Amazon de-ranks so-called adult books, including National Book Award winner.
"American Psycho" is Bret Easton Ellis' story of a sadistic murderer. "Unfriendly Fire" is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it's "Unfriendly Fire" that does not have a sales rank -- which means it would not show up in Amazon's bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the Twilight series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon's search results.The issue isn't that "adult" content is being deranked; it's that Amazon is pulling gay and lesbian content (and then feminist/general sexuality) that was not explicit (E.M. Forster's Maurice!) from sales ranks, greatly decreasing its visibility and sales potential, while letting explicit heterosexual content remain. (Moreover, Dear Author reports that, due to the derankings, "if you search 'homosexual' on Amazon.com, your first search result is 'A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.' ")
Amazon's policy of removing "adult" content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. On Saturday, self-published author Mark R. Probst [markprobst] noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon's customer service explained:
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.
Probst is the author of a novel for young adults with gay characters set in the old West; he was concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted. Amazon has not responded to the LA Times request for clarification.
Among the targeted works:
For example, books that are about Lesbian parenting have been identified as “adult content” and deranked. Patti O’Shea’s book that is listed “erotic horror” despite having only one sex scene has been deranked and removed from front page search results. Amazon has deranked Annie Proulx [Brokeback Mountain], E.M. Forster, but not American Psycho. Mein Kampf and books about dog fighting are ranked and can be searched from the front page, but not books about gay love or books with erotic content. (Dear Author)(More thorough listings at meta_writer.)
Furthermore, Smart Bitches explains, "Craig Seymour['s] book All I Could Bare, a memoir of his job as a stripper, was stripped of sales rank back in February 2009, despite memoirs from prominent pornography actors remaining within the ranks. So this has been creeping up insidiously, it seems, until massive delisting occurred over the last few days."
Then Smart Bitches took it to the streets with the Google bomb Amazon Rank; they add that, "As of 7:54pm EST, Amazon has given out a host of explanations, which I’ve heard from Twitterers, along the lines of 'people complained' to 'we will have more information tomorrow.' I smell a giant meeting in PR at Amazon HQ bright and early tomorrow. We’ll see what the morning brings."
Of course, Amazon Says Glitch to Blame for "New" Adult Policy. Unfortunately, Dear Author foresaw that explanation: "Craig Seymour first complained about his book being adversely treated by Amazon back in February." Plus, you know--THE EMAIL TO MARK PROBST. So tomorrow should be interesting.
ETA: Traffic killed the Publisher's Weekly "glitch" article, but I managed to grab it here.
ETA 2: On Amazon Failure, Meta-Trolls, and Bantown. I don't know how that would take February and the Probst email into account, though.