The Daily Beaver
May 21, 2013
I've often written about the wide assortment of problems concerning Amazon reviews, and how these problems had gotten so out of control, that Amazon reviews had lost virtually all credibility. Among these posts are:
· A story about how Amazon allowed Michael Jackson fans to use social media to destroy a Jackson biography with a flood of anonymous one-star reviews.
· A story about how Amazon was deleting reviews posted by authors because the company saw all authors as direct competitors with other authors, and they do not allow reviews of products from direct competitors.
· In a story about book promotion, I’d mentioned how Amazon had been flooded with bogus five-star reviews written by critics who don’t read the books they’re reviewing and which authors are paying for: one review for $99, 50 for $999.
· A story about how an Amazon computer was automatically deleting reviews of Beaver Street because they contained “sexually explicit” keywords.
Amazon has finally acknowledged that there is “some confusion around the guidelines Amazon uses to evaluate Customer Reviews,” and, in an e-mail to authors, they’ve made an effort to clarify matters. Here are some of the highlights of that e-mail:
· Authors are allowed to review another author’s book as long as the author doesn’t have a “personal relationship” with the author of the book being reviewed. (Amazon does not define “personal relationship” or explain how they determine if the authors have one.)
· Authors cannot review their own books.
· Authors’ family members and “close friends” may not post reviews. (Again, Amazon doesn’t explain how they determine this.)
· Authors may not pay someone with money or merchandise to write a review, though giving a reviewer a free copy of the book to be reviewed is permitted.
Though this is a belated step in the right direction from a company that has systematically ignored these problems in the past, it’s hardly a complete solution. Since Amazon now has an ever-tightening stranglehold on the book business, authors can only hope that they will continue to seek even better solutions. Because before they were utterly corrupted, Amazon reviews were a good thing.
The complete FAQ on Amazon book reviewing guidelines is available here.
May 14, 2013
review, written by "Another Former Porn Worker," appeared on Amazon yesterday. It speaks for itself.The following
Your book was amazing! I downloaded it to my Kindle and could NOT put it down last night. You perfectly capture the atmosphere of the office, that slight paranoia, tinged with smarminess, with the forced insistence that everything around here is perfectly normal. I too worked in the industry, though far more recently, but it seems nothing has changed.
Your assessment of Carl Ruderman is priceless. I, too, have sat in front of that exquisite Victorian desk, surrounded by his priceless artifacts that invariably feature naked women or abstract genitalia, patiently waiting my turn for him to say, “...And Ms. XXXX, what good news do you have for me today?” From your description of him, I could hear his voice leap from the page. I could see him as I saw him in his office at 801 Second Avenue, a bit more shriveled version than the one you saw, but in that same beautifully cut, tasteful gray pinstripe suit, pocket square, and genteel sneer.
Also, in the short time I was there, I know the company was sued multiple times. Weirdly, it was never mentioned at the meetings. It was simply like it didn’t matter. Also, by the time I got there, the porn down on the lower floor was never mentioned. Ever. People on the 19th floor did NOT speak to any of the people down there. I only knew about them because I had skills he needed for both floors.
I loved the part about “the founder.” After he lost the lease on the 19th floor and we were moved to the far less glamorous 11th floor, that bust was placed directly outside my door, so it would stare at me day in, day out. It was rumored that there was a camera in it, but that was probably just conjecture.
He was elderly by the time I worked for him, yet he was insistent on never dying. He kept a personal chef with him at the office, a woman he paid far less than she was worth, peanuts really. She would prepare his daily vitamins and medications, dozens in all, and his breakfast and lunch in the office’s formal dining room. All upper management was expected to attend, but as a woman and a low-level techie I was fortunately denied that privilege.
I liked your Maria. It explains his current secretary while I was there. She was a mid-fiftyish battleaxe of a hag who would agree with him if he said the sky was green, and spent much of her time repeating back anything he said in different words as if she had just thought of that. She, and the other woman before her, trained themselves to expect and indulge his every whim. The woman before at least seemed to see the humor in the situation, as Maria seemed to. I would have been stoned all the time, too.
There was a whole host of crazy characters there who, like me, had no other options at the time, and those of us who got out sometimes get together and talk about it, because no one else would ever believe us. They are a crazy bunch, but those who survived, many are people I really like, cause as you and Maria were, we were witness to a legend being written. Like you, I walked out of that office with no job but that “incredible lightness of being.”
All in all, you reminded me that despite everything, Carl Ruderman has charisma. A sly, slithering sort of charisma, but charisma just the same. I can’t even say I dislike him. He is the sort of man who will do anything for money, and it seems that he did.
In the end, those of us that got tangled up in it have one hell of a story to tell at cocktail parties.
April 10, 2013
difficulties of surviving as a writer in 21st century America, and I've complained long and loud about mega-conglomerates, like Google and Amazon, who've made survival that much more difficult. But nothing I've written comes close to the indictment that Scott Turow, author of numerous best-selling books and president of The Authors Guild, published in The New York Times the other day.I've written frequently on this blog about the
Turow covers a lot of ground in "The Slow Death of the American Author," and I’m not going to discuss all of it here. But I'd like to bring your attention to a couple of points he makes, which shed even more light on similar things I've written about.
One of his main points is how Google, which does business under the slogan “Don’t be evil,” as well as Yahoo and Bing, are, without fear of legal consequence, profiting by directing people to “rogue sites… with paid ads decorating the margins,” that offer pirated e-books for free. “If I stood on a corner telling people who asked where they could buy stolen goods and collected a small fee for it,” Turow writes, “I’d be on my way to jail.”
He then turns to Amazon, which, since 2000, has been selling used print books side-by-side with new books, without sharing the profits on the used books with publishers or authors. Now, Turow says, the company has a patent to sell “used” e-books. Except, unlike print books, which show wear and tear, there’s no difference between a used e-book and a new e-book. “Why,” he asks, “would anyone ever buy a new book again?” Amazon “would literally own the resale market and would shift enormous profits to itself from publishers as well as authors, who would lose the already meager share of the proceeds they receive on the sale of new e-books.”
Turow ends with a vision of the dystopian future of book publishing in the U.S., based on what he saw on a recent visit to Russia, where, he says, “There is only a handful of publishers left,” e-books have been “savaged by instantaneous piracy that goes almost completely unpoliced,” and “in the country of Tolstoy and Chekhov, few Russians… can name a contemporary Russian author whose work regularly affects the national conversation.”
I’d urge everybody with an interest in the fate of books and the people who write them to read Turow’s complete essay.
April 9, 2013
Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading.Jason Merkoski, a former employee of Amazon, was the leader of the team that built the first Kindle. Today he released an e-book,
Though I've not yet read the book, my sense of it, based on an interview with Merkoski in The New York Times, is that Amazon doesn't come off especially well. In response to a question about how people might react if they knew what was going on inside companies like Amazon, he said that Amazon, as well as Google and Apple, "have entire buildings filled with lawyers" whose job is "to keep people like me from even answering this question." He suggested, as well, that if the "veil of secrecy" that surrounds these corporations were lifted, people might boycott them.
Merkoski also mentioned that when it comes to censorship, a problem that I was dealing with last year, he does not trust the executives at any e-book retailer. Most of them, he said, “would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press.”
I’ve no doubt that this is all true. But I do question one point that Merkoski makes. “In 20 years,” he said, “the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs.”
