Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…

Written By: Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Feb• 29•12

The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

That soft repetitive thudding sound you hear as you log onto your favorite websites? That’s the sound of writers scurrying in a rush to weigh in with anger and fury over this week’s latest crisis.

Actually, that’s not fair. The crisises have come so hard and fast this year that the anger and fury change direction every three or four days. Barnes & Noble might spin off the Nook division! (Anger and fury!) IPG has removed its books from Amazon! (Anger and fury!) PayPal says it won’t work with sites that sell certain kinds of erotica! (Anger and fury!)

Never mind that most writers have no clue as to what’s really going on with these various business decisions. Someone told these writers that it’s bad. Someone bandies about the word “censorship” any time a business decides not to carry a certain product.

Have any of you looked up the definition of “censorship”? It is the suppression of published or broadcast material. When someone declines to put a book in a bookstore or if a company voluntarily pulls many published products because of a business dispute, then that is not censorship.  They’re not out to get one particular work and make it permanently unavailable from all sources. Censorship targets a particular work for its content; censorship does not mean that the damn work is hard to buy in one particular store because of a business dispute.

Got that?

And let’s talk about these business decisions for a moment. Do these thudding writers actually research what these business decisions mean or how they actually impact writers? Of course not. Because it’s easier to be angry and to fume on someone’s website than it is to run your own business.

Now let me be really honest here: it’s easy to rile up writers. In fact, riling up writers is the best way to get your personal point of view across. Writers believe what they’re told, have time to blog about it, and are articulate. Them riterz don’t rite them ½-baked post what hardly shos a comant of the Inglish langage. Writers are interesting and fun to read, even when they’re wrong.

Over the past two months, dozens have written to me privately about This Crisis or That Horrible Thing, wanting my opinion. Really, what you want is for me to validate your opinion that All This Is Terrible And The World Will End Right Now—Or Maybe As Soon As All Our Books Get Censored And Our Opinions Deleted From Our Favorite Websites!

Well, here’s my opinion, folks, about almost everything you’ve written to me about in the past two months:

Every company, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to run its business the way it wants to.

Now, of course, there are a few exceptions: No company should enslave its workers or beat them bloody or force them to perform sex acts on the boss. Nor should any company violate any laws. And let me add this: If you don’t like the laws, folks, run for office or support someone who will write laws that you like.

But in general: Every company, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to run its business the way it wants to.

And you have the same right with your business.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t like a company’s business practices, don’t do business with them. If you think Amazon is working toward a monopoly and you are opposed to monopolies and all that implies, then for godssake, pull your e-books off Kindle, close your Amazon account, and don’t let money associated with you flow to or from Amazon.

It’s really that simple.

Now a bunch of you are going to say, “But if I pull my e-books from Amazon, then I’m screwed. They’re the biggest market.”

My reaction? A shrug. Either you have convictions or you don’t. Either you act on those convictions or you don’t.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if you hate Amazon or love it; if you think PayPal is screwing you or you think  they’re the best thing since sliced bread.  I really, sincerely, don’t care.

Because your opinion has no impact on my business.

I am a business woman who wants to get her product to market. I draw lines in certain places, but those are private places. They usually have to do with a company’s business practices or the fact that a particular person who is running a particular company once embezzled from me.

Generally speaking, my reasons for refusing to do business with someone or some company comes from personal experience with that company, not because some blogger screamed “censorship” when he has no clue what the word means.

Before you all start screaming at me as a corporate whore or someone who is so naïve that she doesn’t understand how the world works, let me refer you to my fiction. I understand that most writers who read writing blogs never even look to see what the blogger has published, and God forbid if those writers actually read the blogger’s fiction.

So let me make  it easy: In my Retrieval Artist series, the bad guys are almost always work for or are owned by super-powerful corporations. The corporations are the Big Bad in those books.  A subplot in all of my Smokey Dalton mystery series continually shows how hard it is to run a corporation ethically. I spent more than a decade as a nonfiction business reporter. I still read business histories (particularly of companies gone wrong) for enjoyment.

I get it.  I know that corporations are often soulless and evil.

I also know how big they are. They don’t care if you’re running around the web, screaming about their contract negotiations with another company. They know that you’re all bluster, that  you’ll never put your money where your mouth is.

Lately some protests against big corporations have worked, but you’ll note that those protests started on social media and no one noticed them until at least 150,000 people had signed a petition.  About something that had a direct impact on them.

