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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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carmiel
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
I was pointed here by a friend; I'm going to post link to here in my blog too. We must get the word out about Amazon's bad choices.
skipper_dee
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
YA books also excluded
I'm the author of an inclusive young adult sexuality and sexual health guidebook (S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College), and my book was also hidden, as well as several other YA sexual/reproductive health books, such as The Boston Women Health Collective's "Changing Bodies, Changing Lives," and Toni Weschler's "Cycle Savvy," a book for young women on understanding their menstrual cycles.

These books and more are very literally not adult: they are YA books.
stewardess
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Well, holy crap. I wonder if this explains the weirdness in Amazon when I checked for my amazingly unknown gay romance yesterday (I wanted to see how many copies Amazon said were in stock). When I searched for the title, it didn't come up in search until I also checked "search in books." Before, it was always the first result (the title is unusual and nothing else exactly matches).

I have verified the sales rank has been removed.

According to Morris Rosenthal, the sales rank number is critical to many search operations at Amazon. He describes how to manipulate it to your benefit in "Print-on-Demand Book Publishing: A New Approach To Printing And Marketing Books For Publishers And Authors." The sales rank number matters even if your book is 1,404,657 in sales.

This is extremely interesting to me because I was planning on publishing a revised edition through Booksurge, Amazon's self-publishing arm. Well, well, well. Time to contact them.
kumokasumi
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
I wrote:

Hello! I was surprised to hear that Amazon has stripped sales rankings from GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) titles as part of a process to exclude "adult" material from appearing in automatically generated lists. Many of us do not find all GLBT material to be uniformly "adult," much less "offensive"; I hope that you will reconsider your policy immediately and apply a more careful review process to avoid excluding all GLBT-themed literature from your recommendation process. I would be deeply disappointed to learn that Amazon would willfully continue to exclude any literature with GLBT themes or characters from being recommended to its customers.

Yours,
tim smith
edenbradley
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
I'm stunned. And disgusted. I was wondering why recently none of my books had rankings any longer. I write mostly het erotica and erotic romance, so this is happening with any adult material, once they figure out it's adult, apparently.
Is there any sensible reason for doing this??? Any??? And other than blogging about it and getting the word out, what can we do? I'm posting an appeal to my readers to write to Amazon on my blogs today. Any other suggestions?
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
Here you go: http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/12203.html

Recap on everything + what can be done.

Mark, sorry, figure you have lots to reply to.
(Deleted comment)
utterfrivolity
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
Could you please provide more detailed information on the sales rankings that were removed? I'm still seeing sales rankings of various sorts on the books listed, and I'm not clear on what has been removed.

Thanks!
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Have a look here: http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html

There is a list of books there.
johnliz4ever
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Bloody discrimination yet again. I can't believe this. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

I'm gonna be linking back to you from my journal, hope that's okay.

Edited at 2009-04-12 07:08 pm (UTC)
dragonmyst
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
posted in my lj about this, this is just

wtfery to the extent.
hoppytoad79
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
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!

My thoughts exactly.
isihac
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
I see it has already been Dugg, well a post that comments on and redirects to this has anyway.

http://digg.com/business_finance/Amazon_strips_the_sales_ranking_indicators_for_GLBT_books
tehomet
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Here via smallcaps.

I am not amused and I let Amazon know that. They will certainly lose my custom over this.
lauren_dane
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
What is so odd about this, is that it has no real direction or guidelines. It seems randomly stupid and frankly, I can't imagine the reaction when everyone gets in to work tomorrow at various publishers won't be thunderingly loud.




jesurgislac
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
Blogged about this on my journal: included screenshots of two Amazon.com pages, one of Playboy Centerfold (sales rank) and one of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (no sales rank).
erastes
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Booksquare has weighed in now - you are being linked to EVERYWHERE. *cheers you on*
dharma_slut
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
But if they are excluding books just on the basis of being “gay” then by all means exclude mine too

No, no, please pester them about this. each and every gadfly on their shins will make them that much more uncomfortable.

I've "dugged" the meta_writer list of titles,
here
desayunoencama
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
I've had all my gay titles--whether poetry, fiction, comics, etc.--stripped of their rankings, but not the kidzbooks.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Do you mind linking here: http://community.livejournal.com/meta_writer/11992.html

A list is being compiled :)
(no subject) - desayunoencama - Apr. 13th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 13th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
katikat
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
I asked for a clarification about why they still listed Jackie Collins' sales rank and not, for example, Josh Lanyon's. I told them that I found it very discriminating and asked them to please, not to try to convince me that Collins is not adult or erotica.
popelizbet
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
Heard about this on Twitter. Call made, email sent, word spread.
erfan_starled
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this info.
Friended you to follow your posts for a while on account of Amazon's latest choice regarding gay and lesbian books et al.
Erfan
upstart_crow
Apr. 12th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
OK as a queer author this ticks me off something fierce!
askesis
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Hello,

I've been a faithful Amazon customer for many years, as a quick check of my account will confirm. It has recently come to my attention that Amazon is suppressing sales rank information on books with gay and lesbian content, supposedly because these books are of an "adult" nature. However, I notice that a great deal of straight adult material has had its sales rank left intact. I am afraid that until Amazon stops this blatantly discriminatory practice, I will have to take my business elsewhere.

Brett Xxxx
pubwebmaster
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:11 pm (UTC)
I wonder why scaredy-cat corporations ever think it is worth bowing to conservative forces, especially when these seem to be imagined rather than the result of actual complaints. On the other hand, show me a corporation that does not behave reprehensibly to some extent.

Amazon have generally served me very well over the last decade. I hope they get the chance to do so again.
craigseymour
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Been Dealing with this Amazon Issue Since February
I'm the author of the memoir, All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay D.C., and I've been dealing with this Amazon issue since February: http://craigspoplife.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-amazon-homophobic.html
koljeff
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Oh screw that. Are they suddenly being run by a bunch of damn neocons or something? Ridiculous.
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( 411 comments — Leave a comment )