In this corner, one of the largest companies that currently exists: Amazon. In the opposite corner? Me.
For those of you who may not know, I had to do battle with Amazon since they yanked my books and cancelled my author account. If you’re curious enough to be here ’cause you’re wondering just what the hell happened, let me sum it up, in case you don’t want to read the War & Peace novel that ensues. Then, if you’re still interested, read on, as I go into specifics.
The summary: Amazon sent me an email Tuesday of this week at 5pm, only it landed in my Junk mail folder. I didn’t see it until around 10pm that night. They (Amazon) accused me of creating bogus accounts to boost page reads of Case of the One-Eyed Tiger (CCF#1). They say it’s against their rules. As a result, my KDP account was officially terminated and they inform me that all my books will be removed, which they were the following day by 5pm. Now, bear in mind that I don’t know a damn thing about any “bogus accounts”. I’m completely in the dark. In a panic, I start writing emails, including sending one to Amazon’s bigwigs, and essentially prove to them that I have no knowledge of any bogus accounts and certainly didn’t create any. Today (Thursday), I get the email from Amazon stating my account is reinstated. My books reappear by 5pm.
Ok, that’s the short version. Here’s the long version, in the order in which it happened to me.
1/24/17. 10pm. I’m skimming through my Junk emails and notice a message from “email@example.com”, specifically from a “Katy C.” and is dated from earlier in the day, from around 5pm. The actual email is here. They (Amazon) accused me of creating “systematic accounts” and using them to boost the page reads to manipulate the Kindle Unlimited platform.
1/24/17. 10:01pm. Hoping this is just a phishing email, I immediately head to kdp.amazon.com to log into my account. Unable to do so. Have minor cardiac episode. Am desperately hoping this is some type of sick joke.
1/25/17. 12:45am. Thanks to this, I’m unable to sleep. I fire off my first email to “firstname.lastname@example.org”. I officially ask them to tell me what’s going on. My message is as follows…
Katy C. - I'm at a loss as to what you're referring to. Are you insinuating that someone has hacked my KDP account? I've been a self-published indie author since 2010. I published my first novel with Amazon on that year and have since released a total of 12 novels. I have never had a problem with anything there. I can only assume someone is trying to hack my account. I have since called Amazon Customer Service and they walked me through changing my password. However, I am still unable to log into my KDP account. Could I get someone to call me at (***) ***-**** to discuss this? I'm in the dark as much as you are with regards to this situation. Thank you. Jeffrey M. Poole www.AuthorJMPoole.com
1/25/17. 6:00am. Still unable to log into my KDP account. Verified books are all still on Amazon. Again, am hoping this is some sick, twisted prank. No response from Amazon as of yet.
1/25/17. 2:39pm. First followup email from Amazon, specifically from “John M”. This, unfortunately, confirms my worst fears. This is really happening, and Amazon has officially terminated my account. This is a shorter message and there’s no need to turn it into a PDF, either. John M writes:
Hello, Thank you for your email concerning the status of your account. Systematic accounts are those that facilitate illegitimate reading or borrow activity. You're welcome to promote your book through third-party websites and other services, but you are also responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs. In order to help us evaluate your appeal, please provide any information about promotional or marketing service you might have used. Best Regards, John M
1/25/17. 4:45pm. I noticed that every title I had released in the Kindle store was now missing. The only books Amazon had of mine were my paperbacks, and I wasn’t convinced they wouldn’t mess with my Createspace account, either. My day seriously started spiraling straight back to UberPissedVille, with a layover at DepressedTowne.
1/25/17. 5:35pm. I check for email. I get the message from above, stating I needed to provide them info about what marketing services I’ve used. I fired off a response to John, explaining everything I’ve done with regards to that book, which is to say, not much. The only promotional services I’ve used is theirs (Amazon’s) and a few FB ads. But, since the FB ads were so-so, I stopped using them around 3 months ago.
1/25/17. 8:27pm. In a fit of desperation, I look up corporate contact numbers for Amazon. Phone numbers, email addresses, anything! And then I find this page, talking about how Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone on record, imploring people to contact him should there be a problem with anything Amazon related. And it listed his personal e-mail addy.
1/25/17. 8:28pm. I pen an email to Mr. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO Founder.