I’m not saying this won’t happen. I am saying that if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there are too many people, like me, who think reading on a screen is far less pleasurable than reading a printed book. Reading on a screen eliminates the sensuality and the connection you feel with a printed book. It’s more difficult to get lost in an e-book than it is in a printed book. Based on what I’ve heard and seen, I think there’s already an intense resistance to e-books among certain readers of all ages.
This was not the case when CDs began replacing vinyl LPs in the mid-1980s. Yes, there was some resistance to them among aficionados, but most people, myself included, couldn’t wait to get their hands on CDs, even if they already had the record in vinyl. That’s because people believed that CDs provided a better listening experience (and they took up less room).
Nobody, I’d argue, would suggest that e-books provide a better reading experience than printed books. Their advantages, as far as I can see, are that they take up less space, they’re cheaper, and they’re searchable. And that’s not enough to drive printed books into near extinction. Unless, of course, it is. Because when it comes to the book business, nobody knows what’s going to happen 20 minutes from now, much less 20 years.
April 4, 2013
A bit of news for my American readers who've been waiting patiently for the better part of a month to order a copy of Beaver Street from Amazon: The book is back in stock, and it should remain so for some time. I have it on good authority that, after much cajoling, the Internet monolith has ordered a substantial quantity.
As for my U.K. readers, who have made Beaver Street a permanent fixture on Amazon's list of bestselling pornography biographies, which includes such heavy hitters as Jenna Jameson: The book is sold out (again) but should be back in stock in 7-10 days. Thank you for your patience. Your business is important to us.
And for those of you who are still wondering why you should read a book like Beaver Street, allow me to share with you the accolade that Headpress passed on to me the other day, from Clive Davies, author of Spinegrinder: The Movies Most Critics Won’t Write About, which will be released in July: “I just finished reading Beaver Street. What a great book! One of the most illuminating things [Headpress has] ever put out, I think. Has there been any talk of making a documentary based on it, I wonder? I can just imagine it as a loose, anecdotal, fun movie, maybe animated in the vein of The Kid Stays in the Picture or American: The Bill Hicks Story.”
Good idea, Clive. Anybody got a little seed money?
March 28, 2013
review by Byron Nilsson, on a site called Words and Music, which ran one year ago today.Maybe you're celebrating Maundy Thursday, but I'm celebrating the first anniversary of the U.S. publication of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, an event marked by a responsive reading of a
And quite a year it's been! The good news about Beaver Street, one year down the road, is that it's sold out on Amazon. Again. The bad news about Beaver Street, one year down the road, is that it's sold out on Amazon. Again.
I’m not about to complain about a book selling out repeatedly. I will only say that when the book does sell out, as it’s been doing the past two months, I’d be happier if Amazon got it back in stock more quickly or kept more copies in stock so it didn’t sell out as often.
And I will express gratitude for the fact that one year after its U.S. publication (and two years after its U.K. publication) critics continue to write about Beaver Street and people continue to buy it.
And finally, I will extend an open invitation to all readers to come to the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street on June 16 for the Second Annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street celebration. The Very Reverend Byron Nilsson will be presiding, and he thinks I know how to “make words dance.” He said so in his review. I will be doing my best to make those words dance in public.
January 22, 2013
In yet another demonstration that the mega-conglomerate is a company out of control, a company that feels no need to treat fairly or responsibly the authors whose books they sell, a company that feels no need to answer to anybody about anything, they have allowed Michael Jackson fans to destroy sales of Sullivan's book with a barrage of anonymous negative reviews.
According to an article published on the front page of The New York Times yesterday, “Swarming a Book Online,” Jackson fans have used Twitter and Facebook to solicit scores of one-star takedowns of Untouchable; to have numerous positive reviews deleted; and even to have Amazon briefly remove the book from their site by falsely claiming that copies were “defective.”
Untouchable, like Nowhere Man, is a largely sympathetic portrait of its subject that also includes certain negative assessments. In particular, information about Jackson’s plastic surgery and his two marriages enraged his fans. According to Sullivan, many of the one-star reviews were factually false and clearly written by people who hadn’t read the book—as I can attest is also the case with most of Nowhere Man’s one-star reviews.
Amazon, however, doesn’t consider this a problem, saying that the reviews don’t violate their ever-shifting guidelines. Amazon has also said that it’s unnecessary for a reviewer to “experience” a product before reviewing it.
In the past, the Times has written about authors paying reviewers to flood Amazon with five-star reviews, and of authors anonymously trashing competing books.
There’s no question that Amazon’s review system is broken, possibly beyond repair, and that it’s relatively easy to game the system. Nor is there a question that it’s almost impossible to police phony reviews on a site like Amazon. But the real injustice here is Amazon’s refusal to work with authors and publishers to solve any kind of problem or to make any effort to adequately explain why they do what they do.
Fortunately, Amazon is sensitive to negative publicity, and the fact that the Times put this story on the front page is a good thing.
December 5, 2012
Though I've had my issues with Amazon in the past, I want to make it clear that what I'm about to say has not affected me personally. Amazon has not deleted any reviews of my books and they have not deleted any reviews that I've written about other people's books. However, an article, "Amazon Tackles Review Problem, Deletes Wrong Reviews," by Suw Charman-Anderson, that ran last month on Forbes.com, is both disturbing and sounds typical of the way that Amazon does business.
Here are the main points of the piece:
· Amazon has changed its customer reviews guidelines.
· According to customers who posted reviews for a book by Michelle Gagnon, either the reviews never appeared or they were deleted.
· When these customers complained, Amazon told them that they “do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product,” and they “will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter.”
· When one of the customers told Amazon that they had no “relationship or financial interest in the book,” Amazon then told Gagnon, the author of the book in question, that they’d remove her book from the site if the customer complained again.
· Another author, Steve Weddle, received a similar e-mail from Amazon when he attempted to post a review for a book by Chad Rohrbacher, whom he knows personally.
· This is apparently happening on a wide scale.
· Bottom line: Amazon now appears to be forbidding authors from posting reviews because it sees all authors as direct competitors with other authors. In the meantime, Amazon has done nothing about fake reviews, written by reviewers for hire, that have flooded the site.
One can only hope that Amazon recognizes the absurdity of their review policy and corrects it promptly.
November 19, 2012
But let me begin with an article that ran in the the Times in 2002, “A Demimonde in Twilight,” that was in part drawn from an embryonic Beaver Street manuscript. The "newspaper of record," having no taste for double entendres, refused to print the title Beaver Street. So yesterday, when the Times called Internet monoliths like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon "prudish," they were really saying something.
The gist of the article, “You Can’t Say That on the Internet,” by Evgeny Motozov, is that Silicon Valley, supposedly a countercultural bastion of openness and tolerance, is actually a deeply conservative place that imposes its "outdated norms" on billions of people. Facebook and Apple do it though outright censorship. The former recently blocked The New Yorker's page after they posted an Adam and Eve cartoon that showed Eve's nipples, and the latter, until recently, wouldn't post in its iBooks store the title of Naomi Wolf's new book, Vagina: A New Biography.
But Google and Amazon are arguably the worst culprits, using their “dour” algorithms to insure that the autocomplete function does not lead us to morally impure sites or books that contain such words as “penis,” “vagina,” “bisexual,” “Lolita,” and “pornography.” (The potentially malignant nature of autocomplete popped up again last night on The Good Wife.)
