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We've all probably heard by now of various forms of suppression, censorship and so-called shadow-banning on other online platforms (i.e., social media). Was just curious if anybody here has ever experienced such a thing on Amazon? Personally I haven't, and I believe most fiction writers wouldn't. I have, however, heard about a number of instances of certain political books being completely removed from Amazon.

With constant changes in "Community Standards" and the like, I wonder if such a thing will extend to fiction? I have heard from erotica writers that their books were easier to search for and find in the KDP early years, but are now delisted from certain search categories.
 

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We've all probably heard by now of various forms of suppression, censorship and so-called shadow-banning on other online platforms (i.e., social media). Was just curious if anybody here has ever experienced such a thing on Amazon? Personally I haven't, and I believe most fiction writers wouldn't. I have, however, heard about a number of instances of certain political books being completely removed from Amazon.

With constant changes in "Community Standards" and the like, I wonder if such a thing will extend to fiction? I have heard from erotica writers that their books were easier to search for and find in the KDP early years, but are now delisted from certain search categories.
This isn't censorship. It's a company deciding what it wants to sell on its own website.

They were delisted from certain categories, at least in part, because erotica books, and certain kind of toys, were showing up in searches for things they should not have been showing up in. Like kids' books. Amazon got complaints from aggrieved parents, so they made sure that stuff wouldn't keep happening.
 

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As someone who puts 0% into thinking what will or won't offend people, It really hasn't been too bad so far. Some promo sites have a no swearing or no sex guideline, which, uh shoot, I don't think I can ever follow those criteria. But it's their promo so they can run whatever they want.

I don't think amazon has a censorship issue as much as it has trouble implementing a way to sort out what is over the line. There are always going to be people who put out things that are way in the debauchery deep end, and it becomes a logistic mess of sorting out what is offensive and what is more somewhere in the middle. It is a shame that some people lose visibility when they haven't done as much as some pop books but at least I'd like to think that it's not that amazon has it out for you. There is a risk for sure, but for me, I take it. You never know what might get you dinged, so I figure that I might as well write the book I want to. But it also helps that I'm not interested in writing anything that's very extreme.

That all being said, what happens in the future? Who knows.
 

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As someone who puts 0% into thinking what will or won't offend people, It really hasn't been too bad so far. Some promo sites have a no swearing or no sex guideline, which, uh shoot, I don't think I can ever follow those criteria. But it's their promo so they can run whatever they want.

I don't think amazon has a censorship issue as much as it has trouble implementing a way to sort out what is over the line. There are always going to be people who put out things that are way in the debauchery deep end, and it becomes a logistic mess of sorting out what is offensive and what is more somewhere in the middle. It is a shame that some people lose visibility when they haven't done as much as some pop books but at least I'd like to think that it's not that amazon has it out for you. There is a risk for sure, but for me, I take it. You never know what might get you dinged, so I figure that I might as well write the book I want to. .

Sagacious as ever sir, especially the bolded part which I think I would extend to every part of this writing lark.
 

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This isn't censorship. It's a company deciding what it wants to sell on its own website.

They were delisted from certain categories, at least in part, because erotica books, and certain kind of toys, were showing up in searches for things they should not have been showing up in. Like kids' books. Amazon got complaints from aggrieved parents, so they made sure that stuff wouldn't keep happening.
Yes, it's capitalism not censorship. At least if you're in the United States, you're allowed to publish nearly anything you wish, but no individual or company is obligated to assist you in doing it. Even Hit Man was not actually banned, but the publisher just got tired of dealing with the lawsuits.
 

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I don't think amazon has a censorship issue as much as it has trouble implementing a way to sort out what is over the line.
I think the bigger problem is not implementing it, but getting people to be honest and self-sort. Because there's always going to be some people who refuse to tag their erotica books as erotica if they think it will give them an advantage over the people who do.
 

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I think the bigger problem is not implementing it, but getting people to be honest and self-sort. Because there's always going to be some people who refuse to tag their erotica books as erotica if they think it will give them an advantage over the people who do.
Yeah, that's fair. I guess there will always be people that purposely try to sneak things by. It's just kind of a bummer because if it's left to the amazon algorithm to decide what is/isn't erotica, there are bound to be some people who get hit for minor things. But if the alternative is the example you gave of having these things show up in kids books, then maybe it is what it is.
 

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If I recall, there is an age minimum one clicks in 'content' or the first set-up page (going by memory here) every time they release a book. And if you are writing erotica, and you click that age minimum (in this case to Age 18 and over), you don't end up in the 'adult dungeon' for it, but it keeps kids from easily finding your erotica books, and also is supposed to keep your books from ending up in kids' sections by accident of the algos misinterpreting something from the blurb or whatever.
 

