I didn’t want to have to write this, but there’s a lot of information(and misinformation) going around about this particular topic, and I wanted to make a post to explain this better. It seems like something simple and minor at first, but it isn’t. It has very wide-sweeping effects and as a writer, reader, or just a customer who occasionally purchases things at Amazon, I feel that everyone should understand a little about what’s going on.
As an aside to that, no one but Amazon knows -exactly- what this is or why it’s happening. There’s enough evidence to point out a few of the causes and effects through observation, but Amazon requires strict NDAs from its employees that are in certain parts of the business, and so they’re never going to come right out and explain everything. Amazon is like Christian Grey, and we’re all Anastasia Steele from book one. This is new and a little frightening to a lot of us, with scary implications, but that Amazon sure is attractive and appealing beneath his veneer of mystery. I don’t know how the rest of this story is going to pan out, but I’d like to think there’s a happy ending by the time we reach book three.
Anyways, what’s currently happening is what’s referred to as the “ADULT” filter. I don’t know what Amazon refers to it as, nor do I believe they refer to it as anything in the public eye, but they have a filter that they put on content that is deemed “ADULT.”
You can’t see this filter. It’s impossible. It’s a very strange filter in those regards. If you do a search through Google, you know that you can turn your adult filter on and off(I keep mine off, personally, because I’m the only one who uses my computer and I don’t have children around my computer that often). This is how it is for most places. These filters are called a lot of different things, too. SafeSearch, Adult Filter, etc. It all boils down to the same thing. They try to filter out adult content that isn’t suitable for children.
I completely understand and accept the reasoning behind this and I have no complaints with it. It makes perfect sense when done correctly and the way that Google(and tons of other companies before them) have done.
Amazon has this filter, sort of, except they won’t tell you about it. They don’t even tell authors about it. If your book gets adult filtered, you might never know. There are some ways to figure it out, and many authors do know, but not all of them. The easiest way is to go straight to the Amazon homepage and search for an author. If you want to try it out, search for “cerys du lys.” As of me writing this, I have 50 various books available(this includes paperback and audiobooks). If you search for my name on the Amazon homepage, you only receive 33 options, though. That’s because the rest of them are filtered.
You can easily get around this filter, but the issue with it is that Amazon won’t explain that to you. The way to get around it(meaning the way you’d find books that are filtered) is to change your category from “All” to either “Books” or “Kindle Store.” This will bring up “ADULT” filtered books in your search results. Alternatively, if you search for books on your Kindle, you’ll automatically be in the “Kindle Store” and you’ll also receive filtered books in your search results without having to do anything.
This sounds kind of alright, maybe, except not really. If Amazon wanted to truly filter out adult books from being seen by children, this doesn’t do it. Children searching for books will find the adult books along with the regular books. They aren’t given a choice of “adult” or not. They’re given a choice of “books” or “not books.” That doesn’t seem like the proper way to institute a filter by any means. It’s akin to Google changing their SafeSearch to state “Do you want to receive websites with kittens or porn?”
I am a proponent of a filter. As an erotic literature writer, I obviously don’t have many issues with sex. I think sex is perfectly fine and people should enjoy it as adults if they wish to, in whatever ways they prefer. If they want to read about it in books, or watch movies, or think about it, or perform safe sex acts with their partner, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Sex is natural and fun and the majority of us wouldn’t be here without it(except for in-vitro people, sort of, but that’s something else entirely). Sex fantasies in a book are probably the safest form of sexual entertainment in existence, too. Absolutely no one was hurt or potentially harmed in the creation of it, nor is it likely that many people are going to be harmed while reading it.
I could honestly go on and on about that particular topic and how people who enjoy sexual entertainment are, on average, MORE sympathetic to people and appreciate and accept everyone more widely and treat people with more respect, but this isn’t about that. There are people who think sex is bad, and I have no issue with blocking sex from children, even though I think a better means of raising children to adults is to teach them about sex properly instead of throwing them into a sexually-repressed cage. That’s also another topic entirely. There’s plenty of articles about both of these things, and I’d be happy to share or talk about in another blog post or through email if anyone’s interested.
Anyways, blocking sex and adult content is perfectly fine, and I’m fine with that, but Amazon isn’t blocking it in a responsible way.
