Saturday, 13 February 2016

Smash It Up

Smash the Control Machine
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For the first time in my book writing career, I have been censored. And it's not by who you'd think it would be.

Birdkill is now available on all platforms, both ebook and paperback. That's Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and all major ebook retailers. From 1 March 2016 the paperback will be in stock at WH Smith in the United Arab Emirates and available on order from any bookshop in the world by quoting ISBN 978-1523986736.

I use a 'multi-publishing platform' called Smashwords to manage the distribution of the ePub book, which avoids having to deal directly with B&N, Apple, Kobo and all the others. Smashwords has always been core to my distribution, offering as it does an alternative to Amazon which, although I am broadly in favour, does tend towards the Evil Empire a tad too much to make one want to wholeheartedly endorse it as a sole platform.

Imagine, then, my horror when Smashwords came back and informed me last night Birdkill had failed its review process. What was the book's cardinal sin? That it makes mention of the Kindle and other publishing platforms. This makes Smashwords' partners 'uncomfortable', apparently. So in order to pass Smashwords' review process, I had to remove the text at the end that tells readers where they can buy my books.

The wicked words in question:

Please do not link or refer to any other digital download source other than Smashwords. Our retail partners don't want to see links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or mention of the Kindle or Nook.

But hang on a second. That's the content of my book. It's my right to publish what the hell I want, isn't it? Surely that's what all this free speech gobbledegook is about? Who cares what their partners are comfortable with or do or don't 'want to see' or 'mention'? It's a fact the book's available on Kindle and Nook. So you're masking the truth here. It's commercial censorship.

You're insisting I don't mention your rivals in my content. What if I want to have one of my characters enjoying reading a novel on their Kindle? Or having fun shopping on

Amazon, for all its Dark Empire status, has never for any reason whatsoever asked me to amend the content of one of my books.

The UAE's National Media Council (An 'Islamic' Middle Eastern Arab government 'censoring' my books before they can be printed here in the UAE) has never - despite the books containing plenty of content you'd think they'd find uncomfortable to say the least - asked me to amend the content of one of my books. They have never removed or requested I remove one F, C, drugs or prostitution reference. And the books are liberally laced with those.

It took US 'home of free speech' publishing platform Smashwords - ironically the platform I use to assert my freedom of choice - to insist I amend the content of one of my books. To censor me.

It's an apparently small thing and yet at the same time it's a HUGE thing. And - I would submit - it's not a good thing at all.

Footnote: Just for clarity, we're not talking links here. The offending text in the book was:

Available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon, Book Depository or from your local bookstore on order quoting the book’s ISBN.

Also available as an ebook from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other fine online retailers.

And if you can find the line in Smashwords' TOS that says you can't say Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle or Nook in your book's end matter, please do put me right. Because I can't...


Anonymous said...

Try Draft to Digital instead of Smashwords

CS McClellan/Catana said...

It might have been a good idea to read Smashwords' TOS before screaming that you've been censored. They don't permit links to other retailers. Amazon doesn't permit links to other retailers. B&N doesn't permit links to other retailers. Comments about this post on The Passive Voice are very educational.

Pamela's Cummins said...

Why would you plug another book retailer when you can link to your website? The more clicks you get to your website, the higher your SEO (search engine optimization). This will bring your rankings higher in Google and easier for readers to find you and your books. That means more sales and publicity.

Cryselle said...

Censorship? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. This policy on Smashwords' part goes back to the beginning of Smashwords. It's part of the TOS, has been for years. You agreed to it. No sympathy.

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