From today until Friday, there’s another multi-author cross promotion going on for mystery, crime and suspense novels. Sex Tape is one of the books selling at a reduced price (this time in U.S. and U.K. markets only). I wanted to hit this promotional period a little harder than usual, so I’ve begun delving into Amazon advertising. It’s an interesting system, filled with niggly numbers and fine tuning and keyword bids, that appeals to the same economic-gaming centres of my brain that make me want to play work-management videogames over first-person shoot-and-frags.
I was all keyed up to give it a go, submitting a carefully constructed campaign for Sex Tape, only to be rejected a few hours later. Why did Amazon turn me down? Why didn’t they want to take my money?
Because the Sex Tape cover is too damn sexy for them.
Their terms of service for advertising are hilariously puritanical, and their limits on what you can have on your covers and in your blurbs are a touch narrow.
Scantily clad women are possibly okay, provided they aren’t striking a pose that’s too suggestive. Bikinis might be a go, but lingerie means someone is gearing up to get laid, so nix on that. And don’t you dare have a couple canoodiling. Embracing is one thing, but if they seem too into it, that crosses the invisible line. Even if they’re fully clothed. You never know, they might be dry humping.
And it doesn’t stop at sexual suggestion. You have to walk a fine line with violence as well. Guns can appear on your cover, though they should preferably be stylized or of the sci-fi/fantasy variety. Don’t ever show a character pointing one at another character, even though that’s kind of what they’re made for. And never ever have a character pointing a gun straight at the viewer. Because that might traumatize or frighten off potential consumers. No one wants to feel threatened by a book cover. I once walked into a public library and saw a James Bond novel with a cover like that. I had to run away and call the police after giving the book my wallet.
Okay, that covers sex and violence. We’re done right? Nope. Here’s my favourite quote from the terms-of-service page:
“Please ensure that the headline and custom text does not present customers with emotionally draining or depressing messages.”
I don’t know about you, but I find that caveat emotionally draining and depressing.
I get it. I really do. If you’re selling the world tons of shit, you want them feeling up up up! You don’t want to bring the consumerist-frenzy mood down. Buyers might get sad and lose the will to type in their credit-card number. But what people find depressing is pretty broad. Who can even define that?
If I want to see a load of personally depressing images and blurbs on Amazon, all I have to do is type in search terms like “American politics,” or “boy bands,” or “Kardashians.” That’s all it takes.
Then I’m off to find a book cover that looks poised to shoot me in the face and end my misery.