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@example.com.