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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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mresundance
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Linked from my journal and facebook.

And I'm badgering a queer literary journal that I have some tenuous connections to to get the word out or do something, yo.

Thanks for this.

For now I am boycotting Amazon and suggesting people buy books from abebooks.com or directly from the publishers. I don't know how this would impact the writers, per se, but I'm hoping going through other venues or through the publishers won't hurt them.
heathen_wolf
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Linking to here and boycotting amazon.com.

As a writer of lgbtqetc fiction, this hits me right in the gut...that a bookseller would censor a given genre in any way. Sick, shame on them! I hope your efforts are swiftly rewarded!
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Dan Savage's books (all but one) have been de-ranked as well, both on the US and CA Amazon sites, but not on the UK site. I emailed him earlier today.

The word is out.
erastes
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Book on sex for people with disabilities also de-ranked. http://tiny.cc/TMNnm

Class, eh?
xanthalanari
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Hi. I hope you don't mind that I've linked to this on my LJ. The more people who know the better, I think. :)
bartificial
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Some books still there?
I still see this book (Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America) in the Any Category > The Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Nonfiction > Government > Public Policy:
http://www.amazon.com/Unfriendly-Fire-Undermines-Military-Weakens/dp/B0022NGDUY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1239568044&sr=1-1
a_silver_rose
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
Mark, I hope you don't mind, but I'm linking this in my lj, and encouraging my flisters to do the same.
snipervolk
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
This is bull. I'm passing this on to my own journal and some of the message boards and communities I frequent.
elena_62
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
Hi, Mark!

I don't know you at all, but I wanted to thank you.

I've been looking around for a while to find the source of the news about amazon, because I wanted to be sure it wasn't an hoax. I mean, it's such a stupid policy that it could be an hoax!

It's a pity your name went mainly lost in the ''spreading of the word''. I'm going to quote you from now on!

Are you aware that at least one petition was started reporting the letter you got from amazon? See here
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/in-protest-at-amazons-new-adult-policy

Thank you so much for letting us know.

Best Wishes!

Antonella
facecat
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
In consideration of our entire customer base,
If a portion of their customer base desires what they are censoring it isn't really considerate to their entire customer base now is it?
kaalee
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing all this, Mark. I'm going to link to it on my LJ along with links to Independent Bookstores.
ladyfox7oaks
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Found you through link-hopping over this whole kerfluffle.. Hope you don't mind, I've included a link here in my own post over all this, as a source of information on it?
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threeoranges
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Pretty HUGE exception to the rule
Look at this:

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Dykes-Watch-Out/dp/0618968806/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239571850&sr=8-1

So the Essential Bechdel D2WO4 collection retains ITS rank (#7,747 as of two minutes ago) despite containing some explicit artwork and habitually frank discussions of GLBTQ issues - yet some purely textual gay/lesbian romances lose their ranking?

What the hell?

Of course, Bechdel's the exception because she's one of the biggest and best-selling names in lesbian literature right now. I think she needs to know what's happening on Amazon.com, don't you?
avg_gay_guy99
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
It's already on Pam's House Blend and AfterElton, but I have yet to see this on Towerload or HuffPo.
nycscribbler
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
And when they aren't full-on hiding them, they're giving you a run-around. I did a search for the Bending the Landscape anthologies, as a test; the first six results were used editions with high prices, then books that had nothing to do with my request. It took an extra click to get to the real pages with the reviews and ability to order new- but no sales rank.
extraonions
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
This appears to have contact information for an official GLBT employee resource group at Amazon: http://www.hrc.org/issues/workplace/organization_profile.asp?organization_id=4994&search_id=1&search_type=Quick
triggerhappy
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
Read this via matociquala and have linked back here from a couples places.
dog0fwar
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
feel free to exercise your damn american rights


AND STOP USING AMAZON DOT COM


holy shit... vote with your dollar and QUIT BITCHING. People will do things you dont like your entire life. Best to just go around them and do it yourself ffs.
earlybirdbooks
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Google up "Amazon Rank" and bomb.
dawn_metcalf
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
Letter sent.
Google bombed.
Tweeted.

Thanks for letting us know!
vashtan
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
Mark, we win an Internet. Woot! Thank you for starting it!
culturedropout
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
Amazon's Idiocy
Here's my e-mail to Amazon. I hope somebody gets kicked in the balls over this stupidity.

---

I was shocked and dismayed to hear that Amazon has classified many, if not most, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender book titles to the "adult" category. According to one story, this not only removes them from the sales rankings and bestseller lists, but also hides them even from a direct search by title. I'm not sure if some fundamentalist group has coerced Amazon into taking this ridiculous position, or if it's just an incredibly stupid idea that was generated within the company, but I'm very offended by it. I've been an Amazon customer since shortly after the company was formed, and have purchased thousands of dollars worth of items from Amazon. I find this decision extremely offensive, and unless it is reversed, will strongly consider taking my business elsewhere. Amazon is no longer the only place to shop on the web, and I hope the company will reconsider this unfortunate move.
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( 411 comments — Leave a comment )