Open letter to ebook sellers: please vet your site’s covers

Anyone who knows my writing will know that I never shy away from writing a sex scene. I do use the ‘closed door’ cop-out on a rare occasion, but in the majority of cases, I do not. Neither do I have any problem with reading books with high sexual content. I prefer to read books where sex is peripheral, and not the point of the story, but there are horses for courses.


I’m getting very annoyed at the intrusion of overtly sexual images as book covers displayed on ebook sites. For example, go to the Kobo site, click Epic Fantasy, bestsellers (I’ve done it here for you ETA: the link does not appear to be working in the same way for everyone, maybe because of locality-sensitive algorithms. In any case, this image features a naked woman viewed butt-on). Look at what is today (18 March) at number seven. Urgh. Just seriously, urgh. What is this sort of tasteless smut stuff doing on a site where unsuspecting browsing readers stumble across it. Seriously, if I want images of naked people, I go to sites where they are displayed.

It comes down to this:

When my mother asks me where she can see my books, I am embarrassed to send her to a site where the image next to my book could be something like this.

When I’m randomly browsing for stuff to read, I cannot do this while the family can see the screen.

When I was at Authonomy, book covers would have to be approved prior to being displayed. Why can’t ebook sellers do this so as to keep overtly sexual images off the parts of their sites that come up in general searches?

I do not want to see this stuff when I’m casually browsing.
I do not want my kids to see this stuff when casually browsing.
I do not want this stuff next to my books.

If these were movies, they’d be rated R 18+. Fine. That’s where they belong. Please vet your covers and keep the smutty images in a separate section.

No love,



12 comments on “Open letter to ebook sellers: please vet your site’s covers

  1. From the look of that book it should totally be under an ‘erotica’ filter, and there should be an option somewhere to opt out or be opted out by default. There doesn’t seem to be any labelling on the book that it is erotica though.
    You have some good points here

    • Totally, and I would have no problem if covers like this would fall under erotica and would only display under erotica, or if some button is ticked by the user. But covers with suggestive nudity are disturbingly common amongst the regular SF/F lists.

      And then we worry about kids accessing sex sites…

  2. It’s not epic fantasy it should be Erotica -> Fantasy . I am fairly liberal but yes there is a time and a place.

    • Totally same here. I do not mind the covers per se, but not where they are, which is, mixed with general genre stuff.

      • I wonder if this has ever crossed the site designers’ minds prior to the advent of self-publishing of ‘mummy porn’. There is a place for such things. The general listing ain’t it.

  3. You make an extremely valid point and I agree with you but I do feel that very few (even my 86 year old mother) would be offended by the particular image you chose to support your argument.

    • It may well be that you’re seeing a very different image from what I’m seeing, because my image involves a completely naked woman in a suggestive pose.

      • Hmmm, somehow a comment vanished. The issue: I think that people from different parts of the world see a different top 10. I do not really want to single out this book and its author (who dwells on a forum of which I’m also a member). It’s not about this book, save to say that the image is sexual and showing parts of the female body that are not normally shown in magazine advertising. Regardless of whether I find it offensive, it is not an image I want a young reader foraging for SF/F to come across as part of the genre.

    • OK, this is the image. This discussion is not about this book, but I find images like these degrading and offensive, and it should not come up in a search for the epic fantasy category. This is by far not the only book that displays sexually suggestive/degrading imagery and is labelled SF or fantasy.

  4. I agree there is a time and a place, but have to side with John Brassy in I do not find the image in question degrading or offensive. Yes it’s a nude woman viewed from the back but I do not consider it a sexual pose. It is simply a nude image of an attractive woman. What I do find offensive is quite a few ebooks of modern male authors I have read recently seem to be very sexist and stereotypical with quite a few bordering on suggestive underage sex, quite scary to be honest.

    • This is not an image I want my children to find while casually browsing the fantasy category. I do not mind this image being in the erotica category, but it is not. If I browse for fantasy, I don’t want any naked bodies, male, female or otherwise, full stop. You can debate about what is acceptable. I would argue the billboard test. If it’s OK to put on a billboard, it’s OK for a general fiction cover.

      I find the image offensive because too often, female nudity is used for objectifaction of women. I also object to male nudity to be used as objectification nof men. Full nudity for titillation purposes belongs in the erotica section.

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