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Why I’m opting out of KDP Select (or why Amazon needs an appeal process)

This weekend, I broke off my monogamous relationship with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

KDP allows self-published authors to easily and quickly upload their book for sale. When I say quickly and easily, I mean that if everything goes well, from start to finish, you can have your book for sale in about 12 hours with all but 15-20 minutes of that time being completely hands off.

KDP Select gives you several benefits over the regular KDP programs. Your book is available for borrowing by Amazon.com Prime members. You get a small royalty for every book borrowed. In addition, you can take advantage of two promotional opportunities during every 3 month term. The first is a Kindle Countdown deal. For this, you can gradually increase the price of your book over a 7 day period. One of my books, By the Fates, Freed is currently running a Countdown deal. The regular price is $3.99, but on a Countdown deal, the first 48 hours the price is $0.99, the second 48 hours sees the price go up to $1.99, and the third 48 hours sees the price go up to $2.99. After 7 days, the book returns to regular price. The second opportunity allows you to make your book free for 5 days per term. You can only use one promotional opportunity per term.

So why am I now seeing other sellers? Well, it’s pretty simple. I made a mistake and Amazon has no appeal process. Bear with me here while I try to explain.

I just returned from a trip to Italy to research my next book. While there, I suffered from horrible jetlag. I slept at most 4-5 hours per night. I was exhausted. But since my next book’s release date was fast approaching, there were things I had to do while exhausted. One of those things was publishing my book through KDP. I uploaded the file, the cover, created the description, the price, and added contributors. And while I did this, I totally and completely forgot to add myself as one of the contributors. Yes. I take full responsibility for this mistake. In my exhausted mind, I didn’t need to add myself as an author. Of course I’m the author. I’m the one uploading the book. It’s on my author account. Why should I need to add myself manually? It was a mistake and I didn’t catch it. And then I published the book.

The next day, after the 12 hour review process, my book was live in the Kindle store. Great! I clicked the link and realized my mistake because my name wasn’t there on the book’s detail page. Ugh. How in the world didn’t I catch this? Well, no matter. I can fix it. I went back into KDP and added myself as the author. Easy peasy. Clicked Publish and went to sleep. 12 hours later, I got a message that my book had been blocked by KDP for copyright issues.

THE HELL???

All right. I actually understand this. I changed the author of a previously published book. Much of KDP is automated and I have no complaint with the fact that Amazon flagged the update as problematic. My problem is with what happened next. I emailed KDP and explained the entire situation. The jetlag. The mistake. The changes I made. The response I got was this.

We’ve confirmed that your book(s) contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale in the Kindle Store. As stated in our guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what we consider to be appropriate, which includes cover images and content within the book.

If you wish to re-publish your book(s) with content that meets our guidelines, it will need to be submitted as an entirely new ASIN and go through our standard review process. Previous customer reviews, tags, and sales rank information are not transferable because the title will essentially be a different product.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.

To learn more, please see: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I

Okay. Form letters. I get them. They have their purposes. I didn’t agree with their response, but 1st tier technical support isn’t always empowered with full decision making capabilities. I replied, explaining the situation again and asking (politely) both for further details on what guidelines I had supposedly violated and to be connected with a supervisor. And what happened next made me angry. The response to that request?

Publisher feedback is important to us as we strive to improve our services and programs for our publishers.  However, as we have previously stated, your book(s) will not be made available [in the Kindle Store/ on Amazon.com] at this time.  We’re unable to elaborate further on specific details regarding our content guidelines.

If you wish to re-publish your book(s) with content that meets our guidelines, it will need to be submitted as an entirely new ASIN and go through our standard review process. Previous customer reviews, tags, and sales rank information are not transferable because the title will essentially be a different product.

I’m sorry, but we can’t offer any additional insight or action on this matter.

So basically, “you’re screwed”. Amazon is judge, jury, and executioner and if you are found guilty, there is absolutely no appeal.

No system is perfect. No organization is perfect. But to disallow and/or ignore any and all appeals and provide no contact with a supervisor? That is inexcusable in my book. Amazon, you offer a great service for independent authors. But your customer service needs a serious upgrade. I’ll still see you, Amazon. But it’ll be an open relationship. Hence, my decision to start seeing other people. Hello Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. It’s good to meet you. Let’s get to know each other, shall we?

10 Comments

  • akabins Posted March 17, 2014 9:17 am

    I never got into KDP Select as I knew I wanted it sold on other devices (I live in Canada, so Kobo reigns here).

    While I agree that this sucks, I also have to see KDP’s point of view, as they probably have millions of self-pubbed books. It’s an administrative nightmare, to say the least.

    For me, staying exclusive to one platform was never a plus. The benefits aren’t really great unless you happen to hit it big time, unfortunately.

    Thanks for posting! It’s good to let other authors know that what might seem like a good option could end up as a nightmare!

    • Patricia D. Eddy Posted March 17, 2014 9:31 am

      And thanks for commenting! I agree that the number of requests that they get must be enormous, but that’s (in my opinion) all the more reason to have an escalation plan. I’d also suggest to them that they have some additional system checks that could run automatically. For example, in my case, I’d published the hard copy of the book via CreateSpace two weeks earlier and it had been live with the proper author information. They could have compared the Kindle copy to the CreateSpace copy, seen the identical source files, and approved the change. There are always options. They just haven’t implemented them.

      In a perfect world, someone from KDP would see this and implement some additional checks or support options. For example, they could categorize the blocked requests. Blocked for content (which they could continue to ignore appeals as that could be a huge support nightmare) or blocked for copyright (which would have an escalation as it’s a legal issue).

      Anyway, I’m hoping to break into the Canadian market with Kobo soon. 🙂

  • Christy K Robinson Posted July 30, 2015 7:43 am

    I have a different issue with Amazon, but a similar problem with Amazon’s customer service. I’ve sent them emails and “reported abuse” numerous times, and their responses have been canned language similar to what you got.

    There is no appeals process. I want to know why there’s no policy for appeals. I want to get a supervisor with a brain, who doesn’t send boilerplate and yet another link to their “guidelines,” which I have actually quoted back to them. I want to find their legal department and complain to them because I want justice.

    I’m not content to see author forums and blogs that say “Shake it off.” This is a matter of principle.

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