Rebecca Day

Archive for April, 2009

Something I didn’t know

Posted by rwday on April 12, 2009

When I wrote my last post, I did not realize that Amazon’s search function was tied to rankings.  So when you search for a book, the ‘selected titles’ they show you apparently correlate with the highest ranked titles that meet your search criteria.  Apparently the recommendation features also use sales rankings.

One of the negative consequences of Amazonfail is that when you search for a book, if there is a GLBT book that would fit your search criteria.  It will NOT appear in your results.  This is true even if you search by title.  Seriously.  I did a title search for my own book from Amazon’s home page, results here.  As you can see, the top hit is Haunted Hearts (which is NOT by me, btw), second is Ginn Hale’s Wicked Gentleman, 3rd is The God Eaters by Hajicek.  Not until the 5th hit do you get actual results, and that’s the out of print Iris edition.  The Lethe edition’s Kindle version comes next and in order to get the print edition, you have to go to the left navigation and select ‘books.’

Now call me old fashioned, but I think that when you do a search for a specific string of words, your top results ought to be titles that actually contain that string.  

Bottom line is that this is going to affect some writers’ bottom lines.  If people can’t find our books, they can’t buy them.  If someone who likes historical romances searches for ‘historical romances,’ Transgressions and False Colours will not show up no matter how well they’re selling because the characters in these novels are (OMG) gay, so their sales ranks don’t count.  And yet, every crap het romance with Duke Biff de Biceps raping the beauteous Bella Bigboobs, who then comes to love him (because women always fall for their rapists), that’ll show up.

This isn’t just putting the GLBT materials in a pink ghetto.  This is putting them in a pink ghetto and then locking the ghetto in the bookstore cellar, and even if customers ask for the titles BY NAME, they can’t have them without asking several times.

All in the name of what?  Protecting kids?  Um, Amazon, I hate to break it to you, but there is no Internet porn shortage. If kids want to be titillated online, they’re not likely to go to Amazon.com and place an order for Forster’s Maurice.  

I hope the next thing I post on this is a link to Amazon’s apology and retraction.  One thing this has accomplished is galvanized me into posting here, which should lead me to get back to my editing and get the damn book done.  So that it too can be an invisible non-person on Amazon.

And thank you, Smartbitches, for setting up the Google Bomb!

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Amazon is Made of Fail

Posted by rwday on April 12, 2009

A few days back, some authors began to notice that the Amazon rankings for their books had vanished. These are the numbers you find under the basic bibliographic information on Amazon titles that tell how your book is selling in relation to all titles on Amazon, or other books categorized similarly to yours. Authors can use these rankings to get a general idea of sales figures. Readers can use the category rankings to choose books that may be of interest based on other readers’ purchasing decisions.

All well and good. Unless your book is deemed as ‘adult’ by Amazon, then, no rankings information is now being provided. One author asked Amazon why his rankings disappeared and this is what he got back:

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 

From here

Right. Here’s the kicker – adult, to Amazon, seems to be anything categorized as erotica and anything with gay or lesbian content, or at least anything that has been tagged or marketed as gay/lesbian interest. Only not exactly ‘anything,’ as you will see, based on searches of Amazon and Amazon UK.

Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet? Adult. No rankings.

Alan Moore’s Lost Girls? Not adult. Ranking. (This is an adult graphic novel. Trust me on this one.)

Mark Probst’s The Filly, a YA novel dealing with gay themes? Adult. No ranking.

Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love, Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Wolf and the Dove, Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley? Explicit heterosexual romances. Not adult. Ranking.

Alex Beecroft’s False Colours and Erastes’ Transgressions? Explicit gay romances. Adult. No ranking.

Nookii: The Grownup Game for Playful Couples? Not adult. Ranking.

The Dildo Master DVD? Not adult. Ranking.

Realistic White Boy Vibrating Dildo. Not adult. Ranking.

You see what I’m getting at? Tell me why a YA novel about a young man trying to make sense of his sexuality is somehow more offensive than a movie in which the product description finishes with: If you fancy some filthy but fun, top notch German hardcore, you should get your hands on this one.?

Or why Tipping the Velvet, which was Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year for 1999, the New York Times Notable Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award (among other things) is adult and must not show up in searches and rankings, where Lost Girls, in which Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan’s Wendy and Alice from Alice in Wonderland meet up and engage in explicitly drawn lesbian sex is just fine and dandy?

Look, I’m not knocking Lost Girls or any of the rest of these titles that haven’t been affected. My point is that if Amazon’s goal is to protect the kiddies from adult material, they fail. Utterly. Even if you accept that their intentions are good, they’ve set themselves an impossible task. They have thousands of items listed – there is no way they can go through that big a database and evaluate each item for ‘adult’ content. They’re making decisions based on sweeping generalizations and that never, ever ends well.

Amazon might want to take a page from the American Library Association and let parents be the arbiters of what’s appropriate for their children. I’m not big on telling people what to do, but if you buy books from Amazon (or even if you don’t) and feel moved to do so, you can contact them and let them know what you think.

(Note that the information on rankings/lack of rankings is current as of 4/13/2009, and of course may be changed by Amazon without notice. )

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