Sunday, April 12, 2009

google-bomb, amazonfail, and a little crucifixion

Happy Easter.

Here's what I woke up to this morning: have stripped my books of their sales rank because of their queer content. This means my books are invisible to search.

This means are literally taking away my livelihood because my books have lesbian characters. This means I might starve. are starving me because I'm a lesbian and write about people like me.

Read a coherent explanation here. (I'm too fucking angry to bother to write it all out). Then go sign the petition here. Then go read about Amazon Rank, and Google-bomb the fuck out of amazon. Also spread the word in any way you can. For example, join #amazonfail, or write to your agent and editor and personal contact at amazon. (I've written to people of VP level and above at Randomhouse, HarperCollins, and Penguin; I've signed the petition; I'm about to Tweet.) This is a bewilderingly idiotic policy that could result in real damage if it's not stopped now.

At the very least, I want a public apology from Jeff Bezos, and I want the resignation of whichever manager OK'd this idiocy. What I really want is a public crucifixion, but I'll settle for knowing the homophobic fool who thought queers don't really matter and weren't worth considering is unemployed and desperately miserable.

I am tired of being the low-hanging fruit that cretins pluck when they need to pander to Moral America. This time, I hope some people choke on their soft fruit.



  1. These people are nuts! I mean, it's THEIR PROFITS that are impacted; adult fiction is one of the best selling genres! I've spread the word too:

  2. Email the Amazon Executive customer service email:, call the customer service phone number: 1-800-201-7575 or login to your Amazon account and visit:

    Don't be outraged - get busy! We *cannot* allow this to remain in place it's foolish for Amazon, and none of us who has struggled so hard to be heard should allow ourselves to be silenced



    ALC Publishing - where the girl always gets the girl.

  3. Nicola--
    I blogged about it and linked to both your post and Kelley's at:

    -- Lisa

    P.S. I also emailed Paul Constant, The Stranger's book editor, to let him know what's going on.

  4. Signed the petition, and here's my personal comment:


    I'm a straight heterosexual man. I tend to see the vast majority of objections to homosexuality as religious in nature. That Amazon should choose to favor the religious views of one group over those of all others is, to me, appalling.

    In addition, it's difficult for me to see how you can justify this to your shareholders given both the raw decline in sales such a policy of excluding titles will bring, combined with the secondary loss of sales from the bad publicity this is sure to engender.

    So... You won't please those to whom this is aimed; you've cut your own revenues; and you've opened yourself to major shareholder lawsuit.

    This is almost straight out of the recent movie "Duplicity" -- it's hard for me to understand how any employee of yours who wasn't secretly working for Barnes & Noble as a mole would approve such a thing.


    -- Hal

  5. Duly noted and signed. I'll post soon on both my blogs.

  6. OK... posted to my LJ, and also to my blog about business stupidity, Not That Kind of Operation. (Extra points to anyone who gets the Black Books reference.) Google-bombing in both locations.

  7. Thanks, Nicola. I've signed, emailed and dispersed the info. What a load of toad's b*lls. I hope Amazon offers an apology for this.

  8. I keep toggling back and forth between your blog and Amazon because I am utterly amazed that this is real. I am sorry for you, Kelley and any other writers who are impacted by this idiotic decision. I signed the petition and will pass this info on.

  9. Woohoo! -- the Google bomb is working: a search on Amazon Rank now brings the new definition up as #2 in search results.

    I posted it on three different blogs, myself.

  10. MAN i hate AMAZON. i've posted this on my own Facebook page and blogged it at as "amazon does not deserve your business".
    thanks, Nicola. Makes my head want to blow up.

  11. Thank you, all. Keep hitting them. We really do need that public apology.

  12. Linked back to here from my blog as this seems to be a good launching place for the advance front...

  13. Signed the petition, of course. What an act of mind-boggling stupidity!

  14. Signed the petition, emailed Amazon, wrote about it on my blog, linked this blog, joined facebook Amazonfail, wrote about it on a message board with Nicola's blog link included. Did I forget anything?

  15. It took me a while to figure out what this was about because I had never even noticed the sales rank figure. I actually had to use my browser's edit feature to search the page, because I didn't initially see the figure under product description. However, now that I've figured it out, I can report that your books have also lost their sales rank on, but Laurie King's Kate Martinelli novels have not. So is it the content that's the issue or the author's sexual identity? Because in King's case, the protagonist is a lesbian, but the author is not.

    Just confirms the fact that I rarely buy books from Amazon; I prefer to deal with Chapters/Indigo, which is at least Canadian-owned. Ironically, I use Amazon primarily to get information about the books I want, which I then order from Chapters. Now I'll stop buying dvd's from them, too.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid...

