Banned Book Covers on Amazon KDP Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Banned Book Cover

Does this look like a candidate for banned book covers to you?

Well, it is. Read on to understand why.

If you publish with Amazon KDP, one of the benefits is that you have access to Amazon pay-per-click advertising.

I have been experimenting with this program, and although it is a bit clunky and clearly still in development, I have been relatively happy.

There were a few bugs

One of the biggest problems was that author names were in reverse order. But I notice this glitch has now been rectified.

But I got an odd surprise from Amazon advertising. They told me that my book cover violated their ad guideline policies.

Okay, after exchanging messages with Amazon Ads, they made their point that under their guidelines, the three most commonly rejected cover image themes were firearms and weapons, blood and violence, and provocative images.

Well, had I read the guidelines, which, of course, are not that easy to find, I should have been aware of the problem with my book cover and its suitability for Amazon advertising.

Except that Amazon previously approved my book cover, and it ran quite happily for a few weeks.


But I made a silly mistake, which in part was due to an oddity on the KDP Ad dashboard.

Instead of clicking ‘pause‘ to stop my ad running for a couple of days prior to a free promotion I had planned, I accidentally clicked ‘terminate.

Once you click, there is no way to recover an ad. It is really not a smart option, as there is no recovery or duplicate option.

I had to set up the ad all over again and wait for a new approval.

This was the reply to the exact same ad that had been previously approved three weeks earlier.


What changed?


My book cover is okay one day but banned a few weeks later

Of course, I pointed out this fact in my messages to Amazon.

I asked why my approved ad was now unapproved, but there was no arguing with them.

My cover was not in conformity with Amazon guidelines, etc., etc. That Amazon previously approved it was of no consequence.

End of story, end of the ad. But I discovered the issue of banned book covers on Amazon.

If you are planning to use KDP pay-per-click ads, you might have some ups and downs, surprises, and inconsistencies.

But here’s a little footnote, though.

I had the same book cover running quite happily on Facebook ads. Facebook had no issue with the cover image at all.

On top of that, Facebook ads average out to be about half the cost per click when compared to Amazon.

So I guess, in a strange roundabout way, Amazon saved me some money.


Related reading: Banned Books Due To Social Media And Internet Censorship

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

14 thoughts on “Banned Book Covers on Amazon KDP Pay-Per-Click Advertising

  • Avatar for Tom Whatley
    May 16, 2018 at 4:05 am

    I hear the decisions on what covers are approved have been outsourced to India and are subject to moral standards that don’t necessarily reflect US values. Is this true?

  • Avatar for Gary W McPherson
    November 5, 2017 at 5:01 am

    This sounds just like what Google is doing to independent creators on YouTube. I’m past the story edits in my first book, and now I’m concerned about how I will advertise it. I was counting on Amazon, but mine is a mystery thriller. Ironically, I was planning on adding Viking weapons to my cover design. Sounds like I better not go that route. Who need government censorship when corporations are taking the lead.

  • Avatar for Adira August
    March 12, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Well, at least your are allowed to advertise. I am not because my novels, 80k words and 90k words are erotic Romance. Nothing classified as erotica can advertise. Unless you have a big name publisher. So – I pay the same money per title to Amazon, and am discriminated against in service. If I could change my covers and advertise, you bet I’d do it in a hot second.

    • Avatar for Allie
      April 2, 2021 at 4:19 am

      So I understand, if I do anything under 90k I cannot advertise? I do romance erotica.

  • Avatar for Andres Mann
    January 10, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    I also cannot make Amazon to run advertising for my Tess Valkyrie series. The image is stunning and expensive, but a little blood on the hands of the Valkyrie spooks them.

  • Avatar for Bob Nailor
    May 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I hate the double-edged sword but my distaste for Facebook is piqued. You claim your ad on FB is giving you a better return. I know on FB one gets the clicks, I got them but sold zilch books via them. I quit using FB when I was able to finally figure out the analytics of who was clicking my ads. I’ve not sold any books in Africa nor South/Southeast Asia, yet most of my clicks were from there. Seems all that clicking was by those who get paid for clicking and liking the ads and likes. One of the pages I stumbled on – that’s all the person does, clicks “Like” on absolutely everything, no matter the issue both for and against. I don’t do FB too much anymore since only 10% of my friends list actually see my posts. I even carved my personal friends list on FB to just those people I actually know and talk to on a regular basis. Seems dumb to have FB, eh? My professional FB page has several thousand friends but I estimate (by the responses) less than 10% ever see my stuff. I was informed that to see all your friends on your list, you need to interact with them each and every day, perhaps upwards to two and three times. It seems I am bellyaching about FB. I just don’t see social media as the marketing tool it was 5 years ago. They are money making machines, much like a casino – money in, some money out, but don’t go in thinking you’re going to be the big winner.

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      May 28, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Bob. It immediately reminded me of this famous quote. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” John Wanamaker.

      I would perhaps change his ration now though if applied to social media advertising. Maybe 25-75%. There are few choices however when it comes to advertising books though, as of course TV, newspaper and magazine advertising are not in the realms of reality. So it basically leaves the Internet and social media as the only viable choices, both free and paid.

      The problem of course, is that it is so hard to track clicks to purchases, no matter how much data one can collect. I have had campaigns that have attracted 1,000’s of clicks or likes, and resulted in next to zero sales. But on the other hand, I have had the exact opposite.

      Then there is what I call the hangover effect, which I have to thank Amazon for here. Sometimes I have seen sales jump a couple of weeks after a campaign, and I can only put this down to Amazon’s follow-up emails, sent after someone has visited a product page. In my case, one of my books.

      To me, social media advertising is a lot like a roadside billboard. There is no way to account for its success or failure, but our roads are still lined with them.

      However, your comparison to a casino is not far off the mark at all.

  • Avatar for Vanessa Wells
    May 26, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Way to sock it to ’em, Derek! How hypocritical of them to suggest your cover is anymore suggestive of violence than one with other implicit or explicit symbols of murder. Like they’re family-friendly!? They have an erotica section, for starters. (I’m not moralizing, just pointing out relativism.) Good luck with the FB ads!

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      May 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      It’s all a bit insane, Vanessa. One author had his cover banned because it has a red blob on it that KDP said looked like blood. Well, it was a murder, thriller, so what was he supposed to use? Green jelly babies? It’s all a bit of a joke.


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