A few years ago I posted this: http://elegancestudios.com/wordpress/?p=25736 about the censorship encroaching upon adult expression online.
Sorry to have been a prophet of doom, but a lot of this is now coming to pass. The latest wheeze is FOSTA/SESTA in the USA which has the big platforms running scared. Craigslist closed their personals section down, because people were using it to hook up for sex (sometimes involving money).
On the pretext of stopping trafficking, a nasty thing which is already criminal, and which happens in all sorts of industries, a resource for people to find each other for stuff they want to do, entirely consensually, has been taken away.
Amazon just started delisting and pushing romance down in the ratings- something they did five years ago for erotica, but which apparently someone decided now had to include anything with a sex scene. Romance writers were highly alarmed. Erotica writers were alarmed but hardly surprised.
We should protest, for sure. But are there any steps we can take to mitigate our risk? It looks like the censors are too canny to try outright bans on erotica or romance or sex scenes, they are sidling up on it and using not-so-subtle commercial pressures to do the job for them. They don’t need to ban it, just make it economically unfeasible for us to make it. (See age verification, UK).
As producers of erotica we’re a bit further along this road, so do we have any lessons learned to pass on?
Precious few, but what I have is here. I haven’t got all that far with all of these myself, it all takes time, which is a precious commodity for the self-employed creative. But at least this is my action plan.
- Have a diverse range of income from multiple platforms, in multiple countries. Even if 95% of your money comes through Amazon, take the time to set up sales via as many other platforms as you have time for. They aren’t for making money now. They are fallbacks for when your main supplier suddenly cuts off your whole revenue stream.
- Gather your fanbase yourself, and get their contact details in a place that can’t be taken away from you easily. Run a mailing list somewhere, on a server you pay for. Create your own Mastodon instance and ask them to sign up there. Run your own WordPress site and blog (NOT a WordPress hosted one! They’ve already started nuking the sites of sex workers). Get customers create accounts at your own site. You need to have a way of notifying your customers and fans when your main sales channel dies.
- Diversify your payment methods. Paypal can and will nuke you (it happened to website producers 15 years ago or so). Visa and Mastercard can and will nuke you if the political climate makes that happen. Even the banks will cut off your account (just ask sex workers and adult performers in the USA). Not to go all tin-foil hat, but don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Bank transfers are great for direct payment in Europe (the US banking system is much more fragmented). You need to have a fallback solution in place, ready to spin up when your main service provider cuts you off.
- Look for providers whose interests are aligned with your own. Amazon couldn’t care less about erotica or romance authors. (Except the big ones- you can bet Fifty Shades didn’t get this treatment). For erotic film-makers, Clips4Sale is a good example. C4S may be big and blundering and a bit rubbish, but they make their money out of you selling your adult clips. If they don’t protect that basic transaction, they are out of business. Their interests align more broadly with yours that say Craigslist or Paypal.
- Band together with other creatives, pool resources and start making platforms together, This is hard work, will be fraught with failures, but is ultimately the only way to generate enough commercial clout to survive. Basically I’m saying unionise? Ha, ha, good luck with the herding of cats. Co-operatives or creative-led platforms are the way forward, though. In the wake of the US sex worker censorship, new Mastodon instance switter.at generated 7600 users in less that 48 hours, instantly catapulting them into the top leagues of Mastodon instances. This might not come to anything long-term, and it is an example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. But it shows that these initiatives can work in the right circumstances.
In my opinion those circumstances are right. The big platforms have proved themselves untrustworthy, and are so big and powerful as to tilt this way and that with the political climate rather than stand up for any slice of the creatives who are working away at the base, making the whole edifice work. Amazon wouldn’t exist without book authors, but it is now so big in so many spheres that it can afford to treat them with cavalier disregard.
Make your own platforms. Sell everywhere, even places that are barely cost-effective for you now. Draw your customer base to you directly.