The Mental State of M. Todd Henderson by Elaine Ash

The Mental State of M. Todd Henderson

by Elaine Ash


As the purge of conservative and libertarian pundits roils You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and anywhere speech is supposedly free, M. Todd Henderson and his political thriller Mental State fight an uphill battle to release in October.

In late 2015, I was hired as a freelance editor by Mr. Henderson, a law professor at the University of Chicago. His book, Mental State,  is based on the real-life partially unsolved murder of Florida law professor Dan Markel. In the book, the murder is pinned on the wrong perp.

By 2017, the manuscript was ready, and we pitched agents across New York. Queries received instant responses. Eager emails came back exclaiming at how exciting the story was… until, one by one, each agent reached the part about the corrupt, female Democrat president sitting in the White House. Presto! The agents reversed out and vanished like Manhattan werewolves under a waning moon.

Finally, a conservative-friendly agent came onboard. The story went out to acquiring editors at all the majors and quickly received an offer from Regnery, publishers of Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Bill O’Reilly and many others. But Regnery’s parent-company Salem Media Group intervened. The acquiring editors were told to stand down and the offer was rescinded with no explanation.

Into the void galloped Down and Out Books, to scoop up the rights. Ben Shapiro, Kurt Schlichter and Adam Liptak of the New York Times all blurbed the story enthusiastically. But Publishers Weekly declined to review, although other Down and Out titles were accepted. Never mind, Mental State was made available on pre-order through Amazon, and hundreds of eager purchasers responded. Inexplicably, Mental State was pulled from pre-order a few weeks ago. Amazon “lost” 100 customers, and the pre-order algorithm was interrupted. It happened to a few other authors, too, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, although no one has a clear explanation for what caused the snafu.

Meanwhile, roughly around the same time at the beginning of August, Professor Henderson sparked a Twitter tumult when he dared to compare the merits of Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. UChicago’s own student newspaper, Patheos, called Henderson a racist. Above the Law blog called him “dumb.” Even Newsweek and the Washington Post weighed in. Last Monday morning, he walked into his office to find forty-five harassing voicemails, including death threats.

It was suggested to the professor that he apologize and take down his Twitter account, which was to be a major source of book promotion. The university brought in a PR team. When Henderson submitted written answers to a planned L. A. Times Review of Books interview conducted by thriller author Anthony Franze, tension skyrocketed. Changes to the long-finished book were requested. [Will the changes include removing the culpability of the female, democrat president?  Ellen Asher did not say so, but I bet you. They really care about the narrative, even in fiction – SAH] Whispers circulated that Mental State would “ruin his career forever.”

Is it just me, or do there seem to be a whole lot of untimely coincidences and gale force headwinds stopping Mental State from reaching its audience?

mental state


“Exciting and compulsively readable, Mental State marks the entrance of a striking new talent on the thriller scene. Todd Henderson’s confident debut draws the reader into the unfamiliar worlds of academia, the law, and backroom politics, while providing a fresh take on more familiar thriller ground like the world of law enforcement. The Professor’s murder mystery delivers the rough and tumble goods, and it will leave readers wanting more.” —Kurt Schlichter, lawyer and bestselling author

Mental State is fascinating, detailed, and a pure page-turner. It’s a must-read if you love the country, the Supreme Court, or just a book that will keep you up at night.” —Ben Shapiro, public intellectual, talk-show host, and bestselling author


“Todd Henderson has written a taut, suspenseful and powerfully entertaining legal thriller against the backdrop of a transformative Supreme Court nomination and baroque academic intrigue, which he describes with convincing details and an insider’s knowledge.  The novel moves at breakneck pace, as a rogue agent uses forensics, guile and not a little force to make sense of the mysterious murder of his brother.”

—Adam Liptak, New York Times
“Try as I might, I could not put Mental State down. It’s terrific. At times hilarious, always interesting, and in parts truly disturbing. I loved it.” —Michael Seidman, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

Elaine Ash edits the novels of career authors as well as emerging talent. A defender of the right to free expression, she serves writers of all political stripes. Her nonfiction book, Bestseller Metrics: How to Win the Novel Writing Game, is also a patent-pending software in development for the publishing industry.