What Amazon and IPG are arguing about may have an effect on you, because you have some indie books distributed by IPG, but that fight is a contract negotiation between two parties, neither of whom are you. When contract negotiations go public like this, it’s because one or both sides are playing hardball and one or both sides want to drum up public support for their position.

Let me make that even clearer: They put the news out into the public to manipulate  you into putting pressure on the other party so that they can triumph in the negotiation. Do they care about you or your opinion? Hell, no. They’re using you.

This whole PayPal thing? It’s not censorship. It’s a business decision. In fact, if you go back to the beginning of this post, you’ll see that the business decision boils down to exactly the line I put out there earlier:

PayPal wants to work with the credit card companies. The credit card companies don’t like to have their brand associated with certain things. So the credit card companies make a blanket statement about this, and set up guidelines that are quite vague and can be enforced with a robotic search engine.

PayPal decided to comply with the credit card companies, and informed the businesses who use its product of the rules. Those businesses then decided if they wanted to continue to have PayPal as one of the ways to pay on their site.

Most of the businesses decided to comply, so they sent information to their business partners who are, in some cases, writers, telling those writers as to what can be on a PayPal sponsored site and what can’t.

Here’s where you come in: You—like PayPal and the other companies before you—decide whether or not to comply.

If you don’t like the rules, don’t do business with these companies. Find a way around it.

It’s really that simple.

I started this blog on Sunday, after I completed an e-mail interview with a Brazilian magazine. The reporter was actually doing a story about the way environmental issues show up in science fiction. She had an eye to the future, and asked if I, as an sf writer, believed that we have a future on this planet, given all of the looming environmental disasters.

I do. Of course I do. I wouldn’t be an sf writer if I weren’t optimistic. I write about the future. There has to be a future or I have nothing to write about.

In that same e-mail download was yet another letter from someone asking me to denounce this business practice or that horrible new thing.

The juxtaposition of those two e-mails made me realize something. At heart, I’m an optimist. I have to be. I’m a successful writer which means that in the face of all evidence to the contrary (rejection after rejection after rejection), I believed in myself enough to keep trying.  I am a successful business owner which means that I survived several failures and had the courage to try again.

I am contrarian, yes, and damn cynical, and you have to prove things to me before I’ll believe them. I’m unwilling to take anyone’s word for anything without proof. And if I don’t understand the proof—and that something is important to me, my family, my writing, or my business—then I do my best to educate myself about that proof so that I do understand.

That’s me. That’s a lot of you as well, because you’re communicating to me on the blog or behind the scenes about the things I discuss, and how you find my never-say-die perspective refreshing.

The other thing I realized from the juxtaposition of those e-mails is that the problem with most of these thudding pedantic writers is that 1) they’re paranoid, 2) willfully blind, and 3) pessimistic.

They worry that everyone is out to get them. If they put their stories up electronically, they worry that someone will pirate the stories. And yet, these writers never worry about shoplifters stealing their mass market paperback from a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

They are terrified that Amazon or B&N will screw them, but they trust their agent—whom they give all their money even if they’ve never met or done a background check on this agent. They also trust their traditional publisher, and most traditional publishers have a history of misleading royalty statements and business practices that screw the writer.

That’s what I mean by willfully blind. In fact, most of the crusades these thudding writers go on are initiated by traditional publishers or someone in the traditional publishing industry, all of whom have a different agenda than the writer. Some of these business practices that the these traditional publishing folk complain about might be bad for those folks. But usually, the things these folks are complaining about—like the changes Amazon has brought to the marketplace—are good for writers.

Amazon has changed the playing field in such a way that writers have control over their work for the first time in my lifetime—and this scares the crap out of traditional publishing folk. Most of the complaints about Amazon have nothing to do with writers—who are, at the moment, benefitting from Amazon’s corporate practices—and everything to do with traditional publishing folk, from publishers themselves to independent bookstores.

Be careful who you’re schilling for, folks, because they might have an agenda that’s very, very, very different from yours. So before you respond to something with anger and fury, make sure you understand that something as it pertains to you. Make sure it’s actually about you.

If someone is trying to censor your book, you have every right to complain. You should publicize the behavior, and fight it in every way you can.

If someone is trying to negotiate a contract, and your book is collateral damage—well, then, have you thought that maybe you shouldn’t do business with someone who uses your book as collateral damage? Hmmm?

