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Sebastian's Prize
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Group members > Amazon.com Book ad - Rejected

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message 1: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) So yesterday, I created an ad on Amazon.com for one of my books. Mind you, the ad creation process is very templated, and they select the book cover image automatically as well as auto-restrict the amount of text. About 4-6 hours after submitting it, they sent me an rejection notice. The form rejection included a link to a page that listed the probable causes for the rejection, and said that my ad could have been rejected for any one of them.

I said to Self, "Duh??" Why can't they just tell me--specifically--why my ad was rejected?

So I replied to the rejection notice, asking for the specific reason. Here is the response I got from their customer service folks:

"We'll need a little time to look into rejection reason for you ad campaign. I've reached out to our Ads campaign to investigate this issue.
We'll contact you with more information by the end of the day on Tuesday, December 7 for the very latest.
Thanks for your patience."

That was early Friday morning (like before 4:00am). So.... it took them less than six hours to reject my ad, but they'll need FOUR DAYS to find out why they did???


message 2: by Frederick (new)

Frederick Finch | 10 comments It looks like generic answer and 4 days is just time when someone will acctualy look into your request.
Reason why is rejected is probably within something algorithm picked along the process.
Was it offensive, explicite, or anything else on that side?


message 3: by Assaph (new)

Assaph Mehr | 28 comments Hi William,
What's the book and what was the content of the ad?


message 4: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) Assaph wrote: "Hi William,
What's the book and what was the content of the ad?"


It's just a scifi suspense. Female soldier (fully clothed) on the cover image. The content just says what the book is about -- and it's well within the text-count limitation. This is also not an adult book: no sex or nudity involved.


message 5: by William (last edited Dec 04, 2015 02:55AM) (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) Frederick wrote: "It looks like generic answer and 4 days is just time when someone will acctualy look into your request.
Reason why is rejected is probably within something algorithm picked along the process.
Was i..."


No -- the customer support person (who I quoted) was responding directly to me after my inquiry to the auto-rejection email. She's not with the ad sales team, though. Still, it taking four days to figure out why an ad was rejected (same company)? That's pretty bad. The ad review process is not automated--that's why it takes hours to get reviewed.
Also, I pointed out that I hope they extend the term of the ad if it does get approved. (Original: 30 days from Dec. 2nd.)


message 6: by Frederick (new)

Frederick Finch | 10 comments That's just weird then.
Please post explanation when you get it, now I'm interested in what they have to say.


message 7: by Brian (new)

Brian Dingle | 18 comments I have received several emails to my inquiries that sound a little strange, like this. And the last one I responded to, I told them it didn't seem to pass the Turing test. No response to that, however.


message 8: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Buchanan | 3 comments William, this is the frustrating aspect to these online distribution sites, as there seems to be a Wizard of Oz type hierarchy that is hard to reach in person, yet they make significant, often drastic decisions based on their own biases. It truly could be merely a tech glitch. Or it could be a morality issue. I fell prey to this with Apple, when they rejected a photo/storybook comprised of 500 frames, of which they found 28 that had "objectionable material." Ironically, that was when we submitted it to the over 18 crowd and put a warning on for nudity. Then we submitted in the 13+ group with no warning, and it was accepted. Essentially, it's the luck of the draw, in that its who happens to be assigned to review your book/art/cover etc. Sadly, you will categorically labelled then by that person's perceptions. It's not a failsafe system at all. I suggest you wait a day and then re-submit, perhaps changing some wording so that it gets assigned to a new reviewer. Unfortunately, often they grant each submission a number and one reviewer then intercepts all following submissions from that author. Best of luck, Jeff


message 9: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Pavli | 24 comments Amazon staff are sometimes a law unto themselves; I once got two 'one star' reviews on one of my books which complained that the readers were unable to download the book. I complained to Amazon and asked them to delete the reviews and they refused, and then blocked my email replies. Since their guidelines for reviews specifically states that a review 'should be about the book content' and not about any technical issues, they were clearly breaking their own guidelines. Don't be surprised, if you continue to complain. they may just block your emails. Good Luck!


message 10: by Brian (new)

Brian Dingle | 18 comments Andrew wrote: "Amazon staff are sometimes a law unto themselves; I once got two 'one star' reviews on one of my books which complained that the readers were unable to download the book. I complained to Amazon and..."

Hmmm. I had thought that many of their emails were moderately sophisticated computer generated responses without human intervention. But a computer probably would not block emails; I think that implies human intervention.