As readers of this blog know, I’ve had my issues with these two Internet monoplies, and I’ve written about them at length. Though the Amazon problem appears to be settled for now, the Google issue has only gotten worse. To recap: Once Google sent a lot of traffic to this site. Then, a couple of weeks ago, they cut me off. Since the Google algorithms is as sacred to Google as it is secret, it’s impossible to say why. Though after reading this article I can only assume the magical algorithm has decreed my site morally unfit for public consumption.
October 16, 2012
It is, of course, a very different media environment now than it was in 1999 and 2000, when I began promoting Nowhere Man. There was no social media then and I didn’t know what a blog was. And everything was less fragmented; if somebody wrote an article about Nowhere Man or reviewed it, a lot more people would see it, and it would invariably lead to more coverage. That rarely happens anymore. With Beaver Street, even a major article in a high-profile magazine will lead to a couple of sales, a burst of online activity for a day, and then it’s forgotten, washed away by the incoming tide of the 24-hour news cycle.
So what have I accomplished in the 18 months that I’ve been promoting Beaver Street in two countries? Well, in the U.K., where the book was published in 2011, Beaver Street does appear to be firmly entrenched on Amazon, taking up permanent residence in their top 20 books on pornography, and making regular forays to the #1 spot in that category, which includes such heavy hitters as Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.
As for the U.S., despite a recent blizzard of rave reviews, the struggle continues. But I’ve not yet begun to fight.
September 24, 2012
About a month ago, I noted that Amazon U.S. had reduced the price of the paperback edition of Beaver Street to $13.57 from its usual $19.95. This discount lasted all of four hours before Beaver Street returned to being one of the very few books on Amazon not discounted at all, not even by a penny. Why Amazon is doing this is hard to say. To call the decision-making process at this Internet monolith "opaque" would be an understatement. Most likely, they're trying to drive consumers to buy the Kindle edition, which is usually available for around $9.98, half off the cover price.
I also noticed that another significant discount briefly kicked in about a week ago, to coincide with my appearance at the Book House, in Albany. Perhaps this is Amazon's way of insuring that if anybody buys a copy of Beaver Street, it's not going to be from a brick-and-mortar store, where the book always sells for the full price.
I am aware that in these absurd economic times, a lot of people simply don’t want to spend $19.95 (plus tax) on any book, even one that they really want to read. So, if you’re one of those people who’ve been hesitating to buy Beaver Street due to the price, let this serve as a reminder that Amazon does occasionally offer the book at a significant discount, but the sale never lasts very long. All I can suggest is check the Amazon page often, and if you see Beaver Street marked down, grab it.
And if twenty bucks isn’t a big deal to you, please buy your Beaver at a real store, like Shakespeare’s or McNally Jackson in New York City, Powell’s in Portland, Left Bank or Apop in St. Louis, Quimby’s in Chicago, or the aforementioned Book House.
September 7, 2012
One such review, titled "Worst Book Ever!" was posted on Amazon U.K. soon after Nowhere Man was published. "This book is just a bunch of lies," the anonymous critic (whose identity is transparent) wrote. "If I could rate this book 0 stars I would, but the computer makes you rate it 1 star and up. I think Robert Rosen should read [name redacted]'s books. Maybe he will get some sense knoked (sic) into him." He then posted a similar review on Amazon U.S., this time referring to his own book as "masterful."
I learned a long time ago that such critiques can help sell a book, provided that there are enough positive reviews to balance them out. Hatchet jobs make books seem interesting and controversial. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, has 3,800 one-star reviews to go along with its 4,700 five-star reviews.
Yesterday, I also said that I never have and never will pay for a review. On one occasion, though, I have gone over to the dark side and anonymously trashed another author’s book. But it wasn’t a competing author and it was a special case, the first of its kind: A high-profile conspiracy theorist published a book implicating me in a CIA-backed plot to murder John Lennon.
I remember standing in a bookstore in Chicago, the week that Nowhere Man was scheduled to be published, reading this book in a state of shock and horror, and wondering how anybody who called himself a journalist could a) believe such a thing, and b) publish it without speaking to me first.
A few months later I got the brilliant idea to post an anonymous one-star review of this book on Amazon. What I wrote, though, was completely true: “Not only is this book so murkily written that it borders on unreadable, but the author offers not a shred of concrete evidence to support his paranoid fantasy—that the CIA was behind the death of every one of the [10 rock stars mentioned in the subtitle]. This is trash fiction masquerading as investigative journalism.”
Naturally, the author guessed who was behind this review and accused me on his blog of viciously attacking and ridiculing him.
Beaver Street has yet to be anonymously trashed by a competing author. Perhaps that’s because it’s usually porn stars who write books about pornography, and your average porn star has more integrity than your average conspiracy theorist or Beatles biographer. Or maybe porn stars just have better things to do.
September 6, 2012
I was never much into the idea of "making it big" after I was dead. I mean really, what's the point in spending years writing a book that nobody reads when you're alive? Yes, I write for money, but the thing that keeps me going day after day, especially during those long stretches between fat (and not so fat) paychecks, is a primal need to communicate, which I'm not counting on being able to do from beyond the grave.
That's why I've always done everything possible to bring my books to the attention of people who might enjoy reading them while I’m still here. My philosophy has always been: Talk to anybody who wants to talk to you about your book for as long as they want to talk about it, and go anywhere people are interested in your work. I’m the only American writer I know who’s traveled to Chile to do book promotion, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself.
Since 2000, when my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, was published, I’ve done more than 300 interviews, treating journalists from the most obscure websites as if they were Oprah. Cause you just never know. In fact, I’ve turned down only one interview request ever—from a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist who believes I’m the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who gave the order to whack Lennon.
But there’s one thing I’ve never done and never will do to sell books: Pay for a positive review. A recent article in The New York Times pointed out that Amazon has been flooded with bogus five-star reviews written by critics who don’t read the books they’re reviewing and which authors are paying for: one review for $99, 50 for $999.
I wouldn’t do it because fake reviews sound fake; few people believe the reviews they read on Amazon; and even real five-star reviews (or rave reviews anywhere) don’t help much when it comes to selling books. (If they did, Beaver Street would be selling a lot better than it is.)
Which is to say, if I’m going to get more people to read Beaver Street while I’m alive, then I’m going to continue doing it the old fashion way—speak to anybody who wants to speak to me and go anywhere I’m invited.
So, I hope to see you next week on Talk Story TV and in the Book House in Albany, NY.
August 28, 2012
Those of you who once lived in the New York area and are of a certain age will remember Crazy Eddie as the stereo discount store whose omnipresent radio and TV commercials ended with the pitchman, Crazy Eddie Antar, screaming, “Our prices are insane!”
Though I wouldn’t call a 32 percent discount on the $19.95 cover price certifiably crazy, by Amazon standards, this is pretty nuts. Yes, it's true, you can now buy a paperback copy of Beaver Street for the unbeatably low price of $13.57, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, shipping is free.
So, if you’ve been hesitant to buy Beaver Street because of the price, now’s your chance to act. And keep in mind that Crazy Eddie’s prices were so insane, he finally went bankrupt.
July 18, 2012
The following five-star review of Beaver Street, posted on Amazon a few days ago, was written by Neil A. Chesanow who, from 1972-1996, wrote about sex for the major women’s magazines, including, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Glamour, and Mademoiselle.
Beaver Street is splendid: elegantly written; well researched; full of knowledge that only the author, who worked in porn, could have had; and funny. It’s not only a valuable addition to the literature on pornography (by “literature” I by no means mean to suggest quality; it’s by and large pretty dismal), but a model for how that literature could be written cum literature (no pun intended).