Finally, these thudding writers are so pessimistic. To borrow a great phrase from a friend of mine, they see the dark cloud in every silver lining.

We writers have more control over our careers than we have ever had before. Yes, there are bumps in the road. Of course.  All businesses have those bumps, each and every day. The bumps should make you reassess the way you do business.

Do you want to do business with a company like Amazon that uses an anvil when a pen will do? Do you want to do business with a company that bows to the demands of credit card companies?

If your answer is no, then stop doing business with those people. Accept the fact that you will not have your e-books in one of the biggest bookstores in the United States. (Amazon is not one of the biggest bookstores in other countries, not by a long shot.) Accept the fact that without PayPal, it will be harder for your readers to order your books.

That’s your business decision, based on your response to changes in the marketplace. Those are valid decisions, as long as you understand why you’re making them.

They’re your choice.

But if you become one of those thudding writers, running all over the internet screaming about This Latest Horrible Thing or That Really Awful Thing, then maybe you should take a breath and ask yourself this:

Why are you spending so much time promoting an agenda that you don’t even understand? Shouldn’t you be working on your own business? Shouldn’t you be writing a novel or a nonfiction book or a short story? Shouldn’t you be promoting yourself and your work instead of screaming about how someone else manages their work?

Is any of this really your business? Will your little blog post or comment on some big corporate website make a difference? Will your Tweet save the world?

Because if the answer is no, then why are you doing it? And if you’re not willing to take action—pull your work off Amazon if you don’t like their business practices, stop using PayPal or your credit cards because you don’t like their policies—then not only are you wasting your time, you’re wasting all of ours too.

The next time one of these big crisises come up—and it will, probably a day or so from now—ask yourself: Do I really need to weigh in on this? Is it so important to me that I need to lose a day defending it?

Better yet, ask yourself: Do I understand what this crisis is all about? Who wins here? Who loses? Will it actually have an impact—a real, financial impact—on my business?

If so, stop screaming and do  something about it. If it has no impact on you, if—in fact—it has nothing to do with you, then shut your mouth and write your novel. Worry about your business. And keep your thudding little opinions out of everyone else’s.

You’ll be surprised at how much writing you’ll get done. Real writing. Not blog commentary or nasty little e-mails to friends.

That said, I’m going to move onto more positive things. So if you want my opinion on This Crisis or That Horrible Thing, maybe you should research it first, and see if it’s even relevant to a writer, if it’s something we can control or if our only choice is to stop doing business with the perpetrator of That Horrible Thing.

Because now you know that my opinion is simple one: If you don’t like the way someone else does business, don’t do business with them.

Can I be any clearer?

This blog is part of my writing business. I started blogging about business three years ago in April, and I haven’t missed a week since. I have learned a lot thanks to you folks, and I’m very grateful.

I am, however, a fiction writer first, and this blog takes a chunk of words out of my weekly fiction output. My fiction earns me money, so to compensate for the lost time, the blog has to earn me money as well. That’s why I have a PayPal—yes, a PayPal—link at the end of each blog. If you feel so inclined, use it to leave me a tip.

If you have decided that you do not want to do business with PayPal, hit the contact link above and e-mail me. There are other ways to pay people online. PayPal is just convenient. I’m willing to be a bit inconvenienced if that’s what you want.

As for the rest of you, here’s the PayPal link:

Click Here to Go To PayPal.

“The Business Rusch: “You Asked For My Opinion…” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

 

 

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109 Comments

  1. John Smith says:

    Ah well, I was going to say something interesting about CC Processors saying ‘no’ here, but I see some people have already made headway there.

    Anyway, I’m not going to weigh in with Selena or Kris on this, but I will say this on the ‘alternative methods’ idea: There is no more convenient way of purchasing something on the internet that through credit (or Paypal).

    What we need to consider is what the reader wants and does in this sort of situation. When told you must write a check, go to a catalog or do something else that doesn’t result in an instant purchase, will most readers say “Sure, I’ll do that.” Doubtful. (Especially with e-books.)

    Also, don’t forget that we are talking about porn, and taboo content at that. The average erotica reader isn’t willing to be inconvenienced – this is not the latest Tom Clancy book here, you know. When people want that sort of satisfaction, they want it now or they will find another provider.

