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Amazon Follies

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On Amazon.com two days ago, mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: “Transgressions” by Erastes and “False Colors” by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book “The Filly.” There was buzz, What’s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books? Is it just a major glitch in the system? Many of us decided to write to Amazon questioning why our rankings had disappeared. Most received evasive replies from customer service reps not versed in what was happening. As I am a publisher and have an Amazon Advantage account through which I supply Amazon with my books, I had a special way to contact them. 24 hours later I had a response:

 

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

 

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

 

Best regards,

 

Ashlyn D

Member Services

Amazon.com Advantage

 

Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be “adult” material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of “adult” literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.

Now in fairness I should point out that Amazon has also stopped ranking many books in the "erotica" categories as well which includes straight erotica. But that's a whole other battle that I'll leave to the erotica writers to take on.

 

Now I could probably convince the automatons at Amazon that The Filly is YA and therefore not “adult” in the least, and I could probably even convince them to reinstate my ranking.  But if they are excluding books just on the basis of being “gay” then by all means exclude mine too because I don’t want them just to reinstate the “nice” gay books, they need to reinstate all the gay books and if they are really going to try and exclude so-called “adult” material, then how come this has an Amazon ranking?

 

Here is a screencap of the case log from Amazon. Keep clicking on the image to make it bigger

************For everyone who has commented on my blog - Thank you very much. and everyone who has asked if they can use my name and link back to me. YES please do. Spread the word. Amazon will be beside itself in the face of all this fury!

*******UPDATE**************
Publisher's Weekly now has a story here, that an Amazon spokesperson claims this is all a glitch and they have no such new policy.  My caselog is still active in my Advantage account with the response from customer service rep Ashlyn D. Also I'd like to point you to this blog of an author who received this same response from Amazon back in February. Amazon has some 'splainin' to do!

***********UPDATE #2******************
As of 8 AM this morning (April 13th) The Filly has had its ranking reinstated by Amazon.  I also noticed Alex Beecroft's False Colors was reinstated as well.  Many others are not, so they haven't fixed the "so-called" glitch as of yet.

*******FINAL UPDATE******************
Amazon has released a statement of apology stating that it was  an "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error" that pertained to 57,310 listings.  They also say that It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles.  So it's over.  Amazon admits they goofed, and I, for one, shall give them the benefit of the doubt and say I do not believe that there was any malicious intent. Case closed.

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( 411 comments — Leave a comment )
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vashtan
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:53 am (UTC)
In other words, they are happy to take the money from, uhm, sex toys and graphic het sex, but censoring gay romances? WTF?

Tweeted and forum-posted.

Edited at 2009-04-12 12:01 pm (UTC)
shiawmeimei
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
Not all graphic het sex. The ranking on my Kensington Aphrodisia book and the Black Lace antho I'm in as well as my gay romance, The Cost of Eternity. I'm dumbfounded. How, in 2009, can literature take a step back toward censorship?
(no subject) - vashtan - Apr. 12th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Prejudice. - inukumaru - May. 25th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC) - Expand
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:56 am (UTC)
Mark, may I spread this around?

Thanks

Chris.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
Actually Mark, I already have linked here. Sorry, overwhelming pissed offedness (I know, not a word) had to come out somehow.


(no subject) - markprobst - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
gina_stormgrant
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
My little gay RomCom lost it's ranking yesterday. 8-(

If you check the gay bestseller list, it's filled with the same books, just the Kindle editions. This isn't about protecting the public (if so, then give us our own lists and exclude us from mainstream lists--better the gay ghetto than being erased altogether!), it's about pushing their own product--it exposes more customers to the Kindle.

It's *always* about the money.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/301889/ref=pd_ts_b_nav

Thanks for sharing the info. Is it okay to link back here?

the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that Stormy. *hugs*
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(no subject) - pierceheart - Apr. 13th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
vashtan
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
I just spread it into the German internet. A digital right/freedom of expression blogger is on the case.
gehayi
Apr. 12th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
I love how they're assuming that anything involving gays or lesbians MUST be "adult material," too.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
Of course it is, Tracey! Because the gay in writing is much much worse then a hardcore porn DVD.
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(no subject) - ashlynkane - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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lexin
Apr. 12th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
Posted an entry to my journals here and on InsaneJournal and JournalFen. Just to try to draw some interest in the issue.

mountie123
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Mark can you help me to understand the issue more please? I went to Amazon Canada, the Gay & Lesbian category is there, it sets automatically to search by bestsellers, I go to Literature and Fiction and there is no Subcategory for Romance or Erotica in Gay & Lesbian BUT when I go to Romance in general the subcategory for Erotica is there. Under Erotica the subcategory for Gay & Lesbian fiction is there and it allow me to search by bestseller.

