Month: October 2017

Editing on your eink Kindle

Here’s a quick trick that might be helpful to the author types out there. It’s something that I do and I find it works really well.

Edit your final draft on your Kindle. Specifically an eink Kindle of some sort.

I try to do a couple of passes on my novels before I send them out into the world. It pretty much goes like this:

  1. Write (or dictate) first draft
  2. Transcription stage where I clean up Dragon’s errors if I dictated the first draft.
  3. Second (or third if I dictated the novel) cleanup draft where I cut a bunch of stuff because I tend to ramble, fix grammatical errors, clean up the story if I decided to make a change halfway through, etc.
  4. Third (or fourth if I dictated) draft on the Kindle where I triple check everything and make notes using the Note feature and then do a final cleanup in Vellum before sending it out into the world.

I’ve found that the eink format is really great for catching errors that you don’t find when you’re doing an edit on a computer screen. There’s something about the way the eye skims over the computer screen versus seeing ink words on a page that makes it easier to catch little errors that would’ve slipped through otherwise.

So if you have a Kindle consider doing a final draft on the eink screen before you release your novel. You might be surprised at what you find by changing the reading format!

Patreon is cracking down on adult content

When I was mainly writing erotica on Amazon during the great KDP shorts boom of 2014-2015 there was the ever present threat of Amazon coming through and cleaning house. There was money to be made writing some questionable material and where there’s money there will be people who are willing to make some of that money by filling a niche no matter how questionable.

It would seem that Amazon has mostly forgotten about policing their erotica section now that their changes to KDP have made erotica way less profitable and, therefore, way less likely to show up on top 100 charts where borderline erotica doesn’t belong, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of the crackdown isn’t alive and well out there on content platforms.

The big one right now? Patreon.

They announced changes to their content policy a few days back that are going to have a huge effect on adult content creators using the platform. They’d been vague, probably purposely so, about what was and wasn’t allowed on their platform and as a result there were a lot of people creating adult content who flocked to Patreon because it’s often difficult for adult content creators to monetize their works.

A lot of people are freaking out over what this means, so I figured I’d do a quick breakdown of their new guidelines to see if it’s really the end of the world as we know it for adult content creators:

We ask creators to flag themselves as Adult Content if they create any content that has mature themes such as sexuality or graphic violence. When you are flagged as Adult Content your page is removed from our search.

This is nothing new. Pages featuring adult content have always been removed from their search and hidden from the general public.

We also require that all public content on your page be appropriate for all audiences. Content with mature themes must be marked as a patron-only post.

Some people are misreading this passage. There are some places out there that are pointing out the perceived hypocrisy that they allow adult content but want pages to be “appropriate for all audiences.” These people are either deliberately ignoring the second sentence where NSFW content is allowed as long as it’s hidden to non-patrons or they need to work on their reading comprehension.

We have zero tolerance when it comes to the glorification of sexual violence which includes bestiality, rape, and child exploitation (i.e., sexualized depiction of minors). This is true for illustrated, animated, or any other type of content.

This is perfectly reasonable. Depictions of children, real or otherwise, are both morally reprehensible and illegal in the U.S. Bestiality is illegal in a lot of places. You could make a free speech argument for depictions of rape, but freedom of speech only compels the government to let you say what you want. I can see why Patreon would want to distance themselves from that stuff.

We understand that some topics on this list such as incest or rape are a little bit more complicated because these situations are, unfortunately, part of real life. As a result, when reviewing this type of content, the Trust and Safety team will take into consideration context

This also seems reasonable. I saw some erotica authors bemoaning that books like¬†Lolita¬†were available on Amazon for all to see while their 5000 word short story about mind controlling a roofied borderline underage cheerleader who was “18 years of age” according to the disclaimer at the front into having carnal relations with a group of creepy older men got thrown into Amazon’s adult dungeon. Because they’re totally the same thing, you see?

Yeah, I didn’t buy that argument then and I don’t buy that argument now. I’m reminded of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quip “I know it when I see it.” regarding hardcore pornography.

Lastly, you cannot sell pornographic material or arrange sexual service(s) as a reward for your patrons. We define pornographic material as real people engaging in sexual acts such as masturbation or sexual intercourse on camera.

This last bit seems pretty clearly aimed at sex workers. Which sucks for them. We as a society are way to puritanical about that sort of thing, but it’s Patreon’s playground and they can decide who does and doesn’t get to play there.

Note that people writing erotica, people creating video games with erotic themes, and people creating erotic art aren’t explicitly included in any of those changes to their content guidelines. Unless those people are making their NSFW stuff public, of course, or their work contains some of the stuff that is forbidden under the new policy like children, rape, etc.

People have tried to frame this as a freedom of speech issue. It isn’t. Patreon is a company, not the U.S. government, and they can do what they please on their platform whether or not people agree with those decisions. People have tried to frame this as Patreon cracking down on fetish content. It’s not. There’s a wide world of fetish content that doesn’t involve rape, children, or sex workers that is still allowed on Patreon as long as it stays behind a paywall.