**Update from Elaine Ash** This from Eric Campbell, publisher at Down and Out Books, “”No, the [publication] date was not changed.
Amazon knew who pre-ordered because they sent emails canceling the order. Todd received those emails directly from the folks he knows.
I have zero insight in who or how many were pre-ordered. It’s Amazon’s system, not mine.”
UPDATE FROM SARAH HOYT: and before the Amazon paranoiacs get going, yep, it is possible ONE person at Amazon did that.  It’s also possible that a glitch did it.  And no, once the order is cancelled it can’t be recovered.  Not because Amazon doesn’t know what they are (of course it does) but because legally it can’t re-order for people.  I’ve been on the other side of this, both as a client and as a writer, and I know.


92 thoughts on “The Mental State of M. Todd Henderson by Elaine Ash

  1. Amazon is run by California liberals. Even if the upper management refuse to censor books, the middle managers will make “mistakes” like this one that amount to the same thing. Even if they get fired, they will.

    I think we underestimate the sheer, blind panic among Lefties now. We worried that Obama had the Big Red Button, because he’s basically a spiteful narcissist.

    They don’t worry about that. They worry that Trump will have another Supreme Court pick soon. That’s the nuclear weapon to them. Because government is their church, and the Supreme Court is their savior. Trump can do something so much worse than drop the Big One on some commies, he can reverse Roe Vs. Wade!!! He can reverse gun control!

    Its the end of the world!!!! Eleventy!

    And that is why Mr. Henderson can’t get his book out. I would not be amazed to see the printer get attacked by Antifa, or that there might be a mysterious fire at the distribution warehouse. Or even the shipment getting “lost” by some lower level cog in the distribution gears.

    Time to raise the Jolly Roger, my friends.

    1. Two things. First, it is publishers doing their best not to let the book out into the reading world. Go back and read the post again. Note how changes are being requested. That’s not from Amazon but from the publisher. Second, regarding the pre-orders, the post is silent on whether it was an Amazon screw up or if it was something instigated by the publisher. Just because something happened on Amazon, it doesn’t mean Amazon is at fault. (And no, I don’t think Amazon is pure as the driven snow. I know it makes mistakes and authors often are caught up in those mistakes. Been there, done that.)

    2. No, Amazon doesn’t work that way. I was a senior manager, and I worked closely with the books guys. I’m very confident on this point. Also, I followed the link, and the book is definitely available for pre-order either for Kindle or for the paperback, so whatever the problem was, it’s been fixed. Also, the catalog team (which I was part of) makes of point of not deleting anything (barring special circumstances), so restoring those cancelled pre-orders should have been a routine matter.

      The amount of software that supports Amazon’s platform is enormous, and from time to time problems do occur. This sounds to me like a bug with unfortunate timing. When people are shooting at you, it’s easy to imagine that everyone is conspiring against you, but not in this case.

      I’d also question the idea that a corrupt female president was an issue for publishers. “Seven Eves,” by Neal Stephenson, also has a corrupt, murderous female president, and no one complained about that. If this story laid it on too thick (e.g. her husband had been president and she had a special e-mail server and her name was “Killary Hinton”), then it would be message fiction, and I’d understand publishers and agents passing on it, but it’d still make no sense that they bought it without reading it and then cancelled it when they did read it. Something about this story just doesn’t add up.

      From the Kindle Sales rank, the book certainly isn’t hurting for buyers (even just preorders). Perhaps that’s the point.

      1. Greg. I’m pretty sure that Seven Eyes was published prior to early November, 2016, when the ape-shittening in question got going. People are reading stuff a wee bit differently these days. One could argue that Kratman’s State of Disorder would not be publishable in the current environment. Which had a corrupt female president who was nuts in the way that HRC is nuts, to the best of Kratman’s ability to discover and depict.

          1. I have this suspicion that The Last Centurion is what gave one of the more socialist editors at Baen cancer. Or at least heartburn.
            And Baen, should it wish to continue to survive, must publish a few of their more notable cash cows, John being one.
            And consider, TLC was written in 2008 when HRC was considered a likely candidate for POTUS until little BHO came along.

