Today we’re talking about the Amazon Dungeon. This topic will be split into two videos. In this one I’ll walk you through what the dungeon is and the reasons that books get dungeoned. In the second video we’ll go over how you can determine if your book is dungeoned, what you can do if your book is dungeoned, and how you can help authors if their book lands in the dungeon.
As I mentioned in my October book recs video, I’ve been personally plagued by the Amazon dungeon with my monster romance novella, Into The Depths, so this topic is frustratingly near and dear to my heart.
What is the Amazon Dungeon?
The Amazon dungeon is an author term that we use to note when a book is removed from discoverability on the Amazon website. It cannot be found by searching, it will not be recommended by the algorithm, it won’t show up in the Customer’s Also Bought section, and you cannot run ads for the book.
If your book is dungeoned there are only two ways for people to access it: a direct link or from your Amazon author page. As you can imagine, this severely reduces a book’s reach, which limits an author’s income and ability to write specific content.
I should also point out, because I see this confused a lot, that being categorized as erotica is not the same as being in the dungeon. There will be limits, such as not being able to run ads on Amazon, but people can still find your book in a search, and it still has the potential to be recommended by the algorithm.
Why do books get dungeoned?
Determining exactly WHY a book was dungeoned is nearly impossible, thanks to Amazon’s rigid stances on sharing information. In fact, many authors have reported a book being dungeoned before their manuscript was even uploaded. The difficulty with knowing for sure is that Amazon is very nebulous and will not provide clear answers because giving you clear answers means you can plead your case.
If they told you that your book was dungeoned for x, y, or z, then you could come back and say, well these other books have x, y, or z but they’re not in the dungeon. That would force Amazon to either put those books in the dungeon too or rescind your dungeoning, and the Zon frankly just does not want to deal with anyone having the ability to come back and take up their staff’s time so it’s easier for them to just say no and wash their hands of you.
I should also point out that Amazon will not TELL you that your book has been dungeoned. It’s a quiet background process that you might only notice because of a sudden tank in sales or someone asking you why they can’t find a specific book.
There are lots of things that could trigger a dungeoning. Let’s walk through them.
Maybe your cover is a little too sexy, or potentially provocative. What counts as too sexy is up for debate. Sometimes it’s the pose, the amount of skin, if lingerie is involved, or some nebulous concept that upsets the puritans.
Your Title or Subtitle:
Maybe they contain a no-no word. Even things that are relatively innocent, like omegaverse, could get you locked in the dungeon. Other options like references to taboo concepts like BDSM, incest or pseudo-incest with words like daddy could get you dungeoned. The list of no-no words that will for sure get you dungeoned does not exist. It is constantly in flux and does not affect every book that contains any specific word.
When you’re describing the plot of your story you have to be extremely careful because there’s a lot of things that Amazon hates, and a lot that will get your book put into erotica even if it’s not. Like with your title and subtitle, your blurb could contain a dreaded no-no word. There’s a reason that authors heavily censor themselves when it comes to their blurbs and it’s because while Amazon wants to make money off our work, they have issues with us being clear about what we’re writing.
Amazon keywords are the search terms that people use to find your book, but unfortunately a lot of the very useful terms that help people find romance and erotica books are not allowed and can very easily send your book to the dungeon if you decided to use them. Filling out your keywords gives us the exact same issue in that there is no definitive list for what is not allowed.
Your Book’s Content:
Maybe you’ve been squeaky clean for all of the other content, but the inside of your book has something potentially objectionable. Unfortunately for readers and authors this could be as simple as including content warnings. If you’ve seen authors, use content notes instead of content warning or trigger warning, that’s because Amazon really does NOT like those terms and will punish authors for including them. So in order for authors to keep readers informed authors have to tweak the wording. Another potential issue is if you have sexual content that would fall within the look inside, which is usually around 10% of the book.
Someone Reported It:
This is something you don’t really have control over. It’s unknown whether it only takes a single report or multiple to have your book dungeoned or even banned but no reports are good. This can also include readers reporting errors, such as typos when they’re reading on their devices and all this does is tell Amazon that there is an issue with the product, which is much more likely to have it removed. Again, Amazon is not going to tell you.
You Got Unlucky With The Bots:
Amazon is wildly inconsistent with how it applies the dungeon. It’s very possible that you simply had the bad luck of triggering their system when another book with very similar content, all the same information in their blurb or keywords escaped.
Simply being erotica will not dungeon your book. Being in erotica may limit ads, but the books are still searchable. Sometimes books that aren’t even erotica get categorized as such, like Nicky and the Night Owls, which I categorized as romance because it follows the industry definitions, but Amazon still placed it in erotica. Even after writing in to them to have it placed back into romance, which they agreed to do, the book still reverted back to erotica the next day. Even if you’re able to contact an actual human to get your categories changed, the bots can still trap you in a cycle where it will flag the book and change the categories on you.
I’ve also very recently had anecdotal evidence from two authors that Amazon alluded that a single sex scene in a book can be cause for something to be classified as erotica. I’ll be doing a separate video on Amazon categories in the future, but a quick run down here is that categories are based on BISAC which is short for Book Industry Standards and Communication and categories are based on an industry-approved list of subject descriptors. Authors get to choose two BISAC categories themselves, but books also have internal KDP categories that we don’t get to choose. Classification just means that a book contains specific elements and those are used for filtering toward an appropriate audience. A book can be classified as erotica even if it’s not because of puritanical assessments.
My monster romance Into The Depths is in the Amazon dungeon. It’s been there for months and nothing I’ve done to try to get it out has been successful. The cover is tame, the blurb is tame, I tried to be very mindful with the keywords, and realistically there are probably thousands of monster romance books that have raunchier content than my little novella does. None of that matters to Amazon.
So now that we’ve gone over what the dungeon is and why a book might be dungeoned our next episode in the series will be talking about how you can find out or certain if your book is dungeon, what you can try to do about it, and how you can help others that have had their book dungeoned.
That’s all for now. You can find all of my books and platforms below. If you have questions or suggestions for future episodes, please do let me know. And if you’d like early access to these videos you can join my Patreon where I yeet them at people whenever they’re ready to roll. Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you soon for another episode!
First Heat Series – m/f, 3rd person POV
First Heat: https://books2read.com/FirstHeat
First Heat: Second Chances: https://books2read.com/FHSC
First Heat: Tying The Knot: https://books2read.com/FirstHeatTTK
Heat Play Love – m/m/m, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/HeatPlayLove
Conference Confidential – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/ConferenceConfidential
2021 Omegaverse Collection – contains First Heat, First Heat: Second Chances, Heat Play Love, Conference Confidential, and 2 bonus shorts https://books2read.com/OV2021
Nicky and the Night Owls: Part One – polyamorous (m/f/nb/f/nb/m), multi 1st person POV https://books2read.com/NickyNightOwls
Nicky and the Night Owls: Part Two – polyamorous (m/f/nb/f/nb/m), multi 1st person POV – currently on preorder https://books2read.com/NickyNightOwls2
Knotty or Nice Christmas Anthology – (my story is based on Nicky and the Pack) – currently on preorder https://books2read.com/knotty-or-nice
Salacious Salvation – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/SalaciousSalvation
Playtime with Professor – m/f, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/PlaytimeWithProfessor
PARANORMAL Into The Depths – f/nb, 3rd person POV https://books2read.com/intothedepths
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