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All Romance EBooks Clarification

All Romance eBooks emailed me to ask if I had any questions regarding their new policy regarding ebook categorization. Of course I did and they responded. The entirety is posted below with permission:

1. You are creating a new area for certain types of books. How will readers access those books?

We’re currently in the process of concluding a project that was initiated several months ago. What we are actually doing is splitting the current Erotica category into “Erotica” and “Erotica Romance” so that readers will be able to more easily find the types of books they most like to read. The goal is not to create a new area that will house a new type of book. We are not looking to expand into a new market. In fact, we are working to stay true to the original vision of our company.

As you know, All Romance eBooks was conceived to be a specialty store to cater to the digital romance market. “Gay” on our site has always meant “Gay Romance”. “Vampire/Werewolves” has always meant “Vampire/Werewolves Romance”. And, “Erotica” has until fairly recently meant “Erotic Romance”. In the past few months we’ve noted more and more Erotica without Romance elements appearing in that area. We know that there is a segment of our customer base that is interested in reading Erotica. There are others who wish to read Erotic Romance. Some prefer both and still others neither. We formed a task force to develop a long-term plan for improving the discoverability function that included conceiving of a way to separate the current “Erotica” category into “Erotica” and “Erotic Romance”.

Readers will be able to access these titles the way they currently do with one exception, Erotica titles will only appear to users who are logged in (which requires they be eighteen years of age or older).

2. Will the bestseller list include those books in the Erotica category?

At this time, no changes are occurring to the algorithm of our best-seller list. We’ve merely undertaken a project to split out our current Erotica category.

3. How will ARE be policing those books? By the author’s submission of metadata?

The procedures we’ve had in place since we opened on November of 2006 will continue, as will some new ones.

All publishers are vetted prior to acceptance. Part of the process is a review of their representative catalog of titles. When content we feel may be in violation is discovered upon review, we normally write to the Publisher and reiterate our restrictions and clarify the types of content we intend to sell. Often this results in a mutual decision not to proceed, sometimes a commitment to only a partial submission. In other cases, when the market goals are extremely divergent, we just deny the application.

We reserve the right to deny acceptance of any title for any reason. In the past several months, we’ve received more requests from publishers who wish to sell incest, pseudo-incest, and barely legal erotica and had to deny them. Those restrictions were recently added in an attempt to curtail those applicants. As many publishers and authors have pointed out to us, there is a market for those titles. We just don’t want to be in that market.

You ask about policing and we’ve had to do a considerable amount of that in recent weeks. We have responded to complaints very swiftly, but more importantly we have been pro-actively sweeping our database for tags, titles, and appropriateness of category placement. We’ve also been collecting data to help us size the issue and analyze possible ways of automating some of what we’ve been manually doing (as the manual review takes far longer).

We have approximately 400,000 titles in our inventory. Approximately %.05 are in the current Erotica category. We believe most of those are within acceptable guidelines and are working diligently to inactivate those that are not and contacting those publishers.

4. Is this in response to the Paypal crackdown on epublished books?

As indicated, we’ve been working on this for quite some time. We shelve titles based on a combination of BISAC and our own codes that we’ve created for sub-genres BISAC has yet to recognize. Because of some emails from our customer base wanting “warnings” about particular types of content, we created an enhancement in September that was added to the publisher panel that would alert readers to certain themes. We also clarified image content guidelines at that time and require publishers to provide information about cover content so we can determine if it’s appropriate for general viewing on the home page.

We receive feedback constantly from our customer base and our publishing partners and have an enhancement queue that we work through. These improvements, as well as the split of the Erotica category, are a result of that process.

We are aware of the recent Paypal crackdown and it did prompt another review of our policy on restrictions. At this point we feel that the action plan we have in place is sufficient to meet their guidelines. Our goal has been to complete the steps by March 2, 2012 and we appear to be on target for that date.

5. Will you be revising your policy as to what is placed in the new books section?

We’ve been working for several weeks on guidelines to assist publishers and readers in identifying the types of titles they can expect to find in the new Erotica and Erotic Romance sections. These have been circulated to publishers in advance so that they can begin planning. The guidelines were sent out to a dozen industry publishers and authors, both Erotica, Erotica Romance, Indie, and Big 6 for comment prior to finalization.

We have notified our publishers that those who have current Erotica titles will be asked to re-shelve using those guidelines and we’re testing a streamlined process we’ve created so that they may accomplish this quickly.

