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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Paranormal romance/erotica has invaded my beloved Sword & Sorcery, and I'm pissed off

First let me be clear: I have nothing against paranormal romance or erotica. Hell, I've got nothing against dinosaur erotica. If that's what scratches your itch, then scratch away, my friend.

No, what makes me angry is when authors of paranormal erotica/romance stuff their obviously non-Sword & Sorcery books into the Sword & sorcery categories at retailers such as Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble.

Why does this yank my chain? Because what they're doing is a disservice both to readers and to fellow authors. Specifically, they are taking spots away from actual Sword & Sorcery authors and invading Sword & Sorcery best-seller lists. Because, you see, they list their dragon/werewolf/shifter BBW paranormal urban romance fantasy in as many categories as Amazon & other retailers will fall for. And if the book does reasonably well in paranormal romance lists, it's going to absolutely rock it in S&S lists, as Sword & Sorcery is a much smaller pool.

They're gaming the system via inappropriate use of keywords, making it harder for readers to find real S&S, and they're sucking the oxygen, discoverability-wise, out of the room for actual Sword & Sorcery writers.

And I'm angry about it.

Here is Lin Carter's definition of Sword & Sorcery:

We call a story sword and sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land, age, or world of the author's invention--a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real--a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil.

And now I present to you a selection of the top 100 free in kindle Sword & Sorcery stories (UK):

Moon Chosen #1 (BBW Werewolf / Shifter Romance)

Shadow of the Moon #1 (Werewolf / Shifter Romance)

Healed by the Dragon: Part One (A Scottish Dragon-shifter Paranormal Romance) 

I'm not saying that Paranormal Romance can never also be classsifie.... who am I kidding? Yes, yes I am.

Paranormal Romance can never be cross-classified as Sword & Sorcery

Let me put this another way. I hope Jessie Donovan, Mac Flynn and all the other authors who are miscategorizing their books find this, and pay attention:

You have a dragon, a werewolf, a shapeshifter in your story? Maybe somebody who uses a sword? Maybe even some sorcery? 


But of course these authors already know that. That's what makes my blood boil. They're just trying to game the system and get a bestseller in a category--any category. They don't care.

So every time I find a Paranormal Fantasy in the Sword & Sorcery subcategory, I report it.

And so should you.


Unknown said...

Um...dude...ya better get educated on how AMAZON does the category listing, not the authors. As authors, we cannot choose the category "sword & sorcery". These books are probably listed under "fantasy romance" and have keywords like "dragons, shifters, werewolves" etc.

Since you don't seem to have a publisher listed on your books, I'm assuming you're self-published. Have YOU been able to choose the "sword & sorcery" category? If you can, I wanna see screenshots, because last time I published a book in the fall of 2014, you can't do that.

Might I suggest reading David Gaughran's book "Let's Get Digital" and "Let's Get Visible" where he talks all about the Amazon system and how to use it to your advantage. It's not's being smart about running your business.

That's my two pence...


Lauren Hawkeye said...

Unfortunately, as authors we don't have full control over where our books are categorized. For instance, if I write a dragon book and want to use dragon as a keyword because, hey, it has dragons... that triggers a bunch of categories that I didn't choose and may not want to be in. And sometimes I can't figure out how I landed in categories... I've had erotic romance charting in self-help, paranormals showing up in religion. But an author is certainly not to blame for choosing keywords that represent his or her book... if you write a dragon shifter book, then by all means, it's wise to choose dragon as a keyword. And if, as a reader, you purchase a book that turns out not to be what you expected... Amazon does have a return policy :)

Sheila Coon said...

I'm not familiar with the authors mentioned in the article but Paranormal authors are rampant abusers of keywords and categories on Amazon. Their books fall in everything from Sci-fi and cowboy to military and interracial/multicultural. And none of them fit so you end up refunding books which I hate doing but I also hate the ol bait and switch. And its not true authors are not responsible. With a little research on Amazon's category page, they tell you the only way you will show up in certain categories is if you the author puts in the keyword.

Michael McClung said...


Thanks for your tuppence. No you can't choose S&S. You have to do it with keywords. I'm fully prepared to admit that authors might land in the category unknowingly. They should police themselves and ask Amazon to remove books from inappropriate categories, just as I would do. And I've read David's book. Nowhere does he say to put your book in an incorrect category, or leave it there if it doesn't belong.

Michael McClung said...


You may have been put into inappropriate categories by Amazon algorithms, but it's your choice to stay in them. One email to kdp support would sort it out.