It’s fortunate that the author’s actual perspective just happens to be the perfect perspective to have for a book like this: ironic, bemused, amused, intrigued, titillated, but ultimately dispirited and disgusted. In short: everyman. And it works beautifully. It lets him use dirty words and say dirty things, and admit to doing some of those things, without ever causing us to lose sympathy with him as readers. That and his gentle, graceful writing style, plus the richness of factual detail and depth of insight that he offers, make for a wonderful book: a real page turner.
July 2, 2012
The first video to surface from Bloomsday on Beaver Street: 31 seconds of the author greeting the crowd.
Before I switch to summer hours and cut back on my daily posting frenzy so I can concentrate more on the book I’m working on, Bobby in Naziland, and rethink exactly how I’m going to reboot my Beaver Street promotional campaign after the Amazon book-banning fiasco, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the past month, which was exhausting, traumatic, and rewarding.
Yes, June did, indeed, mark the end of an absurd three-month battle with Amazon to make the paperback edition of Beaver Street available. The company added a “buy box” on June 5, and three weeks later they finally had the book in stock. By the end of the month, Beaver Street appeared to be selling at least a little. But there’s no getting around the fact that three months of lost Amazon sales was damaging. The question I now face is how to repair the damage, and I’m certainly open to suggestions.
The highpoint of the month, of course, was Bloomsday on Beaver Street, the New York launch event, on June 16, at the Killarney Rose. This celebration of banned books and literature that had been branded pornographic made for a great party, with surrealistic touches and an electric atmosphere. You can read about it here, here, here, here, and here.
For the time being, the above video is the only video I have from the event. It’s the first 30 seconds of my reading, as I introduce myself to the crowd, and then stop to adjust the microphone. What I was about to say before the video cut off is, “Beaver Street is what happens when a writer can’t decide it he wants to be a humorist, an investigative journalist, a novelist, or a memoirist.”
I will post more videos as they become available.
June 27, 2012
As of this morning, Amazon has in stock multiple copies of my investigative memoir, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography. And there are, says the Amazon web page, more copies “on the way.” I think it’s safe to say that a ridiculous battle that began more than three months ago to make the paperback edition of Beaver Street available directly through Amazon, like any other book, is finally over.
Let me state again that, according to Amazon, Beaver Street was never a banned book, and that Amazon would never ban a book due to explicit sexual and volatile political content. The reason for its unavailability, an Amazon spokesman said, was a combination of bureaucratic snafus and computer glitches.
Whatever the reason for Beaver Street’s unavailability or “passive-aggressive banning” (as some in the media were calling it), I have expended an enormous amount of time and energy to achieve what should have been routine. But that’s the nature of the book business. Nothing is easy; nothing is routine; any kind of success is the exception to the rule. For every dollar I’ve earned writing books, it often feels as if I’ve expended a hundred dollars of time and energy. Going back to 1977, when I first sat down to write a book, I doubt I’ve earned minimum wage by the standards of a Third-World country.
No writer in his right mind would want to go to war with Amazon, and this battle to make Beaver Street available is, indeed, the last thing I wanted. But Amazon controls 75 percent of the online trade-paperback market, and if you want to reach potential readers, it’s virtually impossible to do it without them. So, I had no choice. Unlike, say, James Patterson and his band of elves, I don’t pop out a book every month. It took me seven years to write Beaver Street and two more years to find a publisher. My career was on the line, and I had nothing to lose. I was either going to find a way to get Amazon to sell the book. Or I was going to promote Beaver Street as the book Amazon banned.
Of course, nothing will make up for the sales I lost when Beaver Street was unavailable on Amazon and I was on the road and on the radio promoting it. All I can do is reboot, so to speak, and start promoting anew. I’ll take a day to celebrate the lifting of the “ban.” And I’ll hope that like my previous book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, Beaver Street will endure in the marketplace, and people will still be talking about it ten years from now.
June 26, 2012
Nowhere Man, was published, Amazon was a company I loved. After having had the book rejected by every publisher in creation for 18 years, it was thrilling to watch Nowhere Man shoot up the sales rankings to heights that I’d never imagined possible. Not only was Amazon instrumental in turning the book into a bestseller in multiple countries and multiple languages, but anytime there was a problem with the book’s page, I was able to call my Amazon contact and she’d fix it immediately while I was holding on the phone. It all seemed miraculous.Twelve years ago, when my John Lennon bio,
I’m not going to go into any detail here about what’s going on with Amazon now. (If you’re interested, there’s an excellent article in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker that spells it all out; you can read the abstract here.) But if you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I’ve been having my problems with Amazon. It took three months before they gave the paperback edition of Beaver Street a buy box, meaning that it was impossible to order the book directly through Amazon. Though the company attributed the absence of a buy box to a variety of ongoing bureaucratic and computer problems, and told me that they’d never ban a book due to its content, most journalists and readers I spoke to about the book’s unavailability perceived the matter as a case of Amazon banning Beaver Street because of its explicit sexual and volatile political content.
It was only after I told Amazon’s PR department that the New York launch event, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, was turning into a public protest against the banning of Beaver Street that a buy box appeared on the Beaver Street page. But that wasn’t the end of it—the book still remained unavailable close to 100% of the time. Amazon would order one copy of Beaver Street. It would sell within a couple of hours. And it would again be out of stock for the next 9-11 days. This was the situation as Bloomsday on Beaver Street rolled around.
The Bloomsday MC Supreme, Byron Nilsson, is, among many things, a professional journalist, and he intimated on his blog, on March 28, the day the book was published, that there appeared to be something unusual happening with Beaver Street on Amazon. At the Bloomsday event, which was, indeed, a celebration of literature that some had branded as “smut” and “filth” (like James Joyce’s Ulysses and Beaver Street), Nilsson spoke eloquently about my Amazon problem, and described what was happening as “passive-aggressive book banning.”
So, where does this issue stand now, ten days after the event? Yesterday, Amazon appeared to have more than one copy of Beaver Street in stock. As of this morning, there’s one left. Will it ever end?
June 21, 2012
Then, Byron Nilsson, who was scheduled to read and sing a song at the event, asked me, “Who’s the MC?”
“You are,” I said.
Byron, a seasoned and multitalented stage performer, as well as a professional writer who was one of my primary contributors when I was editing porn magazines, accepted the job eagerly, thereby becoming a triple threat: MC, guest reader of both Beaver Street and Ulysses, and guest singer. He did it all flawlessly.
As MC, he moved the show along in an entertaining and professional manner, concisely explaining why we were celebrating Beaver Street on Bloomsday; judiciously noting the anniversaries of Deep Throat and Watergate and deftly pointing out their connection to Beaver Street; succinctly describing Amazon’s so-called “passive-aggressive banning” of Beaver Street; and doing an especially good job of telling the story of how, 92 years ago, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, led by Anthony Comstock, succeeded in having Ulysses banned in the U.S. for obscenity because of James Joyce’s description of Leopold Bloom masturbating, which is, perhaps, the most poetic description of the male orgasm in the English language.
With a polished and theatrical delivery, Byron read this notorious passage from Ulysses, and then followed it with an equally stunning reading from Chapter 11 of Beaver Street, “The D-Cup Aesthetic.”
And his a cappella rendition of an Irish song, “The Photographer,” full of double entendres, was a showstopper, as well. My sister-in-law, I noticed, practically fell off her seat laughing.
So please, give it up for Byron Nilsson, who from now on I shall call MC Supreme!
