Wow. Yesterday was … just … wow. For those of you who don’t Twitter, or for those who somehow haven’t heard about the #amazonfail debacle … For those of you who did follow it, you’re probably tired reading about it anymore, but I do want to set the record straight about when this whole #amazonfail thing started.

For the past couple days, Storm Grant, a fellow Toronto Romance Writer and Rainbow Romance writer member (Yes, I belong to a group promoting GBLT romances) has been twittering about how her book, Gym Dandy, had recently lost its rankings but she couldn’t figure out why. If you go to Ms. Grant’s twitter page, and scroll down through her posts for the last few days, you’ll see she started talking about it on April 10th.

Yesterday morning, she twittered about a blog post made by Mark R. Probst, author of “The Filly“. Mr. Probst had noticed a few days before that his book had been deranked. (more explanation on rankings a bit later) Mr. Probst finally got an answer from Amazon as to what they’d done. At 2 a.m. April 12th, he posted a screenshot of Amazon’s 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.

(By the way, Mr. Probst’s book is a Young Adult book. There’s nothing graphic about it. It’s not an adult book at all.) Notice in the first screen capture, Storm also names a couple other authors who are affected – Erastes and Alex Beecroft, along with a big name one – Anne Rice’s alter-ego Anne Rampling. (Do make sure you read both Storm’s and Mr. Probst’s blogs, along with the Smart Bitches and Dear Author’s blogs – it’s fascinating reading.)

It first came to MY attention around eight a.m. Sunday morning when Storm Grant twittered about Mark’s post, and we chatted about that a few times. Now, I’d seen people on an author loop talking about their ranking disappearing over at Amazon over the past week or more, so it wasn’t a “wow, look what’s just happened” type of conversation.

A couple minutes later, Angela James twittered about needing ideas for a blog post. I recommended how books – both erotic and GBLT – were being deranked as a possible topic; Storm provided Angela the links. By that time, Storm had added the hashtag #amazonfail to her tweets about it. (For those unfamiliar with Twitter, a hash tag is a way to search posts.) When I checked on the hashtag during that discussion, the #amazonfail page was just that. A single page. And Storm’s post was the very first to twitter about the deranking of books using the #Amazonfail hashtag. I wish I’d got a screenshot of that page, but I didn’t think it would be relevant back then.

A few minutes later, Smart Bitches tweeted the addy to Mr. Probst’s post, the same one Storm had sent to Angela. (I have no idea if Smart Bitches picked up on Storm’s post to Angela or not, I’m just saying it happened at the same time.) Then the whole Twitterverse exploded. By the end of the day, there had been over 63,000+ posts and it was still going strong when I put this up. Publishers, editors, agents, the ladies over at Smart Bitches, and Dear Author, Neil Gaiman, even Demi Moore got into the discussion. Smart Bitches even managed to set up a Google bomb.

Later on Sunday evening, the LA Times posted about it, and I was very interested to read that they seem to want to take credit for starting the trend. That one of their people twittered about it and an hour later everything exploded at about 3 p.m. Um, I don’t think so. See the post to Alex Draven below? That’s the VERY first time the #amazonfail tag was used to discuss the deranking. Who knew that would be the spark that kindled the firestorm. *Snort, I just realized the irony of that term.*

Besides, the topic had been going on for a while amongst GBLT writers, it wasn’t something that just ‘suddenly appeared’ yesterday. That fact seemed to get lost in those thousands of posts. Mr. Probst’s blogpost along with Ms. Grant’s twittering brought it to the fore, Smart Bitches (who have a big following that Storm and most of the other authors involved don’t have) picked it up and it went viral.

Another thing that was lost in the wildfire posting — it wasn’t only GBLT books that were being deranked. Erotic romances are also affected. So authors like Lauren Dane, Jaci Burton, Maya Banks, Shelli Stevens and Kate Pearce, and all the Kensington Aphrodisia authors amongst a myriad of others, have been shunted aside even though they are being equally affected. How were they affected? Well, for one thing, if you searched from the main “All Categories” search engine on Amazon’s front page, their books weren’t showing up. Jaci Burton’s Riding on Instinct which was released this week. Didn’t show up. But wait a minute, you say, you’ve just provided a link to Amazon proving that it IS there. (By the way, did you notice it’s Amazon.CA – so even the Canadian Amazon is being affected?) Thing is, when I did a search from the front page using the “All Categories” search box – yeah, it didn’t show up. I had to actually type in “Jaci Burton’s Riding On Instinct” If I hadn’t known that she had that book released this week, I’d have never found it.

Same as one of Lauren’s doesn’t show up. Same as any Kensington Aphrodisia book. See that screen shot below? I searched for Kensington Aphrodisia on– and lookee here, only 2 books showed up. That’s it. And neither are Kensington Aphrodisias, are they? Starting to see how it might affect an author’s sales? If a reader can’t find the book when they’re searching, they’re not going to be able to buy it.

Now, for a proper explanation of what deranking means and how it affects a book’s visibility and sales, I’m going to bow to the expertise of the ladies over at Dear Author. Go here. (What I really like about that post? It tells you that Amazon’s lame explanation that it was all the result of a glitch, just doesn’t cut it.)

Amazon finally responded late Sunday evening saying that it was a “glitch”. (Personally I can’t say I buy that excuse given that response Mr. Probst was given.) But then again, I’ve seen a lot of posts over the past year about how Amazon’s processes are an absolute mystery even to the publishers. So … it doesn’t excuse them, but it’s no surprise either.

Maybe I’m getting cautious as I’m getting older, but I don’t think all the information is out yet, not enough for me to make an informed judgement. Frankly, it may never be. Nor do I have the contacts that people like the Smart Bitches and Dear Author ladies have. So I’ll let them continue to update us. But in the meantime, it’s been an exceedingly interesting thread to watch this past 24 hours. And an incredibly powerful reminder just how much power the internet has.

Amazon Rank creates an #Amazonfail

2 thoughts on “Amazon Rank creates an #Amazonfail

  • April 13, 2009 at 2:43 am

    Wow, Leah! What a great post. Do you mind if I link to it?

    I only ever wanted more information. We still don’t have a lot to go on.

    But wow. Fear me for I am teh internetz! ;-D (If, you know, the internetz is embodied by a nice, middle-aged humour writer.)

  • April 13, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Storm – feel free to link to it!

    Wasn’t it an amazing thing to watch? And also rather scary?

    LOL about the internetz being embodied by a nice, middle-aged humour writer – I flashed to the Wizard of Oz and the “great and powerful Oz behind the curtain scene” and how little Toto was the one to unveil him.

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