I’m Too Sexy For Kobo

It’s official: One of my books has been BANNED from a top-selling e-book retailer in Canada.

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A Quickie Publishing Update

I’ve been indie-publishing on the Smashwords platform and distributing to Kobo through its premium catalogue since February 2013. I had successfully published seven (7) books this way and was looking to switch things up to maximize my profits this year. With the worsening CAD/USD exchange rate, I decided I would try my hand at publishing directly with Kobo for my next release, so I joined up at Kobo Writing Life. I figured, why not? I would collect a larger share of royalties, be able to monitor my daily sales, and the proceeds would be in Canadian funds. I could also enjoy the benefits of being a direct-publisher on their platform, and I did for a short while. Sounds like a win-win-win, right?

 

The good news . . .

TOUGH LUCK landed on two best-seller lists in Canada within the first 24 hours. Based on the number of sales in Australia, I’m willing to bet that I was ranking there as well, although I didn’t check.

The bad news . . .

Within a matter of days after the one month anniversary of publication, I received a love letter from Kobo expressing their regrets for blocking my publication.

The ugly news . . .

Of course, after my blood stopped boiling, I furiously read Kobo’s content policy (AGAIN) to scope out this preposterous violation they are referring to. Had I pushed the envelope too HARD this time? I did broach a sexy-sexy scene that I only re-read once for fear that I might nix it. No, no, no. That can’t be it. There is blatant erotica on their site. My book is properly labeled 18+ and I even put a pretty little warning after the blurb. It’s an erotic romance—with romance being the driving force for the story. The subtitle is “A STEPBROTHER ROMANCE”, so as not to confuse someone looking at the book for the first time, although “forbidden romance” gets the point across as well, I would hope.

The first thing I thought when I read inappropriate content was that it had to do with explicit sex–and there’s plenty of that in this book! I zoomed through the policy to the prohibited content and found no direct violation by me.

AUTHORS BEWARE!!!  Are you in direct violation of Kobo’s content policy?

Prohibited Content

Pornography, adult content, and obscenity:

  • Pornography, Nudity, and Sexually Explicit Material: Adult or explicit material depicting illegal acts or deemed to be exploitative shall be blocked or removed from the Website. See below for details regarding Kobo standards. If Your content contains appropriate adult or explicit material, please flag the eBook as containing mature content as a courtesy to other Users, so that they will have the choice whether or not to view this content. You can do this either in the metadata by providing accurate age ranges and subject codes, or by selecting the appropriate content classification in Kobo Writing Life. We reserve the right to put such mature content behind an interstitial.
  • Pedophilia, Incest, Bestiality, Exploitation and Sexual Violence or Force: Users may not publish written, image, audio or video content that promotes pedophilia, incest, bestiality, or sexual violence or force.
  • Violent content: Users may not publish direct threats of violence against any person or group of people. We also ask Users not to publish content that contains graphic violence. Users may not publish instructional material regarding the creation of weapons of mass destruction.

Let me start by saying there are no illegal acts or other deemed to be exploitative events in my novel. Dustin Miller is a strapping lad who’s out for a beer with his brother, the night before his father’s second wedding. This happens to be Izzabelle Spade’s birthday. She runs into his male perfection, or rather he scrapes her off the sticky floor after a rather embarrassing tripping incident, at this late-night lounge. They hit it off. She drinks too much. She passes out in the cab on the way home and he’s too tired to worry about it, so he takes her home with him—to his father’s new place.

Ooh, yes. The plot thickens.

So what if they’re soon-to-be related? They’re both grown, consenting adults who live in separate households and meet before ever knowing there will be any familial relation between them. This relationship is not taboo—not in this day and age. There may be one taboo scene, but it’s all in good fun and I’m sure every reader will get a small chuckle out of it.

Allow me to be clear. THIS IS NOT INCEST. There is no blood relation. These two adults are in their late twenties and have never met before. They did not grow up as siblings. They have no desire to glamorize their situation. In fact, they wish there wasn’t a situation at all! They like each other. Their parents are marrying. Big whoop!

Back to the alleged policy violation.

Did you really think I was going to roll-over and forget about it? Me? If your answer was yes, then you obviously don’t know me very well. I wrote Kobo, because of course I have questions about why my title has been blocked! Four days later I received this response.

“Your title was blocked because the content does not fall in line with our content policy: www.kobo.com/contentpolicy

They further advised that, “We are unable to publish any title related to incest or pseudo-incest. Thank you for understanding.”

Go on, read the content policy. Nowhere in that policy do I see anything about “pseudo-incest,” and I guarantee you that little prefix makes a difference to most people.

For those who don’t know, pseudo-incest (uncountable) is defined as sexual activity between family members who are not blood relations. (E.g. siblings by adoption, stepparents, stepchildren and in-laws.)

Love is love.

Banning books about real social situations in today’s world is illogical and unfair. It’s discrimination.

I’m sure some of you may disagree with my position, and everyone is entitled to their opinion—even Kobo—but should we not allow our readers to decide what they will and will not read? Perhaps that’s exactly what’s happened here. And please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. There are no hard feelings here toward Kobo. I realize they’re only doing their job, but . .

It gets better.

To slap some icing on that cake, I searched Kobo’s site for other “stepbrother romances,” which I knew I would surely find. And guess what popped up? Easily 35+ books with “stepbrother” written right on the front cover of the book, most with shirtless men and bold print on the cover, quite similar to mine, in fact. I didn’t waste time searching any farther than that, but I can say that I have read one other stepbrother romance in my day and it was on that list. My story is erotic, but it is not that taboo. The couple in that other book actually lived together as brother and sister and consummated their relationship in their family home! How is it that my story got banned? Did someone report it? Is Kobo cracking down on “pseudo-incest?” I hope to find out soon enough.

Have you ever run into this before? Please share your story!white book

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Tough Luck is categorized as a contemporary, adult romance, and is erotic in nature, and therefore is for readers 18+ only. I strongly believe there is nothing in that book that any adult romance reader would find offensive.

Have you read the book? Please give me your thoughts! ❤

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12 comments

  1. The term ‘banned book’ leaves a bad taste in my mouth but I can totally understand policy against blood related incest and even with steps that grew up together that had a long-time family relationship but your book is obviously nothing like that and it’s completely ludicrous that they would ban it. You have every right to be ticked off, not only with their unfair categorization of your book but also because on top of that, finding others that are similar to yours not being banned.I hope they “pull their heads out” and this issue gets resolved in your favor asap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I feel the same as you and am hopeful it will get resolved quickly. I’ve had a really good experience publishing on the Kobo Writing Life dashboard and would love to continue publishing directly with them if they will allow it! The original plan was to move all my books onto that platform one at a time. Now I think I’ll hold off until I know for sure that my books won’t be held to a different content policy than those distributed through Smashwords.

      Like

      1. Even in the case of a disgruntled reader a review of fact and how policy is handled across the board should be considered before banning an author. Better to lose one “vanilla” reader than an entire author’s following. And obviously your numbers were doing well. That’s just not good business practices.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Very frustrating indeed. My Kobo fans are relieved they picked up their copy before it was banned, but I need to argue my position to get it set back up! I agree, bad business.

        Like

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