“What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.” -- https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I
For someone like me, that rule from Amazon’s KDP program is a little vague as to what makes a cover offensive. As an Award-Winning Cover Artist at EDHGraphics with a focus on Romance and Erotica genres, I find there is little that offends me. How am I supposed to know what is appropriate for Amazon?As far as I know, there is no official list from Amazon of what is or what is not appropriate. The following are examples that have been brought to my attention--instances where Amazon has flagged a book because of what it deemed as "inappropriate" content and those were the reasons given to the authors and to me. This list is based on what people in my field--art directors, cover artists, and authors have told me. My list is to just simply save you the headache of potentially having your book flagged. However, I do believe Amazon needs to have official rules instead of the very broad interpretation of "What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect". My goal, as a cover artist, is to provide the most eye-catching cover I can provide within safe guidelines. I compiled the list of examples over the past few years for your benefit.
All of these are unofficial no-no’s:
--Naked female torso including front view or sometimes side view. Side boob inappropriate.
--Arms or hands across breasts.
--Naked butt. On one occasion, upper thigh close to lower butt cheek was unacceptable.
--No naked people in a clinch even if they aren’t “fondling”.
--Any sexual position that implies penetration (Missionary, doggie-style, etc).
--No naked characters straddling each other.
--No handcuffs on wrists. Handcuffs being held is fine.
--No “O” faces.
--No women on their knees in front of men (as in implied fellatio).
--No men between women’s thighs (as in implied cunnilingus).
--No men’s faces on breasts.
Following the above list will keep you relatively safe. There are exceptions to be found. A recent cover was banned because the woman was bound in ribbons. There will be never be a guarantee because Amazon does not have any official rules. They “reserve the right to make judgments about whether content is appropriate and to choose not to offer it” (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I).If you are an author of dark erotica, BDSM, or even general erotica, I would highly recommend one of two options:
1) A symbolic cover. If Amazon finds offense to a rose, then I throw my hands up. J
2) A “step-back” cover. Have your artist create a very safe cover and then have her/him create an insert cover with a very smexy image J I have to emphasize here no nudity—that could still cause issues. A fine example of this is Jenn LeBlanc’s ABSOLUTE SURRENDER.It is challenging to create a cover that Amazon will not find inappropriate when there are no official rules. Hopefully, this will change one day and we will not be expected to piece together emails, letters, and comments in order to keep covers from being flagged.
As a side note, if your cover is safe, your book could still potentially be flagged. Amazon does flag books based on content and blurb descriptions.