June 12, 2012
Beaver Street print edition was unavailable directly from Amazon, I was on the road and on the radio promoting the book and trying to explain to people why it wasn't available from Amazon.There's no question that Amazon's computer glitch/bureaucratic snafu, which virtually everybody perceived as an overt attempt to ban Beaver Street because of its explicit content, did tremendous damage to the book's sales. Amazon is the primary way that people in America buy books. And for the three months that the
Those months are lost, and I’ll never get them back. But that’s the book biz, where it often seems miraculous if anything goes right. And there’s nothing I can do but keep promoting and keep believing that over the long run, readers will recognize Beaver Street as the serious and “enormously entertaining” (as one critic said) work of literature that it is, and it will endure in the marketplace as has my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man.
I feel like a sports team that’s come off a rough road trip, where I played well but got some bad calls. And now I’m about to play a crucial game on my home court. That “game” is Bloomsday on Beaver Street, which takes place this Saturday, June 16, at the Killarney Rose at 80 Beaver Street in New York City. It’s going to be a wild launch party, a celebration of literature that was branded pornographic, like Ulysses and Beaver Street. Some very special guests will be reading from Beaver Street and there will be live music provided by HooP, an extraordinary guitarist, and singer-songwriter Mary Lyn Maiscott, my wife. (You can listen to clips from some of her songs on CD Baby.)
Bloomsday on Beaver Street will be the first step in a long road back to attempt to make up for what was lost. As of last night, the event got its first bit of ink… in two “adult” trade mags, XBIZ and XFANZ. Let’s call it an auspicious start.
June 5, 2012
Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, thus ending a three-month battle to achieve what should have been routine. It's now possible to buy Beaver Street directly from Amazon and take advantage of free shipping with Amazon Prime. If I sound like an advertisement, please forgive me. This has been a long time coming.Score one for The Daily Beaver: Just as Bookexpo America opens in New York, Amazon has added a "buy box" to the print edition of
An Amazon rep called yesterday to break the news. He sounded genuinely upset that anybody could think that Amazon had banned Beaver Street due to its content, as I’d been reporting here. He assured me that that wasn’t the case.
I told the rep that I believed him. But I also said that every time I tried to explain to a reader or an interviewer that, according to Amazon, the reason the book wasn’t available was because of computer glitches and weird bureaucratic snafus having to do with licensing, nobody believed me. “Dude,” everybody would tell me, “Amazon banned your book.” After hearing this for three months, and getting nowhere with Amazon, I started to believe it, too.
Amazon, however, is sensitive to the idea that they’d ever ban a book due to explicit sexual content. And what finally got through to them, what finally motivated somebody within their bureaucracy to wake up and add a buy box, was a letter I wrote to the Amazon public relations department, telling them about the Bloomsday on Beaver Street event scheduled for June 16, in New York. I said that one of the reasons for the event was to publicly protest Amazon’s banning of Beaver Street. This was clearly something that Amazon did not want to see happen.
I also talked to the rep about the issue of fairness, pointing out that because of what amounts to a clerical error, I’d lost three months of sales. “How is Amazon going to make that up to me?” I asked him.
Let’s just that that, as of today, this remains an open question, though I fully expect Amazon to do the right thing and use their vast resources to give Beaver Street a well deserved promotional boost.
In the meantime, I’ll return to organizing Bloomsday on Beaver Street as the celebration of literature, in the spirit of James Joyce, that I’d originally intended.
June 4, 2012
I've been writing a lot about Amazon lately because of the absurd and destructive problems they've created for Beaver Street. If you've been reading this blog, then you know that despite my own efforts, and the efforts of the publisher and the distributor, Amazon has been unwilling or unable to make the print edition of Beaver Street available in the U.S. Concerned readers and members of the media who've asked me about this perceive the problem as a conscious effort on Amazon's part to ban Beaver Street because of its explicit sexual content. (This so-called book banning will be one of the themes of the New York launch event on June 16, Bloomsday on Beaver Street.)
I bring it up yet again because Book Expo America (BEA) begins tomorrow in New York, and one of the reasons I’m going there is the possibility (as slim as it may be) that somebody from Amazon will meet with me and be willing to work to resolve the problem. Treating the banning of Beaver Street as an aggrieved author has thus far gotten me nowhere. It occurs to me that it’s now time to put on my investigative journalist hat and demand answers from a stonewalling corporation.
If I seem obsessive about this Amazon issue, it’s because I am. And the longer it drags on with no resolution in sight, the more obsessive I become. Is it really necessary to point out that I spent seven years writing Beaver Street, another two years looking for a publisher, and the past 14 months running around Europe and the U.S. promoting it? One of the few things I expected in return for this decade-long ordeal was for the largest distributor of books in America to make my work available in all formats. Amazon has not done so, and that is unacceptable.
June 1, 2012
10. A blogger in England puts my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, on his list of "Top 10 Books," among the works of such commercial powerhouses as Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and C.J. Sanson. This has happened dozens of times before, and each time it does, it reminds me anew that 12 years after publication, Nowhere Man has achieved "cult classic" status.
9. A rave review of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, in an Italian magazine, calls the book “daring,” “an unforgiving but truthful portrait,” and a “must for… Beatles fans.”
8. The Italian edition of Nowhere Man sells out its first printing, but Italy, like the publishing industry itself, is in such a state of economic and political chaos, nobody seems to know if there will be a second printing.
7. My wife and I spend a blissful week in Santa Barbara, at our friends’ house, “Casa de los patios,” as it’s called. We begin each day sipping coffee on one of five patios, gazing at the mountains in the distance. “Another goddamn beautiful day,” says the mistress of the house each morning, as she comes trotting onto the patio with her four dogs.
6. For the fourth consecutive month, this website hits a new high in traffic.
5. I read and sign Beaver Street at Book Soup, the legendary independent bookstore on Sunset Strip in L.A.
4. I’m interviewed about Beaver Street on The Tiffany Granath Show on Sirius XM Playboy radio.
3. After a year of hustling and promotion, the first printing of Beaver Street sells out in the U.K. There will be a second printing… sooner or later.
2. Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn interview me about Beaver Street on their Sirius XM Playboy radio show, You Porn. Christy shows me her extraordinary (and ageless) breasts. Paul Slimak (Henry Dorfman in Beaver Street) calls in as Erich von Pauli, the character he plays in the Beaver Street promotional videos, and has everybody in the studio cracking up as he threatens to launch his V-2 missiles. It’s one of the best hours of radio I’ve ever participated in.
1. Claiming at various times “technical problems,” that they don’t have the right to sell the book, or that the book is “unavailable,” Amazon effectively bans the print edition of Beaver Street in the U.S. and there appears to be nothing anybody can do about it.
May 29, 2012
Beaver Street is a book that deals with explicit sexual themes while launching a full-frontal assault on the outrageous hypocrisy of Republican anti-porn warriors who were either convicted of multiple felonies and sent to jail or were forced to resign from office in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution--notably Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, Charles Keating, and Alberto Gonzales.
Because of this, I thought that there was a decent chance that somebody might try to ban the book, leading to controversy, a flurry of media attention, and a few more sales. What I had in mind was a group like Focus on Family, a fundamentalist Christian organization that I cited in Beaver Street because their founder, James Dobson, an “evangelical pediatrician,” had served on the Meese Commission on Pornography, which, in 1986, attempted to outlaw pornography in America.
Well, it’s time to file my little fantasy under: “Be careful what you wish for.”