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I think the bigger problem is not implementing it, but getting people to be honest and self-sort. Because there's always going to be some people who refuse to tag their erotica books as erotica if they think it will give them an advantage over the people who do.
Yeah, trusting people to do the right thing is a fool’s errand. Don’t even get me started on people following “rules” companies themselves refuse to enforce.
 

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Some promo sites have a no swearing or no sex guideline, which, uh shoot, I don't think I can ever follow those criteria.
Really? Which ones? I must have slipped through the net a few times because my books are full of swearing and I fairly regularly get reviews complaining about it.
 

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I don't know if this is on the right track, or related to OP's question and concern. But here goes.

I know I've reached out to several publications, literature and literary networks, offering to give them free copies (either digital or hard copy) of my books, and other avenues for interviews, press releases, promotion, and I humbly think because of misconceptions of identity politics, (as I am an African American/Black and gay author), I was never contacted back, or given an excuse that my type of books are not what they feature (When that was not true. They publish all types of genres), and/or given an excuse that they couldn't squeeze me in. (When they would constantly and continually explain they are in dire need to showcase new authors and books etc.)

I'm not necessarily at all saying it was for prejudice or injustice reasons. Perhaps on face value and due to incorrect assumptions and perceptions once again, they were hesitant. Maybe I wasn't popular enough or fit their mold? Who knows really. But I just wanted to mention that.

So if that counts as censorship, then that's the closest thing I've got.

Oh, I've had some reviewers complain about there being intense or kinda overtly R rated scenes and moments in my book I suppose. Guilt tripping me into writing that, and trying to "censor" me over that. Well excuse me, the book was not Middle Grade, YA or even NA. It's an adult book, with adult characters, and adult themes. So if that counts as censorship, I went through that too.

So yeah.
 

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Really? Which ones? I must have slipped through the net a few times because my books are full of swearing and I fairly regularly get reviews complaining about it.
Honestly, I can't remember right now and I don't want to say one that's not true. I just remember a while back when I was filling out things for promo sites and there were a few that I couldn't do. Maybe it's something that doesn't get policed to much? I'm not really sure.
 

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If I recall, there is an age minimum one clicks in 'content' or the first set-up page (going by memory here) every time they release a book. And if you are writing erotica, and you click that age minimum (in this case to Age 18 and over), you don't end up in the 'adult dungeon' for it, but it keeps kids from easily finding your erotica books, and also is supposed to keep your books from ending up in kids' sections by accident of the algos misinterpreting something from the blurb or whatever.
Not how it works, at all. In fact, most erotica authors I've seen believe that clicking the age range can make Amazon take more notice of it, thus they won't put any age range, or any "trigger" warnings in blurbs.

At any rate, not selling a book, or making it harder for children to see it, isn't censorship, so the discussion is moot. The government stopping you from publishing? That might be censorship.
 

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I know I've reached out to several publications, literature and literary networks, offering to give them free copies (either digital or hard copy) of my books, and other avenues for interviews, press releases, promotion,
Almost no one ever gets a response from this method. Unless you are a "name", or have something unique or news-making, the chances of getting anyone to pay attention to press releases or offers of free review books is almost zero. It has nothing to do with you, with what you write, or anything else. It's more due to the overwhelming numbers of people contacting them, wanting the same thing you wanted, free publicity. Almost every place you see touting the easy, passive income of Kindle books tells people to send press releases, and to find every book review site or blog they can reach.
 

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It is true that authors of all types of content try to game Amazon's system, but as is, it's hard to argue that any author is intentionally breaking the category or age range rules, because they aren't defined, anywhere.

My great irritation is all the mafia romance in the interracial and multicultural category. But I could see an argument for these books being "multicultural." I don't think that's the intent of the category (and certainly, the sci-fi romance with alien heroes, or the PNR with fairy heroes or shifters or whatnot do not belong), but without a clear guideline, how can I say for sure? Certainly people could argue some of my interracial books don't belong as the books are really not about being an interracial couple. Some have more mention of culture or race than others, but there's never really anything about the struggles of interracial love. That's just not my experience & not really an experience I'm interested in writing or reading.

Which is to say... it's not technically censorship for Amazon to not allow content, but seeing as how Amazon is the biggest e-book vendor, them not allowing a certain type of content is a big deal. They are free to do it, of course, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I think we'd all be better served if Amazon made their content and category guidelines clearer. As is, it's really not possible to break their rule, because it's "about what you'd expect." Well, if I publish it, I obviously expected it to be allowed. I suppose I might not have expected it to be allowed and published anyway, but that would be very difficult to argue.
 

