So, Apparently My Cover is Too Prurient for an Amazon Ad + Mini Rant

AngelaQuarles_SteamMeUpRawley_400pxBehold, a book cover too salacious to get an ad on Amazon. I’m not kidding.

Yesterday, Amazon opened up advertising to non-Beta testers whose books are enrolled in KDP Select. For various reasons, I’d decided a week ago to put Steam in KDP Select (for non-authors, this means I decided to make the ebook exclusive to Amazon for 90 days), and I thought I’d try out this new opportunity.

Some early Beta testers are saying it was a total flop for them, but I’ve always been of a mindset that no book’s path is the same as another’s, and I couldn’t know if this wouldn’t work for my target audience unless I tried. Plus, I’d decided to make it super-granular to be sure it was only my target audience that would see it, thereby reducing the chance that a click wouldn’t convert to a sale.

Here were my other arguments for trying it:

  • The cost wasn’t out of line with other promo opportunities, and if it performed well, it would be even better.
  • Publishers pay for coop space with online and brick and mortar stores all the time, so why not do the same for my indie title
  • Even if I got zero clicks (and so would have spent zero bucks), I got free impressions. That’s eyeballs on my cover, which helps inch me closer to that adage of ‘you have to see a product x times before you buy’ or whatever that adage is.
  • There was a chance (slim, probably) that Amazon listened to the feedback from the Beta testers and tweaked the code for better ROI. Stranger things have been known to happen.

So, I chose to show my ad on only 38 books’ product pages whose audience might enjoy my book too. So I selected Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, Kristen Callihan’s books, Bec McMaster’s, and Delphine Dryden’s steampunks, etc. I also unchecked the box that would allow Amazon to also show it on books that were similar. The way I figure, that meant my book would only compete with others to appear on the book page of just those 38 books.

Several hours later I got a rejection email saying my cover didn’t meet their advertising guidelines. I can only assume it was this part of the guidelines that flagged my cover: “Overtly provocative imagery such as partial nudity or blatantly sexual prurient content.”

I sent a reply asking: “So a bare-chested guy, which a child can see at the beach or even just seeing anyone jogging or mowing their lawn in the summer, is partial nudity??” I haven’t heard back yet, but someone else suggested that the pose is a little suggestive, and yes it is. It’s supposed to be. But is it “overtly provocative” or “prurient”?

Which brings me to my mini-rant

Why, why, why is sex in a loving relationship “bad” in our society? Why does our society find it okay to allow kids to see violence, but not images with sexual overtones, etc?

My parents were pretty awesome–when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, nudity and sex weren’t taboo subjects for me. Heck, my mom’s an artist and she let me tag along to sessions where her and her fellow artists had a nude model, etc. Nudity was beautiful. Love was beautiful.

However, violence? No way! So I was the odd child in high school whose parents let them see Rated R movies that had nudity/sex, but Jaws? I still haven’t seen it. It came out when I was of an age where I was still under parental guidance, and since then I just haven’t gotten around to it.

So my book has a woman sitting in a guy’s lap in a playful, suggestive manner, and the amount of man titty (or mipple) is less than you’d see on any given summer day down here in the hot South, and it’s unacceptable to be shown?

On The Passive Guy, a commenter noted that hers was rejected because it had manchest too, but hers was just a surfer. No suggestive pose apparently. So it’s just a bare manchest that’s got their panties in a wad?

The rejection is also illogical

The thing is, this cover passed their review when it went live, meaning that it didn’t get flagged as erotic and so didn’t get put in what’s been called the Amazon dungeon where some erotic novels are shunted. (And to be clear, my book is not an erotic romance.) The Amazon dungeon is a place where they stick titles so they will not show up in a search, not even in the list of books by that author. So that means that my cover is showing up on other book pages right this very minute! Gasp! So Steam is currently showing in their “Customers Who Bought, Also Bought” pane, or their other search and display mechanisms they have in place to sell products that people want. So why is it that it can’t show in a sidebar ad? And if I really get lucky, and sales take off, I might even show up in the Also Bought pane for one of those 38 books… So weird.

What’s left?

Yesterday, an indie thriller writer reported that hers was rejected and the only thing she can figure is that her cover had some blood spatters. Another author in a private forum quipped that the only thing that sidebar ad pane will be able to show are sea adventure novels and women’s fiction.

What do you think? Leaving aside that this could probably be a big waste of money for an indie author, do you think this type of cover shouldn’t be seen? Did your cover get rejected? If so, for what reason do you think? Feel free to post your rejected cover in the comments so we can get a feel for the range of rejected covers.

ETA: If you’d like to post your rejected cover in the comments, use this code: <img src=”URLofYourImage” width=”150″ />

Writer Wednesday: Goodreads vs Facebook Ads – an Experiment

download (2)Which works better for writers placing sponsored ads, Goodreads or Facebook? I can only tell you how it’s working out for me, so this is in no way a definitive answer. It could be that my text isn’t optimum for one platform vs. the other, etc.

But for better or for worse, I thought I’d share my stats for other writers who are contemplating using either of these two venues and what my success rate has been with it.

First up is Facebook. I’d run ads in the past for completely unrelated things, but this was five years ago, and maybe things have changed. Anyway, I knew I could create my own ad there and only pay if I got any clicks. On January 3rd I started my campaign and did the minimum bid per click, which at the time was .42. The next day I checked my stats and not only did I not have any clicks, I had no views. In other words, the ad hadn’t appeared in front of anyone at all. I bumped it up to .50 and was still not reaching anyone. I then changed it to .55, and as you can see below, the results are pretty miserable:


Sure, I could bump up the cost I’d pay if anyone clicked on it, but I’m on a really tight budget and this is as high as I’m willing to pay for someone to click on the link.

Now onto Goodreads. They also have DIY ads very similar to Facebook. I saw another author saying they had success with it, so Monday I checked it out. Approval was in a much shorter time frame than they warn during setup (only took a couple of hours) and I actually did way less than their recommended price per click. I started at .10, and once the ad started running, I had views. And then clicks. I had a little more space for copy, so maybe that extra little bit helps? Here’s the stats:


So as you can see, in just two days, my reach is much better than Facebook, for less. You’ll notice that the target audience is a lot smaller on Goodreads (20K vs. 400K), but who cares if it’s getting seen and acted upon? And from what I can tell, those 6 clicks resulted in the book being added 6 times by unknown people during that time period, a 100% success rate.

Perhaps the other difference is that folks on Goodreads are there for books and only books and so they’re more willing to look at the ads, whereas on Facebook, the audience is now trained to ignore that sidebar of ads that usually pushes dating sites and getting cheap insurance, things that normally don’t appeal to us?

Another option that Goodreads has is the ability to create multiple ads under one campaign, pulling from one bank of money you set up. So in the graphic above, you can see I have two. The first one targets genres, and the second one I’ve created to target specific authors. I’m not sure how either work– does it show to anyone who has those authors listed as their favorites, or only if you’re visiting one of their books? Same with the genre–does it only show if you’re visiting a book in one of those genres, or can it tell which genres a person likes and shows it regardless of where they are on the site?

Another possibility is that I have my targeting completely wrong on Facebook and that accounts for the lack of success there. But, just from my own browsing experience, I do tend to ignore Facebook ads more than I do Goodreads…

If you haven’t done either, you might be worried about costs getting out of hand if people start clicking on your awesome ad. But don’t worry, both platforms have a threshold amount for you to input your maximum. For Facebook, I set it up for $2/day and for Goodreads I set it up with a bank of $4 and have it auto-end when I run out of money.

Have you used either one? What success have you had with them?