75 thoughts on “Amazon.com – A Vengeful, Simplistic God?

  1. dayne878

    The same thing just happened on this past week to a magazine me and another author were publishing together. We also noticed a spike of reads but attributed it to the release week increase since it began almost right after we published, but then the hammer came down. Fortunately the account was reinstated yesterday, January 15th, 2017, but it’s still frustrating to do nothing wrong and be punished for being the victim of scammers trying to hide their own activity.

    Reply
  2. dernhelm6

    Horrifying. I feel for you. When I heard the possibility of having this happen existed, I pulled my novels from KS as soon as their terms were up. My plan was to allow each new release to enroll in KS for the 90 days but never to stay there. Now I’m not sure I want to do that much with KS.

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    1. adamdreece Post author

      Two of my books weren’t even in KDP Select, but they were blown away too. One toe into the KDP Select world, and you are vulnerable.

      Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      I’d pulled my series, The Yellow Hoods, to put them in Amazon’s exclusive problem (KDP Select). The aim was to participate in the Kindle Unlimited program. The reality is, however, Amazon has 95% of the eBook market and I’ve polled my readers, it’s nearly 90% of them are Kindle-only. So yes, I do have some other avenues available, but I’ll be fighting a much, much harder battle. My other books are on Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, and elsewhere.

      Reply
  3. salttair

    Thank you for telling your story. I sincerely hope you’re able to get reinstated and forge a stronger relationship with someone at Amazon so you can have an inside champion there. This is a really brutal over-reaction. I can imagine Amazon is really sick of fighting scammers and as a result have adopted ‘firehose into a teacup’ type tactics, but these tactics don’t work when they annihilate authors in the process. Please keep us posted! Thoughts are with you.

    Reply
  4. Laini Smith Giles

    Holy CRAP this is awful! The more I read, the more I’m staying the hell away from KDP Select. But what if it happens to regular KDP people? They could be screwing with anyone. So sorry this happened to you, and I’ve got my fingers crossed they do the right thing.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      I believe this is a problem that’s really focused on KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited. I don’t know how it works, but there’s something probably having to do with the amount of time between setting up an account and the charge hitting the credit card, during which they read fake books to earn themselves money.

      Reply
  5. Katie

    Dumb question, but I can’t find a timestamp on your post. When did this happen? Is this a NEW development? It seems to be, based on the dates in the comments, but it could be an old thread dredged up. I’d like to know, to know how to respond.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      Hi Katie, that’s not a dumb question. I always check the dates of posts. I didn’t realize mine wasn’t showing, so I just changed it. I posted this today, but the email I got from Amazon was from last Thursday.

      Reply
  6. Cristen Iris

    Adam, that sucks!!! I’m so sorry to hear that.

    Can you clarify your comments about “anyone being able to do this” to another author?

    Why do you think it was a someone and not a system error or programming glitch?

    It seems like Amazon would have an incentive to investigate claims regarding and maintain successful accounts like yours.

    Best of luck on this! I cannot even imagine the teeth grinding and productive loss you’re suffering through at the moment.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      While scammers are usually using this to boost their own fake book reads, it seems that they can use this against any author, knowing full well that Amazon will detect it and delete the author’s account, removing all of their eBooks from Amazon. One hell of a siege weapon against someone else’s success.

      Reply
      1. Cristen Iris

        Thank you for the clarification, Adam. It makes sense to me now. They’re already using the bots for their own good, so it’s easy enough to target competing authors. That is absolutely awful. So, so sorry, Adam!!!

        Reply
  7. jesilea

    Tweeted! So sorry this happened to you. I just pulled my books out of KDP Select this month. I’m seeing way to many people have this stuff happen. I hope you get reinstated soon.

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  8. Debbie

    Wow Adam, how awful. Thank you for sharing this horror story, I had no idea this could happen. I really hope you get things sorted. Fingers crossed!!!

    Reply
  9. Dylan Hearn

    Oh my god, Adam. I can’t believe they’ve pulled your books after you brought the spike to their attention!
    What’s most frustrating is that you are one of indie publishing’s good guys. You work hard, you are scrupulously professional and you are making a success of things. To have this happen now? It’s so not fair.
    I’m really sorry this has happened to you and hope you get things sorted quickly.

    Reply
  10. Aimee

    I think the whole payment-for-pages-read thing was a bad idea to begin with. It seems to “invite” scammers. Instead, why not base it on how many people borrow the book?