    To push the point a little further, if [insert favorite book here] wasn’t available by any other method than sending a check, would the friend you recommended it too, or even you, purchase it. (the answer is likely to be yes.) Now, ask yourself if the average reader, who didn’t know the writer and had only what they could see on the information website to go by,saw that the only way to get the book was by check, would they? (the answer is likely to be no.)

    Anyway, what I am trying to suggest is that when we talk about doing business in other ways beyond the established norms of the erotica business, we are talking about credit cards and e-payments. I, and others, might not understand the inner workings of businesses we don’t have a stake in, but we are all readers and we have very set ideas about what our buying experiences should be like. From a reader perspective, not being able to buy right now (and as far as I’ve seen above from anyone, there is no other easy/mainstream way to do that) is a huge issue.

  2. John Smith says:

    On another issue, Kris, you don’t really have a stake in this race. What I mean, respectfully, is that WMG doesn’t publish any erotica of any kind at all. Sure, we all have our own perspectives on what a ‘stake’ might be, but the Paypal issue is an attack on people’s incomes. If one had 20 titles in taboo areas, selling 100 times per month at $2 a piece royalty to the author, then that person would be making $2000 American. Ask me whether I want to lose $2000 in income a month, especially if that is what I am living on and what is sending my kids to school (I have no idea what Americans actually pay per month in rent, etc. sorry.) You will find my answer to be a very angry “NO THANK YOU.”

    [Note: I don't have a stake either, so you are not alone.]

    That said, I don’t disagree with content restrictions like this. In my country it is illegal to publish anything like the subjects that are being published. A little bit of werewolf fun in raging beast form would land me in jail (although I have no idea how it would work and can’t think of any relevant cases of people going down for this type of thing – well, except for home movies…) That makes me biased as my cultural and legal norms don’t allow for what is being published. I also don’t believe that people should be able to read these sorts of things. However, for anyone about to call me down, I do understand ‘the money situation’. As a writer, I would be biting at the bit if someone told me that my latest science fiction or high fantasy book was a no go and that I couldn’t publish within certain sub-genres in that field (to my knowledge no one has tried sci-fi werewolf paranormal erotica yet – look, it’s robo-wolf…). Paypal is attacking people’s incomes (not necessarily livelihoods) and that is something I can FULLY understand and I’m keen to see never happen again.

    [Thankfully, most other genres are pretty safe, but, to add to my paranoia, what happens if Smashwords needs to give over payment account information (Paypal addresses) for authors who have this sort of content - double KO.]

    Anyway, I think I might have said this in an earlier posting, which might not have gotten through the filter, but Erotic writers do have a choice. If one is selling short stories or anything of any length for that matter, it is a no issue to change the situation or add a few words here and there to make a scene consensual. Ages can be changed, relationships can be modified and wolf form can become steamy love god in human form. This is your number one choice in this e-book world and I urge anyone that is feeling the pinch right now to get off this blog (like I should be doing) and hit the grindstone. There is no time like now to change ‘My Step Sister Gone Wild’ to ‘My Best Friend Gone Wild’. You control the content of your books – no one else can do that for you. Make changes and then come back once your income is secure – that’s the powerful choice.

    [Note: It's actually a good idea to get to it because if you change tags, descriptions, content, covers and titles now then you keep your stars and reviews (even unrelated ones). If Smashwords has to dump a title then you lose all of that hard work done by your readership. (Don't forget that, in this world, you can replace an erotic book with a children's book. A 'publishing point' on Amazon and friends is just that. The content of that point can be changed 'fully' [almost] at anytime.)] <— Isn't publishing wonderful.

    Also, I'm going to provide a link now to something that most authors, like Kris and Dean, have gotten a handle on, but is pretty much essential for erotic authors to understand (especially because its so much a part of that genre). Please note that I am not endorsing this person's product. I do follow his youtube videos and I've learned a ton thanks to his efforts, but I wouldn't buy his product.

    http://www.clickok.co.uk/HerosJourneyMonomythScreenwriting/Screenwriting136x.html

    [This link shows how 40 Year Old Virgin is so dang similar to Ground Hog Day that you can just replace a few words from the plot summary and you have an entirely different movie. It is skewed a little to the website owner's opinions and needs, but I don't think it is unfairly so.]

    Kris:
    Now the above is not spiteful. Actually, I want to hear your opinion and I respect it. I always read your business blogs and I have read a little bit of your free fiction and thought it was interesting (meaning I liked it). I am also sensitive to the fact you are in workshop right now and have lost a friend.

