SBD: ebook mislabeling

Okay, here’s a quick and dirty SBD:  ebook mislabeling.  I’ve complained before, as have countless others, about mislabeling a book as romance in order to sell to an audience that is avid and willing to shell out bucks.  But it pisses us romance readers off to buy a book labeled as romance only to have it not be genre romance.

So yesterday I was checking out the offerings over at Fictionwise and stumbled across an anthology labeled "erotica".  The excerpt didn’t strke me as particularly erotic, but the stories in the anthologies were written by authors of m/m romance.  And m/m romance seems to be labeled as erotica even if it isn’t particularly hot.  [I dunno, is it the mere fact that the sex in the book isn’t het that earns that label?  But that’s another post.  Or dissertation.]  Anyway, I bought this book and downloaded it; having read three of the four stories, I can say that this book is neither erotica nor romance, gay or straight.  If the protagonists were women, I would call it women’s fiction.  So is this men’s fiction?  Lad lit? 

I’m not sure what it is, only what it isn’t. Of the three stories I’ve read, only one comes anywhere close to being genre romance — the heroes meet during the course of the story, fall in love, and say The Words at the end.  It fails as a romance only because the relationship is not the focus of the story; outside events are — even the relationship arises from those outside events.  The other two stories happen to have a couple of sex scenes in them, but they are primarily about coping with the sudden advent of children into previously child-free lives.  Even though the relationships were also previously child-free, the arrival of the children (via death and abandonment) and its effect on the relationship itself is never addressed.

The stories are actually rather sweet.  But romance they were not.  And erotica they were not.  Clearly, whoever labeled them as erotica was going based on the authors’ backlists rather than the actual content of the book.

Which is just half-assed, IMO. 

Of course, what should I expect from a company that labels Laurell K. Hamilton’s Skin Trade (which I believe is self-indulgent crap masquerading as porn and horror) as romance.  WTH?  By what definition is the boink-fest that is Anita Blake a romance of any sort?  Gah.

It’s enough to make me distrust almost any labels.  Especially since I can’t return an ebook if I get half way through and realize that it isn’t the romance I was promised.

PS:  Everytime I use my Smart Bitch icon, and look at the title, a scene from the 1995 version of Persuasion plays in my head.  "A viscountess.  She is a viscountess!" So says Miss Elliott.


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3 responses to “SBD: ebook mislabeling

  1. You can’t blame any publisher for how Fictionwise labels their books because Fictionwise arbitrarily throws books into categories without actually knowing if they belong there. We have had dozens of books mislabeled there. Lots of non-erotic books put in the erotic category. Only time and a lot of effort gets them moved. And really, I guess I don’t think it’s the publisher’s responsibility to make sure that every online bookstore (or brick and mortar store) is “shelving” the books in the right place because that would be…pretty much impossible and a full time job for at least one person, if not more.

    • I know that the label was all Fictionwise’s fault, not the publisher. I find it frustrating, though, because the whole point of buying from an aggregator is convenience in terms of formating and online bookshelving. If I can’t rely on the categorization, then the convenience is lost. And what’s the point then? I might as well buy direct from the publisher, assuming the publisher sells in a format that I can read/convert. Or just stop buying ebooks by new-to-me authors.
      FWIW, I buy direct from Samhain, Loose Id and a couple of other e-publishers because of the formating and ease of use of their sites and/or bookshelf options. But for the NY pub’d ebooks, I buy either from Fictionwise or Amazon.

      • Oh believe me, as both a reader and a publisher I feel your frustration. Actually, as a reader, I get really frustrated with Fictionwise on a number of fronts, categorization probably being the least of them at this point.

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