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Thread: Amazon's Content Guidelines

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    Amazon's Content Guidelines

    Hello, everyone,

    I've lurked here for a while, and I finally came out of hiding because I'm confused as to why Amazon is blocking my erotica fiction. I truly was not expecting this, based off what I've seen as being standard on Amazon. I've never published before, so I was going to start with a novelette. As many know, their guidelines are vague at best, and so far they haven't been forthcoming with exactly how I violated their content guidelines.

    I thought I'd post here, and give a few details of the story, in hopes that maybe someone might have an idea of what's blocking it from being offered in their store.

    I'm pretty sure the cover is not the issue, as there's a woman who is lying in a red sheet. She's got more of her body covered than someone in a bikini. Here's the product description I submitted:

    SUMMARY: Kayla Sutton faces the question no parent ever wants to face: what would you do in order to save your child? In desperate need of cash for her daughter’s experimental life-saving treatment, she siphons thousands from the company she works for. But when Gage Channing discovers her theft, she is shocked to learn that her sexy and domineering boss has no intention of turning her over to the police. Instead he issues an ultimatum—agree to be his sex slave for six weeks, or go to jail.

    Backed into a corner, Kayla signs his contract and spends her first weekend at his home, at his mercy, and is stunned when he awakens the desire she’d believed long dead.

    NOTE TO READERS: ULTIMATUM is a forced consent novelette with a BDSM edge. Contains graphic material that is not suitable for readers under the age of 18. If dark and edgy erotic fiction isn’t your kind of read, you might not enjoy this story. Part one of a three-part series. Approximately 12,000 words.


    There's no underaged sex, no incest, and no bestiality or scat--all things I've read that are a big no-no on Amazon. There's even a plot. The only thing I can think of is that the forced consensual situation of the story is what flagged it? Though I've seen a lot of other similar-themed stories that have made it into their top 100 bestseller list.

    I'm scratching my head and at a loss here. They told me (in a form letter response, I'm sure) to make my content so it falls within their guidelines and resubmit. But they won't tell me what I need to do specifically. I can guess and make changes, and it can still get blocked, and then I'm worried they'll terminate my account for another supposed violation. I've read of some real horror stories online. I haven't even started publishing yet, so I'd hate to shoot myself in the foot on this. Should I give it a try again, or just go to B&N?

    I'd appreciate any advice you guys might have on this issue. Thanks!

  2. #2
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I would guess it is still somehow the cover, could you post it?

  3. #3
    figuring it all out
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    Can you e-mail them and ask for specifics?

  4. #4
    live every week like it' shark week Bulletproof's Avatar
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    Of course the easiest way to find out is to ask Amazon.

    Judging from your excerpt, you've looked at the market, so I'm going to assume that the cover really is ok. And it's not a photo of a celebrity. And it doesn't have a big SAMPLE watermark across it. Why not post it here, though, and remove all doubt?

    My best guess is that a machine flagged you because of the following words: parent; child; cash for her daughter's; sex slave; six [in conjunction with the other words]. If the initial scenes where she submits includes her thinking how she's just doing it for her daughter, that might raise flags as well. Remember, machines don't understand context, and people pubbing banned stuff can be very sly indeed. It's a keyword arms race!

    I thought forced consent was technically off limits. But I looked, and you're right--there's a ton of it. I didn't check to see if it's self-pubbed or submitted by one of the publishers (publishers get away with a lot more). So maybe see if that's the case.

  5. #5
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    No, Amazon allowed rape fiction including erotica, and so all the sahdes in between are acceptable too. The two things that get you are underage and the cover (e.g. even a hint of butt crack)

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies. I've contacted Amazon about it twice--still waiting to hear back after the second time, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm pretty sure the first response was a form letter. I'm thinking about resubmitting after tweaking the description, etc...but I'm worried that if it gets tossed out again, they could terminate my account. So frustrating!

    I couldn't figure out how to post the picture, so here's a link to the cover:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/90883751@N08/8247269215/

  7. #7
    live every week like it' shark week Bulletproof's Avatar
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    I like your cover.

    Unfortunately, I'm out of ideas. If it's not an accidental underage and incest warning, no idea what it could be. Did it upload everywhere else ok?

    Look at the silver lining. If you get banned on your first title, at least you're not losing years of Amazon platform building.

    Thanks for clearing that up about the rape fiction, veinglory. I clearly need to study the erotica market a bit more.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    This is the second response I received from Amazon:

    "Publisher feedback is important to us as we strive to improve our services and programs for our publishers. However, as we have previously stated, your book(s) will not be made available in the Kindle Store at this time.

    I’m sorry, but we can’t offer any additional insight or action on this matter."


    I was so looking forward to publishing with them, but this makes me mad. What kind of business practice is this? I asked for an explanation, and they refuse to give one.

    Anyhoo, I really appreciate all of the advice I've received here. You guys have been more helpful than Amazon. I guess I'll go ahead and resubmit, and hope it doesn't cost me the ability to publish in the future.

    Bulletproof, you make some good points about keywords. I probably wouldn't have thought about it had you not pointed it out. Hopefully that's all it is. I'll see if I can tweak it so there's no doubt it isn't underage, incest, or disgusting pedophile crap.

    Thanks again, everyone.

  9. #9
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Yeah, that cover's fine. I guess it must be some automatic key work thing then. And they just can't be assed manually checking it.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW
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    I'm not familiar with publishing to Amazon - do they screen the language in the blurb? Is it a computerized flag thing? Maybe you can't have the word child in the blurb? [And if that's it, how absolutely ridiculous]
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  11. #11
    permaflounced
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    Would it be the word slave? What about trying something else like she has to fulfill his every desire or something like that. Be his sex servant? (that sounds so polite! lol)

  12. #12
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Amazon doesn't care about lack of consent, they may suppress it in search but they won't dump the book. It has to be that they somehow decided it was underage. Perhaps you could replace some of the words like 'child' with 'daughter'.