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It is true that authors of all types of content try to game Amazon's system, but as is, it's hard to argue that any author is intentionally breaking the category or age range rules, because they aren't defined, anywhere.

Which is to say... it's not technically censorship for Amazon to not allow content, but seeing as how Amazon is the biggest e-book vendor, them not allowing a certain type of content is a big deal. They are free to do it, of course, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I think we'd all be better served if Amazon made their content and category guidelines clearer. As is, it's really not possible to break their rule, because it's "about what you'd expect." Well, if I publish it, I obviously expected it to be allowed. I suppose I might not have expected it to be allowed and published anyway, but that would be very difficult to argue.
I would argue, that in a lot of cases, the category should define itself. As people who rely so heavily on the meaning of words, we shouldn't need someone to explain to us why all those bare chest covers don't belong in the mystery category. Or the fantasy category. Or the whatever other unsuitable category they were shoehorned into to game an orange tag. They belong in the Romance > Mystery category. Or the Romance > Fantasy Category. Because personally, I don't have any difficulty arguing that a good third of the books I see on any top-100 list don't usually belong there because they're the completely wrong genre, and if people acted in good faith instead of trying to wiggle into categories they don't belong in to gain an advantage, it would be much easier for readers to find books that they actually want.

I mean, really, why is it so hard for people to be honest about the fact that their book, which leans heavily to romance and has only a tiny mystery aspect to it probably isn't what most big-M mystery category readers are looking for when they go to the mystery section to look for a new book? (Sorry for picking on romance, but those bare chest covers are the most noticeable examples.)

Regarding the 'about what you'd expect' rule, when books with titles that start with 'Daddy' start showing up in the kids' section, I would expect a big kerfuffle. Which is exactly what happened. If authors would have put those titles into the proper category in the first place - and there's no way the proper category for something like that isn't crystal clear - that stuff never would have happened, and Amazon probably wouldn't have got so dungeon-happy on everyone else.
 

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I would argue, that in a lot of cases, the category should define itself. As people who rely so heavily on the meaning of words, we shouldn't need someone to explain to us why all those bare chest covers don't belong in the mystery category. Or the fantasy category. Or the whatever other unsuitable category they were shoehorned into to game an orange tag. They belong in the Romance > Mystery category. Or the Romance > Fantasy Category. Because personally, I don't have any difficulty arguing that a good third of the books I see on any top-100 list don't usually belong there because they're the completely wrong genre, and if people acted in good faith instead of trying to wiggle into categories they don't belong in to gain an advantage, it would be much easier for readers to find books that they actually want.

I mean, really, why is it so hard for people to be honest about the fact that their book, which leans heavily to romance and has only a tiny mystery aspect to it probably isn't what most big-M mystery category readers are looking for when they go to the mystery section to look for a new book? (Sorry for picking on romance, but those bare chest covers are the most noticeable examples.)

Regarding the 'about what you'd expect' rule, when books with titles that start with 'Daddy' start showing up in the kids' section, I would expect a big kerfuffle. Which is exactly what happened. If authors would have put those titles into the proper category in the first place - and there's no way the proper category for something like that isn't crystal clear - that stuff never would have happened, and Amazon probably wouldn't have got so dungeon-happy on everyone else.
Sorry to make this about me, but what you said is making me wonder if I'm making a mistake with the covers for a series I'm writing. It's MM mystery, there's a slow burn romance, but relationship isn't going to be solid till book 4. The first book ends in a confusing interaction/kiss. But I asked for guys and skin on the covers because that's typical in my genre... but what you describe with 90/10 Romance/Mystery is not my vibe at all, and that's a lot of what's there.
 

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I would argue, that in a lot of cases, the category should define itself. As people who rely so heavily on the meaning of words, we shouldn't need someone to explain to us why all those bare chest covers don't belong in the mystery category. Or the fantasy category. Or the whatever other unsuitable category they were shoehorned into to game an orange tag. They belong in the Romance > Mystery category. Or the Romance > Fantasy Category. Because personally, I don't have any difficulty arguing that a good third of the books I see on any top-100 list don't usually belong there because they're the completely wrong genre, and if people acted in good faith instead of trying to wiggle into categories they don't belong in to gain an advantage, it would be much easier for readers to find books that they actually want.

...