The same happens for amazon.com, the US parent Company.

As a reader I would like to know how this effects my searching choices. As it stands now I can't see the difference. I'd like to know exactly so I can word my letter correctly. Thank-you.
mountie123
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Further research has revealed this interesting piece if I look in Product Details I can't find Amazon.ca Sales Rank in JL Langley's Tin Star... but if I look at A Gentleman's Kiss Volume 2 (Yaoi) (Paperback) by Shinri Fuwa (Artist, Author) it is there. So they are indiscriminately stripping the rankings because Yoai is M/M.

I thought I'd get out of the erotica section and look in history instead and low and behold Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History (Paperback) by Robert Adrich (Author) has had it's ranking stripped as has The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience (Paperback) by Louis-Georges Tin (Editor), Marek Redburn (Translator).

I just wonder if Amazon will become even more aggressive in it's strippng of ranks or if it will let the policy go.
(no subject) - bernmarx - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
gileonnen
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
Clarification question: is there anything in your YA book that might be considered explicit under an extremely exacting application of the term? Any sex at all, of any kind? Because I've noticed that Fiona Patton's gay fantasy novels still have their sales rankings (but for how long?), and they've got about four GLBT-related tags each. However, they are fairly nonexplicit. (I hope this doesn't come off as a 'blame the victim' kind of thing; I just want to have a better idea of the relationship between content explicitness, GLBT-ness, and wonky sales rankings.)

Edited at 2009-04-12 02:13 pm (UTC)
signsoflife
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
Well, "Heather Has Two Mommies" has been stripped, if that helps with what you're trying to figure out.
(no subject) - gileonnen - Apr. 12th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
gina_stormgrant
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
I've got it going on Twitter. Check out #amazonfail

wolfsilveroak
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
I Twittered it as well. It's being passed on.
(no subject) - damsel_ophelia - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gina_stormgrant - Apr. 13th, 2009 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
mroctober
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I imagine this will be a topic of much discussion at S&S next month.

I wonder if it will impact sales.
venivincere
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:43 pm (UTC)
I just left a review for The Filly on Amazon; wonder if they'll let it show:

This is how your review will appear:


5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Young Adult book - Shame on Amazon!, April 12, 2009
By <> (Detroit, MI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)
This is a beautiful coming-of-age, learning-oneself story -- what a shame Amazon has seen fit to remove its ranking because it's classified as gay/lesbian fiction. Shame on Amazon! I'll direct my friends elsewhere to buy this book.

Your Tags: amazon is anti-gay
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
I LOVE YOU VENI
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liminalia
Apr. 12th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
Homophobic bias pure and simple, because Laurell K. Hamilton's faerie porn Merry Gentry series still has its rank displayed.
http://www.amazon.com/Lick-Frost-Meredith-Gentry-Book/dp/0345495918/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239545864&sr=1-9
I will be spreading this far and wide. What bullshit.
rydra_wong
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
And they seem to have stripped the sales ranks off a whole bunch of GLBT classics, so it's not just new authors:

http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11369.html?thread=215657#t215657

The list even includes The Well of Loneliness, where the only "sex scene" consists in its entirety of the words "And that night they were not divided".
(no subject) - the-willow.insanejournal.com - Apr. 12th, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rydra_wong - Apr. 12th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaliganges - Apr. 12th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
katedouglas
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Well, now I know why I and all my fellow Kensington Aphrodisia authors have had our rankings removed--even though our books are romances, they are listed as "erotic romances," which I guess makes them much too explicit for those at Amazon who still love to collect the money on our sales.

Another good reason for me to link all the titles on my website to either my publisher's on-site sales or to BN.com.

Thank you so much for explaining this, as we were all wondering what had happened.

Kate Douglas
Wolf Tales
arionhunter
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Even in the YA category, Amazon is doing some highly stereotypical cherrypicking: Though I can find gay male-focused YA stories with their rank stripped (Boy Meets Boy, Rainbow Boys), all of the lesbian YA I checked (and I know a lot) still has its rank.

Good going, Amazon!
valarltd
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
Okay this is all over my flist.