      2. Greg Hullender said: “No, Amazon doesn’t work that way. I was a senior manager, and I worked closely with the books guys. I’m very confident on this point. Also, I followed the link, and the book is definitely available for pre-order either for Kindle or for the paperback, so whatever the problem was, it’s been fixed. Also, the catalog team (which I was part of) makes of point of not deleting anything (barring special circumstances), so restoring those cancelled pre-orders should have been a routine matter.”

        Greg, I’m sure you’re right about Amazon, and how it is set up to work. I’m sure that the management team is doing things in a businesslike fashion.

        But I also know that big companies have factions. The bigger the company, the more numerous and more entrenched the factions.

        Here’s today’s examples to the point, large media/Internet companies where the Leftist political factions overpowered the business side and the technical side too:

        That’s Media Research Center of course, lots of people like our usual trolls will laugh and point at the use of this link. I’m not posting it as “proof” of wrongdoing, I’m using it as an indication that hard questions are being asked out there, and the answers coming back are not good. There is no question that Twitter and YouTube are censoring conservatives, they’ve admitted it already. PJ Media already did the research on Google, they are twisting search results on certain subjects to benefit one political faction over another.

        In my example article, Amazon is not mentioned. That’s good. Amazon seems to be behaving like a proper company should in a free country.

        So far.

        But Mr. Henderson’s book is having issues at the publishers in a big, big way. He did have an issue at Amazon. Maybe a legitimate issue. I have zero evidence to the contrary, and as you say they cleaned it up quick. So, we can safely relax about Amazon censoring conservatives as a company policy.

        For now.

        But to be clear, there are very large pressures on the Amazon management team from the top down, both internal and external. The same class and culture of people who work at Amazon also work at Google, Apple, Twitter, etc. The same big political money calling the top guys at twitter and Google are calling the top guys at Amazon. They are in a vice, getting squeezed from the employee Leftist faction and the external Leftist faction.

        That’s why I’m saying we start raising Hell -now.- Before they actually do it. They should be MORE worried about what’s going to happen to their jobs and their company if they piss the conservatives off than they are about the Liberals.

        We just watched Facebook take a huge hit on the stock market two weeks or so ago. They lost more money in one day than anybody ever lost before in the market. Part of it was they missed big on their numbers, because of people leaving their service. Amazon should be afraid of that. How we make them afraid is by letting them know “errors” on conservative books will be widely publicized.

        I can’t get at PajamaBoy in his little cubicle. The management has to do that. If we give them sufficient reason, they will take care of him. But if they think nobody cares, they’ll ignore his little “mistakes.” It will become de-facto impossible for a conservative to get published on Amazon the same as they can’t get published in NYC. That’s all “mistakes” and “taste” as well, isn’t it?

        1. A few points: The pre-orders have not been restored. My last update was that no one can explain why this happened (and the origination may be LSI but it’s not confirmed) and those orders are lost. As in gone, can’t be found. Pre-order has been restored in some but not all regions. For example, I can pre-order here in Los Angeles but up until yesterday one could not pre-order in Chicago. I will update as news comes in.

          1. That’s fun. Sounds buggy enough to be a legit bug, but so fortunate for certain parties. Still with any bug -somebody’s- ox gets gored.

    3. “Amazon is run by California liberals.”

      You have to admire their endurance of the grinding commute all the way to Seattle.

        1. It really is a state of mind as well as a state of geography. Not all California liberals live in CA, and not all of the actual state is as badly afflicted with the mindset.

      1. Amazon HQ is in Seattle. Amazon has a -large- campus in Silicon Valley.

        The difference between a Seattle liberal and a California liberal is humidity. Seattle is wet.

      2. Because the term “Californicated” to describe their migration while remaining CA liberals has never been used EVAH.

  2. No, no political override of editorial selections there . . . just a coincidence, and another coincidence . . . move along, nothing to see here.

    This is why Indie will break the bias of the big publishers. Or just break the big five (or however many.)

    Of course, the author has to make that first difficult mental leap into Indie . . .

    1. I was thinking that, too. And he already has the beginnings of a major media storm over the book; the kind of PR most indies would kill for.