Regarding the 'about what you'd expect' rule, when books with titles that start with 'Daddy' start showing up in the kids' section, I would expect a big kerfuffle. Which is exactly what happened. If authors would have put those titles into the proper category in the first place - and there's no way the proper category for something like that isn't crystal clear - that stuff never would have happened, and Amazon probably wouldn't have got so dungeon-happy on everyone else.
I was going to mostly agree, but the more I think about this, the more I disagree. Sure, there's really no arguing a straight romance is a mystery. But what about a romantic suspense book with mystery in it? What about a mystery with a romantic subplot? What about a straight up genre mash up?

Any of those books could be a romance and a mystery.

It's simply not true that a book can't be a romance and a mystery. Or a thriller and a comedy. Or any category and any other category.

Yes, it's probably not the case, and the author probably knew it, but it's certainly possible a) it is the case or b) the author thinks it's the case.

Genres are fluid. Categories are not clear cut. Subcategories are especially not clear cut. That is why we need guidelines.

And I would bet $100 that someone's Daddy book got put into a kid's category because of the keyword category system. It's a bad system. I'm in some cats where I don't belong because of keywords. I'm not ditching a perfectly good keyword because Amazon has a bad system. If Cinderella Fantasy gets me into Romance > Fantasy, that's not really my call.
 

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I was going to mostly agree, but the more I think about this, the more I disagree. Sure, there's really no arguing a straight romance is a mystery. But what about a romantic suspense book with mystery in it? What about a mystery with a romantic subplot? What about a straight up genre mash up?
A romantic suspense book should be in the romantic suspense category. Not the mystery category. Because even though there's some sort of mystery in the story, that doesn't make it part of the Mystery genre. If the romance is a subplot and the main genre is mystery, sure, stick it in mystery. But if it's romance with a mystery subplot, stick it in Romance > Mystery. The main category that a book is in should make it clear what the main genre is. There's a reason that there's a Mystery > Romance category and a Romance > Mystery category. I'm a mystery reader. I don't mind some romance in my mystery - in fact, I usually like it if there is - but I want the largest part of the plot to be mystery, not romance. And the only reasonable way to make it easy for Mystery readers to find that is in the main Mystery category.


Any of those books could be a romance and a mystery.
Of course they can. But they're going to be one thing more than the other. Whichever genre the A plot falls into is the one that should determine the main category.


It's simply not true that a book can't be a romance and a mystery. Or a thriller and a comedy. Or any category and any other category.
I never said that a book can't have more than one genre. Of course it can. But when someone goes looking for a big-M category mystery (a story where the main plot is about solving the mystery), the kind of book they're looking for likely isn't going to be one with a bare chest on the cover.


Yes, it's probably not the case, and the author probably knew it, but it's certainly possible a) it is the case or b) the author thinks it's the case.
Sure, sometimes authors think their book is something different than what it really is. But in most of the most egregious cases, I suspect probably not.


Genres are fluid. Categories are not clear cut. Subcategories are especially not clear cut. That is why we need guidelines.
Even so, I really don't think this needs to be so complicated. If the main plot is about a romantic relationship, then your main category should be Romance. If your main plot is about a main character who acts as a detective and investigates a mystery, then the main cat should be Mystery. If your main plot is about a character who gets caught up in a situation beyond their control, the main cat should be Suspense/Thriller. If the story is set in a somehow fantastical world, start with Fantasy or SF. Then just drill down to the suitable sub-cats for the book.


And I would bet $100 that someone's Daddy book got put into a kid's category because of the keyword category system. It's a bad system. I'm in some cats where I don't belong because of keywords. I'm not ditching a perfectly good keyword because Amazon has a bad system. If Cinderella Fantasy gets me into Romance > Fantasy, that's not really my call.
I have no doubt that happens sometimes. But what possible keyword would that have been? Also, if the author would have put the book in erotica like it should have been, it never would have turned up in a search for kids books in the first place.
 

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Sorry to make this about me, but what you said is making me wonder if I'm making a mistake with the covers for a series I'm writing. It's MM mystery, there's a slow burn romance, but relationship isn't going to be solid till book 4. The first book ends in a confusing interaction/kiss. But I asked for guys and skin on the covers because that's typical in my genre... but what you describe with 90/10 Romance/Mystery is not my vibe at all, and that's a lot of what's there.
That actually sounds a lot like a story that I'm working on, except mine is FF instead of MM.

My complaint about the man-chest covers in the Mystery category was based on the fact that those books aren't mystery, though. If sexy shirtless men are a feature of MM mystery covers, then there's no reason you shouldn't have sexy shirtless men on your cover.
 
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