Publishing Erotica Part 11 – How to Avoid the Adult Dungeon
Click here for Publishing Erotica Part 10 – KDP Select
Whether you choose to go wide or enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program (see part 10), you will want to publish on Amazon. It is fastest horse in the race so to say. It has the dominating market share at this moment. The only reason not to publish on Amazon if you are writing erotica that would get you banned (incest, rape, mind control, blatant non-consensual or dubious consent stories, bestiality, and other extreme kinks).
So to be successful publishing on Amazon, you need to avoid what is dubbed the “Adult Dungeon” by the writers community. Amazon, at their discretion and according to rules they do not publish or evenly enforce, can flag your book as having ADULT content. I know what your thinking: “No shit, it’s erotica. Children shouldn’t be reading what I’m writing. There’s even an age filter when you publish through KDP that automatically is set to 18+ when you choose erotica as your category. Why should I be worried?”
Simple. The adult dungeon pulls your book out of searches unless the user goes out of their way to tell Amazon to see adult items. And that option is deliberately hidden by Amazon. Your book is still visible on your Author Page if a user browses that, but they will not find it by searching for the next “Hot Wife Cheating on her Husband with Hung Black Guy” erotica to read.
This means lost sales.
Avoiding the Adult Dungeon is coloring inside the ever changing lines of Amazon’s nebulous policies. But there are rules we have learned through trial and error. The biggest way to get filtered is your cover. I talked about this in detail in Part 8: Designing Your Covers, but I will do a quick recap: nothing clearly sexual, most of the ass must be covered (no thongs or other skimpy underwear), not a lot of side or underboob, no removing of underwear, no handbras, with couples hands must be away from naughty areas, handcuffs in use about a person’s wrist (though not in use, such as in held in hand or handing from belt is fine).
The next most likely thing to get you filtered is your title and parenthetical. With erotica, you need to avoid words like familiar relations (step or otherwise, and that can also lead you to getting banned), anything that suggests sex (including sex and its derivatives sexy), virgin, behind (implies sex from behind), rear, nursing (yep, if you like having lactating stories, you can’t use that, but nurse is fine), lactation (pregnancy is A-OK), threesome, nun (don’t ask me why, but convent is fine), hard, anal, and genitals. Mind control, hypnotism, and other dubious or non-consensual words will get your book banned.
So you want to use code words. Instead of virgin use innocent, inexperienced or first time all work. For Pseudo-Incest, avoid using step-relation in the title and instead taboo or forbidden. Amazon bans some authors for using step-relations while others get away with it. It’s a gamble and I’ll explain why later. Instead of step-dad, man of the house. Step-mom, woman of the house. Step-daughter/sister use brat. Step-son, young man of the house. Lactation and adult nursing stories, use creamy treat or creamy delight along with HuCow (which stands for human cow, a subset of the genre were women are milked but it is code for any lactation story). Use menage for threesome. For nun, use convent.
Next is your blurb. You can get away with a lot more in your blurb. For instance, nun and nursing will skate by in the blurb. Amazon does not look at it too much. But if you push it too much and are too graphic, adult filtered will hit you. You’ll still want to skirt the PI issue by using the code words above instead of step-relation. And I have used sex many times in the blurb without filtering.
Lastly, choosing erotica as your category does not adult filter your book.
That is a myth that it will. There are erotica authors that put their books in any other category but erotica from contemporary literature, women’s lit, fantasy, sci-fi, romance. If you’re book is focused on romance and just happens to have lots of hot sex, put it in romance. If it is a wife being gangbanged while her husband jerks off in the corner, it’s not romance. All this does is make Amazon mad because they get complaints from people about seeing your erotica in other categories. Then Amazon will force your books into erotica and maybe take a hard look at your catalog. There was a purge in 2015 where Amazon was putting authors entire catalogs into erotica. One author wrote children’s books by day and erotica by night and found her children’s book recategorized.
