Scarlett Skyes

Oh Amazon… why

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A couple of weeks ago I was called, out of the blue, by a rep at Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It seems they were trying to “reach out” to frequent publishers to let us know about upcoming changes to their policies about what is acceptable content for ebooks published through their platform. OK. Great. What are the changes? They can't say, but titles like my “Family Taboo Group Sex Collection” are the kind of titles they are going to be targeting. I was told that they're trying to reduce the “shock value” for their customers and although the rep agreed with me that Amazon's guidelines for acceptable content, which reads (I shit you not) “What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”, are useless, her hands were tied and she wasn't allowed to give me any further information.

She did say that new titles being published would be subject to the new policies, and then in a few weeks they'd be going after existing titles, so I had that much time to conduct some trial and error to find out what the new policies were. Great…

So, I reached out to the various other erotica authors that I'm in contact with and asked if anybody else had received these mysterious phone calls. At that time nobody had, but over the next few days several others did. Although I feel like I dropped the ball in not squeezing the Amazon rep for any better information, in my defence I was caught completely unawares in the middle of a force-five-code-brown from my non-potty-trained child. I like to think that by raising the awareness with other authors they were able to be better prepared for their phone calls.

In the intervening time since that fateful day, we started hearing about titles not just being filtered but blocked completely as authors tried to publish them. The erotica publishing world just got a lot more difficult. Another author managed to have a better conversation with the rep that contacted them, managing to get confirmation that Amazon isn't trying to purge their store of PI (pseudo-incest) or monster sex (like werewolves and alien tentacles) and so on, they still want all the sweet cash that comes from the erotica genres, they just don't want it to look like PI or monster sex.

Personally, I think this is going to result in a lot of angry customers who aren't very careful in what they buy, but whatever. It's Amazon's playground so they make the rules, I just wish they would tell us what the rules are. I, and many other erotica writers, have been trying to figure out just where the invisible line in the sand is and how we can still accurately and effectively market our books. After a few failed attempts and trying different things, I've managed to get my complete series of Poor Little Rich Girl published, so I am making progress.

However, it's not as easy as that because of the fact that different reviewers at Amazon are interpreting the unknown rules differently, so I still can't be sure that what I've done is a sure-fire way to get my stories published with Amazon. I'll be going through my backlist and doing a lot more experimentation.

This is one of the reasons why I haven't published much lately, I apologise for those of you who are waiting for “Filthy Rich 5”, especially the fans who are waiting for their free copy, but there's no point in writing it until I know in what form I can get it published. If all goes well, then I hope to publish it for next weekend.

Just noticed that the lovely and talented Selena Kitt has also blogged about this.

3 thoughts on “Oh Amazon… why

  1. Gerald M

    Amazon is acting the bully, and they are hypocrites of the worst sort. They don’t want to give up all the cash that erotica generates, yest hide the fact that they DO make big bucks from erotica. I’d like to see Amazon take a big financial hit from this, if they screw up enough, get customers to abandon them in droves, there are LOTS of fine e-book sellers out there. That’s where I go, I have NOTHING to do with Amazon, or any of the other one-stop mega stores.

  2. Codie Jones

    Thank you for posting this Scarlett – it’s nice to have a heads up.

    I’ve been dabbling with writing erotica for a couple of months now, and I had a book blocked by Amazon for ‘inappropriate content’ – however this was a single story which somehow managed to get published in an anthology on the same day?? I found this a little odd, but after reading this post I know one thing for sure – whatever Amazon publishes appears to be completely at their discretion, and this could vary dramatically according to who is doing the proofreading.

    I assume they have software to look for patterns and phrases within texts before they are published, but there must be some human element somewhere – right? I’d hope so anyway.

    Once again, thanks for the post – I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind when I come to publish more stories.

    Codie x

    1. Scarlett Post author

      Hi Codie,

      There is definitely wild inconsistency between Amazon reviewers. A writer I know got something published, with no filter or blocking, then noticed they had a typo in their blurb. They fixed the typo and that resulted in the book being blocked. So… yeah, with this kind of inconsistency we’re not going to have a great idea of what the rules actually are until a lot more people are successfully getting things through. My thoughts on your blocked title for ‘inappropriate content’ are that it is possible when Amazon says ‘content’ it doesn’t necessarily mean the actual story itself, it might be a catchall term. When it’s the cover, they say cover. When it’s the blurb, they say blurb. When it’s content, you’re pretty much screwed for that story. BUT, I think they might also say ‘content’ when there’s more than one thing wrong with it, like cover and title, or title and blurb, and so on.

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