  3. Russ Crossley says:

    Rita and I talked about your comment, “…force them to perform sex acts on the boss.” For the weeks where she’s president of our indie pub she seems to think this rule does not apply. Hmmmm….

    Nice post. Too often people get their knickers in a knot about what private corporations do or don’t do. As you quite correctly point out under our capitalist economic system corporations will make whatever decision that’s best for their business. They don’t make their decisions without carefully measuring the impact it will have on the clients they service and what affect it will have on the bottom line

    Two examples come to mind where corporations made very badly conceived and calculated decisions. One you’re probably familiar with is New Coke. What an expensive disaster. They withdrew the product retagged it then it eventually disappeared after a vast number of their customer base revolted over the new product and sales dropped! (This is important).

    The other example is closer to home. In Canada we have a company called Rogers who basically controlled the cable television market across the country. As part of their broadcasting license they were required to add additional niche market cable channels (meaning non-profit making). As you’d expect this would cost them a lot of profits if customers refused to pay for the additional channels. Rather than ask their customers if they wish to pay extra for these new channels, they told customers everyone would receive the new channels and everyone would have to pay for extra them if they wanted them or not. Well, as you can imagine this caused an uproar. Calls on the government to do something, angry calls to Rogers switch board etc, etc. This is before “tweeties” (as Craig Ferguson would say) and FB etc. Some people cut off cable service and Rogers bottom line was adversely affected.

    In the end Rogers gave in and reversed the decision and customers could opt into the additional for the extra fees if they chose to. Freedom of choice. Nice, right?

    At the end of this saga Rogers and another company ending up splitting the country in two and we got the additional channels for additional money, but we get to choose!

    I guess the lesson from these two situations is don’t mess with my TV or my soda (or soft drinks if you prefer) or it’ll affect your profits.

    Of course the real reason any of this happened is profits. Corporations only duty to exist is to make profits. Nothing else matters. Period. (watch the documentary, The Corporation, interesting)

    Now, today’s situation with Pay Pal. I’m willing to bet Pay Pal counted how many transactions they did with the credit card companies for books or films with erotic content. No doubt they saw the percentage of their overall business is too small to risk losing their relationship with the credit card companies so profits wouldn’t be severely impacted if they refused to deal with this material.

    I think if the “outrage” is widespread enough across the general population then the public can have an impact on corporations, but I don’t think the erotica customer base is big enough to have any measurable impact. I suspect in fact many of these customers are like “smoke” meaning you’ll never see them in solid form.

    Nice post, very well said. Say hi to the gang for us.

  4. archangel says:

    The issue is larger in many cases. Paypal may continue to take payment for all manner of nefarious operations including ‘escorts’ who may or may not be of age, and photo selling of half naked children advertized oddly on Ebay. Time will tell how far paypal is willing to go to be utterly clean AND to cut off their own so generous income from matters including what appear to be child photos sometime tagged also with the word ‘gay’ from /on ebay. Rampant there. I’m not convinced ebay’s decision is merely about ‘erotic books.” Also, there is such a thing as social justice that is at issue in the paypal fracas, not about erotica, but about what kinds of cargo is actually being carried over paypal road otherwise, having to do with children. Go to ebay. Search for photos and children. See for yourself. My opinion Paypal is for whatever reason, not responding to what is carried on their road in other ways. Just my .02

    I respect your hard work Kris, greatly, and also as a bestselling author, who has worked hard, I also know that the demise of small businesses of hardworking people because a behemoth decided to move in, is a moral issue AND a social justice issue. Monopolies in my opinion are important to discuss and not just because one has somehow been lured willingly or not to participate in that monopoly. Monopolies whether of an agri industry, steel industry, mining industry or amz-maybe-in-the-making are to be understood and held to a standard that does not allow ‘company store’ copycatting, nor lure people by ‘giveaway’ and then play bait and switch, a favorite tactic of monopolies that seek to corner the workers in production dead ends, and then add on fees, docking, etc. Vigilance being the price of freedom, still seems a standard even though tattered and worn backward by some who think lack of vigilance is just fine. I agree Kris that outrage is the weak sister of push-back. To me outrage and courage are two different things entirely. The first without the second seems at the very least, ineffective.

