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Smashwords, the Adult Filter Setting, and the Effect on Free Promotional Copies December 8, 2011

Posted by shannonmuir in Advice, blog tour, giveaway, indie, indie publishing, marketing, promotion, Smashwords, Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A quick public service message as I am still getting messages almost a month later from people who received THE HEART’S DUTY in the Veterans’ Day BLOG TOUR DE TROOPS giveaway but can’t find it on Smashwords. Due to some of the content , although not a lot of it, I felt it prudent to check the “over 18” box which immediately activates what Smashwords calls the “adult filter” (though I have also seen it termed “prude filter” on occasion). Smashwords defaults to this filter being on. As a result, I think I’ve now fielded 20 emails or close to it of people who could not find the title. If you are one of these folks, try turning the adult filter off and searching again. Everyone I’ve written back and forth with has found it after doing so.

I’m being better safe than sorry because I’d rather do that then have some parent who has a child into YA romances get it and then get upset with me. But that choice has ramifications.

I have needed to mark the “over 18” for small reasons on every title I’ve released on Smashwords except TOUCH THE STARS. It’s definitely something I will need to keep focus on for future giveaways. I am also curious how other authors deal with it.

Didn’t feel this blog post was worthy of saving until a MentionMonday highlight, but definitely needed as a customer service.



1. Catana - December 9, 2011

The adult filter will not only make it impossible for people to find your free promotional copies unless they have the actual URL for the page, it will destroy your sales. I made the mistake of setting both my books to Adult, and watched my sales disappear. The setting is primarily meant to prevent erotica and porn from showing up in searches. The question is, how far should an author go in protecting others from things they don’t want to see? I have a few references to sex in my novels, but I don’t show it, and one or two brief scenes of violence. I decided that there’s simply no point in writing or publishing if I’m expected to protect everyone from things they might not care to see. I’ve blogged about this before and will continue to do so. If there are scenes that aren’t suitable for younsters, make a note of that in your description. Don’t kill your own writing career. How many people are going to ask you why they can’t find your book? Very few, I can assure you.

shannonmuir - December 9, 2011

I’ve decided that regardless on the filter subject, I will provide direct URLs in the future just to make life easier. It was the first time I did anything like this, and I learned a lot. Also that filter issue doesn’t apply on Kindle, and in either case I do have a statement to that effect of what you mention in my descriptions (but obviously with the adult filter situation on Smashwords it matters less). This one as I described to my fiance’ last night I gave that flag in part to theme versus graphic description. As he pointed out, it is very hard to determine who will be “offended” by what precisely. It is a very tough call.

Catana - December 9, 2011

My question is: how are you going to provide URL to total strangers? There are thousands of potential readers looking for books on Smashwords. If their keyword searches don’t bring up your book, it might just as well not be there. Of course, if the book is also on Amazon, then Smashwords may not be as important over the long run.

Anyway, best of luck.

shannonmuir - December 9, 2011

That was mainly in reference to a situation like sending to reviewers or like the BLOG TOUR DE TROOPS I did last month which is the situation that brought this to my attention, and I sent coupons individually to every commenter whom I did not know. The subject matter of the book in question still has me on the fence what to do about it, as a lead character struggling with issues past and current from a physical relationship with her stepfather while trying to move on with her life isn’t just something you can write around when it is very much a theme of the book. In contrast, my first book TOUCH THE STARS doesn’t show as much in physicality in regards to the relationships there and I did not flag it in this manner. It really varies by the book.

Catana - December 9, 2011

I can understand how difficult it can be to make such a decision. But how many youngsters (realistically) are going to come across your book? And why is 18 arbitrarily chosen when there are many teens who are mature enough to make reading choices for themselves, and to get something out of such a book? The whole business of adult settings on Smashwords actually began because some people objected to the covers. And those were always erotica or porn. My personal position is that by using the adult setting for my books, I’d be letting them be lumped in with erotica.

2. shannonmuir - March 1, 2012

Interestingly enough, in the light of what’s going on with Paypal and their changes, I went to check on the status of this book. The adult content setting is no longer set, I’m not sure why. It’s not graphic depictions and it certainly doesn’t glorify the situations. Perhaps I did it accidentally but I do not think so. I already previously removed it from other titles where I used it after the dialogue in this thread got me thinking perhaps I was being too conservative. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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