A Halloween Story: Blood, Violence, & Amazon Advertising

I’m a fan of Amazon. Usually. But right now I’m pissed.

After hearing recently of the success a fellow self-published author had advertising his book on Amazon, I decided to give it a shot. Now, to preface this, I’m not ignorant of the conversation about whether this is an effective method for reaching a wider audience. Hint: a lot of people tend to think it’s not worth it. But this author gave a detailed summary of his methods and the trial and error he went through to find an ad that worked–meaning the right combination of a 150 character pitch, targeted interests, and timing. So I figured that giving Amazon ads a shot using the advice he had to offer wasn’t a bad idea.

I created an ad, hit the submit button, and assumed all would be well. Not so fast. Less than 12 hours later, I had an email telling me that my ad had been rejected because “it clearly shows images of blood or depicts a scene of violence.”

Need a refresher?

The Blood Tainted Winter - Ebook

Terrifying, right?

There is no blood on this cover. The red is more akin to smoke and it’s part of the title, not the rest of the image. How can this be blood?

As for the violence I apparently want to overwhelm unsuspecting eyes with, the axe is a weapon, sure, but it’s also a tool. Who is Amazon to say whether or not my book isn’t about some dude who likes to chop wood a lot? Besides that, the axe is not in use and there is no human in sight, meaning there is no imminent use. (What’s that, the raven wants to kill you with it? Well, of course the raven does, but we’ll talk about that some other time.)

I responded to the email, aired my grievances, and Googled Amazon ads. I wasn’t surprised to discover that the ad review process is regularly criticized for being inconsistent and too subjective. I suspected this ahead of time, of course, but I honestly never imagined my cover would be a problem. Sure, it’s nice to know there’s an actual human being behind the submission process, but what one human considers violent and in violation of Amazon’s policies, another won’t.

Case in point:

I know for a fact (because the author was kind of enough to tell me) that multiple ad campaigns have been accepted for the book you see below with no rejections.



Not only is there a sword, the placement of said sword bears an uncanny resemblance to my rejected axe: on the ground and free from human contact.

(Thanks, David Benem. P.S. David has a sequel to the above book coming soon and he’s just released the cover art. It’s pretty. Watch out, though, there’s a sword on it. P.P.S. We share a cover designer!)

Meanwhile, I received a response to my response which simply reiterated the initial rejection of the ad, stating that “any depiction of blood and weaponry will make your book cover unacceptable.”

I was prepared to let this go. After all, if I resubmit my ad, chances are it’ll be reviewed by a different human who might not be so picky ridiculous. (Though the confirmation of the rejection is troubling.) But after hearing from David about this, I proceeded to respond yet again, defending my so-called blood and condemning the inconsistencies they have displayed.

I doubt I’ll get a response, or at least any meaningful one.

Last but not least, let’s not forget that I was offering Amazon my money. It’s not as though I was taking advantage of a free promotion and plastering a gory, obscene cover all over the internet. TAKE MY MONEY, DAMMIT.

Will going public with my outrage change anything? Unlikely. BUT IT FEELS GOOD, OKAY?

And who knows, maybe someone will start a hashtag campaign, it’ll go viral, and Amazon will have to bow before me.


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