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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. 12th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Mark can you help me to understand the issue more please? I went to Amazon Canada, the Gay & Lesbian category is there, it sets automatically to search by bestsellers, I go to Literature and Fiction and there is no Subcategory for Romance or Erotica in Gay & Lesbian BUT when I go to Romance in general the subcategory for Erotica is there. Under Erotica the subcategory for Gay & Lesbian fiction is there and it allow me to search by bestseller.

The same happens for amazon.com, the US parent Company.

As a reader I would like to know how this effects my searching choices. As it stands now I can't see the difference. I'd like to know exactly so I can word my letter correctly. Thank-you.
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Further research has revealed this interesting piece if I look in Product Details I can't find Amazon.ca Sales Rank in JL Langley's Tin Star... but if I look at A Gentleman's Kiss Volume 2 (Yaoi) (Paperback) by Shinri Fuwa (Artist, Author) it is there. So they are indiscriminately stripping the rankings because Yoai is M/M.

I thought I'd get out of the erotica section and look in history instead and low and behold Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History (Paperback) by Robert Adrich (Author) has had it's ranking stripped as has The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience (Paperback) by Louis-Georges Tin (Editor), Marek Redburn (Translator).

I just wonder if Amazon will become even more aggressive in it's strippng of ranks or if it will let the policy go.
Apr. 12th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
Here's an example I found:

Search Amazon.com on |unfriendly fire|. If you search All Departments, the Kindle book about DADT is #7. The book is at #10, but this is not the primary listing; it makes it look like the book is out of print. Now change the search filter to Books, and Dr. Frank's book is the first one listed. So apparently there's something about the All Departments search that deprioritizes items without sales rankings (intriguingly, the Kindle ebook DOES have a sales ranking).

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