As an Independent Author one of the many hats I wear is that of a marketing genius. Now that’s not to say that I am one, only that that is what I hope to be. In the Indie world there are a few tried and tested avenues for successful marketing but then there are a lot of new avenues popping up every day and its always a good thing to keep on top of new trends.
One of the things that recently caught my eye as I geared up for my final quarter marketing was Amazon’s KDP marketing campaigns. A couple of the things I liked about it was that you could pull out of the ads at any time during the campaign and that it was a set your own pay per click amount. I did some research and read a few good things about it, and a few who said it wasnt so great, but I thought I would give it a try. I figured the worst thing that would happen was that I could use a few of my marketing dollars make a few extra sales and that I could at least pass along my experiences to others in my network.
I decided to go with the first book in my romantic suspense series as my test case, being that it was a newer series for me and that I have the second due out shortly. I filled out their campaign request form and waited their acceptance of my campaign.
I had to laugh a few hours later when I received the following email back from them:
Hello, Thank you for submitting your ad campaign "Allison's Account 10/07/2015" for review. Unfortunately, we are unable to approve your ad as yourbook cover violates one of our ad guideline policies i.e Bare skin. Asa result, your campaign will not be served. Please visit http://www.amazon.com/b/?&node=7354330011 to check our adguideline policy. If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us athttps://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us?topicId=kdpSelect&subtopicId=advertising. Sincerely, The Amazon Marketing Services Team
Thinking that it was some sort of automated algorithm that had flagged the bare skin I decided to email them back. I was laughing as I wrote the following back because it all seemed to silly to be anything more than that;
Really? Its a SHOULDER and ARM of a man? See below for your email rejecting my ad campaign.... the book itself can be found here ----> http://amzn.to/1GpBApS
I had a few words with other independent authors and we all agreed that it had to be some sort of automated thing, that wiser heads would prevail and it would quickly be cleared up. My amusement quickly turned to frustration when I recieved the following response;
Hello, I understand your concern regarding the ad campaign rejection. I've checked with our Ad campaign moderators on the reason of rejection. They have replied saying it is a "Provocative Image" i.e Bare Skin andsuggested you to to change the book cover which complies with our ad policy guidelines and create a new campaign if you're interested to runa ad campaign. If you'd like to resubmit this campaign, please update anything in it that would violate the Amazon Creative Acceptance Policies or the Amazon Ad Policy for Books: http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=az_adv_ln_dads_ca?&node=3055298011 http://www.amazon.com/b/?&node=7354330011 Thanks for using KDP.
Wait what? Change my cover? Seriously? Just to be able to run an advertisement? And what about the others out there that run ads all the time on Amazon? So I pushed a little further, trying to understand why they had come up with the decision they had.
So am I to understand that no Historical Romance novels are allowed to have an ad with you either? Given that 90% of their covers contain bare skin...generally women's shoulders and arms as was the style of dress from the period that they were written? Please advise.
I figured at this point they would be able to see that this was somehow a mistake and they weren’t putting everything into the proper perspective. Its a guy holding a shirt over his shoulder. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Hello, Thanks for taking the time to contact Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) back. I hope this email finds you well! I would like first to apologize for the inconvenience this situation has caused. Every cover is analyzed individually, and besides the bare skin, our moderators consider the image as a whole, and its intended meaning. Historical romance novels may be allowed if for example they show a girl with her shoulders bare, but sitting in the prairie alone, maybe holding a flower, rather than being kissed by a man: this is why our moderators mean by "the image's intended meaning." Nevertheless, the final decision is made by our moderators. I hope this information helps. Thanks for your understanding, and for using Amazon KDP.
This is now the third person who has written back to me (fourth if you count the initial email) and I am sorry to say it went from being a logical conversation to being a bit on the silly side. I can tell you right here right now that there are plenty of historical romance books with the hero sweeping the heroine up into his arms for a deep kiss, almost guarantee that there is some bare skin on either male or female or both and I can bet my marketing dollars on them being advertised well. Not many that I can think of where a girl is sitting in the middle of a prairie holding a flower, but that’s just me.
As for intended meaning, that is highly arbitrary. It is a shirtless guy holding his shirt over his shoulder. I could open any male fashion magazine and I would easily be able to pick out men holding jackets, sweaters and shirts in a very similar stance as the model on my cover. It means nothing and everything, depending on who you are speaking to.
I can tell you right now my initial thought was to fire back an email that said “If I switched the shirt for a flower would you let it me have my campaign.?” It honestly seems ridiculous to me, and to anyone in the industry that I’ve spoken to about the situation. I mean Amazon has nothing to lose. They would not only get my marketing dollars, but because I publish through KDP they would also get a cut off of every book I sell. To me that screams easy money. So what gives.
Rather than coming across as rude with my off the cuff response I decided to take the rest of the day to think about a logical response and I figured I would do some research just to be sure I wasn’t talking without a leg to stand on. Friday morning I sent this off to them:
Hi Again KDP Rep, Sorry it took so long to respond. I am also sorry that this is still continuing and you are the one ending up having to deal with the situation today. However I am back to further this discussion. Please see attached copies of ads on YOUR site with varying degrees of bare skin and clearly "implied meaning". Please advise.
I included five different screen shots of ads I found around Amazon where there was bare skin, both male and female, I was also able to find a few ads where the couple was leaning in for a kiss and more than one of them had clearly implied meanings in their ads. I could have added more, as lets face it well designed covers sell the goods that are in between the pages, but I figured I had enough to prove my point.
Apparently I had gotten their attention this time as I got the following response from now a fifth person;
Hello Allison, Thanks for writing back with the screenshots. I've forwarded your concern to our Ad moderators again. We'll need a little time to look into the appeal. I'll follow up on the case and contact you with an update within 3-5 business days. Thanks for your patience.
Three to five business days to get back to me. In the meantime I am left to wonder what the actual criteria is for their decisions. Is it based on personal feeling or is there an actual guideline for the moderators to base their decisions on? Even with the guidelines and criteria there is bound to be some sort of natural human feelings that go into making the call. If that call isn’t a fair or valid call what can authors or publicists do to appeal the decision?
So far it has taken four different people for me to get a response that didn’t include justification for their decision that doesn’t match other decisions or suggestions that I change my cover. I am not sure what they will respond at this point as their responses seem to be all over the place or if their “3-5 business days” is in the hopes that I will move on and forget about the conversation.
I do hope that they will do the right thing. I do hope there is an actual appeal process and wiser heads on the other end of it. But really given everything they haven’t done in the last few days, I’m not holding my breath.