    I’d add to your list of things offers for others to do… actions to inquire deeply into the underpinnings of such decisions, then to help, contain, reveal, sustain, restrain re ‘the new world,’ if it begins to veer into a state of serf/vassel…as well as also realizing what the score is that is NOT spoken about in most MSM, and reacting in deeper inquiry. Once informed, and then, if one wishes, unleashing activism toward the actual facts. Joining well organizing groups that do effective push back is a strong option also.

    I get the same kinds of emails daily, and usually point people to find the groups to join that will push forward in amicus briefs, joining DOJ inquiries, or defense funds, whatever is most effective.

    Again, just my 02. Thanks Kris for allowing me to say my opinion.

    battered author, still standing
    dr.cpe

  5. Cora says:

    I just tried to post a longer comment, but your blog kept classifying it as spam.

    Anyway, here’s the short version: PayPal and the credit card companies trying to keep whole classes of content from being sold across multiple vendors is censorship, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter whether it’s corporate or government mandated, keeping whole classes of content from being available is censorship. Besides, so-called self control boards like the Hays Code, the Comic Code Authority, Germany’s “Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle” (voluntary self-control, which is neither voluntary nor self-control) are just as effective at censoring certain kinds of content as government censor offices. What we have here is a certain subset of Americans trying to impose their own morals on the rest of the world and that is censorship.

    I’m not affected yet, because I don’t write erotica. However, I write about violence. Sometimes that violence is sexual. I write about young people. Sometimes they have sex and sometimes they are 18 or 19 when they have sex. I write about gay and lesbian people, and some vendors classify any GLBT content as erotica, regardless of whether there is any actual sex going on. So I could easily be affected if this crackdown widens.

    As for the alleged alternatives, for many of us outside the US PayPal is the only way to receive payments, since checks are obsolete in Western Europe, Australia and probably elsewhere as well. Check cashing fees are high and some banks won’t take smaller checks at all.

  6. The saddest thing about all these alarms and excursions is that I find it is dividing me from people I’ve liked for a long time. Specifically, editors and publishers still associated with traditional publishing. I have nothing against these people, but they are beginning to see me, my indie friends, and this whole self-publishing thing as the Big Bad. And it may well be that they are correct, that we pose a direct threat to their livelihood. I really don’t know how to respond to a publisher friend who, for example, recently snarled that Amazon is out to put small publishers out of business by paying authors “exorbitant royalties”. I was flabbergasted at that attitude. It’s hard to know how to remain friends with someone who thinks it’s a bad thing to pay authors a decent royalty. My reaction is to try not to get into arguments, because in three or four years, when this has all settled out somewhat, I don’t want there to be walls between myself and people I’ve admired and trusted for many years.

    Thanks for bringing your optimism and bedrock common sense to this discussion, Kris.

  7. John Smith says:

    “DB and John Smith, I love how you assume this PayPal flap doesn’t affect my business. Do you know what names I write under? Do you know if I write erotica? Does anyone? So don’t assume. I agree. Rules must be placed on PayPal. So do something about it. Take action. A number of people have suggestions or have taken action. Do the same.”

    Do you? (wink)

    [I'll admit I would buy some just out of curiosity and the fact that it would probably be pretty good.]

    • Kris says:

      I do, under pen names I don’t disclose. (And not because I’m embarrassed. I have a number of pen names in a number of genres that I don’t disclose. People think I’m too prolific as it is. Imagine if they knew how prolific I *really* am. )

      • Kris says:

        Thanks for the comments, everyone. I deleted a few on censorship and other topics that were doing exactly what I railed against in my blog. No one seems to have considered that a lot of what is being published is illegal in some states and some countries and not in others. A multinational corporation, like a credit card company, seeing liability when funding things that are illegal in some places and not others might simply decide not to put its brand on those things. It’s easier than figuring out what state/country will take those items. As someone said below, corporations are all about profit. Many things like this could cost them money. So they deem it’s not worth the time or effort to make money off these things.

        If you don’t like it, then hit those companies in the pocketbook. Do not call it censorship, because it is not. As I said in the blog. Everything can be published. It might not be able to be published conveniently. It might not be easy to buy. But no one is stopping you from doing it.

