Amazon Tomfoolery

Last week, the rankings on about 1/3 of my titles at suddenly disappeared. Since Amazon occasionally has system glitches, I figured it was simply one of those and resolved to check back the following day. Only the ranking was missing that day too.

Today I get online to hear that has instituted a “new policy” to cease ranking books deemed “adult” You see, the absence of ranking will apparently protect people from, um, something. Um, somehow.

This is directly from amazon:

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 Advantage

Now essentially, this policy has no direction because, for instance, Laid Bare and Undercover are ranked still, but Relentless has lost its ranking. My Samhain books all still have rankings and one of the Vegas anthologies is ranked while the other isn’t.

A ranking is an indicator of how the book sells. Amazon certainly has no problem SELLING these books that are so dangerous, um, somehow, they just dont’ want anyone to know they’re selling? Or Um, what? What precisely does this do? Other than arbitrarily hide books away from the main page – for instance a search from the front page of Amazon will get you my ranked books, but NOT the ones which aren’t ranked. So my upcoming book, RELENTLESS is NOT a search result from the main page, but UNDERCOVER is. Who is protected by that?

If, for some reason, my books actually SELL enough to be on a best seller list, they still are best sellers, Amazon will still take money for the books, they just don’t acknowledge YOUR CHOICES and my success. As if hiding them away means people aren’t reading erotic romance? Because it’s what? Bad? Sick? Wrong?

Certainly, Amazon is a private company. What they’re doing isn’t illegal. It’s not even censorship based on the first amendment as they’re not the goverment. What it is, is stupid. It’s senseless because it serves no actual purpose. Society is not bettered by this move. They’re not so horrified by adult material that they’re not selling it. No, they’ll take your money, they’ll take my money too. No, they’re just hiding the transaction of ADULT CONSUMERS because you’re all so dirtybadwrong you need to hide your preferences.

That this unfolded over a holiday weekend after a few days of “hmm, what’s going on” by many authors, is interesting to me. Did Amazon not understand the fall out from this issue would bring about a huge firestorm? Do they not know the publishers aren’t all going to be flipping right out tomorrow when they return to work tomorrow and Tuesday?

If you want to protest to Amazon direct, this is their email addy:
Other ways to get in touch with them:

Or write to their CEO:
Jeffrey Bezos: 1200 12th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington 98144-2734, United States Phone: 206-266-1000 Fax: 206-622-2405 or 800-201-7575 – and demand to speak to someonwe who will take your complaint.

Other commentary on this issue: Booksquare
Meta_writer has a list of books that have lost rankings
Smart Bitches google-bomb style

In the meantime, I’d planned to give an Amazon gift certificate in my grand prize for my TOTALLY RELENTLESS CONTEST – but as Amazon has stripped the book of its ranking (a very good ranking, btw), I’m going to give the $50 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble instead. In fact, I’ll be directing all my purchases to Barnes and Noble until this new policy is eradicated.

15 comments to “Amazon Tomfoolery”

  1. Valerie Tibbs
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:07 pm · Link

    I don’t understand this at all. What possible outcome do they expect from this?

    I will not buy from them until this is stopped. I didn’t know about this until this afternoon and I already placed a book order for my mother in law.

    I have always bought from Barnes & Noble and will continue to do so.

    Amazon can kiss my money goodbye.


  2. Bree
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:12 pm · Link

    Honestly I think that erotic romance books are being de-ranked in an effort to hide the fact that the real target of this is probably GLBT books. That is the only genre that is getting across the board attention, where as even books with sexual content are sporadic at best. (And only in the erotic romance category as far as I’ve seen…sex toys, books about porn, actual porn, playboy…all of that is untouched.)

    I really think this is snowballing now and that adult excuse is not going to hold up.

  3. Michelle
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:13 pm · Link

    Lauren – one of the things about this that I find rather despicable is that it seems like they’ve left the Kindle rankings, but not the print book rankings. Can we say “double standard” ? Completely ridiculous.

    As I’ve said on Twitter and other blogs, I hope that high profile authors and powerful publishing houses are able to take Amazon to task for this pathetic new “policy.” As for me, it’s back to until further notice.

