I had a strange experience recently - suddenly, the sales of my books basically flatlined. I wondered what went on, and as I tried searching, I realized that my books - especially How to Domesticate a Russian Bear - no longer showed up in searches on Amazon's sites.
Of course I did what anybody would do - contacted Amazon so they could correct the error. That was the beginning of a very long and convoluted process that led to this conclusion: Amazon thinks you should be ashamed of what you read, and they'll do their best to hide the results if you still try to find inappropriately adult books.
The funny thing (which isn't funny at all) is that the definition of "inappropriate" is entirely up to Amazon. I did a search, and I am allowed to buy this Luv-Spot 8-inch Silicone Realistic (and yes, that's the entire name; it seems that if you don't actually call it a dildo, it's not inappropriate, but instead a... really badly made storage device for your glasses, perhaps?).
I also managed to find this beauty which is apparently a vintage magazine giving the reader historical insight in hygienic practices in southern California (judging from the hair color) in the late twentieth century. Because naturally it can't be porn since Amazon hasn't (yet) deemed it "adult". But my book is.
As far as I can tell, the definition of "adult" is completely random (I staunchly refuse to believe that it's because there's gay content in my books. I really do. Even though you can find plenty of straight BDSM, Fifty Shades of Grey included, in your searches). The way of circumventing the system if you haven't yet been cowed into not buying this deviant literature is equally random, unfortunately.
But, if you still think that it's your own damn business what books you choose to read and not the decision of some uptight Amazon employee, here's what you do:
Instead of choosing "All departments" when you search for an author or a title, you have to choose "Books" or even "Kindle Store" in order to find for example How to Domesticate a Russian Bear. You might get a text warning you that "Your search contains adult items which have been hidden". Click that, and THEN you can finally get to your book.
The really annoying part is that there are apparently no set rules for this; the search settings and criteria for books varies from Amazon site to Amazon site. So, what works in the UK might not work in the US and vice versa. And, as my little dildo experiment showed, the results are wildly inconsistent. I'd complain to Amazon about that, too - but I'm pretty sure they'd shut me up by putting the adult sticker on all of my books in every Amazon store, so I'm not going to do that.
What I am going to do is to encourage you to contact Amazon if you also think that what you choose to read is your own business. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for filters - if you choose to use them. If you have children or get easily offended (nothing wrong with that), by all means, put a filter on your searches. But to have someone do it for you without telling you and without you being able to change it - that's censorship. And it's censorchip of the worst insidious kind, because you don't know you're being censored. You don't have to watch The Handmaid's Tale to know how that ends. We should not let that happen to us.
All right, I'm very angry right now (also because this has a huge impact of what I'd thought should be the revival of my writing career. Now I don't know; there's not much sense in writing a book if nobody can buy it). In order to not spend the night fuming like me, here's a picture of a "KONG Safestix Dog Toy, Medium" which pops up when you search for dildos on Amazon. It's also available in green, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when society is too uptight to even admit that sex exists. Maybe I should sell my books as pet supplies in the future.
Merry Christmas everybody! This is where I would have loved to put a new story and/or some well thought out and deeply mindful... uh, something. But, alas, this is only real life, and mindfulness is NOT my forte.
However, I do feel like it's been a good year. I've got all of my novels back up for sale, and I've finally tackled a very big writing project of mine which I've been wanting to do for years. It's huge compared to what I usually write, so it's both frightening (because can I really do something like that?) and exhilarating. NaNoWriMo was a big help in getting it started, so now it's only a matter of writing the ending and fleshing it out (it needs A LOT of flesh right now).
I've also reconnected with my readers, and let me just tell you, people, that you are amazing. Hearing from you always, always makes my day and sometimes my week. You are kind, and generous, and you have excellent taste in books, of course.
I also have a couple of good ideas for new books waiting to be written, and that's very nice as well; there's nothing an author fears more than the big, empty "what the heck am I going to write now?" void.
I might have more time to write them, as well. Not quite voluntarily, but my current job ends soon, and then I'll be going out job hunting - which can be just as exhilarating and scary as writing a new book. That's normally quite an awful situation for me (I like working, dammit), but this time I'm strangely optimistic about it all. It actually feels like 2018 is going to be a good year.
It does help that I have a couple of freelance projects lined up and more ideas for books than I could write in a decade, of course. I'm not a workaholic for nothing.
I hope you get an equally challenging and exciting new year. Because, hey, maybe it'll be better than the one you've just been through. Take a couple of days off over Christmas, put up your feet, and take a look at your life. If it sucks right now (sometimes life just does), then 2017 is almost over - and it can only go forwards from here. If it's quite okay, then that's cool, too - "okay" is not bad at all. And if you're one of those fortunate people who always know how to be happy and upbeat, then please write your secret in the comment section;).
