Saturday, 25 February 2012

Smashwords to Remove Countless Erotica Titles from its Store

Like many people who publish with Smashwords, this morning I woke to find an email sitting in my inbox. Here is the bare bones of that email:

Today we are modifying our Terms of Service to clarify our policies regarding
erotic fiction that contains bestiality, rape and incest. If you write in any
of these categories, please carefully read the instructions below and remove
such content from Smashwords. If you don’t write in these categories, you can
disregard this message.

PayPal is requiring Smashwords to immediately begin removing the above-mentioned
categories of books. Please review your title(s) and proactively remove and
archive such works if you are affected.

I apologize for the short notice, and I’m especially sorry for any financial
or emotional hardship this may cause the authors and publishers affected by this

As you may have heard, in the last couple weeks PayPal began aggressively enforcing
a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of "obscene" content.
On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords
with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement,
PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened
to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal
over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team
has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate
their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best
to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.
I'm lucky, I don't write that kind of erotica. It also does nothing for me and, to be honest, does turn my stomach slightly. However, the titles of some of these books make them sound worse than they are. Many of the incest 'Daddy' stories are simply 'older men' stories and 'brother-sister' stories are step-siblings.
So what are they going to do about titles like that and where are they going to draw the line?
One of my collections, 'Some Love it Rough' certainly contains a couple of stories that might be considered too risqué for PayPal. Will it need to be pulled? I have no idea, but I'm certainly not going to volunteer to pull it!
Let's be clear. This isn't Smashword's fault; it's all down to PayPal. Some people make their living from this type of erotica and many of these books have previously been banned from Amazon, so the only way they're able to get them 'out there' has been through Smashwords.
The argument here shouldn't really be about whether these books should be published; it's more about censorship and freedom of speech. Should we be allowed to write whatever we want, or are Paypal right in drawing a line?


  1. I cannot see what it has got to do with PayPal. Surely it should be down to Smashwords or Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It is a bit like Lloyds TSB saying that you cannot use your credit card to buy something that they don´t approve of.

  2. @ Glynis, that is exactly what it is about. I have heard of Paypal not just shutting down a vendor, but a buyer. If they don't like what you are buying with Paypal they can freeze your account, which can be problem for online freelancers who deal with companies that only pay via Paypal. Corporate censorship. Big corporations buy our politicians and want to tell us what we can read and purchase.

  3. Thanks for adding to the discussion, ladies! I've been reading more and more about this story as the day goes on and it is scary. As a writer of erotica I worry, where are Paypal going to draw the line? A year from now are they going to force companies to remove all erotica from their sites? And what about other fiction? My non-erotic work still contains sex. One of my novels features scenes of explicit violence and an attempted rape. Will that been deemed to risque for Paypal?

  4. This has me worried as well. I don't write about incest and such, but I do dabble in horror tales where a beast might rape a woman. Enter in bestial erotica-a no/no with PayPal. Sometimes these things are a part of the story line. For God's sake, they could claim the affair in "Alone" is bestial and has to be removed. There goes your whole story.

    Truth be told: this totally sucks!