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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.



Apr. 13th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: They're not censoring anything - you can still buy the books!
what data your partner thinks they might have been using.

My husband says "It's pretty unprofessional to go describing a company's internal systems in public. It's not commercially available software so describing it won't be of use to you. It's not Drupal, PHP, Mambo or anything else you're likely to have worked with. The answer to 'what relevant software are Amazon using' is 'stuff that you've never heard of and never will unless you go to work for them, and which it is not appropriate to discuss on a public forum or indeed any forum'." I did try to get him to give me more details in order to forestall any accusations of evasiveness, but he insists that firstly, he won't discuss confidential details like that and secondly, even if he wanted to, he couldn't explain it in any way that would make any sense to anyone who hadn't worked on it.

I am pretty sure that you know that telling someone to calm down is also very irritating and guaranteed to have the opposite effect.
I have no idea how many LGBTs (of whom I am one, despite being married to a man) and their allies will have heard of this, but as my husband has pointed out, even if Amazon lose "only" 0.1% of their customers, that's still a pretty significant number.

Amazon are NOT perfectly tolerant because they have made it much MUCH harder to buy those books, and what they've done is the equivalent of hiding the books in the back room in a physical shop - only those who know the books exist and specifically want to buy them will be able to. Targeting LGBT books specifically, and branding as "adult" books which actually contain no adult material whatsoever, while other, non-LGBT books which contain explicitly sexual material have not been affected, IS blatant homophobia no matter how you dress it up. What you are defending is the indefensible and frankly unnecessary. We're clearly not going to agree on this because reading your comments to other people, you're being deliberately obtuse.

You claim that they're perfectly tolerant because they're still (technically) selling the books. Would you claim that a physical bookstore is still perfectly tolerant if they brought in a new policy of only serving LGBT customers if they enter the store by a different entrance, browse for books in a separate room and do without any advice or directions from sales assistants?

Amazon do indeed have the right to run their store however they want to. If that means alienating their LGBT and LGBT-ally customers, that is of course up to them. This does not, however, make it right.

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