So what are the grounds for censoring a book cover according to Amazon?
A question that is asked by Rayne Hall in the below guest article.
Please read and share this information.
Amazon’s censors find this book cover offensive.
Yes, you’ve read this right. I was as astonished as you when I received the email. I had to read it several times before I grasped that they meant it. A quick glance at the calendar assured me that the first of April was well past.
Amazon gave no explanation beyond a vague reference to guidelines, and when I asked for one, I received only silence.
The book has been published since 2013. with this cover, and been part of several promotions and advertising campaigns on Amazon. The censors didn’t voice an objection when I submitted to book for publication, and they accepted it for promotion and advertising campaigns… until now.
Suddenly, they’ve clamped down and refused.
I read and re-read the guidelines for covers Amazon deems acceptable. I see no rule against pictures of dolls, or against the colours orange and blue, or against the Oregon font. So what rule could this possibly offend against?
When I tweeted about this, everyone responded with the same bafflement.
So what triggered the censors? It must be one of these.
1. Perhaps the cover is not “high quality, professional, and visually appealing”? I think the painting by artist Xteve Abanto meets all three criteria, but perhaps I’m mistaken – what do you think?
2. Maybe the text is not “easily understandable to the average customer”? It doesn’t strike me as difficult to understand the words “Thirty Scary Tales”. but maybe Amazon rates its customers’ intelligence lower than I do?
3. The fact that the cover depicts a doll may have triggered a censor’s dirty imagination, conjuring up fantasies of adult toys. The doll’s parted lips might qualify as “poses that may be suggestive of sexual behavior”.
4. Perhaps Amazon uses robots to censor books?
The automated scan may identified the doll’s head as a human face with the high forehead, small nose and large eyes of a child and flagged it up as “Images of human or animal abuse, mistreatment, or distress”. But would Amazon allow a robot to censor a book without a human taking a closer look first?
5. Maybe it was an honest mistake by a human censor who was over-tired, barely able to keep his or her eyes open that day, whose exhausted brain saw something that wasn’t there. But if that was the case, surely Amazon would have replied to my query with an apology and corrected the error at once… at least I would hope so.
6. “Foul, vulgar, or obscene language” – perhaps the word “tales” is vulgar? Or maybe “thirty” has an obscene meaning that I’m not aware of?
7. The rules forbid “excessive blood, injuries, mutilations, guts, corpses, and weapons being used in a violent or threatening manner” – maybe the cracks in the doll’s head are so much more gruesome than the axe-split human skulls on thousands of other covers?
8. Images hinting at “sensitive topics such as hormonal development or changes” are forbidden. Could it be that the censor thinks the crack in the doll’s face and the open eye are caused by hormones?
So far, Amazon hasn’t banned my book, only refused to advertise it. Readers can still buy it on Amazon for 99c. viewBook.at/30ScaryTales
But I’m concerned that this may only be the first step. Amazon may remove the book from sale next – and after that, those of other indie authors.
I’m hoping that if we protest loudly enough, and spread the word in the social media, Amazon will reconsider not only this particular book cover, but its approach to censorship.
What do you think is the reason for Amazon’s censorship of this cover – one of the eight possibilities I’ve thought of, or something else altogether? Do you personally find it offensive?
I’ll be grateful if you could share this post on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.
Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and more) and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.
She is a trained publishing manager, holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.
Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat shelter. Sulu likes to lie on the desk and snuggle into Rayne’s arms when she’s writing.
You can follow here on Twitter http://twitter.com/RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.
To see her books on Amazon, go to viewAuthor.at/RayneHall .
At last, someone at Amazon responded. Three weeks of trying to get a statement from the advertising department or any other part of Amazon had brought only silence. After three weeks, an email addressed to Jeff Bezos finally brought a reply from the Executive Customer Department:
> In this case, your ad was not approved because a general audience may find the cover image for “Thirty Scary Tales” to be violent or disturbing.<
Huh? A doll’s head is too violent or disturbing? For readers of horror fiction?
What do you think? Can the general audience browsing horror books on Amazon cope with seeing cracks in the head of a doll?