These guidelines will appear prominently in the publisher panel so they will easily be accessible and there for viewing every time a title is uploaded.

Here are our guidelines for the split:

Erotic romance is a Romance containing frequent, sexually explicit love scenes. The main plot centers around two or more people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. The love scenes are a natural part of the romance and described using graphic and frank language. Typically these stories have an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now) ending.

Erotica is a sexually explicit story, which explores and focuses on a character’s sexual journey rather than an emphasis on a developing romantic relationship. While such an erotic story may have elements of romance, it is the sex that primarily drives the story.

Works that are restricted, as always, will continue to be deleted. We self-monitor these issues and monitor the various social spaces for comments. For the quickest response, offending titles can be reported to [email protected]

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

34 Comments

  1. Brian
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 12:10:26

    ARe’s handling of getting info out on a topic sure is a lot nicer that Siren/Bookstrands. :-)

  2. Rachel
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 12:33:33

    Thanks for passing this information on. There are a lot of indie authors/publishers who have been curious to know where they stand with AllRomance.

  3. AC
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 12:50:44

    ARe is handling this much better than Bookstrand, that’s easy to see, but I personally don’t think this is enough. Erotica is a rising genre of books that has readership AND market, but is not being recognized as a “proper genre”, because of what? They’re about sex? None of us would be here if not for sex.

    My problem with this is that there are no sub-genres for erotic work. Everything under the sun, as long as it’s labeled “erotica” are all lumped into one category AND THAT’S THE ONLY CATEGORY YOU’RE ALLOWED TO HAVE. How the hell is anyone going to be able to find the books they want to if say I want BBW erotica? Gay erotica? BDSM erotica? It used to be very easy to find the stuff I’m looking for by going to the subcategory pages and just look at the heat ratings. Now? Not so much.

  4. Toby Graham
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 12:56:12

    I would imagine search and tags will take up the slack when it comes to browsing. I think this is a good move, though I’m wary because of the drama of the past week.

  5. Marlene Sexton
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:03:07

    It would have been nice to hear why ARe was caving to perceived demands from their payment processor. I’m not necessarily saying they shouldn’t have, but I’d like to hear it from them. Is PayPal that important to doing business? Do they fear more restrictions that might cause them to take down romance titles, say BDSM restrictions? Do they necessarily agree with these restrictions? These are answers I think many authors and readers would like to hear.

  6. Roslyn Holcomb
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:08:58

    That’s an interesting questin Marlene. The epubs parted ways with Paypal and seem to be doing okay. Though I guess we can gather from their actions that Paypal is a fairly large portion of their business.

  7. Dee
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:17:49

    I for one won’t miss some of the titles that have been popping up lately. If people want to read them that’s fine, but I was finding it difficult to shop with my kids any where near the computer. And
    not to keep harping on the Siren-Bookstrand issue, but whether there response was handle nicely or not shouldn’t matter. All of these companies have a right to do what they wish with their companies. To single out one publisher or store front (mainly because they were the first to speak up) for things that can be found at simmilair publishers, for example Elloras Cave and Samhain. Both of which have many menage and shifter stories., as does Siren-Bookstrand.

    As for twincest, as you were calling it when it’s merely menage, Lora Leigh’s August Men series is three brothers sharing women. Along with Lora Leigh who writes her Breeds, Eliza Gayle and Dakota Cassidy both write fabulous shifters. Which leads me to ask why all the focus on the Siren-Bookstrand authors you’ve singled out here recently? Or hell the singling out of Siren period? I’m not expecting a truthful unbiased answer, but just thought I’d throw the question out there.

    As for DearAuthor’s issues with Rape you have been to digusted by these stories since you’ve given one a B review. http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-b-reviews/b-minus-reviews/review-willing-victim-by-cara-mckenna

  8. Angie
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:30:03

    Erotic romance is a Romance containing frequent, sexually explicit love scenes.

    That’s an awful definition. :( Who defines “frequent?” There’s a clear and obvious difference between a book with one sex scene and a book with twelve, but is six “frequent?” Is eight? Is five? And what does “explicit” mean? Sex scenes in romances have been explicit since the seventies; have we gone back and reclassified all the old historicals as “Erotic Romance?” Aside from the capture fantasies and such of early erotic romance, which one could easily write without any explicit sex at all, so that’s not a defining characteristic either. A good definition lets you draw a clear line between what IS and what is NOT — in all cases, not just the extremes — and this definition doesn’t.

