Is This Book (Or This Author) Too Gay for Amazon?


My book, like many, many others, has recently been deranked by Amazon. 

In
other words, it is no longer listed in the sales ranks with other books
of its subject or genre, no matter how good my sales are, or if my
sales are above others who are currently listed.  As well, my book, as
is the case with many others, is not currently listed anymore in the
subject heading appropriate to it.  That deranking can massively impact
us as authors, and also can impact consumers, particularly those who
are trying to seek out material on a subject broadly without knowing
what books are available by title or author.  And with books that serve
any sort of marginalized population or subject matter, finding them
offline is often tough.  Deranking books like mine further marginalizes
the already marginalized.

The books this primarily appears to
have impacted are those by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender
authors, young adult or children’s books addressing sexuality, some
sexuality books in general (including reference books), as well as some
feminist titles.  Some of the titles recently deranked besides mine
include: James Baldwin’s, Giovanni’s Room, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, E. M. Forster’s Maurice, Various, I Do: an anthology in support of marriage equality, Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Road, The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students, Kate Bornstein’s Hello Creul World, Milk: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk, Dan Savage’s The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant, Jessica Valenti & Jaclyn Friedman, The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability:
For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain and Illness, Yes
Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
, Ruth Bell’s Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships, Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, Toni Weschler’s Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body, Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography and many, many more.

At this time, there is no clear statement from Amazon as to what, exactly, is going on.  However, one author, writing in, received the following reply:

"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"

The
trouble with that reply is that there is PLENTY of very explicilty
"adult" material which has NOT been deranked, and we don’t need to
guess much about if it is or isn’t adult when we simply look at some of
the titles: Girls Gone Wild: Girls on Girls, Surrender
the Booty 3: The Search for More Arse, Jenna Jameson: Ultimate
Collection, Girls Kissing: Volume One, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest Working
Man in Showbiz, 
Candy Girl: A Year In The Life Of An Unlikely Stripper, Hot Babes

My
book is intended for young adults, and is GLBT-inclusive, and penned by
me, a queer author.  It is not salacious, it is not pornography: it is
a sexuality, sexual health and relationships reference book. Heather Has Two Mommies is a supportive and classic children’s book about gay families.  Hello, Cruel World
is a suicide prevention book (which just happens to be written by a
transgender author).  That’s a short list, but the point is, many of
the books that have been deranked are not adult books at all, nor adult
or salacious material, but what nearly all of them, so far, do seem to
be are tagged or labeled in some way as GLBT, or as books addressing
sexuality in a non-heteronormative or gendernormative way.

To give you an idea of how this deranking has impacted a given subject you’d search for, take a look at the current list for books on homosexuality.

You’ll
perhaps notice a prevailing theme, and see that if I were looking for
books on how what is WRONG with homosexuality, I’d find exactly what I
needed there.  But if I were merely researching to topic as a whole –
or, horror of horrors, did not want to read what was wrong with me and
why I needed fixing — I’d find a strange lack of well-rounded material
on the subject, including some of the most cornerstone books on or
about homosexuality.  Huh.

This obviously isn’t about adult
material.  It seems painfully clear what it is likely about, and all we
can hope is that a) we’re wrong in seeing what we are, or that this is
some kind of glitch Amazon will fix immediately, and/or b) that if
we’re not wrong in our perception of this event, Amazon realizes that,
even for a private business who has the right to discriminate however
they choose, this kind of discrimination is wrong.

To
keep up with what’s been going on, you can see the twitter feed
#amazonfail here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=amazonfail

The
following open letter is also very informative:

http://booksquare.com/open-letter-to-amazon-regard

ing-recent-policy-changes/

I put a letter into Amazon early this morning myself, but have yet to get a response. 

Why
am I blogging this here?  In part because I’d hope, as an author Amazon
feels comfortable making a profit from, the least I can do is voice my
concerns right here, where my book lives at Amazon.  But also, because
until this is cleared up, and we all have some explanation and the
matter is rectified — and I’ll adapt this post if and when it does – 
I’d prefer consumers bought my book somewhere else, where we’re all as
sure as we can be a company isn’t engaging in sexual discrimination.

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Follow Heather Corinna on twitter: @Scarleteen