        And um–folks–there is a thing in the United States called the First Amendment. It gives you the right to free speech, which means you can write whatever you want and publish it. However, that does not give you the right to sell that item in every single store. If someone is actually censoring you, then go after them under the law. There is nothing actionable here. No one is trouncing on free speech. Just like these companies can’t tell you what to write and publish, you can’t tell them what to support with their business. Same thing, different point of view.

        • Kris says:

          One final point, everyone. If you’re going to complain to multinational corporations that they’re harming you in some way, you’d better get your terms straight. They have a huge group of lawyers on retainer. If you run in and scream censorship when no one is actually censoring you, the lawyers will look at that claim and dismiss it out of hand, telling the company to consider you and all like you to be cranks. If you go in and tell them that you and 100,000 of your friends hate their policies and will never ever ever use their product again, they’ll listen. Just sayin’

  8. Carradee says:

    “People think I’m too prolific as it is. Imagine if they knew how prolific I *really* am.”

       
    This made me laugh. Then it cheered me up. Then it kicked me in the pants to stop poking at websites and get to work so I get get some writing done today. Thanks. ^_^

  9. Martin Vavpotic says:

    Sad to say, I did react in a way you just described, though I wasn’t very active on it, just started thinking of alternatives to PayPal. So I was wrong in the way I reacted. But hey, I’m young. I’ve got time to be wrong.

    Thanks for a slap, Kris, when one was needed.

  10. Laurie says:

    Dusk, I have to disagree with you. This isn’t anything like the Hollywood Production Code.

    You have the right to say (pretty much) anything you want, to write it, post it, print it yourself, whatever.

    You do NOT have the right to require other people to pay for it, publish it or sell it. That’s the publisher’s own decision. If they turn you down, for whatever reason (and un-sellable or wildly unpopular is a pretty good reason), that’s not censorship.

  11. Thanks for such a level-headed post, Kris. I think everyone should just get back to work and stop griping about things unless they take the time you did to research and fully understand the issues.

    Back to work for me… :)

  12. Jamie says:

    Congress shall make no law…
    Congress shall make no law…
    Congress shall make no law…

    What aren’t some of you getting about this? Congress is not restraining you from writing erotica. Visa and Mastercard are saying they won’t allow you to use them for a transaction involving that genre. It. Is. Not. Censorship. NOT censorship for a business to decide they don’t take part in your products. Period. What’s the point of being a writer if you twist the meaning of words?

    You have a business problem, not a censorship problem. A business problem is an opportunity. It is not censorship. And Kris is absolutely right that you *will* be treated as a crank if you complain to these companies about censorship when you’re not being censored. I work for a daily. We had readers all the time who complained about censorship when we moderated their comments. Did we care? Some threatened to sue. I laughed; they were ignorant cranks who couldn’t be bothered to read the first amendment. Scream censorship and you too will be perceived as ignorant at best and it’s absolutely fair. Drop the censorship complaint; it’s a non-starter. Start looking for, or creating a workaround.

    Take a look at the SOPA and PIPA protesters. You know why they achieved success? Because people who knew what they were talking about were the ones doing the protesting. They were the creators of the internet, the consumers of the internet, the companies created because of the internet and they came together and made an intelligent case, and there wasn’t a plausible way to dismiss them as ignorant rabble. You want allies? You want to do something about PayPal and Visa? Don’t get yourself legitimately dismissed as cranks: stop whining about censorship. Start understanding your actual battleground.

  13. I’m really happy that the writing groups in which I participate are filled with happy, productive writers who do mind their careers and discuss changes in publishing quite rationally. :)

  14. [...] Rusch discusses the difference between censorship and business disputes in relation to the issues de jour. (Them things above!) [...]

  15. [...] From Kristine Rusch: The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…. [...]

  16. James A. Ritchie says:

    Very well said, and dead on target.

  17. Laurie, I hate to get into terminology debates; I encountered too many of those as a journalist. So I’ll just point out that (like the Motion Picture Production Code), this matter goes higher than a single publisher. It involves credit card companies placing rules on PayPal, which then places rules on distributors, who then place rules on publishers and self-publishers. If, as Ms. Rusch has suggested, the credit card companies are acting as they do because they are worried about government laws, then it’s hard to compare this situation to a writer getting a rejection letter from a press.

    It’s quite true that all of these groups have the right to decide what they will publish, distribute, and sell. I never disputed that. Nonetheless, any time that an entire genre or subgenre becomes next to impossible to publish, there is going to be an upcry from most of the writers who are affected.