    I agree that three is a difference, but this isn’t it. It doesn’t give a clear line between romance and erotic romance — it produces a fuzzy middle zone that no two people are going to agree on. They’re just begging for arguments here.

    Angie

  9. Christine M.
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:42:17

    @Angie: I think it’s more a matter of making the distinction between erotica and erotic romance than to highlight the difference betwen erotic romance and romance in this case. After all, the book that will move were already in the Erotica category. /2 cents

  10. Angie
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:46:59

    @Christine M.: I get that, but it really doesn’t help. As data, one of my books is up on ARe in the Erotica category and doesn’t belong there at all. (Which I’m not at all pleased by and never have been, but that’s a… related but separate issue.) This book is about 73K words long, has 1.5 sex scenes (the first one is interrupted) and nothing about either scene is kinky or edgy — vanilla all the way. It doesn’t qualify as erotic anything, but there it is. If books on ARe can be miscategorized that badly, I don’t have a lot of faith in their ability to make finer distinctions, especially if they can’t come up with a better definition to guide them.

    Angie

  11. coribo25
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:57:35

    @Marlene Sexton: Paypal is one of the easiest ways to pay international authors and publishers.

  12. CK
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:23:25

    @Angie: I thought authors/publishers categorized the books when they uploaded them. ARe assigns the categories?

  13. annonymous
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:29:14

    The publishers choose the categories, not ARe. Talk to your publisher about your not being happy about them putting it in Erotica.

  14. Grace
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:31:20

    @CK My understanding is that the author/publisher categorizes the books, not ARe. My publisher asks me to provide three ARe categories for each book.

  15. Leota M. Abel
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:32:10

    @Dee: The problem with and the focus on Siren’s published books is that they were the ones who put out a nasty screed saying that they would never *pearls clutched* publish any nasty incest stories. Which made everyone look at their catalog with major side eyes.

  16. Michelle McCleod
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:47:28

    @Dee: Siren has been singled out for criticism because they are an imprint of Bookstrand. One one level, you have a publisher making strategic moves against indies.

    Second, Siren/BS lied. They claimed their books were nothing like those horribly awful smut books which is why they are still on the BS site. Ummm, not true. Go see previous posts on DA–you can read Siren’s statement, their own words and then compare it to their book list.

    Third, you have credit card companies going nuts with the moral enforcement and Paypal trying to comply to cut their processing costs.

    Overall, the whole thing was handled with a distinct lack of class and rampant asshattery.

    And as far as I’m concerned, two blood relatives in any sexual situation is incest. As a mom, I would never want my kids doing what’s depicted in those books. I would not consider it healthy or appropriate in real life. HOWEVER I don’t want it censored in fiction either–if it’s legal, I’m good.

    But for Siren to go around publicly claiming a moral high ground? Well, prepare to be schooled.

    M

  17. Kate Pearce
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:47:33

    To be honest, I’ve noticed a lot of titles popping up on the ARe site that seemed to be straight erotica-and have some really graphic covers and titles that I have to screen from my kids. Even though I read and write both erotic romance and erotica, I’m quite happy for them to be separated out as it makes my buying experience easier. And, as it is the publisher who decides the categories they wish their books to go into, that seems okay to me-of course there will always be disputes about some titles, but it seems that this site is at least trying to work with the authors and publishers.

  18. Carin
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 16:06:16

    Count me as another customer happy that the erotica will be filed separately. @AC – I hope they fix the lack of subcategories in erotic. I don’t want my book browsing to be easier at the cost of someone elses.

  19. Roslyn Holcomb
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 16:25:01

    @Angie, when I uploaded my book at ARe, i chose the category. They also asked if ther was any nudity on yhe cover. I guess that’s part of their screening. You might want to check eith your publishe if your bookmis miscategorized. Essentially ARe is a storefront, they’re not responsible for content.

  20. Kaetrin
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 17:29:48

    @Dee: Willing Victim is a book which features rape fantasy explored by consenting adults. The ground rules were agreed specifically by both parties before hand and, IIRC, the review here specifically stated at the beginning that the book may be a hot button for some readers and that’s okay. I read the book and thought it was great. It was not a rape book. The difference is that in Willing Victim the action was consensual. Just, FYI.

  21. Kali
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 19:48:58

    First of all, I never realized that so many people shopped for erotic romance with their kids.

