Keep your knickers on
Ever get really confused as to what is allowable on erotic fiction book covers and what is not?
I recently worked with a photographer on the cover of my new free book The Donnington Chronicles. He has produced lots of images for book covers, starting back in the days when nearly everyone read paperbacks and working up to the present day. (Viewfinders Portfolios – to see more cover images contact him)
Incidentally I chose to use this photographers pictures because none of his work is available royalty free which means he knows how many covers each photo has been on. More of this in a forthcoming post.
The image I chose had previously appeared on a cover of a BDSM paperback sold by a major high street retail chain. The photographer commented that this particular store was very picky about what could and could not be shown on the front of titles it sold. Obviously genitalia was a no no, but so were nipples and most, but not all, outright nudity. Bottoms, however where a definite yes which was great because the readers of BDSM books love a good bottom. (Apparently one publisher found that sales were a lot less when the title did feature a bottom on the cover. Re-release with a female bottom securely in place and sales went back up.)
The subject was going to be dropped onto a new background and cropped so it looked different from the original use.
The photo did show a girls bottom but she was wearing knickers, OK very skimpy ones, but the rest of her is shrouded in a black dress. Despite the fact that the image was still visible on Amazon on the original cover it was quickly flagged as “inappropriate content” for Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Nobel and several others by the publishing service.
What followed showed the advantage of using a proper photographer or designer rather than a stock image. The photographer ripped (OK copied) a pair of knickers off another model’s photo and with a bit of clever transforming and blending in Photoshop applied them to the existing cover. This was re-submitted and passed without comment.
The Donnington Chronicles – A BDSM story set in the 1980s
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Having done a bit of research with searches for BDSM and spanking titles there seems to be quite a lot of scantily clad bottoms on all of the the above sellers sites plus quite a lot of naked women seen from behind. It is possible that, because I was using a self publishing book distribution service, they were just erring on the side of caution. More likely is that the sellers change their idea of what is acceptable but do not delete existing titles because that would mean loosing revenue.
Not being a tech wizard I have no proof but it would seem that, with the use of algorithms or AI to judge the suitability of images rather than people any subtlety is being lost.
The conclusion I would draw is that, if you want to sell through major outlets, keep your knickers on.
I can find no information on what is or is not acceptable on an erotic book cover. If you know of any please add links to the comments below.
Here’s a couple of useful articles on how to design covers and using stock photos.
All pictures copyright Viewfinders and used with permission. Find out more in Erotic Images For Authors
How to design a book cover: the ultimate guide
An Author’s Guide to Stock Photos for Book Covers
- How To Write Believable Erotica
- Writing About the Smells and Sounds of Sex
- Sex, Strawberries and Cream
- E.A. Barker’s The $1.99 Author
- Erotic Stock Photos
- What Do You Want From Erotic Writing?
- Sexy Demons Incubi and Succubae
- Kinks – Spanking
Books by Simone Francis
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