    As far as I can tell, I’m not one of the writers affected in this situation, since I write very little erotica. But there are countries where violent literature is regulated in the same way that sexual literature is in the U.S. Suppose that the credit card companies decide they don’t want their services used to pay for horror and thrillers and murder mysteries? Do we really want a society in which what we read is determined by financial institutions?

  18. Yael Tiferet says:

    My understanding of the Paypal situation is a little different. (Keep in mind that you can use credit cards to buy pornography and sex toys, and that nearly all escort services and massage parlours accept them.)

    Paypal has always been hostile to “adult” businesses and materials, and my understanding is that this has to do with the feelings of the people who started the company. It used to be a lot worse, honestly. (I’ve had a Paypal account almost since they opened in 2002; I do business on eBay.) It used to be that you couldn’t use Paypal to buy or sell any type of erotic material at all–the “adult” section of eBay required you to use another payment method. I think they lightened up to only restricting the types of very hardcore materials they refuse to deal with now only in order to get the merger with eBay where they are now part of eBay and eBay’s preferred payment system–you’re no longer allowed to accept personal cheques on eBay, which was what everyone did when I joined eBay in 1997, and was the only way to sell adult comics/doujinshi/&c for a long time after Paypal was available for other things.)

    This is the reason Dreamwidth Studios doesn’t do business with Paypal–they tried to tell Denise and Mark what they could allow people who posted to their Dreamwidth journals to post, and Denise and Mark told them to basically eff off. But you can use a credit card on Dreamwidth just fine!

    This is why for a very long time you couldn’t purchase a Yaoi-Con membership through Paypal. I know a number of people who lost Paypal accounts for selling yaoi doujinshi using Paypal, and people who lost their Paypal accounts for having a Paypal tip jar on journals that had erotic fanfic in them.

    For this reason, I keep my fanfiction separate from my eBay business and do not link them to one another in any way.

    Don’t get me wrong–I agree with you that they have the right to run a business the way they want within the letter of the law. They have always served me very well and enabled me once to get a refund from a notorious local transit company that gives customers the runaround if they want a refund for a broken smartcard. I kind of love the way they have always treated me and am willing for this reason to respect their wishes.

    I’m a little amused that people in fandom are so shocked because there have been problems in fandom with Paypal since the beginning, but if I were going to be critical what I would say is that I wish they would make it more clear to people before they sign up exactly how much they care about this. Since most people use the same bank account for Paypal that they use for their paycheques and rent (including me, because this isn’t how I make MOST of my money), it can be really traumatic and difficult to have your account frozen. Especially if you have eBay transactions in process and are running the risk of getting negative feedback from buyers, or if your bank account gets frozen while they sort it all out. Hence my scrupulousness about keeping anything I do with Paypal out of my AO3 and Dreamwidth accounts (and also my higher-priced shipping; if you ship items on Paypal via non-trackable shipping options that are cheap, you’re liable for the transaction if the delivery goes wrong).

  19. [...] Rusch, states it even better in this post, with which I substantially agree. PayPal is responding to pressure from clients it can not afford [...]

  20. [...] controversy… you can read more articulated discussions than anything I could say on Kenra, Kris Rusch and Georgina‘s blogs – two quite opposite American POVs and one Aussie… [...]

  21. Wayne Borean says:

    PayPal wants to work with the credit card companies. The credit card companies don’t like to have their brand associated with certain things.

    I don’t think that the Credit Card companies could legally do that in Canada. We have rules about how financial companies operate, and they aren’t allowed to interfere with a business.

    I have to admit to some curiosity about who got to them. This has all the hallmarks of the sort of action some Pressure Groups would try. If a Pressure Group was behind this, it means that the Credit Card companies are a bunch of wimps.

    There are other Payment Processors. Moneybookers & Alertpay are two I know of.

    Wayne

  22. FYI, Mark Coker says PayPal has reversed their policy:

    http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/03/paypal-revises-policies-to-allow-legal.html

    He modestly credits this turnaround to “the indie author community who made phone calls, wrote letters and emails, blogged and tweeted”. I suspect that the turnaround is more likely the result of PayPal realizing they were turning away a gold mine: the market for erotica of any sort is huge, and isn’t going away. If PayPal refuses to transact business in certain products (which it is certainly free to do), it risks someone else coming along and taking the money it’s leaving on the table. I’m only surprised it took them this long to realize this.