Though Amazon U.S. has not exactly banned Beaver Street—they are selling the Kindle edition and allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition—they are not selling the paperback edition themselves, which means that they’ve made it extremely difficult for anybody who doesn’t want to read Beaver Street on a plastic machine to get their hands on it.
Amazon claims they’re doing this because they haven’t been given the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S., which is simply not true. The distributor and the publisher have repeatedly reaffirmed Amazon’s right to sell the book in the U.S., but Amazon has repeatedly ignored them and continues to insist that they don’t have the right to sell the book in the U.S.
None of the readers, potential readers, and journalists whom I’ve spoken to about this believe that Amazon is so inept they’re unable to correct what amounts to a minor clerical error. They think that Amazon has banned the book due to its explicit sexual content, and nothing I say can convince them otherwise.
So, if perception is reality, then I’ve gotten what I wished for: Beaver Street, like James Joyce’s Ulysses, is a banned book.
Which is one more good reason to join me June 16 at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street to celebrate Bloomsday on Beaver Street and express your distaste for any organization that, intentionally or by benign neglect, bans books.
And, if you’ve got a little free time, do me a favor: Write to Amazon. Let them know that you don’t appreciate them banning books of any kind, even if they swear on a stack of Kindles that they haven’t banned it, that they simply don’t have the right to sell it.
May 24, 2012
Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography has been unavailable directly through Amazon U.S. since its publication here last month. Though Amazon has made the Kindle edition available, and is allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition, they claim that they themselves do not have the right to sell the paperback edition in the U.S.Regular readers of this blog are aware that the paperback edition of
Since becoming aware of this problem, my publisher, Headpress, the distributor, SCB, and I have repeatedly told Amazon, by e-mail, by telephone, and by letter, that they do have the right to sell the book in the U.S.
Amazon continues to insist that they do not.
Yesterday, in fact, I received a phone call from a woman at Amazon Author Central. She told me that the reason Beaver Street does not have a “buy box,” as Amazon calls the button you click to buy the book directly from Amazon, is because Amazon does not have the right to sell the book in the U.S.
I told her that Amazon had received a letter from the distributor over a month ago confirming that they had full distribution rights for Beaver Street throughout North America. I read the letter to her.
The woman repeated that Amazon does not have the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S.
The conversation went around in circles. I told her that dealing with Amazon was more frustrating than dealing with the IRS.
The woman gave me a case number: 34451451. She said that this number should be used in any future dealings with Amazon.
When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I’d just played out a scene in a Kafka novel—probably one that doesn’t have a buy button.
I know this much: When any corporation, large or small, is unable to solve simple problems quickly—and adding a buy button to Beaver Street is about as simple as it gets—it’s symptomatic of deep-seated systemic problems throughout the corporation.
I look forward to discussing case #34451451 with Amazon at the BEA next month.
April 25, 2012
It's enough to make me wonder if a higher power has been reading "The Daily Beaver," and has decided to test if I really do, as I wrote the other day, have "the patience of Gandhi." Apparently, I do not. Apparently, under certain conditions, serenity eludes me, and I can be driven to fits of irrational screaming and cursing the very existence of a higher power.
Regular readers of this blog are aware of the problems I’ve been having with Amazon: One month after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street remains unavailable directly from Amazon U.S., though it is available virtually everywhere else. I’ve been working calmly and patiently with my publisher, the distributor, and Amazon to sort this out.
Then, about a week ago, my two-year-old computer, a Gateway PC, crashed and was pronounced dead. Since the cost of resurrection was more than the computer was worth, I remained calm and bought a new computer, the one I’m typing on now. But in the course of setting up this computer, I accidentally overwrote all the files from the Gateway that were backed up on the external hard drive. My first thought was that I’d just wiped out two years of work. That was when I lost it. You would not have wanted to be around me at that moment.
But I calmed down a few hours later, and realized that not everything was lost. Much of my work was also backed up on an assortment of CDs and thumb drives. And, theoretically, the Gateway hard drive is still working, so everything can be taken off there. In other words, I’m dealing with a major headache rather than a total catastrophe.
This morning I keep telling myself to concentrate on the positive: my reading at Book Soup, where Beaver Street remains a featured title of the week, and my interview with Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn on satellite radio, for example.
I’m doing that. I’m feeling OK. I’m a writer surviving in 21st-century America, and in this business, survival is success.
April 23, 2012
As I continue to wait with the patience of Gandhi for the Amazon technical team to make Beaver Street available in the U.S. directly from Amazon, I see that yet another five-star review has popped up. The critic, Scoobird "MR," from Long Beach, New York, is writing about the Kindle edition, which has been available for months. Since the review is short and to the point, I'll quote it in full.
“The book was a great read...very well-written and a page turner, too. While I am not a porn aficionado, I do love history. This is one, excellent history of a movement whose real background and players are not well known to most out of the industry. If you are looking for your next good read, this should be the book.”
Well, thank you, Scoobird. Glad you enjoyed it.
I will now return to my regularly scheduled session of sitting on the floor in the bogus position and chanting Om.
April 20, 2012
Yesterday I wrote about how, three weeks after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street is available pretty much everywhere, except directly from Amazon U.S., even though they have the book in stock. This is not a good situation. Writers and publishers need Amazon to reach the widest possible audience, and there’s no way around it. If a book is not available directly through Amazon in the crucial days after publication, it causes enormous problems.
Today, I asked somebody at Amazon what’s going on. They told me, essentially, that technical problems within their system are preventing the book from being made available, and that they’re working on it.
I continue to hope for resolution.
And I can tell you this much about Amazon: In 2000, when Nowhere Man was published, Amazon was instrumental in making the book a bestseller, and for that I’ll always be grateful. Yes, Amazon is a different company now, and it’s a different world out there. But for an author, there’s still nothing like the rush of looking at your book on Amazon and seeing that sales ranking shooting towards the toppermost of the poppermost.
April 19, 2012
I mention this today because I’m having an extremely difficult time accepting the fact that there’s nothing I can do about Amazon, and, apparently, there’s nothing anybody else can do about Amazon, either.
“Why,” a number of people have asked me, “is the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street not available directly from Amazon US when it is available from Amazon in every other country that has an Amazon?”
The short answer is: I don’t know.
Yes, I hope this problem will soon be resolved. And until it is, like Gandhi, I’m going to sit on the floor in the bogus position and chant Om.
February 6, 2012
Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook formats for the unbeatable and numerologically auspicious price of $9.99. (It’s also available on Kindle in the UK, and on various generic e-reader apps.)The print edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is scheduled for publication in the US on March 23. But much to my surprise, the e-book has jumped the gun and is now available in
So if you’re one of those people who love to read e-books on a sleek little tablet, why wait for the print edition? Download your copy of Beaver Street now!
Thanks for reading! And if you should see Beaver Street available as an e-book on any other sites, please, let me know.
October 29, 2011
Bestsellers in Pornography Biographies. But it is a heap that includes such classics of the genre as Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Ron Jeremy's The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz, and Annie Sprinkle's Post-Porn Modernist.Last night, after six months of nonstop promotion on two continents, Beaver Street surged, albeit briefly, to the top of the heap. True, the heap in question is Amazon UK's
I’ll take my number ones where I can get them.
This sudden surge, I imagine, can be attributed to my two recent interviews on The Sleazoid Podcast, as well as word of mouth. As I’ve been saying all along, Beaver Street is a page-turner. Once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down, even if porn isn’t a subject that particularly interests you. Because the subject matter of Beaver Street goes far beyond porno. Don’t take my word for it. Read some of the Amazon reviews. Or just buy the damn book and see for yourself.
