex is not the plot. It's part of the plot. It's not what drives the story, but it is deeply rooted in the story. And in the end the participants will have a happy ever after ending, or happy for now, in the event of a series.
Which brings us to erotica: Erotica is not really romance. It can be. Ellora's Cave copyrighted the term Romantica. Erotica is stories about sex. Sex is the whole purpose of the story. Sex, full graphic detail sex. There is no guarantee of fidelity in erotica. There is no happy ever afters. There is nothing but sex. Not to be confused with porn. There is a romantic element to erotica. Erotica is more empowering than romantic. A couple who wants a third. Someone wants to experiment without commitment. It's your one night stands. Your erotic fantasies. There is no ring at the end. All parties go away satisfied. The words are graphic. The sex is graphic. It's about sex. Only sex.
And then there's porn.
RWA doesn't define porn. Amazon doesn't define porn. Amazon doesn't define much of anything beyond 'they'll know it when they see it', and yes, that is exactly what they say in their TOS under things they don't allow. We'll know it when we see it. And that is a broad definition. One person's porn is another person's comedy. I mean, we call decadent food pictures food porn. Porn is in the eye of the beholder. Romance, plain old regular traditional sweet romance is considered porn by some standards. But, what exactly is porn in the romance world? I would hazard the guess that anything that falls outside of a safe, loving, scene into pure exploitation would be porn. Have I crossed that boundary? Depends on on your definition. I'd say I have. But I haven't published anything, including the twincest, that I would consider porn. Have I written something that I would define as porn? Absolutely.
I don't like rape fantasy. I have an incest kink. I have a forced orgasm kink. I have written underage sex. I don't like bondage, beyond a little light tie me up and spank me. I love light bondage with edging play. Doesn't mean that I practice any of this in my real life. I've explored porn. Written and otherwise. You'll find elements of all of that in my work. Especially edging and forced orgasm.I have written non-con. I'll write non-con again. If it fits the story. I don't write it to titillate. And that right there is how I define porn. What is beyond standard erotica confines, meant to titillate, but is not romantic. It's just fucking for fucking sake.
Hope this helps anyone who doesn't understand the differences.