    Second, I think “separate but equal” categorization will be a good thing for both readers and publishers. The key issue will be whether the treatment is in fact equal. Several publishers of erotica have noticed their sales nosedive since ARe began making changes. If these customers aren’t finding what they want here (and they do want it, since it was selling just fine before), then they will end up spending their money elsewhere.

    Having erotica featured right alongside erotic romance (to the people who want to see it) and allowing proper and full categorization of erotica are what will ensure that ARe continues to be a good market.

  22. jayhjay
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 21:43:52

    I have no problems with erotica (and enjoy reading some myself), but I am a little tired of all the sex with daddy, doing my stepfather type stuff I have been seeing. I think it is helpful to get that stuff separated from more traditional romance.

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  25. Dee
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 01:10:17

    @Kaetrin:

    I understood that. To be clear what I meant was to complain about it is one thing. But if you allowed the review then you obviously accepted the content so what changed here. If you’re going to complain about one publisher offering a certain content than should it be the same for everyone.

  26. Dee
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 01:14:30

    @Kali:
    I don’t shop for erotic romance with my kids. The sites in question also carry other genres. The point is if I’m on my laptop, or desktop and one of them walks into the room I’d rather not have to quickly minimize the screen to shield them from it.

  27. Merrian
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 03:09:34

    @Dee:

    I wasn’t aware of DA complaining about anything. I think the thread discussions have highlighted the subjectivity of categorisation at a time when it is more important than ever in terms of access to books and discoverability.

    I know that what is erotica to me is porn to others but I also know that I was uncomfortable when shopping on ARe to see the titles and covers on the front page that are clearly porn and come across in the family & relationships category as I did – ‘the anal redemption of pastor green’s lactating harlot’ – I just wanted to find some secret baby books! Nothing wrong with porn but it isn’t what ARe set itself up to sell.

    I think teddypig makes some excellent points on this http://www.teddypig.com/2012/02/missing-the-point/

    My understanding is that while the outcome of Paypal’s TOS is being experienced as censorship it comes from practical problems with banking insurance. Due to most online credit card fraud occuring on porn websites, transactions through these sites are seen as too risky to insure therefore they become a no go.

    Someone up thread asked why deal with Paypal – it is an international world with many different banking systems – Paypal makes things simpler and more secure for customers in one country and vendors in anther. The alternative to registering one set of banking details with one pretty secure organisation is that as a customer I would have to leave my credit card details with many websites of doubtful security.

  28. Julianna
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 03:39:05

    Hmm, in terms of ARe categories, what’s the difference between a werewolf romance and an erotic romance that features werewolves, such as a werewolf story that is definitely focused on the romance, but also has steamy sex scenes? Is it how explicit the language is? (i.e., you need to use more flowery, euphemistic language to be able to categorize a story as ‘Vampire/Werewolf’ on ARe?)

  29. LG
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 07:14:41

    One thing I had been wanting for some time from ARe was the ability to do an advanced search for a range of heat levels, not just a single heat level. That would have allowed me to, say, search for everything below the highest heat level rating. If there was ever a way to do that, I couldn’t figure it out. What was on the home page didn’t usually bother me, except for the time when I was first trying to convince my mom that she’d like shopping at ARe (I went through a good deal of “Are you sure this place doesn’t mostly sell porn?”, but it helped to point her to some works ARe sells that I figured she’d like).

  30. KW
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 10:12:52

    I think that this is a great move. Erotic romance and erotica have different roots, so grouping them together was never the right thing to do. If anything, erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance, while erotica is a genre entirely its own (as many of the commenters above have mentioned). It needs its own set of sub-genres, similar to the way literotica treats its free stories. Amazon, B&N, and Apple is guilty of this, too, but when it comes to something as edgy as erotica, people want even more granularity.

    I wrote a blog post on the concept of romantic erotica, which is what I think a lot of people are looking for. It got picked up in a track-back above, but I think my name should take you to the post.

    In any case, I think this is an appropriate move for ARe.

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  33. Enough Said
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 09:35:30

    I like ARe is constantly adding new titles. What I do not like is working with the management of ARe like Lori James or Julie Cummings. I found them to be money hungry. In other words more interested in making money than what is best for publishers/authors. Both are rude and abrasive. They are very quick to say no to any request and do not seem to appreciate those who do business with them. My advice is only do business with or interact with ARe if you absolutely have to. Otherwise, take your business and hard earned money else where.

  34. Lori James
    Feb 05, 2013 @ 15:29:04

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