So Amazon has decided to put your book in the dreaded adult dungeon. First, don't panic! Hopefully you're using our monitoring service, and your book has only been in the adult dungeon for a few hours. If you're not using our monitoring service, now would be a good time to sign up!
Either way, as long as you act quickly the damage to your earnings will be minimal.
What Being in the Adult Dungeon Means
Every single product in the Amazon marketplace has an adult flag associated with it. The adult flag is set to false for the vast majority of the products on Amazon. But if Amazon considers a product suitable only for adults, then the adult flag gets set to true.
When your book's adult flag gets set to true, it stops showing up in the normal search results, and not nearly as many potential readers see it. Obviously, this means you sell far fewer copies of your book. Not good!
The worst part, however, is that Amazon doesn't tell you if your book's adult flag gets set to true. Lucky for you, we're on top of that part.
Step One: Ask Politely
If you email Amazon and ask them, politely, why your book has been flagged as an adult book, they will often, but not always, tell you which part of your book they don't like.
Here's an email template you can use:
Hi Amazon. I noticed that one of my books has been flagged as adult. I'm hoping that you can tell me what part of my book (title? cover? blurb?) has violated your guidelines so that I can fix it. The ASIN of the book is __________. Thanks!
You want to send this email to: email@example.com
If you really, genuinely believe that there has been a mistake and you haven't violated any of the rules below, you can email Amazon and ask for your book's adult status to be reviewed without making any changes. This can work, but again, only if you're not violating any of the rules below.
Step Two: An Objective Review
Hopefully, Amazon sends you back an email telling you which part of your book they believe has violated their guidelines. It's almost always going to be either the title, the cover or the blurb. What Amazon cares most about is the stuff that other people browsing the Amazon store can see. So things like your keywords and the content of your book are much less important.
Before we get started, however, there's something important that you need to know. All of this is subjective! What that means is that what one Amazon customer service rep thinks is okay, another might think is objectionable. Similarly, these guidelines are constantly changing and evolving. Something that was okay a month ago might not be okay now. You might see books for sale on Amazon that are using some of these words or images and are not in the adult dungeon! It's an imperfect system. Similarly, the information below is as up to date and complete as possible, but it's based on feedback from authors like you, and is not based on any information from Amazon, so it's not perfect either. But hopefully it's close!
Title and Blurb
There are certain words and phrases that Amazon doesn't want you using, as well as certain sex acts and kinks they don't want you overtly referencing. They don't tell us what those bad words and sex acts are though, that would be too easy! But authors just like you and me have learned, through painful trial and error and a bit of guess work, which words can be used, and which words cant.
You should also note that some of these words can be used for a romance book, but not for an erotica book. Currently, for instance, stepbrother books are popular in romance, but using the word stepbrother in your title in erotica would be a bad idea. It's not fair, but that's life.
So without furthur ado, here is the big list of bad words.
- Barely Legal
- Dubious Consent
- Incest / Pseudo-incest
- Knocked Up
- Mind Control
- Period Blood
- Semen / Cum
- Sleep Sex
- No Profanity / Obscene Language (i.e. fuck, bitch, shit, cock, pussy, slut)
- No references to non-mythical animals (werewolves are okay, wolves are not)
- No references to rape, forced sex or especially rough sex
- No references to underage sex
- No references to incest or pseudo-incest
- No references to breeding or forced impregnation
- No references to lactation or milking
- No references to scat (urine and feces)
- No references to specific sex acts
- Don't put a 'warning' in your blurb
A Few Final Notes
- If it's not obvious, using variations of these words will not let you slip by. For example, using 'Daddy' because 'Dad' is on the list will not end well for you.
- Context can sometimes matter. For example a reference to a young tree would usually be okay, while a reference to a young girl is less okay.
- The above guidelines and banned words are for your title and blurb only! Generally, the things that are illegal in real life, like rape, beastiality or underage sex, are not allowed in the content of your book. The content of your book goes beyond what this guide is about though, so do your own research!
Covers work just like titles and blurbs do, in that there are some things that Amazon objects to, but they don't tell us what those things are. But we have a fairly good idea of what's going to get you in trouble.
- Nudity of any kind
- Near nudity or implied nudity (hand bras, bare cheeks, missing bra straps, missing bra across sternum, side-boob)
- Visible pubic hair
- Any suggestion of removing clothes or underwear
- Sexual positions, even if clothed
- Someone else touching breasts or crotches, even over clothing
- Orgasm faces
- Handcuffs, mouth gags and other physical restraints
Unlike a title or a blurb, a cover is more difficult to change. If you paid someone else to make your cover you might ask them to edit the cover for you, or even ask for your money back, because any halfway decent cover designer should know about these rules. If you designed your cover yourself, there are a few things you can do.
First, there is a lot you can do in Photoshop, or a free alternative like Gimp, if you know how to use these programs. A see-through bit of clothing, for instance, can easily be made less see-through. A nipple poking through a shirt can be cloned away.
You can also use creative cropping to remove the objectionable part of a picture, or even cover up the objectionable part of the cover with the title text, or the author name text.
Sometimes, however, a cover can't be made better. You'll have to either buy a new cover or make a second one. It's tough, but we're playing in Amazon's sandbox, and we have to play by their rules, even if they don't always tell us exactly what the rules are!
A Second Opinion
Are you still not sure what you've done to anger the Amazon gods? Sometimes it can be really tough to figure out exactly what you need to change to make Amazon happy. If you want an impartial second opinion, there are several places, like the wonderful Dirty Discourse Forums, where you can find fellow writers who can help you pinpoint the problem.
Step Three: Republish and Email Amazon
Great, you've identified everything you're doing that Amazon doesn't like, and you've made some changes. The first thing you want to do is upload those changes to your book on KDP, and hit the publish button. Sometimes that's all you need to do. The adult flag on your book will be removed, and you can go back to writing the next one!
More often, however, you will need to email Amazon again, and explain to them that you made changes to your book, and that you would like the book reviewed and the adult flag removed.
Here's an email template you can use:
Hi Amazon. I noticed that one of my books was flagged as adult. I made changes to the book to better conform to your guidelines, and I ask that you please review the book again and remove the adult flag. The ASIN of the book is __________. Thanks!
As before, you want to send this email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Step Four: Wait
You've done everything you can do, now you wait. You should hear back from Amazon, telling you that your book has had the adult flag removed and will show up in normal search results again, or that they think your book is still adult material.
If your book has been removed from the adult dungeon congradulations! If your remains inside the adult dungeon, the best thing to do is to go back to step two and start the process again.
It was mentioned several times above that none of this information comes from Amazon. It all comes from trial and error by writers just like you. So if you run in to a word that Amazon doesn't like that's not listed above, for instance, that would be a great benefit to your fellow writers, and we want to hear from you! Head to the contact page and send us an email.