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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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lunalovegoddess
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
C'est la merde!
My husband and I were reading the description for The Filly. It sounds beautiful and inspiring, and I'd really like to read it. And the worst part [for me], aside from what I perceive as censorship, is that in order to read it, Amazon expects me to fork over $350 that I don't have to buy a Kindle. I don't mind the concept of eBooks, you know; it's the principle of the thing. (Call me old-school, but I prefer the feel of pages beneath my fingers.) Is there somewhere else that I can purchase the printed version (or a downloadable eBook version for my PC)?

*spreads the word*
lunalovegoddess
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
Re: C'est la merde!
Also, a quick thank you, both as a bisexual woman and the mother of two preteens. Many of my friends are LGTBQ or have children who are questioning their sexuality, and I remember a distinct lack of queer-friendly YA reading material when I was growing up.
Re: C'est la merde! - markprobst - Apr. 12th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: C'est la merde! - markprobst - Apr. 12th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
cathalin
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
You don't know me at all, but thank you for giving permission to link to this post -- I found it through friends' links, I think. I've done so here, and informed my (mainly Brokeback fans and various fandoms, along with some published m/m authors) Flist about this ridiculous move. Though many will have already seen it, many won't, and your post is very helpful in laying out the issue.

Also, I'm going to check out your book when I have time -- it sounds wonderful, and I work with tons of teens. :)
elfwreck
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
Contacting Amazon
http://amazoncustomerservice.blogspot.com/2007/12/8.html mentions the hassles of contacting Amazon's customer service, and gives several phone numbers. Among them:

1-800-201-7575 for the US
outside the US and Canada: (206) 346-2992

(These are different from the ones listed on the site. Which also work, but may be flooded right now.)

Snail mail to customer service
Amazon.com, Inc.
Customer Service
PO Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108-1226
elliptic_eye
Apr. 12th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
I'll definitely be linking back to this post, along with many others. Thank you very much for spreading the word about this.
jenk
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Not quite sure what's going on...

I go to amazon, I click browse subjects, I click gay and lesbian, and on the first page there's Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Zane, Basketball Jones by E. Lynn Harris, Best Women's Erotica, Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America by Dr. Nathaniel Frank, and Fun Home.
brotherflounder
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
Try searching for those. They'll either not come up at all or will come up only as Kindle editions (which for some reason haven't been removed yet).
(no subject) - jenk - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - brotherflounder - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jenk - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - brotherflounder - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - brotherflounder - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jenk - Apr. 13th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
brighty18
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
random commenter
Hi,

I just found my way here via someone else who spread the word. And, indeed, I made my comment to Amazon, signed the petition, and passed in on.

This is appalling on so many levels. It's blatantly homophobic and also extraordinary stupid marketing. I managed a bookstore for years and our company had an online component. Whether online or "bricks and mortar," book sales depend entirely on promotion and exposure. The more hits you get, the more prominently placed the book, the more people who will buy. So why hide your material? That's just counter-productive to retail.

I worked for Borders and our controversies were more over placement and marketing. Many books with gay themes (Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty or O'Neill's At Swim, Two Boys, for example, ended-up shelved in "Literature" rather than "gay lit" because more people would see it and buy it and, sadly, some straight people felt uncomfortable shopping in the "LBGT Lit" section. But it did not stop them from buying the books. Michael Cunningham? Jeanette Winterson? Sarah Waters? EM Forster? All the same: "Lit," rather than "gay lit." However, many LGBT booksellers complained that "Gay Lit" became "a ghetto of bad romance novels" and so the larger stores were able to cross-shelve. Still, it gave more exposure to the works in question.

Anyway, you probably do not care about any of that, but I thought I'd share.

Thanks!

Edited at 2009-04-13 12:17 am (UTC)
megh
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
reposed, email sent to amazon, twittered, and facebooked. Let me know if there's anything else I can do. WTF, for real.
aitchellsee
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
I just cancelled a $41+ order with Amazon, for the soon-to-be-released new Laurie R. King and C.J. Cherryh novels. Where Amazon asks you to explain (optional) your reasons for cancelling the order, I told them it was due to their new policy on Adult Content and sales rankings/searches. And quoted "Ashlyn D"'s words above (citing your blog as a source). AND I wrote that I was about to go and re-place the order with Barnes and Noble.

BTW, another title that's had its ranking lifted, and which is no longer returned if you search on the author's name in either the Firefox/Amazon search app or the full-bore Amazon search:All Departments option?

In the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God
by Gene Robinson, the openly-gay Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.

I'm speechless.

(Here via many many friendslists)
pbcliberal
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
[SENT TO AMAZON THROUGH THEIR WEBFORM ON MY ACCOUNT PAGE]

Your removal of rankings for gay and lesbian literature is certainly your right. This is your marketing portal and it is your right to operate it as you wish. I have a suggestion, however, which might make the use of your real estate when my page comes up more effective, because as of today, you're wasting a lot of space.

I'm not your biggest customer, but I make most of my hard media purchases through your site; almost 100% of my online ones. I sometimes take advantage of your suggestions, because you had a high degree of credibility that your inference engines truly tried to deduce what I would like, based on my searches and prior purchases.

I say "had" because your actions have caused your credibility to disappear for me, and I trust for tens of thousands of others. If you're willing to "adjust" your sales rankings for criteria other than sales, aren't you also likely to "adjust" your suggestions based on things like quantity in stock, or shelf life of programming manuals?