    Michelle (@antinmitchfield)

  4. limecello
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:16 pm · Link

    *sigh* I’ve emailed amazon a number of times about similar issues (obviously not this one specifically since I just found out about it this morning) – always to no avail. But I’m always game to try some more.
    Also. I’ve been posting the link SBTB created for the google bomb. “Amazon Rank” (I hope that link works)

  5. Mel
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:34 pm · Link

    I have the same thing. A Little Harmless Sex-which has never gotten a ranking on Kindle but it sells really well-was pulled from rankings and I thought the same thing as you. But, it has been removed, but the sequel, Grace Under Pressure, a lot of my other books, are all still ranked. And apparently, it is the word SEX. JEEBUS, save us from using the word SEX.
    I did my google bomb for Smart Bitches too. Oh, and removing all those links to buy from Amazon too.

  6. Bonnie Rose Leigh
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:38 pm · Link

    I agree with Mel. My book titled Sex Me: Triad Series is unranked now but it’s sequel, Children of the Triad: Sex Me II hasn’t been touched yet. This makes no sense to me.

    I also blogged about this.

  7. Amelia
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:49 pm · Link

    I’ve been buying books from Amazon for years and I even have a Prime membership which expires next month. I won’t be renewing it unless they change the rankings. I can also cancel any books which I pre-ordered. I’ve discovered recently that I can order books cheaper off Barnes and Noble using my member card.

  8. Eden Bradley
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:55 pm · Link

    Apparently this is hitting romance authors, too, whose books are not even classified as erotica or erotic romance! And GLBT books that are YA stories with no sex in them, and also self-help books for GLBT youth dealing with issues such as coming out. But you can still find sex toys, Playboy magazine and books on making bombs.
    As far as my own books, I could still search for and find a few this morning, but they’ve been sucked into the void as of this afternoon.
    I’ve already written letters and signed petitions. I wonder if/when Amazon will realize how utterly stupid this is?

  9. Mel
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:57 pm · Link

    Will this mess with USA TODAY rankings? Doesn’t part of the sales numbers come from that?

  10. Beth Kery
    April 12th, 2009 at 1:59 pm · Link

    This is really disturbing. Thanks for the concise overview. Since you gave all the cogent info, Lauren, I passed your blog addy onto my reader group, so that people can protest who want to do so.

    I already sent my protest to them. *shaking head in disgust.*

    It’s bad enough that they’re are doing it, but what I keep thinking is…who is going to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not? Obviously (as you mentioned, Lauren) they have no idea of the content of books. Is it the computer doing some kind of sorting? If so, that’s just freakin’ scary.

  11. Melissa
    April 12th, 2009 at 5:09 pm · Link

    Ditto what everyone is saying. I’m a prime member, review for Vine, and do reviews for the heck of it sometimes…….but won’t anymore. That they dare to censor books just pisses me off….and to deliberately exclude these authors and books from searches is censorship………and until they rethink the policy, Borders or B&N will get my book orders!! I’ve emailed them my thoughts on the subject.

  12. Juliana Stone
    April 12th, 2009 at 5:17 pm · Link

    Interestingly enough, on the canadian website all of the titles are there….should be interesting to see if it affects the canadian website soon…..

  13. Kate Davies
    April 13th, 2009 at 12:40 am · Link


    I was all up in arms, in solidarity with my fellow authors over this issue.

    Then I find out a few minutes ago, one of my books is affected as well.

    Which I don’t understand, because it didn’t even rate as “red hot” at Samhain…

    I seriously don’t get Amazon. I just hope they get their act together, soon. Until then, purchases are being diverted to B & N or Powells.

  14. Christine
    April 13th, 2009 at 7:03 am · Link

    Unfortunately complaints on their own probably will go no where as a company like Amazon only understands the value of a dollar. So if everyone starts withholding their purchases that will understand. A complaint followed up a cancellation of your credit card and your prime account and future purchases hits their bottom line. They don’t have a social conscience. We have to stick together as a group and agree to boycott Amazon until they change their policies. They only understand lost profits. And as stated on the Today Show if you saw the piece Romance Books are one of the only things around in the Recession still making a Profit.

  15. Christine
    April 15th, 2009 at 1:51 pm · Link

    Well I found the petition was started and added my own two cents. Hopefully everyone who hasn’t will join the bandwagon.


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