Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good Timing, Amazon

Just as I launch this new blog, steps in it. I'm talking about what so many people have been twittering about--the fact that stripped the sales ranks from lots and lots of books, many of which were tagged gay/lesbian/bi/transgender/homosexual ... and like that.

If you haven't heard about the bruhaha, google "amazon gay lesbian sales ranks" for endless articles and blogs on the subject.

If you have heard about it, I won't bore you here. But I would like to draw your attention to an excellent article by a techni-geek who understands what an algorithm is. While Amazon blames a computer glitch, she with great scholarly-ness explains that computers run on algorithms (an algorithm is essentially a recipe) and SOMEBODY (not a computer) chose those tags.

Here's my story:
On Thursday evening (4/9) I had sales ranks on the trade paperback editions of my books.
On Friday afternoon (4/10), I didn't.
But my Kindle books still had their sales ranks. I guess they hadn't gotten around to de-ranking Kindle books yet.

The problem with losing sales ranks is that unranked books don't show up in searches. So when I searched on my books, even by exact title, the Kindle editions showed up but the trade paperbacks didn't. So nobody would ever be able to find my books on Amazon. And that is where almost all of my sales come from. So Amazon could have put me out of business. Just like that!

I soon learned about the sh*tstorm on twitter about Amazon discriminating against glbt books, and that explained why my books had been de-ranked. My books are categorized as 1) historical fiction, 2) women's fiction, and 3) lesbian fiction.

Oh, the dreaded L-word.

My books have also been tagged by Amazon's own customers as lesbian, lesbian romance, and lesbian fiction.

My books have also been tagged as the other L-word, literature, but that evidently wasn't enough to save them.

Actually my books were in very good company--Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Randy Shilts, E. Lynn Harris, Andrew Holleran, Dorothy Allison, Sarah Waters, James Baldwin, and many other distinguished, award-winning authors were de-ranked too.

On Monday the 13th, I called Amazon. Actually I had them call me. There's a nifty feature where you can enter your phone number into a box and submit it and they will call you back. Immediately. You still have to wait on hold a little while, but I was soon able to speak to someone who couldn't apologize enough and who assured me that my books would soon have their sales ranks back.

My sales ranks were back by late Monday night.

So is that the end of the story? I'm still unsettled by all this.

Customers have tagged my books with other things that someone might find offensive, like witchcraft, paganism, feminism, women, goddess worship, magic. Suddenly something that was supposed to help people find my books can be used to make sure that nobody finds them.


Anonymous Kauri said...

Very insightful blog entry. I think you should send it to Amazon

April 16, 2009 at 11:16 AM  

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