    Hope you get this straightened out. I’m working on a thriller series right now and it will NOT go into Kindle Select.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      I completely agree with you, Aimee. The idea that you only have to pay for half a chocolate bar if you don’t finish it, after you’ve walked out of the store with it, is bizarre. The idea that you can make authors fight amongst themselves for a piece of a fixed payment pie, is another bad idea.

      Reply
  11. Peter Darley

    Hi Adam,

    I’ve been through something similar, though not quite as bad (so far!) They pulled my boxed set from Amazon US twice within the space of two weeks. Strangely, it still remained on all other Amazon world regions. Their excuse was that their machines had reacted badly to certain words in the description, which made no sense. The description was simply the blurbs from the stand-alone titles the boxed set was taken from, yet the stand-alones remained unaffected. Amazon admitted they’d made a mistake but wouldn’t even tell me which ‘words’ had caused the problem. They said it ‘was against their policy to disclose that information.’ A week later, the set disappeared again.

    I know it’s of little consolation at the moment, but I am very confident your titles will be restored. It takes approximately seven days. You first have to wait around five days for a response to your initial email – which will tell you to expect another response in 48 hours. By the time you receive that second email, the books are usually back on sale.

    Nevertheless, this system is absolutely fatal. You might spend $1,000 on promotion, which will naturally cause a huge spike in your sales and KDP pages read. Amazon’s automated system doesn’t discriminate. It will simply interpret it as fraudulent and wipe you out. If that happens during a promo, all of your expenditure will be forfeit. It doesn’t matter if they restore the books in seven day’s time. It’s too late by then. I can’t see that Amazon is a viable platform for ANY author at the moment. They are a financial liability.

    Peter Darley

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      thanks Peter, I appreciate it. I spent right around $1000 on promos in December through early January.

      Reply
      1. Peter Darley

        I would hazard a guess the increase in sales and pages read resulting from the promo is what prompted the system to delete your account. They will admit that they made a mistake, but they won’t offer you anything by way of compensation. Were you far away from recouping your expenditure at the time they erased you?

        Reply
  12. Pingback: Amazon.com – A Vengeful, Simplistic God? | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

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  14. Aaron Shepard

    Adam, if you can’t get your account back, I suggest you republish your Kindle books on Amazon via Pronoun.com. Through Author Central, you can then ask for the ebooks to be linked to your paperbacks, which will restore your reviews.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      They have said that I would not receive any royalties whatsoever if my books were published through other means… So, that might not work. I’m going to keep it in mind though, thanks for the idea. I hadn’t thought about the author central piece.

      Reply
      1. Aaron Shepard

        What they say is that you won’t get royalties if you try to republish through a new KDP account of your own. If you republish through Pronoun.com, it’s not your account, and the prohibition does not apply. In fact, there are several distributors that can place your Kindle books on Amazon, but I believe Pronoun to be the best.

        Reply
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  16. Eric Thomson

    I hope Amazon will sort itself out and restore your account. It’s reading about this kind of mindless, punitive behavior that has me pulling my books out of KU one by one right now. I’d rather take the financial hit and be less vulnerable to mindless bots, scummy scammers and amoral competitors.

    Good luck.

    Reply
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  18. C. A. Hocking

    Damn! Amazon is up to its nasty little tricks again. I launched Home To Roost in early 2013, good reviews started appearing – and then they disappeared and I got nasty emails from Amazon telling me I was paying for reviews which I was not! It was the beginning of the Amazon Review Scandal and I got caught up in it. I complained, they threatened to cancel my account, I stopped complaining despite seeing more than twenty good reviews come and go, and they effectively sunk Home To Roost. To date I only have three reviews although the book still sells. I’m about to launch a new book. And now I’m feeling a tad anxious…..
    I hope Amazon sorts this one out quickly and you don’t suffer any long term damage, Adam. And you start sleeping well again. What a journey this Indie Author business is!
    Kind regards
    C. A. HOCKING

    Reply
  19. Dan

    What about the reviews? If the book page was removed, was it DELETED, or simply archives in some way? I’m glad the books are back, but I would be flipping the f out if a couple hundred (or even dozen) reviews had just vanished.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      The reviews have returned, but the rankings and best-seller flags are gone. It’s like they are completely new books.