      I think many authors get trapped by, “I sent off the last piece, and now it’s DONE!” All they have to do it sit around and wait for the checks. Unless they’re a Big Name, when their agent will call to discuss promotional tours. But with indie, they’re maybe 3/4 done, with the last part stretched out piecemeal over years; an indie book is a *process* instead of a single task to be completed.

    2. There’s a larger platform issue though, Pam. Where ya gonna Indie when PajamaBoy deep in the bowels of the Amazon Cubicle Farm finds you are a Conservative and keeps pushing the delete button?

      Or Google stops listing you in search? They’re already doing that.

      1. Phantom, other than stuff like yeah real Nazis, and yes, I know that’s a problem, but I also imagine how besieged they were. It must be fought, but it’s not …
        Look, every conservative I know still has his books up and is still selling. Yeah, they removed books, but TRUST ME ON THIS that has nothing to do with politics, because the left lists I belong to are complaining of the same.
        Just because Megan Fox listened to paranoid people and decided Amazon was weeding out conservatives, it doesn’t make it so.
        Amazon has a problem with its robots and crawlers — they usually do when they first try something new, but they tend to fix it — but it’s not actively removing non-left NOVELISTS. And it’s not policing at this level of plot.

        CAN Amazon become a problem? Sure. And I’d dearly love to see them get some competition, but let me tell you as someone who has been putting her back list out indie out since 2011, no one else is TRYING to compete. I have a plan for an online venue, but a) I don’t have start up capital (not insurmountable) b) people don’t want to take their stuff out of KULL (nor do I) till the other venue is proven, which it can’t be because…
        But if Amazon becomes a real problem, removing people like Henderson and me? I’m sure I’m not the only one that can have something running in a couple of months.

        Take no counsel of your fears. This way and assuming everything is the left shutting us out, lie “microaggressions” and panic over the slightest thing. Don’t panic and don’t be a pessimist. Observe and plan.

        I know you’re in deepest, socialistic Kanukistan, but trust me, your panic at Amazon is unwarranted. The left is flailing around and hating on Amazon, and if the right joins them YOU’ll strangle indie. Please don’t. At this point it’s the only avenue I have.

        FOR NOW indie is the way to escape this crap. Tomorrow we’ll see.
        And yes, like you I know they’re in a blind panic. They’re also showing their hand. I know stuff like this has happened for decades behind the scenes. I’ve had it happen to me. Do you think it’s a coincidence my “french revolution and its evils” which are by and large the evils of communism, was delayed twice, losing all its pre-orders TWICE and then coming out without a place in the catalogue? Yes, even there where I didn’t expect it. But the house is not solidly,nor even majority conservative. No publishing house is. They all hire from each other.

        But the reason in the end we win, they lose is that the tech is going our way. The USSR was brought to its knees by typewriters and mimeographs, and destroyed from within by FAXES.

        They can’t stop us, they can merely make us pause and inconvenience us.

        BE NOT AFRAID.

        1. Sarah, please see my answer to Greg Hullender above for elucidation. I’m just saying if we threaten to punch them in the face now, we can avoid artillery fire later. Or something. ~:D I’m still on full after-burner here.

          1. Sure, but please realize what you’re saying is impossible to execute because of how many of us there are are. Hell, they can ban names and make you rebuild your audience, but you get a DBA, a tax # and you’re back in the game.

            1. ” Hell, they can ban names and make you rebuild your audience, but you get a DBA, a tax # and you’re back in the game.”

              Except that your score reset. When they keep handicapping you, you will lose the game.

              (Am reading a book about the Russian Revolution and it’s comparing it to the French Revolution — or rather the run-ups to both, which were characterizing by intelligentsia ruthlessly ostracizing and ridiculing anyone who did not toe the party line, to silence them.)

      2. Listen to Sarah. 🙂 I’ll just add that the cost to Amazon of doing what you’re describing would be colossal. Actually paying people to read millions of books, rate them for politics, and then censor them would require a huge team of people and a good bit of software infrastructure. Amazon is almost never willing to pay for that; it wants everything automated.

