They have been transferred to the Smashwords archive.
They were deemed to be in violation of article 9e in the Terms of Service.
I wish I could. 9e is the article that defines what may or may not be included in erotica. Evidently someone in authority has re-classified my work into that category.
But you disagree.
Emphatically. They are romantic comedy. They are not written to arouse or titillate or to serve any sexual need or appetite—that is what erotica does. My books do not do that, nor do they intend to.
What do they do? Smashwords must have some reason for their action.
Since they offered no explanation, I can only surmise; the books deal with adolescent boys coming of age. They do so with honesty and completeness. This includes the adolescent preoccupation with sex and sexual identity. A major cause of teen suicide is society’s inability to understand and accept many individuals for who they are—particularly gay and transgender boys. My books are written to serve that need.
Did you explain that to Smashwords?
I tried, but there has been no response. One flaw in the Smashwords system is the absence of a way to communicate with them. Their low cost budget doesn’t allow for much in the way of personnel. So they make a set of rules and rely on automatic operations. Considered judgment is not provided for; snap judgments are required. Unfortunately, for the time being, this puts Smashwords on the side of the status quo with regard to bullies and teen suicide.
When were your books first published at Smashwords?
The first novel in the Little J and Roger series was published in February, 2011. The other four books followed every two months or so, and book 5 was published in September 2011. The second series was issued beginning with Barr’s Meadow in November 2011. The fifth book was published on May 5, 2012. The second series, Julian’s Private Scrapbook, was published in a print edition the following year. All ten of the books, as well as the free Gazetteer, were in Smashwords’ Premium distribution network for over three years, including Apple iBooks.
In all that time, were there any complains or concerns about content registered by any customers or vendors?
None. Even from Apple, which does its own screening for content.
Then why were the books taken out of the Smashwords lineup?
Other than the assertion about 9e, it was not explained. I was in the process of updating the second series to include professional reviews of the print editions—reviews that expressly point out that the books are not erotica—and upgrade to the revised cover specifications. That triggered their being vetted as if they were new titles. The person assigned that duty, evidently, made the decision to classify all the books as erotica, including those not being upgraded. The Terms of Service, of course, forbid dealing with under age sex in erotic fiction. Evidently that person, and thus Smashwords, now define any book that deals with sexual activity as erotic. That poses a potential problem for them, of course. Theoretically, every work of fiction that has a sex scene is erotica, and should be re-categorized, regardless of the author’s intention or opinion, and regardless of what Webster, Oxford, or any standard dictionary has to say on the subject. And, regardless of what professional reviews say about my books.
What do you plan to do now?
There’s not much I can do, other than offer this author interview. I hope they don’t suppress that as well. I’ll try to communicate directly again, but I don’t expect to get anywhere. The only person that can make a difference is Mark Coker, and he hasn’t the time to deal with this sort of thing. In the scheme of things I am of little importance to the practical day-to-day operations at Smashwords. I suspect that I am not the only victim of this procedure, but there is no way to know. All the books are available elsewhere, fortunately. [Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and Diphra.com. among others. Needless to say, they are not for sale at any sites that deal in erotica.] I don’t know how many of the Smashwords premium distribution outlets I’ll be able to supply directly, but doing that is one of my goals. I hope that one day Mark Coker will attend to this flaw in the Smashwords operation. Treating authors and their work arbitrarily without any sort of appeal or recourse is ultimately a failure. It’s efficient and cost effective, but it’s also like most mega-sized operations: if something doesn’t fit a prescribed template, it is not allowed, regardless of excellence or merit. Smashwords should value excellence as well as volume.
Is there any way interested persons can learn more about this?
They can check out my other websites, where extensive free samples can be downloaded, and they are welcome to contact me directly by email. The information is below. What I would like is for them to find ways to let Smashwords know that they are wrong and remiss to treat their writers in this way. And, if you are a Smashwords author, you need to realize that you yourself could very well become a victim of an arbitrary snap decision. It’s not fun.