      Reply
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  22. Linda Lee

    Makes me question my continuing decision to remain in KU. I’m afraid to leave reviews for any authors I’m connected with via social media, for fear of being banned on Amazon. Scary stuff…

    Reply
  23. Effrosyni Moschoudi

    Oh my goodness. How scary and how unfair! But I am so glad people’s tweets helped reinstate your books. A genius move on your part to set this up, Adam. And you are right – it would have been futile to fight this titan in court. But you’re a wise man who picks his battles and knows how to fight back nonetheless. I take off my hat to you. Well done. And I hope you’ll only sail smooth and hospitable seas across the Amazon universe from now on!
    Effrosyni

    Reply
  24. Yvan

    So sorry this happened. It’s getting quite apparent that Amazon doesn’t care about their publishers. Can you let us know the name of the fiverr gig you used so we know not to use him/her?

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      Look for “Kindle Unlimited” and “Traffic”, and you’ll find them. That said, if it’s not BKnights, stay away from the book promotion services on there.

      Reply
  25. Alex McGilvery

    Hi Adam, I view Amazon as an evil I need to deal with. My books are posted there, but most of my sales are elsewhere. I don’t make enough sales to trigger any of their warnings, but they did delete close to four hundred reviews I’d posted over many years. Like you, no explanation or response when I questioned them. It was the main reason I quit reviewing for a year. I now tell authors that my reviews probably won’t stay up on Amazon, but they are on my site.

    I was horrified this happened to you. I know other authors who’ve been through the same thing. We are, apparently, peons who produce stuff for them to sell, but no important enough to treat well. I’m glad things have mostly worked out for you.

    Alex

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      Hey Alex, thx for sharing that. I had the exact same thing happen to a friend of mine, tons of her reviews were wiped out. It just reinforces the need to be spread, and that causes a lot of headaches but at least spreads out the risk. If ever you are short on books to review… 😉

      Reply
  26. Clare O'Beara

    Thanks for telling us all this stressful news, Adam. I have most of my books in KU but have not seen any spikes. It’s probably completely random or picking top sellers randomly. I’m glad to be warned.
    I would think Amazon makes enough to appoint someone to read the books – a glancing read, making sure nobody is putting up thousand-page books of rubbish to get KU reading royalties. If you are a genuine author it should be apparent.
    I have noticed one or two authors telling KU readers in their newsletters, that they would appreciate it if a reader would click through to the end right away. As I don’t read in KU I would not be doing this anyway, but it seems to me that Amazon would notice, especially with longer books. Maybe this kind of activity is also triggering some of the response you saw, though undeserved in most cases.
    Glad your books are reinstated. Don’t hold out hopes for the reviews and ratings. You could ask reviewers to post on Goodreads.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      Hi Clare, I always put a request in my books for people to post reviews at Goodreads and wherever they bought it. The Amazon Incident really got me thinking about dependence on them, and I got to see an average of 2k page reads a day become 30. I don’t want that to happen again, but until they make some significant changes, it means no books in KU. All it takes is a crackpot pointing a point at me to nuke everything.

      Reply
  27. E G Lewis

    A friend forwarded a link to your post. Boy, does this have a familiar ring to it. Every time I make the smallest change to one of my eBooks and upload the new file I get the old “prove your copyright routine” along with the threat of eternal banishment if they aren’t satisfied.

    I ran into a strange, but similar, situation last year. My print copies are handled by Create Space and for reasons I’ll never understand CS put up a digital version of one of my books on a German site. So I got this email saying, “We found out you’re not honoring your exclusive contract and we’re going to punish you by removing all your books from Amazon. I did some quick research and found out that CS was the guilty party. So I politely told them that I hadn’t done anything; they did it to themselves. All I got from them was another email that in essence said, “Your books can remain up on Amazon for now.” No apology…nothing!

    I find it interesting that in the days of the pulp fiction magazines, they paid their authors by the word. At even a penny a word, a 300 word page would be worth $3.00. Under the KU program, you have to have some one read a 650 page book to earn as much. When digital publishing was new Amazon needed content to sell their Kindles and wooed authors. Now that they don’t need the content so desperately, they’ll happily grind you into the dirt and laugh while they do it.

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      Wow, sounds like you had an extra helping of fun. Thanks for sharing. The KU program and the idea that they get to have a fixed amount they can share among all the authors, and that people only have to effectively pay for whatever portion of the meal they want, ignoring the amount of effort it took… And THEN Amazon can do things (as I’ve discovered in recent days) like wipe out legitimate page reads oh… because.