        A rogue individual could do something like that on a one-time basis. I did one time (and only one time) see something (an act by someone in customer service) that looked a lot like sabotaging a rival vendor’s product page. But it was a lot more subtle than just deleting someone’s page, and the person in question had already been fired at the point I reported it. In hindsight, it was probably incompetence, not malice. (I.e. the customer support person shouldn’t have made a chance to a page based on a complaint from a competitor. That was dumb.)

        Also, very few employees have access to the sort of tools that can edit the catalog directly, and the system logs each instance. (My team owned the Authoritative Change Tool [ACT], so I’m very much an expert on this one.) A malicious programmer could probably find a way around it, but anyone caught doing what you describe would get the boot at once.

        1. Greg Hullender said: “I’ll just add that the cost to Amazon of doing what you’re describing would be colossal.”

          As much as what Facebook lost on the market the other day? Just saying.

          I do agree that a full-court press against conservative works would be prohibitive. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

          I’m talking about the Death of One Thousand Cuts where everything is juuuust a little harder, takes juuuust a little longer, oops we had a glitch that cost you a week of uptime so sorry, and etc.

          I’m talking about Hugo nominated books showing up in the “Suggestion” bar 20% more often than Dragon nominees.

          Any author called a RAAAACIST!!! by the Southern Policy Law Center has to go through a special vetting process, for which there is a small fee.

          Little stuff. Things that could be done invisibly, at a lower level than the Boardroom, that would just make things economically unattractive to a conservative author.

          I want them to be thinking how much -that- could cost them in the next three years, instead of thinking about all the clever ways they can do it. Every time something like that comes up in conversation, where some Antifa sympathizer mentions “we could really screw them if we did X to the sorting algo,” I want the other guy to whisper “Sshhhh! The walls have ears!”

            1. Yeppers, AI primary filter would still generate millions of hits each requiring a review by a fluent English speaker, not some job shopper in Sri Lanka.
              And once it’s known to be happening, whatever shall we do? What we always do; go over, under, around, through, or hide in plain sight. Thousands if not millions would see such censorship as a challenge and an opportunity to mess with authority.
              All the left has is Antifa, our side has nerds.

            2. Sarah said: “They’d have to hire an army of Americans to do it, and even then.”

              I agree with you, and I’m not saying Amazon is doing it.

              But we are having this conversation in an atmosphere where this is the headline on Drudge right now:


              I read your link to Mike’s comment at your blog today, and I agree with that too. It will be hard to write AI to filter conservative content out of book-length text.

              But the assumption both you and Mike are making is that they -care- about staying in business. Three major companies (but not Amazon) are doing what we’re talking about right now. They’re doing it.

              As Mike says, they’re doing it badly. Everyone can see them, it is obvious and sloppy, they are losing customers very fast, and their stock prices are getting pummeled. It is costing them millions.

              But they’re still doing it.

              That’s all I’m saying. (That, and baying at the moon like a werewolf. Aaawooooo!!!!)

              1. Predictions are hard–especially about the future. 🙂 However, I’m quite confident that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon are all very focused on staying in business.

                Here’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind: if you wanted to create a classifier to identify “offensive” text (given your preferred definition of offensive), you could probably get something that was 80% accurate without making a moon-shot out of it. To deal with that last 20%, each time you cut it in half, you up the cost by a factor of 10. So to get 10% error, you’re talking a project that would need funding. 5% would need major funding. 2.5% would need Federal funding. (Or just imagine a team working on it for decades, as with speech recognition).

                But to do what you’re talking about, it would have to have an error rate under 1%. I’ve been in meetings at Amazon where we talked about filters to catch outright fraud, and management wouldn’t even consider something that would erroneously reject even 1 submission in 1,000.

                All Amazon cares about is pleasing its customers. There’s an established market for fiction for conservatives, and there’s no way Amazon would walk away from that. And I think they’d just laugh at the “people with money” who might try to apply pressure. People already run around saying “Don’t buy from Amazon! They’re evil, evil, evil!” No one cares. No one is going to care.