1/25/17. 10:05pm. I get another response back from Amazon, only this time it is from another new person. This time around, I get “Luca F”, and he writes:
Hello, Thank you for your email concerning the status of your account. Unfortunately, we need some more time to look into the matter. We are sorry for the delay and for any inconvenience it may cause you. We will be in touch within five business days. Thank you for your patience. Best Regards, Luca F Amazon.com
1/25/17. 10:06pm. Now I’m freaking out. I was starting to feel like I was royally Fubar’d. What was I going to do? I knew that if I could talk to a human then I could convince them that they’ve made a mistake. However, I only had an email addy. And the founder’s email addy. So… why would a billionaire read/respond to my email? I was certain Amazon just wanted to sweep me under a rug somewhere and be done with me. 5 business days for some type of resolution? Surely someone else must have gone through this hell. I’m now researching this situation on Google. I couldn’t be the only person that has ever fallen on the wrong side of ye almighty Amazon. What I find, however, isn’t promising. Those that have had their KDP accounts terminated don’t get them back. Or, the very select few that I found that did, have said that it takes weeks, even months, to get the account back in good standing. Everyone says the same thing. Lack of a customer service number is disparaging as hell. The only communication is through email. In the pit of my stomach, I knew Amazon wasn’t going to reinstate my account. Not without a fight.
1/26/17. 12:40pm. That’s when this email arrives. I read it and let out a whoop. My KDP account was being reinstated! To verify, I immediately went to kdp.amazon.com to see if I could log in. I could! I checked the Kindle store. Nope, the books were gone. Still. At least I had hope that they’d be back shortly. So, did this mean that my midnight email to Amazon’s CEO made it to him?? This seemed waayyyyy too quick of a resolution. Whatever. I wasn’t complaining.
1/26/17. 2:00pm. I checked the Kindle store. All my titles were back! The number of reviews were still there, but there was a casualty. All my sales stats & rankings were gone. The little bastards wiped all traces away, essentially demoting me to the rank of a newbie author. **sigh** At least my books were back and were making sales again. I thought this story was finally done, but, believe-it-or-not, it took a turn for the good, with…
1/26/17. 2:49pm. My cell phone rings, with a 206 area code showing on the display. I used to live in Washington state. I happen to know 206 is the area code for Seattle. Home of Amazon. This was a call I was more than willing to take. The person on the phone – and I missed his name – was a guy who identified himself as a member of the KDP Executive Service Team. He wanted to know if I had received the email, stating that my account had been reactivated. I told him that I had, and that I had also noticed all my books were back. He said that was good to hear, and then he made a discernible effort to see how I was doing.
My response? “Not too happy with you people, pal. I don’t like getting accused of doing something illegal when there’s no proof.” He then launched into a spiel about how I had to be careful about the type of marketing I used, especially those companies who “guaranteed results”. I hit back with, “the only promotional marketing I did was with YOU.”
That took him by surprise. He then went on to say that, after reviewing my account, and all my years of history with them, that they would have reinstated my account without any problems, and there was no need… and this is my favorite part – to “have written Jeff about this“. I told him that I wasn’t sorry, and that you have to understand my point of view. There was no warning. There was no… “hey, if you do this again, we’re going to terminate your account”. I told the executive CSR that they should consider simply telling the author that they would be kicked out of KU, not terminate their account without any way of contacting this infamous “email@example.com” team that seems to hold the power of God at KDP.
He understood. He finished the call by asking me to be careful with the KU program, because there are many automated algorithms out there that are continually trying to sniff out illegitimate accounts and to keep their authors safe. I told him that I wouldn’t ever use KU again and that I was planning on pulling CCF1 out of KU just as soon as I could, which would be in a couple of weeks. He then volunteered to pull it out for me, which I instantly took him up on.
Just as soon as I hung up the phone, I was logging into Smashwords and submitting all my files so that I could release the title wide. Not only did Smashwords convert the file in record time, but I also took a screencap of the conversion and posted it in FB, thanking Mark Coker.
Now, FB instantly linked the “Mark Coker” to his actual FB page, and wouldn’t you know it, Mark instantly Liked the comment. I went back to my Smashwords account to see for myself that people were already downloading it when I noticed that it had already been approved for the Premium Catalog. Anyone familiar with Smashwords will know that it can take a day or two. We’re talking less than 2 minutes. Tops. Mark had to have a hand in that, which he admitted that he did. Mark, if you ever read this, thanks again, buddy.
So… I get to end this day knowing that a rich billionaire founder of one of the biggest companies out there read my letter, asking for my account to be reinstated, and the founder/owner of Smashwords did me a solid favor by getting my book fast tracked for premium acceptance. As I write this, I see that Case of the One-Eyed Tiger (Corgi Case Files #1) has already appeared for iBooks. In an effort to kick start the series, I’ve made this book free of charge. For the time being, anyway.
Thanks for letting me vent & ramble! I’ll be posting more about where CCF1 is available as soon as more retailers come online. Have a great night! I’m pretty sure I finally will. :)