I'll still buy from you, because I like your service and I like your policies, and I trust that I will be well treated by your partners when I use your portal to order from others. But that franchise you had with me, where I chose you and didn't even go looking at your competitors: that went away the minute your ranking manipulation became public.

(Deleted comment)
garan_du
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
I have written them this evening and asked for an explanation. I also mentioned that my relationship with them as a long-term and *lucrative* customer hinges on their adequate response to my concern. And to back it up, tonight I deleted all of the payment options from my account. I encourage others to do so as a tangible expression of the business impact of their poor decision.
snowqueen297
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Unbelievable
This is an incredible discriminatory action from Amazon. We too have a lot of our revenue tied to Amazon and I hate when they pull a "well we just decided to do what we want now deal with it." Hang in there.
phytha
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the information and your permittance to link back to you. I'll spread the word to the les-bi-gay community of Vienna.
brotherflounder
Apr. 12th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Found this through sf_drama. This is beyond insane. I also wrote them and asked for an explanation.

In slightly good news, it's been picked up by the LA Times Blog, so hopefully it'll spread even faster.
markprobst
Apr. 13th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
When I saw that the LA Times Blog linked back to me, my jaw hit the floor. You people are all so great in spreading the word. I truly am amazed by this outpouring of support.
(no subject) - brotherflounder - Apr. 13th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
wulfsdottir
Apr. 13th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
Another random stranger on the internet
Linked here by herveus. Friending you on my Periodic Random Intelligent Encounter Principle.

My letter to Amazon just now:

I am writing in regard to the recent decision to strip gay and lesbian materials of their sales rankings. While the reason given in the only response I have found is that the sales rankings have been stripped because these materials are classed as "adult", I find it an outrageous lie, as the children's book "Heather Has Two Mommies" has had its sales ranking stripped, yet "Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds" -- which comes with suggestions of additional purchases that include softcore nudity -- has not. Plainly this is not about "adult" material, but corporate-sponsored bigotry.

While I am not of the demographic for which LGBT literature is written, I will not knowingly support this sort of discrimination. Until this affront to an entire group of people is corrected and an apology issued, I will be both taking my business elsewhere and sharing news articles and blog posts regarding this shameful practice among my many social circles.


I've twittered already, and am off to poke the rest of my social networking sites now.
georgiaclaire
Apr. 13th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
I've created a facebook group to protest this amazon rank fail.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625690316&ref=profile#/group.php?gid=80063701014&ref=mf
exactlyinexact
Apr. 13th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
Just letting you know that we plan on doing everything we possibly can to spread the word on this and to get Amazon to fix their hypocritical ways.
(Deleted comment)
timeslut
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Twittered this to death. What the hell?
acmeeoy
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
I call for flooding Rachel Maddow e-mail with this news. She is pretty passionate about LBGT issues, since she's a lesbian herself, so bringing this to her attention might give more of a chance for her bring it up on her show.

rachel@msnbc.com

In addition, let's flood Keith Olbermann's inbox with this development.

countdown@msnbc.com
KOlbermann@msnbc.com

Also, the Daily Show.

thedailyshow@comedycentral.com
f3d0ra_girl
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
rachel maddow...
i bet rachel already knows about this seeing as she seems to be very internet savvy. i have a feeling she will definetely bring this up. :-)
Re: rachel maddow... - brotherflounder - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: rachel maddow... - f3d0ra_girl - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - acmeeoy - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC) - Expand
aimodestructo
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
It is very upsetting that they are considering anything "gay" to be "adult" (read: obscene).

lab08
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
Wow, this is so insane. Why do people have to be so close-minded about things? I mean, come on! It's Amazon, they have tons and tons of stuff on that site...just let it all be, and have people look at and buy the things they want.

I'm so sorry about your book!
-Lauren

www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com
ginmar
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
Spreading the word. I would love to be a fly on that wall tomorrow morning.
lee_rowan
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
Did you see this?
It appears that Amazon.com is reversing its idiocy:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6651080.html

I'll believe it when I see it .... but I think maybe we made an impression.

Your screencap was a stroke of genius ... the perfect squelch.

I've been saying that what m/m romance really needs is to be attacked from the pulpit... This may prove to be a good thing in the long run.

Thanks for tracking down a solid idiotic answer!
f3d0ra_girl
Apr. 13th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
Re: Did you see this?
it's damn sad when a group of people have to be pissed off for common sense to finally sink in. idiots
Re: Did you see this? - lee_rowan - Apr. 13th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC) - Expand
alverant
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Don't get me wrong. I hope amazon does change their minds and make things right. If not, I hope a boycott succeeds in convincing them to reverse that policy. I'm just wondering if a boycott is still an effective means to change corporate policy. Remember the boycott against Disney when it gave same-sex rights to their employees. That didn't work and there were probably more people behind it.

If it turns out this was done under the threat of legal action (even frivilous legal action) or a PR battle by people who think that ranking GLTB books are somehow "promoting" that "lifestyle" (or furthering the "homosexual agenda" or other nonsense), that a boycott may be considered the lesser of two evils.

I'm with you that amazon was wrong to do this and I want to see this police reversed. I just want to be sure that any action taken (like a boycott) will be the most effective.
acmeeoy
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
Remember the boycott against Disney when it gave same-sex rights to their employees. That didn't work and there were probably more people behind it.

*Suddenly loves Disney even more*
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( 411 comments — Leave a comment )