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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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( 394 comments — Leave a comment )
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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*
bookshop
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
NOT A GLITCH

Hi, Mark!

Since word is going around that Amazon is calling this "a glitch," I wonder if you might update your post to include a link to this writer's post, because it emphatically makes it clear that this did NOT just start happening; it has in fact been happening since at least February.

I think that it's very important that as many people know that as possible, so that they know that this has actually been a prolonged and ongoing decision made by Amazon, even after they first got word *months* ago that there were potential problems.
markprobst
Apr. 13th, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
Re: NOT A GLITCH
Thanks, Bookshop. I will do that right away.
Re: NOT A GLITCH - bookshop - Apr. 13th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC) - Expand
savior_falling
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
What is happening here is absolutely disgusting. It is verging on total censorship, and I will not stand for it.

I'm spreading the word as best I can. This is definitely coming up at my GSA meeting.
twistedhilarity
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Letting you know you've got another link to here to spread the word.

out_0f_habit
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)
I'm confused-- when I search for books like Giovanni's Room and Brokeback and Bastard out of Carolina they show up. Isn't that not supposed to be happening?
ealgylden
Apr. 13th, 2009 06:19 am (UTC)
If you do a targeted search under "Books" and search for Bastard out of Carolina (or Giovanni's Room, or the uncollected Brokeback Mountain), the book is the first result, which is as it should be. If you do a general search under "All Departments," you get other Dorothy Allison books, related authors, audiobooks, out-of-print editions, the movie... everything but the paperback that's first under a "Books" search. And part of the problem is that the default search box on the main page is "All Departments," so a lot of people just do their searches through that, and, well, you can see what happens. No results. Not to mention all of the other ways rankings can be and are used...
earthbound01
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
I'm not doing business with Amazon until they make it clear that this policy is reversed.
jersey_blogger
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
this is what you get for it being legal to marry in Iowa and VT. Ur getin' too uppity! know your place gay homo!

//sacrasm

seriosuly, this is truly fucked up. If there is no such policy, why did the fucktard who responed to your queery say there was? why did someone else get told there is a policy two months ago. yeah, somebodies got some s'plain to do all right.
heterodoxus
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
?
hey so, howcome you never show what you actually asked to get such a response that doesn't say anything about sexual orientation?

i'm not concluding anything. i just want the whole story.
markprobst
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
Re: ?
I apologize, heterodoxus. I didn't intentionally exclude that information. Here is the question I submitted to Amazon Advantage (the typos are intact!)

The sales ranking has disappeared from my book's description. My title is not the only only one affected. Many other publishers who are friends of mine have also reported this occurance. If this was done intentionally be Amazon. May I know the reason why?

Thank you,
Mark R. Probst
Re: ? - atara - Apr. 13th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: ? - heterodoxus - Apr. 13th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
cherylktardif
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
Amazon is having a LOT of problems lately
The problem you are experiencing comes on the tail of another pile of Amazon issues--reviews disappearing without warning.

85 reviews of books I'd read were deleted by Amazon. When I inquired why, I was first told they were all "inappropriate". This led to a 5-day battle with Amazon to find out why exactly they were removed.

This created a huge wave of frustration in the literary world when I was told it was because I'd done what most authors do and signed my reviews with my own book title-- ie. "Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song". I was told by a couple of Amazon reps that all authors who signed this way were going to have their reviews deleted.

After many emails, Amazon finally apologized and said my reviews were "accidentally" removed. They reinstated them in full, with my regular sig line.

I believe that since Amazon started overhauling their AmazonConnect system, things HAVE gotten glitchy.

A couple of months ago, some authors noticed that reviews on their own books were missing. They reappeared a couple of days later. Then many authors' blogs went down, but Amazon put them back up within a week, I believe. Then there was my issue--I think a few reps misunderstood the rules. And now your issue, and I know you're not the only author with this new problem.

My best advice: stay cool, keep emailing Amazon, keep asking for an explanation, try to contact someone higher up in Amazon (it's hard though), and present your case. I found Amazon to be frustrating at first to deal with, but eventually I found someone who could help. And they did.

I wish you the best.

You can read about my story and battle with Amazon at:
http://writetype.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazon-reinstates-authors-reviews-after.html

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song
http://www.cherylktardif.com
damsel_ophelia
Apr. 13th, 2009 05:01 am (UTC)
Linked, and likewise linked on #amazon fail. For now, I am keeping my Amazon account to tag books, but will be a cold day in hell before I make any purchases from them.
a_phoenixdragon
Apr. 13th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
This is utter, utter crap. Hope Amazon can handle losing all the money they've been making steadily in the face of this recession... Too bad for them if they don't survive over a case of Stupid.
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( 394 comments — Leave a comment )