                I can’t speak for Facebook or Twitter, but I know Google prides itself on delivering the results its customers want to see. That doesn’t mean ML algorithms can’t lead you astray sometimes (like the algorithm a friend of mine developed to distinguish trucks from tanks that failed because it figured out that all the tank pix were taken in the morning, all the truck pix were taken in the afternoon, and so it just learned to look at which way the shadows pointed. It worked 100% in the lab but scored at the chance level in the field, of course.) But it does mean I seriously doubt anyone at Google is deliberately trying to disadvantage conservative web sites based on their content. No one with any influence, anyway.

                1. Google prides itself on providing the results customers want to see as long as they are carefully curated to remove icky subjects like firearms, the military, military history, conservatism, non-‘progressive’ versions of history, etc…. (Remember: YouTube = Google. Actions like the silencing of dozens of gun channels and Conservative talk channels on YouTube are, pure and simple, approved by Google. Suppression of conservative search results by Google is too widespread to not be deliberate.)

                  1. I did some simple searches on things like “beginner rifle” and “learning to shoot a rifle” and the results seemed reasonable to me. I didn’t look close to verify that these sites cited all the gun safety rules I learned from my grandfather, which is, of course, required for a site to be a good site. 🙂 But they looked okay.

                    Now “crackpot” sites do have problems, but those stem from a lot of different sources. When I worked for Live Search (now Bing), we created a “junk page” filter to find pages that customers wouldn’t want to see. We trained a maximum-entropy classifier, and gave it all the attributes we could think of that were associated with bad pages.

                    It did an excellent job, and, being a max-ent classifier, we could look at which features got the most “energy.” Top of the list was whether the word “f*ck” (or any form of it) appeared anywhere on the page. Number two (if I remember right) was whether a triple exclamation point occurred anywhere on the page. Fraction of the page in all caps was (I think) another. None of these was enough, by itself, to cause us to discard a page, but combinations of just a few hundred features were enough to filter out most of the true junk.

                    These days, I know Google attempts to rate the quality of the pages they display, looking for things far beyond the simple things in Microsoft’s old junk-page filter from the early 2000s. Is it possible that some of the conservative sites you’re thinking about have an unprofessional look to them? Or even that they simply haven’t done proper search-engine optimization? (Which can cost money if you don’t know how to do it yourself.) Some sites have errors in their robots.txt file that keep them from being indexed at all.

                    A site that’s poorly built with lots of ads and/or affiliate links, lots of exclamation points, capital letters, and profanity is going to score poorly, regardless of its politics. If there’s nothing else to show, then, yes, it should turn up in the results, but it’ll likely be behind anything that looks more professional.

                    It’s possible that Google is (on purpose or otherwise) discriminating against conservative sites, but you do need to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples here.

                    1. Try doing some research into Twitch, Facebook, Google and YouTube suppressing conservative and libertarian sites and views, videos and search results instead of sitting around denying it happens. Do you think that Trump is making it up just because you disagree with him? Or do you think I am making it up?

                    2. It’s anecdotal, but a couple days ago a gent came to an area of Baen’s Bar looking for some advice on low recoil .45acp ammo. His Google search returned no usable links. I ran a similar search using my preferred search engine, ixquick, and got two pages with at least 20 links to useful information.

          1. Good points and I would add, maybe even at #1, the demoralizing factor to fledgling writers who are thinking of fresh, exciting stories and just give up when they hear stuff like this. Todd Henderson has a wife and three children. Would he have worked for two years writing MENTAL STATE if he knew it was going to lead death threats? When he got the offer from Regnery, the family actually enjoyed a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Then ZIP, the deal was withdrawn. If we don’t cry foul and scream about this from the rooftops, these tactics win the day.

            1. Hi Ash, sorry to hear all this guff you guys have to go through.

              I live in Canada. This year, the Liberal Party of Canada seems as if they might very much like to make conservative views on immigration and other things -illegal-. They have the power to do it. They have the means to do it. All that they may lack is the stones.

              If I’m a little testy that has something to do with it.

        2. The concern I have is not that Amazon will do what you describe, Mr. Hullender, but that they will both use an algorithm and react to ‘controversies’. The algorithms active among many platforms have shown a clear path to abuse by those who want to shut out their ideological opponents by mass reporting, which, even when it doesn’t get the accounts/books/authors taken down, does seem to get those accounts put on a watch list wherein every thing they do after that is more closely scrutinized. Anybody being watched closely will do something that someone, somewhere, won’t like or will object to, making it more likely that they can then be ‘fairly’ targeted by the companies.