Not enough competition? Perhaps organizations like Goodreads could lobby for better public relations and service from them.


message 11: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments Goodreads is a subsidy of amazon. Maybe goodreads could give better support for problems with amazon reviews.


message 12: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) I received an update from customer support. The ad people are still unable to ascertain why the ad was rejected, and they are continuing to look into it.
I should note that this is not a risqué book. There is no nudity, sex, or even a kiss for that matter. There is some swearing, but of the type that young folks would normally use (these are young soldiers). The book is called Sebastian's Prize if you want to check out the cover. The female model in it is fully clothed--I've seen far more sexual images on book covers.


message 13: by Assaph (new)

Assaph Mehr | 28 comments William wrote: "I received an update from customer support. The ad people are still unable to ascertain why the ad was rejected, and they are continuing to look into it.
I should note that this is not a risqué boo..."


Maybe someone was just tired, and clicked the wrong button on the form to approve/reject your ad... ^_^


message 14: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments What were the probable causes on the reject slip?


message 15: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) A couple had to do with image content - unreadable title, adult content. Text content also.
It's not like you have a choice on the image. It auto-selects the book cover. You also can't go over the amount of text allowed.


message 16: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Pavli | 24 comments Comment by Robert: Goodreads is a subsidy of amazon. Maybe Goodreads could give better support for problems with amazon reviews.

Is it really? that does surprise me. You have raised a good point Robert: Where does anyone go to for a complaint if Amazon just stop talking to you? Is there an arbiter? Someone you can appeal to?


message 17: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) Okay folks, so I finally got a response--six days after the rejection. And frankly, I am not buying it at all. Below is their reason for rejecting the ad, followed by my reply.

*************

Thanks for your patience while I look into the reason for your rejected ad.

I've received feedback from the Ads review team and it appears that the reason for the rejection is due to the image on the book cover depicting a scenario which is violent in nature and has blood.

For better customer experience we keep updating our guidelines and as per our latest update we are not approving campaigns for books with a provocative/violent images on the cover.

I hope you find this information helpful.


**************

My response:

You have got to be kidding me.

So the book cover can't be in an ad that's occasionally seen by folks, but it being in your catalog of books--browsed by millions--is perfectly fine? How about if Stephen King's publisher wanted to advertise the book linked below? I'm betting they'd have no problem.

Finders Keepers book cover:
http://www.amazon.com/Finders-Keepers...

Here's my 'offensive' book cover in comparison:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017...

Please forward this to the ad folks.



message 18: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments I think there's an unspoken message in their reply. Having looked at your book cover, and read their response, I think their real objection is that the cover could be suggestive of sexual abuse. You have a pretty girl and over/behind her the beat up face of an extremely angry and aggressive looking man. The subtext says "He wanted to keep her forever."

From an outside observer, knowing nothing of the actual content of the book, that could look as if the book is about that angry guy doing nasty things to the girl.

This may not be what you wrote, and it may not be your intent, but to someone unfamiliar with it, that might be the message it gives. It would certainly look that way to a risk adverse marketing/legal team.

In their response, the reference to blood is a red herring. Their mention of violence, I think, has nothing to do with the overt image of violence, but the implied (or inferred) violence of the male to the female characters on the cover.


message 19: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) (Spoiler alert)
Name a suspense/thriller that didn't have either A) anticipation of violence; or B) sexual tension acting as a reader/viewer "grab." My book has both -- though as it turns out, neither comes to pass for the girl.
Remember Psycho? Under Amazon's advertising terms, the promo poster for that movie would have been disallowed. And that is an absolute *joke*.
The customer service woman repeated their reason for rejecting the ad, saying that it was about that man's bloodied face. (She also admitted that she personally liked the cover.) Meanwhile, they could care less about the blood dripping all over the cover of King's book, Finders Keepers. Or is it the publisher's money that makes the difference?
Also, as I mentioned, their policy completely flies in the face of reason: They bar an image in an ad that *might* be seen by a very few, yet have no issue at all with it being in their browsing library, where literally tens of thousands--possibly millions over the years--will definitely come across it.

