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Amazon Follies

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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Comments

( 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*
(no subject) - tammy212 - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hal_obrien - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hal_obrien - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(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.
(no subject) - gehayi - Apr. 12th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 12th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gehayi - Apr. 12th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - enkanowen - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 13th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gleemie - Apr. 13th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashlynkane - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bernmarx - Apr. 12th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sirganisch - Aug. 14th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mmuxina - Apr. 21st, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lyrica_lyrica - Jun. 4th, 2010 11:41 am (UTC) - Expand
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

(Deleted comment)
(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
(no subject) - zellieh - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - venivincere - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - markprobst - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tracevincente - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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
(no subject) - stewardess - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - valarltd - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:43 am (UTC) - Expand
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