Caution: long blog rant ahead!

A reader shared this news article on one of the yahoo groups I belong to and it sparked an interesting thought in my mind (as well as a bit of debate about whose job it is to keep children off these websites, but that’s another blog!) about how this could affect erotic romance.

First, the article:

WASHINGTON — Proposed federal legislation that would tax adult websites and place new requirements for age verification on websites and billing companies may be introduced as early as next week, an aide for Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark, told XBiz.
The aide said that language of The Internet Safety and Child Protection Act of 2005 had been leaked earlier this week and is not ready to be unveiled.
“We are still determining the actual language of the bill,” the aide said. “Some information that was disseminated is inaccurate.”
The leaked draft of the bill, however, claims “to protect children from Internet pornography and support law enforcement and other efforts to combat Internet and pornography-related crimes against children.”
The proposal calls for a 25 percent tax on sales of adult sites. Funds collected from the federal tax would then be used to fund various law enforcement initiatives.
Portions of the draft point to age-verification requirements on “regulated pornographic” websites. The requirements include using Federal Trade Commission-approved age-verification software packages that check the age of visitors before they are shown adult content.
The bill, in its existing draft form, requires that the age verification process takes place prior to any “pornographic material” being shown.
Companies that process payments for adult sites “shall only process age-verified” transactions, according to the draft. The restrictions would apply to any “bank, credit card company, third-party merchant, Internet payment service provider or business that performs financial transactions for a regulated pornographic website… ”

In the past few months, there have been heated debates surrounding erotic romance and some people’s desire to label it as porn. Most recently, a mass market author denounced erotic romance (despite writing them herself) and a well-known publisher (despite, by her own admission, not having read many books from that publisher) as all about the sex, porn, blah blah blah (hey author, go read Elizabeth’s Wolf by Lora Leigh and then tell me that your ridiculous sweeping generalization is right). Anyhow, I digress. During the debate, at least one “anonymous” erotic romance author weighed in, stating that she feels she DOES write porn. This is not the first time an author has publically declared this (however, the first author I heard say it did not hide behind an anonymous title and for that I give her props) and like the first time, it didn”t fail to raise the hackles on erotic romance authors and readers alike. And rightfully so. But that’s not the point of this blog, either.

So what’s my point? With this new proposed law, there is the possibility(I like to spin ‘what if’ theories and that’s what this is) that publishers of erotic romance could be targeted for the 25% sales tax as well. And if company management tries to argue that they are not, in fact, porn, all lawmakers will need to do is point to erotic romance authors who are happily proclaiming their belief/opinion that they write porn and say “if those who write it think that’s what it is, why shouldn’t we? No exemption for YOU!!” (Seinfeld reference anyone?)

So authors, I’m going to stand by my original post from April and say that not only is it unprofessional to trash your genre (and therefore fellow authors and readers) in public, but it has potentially significant consequences.

Imagine for a moment that a 25% sales tax IS applied to erotic romance publishers and their websites. This means that the reader will have to pay 7.49, for a book which previously cost them 5.99 – $1.50 more per book. They’ll be getting the exact same book as before with a significant price hike. How does this affect the authors? I think this is obvious but I’ll lay it out for you: many readers are on a limited budget, so an increase in price such as this equals less books bought. Less books bought equals less royalty for the author and less income for the publisher. It also means publishers fighting for reader sales even more so than ever before. And that potential loss of business could mean that some of the smaller, struggling publishers would have to close their doors. Am I predicting something that is drastic? Yes. Implausible? Not at all. And I don’t think loss of sales and smaller royalty checks is at all far-fetched but rather a natural process of such a significant price increase that goes solely to the government and not to the publisher or author.

But let’s not stop the consequences with just revenue, since not everyone thinks with their pocketbook. How many erotic romance authors, even those who say they write porn, want their books to be equated with the porn sites that I’m presuming this law is targeting? Those porn sites that provide video clips of some random hot chick giving some ugly guy a blow job or pictures of co-ed dorm girls’ naked titties? (damn, wonder what kind of google hits that’s going to end me up with?) Do they really want to see their publisher’s name in a list alongside a website like that? Doubtful. Regardless of what anyone wants to argue about the origins of porn and its meaning, the word and content associated with it have very negative connotations in today’s society. (Hey, I watch porn, we have a subscription to Playboy and I still say there are negative associations with it) And once that stigma is attached to erotic romance, detractors of the porn industry will tar all with the same brush (even more so than already happens) And honestly, I don’t know any erotic romance author who wants their words, their work, their emotional brainchild, to be compared to and put in the same category as the type of product that Ron Jeremy stars in (I mean, has anyone ever seen anything with Ron Jeremy it? Ewww…)

I mentioned Elizabeth’s Wolf by Lora Leigh earlier in this entry, but I’m going to use it as my example to wrap this up. Lora Leigh wrote a beautiful love story that involves not only the relationship arc between the hero and the heroine, but also the pure love that develops between the hero and heroine’s child- the reader is drawn into their emotional bond that starts through letters from a young girl to an injured American soldier. It’s the story of an emotional journey for three people who form a family.

How anyone can label something so beautiful as porn and condemn it as not romance, clearly has no concept of what is romantic. Why any author of erotic romance would want to put a fellow author who writes like this in the same category as Hustler and Jugs is something I cannot fathom or wrap my mind around. And the thought that some people may never discover this book and so many others like it because it’s been placed in the category of porn… well, that’s just plain sad. Because, no matter what some people out there will argue, being labeled as porn will alienate potential and current readers.

Loss of money? Loss of readers? Loss of business and no more ease of ordering because of increased restrictions…

All potential consequences of being labeled as porn. And I’m sure there are more than I haven’t covered. So, to all you authors out there gleefully pronouncing that you write porn, be careful what you ask for. You might not like the results.

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