But what can we do?
Email in protest?
Boycott?
What?
kyalesyin
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
Boycotting and spreading the word is probably the best bet for now. If enough people decide to boycot, the results will be noticeable, and if enough stink kicks up it'll snowball and something will have to happen.
(no subject) - routemaps - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
What good does a boycott do? - alverant - Apr. 13th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What good does a boycott do? - disastercat - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: What good does a boycott do? - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
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tularia
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
I'm linking your post to several m/m fiction authors that distribute through Amazon via Dreamspinner Press. Thank you for the heads up!
laughingrat
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Wow, not only are they ignorant, but that sales rep used "hence" inappropriately.
romp
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that hurt.
"Hence" - kissmyassterisk - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: "Hence" - laughingrat - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC) - Expand
dreamhunter
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
a friend of mine pointed me to your post.

WTF? WTF?!

words fail me. do you know whether only amazon.com is doing this or if this has happened to the sales rankings from other amazon branches too? that would be interesting.

damn. :/
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Other branches too... links updating on meta_writer.
(no subject) - dreamhunter - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
coffeewimp
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
It seems to me...
If Amazon truly just wanted to filter adult content from those who didn't want to see it, there should be ways of generating "safe searches" without having to strip books of their sales ranks. The fact that they went about it this way, and have stripped a bunch of GLBT titles that aren't erotic in nature, would seem to belie their explanation. It looks instead as though someone at Amazon is imposing their personal morality on the sales rankings and search results.
montrealais
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: It seems to me...
And yet at time of writing, Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds still had its rank.
Re: It seems to me... - mresundance - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: It seems to me... - gerlsex - Mar. 5th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
davenatts
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
They're just taking them out of mainstream public display. Just like a physical book store wouldn't put them in its window or on the lower shelves.
oceaxe
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
So it's okay to put GLBT stories, even ones that are not explicit, on the back shelf where no one will see them? Separate but equal? Come on.
You really need to open your eyes... - missbehavior - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You really need to open your eyes... - erastes - Apr. 13th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You really need to open your eyes... - missbehavior - Apr. 14th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
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oceaxe
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
Um... I wonder if the Harry Potter series will lose its sales rankings, given that one of the main characters is gay, and the story clearly refers to a gay relationship between him and the nemesis of the Wizarding world?
conuly
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
It does???

There are a few innuendos in the book itself, but it's presented as nasty, malicious gossip instead of as fact. That it happens to be true by authorial statement (something she didn't bother to make explicitly clear in *any* of the books) doesn't mean it's obvious from reading the books.
(no subject) - erastes - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - conuly - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - literalgirl - Apr. 13th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
Sounds like some fundy whined at Amazon and they caved, if you ask me.

I was linked here by a friend and have a fairly large, very literate readership on LJ that I can aim at the problem, but I'm not as informed as you are. I'm reluctant to link them here only because 2500 people descending on an LJ can be a little overwhelming, but if you'd like I certainly can. Good publicity anyway? :)

Do you think a letter campaign would be appropriate? A link to Amazon's complaint page and a form letter along the lines of "I've noticed you're dropping sales ranks on gay and lesbian fiction because you deem them "adult", and yet XYZ still has a ranking. I support equality in the arts and therefore do not intend to give Amazon my business"? Not hard to arrange, I can have it posted in a matter of hours.

Anyhow, let me know -- this is horrible and I want to help.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
If you want, link them to the posts on meta_writer where all the links are being collated for the timebeing. Hope that helps.
(no subject) - copperbadge - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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wolfsilveroak
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
I don't care what they call it, censorship is censorship is censorship, no matter HOW it's termed, and should NEVER be tolerated, period.
kathrynt
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
The language pedant in me is forced to point out that "censorship" actually refers only to actions by the *state*. Amazon is a private seller, and the First Amendment allows them the freedom to advertise and categorize their works in any way they see fit.

Now, they are so large that their decisions absolutely can and do cause a chilling effect on any kind of literature they choose to hide in this manner, and I find it execrable and infuriating that they'd choose to do so. But it's not technically censorship.
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zellieh
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I got here by following a link from Meta Writer. Thank you for sharing this; I can't believe Amazon would do this, and using such a weak excuse, too.

Do you mind if I link to this in a post on my journal? I'd like to spread the word.
markprobst
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Please do. Everyone has my permission to use my name and link back to this post.
(no subject) - devi42 - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
blackbird_song
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Here via various links.

I, too, would like to help. I'm going to post about this, as my readership is of moderate size, articulate and liable to be outraged by Amazon's tactics. I hope you don't mind if that post links here because you have the specific experience to relate and the explicit reply from Amazon.

I also would be happy to participate in and help promote a letter campaign. As it is, I'm very much inclined to write to them anyway, saying pretty much exactly what copperbadge has indicated he would say.

Catherine

Edit: I see the link to meta_writer, and will use that in my post. :)

Edited at 2009-04-12 05:44 pm (UTC)
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