Unknown said...

For the record, I used dragons as a keyword and was put into the category. You really shouldn't shout at me in your post. I write about dragons, so yes, I'm going to use dragons as keyword. This is not misleading and I can't help that Amazon puts me in that category. I'm too busy writing books to contact Amazon to remove me from some category because it offends you.

Calling me out without knowing the facts is unprofessional for any author.

Unknown said...

For what it's worth, focus on writing your next book and making it awesome. That's far more important than taking some sort of crusade against authors you don't know for things Amazon decides.

Michael McClung said...


I'll just direct you to the comments I made to Arial and Lauren. Your book is miscategorized. This is a disservice to readers and other authors, especially since you choose to do nothing about it.

Unknown said...

I tried to do this via email. But for some reason, you want it public.

I've released books every month for a year and a half. I don't have time to email KDP for all twenty-odd books I have. This ruckus and all the people pointing me toward your post has cost me enough writing time as it is.

You can write your opinion about category changes, but singling out a few examples is unnecessary. I suppose I should thank you as I'm having a free run and the publicity on other outlets is probably helping me.

But unless you're going to go through the millions of books on Amazon and check each one, mine is no different from any other.

Good luck to you. And no, this post isn't going to change my mind about including S&S keywords. You can keep up with your mission, if you so choose. However, I have a large and loyal fanbase, regardless of category. My story and characters is what sells my story, not my sub-sub-category on Amazon.

Michael McClung said...

I just woke up. I'm at least twelve time zones ahead of you. I responded to blog comments before checking my email. But I don't mind if it's public. I do mind responding both on this blog and on Twitter, so I'll choose the one that doesn't limit me to 140 characters.

The idea that you're too busy to contact KDP support is a bit laughable. It would take 1 email, listing the books that were miscategorized.

You're quite welcome for any publicity this little spat might generate. You seem to be under the impression that I dislike you or your book. I have no opinion of your book, and nothing against it other than the fact that it is miscategorized.

I'm glad to hear you have a large and loyal fan base. I doubt many of them read your books for their S&S content, though, so why insist your books stay in that category?

The truth is, Amazon is a freaking mess, search-wise, because of all the miscategorized books. This does a disservice to readers and fellow authors. You may not have created the problem with your books, but by refusing to remove your books from incorrect categories, you are certainly and willfully contributing to the problem.

Unknown said...

I take issue with the "bait and switch" mentioned above. Readers can read the book descriptions before they buy. Authors generally make a serious attempt at describing their books appropriately. The last thing we want is a bunch of readers who are not our target audience downloading our books, getting disappointed and then leaving crappy reviews.

Michael McClung said...


I'm willing to concede that the number of authors intentionally miscategorizing their books may be smaller than the ones unintentionally doing so. But plenty of erotica authors do everything they can think of to escape Amazon's adult dungeon, including miscategorizing.

And if readers are seeing it as bait and switch, it begooves every author to be very conscientious about getting miscategorized, no? Its not enough to say "I never chose that category" or "I never checked." The review is already written, the damage done.

Anonymous said...

Just ran across this post, while wondering why SEAL incest books are showing up in my categories, and I can't help it, but I need to respond to Jessie Donovan's excuse why she won't remove her books from the wrong category:

Hey, Jessie Donovan, even if you write 50 BOOKS IN 50 DAYS, you can take 10 minutes out of your super duper busy schedule to email Amazon. All you'd have to do is list all your titles in the same email and tell them to "Take me out of that category, please."

So yeah, Jessie Donovan, you're leaving your books in those categories ON PURPOSE. If you didn't do it on purpose, you're now LEAVING IT THERE on purpose. At the very least have the decency to admit it instead of trying to make excuses like "I'm too busy writing to email someone," when we both know you probably spend hours and hours a day just wasting on Facebook and Twitter.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this was unnecessary shots at authors. I ran across this post accidentally but as a indie author I have to speak up and point out something. I firmly believe, that if Mr. McClung, accidentally ended up in urban romance and it catapulted him to a hot seller with a sudden increase of downloads, that he would email Amazon and have them "remove " his book from the category. I'm sorry, but people complain until they benefit from doing the same thing. Just keeping it real. Do I believe books should be categorized correctly, yes, but I also believe that if you get lucky and end up in a category you didn't mean to and you get sales from it then consider yourself lucky. And if it happened to me, no I wouldn't remove my book!