          ‘Controversies’ are the other big avenue of potential interference. You don’t like an author? Gin up a controversy. Get some reporter/blogger friends to report on it. Get your friends to blow it up on social media. Keep up the pressure. After a while the flame burns hot enough that even a large company like Amazon has to react. Up to now they’ve mostly reacted properly (by ignoring the nonsense) but what we’ve seen in the last few months from other companies that are similar to Amazon in many ways does not fill me with confidence.

          Back to algorithms, I can easily see algorithms being used by ideological actors to move recommendations around. Not saying that they do that at the moment, but, again, we have seen other similar companies do similar things so I definitely see it as something to keep watch out for and call shenanigans on if it does happen.


          1. Amazon doesn’t typically respond to “controversies” though, particularly not when someone is trying to tell them to quit serving their customers. Exceptions involve cases where the company did hear from enough customers, but those are awfully rare. A Twitter storm involving a few hundred or even a few thousand people wouldn’t do it.

            1. Which is why even historical books and history recreating video games with the Confederate flag in them got censored off the platform. Pull the other one.

                1. Sarah,

                  Let me preface this by reminding you that this is my day job, and you know who I do it for.

                  1. The state of the tech my employer is showing us right now would astound you. I’m not violating NDAs to show details.
                  2. Stupid publisher tricks: That process involves the publisher sending a transaction. It’s checked for validity to standard, X12 usually, when the file is built, then sent off to Amazon. Amazon does two levels of validation, one to make sure the incoming file meets X12 standards, then again when it pulls it into its’ own internal format. If either of them fails, a message is sent back. If that process works for ANY of that publisher’s transactions, it’s working for all of them. Even if a message gets dropped, there’s a control sequence. If the previous message made it, and the subsequent made it, there’s a gap which is detectable.

                  Bottom line: The odds that neither Amazon or the publisher can find those pre-orders are about the same as Obama’s campaign donation site accidentally disabling its’ credit card verification in both 2008 and 2012.

                  1. Dear snelson134,
                    Tears are in my eyes again reading your answer. Thank you so much for your kind response.

                    1. Ma’am, like I said, electronic commerce is what I make my living doing, for a Big 5 IT consulting firm. Amazon is one of our few competitors, and they’re generally considered to be competent. There’s NO WAY that they’ve managed to fail to record the transaction records for receiving those pre-orders for just your book. Hell, even if they had managed to screw something up, the odds are that it would have affected every transaction with that publisher, and there WILL BE a log file and audit trail just so they can track it down themselves and debug it.

                    2. Thank you Nelson. I really appreciate you speaking up and your valuable input. It all helps in getting to the truth.

                  2. All you have to do to screw it up is change the date of publication for an hour, then change it back. Amazon drops all pre-orders when you change the date of publication.
                    Why, yes, my publisher told me they had no idea that would happen.
                    Remember this is my job in indie, and I see the other side and know what happens.

                    1. Yep. That could happen. Will it happen without a log file and audit trail, to meet this condition:

                      “Amazon knew who pre-ordered because they sent emails canceling the order. Todd received those emails directly from the folks he knows.
                      I have zero insight in who or how many were pre-ordered. It’s Amazon’s system, not mine.”

                      No way.

      3. If I could find him again I would share the url to demonstrate to you that Google actually does disappear people who someone therein has convicted of double plus UnGoodBadThinkers.

        I stumbled upon his site as a result of idly surfing links looking for custom build things like computers combined with some survival blog stuff cut my interest. Like Oz it’s un-mappable. If you don’t have the url it’s not Google-able. I checked at the time. The guy was bemused by it, but the site was a hobby and he didn’t really care.

        There’s no appeal. And poof! You’re gone.

        The numerical phantom is correct, and you’re not paranoid. That’s why Mrs. Greene’s advice is absolutely critical: Be sweet as pie, take it up the chain, never give up. Steel hand, velvet glove. And Mrs. Hoyt. Shut up and *build* alternatives.