Ridiculous.


message 20: by W. (new)

W. Lawrence | 43 comments I will make the prediction that Amazon will be unmoved by your appeal to logic and reason. Unfair? Undoubtedly. Worth fighting? Not unless you have nothing else to do.


message 21: by William (last edited Dec 09, 2015 01:18PM) (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) No doubt. I'm not "fighting" it so much as I'm making what I think is a valid point. And if, by chance, it might one day result in their adjusting their policy, then that's a bonus. Other authors will benefit ;-)


message 22: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I share Micah's reaction to the cover, though he's expressed it better than I could. I can also see some rationale to Amazon having different criteria for an ad, versus a cover. If I'm browsing 'horror' or some similar genre, I've made a choice to see that kind of image. An ad may be shown to people who haven't made that choice; I'm not sure how distribution is limited. It might be better, William, to think of ways to moderate the image, rather than 'fighting City Hall.'


message 23: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) Actually, Richard, the ad is placed according to reader interests. They don't just pop up anywhere. So they are just as targeted as the browsing option is. And the ads, notably, only occasionally show up - you compete for ad space with other advertisers - whereas with browsing, the book cover will always show up in the list. Furthermore, the book also shows up in keyword searches.
Again, I consider the cover for Sebastian's Prize vastly more tame than the blood-spattered covers of very many of the books easily available on Amazon. And I'm not hearing any outcry over those.

http://www.amazon.com/Carrie-Chlo%C3%...

The main point of crisis that a few of you seem to have with the SP cover is the man's bruised face. If he was a handsome, clean shaven guy, there would be no issue here. It's bruised, though, because the character has been stranded alone on an alien planet for 15 years. How else would you imagine a man's face appearing after all that time?
I have no intention of changing the book cover. Frankly, Amazon's ads don't give nearly enough ROI to justify using them anymore, anyway.


message 24: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Richard wrote: "I share Micah's reaction to the cover..."

To be clear, that wasn't actually my reaction to the cover, it was what I believe to be Amazon's reaction based on what they wrote, and comparing their reply to the cover.

William wrote: "Again, I consider the cover for Sebastian's Prize vastly more tame than the blood-spattered covers..."

Again, I think you're missing the between the lines context of their rejection. They're using the blood as a scapegoat, an excuse to reject the cover. But their real objection (I think) is that your cover can be seen as implying sexual violence from the aggressive bloodied male to the attractive female, especially in light of the tagline "He wanted to keep her forever".

Pointing toward covers more graphic than yours isn't really productive or relevant. You'd have to show more graphic cover than yours actually used in an ad to prove unfair or inconsistent application of their guidelines. And even if that's the case, I don't think you'd have much success forcing them to alter their decision even if you had enough money to sue them. They're a private company, it's their guidelines, and I'd bet courts would say they can apply them as they like.

I'm not saying their policies are fair or right or universally and equally applied. I'm just pointing out what I think their reasoning is, regardless of how we might feel about those reasons.

Are Amazon ads effective enough to be worth the time and effort and anger to fight it? I'm not sure.

P.S. I've done a Google search and seen that a lot of people have experienced the same rejection for covers that aren't really very objectionable. Like a picture of the moon with a subtle amount of blood dripping off it (Blood Moon was the title). So you're not alone. But you're likely to be beating your head against a very thick wall trying to fight it.

P.P.S Do big named titles/authors (like Stephen King and that Carrie movie) actually go through the same ad process as indie authors do? I don't know but I suspect there's a higher tier that's not subjected to this kind of scrutiny.


message 25: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Micah wrote: "Are Amazon ads effective enough to be worth the time and effort and anger to fight it? I'm not sure."

I'll add a data point or two, for what it's worth (not much, suspect). We ran Amazon ads for two of our books for a couple months. They garnered over 1000 impressions. And not one click. As in zero. (We did the product placement option.)

If our book sold poorly, that would not surprise me, but they do sell. So people were finding them, but not via the ad. Clearly, we didn't do something right, but allowing for that, the ads did not seem to be very effective.


message 26: by Assaph (new)

Assaph Mehr | 28 comments Owen wrote: "We ran Amazon ads for two of our books for a couple months. They garnered over 1000 impressions. And not one click. As in zero. (We did the product placement option.)
"


Hi Owen,

I just ran some Amazon ads for the past four weeks or so. That was in part also over a Countdown deal, to see the effect.

1,000 impressions is very, very low. You should have upped the cost per click. It's all about the numbers - you need a statistically larger sample.

Mine were just over 40.5K impressions and 147 clicks. It works out to about 0.35% click-through, which I think is average. I've been informed that if you get a 2% click-through rate you should be singing in the rain :)

Of course not all campaigns were equal. I run about 8, comparing various placements and ad texts. Some were more successful, and it indicates which target audience like the book better.

As for sales.... yeah, sore point. Didn't cover the cost of the ads. Less than half, in fact. Also interesting was that only one of the ad clicks led to sales related to the countdown deal. Apparently most of the sales during the countdown were all from the independent marketing I did. I gather that this is also fairly normal.

So was it worth it? It gave me a bit more info about who might like my book, and how to slant marketing towards them. It's OK for the small amount I paid for the ads, but probably not long term strategy.

