Author Cindy A. Christiansen started a discussion on her Facebook page, asking the question “Would you be more apt to buy a book on Amazon if it had a better rating system like the movies for language, sex and violence? ”
Movies aren’t the only products that have a rating system. Appliances put an energy level on floor models so that the consumer knows how much electricity the unit uses. Cars include a miles per gallon rating. The ratings simply offer the consumer more information that can be used to make a decision.
There’s a rating system in place for books, but many people aren’t aware of what the words mean.
- Sweet: just kissing, no foul language
- Mild: kissing, embracing and resisting temptation, and no foul language
- Clean: some sex, but not graphically described, some mild expletives
- Hot: includes foreplay and some description of sex and occasional foul language
- Steamy: a full description of foreplay and sex, frequent use of strong foul language
- Erotic: describes everything and includes alternative forms of sex, frequent use of extremely foul language
Another rating system that is in place is the use of artwork on the cover of the book. A reader is supposed to be able to tell how hot the content is by looking at the picture of the couple. A sweet and mild book will have a picture of a couple that is fully clothed, and holding hands. A steamy book will have the male model that is bare chested. An erotic book will have a bare chested male, a woman who’s blouse is coming off, engaged in full body contact.
A rose is a symbol of love that can also be used to communicate the content of the book in a symbolic way. A pink or white rose indicates the book is sweet or mild. A red rose communicates the book is hot. A red rose with some of the petals pulled off indicate the book is steamy.
But with the advent of self-publishing, the covers don’t always communicate what’s inside. Some self-published authors use a template or a photo of a still life or landscape for their cover. Authors aren’t always aware of how cover art communicates the content.
Authors don’t always include a sex level rating in their product descriptions when they add their books to marketing sites. Customer reviews don’t always mention this part of the book. The current system does not make it clear to authors or reviewers that they should include this information, and what the rating system is.
So should Amazon and Barnes & Nobel add this information to the product? Doesn’t the customer have a right to know what they are buying? The question doesn’t aim to ban any books from the store; it only asks the seller to add one more field to the submission form.
In the meantime, customers who write reviews, and authors that write product descriptions should be aware of the above rating system, and include it in their postings. The discussion on Facebook indicated that some customers want to know this information.
The discussion also indicated that some customers also wanted to know if the sex included gay scenes, homophobic scenes, or casual gay relationships in minor characters. The current rating system does not address that issue.
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