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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

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.
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Someone else just linked me there, and it does. I don't want to jump in if other people are taking charge, but I do want to support.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
I remember you from fandom days (though there is little chance you'll remember me - electricandroid)... go ahead, agitate. We need all the agitation we can get!
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I am happy to agitate! (I totally do remember you, you had an awesome robot icon!) Posted to copperbadge and shortly to my original-work writing journal. Where, you know, I just finished a novel about gay men....
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Really! So did I... Last Monday to be precise.

Now editing. Editing is scary. Lovely to catch up again!
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Same here, good to see ya :) I'm in final aesthetic edits before I take it to lulu.com for self-publishing -- I'm pulling together a publishing house based on self-published work, and Amazon sales for selfpublished books was my next research-point, so this is relevant in that sense too.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
Oh cool. A publishing house? Excellent news! Sorry Badge, am a bit spaced by all this going on at the moment - will send you an email regarding publishing when it all calms down.
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
Please do, when you can :) I'm in the process of working out the business model now -- it's not much, more of a communal "if ten of us buy ISBNs they're cheaper" setup ("A vanity press with concierge service" as one person called it), but I will eventually be soliciting for authors.
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Soliciting hey... actually, friend vashtan, he knows all about self publishing. I will be useful soon, promise.
copperbadge
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Oh brilliant, I'm always looking for new resources -- thank you!
stewardess
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
Sounds like some fundy whined at Amazon and they caved, if you ask me.

I agree, because of the craptastic and random way it was implemented. They could have built something reasonably smart and sophisticated, but this shows all signs of a top-down change.

My guess is they yanked sales ranking based on tags, and threw "gay" into the block bucket without thinking of the outcome. Or not caring about the outcome.

Big honcho says, "We need to make adult books go away fast. How can we do it?"

Senior IT person: "Well, we could remove sales rankings, which would fuck up searches, and that would be STUPID. On the other hand, it would cost almost nothing. Just zap everything with the tag gay, hardcore..."

Big honcho: "Make it so."

Amazon marketing people spend half a day making list of tags to censor, and voila! It's Livejournal's May 2007 witch hunt all over again!
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
I worked for Amazon briefly back in 1999. Amazon.com is flaky. They don't plan well. (I'm being kind. They don't plan at all.) They have a knee-jerk panic button. In addition they give bright, 20-something managers authority to make sweeping overnight changes.

I can well imagine what happened with this. :D
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
A great work of staggering genius, mayhap?

Thanks for linking.
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'll buy "staggering." Genius... well....
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
I love the blogosphere. It is so good at exploding.

How are you doing anyhow? Enjoying easter break?
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
Less a "break" and more just a "weekend." Kicking back a bit, with a quiz looming early next week, ignoring responsibilities (or trying to).

I lack chocolate, therefore this can't possibly be Easter.

the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
I do too. Tomorrow we go buy cut price choccy. How is WG holding up? okay?
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
He's limpy, whiny, but he got out on Friday so he stopped climbing the walls. I should do an update post.

We saw the doctor last week. The bone is healing but WG has more pain than he should. The doctor thinks that he might have crunched the nerve along with his foot, though unlike the CT scan, there's no scan to prove it. It'll take longer to heal if that's the case. We're going back in 10 days....
the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Poor WG. Give him a hug from me.... I'm so glad he's doing better.
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
Hug has been implemented. I told him to picture bigger tits. He held me out a foot away from himself: "You mean like this?"

"Yes, that's about the right distance." ;)

Now he wants me to do a post about him. This amuses me.

the_sea_to
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
Hahaha. I love WG to bits.
icarusancalion
Apr. 12th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
People have noticed I post about him quite a bit. They don't realize this is by request. ;)

Hey, I'm actually using gmail chat these days. Turns out you're right, it's quite convenient. If you see me around, feel free to pop by and say hi.

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