Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lesbo Shocker: Samantha Ronson Leaves Li-Lo for Ann Coulter

Okay, not really. But now you're here, so keep reading.

I've been just the tiniest bit tense lately. Three books due at once. Property and income taxes due on the same day next week. A bunch of other odds and ends that need attending to. Insomnia. Panic attacks. Mild cardiac events. Nothing to worry about.

Then this morning I find out that sometime over the past week, Amazon (the booksellers, not the jungle or the river or the big scary women) has quietly been removing the sales rankings from some books. Specifically, gay and lesbian books. More specifically, my books. All of them--gone.

This news has been making its way through the writing community, and thanks to authors like Rebecca Day, Kathleen Bradean, and Mark R. Probst the word is getting out that gay and lesbian books are disappearing more quickly than the Antarctic ice shelf. Details are still fuzzy, but at least one author who wrote to Amazon asking for an explanation 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 Advantage

Typical for Amazon's infamously unhelpful customer service department, this makes almost no sense. Actually, it makes not a bit of sense. "Adult" books are excluded from bestseller lists. Since these lists are based on sales ranks, we can't give adult titles sales ranks because then they would appear on those lists. Is that what Ashlyn D is saying? (And wasn't Ashlyn D one of the Pussycat Dolls, or a Cheetah Girl, or Hannah Montana's bff?)

Hence, if I have further questions. Well, I do. What you're basically telling me, Ashlyn D (one wonders if there's an Ashlyn F, G, or W working for Amazon, making it necessary to diferentiate between them), is that you don't want anyone to know that these books are selling. You don't want anyone to know that people in America might like to read books that have men getting it on with men, or two women tending to one another's ladygardens. That's what you mean.

What seems to be the case is that books deemed "adult" no longer show up on the main bestseller lists and no longer have a sales rank appearing on their pages. There do still seem to be gay and lesbian bestseller lists, but finding them is a bit of a challenge, and nowhere on a book's page is there the standard "this book is #5 in Books -- Gay & Lesbian -- Fiction" tag that would allow viewers to easily click through to that list and discover other titles she or he might enjoy reading.

I'm sure some people will argue that this is no big deal, perhaps even argue that gay and lesbian titles don't regularly appear on the main bestseller list anyway so who cares. Well, some of us do care, if only because this new system implies that there is something offensive, something dirty, something wrong with our books. Amazon's explanation essentially says that because some readers could be offended by seeing our books in their search results, our books must be hidden from view. And whatever you think of the value of Amazon's sales rankings, not allowing a book to even have one basically says that the book isn't worth considering or, even worse, that the sensitive reading public needs to be protected against the possibility--however slight--that one of these books might end up on the same list as those delightfully moral Twilight novels and the thoughtful insights of Glenn Beck.

I'm so accustomed to this kind of bullshit that I'm too tired to point out that almost no books with explicit hetero sex (Jackie Collins, anyone?) have had their rankings stripped, or that some of the gay-themed books suddenly made invisible (Probst's The Filly, which is a young adult novel) don't have any sex in them at all, or that some of the suddenly "adult" titles (the novels of Sarah Waters, for instance) have topped numerous best-of lists and won major literary prizes. And I certainly can't muster the energy to mention that my young adult novel Suicide Notes has more sex in it than most of my adult novels, yet continues to be ranked, making me think that this new rule is being applied randomly based on a book's title, cover image, or publisher.

Hopefully, someone less tired than I am will get around to kicking Amazon in the brisket. I'd do it if I weren't so exhausted. I've asked the publisher of my novels for big people to look into it, and I'll let you know what I find out. In the meantime, buy your books at your local bookstore, even if it means paying a little more or having to order them. I like the ease of Amazon as well as the next guy, and I confess that the links on my website go through Amazon because I get a little kickback that way, but I'm not going to give any more money to a business that thinks what I do is offensive while simultaneously getting wealthier off of my books.


tomj said...

I've posted this elsewhere, but I'm putting it here as a sort of "open source" legal suggestion:

I've litigated some free speech censorship suits. My initial thoughts on the basis of a lawsuit:

A publisher of "adult" books that have been released on Kindle may have grounds: arguably, Amazon, the only company that sells Kindle books, has an obligation take reasonable steps to advertise those books. A publisher would have relied on Amazon's implied duty, by printing fewer books, and by advertising the Kindle books, based on Amazon's representation about potential Kindle sales. The publisher would have to show some sort of loss, or at least anticipated loss, by showing that taking the books off Amazon's pages results in decreasing sales of books on Kindle.

I'm certain there are lots of contractual issues to consider, but the contract might be avoided entirely in the equitable estoppel argument I described.... Read More

It might be worth mentioning as a possibility to your publisher.

Nancy said...

I will continue to get your books at the "gay" bookstore in Rehoboth Beach. Would rather give my business to someone who supports you.

scottynola said...

Your title gave me a horrible visual image I cannot get out of my head.

amrit said...


There is an article in the New York Times that claims that the problem is being fixed and that the rankings should be returning for LGBT books. Have yours come back yet?