  16. Apparently it's all "just a glitch":


  17. It's such a nifty little glitch that Queer Universes has (almost) completely disappeared. The only way to find it is to search by ISBN. I'm wondering how they justify claiming that an academic book counts as "adult" content?

  18. This "glitch" took Virginia Woolf's Orlando into Amazon's "Adult" category. No sex in the book; not even a gay character! You have to work hard to find some justification for this.

  19. Oh Nicola, what a dangerous, smelly large pile of horse apples! I signed the petition and e-mailed all my friends to do the same. I don't want Amazon to go under, because they sell a lot of books for people who need them sold, but I do want them to STOP and APOLOGIZE.

  20. Done, also. What amazon did is too stupid for words.

  21. Spread this one far and wide:

    Oh, I think there's something even MORE insidious going on here: it looks like it's partly what everyone fears (censorship by a private company) AND Amazon trying to boost Kindle sales:

    Why do i believe this:

    Running with Scissors: a Memoir in paperback, NO SALES RANK.

    Running with Scissors: a Memoir in Kindle, WITH SALES RANK.

    hat tip to lj user "storm_grant"

    see which books which don't have sales rankings in their hard copy, still do in their kindle versions.

  22. Hi Nicola,

    This is the email I've received from Amazon as a response to my complaint. I'm hoping they'll follow up fixing the problem with a public and sincere apology. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my favourite authors reinstated and hope you're having a bit better day today.



    Thank you for contacting

    This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

    It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

    Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

    Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.


    Customer Service Department

  23. Let's not let this issue die. Once I got over being dumbfounded that my books had been disappeared by Amazon for their lesbian content, I realized (and was dumbfounded again) that they could also have been targeted for their feminist content.

    I'm still mulling this over on my blog:

  24. Amazon wants to be the online Wal-Mart. I think they're well on their way to that goal. This means they can and will make any policy they feel will increase their revenue. It also means they will be as transparent, or not, as they feel is consistent with their goals.

    Frankly, the only thing we can do about this is to change the world--to change the way the world views words like 'lesbian' and 'gay' and 'feminist' and 'disability' and 'erotic' and 'queer' and all those other categories.

    And we begin by speaking out, speaking up. Not hiding--not hiding our fears and our dreams as well as our thoughts.

    The world is changing. Slowly. We simply have to keep pushing, keep the stone rolling.

  25. Something tells me this may have been a hack attack by a homophobic troll looking for trouble to cause, or most possibly-quelle stunner-it may just be a glitch after all!

    Here's a view of the situation from a worker at Amazon:

    I worked at Amazon for many years, and I can guarantee you, absolutely and unconditionally, that Amazon did not intend to de-list all GLBT material. The entire company is filled with liberals such as myself, and the checks-and-balances system would make it impossible for a "rogue" manager or executive to do this secretly (plus it would be a guaranteed career ender for that individual.)

    I have personally worked on the problem of adult material showing up in inappropriate places (like when searching for "bambi" or "rabbit"), and the problem is more complex than anyone could possibly realize without having inside information about Amazon's systems. Amazon stocks tens of millions of books, and it would be impossible to manage all of those manually, so they write software to do it. But it's impossible to write software which flawlessly manages tens of millions of books with human-level comprehension and attention given to each one.

    Every time Amazon makes a high-profile mistake, it seems like it launches a hundred conspiracy theories. All these conspiracy theories are wrong, because they all start with the assumption of a deliberate act. I personally have made an innocent mistake which adversely affected a certain class of books (I won't tell you which), and it sparked accusations of prejudice and censorship from that community. The accusations were of course wrong; it's just that the particular programming error I made happened to adversely affect their books far more than any others, and non-programmers have trouble understanding how this could be anything other than a deliberate act (especially when Amazon refuses to explain what really happened).

    I really, really wish I could tell everyone why adult content has to be singled out and suppressed. It's not for the reason anyone would think; it's really more of a technical issue. But I signed an NDA. So it will have to suffice for me to say that, without manual suppression, the adult content would slowly but inexorably take over, sort of like a virus. Eventually it would reach the point where you could do a search for "violin", and the first ten pages of results would be adult content. Every adult book or video in the world with "violin" in its title or description would appear at the top of the results list (and not because they sell well).

  26. anon, I don't put much stock in 'I could tell explain everything but then I'd have to kill you' inside information. Especially from people I don't know.

    I'm not a conspiracy theorist, either.

    I do believe Amazon owes a lot of people an apology. I believe we'll never get one. If there were another online store just 75% as good as Amazon, I'd ditch them in a heartbeat. Arrogance really pisses me off.

    But for now Amazon is what we've got.