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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Trapped In Amazon's Adult Dungeon

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.

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My name is Elizabeth Black, and Amazon confined me to the Adult dungeon. Again. Yes, I write erotica and erotic romance, and I, like many adult fiction writers, have seen my sales drop about 90% since getting spanked by the 'Zon.

This is nothing new to me. Before I self-published my top best-selling erotic fairy tales "Trouble In Thigh High Boots" and "Climbing Her Tower" (Puss In Boots and Rapunzel, respectively), my best-selling story was "Purr", a short erotic version of Puss In Boots.  It sold very well, for a time, anyway. Several years ago, it was censored by Amazon for awhile when my publisher, New Dawning Bookfair, saw its entire catalogue eliminated by Amazon during one of its porn purges. "Purr", along with scads of other books, went bye-bye. The catalogue was later reinstated, but I lost a lot of sales during that time. I still gained in the end because I directed readers to other places where it was published and announced that it was CENSORED BY AMAZON! That alone guaranteed it would sell.

Well, Amazon has since labeled the story ADULT, which has destroyed my sales.

K. Matthews Books described Amazon's ADULT dungeon as follows: "Your book is taken out of public sight. It will not show up in regular searches. In fact, the only way anyone will ever find your book on Amazon again is if they search for it by its exact name or have a link pointing to it. Basically, Amazon does not want people to find your book. Your sales will sink faster than the Titanic, and the book will eventually fade into oblivion, never to see the light of day again (unless you appeal to Amazon, of course)."

That's what happened to "Purr". The only way to find it now is with a direct link. I can't even find it when I search for it by name with my author name. Nor can I find it by name, with my author name, and adding "erotica" to the search. The book has disappeared.

You can't find me, either, on Amazon, since there is another writer named Elizabeth Black who wrote a mainstream novel with a big publisher. She came along after me. Now, when you run a search for my name, her Amazon author page shows up. My Amazon author page is nowhere to be seen. So, I have been effectively eliminated and silenced by Amazon.

Recently, I rewrote the blurbs and changed the tags for "Trouble In Thigh High Boots" and "Climbing Her Tower" in the hope that the changes would bring the books out in the open more so they would begin to sell again. I had toned down the erotic connotations and aimed more for romance. "Trouble" had been smacked with the ADULT tag before, but I petitioned to Amazon to remove it. It did. Since making my changes, it's now labeled "not ADULT". "Climbing", which had no label at all before my changes, is now labeled ADULT.  I have to petition Amazon to remove those tags.

What will get your book labeled ADULT? Erin Dameron-Hill compiled a list on her Facebook page of the kinds of things that you land you in the dungeon:

   No model can be handcuffed (this will instantly flag you), blindfolds are okay for now (but I don't expect them to be in the future).
   Handcuffs are allowed if they are separate--not on the models . The model can hold the cuffs.
   No side boob or big cleavage.
   No upper butt. (No nudity, obviously).
   No lower hair patch for men (or women).
   No sexual positions--no doggie style, missionary (or any position that implies penetration).
   No hands on boobs or private areas.
   No women on their knees in front of men (even fully clothed).
   No men between women's thighs.
   No men's faces on breasts (resting, etc--even fully clothed).

Selena Kitt recommends keeping Amazon's list of "dirty words" off your book descriptions as well as cleaning up your covers. These include:

   Nudity on covers (this rule changes a lot – thongs are ok so far. “Hand bras” are not ok, i.e. a nude woman with her or someone else’s hands covering her breasts).
   Incest is banned altogether. But pseudo-incest will get you filtered. Anything with obvious titles, especially “Daddy” and “Mommy,” but also sister, brother, siblings, uncle, family, etc.
   Gangbang, rape, reluctant, reluctance, nonconsent, dubious consent (dubcon), forced, or “rough” sex, strap-on – careful BDSM folks, keep an eye out, because they may come after that next.
   Breeding, bred or impregnation stories
   Any profanity or obscene language: pussy, cock, cum, tits, fuck, sex, clit, etc. (Now I really feel like George Carlin…)
   Lactation, breastfeeding, lactating, milky
   Tentacles and other mythological creatures (minotaurs, centaurs, bigfoot, etc.) 

My big mistake with "Trouble In Thigh High Boots" was admitting it is, in part, a lactation story. That alone probably doomed it. I've since removed the word from the description, but the book is still hidden. "Climbing Her Tower" has light BDSM and a touch of shaving fetish, and it was slapped with the ADULT tag.

My Naughty Nights Press Night Owl Top Pick new adult novel "Don't Call Me 'Baby'" was also hidden until the second edition came out. NNP re-uploaded the book, which probably acted like a reboot, giving the book a fresh start. When you search for my name on Amazon, this book does show up on the first page. My other books don't show up until page 14 through 16, which isn't good since there are only 17 pages in the Kindle section when you search for "Elizabeth Black".

I'm in the process of fixing this mess. It's a headache. I'd much rather spend my time writing or looking for an agent.

By now you're asking, "how do I find out if my book has been sent to the ADULT dungeon?" Aside of the sudden serious drop in sales, there's another way to get the bad news. Plug in your name and/or the book's name to http://www.salesrankexpress.com/. You'll get your ranks. If your book has been slapped with the ADULT tag, it'll appear next to your ranking in big, bold, red letters. Here's my entry for "Climbing Her Tower".


Elizabeth Black | WW-Publishing | 2012-10-01
Kindle Edition | ASIN: B009KSFCF6
Languages: English (published) | Rating: "ADULT" (?)
No offer data available for Kindle books.


What can you do to get your books out of the ADULT dungeon? First, clean up your tags and blurbs. Eliminate the words "erotic" and "erotic romance" from your titles, subtitles, blurbs, and tags. Aim for "romance". Eliminate any sex or nudity in your covers, using the above descriptions as a guide. At least I knew my covers complied. They're actually quite classy. Then, once you've made the changes, write to Amazon at this email address:


Amazon will work with you to remove ADULT tags. Explain calmly and respectfully what you've done and request that the ADULT tag be removed. Here's what I plan to send (slightly changed from a recommended letter by Selena Kitt.):

Dear Amazon,

I'm writing to request you reevaluate the title __________________, by ______________. I've changed the descriptions and resubmitted to comply with Amazon's terms of service. This book should no longer be labeled with the ADULT tag, so please remove it so that it will no longer have an adult filter, nor shall it be excluded from the all-department search. My ASIN is ____________. Thank you.

Despite writing to Amazon to request the tag be removed, Selena Kitt told me on Facebook: "If your books have been filtered in the past - even if they're now unfiltered - they will come up at the bottom of all search results. The filter kills sales."

I'm beginning to think I should stick with writing horror and thrillers. Bloodletting and violence are okay, but show a sideboob and you get banned. Amazon is also rather hypocritical about this, since E. L. James' "50 Shades Of Grey" is not filtered. Nuh-uh. That book and the entire series are runaway bestsellers, so there's no way they're going to get spanked. Amazon makes too much money from them. I'm going to take a bit of a break for awhile, and then I will work on fixing this mess. It's very aggravating. I'd rather spend my time writing and looking for an agent. 

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AUTHOR UPDATE 3/23/15: I was mistaken about Amazon and New Dawning Bookfair. New Dawning did see it's entire catalogue eliminated, but that was by Bookstrand and AllRomanceEBooks. Amazon kept the catalogue online. I misremembered. I did promote "Purr" as censored by Bookstrand and AllRomance, encouraging people to buy the story at Amazon, and they did. Sorry about the mix-up.

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