  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies. You all have been really helpful. I took out the word child, and even cut out several instances of "daughter" throughout the story, just in case.

    Here's the new version of the product description:

    NOTE TO READERS: ULTIMATUM is a novelette with a BDSM edge and contains material that is only suitable for adult readers. If dark and edgy erotic fiction isn’t your kind of read, you might not enjoy this story. Part one of a three-part series. Approximately 12,000 words.

    SUMMARY: Kayla Sutton faces a question no mother wants to face: what would you do in order to save your daughter? Broke and desperate, she siphons thousands from the company she works for in order to pay for her daughter’s experimental life-saving treatment. But when Gage Channing discovers her theft, she is shocked to learn that her domineering boss has no intention of turning her over to the police. Instead he issues an ultimatum—submit to him, or go to jail.

    Backed into a corner, Kayla signs his contract and spends her first weekend at his home, at his mercy, and is stunned when he awakens the desire she’d believed long dead.


    I'm going to resubmit it tonight, so hopefully it'll go through. I'm also going to upload to B&N. I was originally planning to enroll in Kindle Select, but this whole thing has made me change my mind--Amazon could block it two weeks from now, and it's my understanding from searching online that B&N isn't as ban-friendly.

    Again, thanks for the help!

  14. #14
    Learning About New Fish Trevor Z's Avatar
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    If it's content related, it's got to be something automatic, the cover and the actual description read fine.

    Also, not to jump to unfounded conclusions, but I did notice that Amazon has proper formatting listed under the content guidelines. Sub-category under "user experience." Have you made sure that the .mobi file reads well using the kindle previewer?

    Anyways, good luck with the re-submit, tell us how it goes.

  15. #15
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    I think it's either the word "child" appearing or it might be forced consent. I haven't delved into there, but I believe you need to keep it at dubious consent.

    You might also add in "all characters in sexual situations are over 21 years of age and are not related by blood."

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW jmascia's Avatar
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    If there is even a hint of something non-consentual, Amazon will not publish it. Trying to ask them to explain why they decided on anything is like talking to a brick wall (in other words, they never will). I have had issues with publishing things with them, and have essentially had to argue with them for a month before they would do anything about it. I did manage to convince them to publish, but then again, my work doesn't involve things of a sexual nature.

    Sorry to say, but good luck. I would email them incessantly until you get a favorable response... and even talk to Amazon.com customer service (which really isn't the same thing, but at least when I force them to contact KDP on my behalf, I get a response).
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  17. #17
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    Actually, their reasoning is consistent. It's illegal activity. Incest is illegal, so it's banned. Psuedo-incest is legal, so it's not. Pedophilia is illegal, so you can't write child erotica. Rape is illegal, so you can't write rape erotica.

  18. #18
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmascia View Post
    If there is even a hint of something non-consentual, Amazon will not publish it..
    I would like to hear more about this because their openly stated policy is that rape fic is permitted. It is often not in search results but rape fic of the nastiest type is easy to find there if you know where to look.

    What is banned is children and incest because it risks falling under the US obscenity laws. Rape, interestingly enough--generally does not.

  19. #19
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Katie Elle View Post
    Actually, their reasoning is consistent. It's illegal activity. Incest is illegal, so it's banned. Psuedo-incest is legal, so it's not. Pedophilia is illegal, so you can't write child erotica. Rape is illegal, so you can't write rape erotica.
    Incorrect. Writing about rape is legal. Just like writing about murder, fraud or treason--and Amazon required demure covers and blurbs, but does not object to content describing crime per se. The law, they are staying well away from, that applies is the law about writing about the activity--not committing it. These are the obscenity laws of the US. Under these laws erotica/sex itself is okay. Sex is not obscene. But certain activities (decided case by case) are--based on a community standard ruling. Underage and incest have been known to be judged obscenity under this law. Amazon plays it safe by avoiding subject areas that have been the basis of successful obscenity prosecutions in the US (and Canada). Erotica is hit hardest as it generally does not support a 'literary merit' defense (sigh.).

    Quite aside from the law, the don't want to upset too many customers. So erotic works may be suppressed in search results. And you also have to keep any explicit words out of the title and description, including "rape" and similar words (F*ck etc). Even people writing non-fiction where 'rape' is an analogy used in the tile only have struck this issue. Other authors have had this issue and it generally does not relate to the actual text of the book at all. Just some keywords in the title and description.

    http://jamthecat.blogspot.com/2010/1...amazoncom.html
    Last edited by veinglory; 12-07-2012 at 12:09 AM.

  20. #20
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmascia View Post
    If there is even a hint of something non-consentual, Amazon will not publish it.
    Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts and pretty much anything by Kitty Thomas is strong in the forced consent theme, and these books have done extremely well, even making it into the top 100 list for paid books. There are tons of these kinds of books on Amazon.

    I wouldn't even consider my book as hard core as the two authors mentioned above, as there is a safe word established between my characters, so technically she can say no. In my eyes it's morally rape, since he's using her daughter's illness against her, but she isn't completely innocent either because she did steal from him, and he has the right to press charges if he wishes.

    Anyway, I'm crossing my fingers that it goes through this time. Looks like it might (it's under the status of publishing). I don't remember this happening the first time.

  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gemma James's Avatar
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    Hallelujah! It went through the second time. Thanks again for the pointers--I doubt I would have figured it out on my own, not as quickly in any case.

  22. #22
    Learning About New Fish Trevor Z's Avatar
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    Congrats Gemma!

    Glad everything went through smoothly .

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