So how do you know if you’re book is locked away in the Adult Dungeon? There are several ways, the first is searching for your book on Amazon. Put in the exact title. If it doesn’t come up in the search, but you see a text link saying something like “adult products omitted from search,” click that and if you see your book, you were filtered. Now if you have your “see adult products enabled (clicking that link enables it for awhile)” you won’t know. Now there is a great website called Sales Express Report. It will pull up your book title and tell you all sorts of info from amazon, including if it is adult filtered. It will be obvious.
As you can see, there is a big red ADULT. If it’s not, there will be a ?
Keywords do not get people adult filtered. You can be quite explicit in your keywords. They are not visible in any way to the public so Amazon does not appear to care at this time. They do care if you use Kindle, Unlimited, or try to use a famous author’s name or book to piggy back on their success in your keywords. I routinely put graphic sex acts in my keywords, things that would probably have my book outright banned if it was in the title, all the time.
Now even if you think you’re playing by the rules, you may have selected a cover model that’s showing too much cleavage and your book is adult filtered. What do you do? Simple, email email@example.com. If you don’t know, this is KDP’s customer service. Tell them the ASIN of the title and ask why it was filtered. You will get a vague response back telling you it was your cover, title, blurb, or content. Then you’ll know what to fix, do it, re-upload, then reply to the email saying you believe you’ve complied with the results. If the person agrees, your book is unflagged. This takes a few days and results in losing that precious boost to visibility Amazon gives all new titles. If you think you know why your book was adult filtered, you could simply unpublish it and then publish it again as a completely new title, sending it through the system, and thus avoid dealing with Amazon and losing those precious first few days.
There are pros to doing this and it all goes to how the Amazon review process works. If you’ve ever wondered why some books get away with step-brother erotica or other boundary pushing titles and other authors get banned for trying to publish the same thing is simple: a real person rarely sees a new title when it is publish. Amazon uses robots to examine your title and blurb and maybe your cover. If the robot flags your book, it is sent to a human reviewer to use their judgment. If it doesn’t, your book is published. We don’t know how this robot works or how often books go before a human reviewer, but what we do know is if you make any changes to your book after it’s published it is automatically sent to a human reviewer. Authors complain a lot about making changes to their book and having it adult filtered or banned when it previously was accepted and they don’t understand why. Simple, no human saw it the first time, but when they made the change, it was sent to a human reviewer and that reviewer has no idea why your book was flagged. They don’t know if the robot thought something was off or because you fixed a single typo in your manuscript.
What’s worse about the human reviewers is it is a judgment call. Some reviewers are prudes. Sometimes you’ll email firstname.lastname@example.org and that person will just say it was a mistake and your book is fine. It is believed the title-submission workers are higher in the food chain at Amazon. This is what is frustrating about Amazon. We don’t know what the rules are, we’re just punished for breaking them.
Lastly, if your book is ever banned, here is what you do. FIRST, do not resubmit it as a new file. Amazon will likely ban your book again and if you do it a few times in a row, they will suspend or terminate your KDP account. Usually, they suspend you and make you promise not to do it again. If they terminate you, you’ll lose any unpaid royalties and cannot publish with Amazon under that Tax ID code. If it’s your social security number, you’ll have to form a business and get a tax identification number from the IRS and open a new KDP account under your business.
SECOND, email email@example.com and get specifics. Several things can happen here: 1. they could determine banning your book was a mistake (this happened to an author friend of mine, she made a change to her blurb of a very vanilla male/female erotica and was banned, but title-submission saw it was in no way banable and reversed it); 2: they can tell you it was the title, cover, blurb, or content and invite you to make changes and resubmit your file (another author I knew had to change a few lines of dialog in her book when this happened to her); or 3: your book has content that doesn’t meet their guidelines and they do not want it on their website. Amazon’s robot system will remember the content if you try to publish it again as a new title unless you change 30% of the material. If you get #3, just consider your book dead on Amazon and publish it off Amazon with blurbs “too hot for Amazon” or give it away to subscribers of your newsletter.
So now you know how to, hopefully, avoid Amazon’s Adult Dungeon. Next time, we’ll talk about keywords and why they are so important.
Click here for Part 12 – Keywords