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I'm concerned about what Amazon will allow since their guidelines are so vague, or in the case of what I am writing, a gray area.

In the stories I'm writing, human beings are transformed into sentient animals, half-animals, or objects. In several instances normal human beings have sexual relations with these transformed people and I don't leave it vague at all. In addition to that there are mythical creatures like Sphinxes, centaurs, werewolves, and such that have sexual relationships with normal humans.

I have seen works for sale on Amazon that seem to have these kinds of elements, but there is a difference between what is allowed, and what people have managed to sneak through. I have other works for sale and I don't want to be banned.

I know this is a weird question. I'm currently writing an anthology of twisted versions of well-known fairytales, myths, and fantasy stories. I'm exploring all the bizarre elements of how their worlds work and what would happen if we followed those bizarre elements logically to such a far degree that the situation is utterly insane, particularly how the romantic relationships and sex lives of the characters are changed.

In Greek mythology Zeus appeared as a swan and seduced a woman, for example. In a graphic retelling of that myth is a sentient god-being who becomes an animal for seduction considered bestiality?

I really don't want to tone those parts down too much because they set up great sequences with couples counseling later, and making them too vague ruins what I explore in those parts.

Are there any concrete and clear do's and don'ts to approaching these situations? What can I do to comply best without destroying the experience and intent of the stories?

My thanks in advance for any help.

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    We're not Amazon and we can't address what their standards are. You're going to have to contact them directly and ask. Or self-publish on your own in some way which doesn't involve a possibly censorious gatekeeper. – Lauren Ipsum Jan 17 '17 at 11:19
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    Amazon is notoriously close-mouthed about their policies - probably because (A) they don't want to commit to something and have people go for loopholes and things not covered, (B) they do most of their removals/banning algorithmically. – Standback Jan 18 '17 at 14:52
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    I can actually see this as a useful question - it's certainly one that Amazon doesn't answer straightforwardly, but it's of interest to many authors. The obvious proviso is that answers will probably only be able to speak to experience and cases so far - nothing guarantees that what was "OK" yesterday will still be "OK" tomorrow. – Standback Jan 18 '17 at 14:54
  • Is there a self-publishing law collective you can utilize? Is Nabakov's Lolita on Amazon? Pedophilia is rightfully not condoned by the West, but it is a theme explored in a variety of storytelling. One excellent case in your favor is that children's cartoons explore gene splicing, specifically an episode of Batman Beyond. While there isn't any romance, adding sex would be a pretty straightforward adult version: This suggests to me that it is perfectly acceptable by any "literary" standards. dcau.fandom.com/wiki/Splicers – MXMLLN Sep 3 at 20:32
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Amazon's content guidelines are notoriously nonspecific.

Offensive Content

What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.

I assume there are multiple reasons for this:

  • Offensive material is hard to narrow down to a set of well-defined guidelines (your question demonstrates an edge case for a seemingly-simple "no bestiality" rule).
  • They probably do most/all of their removal/banning by algorithm, so they might not even have a good, human-understandable definition to give you.
  • They have legal obligations and concerns, which means that being able to remove whatever might cause problems can take precedence over being transparent to authors.

There have been multiple cases of Amazon suddenly "cracking down" on erotica, or changing the guidelines - the ones I recall were in 2011 and 2013.

So, any answer here is going to be guesswork, and might be subject to change with no warning.

All that being said:

  • Fantastical creatures seem to be accepted as not treading on bestiality. There's certainly no dearth of werewolf erotica titles, and other shapeshifters as well.
  • As far as I can tell (though I am no expert), Amazon is unlikely to ban you -- if they do anything, it will be to remove your book. At which point you can make modifications (e.g. remove the chapter with the swan...), and re-upload.

My own very quick skim of the internet has uncovered a 2013 guide to Amazon's content guidelines for erotica authors, as well as recommendations to seek and join a good erotica-writer forum, which will have the expertise you're looking for.

If you find better, fuller, answers then this, it'd be great if you came back and filled us in :)

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Amazon isn't going to clarify their policy anytime soon -- nor make it consistent -- unless a Court or their customers force them to.

Here's an example of something they carry with a cat-derived 'underperson' who is essentially a programmed-by-genetics sex worker, Cordwainer Smith's celebrated story, 'The Ballad of Lost C'Mell': https://www.amazon.com/Norstrilia-prequel-Ballad-Lost-CMell-ebook/dp/B00NBAVZOG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484924790&sr=1-1&keywords=the+ballad+of+lost+C%27mell

However, your mileage may vary greatly! And/or Amazon might suddenly decide to ban all works by this writer. We won't know until they do -- or don't -- or change their minds yet again.

IMHO, what Amazon is really doing is deciding (perhaps entirely automatically/algorithmically) to carry your book based on what they think it will do to their bottom line, including brand/reputational/traffic damage. What they're doing is estimating whether publishing your story (including its elements that may hurt sales, customer traffic or their perceived value of their own brand, rightly or wrongly, now or in the future) worth the risk of selling it.

If -- for any reason (including changing tastes) -- Amazon thinks publishing your book will hurt their eventual/overall bottom line, they will likely find a reason to decline. Their stated reason (if any) may well be more dictated by what's legally allowable than by their actual decision-making process.

  • That is absolutely what they are doing. Espousing causes and leading taste is for small presses, not conglomerates. That's how it should be. We don't want organizations with that kind of power promoting agendas other than the good of their shareholders. Shareholders are the only effective check on the power of executives. – user16226 Jan 20 '17 at 15:54
  • Personally, I'm not wild about this sort of de-facto censorship by a Major distribution channel for reading material. That said, they'll do what's good for their owners -- or what they think is best at the time -- and almost nothing can dissuade them. Amazon is the eight billion pound gorilla here, like it or not. – Catalyst Jan 20 '17 at 16:01
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    Freedom of the press is freedom for those who own presses. The only alternative if for the government to legislate limits on what the owners of presses can and cannot do, which is the very definition of censorship. Free speech means, and must mean, that anyone who owns a press can censor what they print, but the government may not forbid anyone from buying a press and printing what they like on it. – user16226 Jan 20 '17 at 16:11

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