What this is? It’s a company providing a platform for people to create content, content creators pushing the boundaries, the company getting some flak for those boundaries being pushed, and a crackdown ensuing where they clarify their rules and clear out people who were pushing those boundaries.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again. I’ve been through a couple of “smutpocalypses” over at Amazon and it’s always the same:

  1. A platform gains popularity among content creators and people start flocking to it.
  2. The platform has rules and guidelines about what content they allow, but people start pushing the boundaries.
  3. The platform either gets overwhelmed because of its sudden popularity and the influx of creators, or they deliberately turn a blind eye to some of the questionable content because it’s making money. You’d have to be in the board room to know which it is.
  4. The public gets wind that some questionable content is being hosted on the platform and the torches and pitchforks are passed around as all the usual media outlets and blogs sense blood in the water.
  5. A media feeding frenzy starts accompanied by the usual public outrage. The platform goes into damage control mode.
  6. A crackdown ensues. People who were pushing the boundaries, or outright stepping outside the boundaries, find themselves no longer welcome on the platform. Sometimes fortunes can be lost as the gravy train comes to a screeching halt.
  7. The creators being cracked down on make the usual arguments about the platform violating freedom of speech and giving into puritanical public sentiment.
  8. Things eventually settle down. The media moves on to the next story. The public finds some new cause celebre to be outraged about. Content creators go back to creating content because that’s what they do and chances are the money is still good.
  9. Slowly content creators creep in who decide to push at the new boundaries and see what they can get away with. Go back to number two.

I’m far from a puritanical person. I quit my day job on the back of writing some things that some would consider fetish erotica, and I still have one erotica pen name today that does decent business. I get that this stuff can be stressful, but at the end of the day if somebody is going to push the boundaries of what is allowed on the platform providing their income then they shouldn’t be surprised when the inevitable backlash comes along.

As far as I can tell this is the first time something like this has happened on Patreon so the wound is still fresh and surprising over there. It’s old hat for anyone who’s been creating sexy content on Amazon and the other ebook publishing platforms, though, and so I imagine this is going to end up playing out almost exactly to the script outlined above.

It’s not the end of the world. Content creators are going to continue creating content. People will continue making money off of NSFW content on Patreon. The people who were pushing at the guidelines are going to find themselves under the microscope with some cleaning up their act and others getting the boot. Things will settle down and life will go on with content creators who’ve lived through this always having it in the back of their mind.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.

Remembering AOL Instant Messenger

The news just hit the Internet that AOL Instant Messenger will be going dark as of December 15, 2017. I can’t say I’m surprised to see the service being shuttered, I’m surprised it managed to last this long, but it still feels like a piece of my childhood is shutting down forever.

I remember AIM launching as the hot new alternative to ICQ back in the late ’90s. Of course a platform lives or dies by its users and AIM quickly established itself as a dominant force in the messaging space. It seemed like everyone and their mother was launching messenger apps back then just like launching social networks was the big thing in the 2000s and I have no idea what the fuck is the new hotness with the kids these days.

There were so many services that are no longer with us. Yahoo! Messenger. MSN Messenger. Surprisingly ICQ is still hanging in there, but I have no idea who uses it.

There’s no doubt that for a hot minute in the late ’90s AIM was the shit with the teenage crowd which included yours truly at the time. AOL dominated the dial-up Internet market with their freebie disks and there were a lot of teens using the service. The program was simpler and easier to use that ICQ, and it let you communicate with people on the AOL network even if you didn’t use their service which was nice.

Heck, AIM was the first mobile instant messaging app I used back on a Pocket PC Ipaq in 2002. Back then mobile devices were called PDAs and the smartphone was just a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eye. I had to pay $20 for the privilege of using AIM on my Ipaq, they were reasonably expensive devices that catered more to a business crowd so I guess they thought they could charge it rather than giving it away for free, and I had to have a special plastic sleeve adapter to enable WiFi on the device because WiFi was still a strange new witchcraft mostly being rolled out at universities at the time. It was buggy, didn’t work that well, and conversations weren’t that great, but it was an interesting precursor to the mobile messaging world we live in today.

I think there are a few things that will forever be seared into the collective memory of the generation that came of age when AIM was the big thing. The heart pounding excitement of hearing the little door opening notification sound and checking to see if it was a girl (or guy if you were a lady, or a guy, I don’t judge) you liked logging on. Coming up with funny away messages if you were one of the lucky people to have always-on broadband in a dial-up era. The heartache of hearing the door closing sound and seeing it was your crush logging off for the night. Posting cryptic profile updates because we were all teenagers who were too chicken-shit to address our feelings head on when Top 40 song lyrics could vaguebook for us a decade before vaguebooking was defined.

Heck, I met my wife on AOL Instant Messenger. Seriously. My mom played matchmaker with a pretty girl who was an office worker at her school and we swapped screen names through her. We kept in touch for a couple of years going to school and started dating when I got to college and she was in her last year of high school. I probably wouldn’t be married to my wife today and wouldn’t have my two kids if it wasn’t for AIM and the Internet allowing us to stay in touch over the couple of years it took for us to finally get together.

I think it’s safe to say there’s a good chance my life as I know it today wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for AIM. So while I understand why AIM is shutting down and appreciate that I haven’t used the service in over a decade, there’s still a part of me that’s sad to see it go.

Goodnight, sweet prince; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.