Hope it helps!


message 27: by P.E. (new)

P.E. (eric2014) | 54 comments Hi guys, just my $0.02. Last month I did a huge countdown deal/promo campaign. Part of it was using AMS ads. I did both the category and the product targeted ads. Here's what I got:

Category ad: 45,889 impressions, 239 clicks (0.521% click-through rate), average price per click $0.23. Total sales: 1. I set my bid at $0.45 per click.

Product ad: 21,868 impressions, 60 clicks (0.274% click-through rate), average price per click $0.37. Total sales: 0. I set my bid at $0.41 per click.

So, I agree. There are better places to spend your money. It honestly blew me away that it appears to have done no good whatsoever.


message 28: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I had the same experience with a facebook campaign. They just don't seem to work. Not sure if it's the design of the ad, of course.


message 29: by Assaph (new)

Assaph Mehr | 28 comments Richard wrote: "I had the same experience with a facebook campaign. They just don't seem to work. Not sure if it's the design of the ad, of course."

I've seen FB ad campaigns used to test different covers (which you can't do with Amazon ads). But overall I'd agree - the ad campaigns are for testing market responses, not for generating sales.
Sad.


message 30: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I wonder if it's a genre issue? Fiction with violence falls roughly into three categories -
1) Crime/Thriller where the MC tries to catch the perp
2) Horror, where the MC is the victim
3) Not sure what it's called, the novel equivalent of the snuff movie, where the MC is the perp
I wonder if Amazon felt the cover put the book in that third category?


message 31: by William (new) - added it

William Dusty (WDusty) I agree with the assessments regarding the value of Amazon's ad campaigns. They are worse than worthless. Never again.


Just to respond to Micah:

I think your suspicion--that Amazon is simply using the bloody faced man as a scapegoat and that I'm failing to "reading between the lines"--is way off base, and a huge assumption based, I think, purely on your own personal aversions. Amazon has been perfectly clear as to the cause of the rejection: Blood on the man's face (little as there actually is--he's mostly bruised). Their TOS clearly states they do not accept overly bloody depictions. (Except, of course, if you're Stephen King.) There is no ambiguity there. The notion you have proposed--that there is an implied threat to the woman's safety on the cover, so that is the "real" reason they rejected the ad and they just didn't want to say it--is simply your own personal position, which has no foundation or backing whatsoever in Amazon's written TOS. If it did, then why wouldn't they just use *that* as the reason??
Again: If the man depicted on the cover was handsome and scar-less, the ad would have been fine. It is the bloody face.


message 32: by W. (last edited Dec 22, 2015 07:15AM) (new)

W. Lawrence | 43 comments Quite honestly, I think there are very, very few ad options that truly work unless you are a highly recognizable name (which none of us are, given we are here discussing the matter).

Been there, done that. I can say that FB ads are a waste. Google ads are even worse. Fussy Librarian a waste. There are a bunch of free and low cost ads that work decently when coordinated (ex. as part of a price reduction, book tour, whatever), but I have never had any experience with a single success.

The only ad campaigns that ever truly worked were these...
Book Gorilla: If you do the ad you might make your money back. I had one experience where I broke even and one where I made half my money back.

Book Bub: the grand daddy of ads and the single best thing that could happen to your book. Worth borrowing money to cover the costs. Paid for my ad five fold in the first day, and the residual sales from landing on three top 100 lists for months was awesome.

Kindle Nation Daily: this company (which is partnered with Book Gorilla) is not bad at all. I made a small profit on one sponsorship and broke even on another. Worth it in my opinion just because of the exposure and reviews.

Goodreads ads: meh... Keep a small balance in there and what does it cost you? Lunch money. Eat PB&Js.

A book tour - I got good traction with a book tour in conjunction with a bunch of free/low cost ads. Lots of reviews, that's for sure.

One of the moderators from a GR forum messaged me months back and told me she was coming around to reading my book because "I've been seeing it everywhere". I think a lot of readers are like that. If you do one ad and wait to see what the effects are, you probably won't get the impact of when you run a campaign. Because of this, you may want to jump in with both feet. Hammer that Book Bub proposal, and -once booked- schedule ads before and after it. Same thing for Kindle Daily Nation or Book Gorilla. Lay it on thick and your ads will gain traction (probably, I think, I hope, maybe). <--voice of confidence

My two pesos FWIW.


message 33: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Hi Ryan. That response feels less like a comment and more like a promotion of that advertising service. Have you used it, and what kind of response did you get? Or if you run the service, do you have statistics showing its effectiveness?


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