        I like the Norse/Ragnarok model myself. And who knows? We might win.

    3. Pretty much this. As an indy author with an account at LSI – the publishing world is my oyster. Of course, it’s a pretty tiny oyster – but it’s MINE!

        1. Lightning Source, Intl. The print and fulfillment side of Ingram (the distributors.) I have an account because of being partner (now owner) in a Teeny Publishing Bidness since about 2009. LSI is more oriented toward publishing entities – but in the last couple of years, they have set up a program more oriented towards individual independent authors: Ingram Spark.

            1. You are welcome. As part of the Teeny Publishing Bidness, I have some clients whom I have walked through setting up their book at Create Space or at Ingram Spark. I did a check list for them, outlining what to expect if you are going indy on your own book, with my assistance, or on your own.


              1. I observe that CreateSpace is vanishing: it’s now going to the Kindle Direct Publishing program with automatic migration.

                Payment period is now 60 days from the month, not 30.

              2. Ingram Spark is a great company if you want to generate print books at a decent cost. They even offer a path to bookstores for hardcopy, though the bookstores must enter the request.
                I do strongly recommend though that if you intend your main source of sales to be e-books you decline Ingram’s kind offer to handle all that for you. If you upload an e-book in mobi format to Amazon the Zon splits the proceeds with you 70/30 with you getting the large end with the payments delayed 30 days from the end of the prior month. Go through IS and split is 40/30/30 and IS keeps your payment minus their 30% for 90 days.

  3. I am so moved by the support and caring of Mad Genius readers. Pre-orders, too. I’m knocked out. Thank you, Sarah Hoyt, for what feels like saving my world. I feel safer for speaking out about what’s happening. Elaine Ash

    1. Thank you for sharing this with us. We appreciate hearing about it.

      Have you tried to get Kratman to review? Tom’s a former lawyer, a solid novelist, and might have some interest in the book.

      Kurt and Ben’s reviews are sufficient to convince me this might be of interest.

      1. Why, thank you for this terrific suggestion. I’ll do that. Keep ’em comin’. 🙂 Elaine

    2. I know Sarah welcomed you and thanked you for the great post, but let me do the same. Loved the post and glad our readers are rallying around the flag, so to speak.

  4. “Eager emails came back exclaiming at how exciting the story was… until, one by one, each agent reached the part about the corrupt, female Democrat president sitting in the White House. Presto! The agents reversed out and vanished like Manhattan werewolves under a waning moon.”

    This reminds me: Last month, I was reading two books at the same time, and both featured Trump-bashing as part of the backstory.

    One was traditionally published: “A Study in Honor,” a near-future take on Holmes and Watson using two lesbian black women. The near-future setting has as its backstory a civil war ignited after a Trump-like president was replaced by a progressive, who instituted undescribed “stricter” gun control. (The book, BTW, was written by a nice white liberal mother of two daughters, so I guess we won’t be hearing about cultural appropriation here.)

    The other was John Birmingham’s “Girl in Time,” a time-travel novel in which the old Western lawman and his Seattle-based girl programmer sidekick end up in a Seattle in which Trump somehow suspends civil liberties, turns Homeland Security into jackbooted thugs, and eliminates most of the media. (Birmingham was trad published until he was dropped by his publisher, so this is his attempt at getting back into the game via self-publishing.)

      1. I read (and reviewed) a Pyr book with a lunatic, dumb-as-rocks Alaskan President and wanna-be-genocider called something like Haras Nilap (I kid you not) No problems with anyone objecting to that.

      1. That’s where it’s fuzzy. The orders originated with LSI. They were sent to Amazon but they are neither with LSI or Amazon now. That’s why the publisher is being told that those orders are gone. Over 100 people received emails saying they would have to repurchase the book. This is how Henderson and the publisher found out about it–when personal friends and colleagues of the professor forwarded their emails.

  5. ***NEW INFO JUST IN***
    80% of Down and Out titles are reviewed by Publishers Weekly but they “declined to review” MENTAL STATE. M. Todd Henderson has three other books published, two from the prestigious Cambridge University Press (U.K.)

  6. Trump’s a “Nazi”, a “Hitler”, but The Left are International-Fascists through and through.

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