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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!

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.



( 391 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 12th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
I'm linking your post to several m/m fiction authors that distribute through Amazon via Dreamspinner Press. Thank you for the heads up!
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Apr. 12th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that hurt.
"Hence" - kissmyassterisk - Apr. 13th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
a friend of mine pointed me to your post.


words fail me. do you know whether only amazon.com is doing this or if this has happened to the sales rankings from other amazon branches too? that would be interesting.

damn. :/
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Other branches too... links updating on meta_writer.
(no subject) - dreamhunter - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
It seems to me...
If Amazon truly just wanted to filter adult content from those who didn't want to see it, there should be ways of generating "safe searches" without having to strip books of their sales ranks. The fact that they went about it this way, and have stripped a bunch of GLBT titles that aren't erotic in nature, would seem to belie their explanation. It looks instead as though someone at Amazon is imposing their personal morality on the sales rankings and search results.
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: It seems to me...
And yet at time of writing, Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds still had its rank.
Re: It seems to me... - mresundance - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: It seems to me... - gerlsex - Mar. 5th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
They're just taking them out of mainstream public display. Just like a physical book store wouldn't put them in its window or on the lower shelves.
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
So it's okay to put GLBT stories, even ones that are not explicit, on the back shelf where no one will see them? Separate but equal? Come on.
You really need to open your eyes... - missbehavior - Apr. 13th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You really need to open your eyes... - erastes - Apr. 13th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You really need to open your eyes... - missbehavior - Apr. 14th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 12th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC)
Um... I wonder if the Harry Potter series will lose its sales rankings, given that one of the main characters is gay, and the story clearly refers to a gay relationship between him and the nemesis of the Wizarding world?
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
It does???

There are a few innuendos in the book itself, but it's presented as nasty, malicious gossip instead of as fact. That it happens to be true by authorial statement (something she didn't bother to make explicitly clear in *any* of the books) doesn't mean it's obvious from reading the books.
(no subject) - erastes - Apr. 12th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - conuly - Apr. 12th, 2009 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - literalgirl - Apr. 13th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
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.
(no subject) - copperbadge - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 12th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
The language pedant in me is forced to point out that "censorship" actually refers only to actions by the *state*. Amazon is a private seller, and the First Amendment allows them the freedom to advertise and categorize their works in any way they see fit.

Now, they are so large that their decisions absolutely can and do cause a chilling effect on any kind of literature they choose to hide in this manner, and I find it execrable and infuriating that they'd choose to do so. But it's not technically censorship.
(no subject) - the_sea_to - Apr. 12th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynt - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 12th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I got here by following a link from Meta Writer. Thank you for sharing this; I can't believe Amazon would do this, and using such a weak excuse, too.

Do you mind if I link to this in a post on my journal? I'd like to spread the word.
Apr. 12th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Please do. Everyone has my permission to use my name and link back to this post.
(no subject) - devi42 - Apr. 12th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
Here via various links.

I, too, would like to help. I'm going to post about this, as my readership is of moderate size, articulate and liable to be outraged by Amazon's tactics. I hope you don't mind if that post links here because you have the specific experience to relate and the explicit reply from Amazon.

I also would be happy to participate in and help promote a letter campaign. As it is, I'm very much inclined to write to them anyway, saying pretty much exactly what copperbadge has indicated he would say.


Edit: I see the link to meta_writer, and will use that in my post. :)

Edited at 2009-04-12 05:44 pm (UTC)
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.
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.
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.
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.

tim smith
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?
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.
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( 391 comments — Leave a comment )