I’ll also go so far to say that this is going to be the first of many number ones, brief and otherwise, in numerous categories both on Amazon UK and Amazon US, when the book is published here in March 2012. How do I know this? I just do. Call me a prophet.
In the meantime, I’ll take a day to quietly celebrate Beaver Street's first visit to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost,” as a certain British rock band used to say.
September 14, 2011
The good people of The Sleazoid Podcast wouldn't be the first to suggest that Beaver Street is a movie that needs to be made. R.C. Baker, of The Village Voice, said in his Amazon review, "Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace, a period piece that picks up the story of modern porn where Boogie Nights leaves off." And, of course, I, too, have entertained such big-screen fantasies, musing over the possibility of Martin Scorsese directing (Who does sleazy and gritty better?), Justin Timberlake portraying a younger me, and Paul Slimak, whom I call Henry Dorfman in the book, playing himself. (Check out Slimak's work in the Beaver Street promotional video, above.)
Whether or not a filmmaker comes along and snaps up the rights to Beaver Street is obviously beyond my control, and I’m not about to max out my credit cards producing the movie myself. But with Beaver Street scheduled to be published in the US sometime in 2012 and Nowhere Man about to undergo an Italian Renaissance, I’m feeling unusually optimistic.
So, I’m putting the idea out there, my daily message in a bottle: Come on, Hollywood, let’s make Beaver Street, the movie. If it ain’t a natural, I don’t know what is.
September 8, 2011
The highbrow critics (H-Net) like Beaver Street.
The middlebrow critics (Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) like Beaver Street.
The lowbrow critics (Bizarre) like Beaver Street.
And if you add the sex critics (Erotic Review) and the chorus of professional, semi-professional, and amateur critics on Amazon US and UK who have weighed in with unanimous five-star reviews… well, one might be tempted to argue that Beaver Street is a dirty book with universal appeal.
But one would be best advised to hold his or her tongue until Traci Lords, the right-wing media, and others with delicate sensibilities render their opinions.
August 19, 2011
"A Demimonde in Twilight" profiled a number of literate porn writers surviving in New York City in the declining days of magazine publishing. Two of those writers, "Izzy Singer" and "Maria Bellanari," are major characters in Beaver Street. (They went by different names in the article.) The story also discussed the connection between magazines like Stag and Swank, writers like Mario Puzo and Bruce Jay Friedman, and Marvel Comics, a "secret history" that I explore at length in Beaver Street.Beaver Street's first brush with notoriety occurred nine years ago, when The New York Times ran an article partially inspired by an embryonic Beaver Street manuscript.
It was written by Matthew Flamm, a journalist who’s been instrumental in bringing attention to my work. In 1999, Flamm was the first one to write about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. His item in Entertainment Weekly sparked a conflagration of media coverage that put Nowhere Man on best-seller lists in five countries.
Flamm has at last read the published version of Beaver Street, and has posted his distinctly New York-flavored review on Amazon. I will quote it in its entirety below:
Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street is both an absorbing memoir of a writer's struggle to make a living and a brief history of pornography as it grew from a mom and pop business into the industrial giant it is today. But this well researched, smartly written, surprisingly funny book is also a one of a kind tour through a fast-disappearing underbelly of American popular culture. Rosen, a pre-gentrification New Yorker, fell into porn when it still held a certain countercultural allure. His cast of characters includes hapless, aspiring artists, shrewd businessmen (and businesswomen), all-out neurotics, sexual desperados, and conniving egomaniacs. Kind of a cross section of a broken down IRT local train circa 1980. Beaver Street shows us an alternative Grub Street, one that many of us never knew existed.
August 1, 2011
Thus far, however, only Curtis Cartier of the Seattle Weekly has been covering the story, and he’s provided an update on his blog.
According to Cartier, Amazon has pulled most of the issues (apparently provided by extremely foolish and/or ignorant “marketplace sellers”) containing pictures of Lords. Though he said that one image of an issue remained—the August 1985 Swank, with Lords on the cover—that, too, has since been removed.
Cartier also noted that Lords has been tweeting about Amazon.
Tweet #1: I just found out that Amazon is selling my old kiddie porn mags. Not ok.
Tweet #2: Amazon = losers of week for selling child pornography.
Tweet #3: I wish I had a legion of lawyers to kick Amazons ass. Aren’t there enough attractive willing adults out there to exploit?
Tweet #4: All this Amazon drama has driven me to sobriety.
Some things never change. A middle-aged Traci Lords who, beginning in 1984, used a fraudulent passport and driver’s license to systematically seek work in the porn industry still refuses to take any responsibility for what happened. “I was drunk! I was stoned! I was victimized!” she said 25 years ago, when the scandal broke.
She still knows how to play the victim.
July 28, 2011
site. So, as of this morning, I’m now communicating with a new audience—the Headpress audience who, I’m told, is global, literate, edgy, and well outside whatever passes for mainstream these days. This perhaps explains why Headpress published Beaver Street in the first place.Yesterday, Headpress, the publisher of my book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, began running this blog, The Daily Beaver, on their
For those of you who’ve not read this blog before, let me be clear about its purpose: I put a lot of effort into writing Beaver Street and then finding somebody to publish it. Now that it’s out there, I want to bring it to the attention of the widest possible audience. That would be you. So, if you’ve already read Beaver Street, thank you very much. If you haven’t read it, then I urge you to buy a copy—directly from Headpress. (I hear they still have a couple of signed copies in stock.)
If you’re not familiar with Beaver Street, then please check out some of the press material on the Headpress site, or on my site. The critical response has thus far been extraordinary, which makes me feel—Dare I say it?—hopeful.
But this blog is more than just a vehicle for self-promotion. Beaver Street is investigative memoir that shows the history of the late 20th century though a pornographic lens. It’s a personal journey through sex, politics, economics, and culture. And much of what I write about remains relevant to today’s headlines. The centerpiece of the book, for example, is an exploration of the Traci Lords scandal, which began 25 years ago this month. Lords, the most famous porn star of her generation, revealed in July 1986 that she’d been underage for her entire career. The fallout from the scandal nearly destroyed the adult industry.
Yesterday, The Seattle Weekly ran a piece on their website about how Amazon is selling old issues of High Society, Oui, Club, Stag, and Penthouse containing images of an underage Traci Lords—the very images that had nearly destroyed the industry 25 years ago, and remain illegal “child pornography” today, even though Lords is now middle aged.
I, for one, can’t wait to see how this story plays out, and will update it here as information becomes available.
July 27, 2011
Amazon UK (and eight for eight on Amazon US, where the book isn’t even published yet).I was going to continue deconstructing the art of Sonja Wagner, but since today is my birthday, I’m going to celebrate going 11 for 11 with five-star reader reviews for Beaver Street on
One review on the UK site, posted by “10, Mathew Street,” calls Beaver Street the “best book” of the year.
Well, that’s saying quite a bit, and the year isn’t over yet. But I have no doubt that Beaver Street is the best book 10, Mathew Street—a Beatles site based in Spain that has been amazingly supportive of Nowhere Man—has read in the past seven months.
So, Beaver Street sends a big gracias to 10, Mathew Street! And thanks again to everybody who has posted those wonderful reviews.
If anybody out there would like to give me another five-star review for my birthday, well, that would be nice—but only if you really mean it.