      Reply
  28. Vincent Zandri

    Hey Adam, same thing happened to me yesterday. Coming off a very successful BookBub, I got a message from KDP Select saying, “After repeated warnings” they’re shutting down my Select account. And here I even have 9 novels with Thomas & Mercer at AP. I was NEVER given any kind of warning. Plus, I wasn’t doing anything to violate my exclusivity. They aren’t even answering my emails. I have my agent on it, but haven’t heard much. I’m thinking, it’s the time to go wide and forget about it…Because this is just an insane way to do business…

    Reply
    1. adamdreece Post author

      I’m really sorry to hear that, Vincent. That gut punch is just unbelievable. It is absolutely insane. To know that someone for $5 can destroy your online career is beyond imaginable. I’m glad I went wide, but I really wish the revenue was there. It’s very slowly building, and while I miss seeing the KUs, there’s no way in Hell that I would return.

      Reply
      1. Peter Darley

        For what it’s worth, I just made my contribution to the cause with a letter to Amazon:

        Dear Amazon,

        I am writing on behalf of the writing community in order to make my contribution to appeals for a desperately-needed change of policy.

        In recent times, many authors have had their accounts terminated through no fault of their own. The most recent I have been made aware of is Mr. Vincent Zandri , a bestselling author with agency representation – and who is published through Amazon’s own imprint, Thomas & Mercer. After running a promotion purely through Bookbub – the world’s most revered book promotion site – his downloads and KDP pages read naturally spiked. Your algorithms interpreted this as fraudulent, and without any discussion with Mr. Zandri beforehand, you simply terminated his account.

        It is believed by many that envious rivals and vindictive scammers somehow point ‘bots’ at a particular author’s account which falsely inflates their readings, knowing what you will do to that author as a consequence. In reality, the author plays no part in this, and has no knowledge of it happening at the time. In response, you do not even question the matter or enter into discussion with the author. You simply destroy them!

        This can be fatal to any author, especially one who has invested considerable funds in promotion. If you terminate an account in the middle of said promotion, all of that expenditure is forfeit. For that reason, legions of authors are now leaving KDP Select and spreading their wings farther afield. KDP Select has now become fatal to the lives of many people. I have only one book that is not in the KDP Select program, and that is the only title in my bibliography that I DARE promote.
        However, it doesn’t have to be this way. All that is needed is for you to consider the particulars and abandon this almost-biblical policy of ‘punishing innocents for the crimes of the guilty’. Both KDP Select and the careers of millions of authors are now hanging by a thread. I cannot stress it enough – I dare not promote a KDP Select book any longer. Somehow, reason must prevail.

        Yours sincerely,

        Peter Darley

        Reply
    2. Peter Darley

      An idea came to me earlier, and I was wondering if anyone could see any contraindications with it. It seems the problems always arise when authors are in the middle of, or have just ended a book promotion. Clearly, promoting a title will give the book far greater prominence for a limited period of time, which might make it vulnerable to ‘bot’ attacks. So – what if you wait for your KDP Select enrollment period to expire, take the book out of the program, and then run a promo for five days. Once the promotion is over, re-enroll the book in KDP Select. That way, the book will be safe during the promo, and you still have the benefit of KU royalties (barring the five days.) 😉

      Reply
      1. adamdreece Post author

        Well, I know that when I ran my promo I was trying to get more page reads as well as sales, thus having the books out of KU when you wanted to boost the KU reads would hamstring your potential gains. The other thing is if you have ANY book in KU at that time, you could get bot’ed and thus all of your books could get nuked.

        Reply
        1. Peter Darley

          Hi Adam,

          Thank you for that. It really does seem like a hopeless situation at present. For what it’s worth, Amazon did respond to my appeal very rapidly, and it went on for another two exchanges. After the opening, completely irrelevant, “You don’t have to be in KDP Select if you don’t want to be,” they were very gracious with their wording and assured me that my comments would be forwarded on to their policy team. I feel that the only way forward with this is for more authors to petition them.

          I’ve also been contacted by a number of former colleagues from the promotional side. Many of them have been laid off due to the lack of business. Authors are simply too terrified to promote their books. This is having an enormous and far-reaching effect on the entire industry.

          Peter

          Reply

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