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″ />

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS Now on Sale at Amazon, etc + Contest News

BEER cover smallBusy week for me! I wanted to send an update with all the latest in one handy spot since my last post.

BEER AND GROPING now available on the following third party sites!

If you have a preferred third party site not listed, please let me know! And if you’ve already purchased it, thank you!!! Also I’d love any tags, likes, etc on Amazon and B&N that you feel up to throwing my way 🙂

Latest guest posts

Contest News

Heard back from the last two contests MUST LOVE BREECHES finaled in, and it won second place in the paranormal category of the Valley of the Sun’s Hot Prospects contest, and won first place in the fantasy/futuristic category of SpacecoasT Authors of Romance’s Launching A Star contest! And I’d like to give a shout out to the winner in the Valley of the Sun contest, because it was none other than my Beta buddy and RWA roomie Jami Gold! In fact, she was also the grand prize winner!!! Congrats Jami!

Book Monday: Browsing in Bookstores Still Rules


This must explain my local Books-A-Million’s alphabetizing “system”

I work at a bookstore and can order books for myself with a discount. I also buy on Amazon. But there’s just something about going to a bookstore and browsing. I’m sorry, but Amazon’s algorithm just doesn’t cut it.

That’s why I hope to God, pray, and do bookstore dances out back at midnight during a full moon that bookstores will NEVER go away.

I’ve got a new WIP in the brainstorming phase after talking to my agent on Wednesday. I did some googling for resources, and ordered a reference book on Amazon which I’m waiting impatiently for it to arrive.

Saturday after work, I got the notion to re-read a fave — Loretta Chase’s “Mr. Impossible” — and analyze its plot, but I’d loaned my copy to a cousin who hasn’t returned it (ahem) and so I thought I’d swing by Books-A-Million (sadly our only chain bookstore left in Mobile). So I left my job at the local independent bookstore and shopped at another 🙂

I really don’t like BAM, their selections of back titles suck, and nothing is alphabetized right. For Chase I found her books right after some B’s, but then after hers, they started over again in the A’s and 3 shelves later I got to where they should’ve been. Oh, it was so hard to resist not rearranging their shelves. Anyway, I digress. The point is, I went there for one book and they didn’t have it, and I browsed some more and then was like ‘hey my new WIP!’ So I wandered over to their World History section and browsed their poorly organized shelves (can you tell it irks me?) and came across several choice goodies I would never have found out about purely through Googling and Amazon. One was just too freaky perfect for what I was researching. So I left a bookstore with three research books that I didn’t even know existed before I went in. And this is why I do that midnight dance during the full moon, because physical browsing can’t be beat. And if you’re one of those that physical browses just to find out what’s available and then buys it online– GRRR! *Shaking my fist at you* How can that store stay in business if everyone does that?

Anyway, enough ranting, just thought I’d share these thoughts for today’s Book Monday post.

Do you like physically browsing for books? Do you still have any physical bookstores left in your town?