Exploring Amazon’s Adult Content Filter
Earlier this year Amazon started to get picky and applied various tweaks to their search engine, much like Google has done in recent years. For those who are still unfamiliar with Amazon’s recent efforts, the adult content filter is meant to prevent many adult-oriented books from showing up when users search for certain (specific) keywords.
The Good, the Bad and the Dirty
Let’s go back to a time when the Amazon adult filter was not yet in place: For example, if Susan searched for “Daddy Daughter Short Stories” in hopes of finding PG-rated children’s books, it was very possible for her to be massively disappointed. Search results could have easily shown her various adult-themed books about stepdads performing sexual acts with their stepdaughters, along with the books Susan was actually looking for.
Now, imagine the above scenario also happening to Little Sussie or Little Timmy. This wouldn’t be a very good outcome now, would it?
Hilarious, yes, but still not a good outcome.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I am one who generally welcomes certain changes, to a degree, at least. Simply put, these measures effectively encourage people to put a higher emphasis on quality while potentially protecting customers from inappropriate search results. Considering we’re all customers, who wouldn’t appreciate such changes, after all?
That said, however, let’s bear in mind that filtered content does not always equal crappy or illegal content; it only means “content not suitable for Amazon.” These subjective changes mean that many good authors have suffered a great deal thanks to Amazon’s adult content filter, even if their book did not actually break any guidelines at the time it was published.
Is My Amazon Book Filtered?
If you’d like to know if your erotic or romance book has been, um, blessed with the adult content filter, you have two main options:
First, search for your book from Amazon’s main homepage. Do you see your not-so-friendly book listed? If not, this means it’s been filtered.
A second (and faster) option is to visit Sales Rank Express, which gives you a shitload of information about your book, including whether it’s been marked as an adult title. Type in the necessary information into each field (book title and author name will suffice) and then click “Get Ranks.” If your book has the word “Adult” next to it, it means that – in all likelihood – it has been filtered.
I performed various test searches with adult books that successfully showed up on Amazon’s main search results (from their homepage.) Coincidentally, each of these titles did not have the word “Adult” on the Sales Rank Express’ website.
It seems that this could be a good starting point in your effort to pull your awesome book out of the adult filter, at least for now.
How to Avoid Amazon Adult Content Filter
The answer to this is fairly simple, as you simply must avoid controversial words by all means. Additionally, refrain from using jaw-dropping cover images that show revealing body parts. As you can imagine, image filtering is a lot more subjective than word filtering. This means that “Book A” may be unfiltered while “Book B” may not receive the same favorable treatment, even if both images are similar.
The very first erotic book I wrote, for example, has a couple of girls kissing each other and their breasts are only covered by their arms. To my surprise, this book isn’t filtered by Amazon at all. What does this mean? It tells us to be much more careful with keywords, choosing your wording very, very meticulously.
Below are some of the words and subjects that will, in all likelihood, get your erotic or romance book adult-filtered:
Daddy and/or mommy (depending on context)
Reluctance (and all accompanying variations of the word)
Breeding and other fetishes
Hardcore profanity words (I’m sure you know them all)
The above list is only a small example, and I am sure Amazon will keep refining their search algo to improve those never-ending safety concerns. Speaking of inconsistency, note that there are many books that are clearly dirty as dirt itself (such as 50 Shades) and yet such books are not filtered! This could be due to one of several reasons: Either the book’s description doesn’t use any alarming keywords, or Amazon has simply decided “to look the other way” because the book is obviously profitable. But let’s leave the conspiracy theories for later, shall we?
The Big Problem Here…
While avoiding certain keywords may sound simple and innocent enough, let’s keep in mind one ugly truth that may come along with this: You could lose book sales. Yes, if your title was heavily-dependent on a hot or trendy keyword, your book may no longer be so easily found if you exclude said phrase from the title and/or its description.
Moreover, there are lots of books with no intention of crossing any forbidden lines. Think of subjects like women having sex with sexy werewolves, for example. Also think of girls who get off on breeding and/or lactating. These are relatively innocent fantasies and fetishes that many readers embrace with open arms, but Amazon may surprisingly filter these things simply because they said so. See some big problems arising from this? And I’m sure I am only scratching the surface here.
Sadly, though, I don’t think there’s much you can do if your existing book has already been filtered. If you work hard at making changes, you can always send a formal message to Amazon and pray that they re-evaluate your title. Make sure that you list every single modification to see if you can convince them. From my experience, however, once the powers-that-be make a decision, it can be very hard to change their minds, even if you take all the logical steps.
Otherwise, the next best option is to unpublish your existing book and resubmit it as a brand new entry. Note, however, that you will lose all existing reviews and book rank.
In short, it seems like there are more problems than benefits to this adult content filter thing. I have personally seen book sales increase drastically by focusing on certain (albeit surprising) keywords. Many of these books have now been hit by the adult content filter, and I have subsequently seen sales drop from my account as well as my friends’ accounts.
Have you been hit by the Amazon adult filter? Feel free to post any tips, advice, questions or comments below if you have any to offer. Best of luck!