Besides that, they aren’t evenly applying the filter, either. If something is “erotica” then it’s likely adult-oriented, right? Except not all erotica is filtered according to Amazon’s standards. I can somewhat understand this, because there are some appreciable books in the erotica genre(like Fifty Shades of Grey). This book transcends erotica in some ways and switches over to romance aspects. There is such a genre as erotic romance, and lots of places categorize it as such, but Amazon doesn’t have an “erotic romance” category. They have a bunch of “romance” categories and then “erotica.”
Not filtering everything doesn’t seem -too- bad at first, except the filter does various things to books. Besides hiding them from the “All” search on Amazon(and making them show up only in “Books” or “Kindle Store”), the filter also removes books from Also-Boughts. What this means is that when you go to a book’s product page(or any product page, really), you’ll see something lower down that says “Customers who bought this item also bought:” with a list of items. This seems small, but it’s kind of like a sharing list of things that people enjoyed and also bought. It’s somewhat useful if you want to buy something similar to what you’ve already bought, but you aren’t sure what to buy. You can check the “Also Boughts” and see if something there is something that you’d like.
“Also Boughts” acts as free advertisement, basically. The issue with the filter and “Also Boughts” is that filtered books only show up in other filtered books “Also Boughts.” And, besides that, Amazon has been known to remove “Also Boughts” without notice or reason. I’ve had books on the “Also Boughts” lists of some BIG books and received a lot of attention for that, and then… whoops! All of a sudden my book was gone(even though it WAS a book that people of the other book would have enjoyed, as they were similar in the right ways and not some cheap copy/imitation).
The point there is that Amazon intentionally skews their advertisement of certain things and the “Also Boughts” aren’t actually “Also Boughts” anymore. They’re more like “Yes, these are things that people also bought after buying this book, but they’re the things we’ve decided to show you as opposed to the things that customers actually bought.”
(For anyone curious, one of the books this happened to me with was Soulless, my paranormal/zombie erotic romance, and Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies. Soulless was on the first page of Warm Bodies “Also Boughts” for multiple weeks, which made perfect sense. They are extremely similar books. My book was removed in favor of books like Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John. I enjoy Nicholas Sparks books, and actually I liked Dear John, too, but how is a contemporary literary fiction/quasi-romance novel at all related to paranormal romance? I have no idea)
If all of these things weren’t enough, Amazon’s searches typically end up showing “filtered” content below the unfiltered content. If they filtered everything evenly, then this shouldn’t be a problem, except they don’t do this. Many small publishers aren’t being filtered, despite putting books in erotica. I have nothing against these small publishers, but I prefer to independently publish because I’m kind of a control freak and I like to control everything about myself and my writing. I think that most of the time my results are very professional and on par with any small publisher, which is kind of saying a lot. There’s a lot of indie authors that you can barely even tell they were indie. I mean, Abbi Glines is pretty huge in e-books right now, and she’s an indie author, if that’s telling you anything.
What this ends up doing is that it hides content from everyone. Not only does it initially hide content from the “All” search, but it hides content on the “Also Boughts” and it hides content on searches when you’re specifically trying to find this content.
To be more forthcoming, the initial filtering seemed fine. Amazon was filtering books with titles referencing gangbangs or breeding. I’m not sure why those got filtered first. Lactation and impregnation and things like that came next. These are probably adult titles and erotica, so it makes sense, right? Now they’ve started filtering more, though. Titles that reference “menage” or things like that are being filtered along with gangbangs. There are a lot of nice romance books involving MFM/MMF dynamics, but Amazon has decided that sex with more than one person is more adult and should be filtered? It’s not even real sex, it’s fictional book sex. If three people want to be in a loving, committed relationship, and have sex with each other, this is apparently wrong to write about. I just can’t even begin to understand that one, but it’s definitely happening.
So, there it is. As people who use Amazon, I hope I’ve informed you a little. If you don’t use Amazon, it probably doesn’t effect you very much. To reiterate, I don’t disagree with a filtering system(in fact, I would welcome one), but the way in which Amazon is currently filtering things is irresponsible. Seeing as they’re a 107.09 billion dollar company, and still extremely alluring to customers, I don’t really see that there’s anything to do about this. What it does mean is that you’re going to see a lot fewer authors willing to push boundaries and write interesting things, though. We’re being penalized for it, and there’s very little we can do about it.