Cover up those covers

In case you missed it, erotica author Selena Kitt has put out an useful update on her blog as to how erotic ebooks should look in order to meet current distribution guidelines.

As you may or may not know, ebook distributors like Amazon have been getting their panties in a bunch in recent months over the adult nature of erotic fiction.

Essentially, a few outraged right-wing news outlets sparked the trouble, with paranoid ranting about the risk of kids getting hold of erotic ebooks. All a bit ridiculous, really. There’s no problem with kids getting hold of books about Hannibal Lector carving people up and making stew out of them, but erotic stories will bring civilization down.

The result is that a lot of erotic ebooks have been blacklisted unless they tone down their covers, and have titles and descriptions that avoid obviously adult language.

Selena Kitt’s advice is basically to just run with it, and hush things up in order to keep those erotic stories coming (as it were):

“If you dress up pretty on the outside, you can be as much of a whore on the inside as you like.”

I’m not sure it’s such a great idea for Amazon to encourage their book blurbs to hide the fact that stories might be of an adult nature when the whole point is that people are concerned that younger impressionable readers might accidentally stumble on a book that has adult content.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention all this since I’ve received a few emails suggesting that my covers could be a little more erotic. Actually, dear reader, they couldn’t. I’ve even had titles blacklisted because the covers were a little too risqué. The rather pathetic Kobo has banned my books completely, but we won’t worry about that.

stockholm-replacementOne of my book covers which was deemed to be too offensive by Amazon (left) and its replacement. Of course, if instead of an erotic story, this had been a thriller about a kidnapping, this cover probably would have been seen as perfectly acceptable

I’ve dealt with the blacklisting either by uploading new covers or re-publishing titles. Anarchy of the Heart remains blacklisted on Amazon as a complete novel, which is why it’s now also available, un-blacklisted, as three separate volumes. Why was it blacklisted? Because it had the word “menage” on the original cover.

I personally don’t think erotic fiction should have covers that are too explicit, but that’s mainly because images are often more erotic and are certainly more classy when they leave a little to the imagination. But some of the reasons for blacklisting covers are hilarious.

Oh, an author could fight against the machine in the name of free speech and anti-censorship, but really it’s just not worth it. Selena Kitt herself has fought magnificently for the genre over the years, but ultimately comes to the conclusion that “if your goal is to get your book in front of the largest number of readers… it’s best to play the game”.

So we tone down our covers, and it’s a shame because it means we’re all steadily moving towards the exceedingly dull shades of gray covers that the major publishers are using as a desperate ploy to woo Christian Grey fans.