Merry Christmas and a fun, challenging, and upbeat New Year to all of you!
So. I was doing a blog tour for my new book, and I was asked to give some advice to aspiring writers, since I’ve now managed to somehow survive writing six novels (go me!). Here’s my advice:
Don’t. If you value your spare time as well as your sanity, writing is NOT the way to go. Also, there’s no way around admitting that spending hours and hours on your speshul snowflake masterpiece is somewhat pretentious. Although my books are far too kinky to be pretentious. Or masterpieces, probably. You need to take the job pretty seriously to write a book, and to be honest, I find that a little ridiculous – even after six novels.
However, if you still insist on doing it, then I do have some advice:
So, if you still insist on writing, get your butt in gear – and remember: There’s no right way and no wrong way to write a book. You don’t have to buy a $14 beverage and park your butt in a fancy café with your shiny new Macbook before you’re allowed to write your first words. You don’t have to write on a schedule (unless you like having one). You don’t have a deadline (again, unless you like having one). You’re on your own, and that’s both terrifying and exhilarating. Good luck!
Oh. I think I was supposed to use this as a marketing opportunity. God, I’m bad at that. There’s a reason why they didn’t ask me to give any advice on that… But here we go: Buy my book! Uh, if you want to, that is. Then it would be lovely if you would. It’s called How to Domesticate a Russian Bear, and I followed almost none of my excellent advice above when I wrote it.
Sorry. Author pun. Very tired author pun from equally tired author who has yet again spent a perfectly nice Sunday in front of a computer, fighting a heroic fight against software! And as always, at least half of those fights didn't need to be fought at all, but there you go...
The result is pretty neat, though: My novels are now on Smashwords as well. So if you prefer your books in other formats than Amazon's mobi files, you can now go to Smashwords and find them there - for example Alphabet Soup (and yes, this is me being very proud of my new covers and grasping every opportunity to show them off. I swear I'll do the whole "squeal, look at my shiny new covers" thing as soon as I dig myself out of this mountain of work). But for now, this is your public service announcement, people: Kinky books available. Go buy.
(oh, and my Amazon books have been reviewed and re-submitted and the resubmissions are now under review; they should be available very soon, in other words. Then I only have to get my short stories up; those are scheduled for the other side of this mountain of work, though).
Yes, you - you right there! You who decided to go home early or play foosball or what the heck lazy programmers do - before you made sure the new version of Office would actually be able to save the changes necessary to upload a file as an ebook: I dislike you very, very much!
First I spent a weekend figuring out how to format my document. Then I spent a weekend figuring out how to circumvent the things that don't work in my version of the program. Then I spent another weekend realizing that I had to do it all in InDesign instead. Fourth weekend was learning how to actually do it, and the fifth weekend on exorcising ePub poltergeists from my computer.
The absolutely worst part about working in InDesign is that learning a new task can be very, very complicated - until you figure out how to do it. Then it's really simple, which makes you feel very stupid. Somewhat accomplished (hey, I can layout a book now!), but mostly stupid.
I still maintain that my particular version of the program must be possessed; I can't see any other reasons why some of my numbers suddenly turned into Arabic in my finished file (and yes, there is a certain irony in Arabic numbers turning into... you know, Arabic numbers. But not enough irony to keep me from banging my head into the wall trying to figure it out).
The good news is that all of the new versions of my books are now ready to be uploaded to Amazon. I WILL do some kind of giveaway to celebrate, but my workload is insane at the moment, so it'll probably be a couple of weeks - and then How to Domesticate a Russian Bear will be out in a month.
I'll update you as soon as they're available - and thank you so much for your patience; it's so nice to still have readers out there!
All right, that took a while. But I'm really happy to announce that I managed to finish the damn book. It even turned out... well, not too shabby (at least that's how I feel about it BEFORE I'll start editing. That opinion is therefore bound to change soon as I start editing. A lot). Tom and Mischa are just as annoying (and entertaining) as usual, and they'll do A LOT of things that'll make you blush. And there's karate. And the in-laws.
I've also got the covers for my back catalogue designed, which means that my back catalogue will be up and running on Amazon very soon. I intend to do a contest when we get that far to celebrate - stay tuned! And then finally finish it off with publishing "How to Domesticate a Russian Bear" - the tale of the woes of a badass Dom suddenly feeling the need to settle down.
I've spent quite some time thinking about whether I should try to find another publisher or self-publish. I've always been convinced that traditional publishing was the way to go, mainly because of the quality of decently edited books. There are a lot of very good self-published authors out there, but let's be frank: Some of them would be even better if they had a good editor as well as a proofreader.