July 20, 2011
Over the past week, more five-star Beaver Street reader reviews have been posted on Amazon UK and US. Below are pull quotes from three of them.
Dear readers, these reviews are vital. If you read the book, please don’t hesitate to share your opinion with the world. But remember, Amazon is very strict about “inappropriate” language. So, in the immortal words of George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer, “Watch what you say.” And, of course, I send out a big, heartfelt thanks to everybody who has posted a review!
“Robert Rosen has an uncanny knack for combining fact and filth in Beaver Street, resulting in an account of the porn magazine industry that is both detailed and informative, as well as accessible and riveting.” —Sarah
“The subject is dark but Rosen maintains a level of humour which results in an engaging, absorbing, compelling read. One for the wish list.” —palmera6
“Vivid and funny, Beaver Street moves at a cinematic pace… This wickedly honest personal memoir of the 80s and 90s sex industry segues from a behind the scenes look at porn shoots to hilarious office banter amid the cramped cubicles of fetish magazines.” —R.C. Baker
“Among the fascinating portions of this personal history is the eye-popping account of the corporate history of America's old-line porno mags—the famous writers who started out with the progenitors of the medium, and the overlap between porn magazines and the creators of some of the most successful and famous comic book superheroes. What is also fascinating, and perhaps surprising, is the number of women working on-staff at these ‘men's magazines.’ Those stories alone are worth the price of the book.” —CentralCoast
July 15, 2011
With that in mind, I downloaded the free Kindle app for PC, invested $2.99, and read a short story titled “Learning to Be Cruel.” Why? Because “Irv O. Neil,” the author of this deranged bit of semi-autobiographical fiction about a middle-aged freelance writer who’s sexually humiliated by gorgeous young Chinese woman, is “Izzy Singer,” one of the main characters in Beaver Street. It’s his first venture into the realm of Kindle.
In the years that I toiled in pornography, I published a lot of Irv/Izzy’s work in magazines such as D-Cup. But I’ve never read a story of his like this one—due to censorship regulations, I wasn’t allowed to publish stories about humiliation and degradation.
“Learning to be Cruel” shocked me, probably because I got the sense that Irv/Izzy is writing from the heart, and may personally enjoy having sexy young women treat him in a manner similar to what he graphically and realistically describes in the story. (I shall not enumerate the details here.)
Though not my “cup of sleaze,” as Irv/Izzy might say, this skillfully rendered tale has given me additional insight into a character in my own book, showing me a dimension of his personality that even after 27 years, I never fully grasped.
“Learning to Be Cruel” is not only a good companion piece to Beaver Street; it’s the brave work of a man who has mastered the short story form. Or perhaps I should say, a man who’s been enslaved by it.
July 12, 2011
I’m pleased to report that my campaign to get Beaver Street readers to post reviews that don’t run afoul of Amazon UK and US censorship regulations has gotten off to a promising start.
Here are some pull quotes from the five-star reviews that have popped up over the past week:
“Brilliant!” —David Comfort
“I’ve just completed Beaver Street and could not put it down… a perfect (and perfectly outrageous) mix of personal experience, research, reporting, and conclusions.” —Poison Penn
“A real treat and impossible to put down… essential reading.” —P. Slim
“Mr. Rosen has stripped American society [of] its clothes with his very beautifully written tale.” —J. C. Malone
Thank you all so much! And please, keep those reviews coming.
July 9, 2011
If you need an assignment to get you through the weekend, may I suggest posting a Beaver Street review on Amazon.
See you Monday.
July 7, 2011
Yesterday I wrote about the problems readers were having posting Beaver Street reviews on Amazon UK—a computer was flagging sexually explicit keywords, and rejecting the reviews. But when a fellow author and professional critic, David Comfort, wrote to Amazon UK to ask why his review wasn’t posted, a human being read the computer-rejected review and posted it exactly as Comfort had originally written it.
After his review was posted in the UK, Comfort then contacted Amazon US to ask the same question: Why wasn’t my Beaver Street review posted?
Here is Amazon’s response:
I read your recent review of “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography” and found it violated our guidelines. I did notice that it has been approved on the Amazon UK site, but we don’t allow profanity in our US Customer Reviews.
Your review couldn’t be posted on Amazon.com as written. I would recommend revising your review and submitting it again. Specifically, the following parts cannot be posted on Amazon.com:
”cocksmen,” “blowjob,” and “newcummer”
Please take a look at our Review Guidelines for information about acceptable review content.
Comfort censored his review and Amazon US posted it. Cocksmen became studs. Blowjob became fellatio. Newcummer became freshman.
Dear readers, keep in mind that Amazon reviews are vital to the success of Beaver Street. If you’ve read the book and have something to say about it, please post a review—but watch your language, especially in the US. If Amazon doesn’t post it, ask them why and they will tell you, just as they told Comfort.
Though Beaver Street has not yet been published here, it is available through marketplace sellers on Amazon US, or through me. (Click on “Contact,” above, and send me an e-mail. I’ll send you the details.)
And thanks for reading (and writing)!
July 6, 2011
Amazon UK, where the book is readily available.Fortunately, I’m not the only person who’s been wondering why, up to a few days ago, no reader reviews of Beaver Street had appeared on
David Comfort, author of The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead, and a professional critic, looked into the matter after he submitted a review to Amazon UK—similar to his review that ran on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website—which was not posted. He wrote to Amazon to ask what was going on and received the following response:
Hello Mr. Comfort,
We encourage all feedback on the Amazon.co.uk website, both positive and negative.
However, it has come to our attention that your review of “Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography” does not comply with our customer reviews guidelines as:
We don’t allow obscene or distasteful content including sexually explicit or sexually gratuitous comments in Customer Reviews.
It is focused on the author and their life rather than reviewing the book itself.
Comfort then sent the following letter to Amazon UK:
Amazon UK Editors:
Are you still in the Victorian Age, or the 21st Century? If the latter, you should find nothing sexually explicit or gratuitous in my review of “Beaver Street.” Please point out the four letter words.
As for your objection that the piece is focused on the author, not the book itself—if you READ the book, rather than blindly pontificate, you will discover that it is AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL and all about the author and his experiences.
If you fancy yourselves as a moral police—not a Free Speech protective bookseller as your customers imagine—please let us know so we can take our business and reviews elsewhere.
The result: Comfort’s review was read by a human, rather than scanned by a computer for objectionable language, and posted exactly as he’d originally written it.
So, a word of warning to future readers of Beaver Street who will be submitting reviews to Amazon UK: Be careful with your language. Read the Amazon customer review guidelines. And if you submit a review that’s not posted, then write to Amazon to find out why. You may get an Amazon human to read it and post it.
Tomorrow: David Comfort corresponds with the good people at Amazon US.
May 5, 2011
Amazon Japan:If I’m reading the following tweet correctly, yesterday Beaver Street hit #3 on
otona_amazon 洋書/ #3: Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.
That’s amazing news, and I can only wonder what’s going to happen when the book’s translated into Japanese. So, thank you Japan!
Also, Beaver Street was mentioned in Galley Cat, which is cool, because the site, part of Media Bistro, is about as mainstream as it gets. So, thank you Galley Cat! Appreciate the attention.
And don’t worry, dear readers, I’ve not forgotten about Senator Orrin Hatch, who continues to make headlines with his demand for more vigorous porn prosecutions. We’ll get back to him soon enough.
April 7, 2010
The publication date is still six months away, but Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is now available for pre-order on Amazon UK for £11.95. There is no better way to join the Beaver Street Literary Insurgency.