However, I've been badly burned twice now when publishers have shut down and spent my money on a car for their daughter or a one-way plane ticket to South Africa (true story in both cases). I've also noticed that several big MM publishers actually don't have very good editors and/or proofreaders. Considering those publishers will still take (at least) half your money, the trade seemed less and less appealing.
My solution was to find a good editor I know well to edit and proofread my book. That way, I get a professional editor without depending on a publisher. And I simply can't stress enough how important good editing is. I may not be the world's greatest writer, but I want the book to be as good as it can possibly get. When a reader spend hard-earned money on a book, they deserve that.
Also, apparently readers deserve fewer semicolons. And "apparently"s. Did I mention that good editors can also be very annoying?
It's midsummer night, and you all know what that means: You go out into the woods and find your beloved (who's wearing a garland around their neck) and you look for fern flowers together. And, uh, probably do other stuff as well when you can't find the damn flowers.
What the bloody hell are you talking about? you may say, but that's because you aren't Russian (Mischa is shaking his head at you as we speak. There may be one of those annoying pained sighs as well).
If you're just as clueless as Tom was before he was sent out into the woods at midnight by a Russian family member, then you need to read Of Russian Myth and Lore. It's a rare opportunity to experience that rare beast. And no, I'm not talking about Slavic folklore, but about Mischa actually showing his feelings.
(And for those wondering about that new book about Tom and Mischa that I promised you: The damnable last chapter is giving me a headache. But I promise to do my best to have it out soon!).
I'm afraid I have some bad news. As you might have heard, Torquere Press - my publisher - is going under. It happened about a year after the original owners sold Torquere to new owners.
It has been a bit of a long process, starting last summer when the royalties stopped being paid (and yes, that means that if you've bought any of my books during the last nine months, I haven't seen a penny of that money). It was also a bit of an ugly process (publishers going under often are). At first, we heard a lot of news from the owner about her being sick - very sick, very often. The author forums were filled with concern and well wishes and understanding - after all, not being paid is nothing compared to being critically ill, so we all were very understanding. Then suddenly a link showed up revealing that the owner hadn't actually been in the hospital yet another time as claimed, but in jail - for not paying an author.
So basically, we have no idea whether the owner really has been sick or merely lying all the time. I must say, personally, that I find it very hard to trust anybody who lied to me like that. Not least because I find it outrageous that we still aren't being paid. The owner is hoping to avoid an "expensive" bankruptcy case - but if "expensive" means "paying what I owe people", then I have a hard time supporting that wish. I want to be paid for my work; it's not okay that the owner has taken all the money I've earned for the last nine months and simply put it in her own pocket. Especially since the math isn't hard; when you as a publisher get your income from Amazon or any other seller, you don't touch half of it. Because it's not your money. It belongs to the authors. If that concept is too hard for you, then you probably shouldn't be a publisher at all. Well, they aren't; not for long anyway.
The really miserable thing wasn't so much the authors fighting among each other (the name calling wasn't pretty), but the fact that the owner stopped communicating - and we weren't given back our rights. That meant that the owner could keep selling our books, taking the money for herself, and none of us could do anything, because no other publisher will touch a book if it's sold by somebody else (doh). That left us all in a terrible situation: Somebody else had basically stolen our works, and we were helpless to do anything about it, since neither emails nor snail mail were answered.
Fortunately, that has changed, at least for me; I've been given back my rights on December 17 2016, and the publisher now has 30 days from that date to take down my books. It hasn't happened yet; I guess she's trying to get as much money out of it as possible (and yes, that also makes me mad; is it really such a foreign subject that you do not steal from people?). I'm angry, and I'm also sad; I was really happy with Torquere under the old owners. "Everybody deserves a happy ending" was such a beautiful motto. Alas, that's gone now.
What happens now: As soon as the books are taken down, I can start looking for a new publisher; I already have one in my sights. If they bite, you'll be able to buy my books again - I'm not sure how long that's going to take, but I will make sure to update my website as soon as I know it.
The good news (and yes, there is one good thing about this): I've started writing again and I'm currently putting the finishing touches on another book featuring the world's grumpiest Russian bear and the universe's most stubborn pain pig/art historian/karate geek. I've never had so much fun writing a book (or blushed so much. Those guys take any chance they can to get kinky). But I'll tell you more about that in another and more upbeat blog post. For now I need to keep Mischa from killing his wedding guests and Tom from killing Mischa.
I read and I write - everything from corporate to kink. My naughty fictional friends are always there to make my life interesting. And pester me, of course. Pesky creatures.