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Amazon threatens livelihood via form letter; I respond


[UPDATE 8/28/2013: I just spoke on the phone with a representative of Amazon’s “KDP Executive Customer Relations” about all this, which surprised the heck out of me.

  • He agreed that the email I received was in fact about exclusivity rather than copyright–I made this point in the comments below–and told me they have now come up with friendlier language.
  • He also used the delay in updates to Google’s search results as an analogy by way of explaining why their system had identified my site’s content as violating KDP Select’s guidelines.
  • He agreed that the “5 days” part could present problems.
  • I suggested automating an actual check of the site/URL in question and revisiting the “5 days” requirement. He said he would mention it but that sort of change would take longer than the modifications they already made to their email. (I’d love to see the new version, if any of you happen to get sent a copy!)
  • He asked that I continue to “challenge” them (his word) when I run across problems like this.

Folks, I’m flattered and flabbergasted. He apologized several times, and seemed sincere about it. Looks like they’re trying to do better over there, and I think that deserves some appreciation. ]

[ANOTHER UPDATE, SAME DAY: For those of you who are coming here and believe Amazon should be doing this for issues outside KDP Select exclusivity, I have a question–why do you think Amazon should be defining “copyright infringement” on behalf of actual copyright holders? Isn’t that way beyond the scope of their licensing agreements with authors? How could they reasonably know who’s been licensed to do what? And why would copyright holders want Amazon to in any way define their responses to infringement anyway? I think they’re right to stay out of that mess. I just didn’t like that they originally implied they were talking about copyright/plagiarism when they weren’t. ]

Hi!

Just to be clear: I’m irritated, but I do actually like Amazon as a company. Still…sometimes a large organization goes goofy on you. I’d heard of this particular variety of goofiness before, but didn’t expect to encounter it. Here’s the backstory:

  1. I’ve offered free stories here on my blog
  2. Originally I intended to take them down and publish them exclusively to Amazon (boy did I change my mind).
  3. Since the first story (You Sleigh Me) was indeed made exclusive to Amazon, I took it down prior to publishing it through them.
  4. All my other “Weekly Challenge” stories are free on my blog, and will remain so until I put them into collections, which will be…not soon. I’m busy. And I’ve been publishing them via Smashwords, as freebies. ‘Cause that’s what I want to do, for reasons.

So this morning I got email from kdp-support@amazon.com telling me that content in You Sleigh Me is freely available on the web. Here’s the text:

Hello,

We’re writing about the following book(s):

You Sleigh Me by Young, David Haywood (AUTHOR) (ID:3925230)

During a review of your KDP submission(s), we found content in your book is freely available on the web. To confirm you have publishing rights to this content, and that you control where you distribute the book(s), please take one of the following actions:

1. Confirm rights: If you hold the electronic publishing rights for all of the content in this book, and have attributed all creative commons content, proceed to the “Rights & Pricing” submission page from your Bookshelf and resubmit your book for publishing. (Instructions are below.)

2. Remove content: If you do not hold the electronic publishing rights for all of the content in this book, you can remove the book from your Bookshelf. (Instructions are below.)

Please take the appropriate action within 5 days. If you publish books for which you do not hold the electronic publishing rights, your account may be terminated. If your account is terminated, all of the books you have been uploaded through KDP will be removed from the Kindle store and you will not be permitted to open new KDP accounts.

Regards,

Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com

Well…ain’t that more fun than a barrel of leeches? Sure, I can go click their buttons. It’ll probably resolve the issue. But frankly this pisses me off. I don’t know that I actually need Amazon anyway–I don’t want to get into a long digression about their algorithms & such here, but these days I don’t think they do authors much good unless the authors get a boost from elsewhere. In which case? Amazon is much less valuable to indie writers than it used to be. And I’m in this game for the long haul, so I expect to outlast the company (or at least any current set of policies) anyway.

Did you guys notice that “within 5 days” part? That’s the section that particularly riles me. What if I’d been on vacation? Do they offer similar ultimata to Random Penguin Solutions? (Which for the uninitiated is–sort of–a very large publisher. I may have taken liberties with their actual name, but I think it was Nate Hoffelder who said it first, so blame him.)

So here’s my response:

I just received an email claiming that my story titled “You Sleigh Me” is freely available on the web. Well, it was on my blog before I put it into KDP Select, so I suppose it’s possible someone copied it before I took it down.

If so, I see that as (1) free advertising, and (2) not your concern. Do you intend to begin removing all legitimate content from your store that has been pirated elsewhere? That’ll definitely make an interesting blog post for me.

Please clarify your position re: your threat to close my account for publishing my own story. I don’t particularly care whether you follow through on it, but I imagine other writers will take an interest.

Oh, and please also let me know where you say you’ve found my story. If I can go post a comment wherever it is I may choose to do so.

(In reference to You Sleigh Me by Young, David Haywood (AUTHOR) (ID:3925230))

And there you have it. A tempest in a teacup? Possibly. Did someone in the KDP program get irate that I’m putting free stories up every week, and also publishing them to Amazon, and making it very clear that Amazon is choosing not to allow them to be listed as freebies on their site? Possibly. I like that idea, myself, so I sort of hope that’s what’s going on.

‘Cause…I’m putting up free stories. On Amazon I flat-out tell people they’re free on my blog. If they come to my blog they can find ’em and click “Send to Kindle” and get ’em for free that way.

Who looks like a big fat jerk here? Even without sending obnoxious form letters.

Regardless: Have fun out there! {8′>

(Anything involving Amazon seems to be horribly polarizing. I’ve turned comments off for this post, as there were some personal attacks. To which I say: even if you’re right about me, though the source of your evidence is somewhat unclear, the issues I raised remain. Also, I’m not your mom, and you can act up somewhere else. Thanks.)


Published inJerksPublishingWild-Ass Speculation

11 Comments

  1. Shelley Bricker

    David,
    Well I’m certainly glad I did not purchase a Kindle yet. I am using the free app for laptop. Not sure if I will continue to buy from Amazon. The free stories you offer certainly seem like something that an author who wants to get his name out there should be able to offer. I don’t profess to understand all the legal jargon however, I do know that when I discovered your writing that I enjoyed it and I want it to continue enjoying it. I am more than happy to pay your very reasonable prices for that enjoyment. It’s cheaper than a movie by a long shot and has much more content! I have two questions. Is there anywhere else other than Amazon that I can purchase your books? How much of the price I pay Amazon goes to you the author, if I may be so bold. Thank you and keep writing please!

    • David

      Thanks! Lessee…questions…I’ll try for answers.

      (1) Yes, with–you guessed it–caveats. Each book or story gets a page with that info. Right now things are in a bit of a mess, so Pagan Sex for instance is only available at Amazon & the short stories are generally at only Amazon & Smashwords. PS is waiting on a new cover, which I need to do pretty soon. The stories just got to Smashwords yesterday & they take a few days–or weeks–to get out to other retailers. However! At Smashwords both Shiver on the Sky and the Weekly Challenge stories are free. Shiver will start being free in more places in the next week or two, and I’ll have to monitor the various retailers. I try to keep this site up to date with retailer/book availability, but I’m not always successful. And FWIW it’s looking like I’ll have print versions available everywhere around 12/1. But don’t hold me to that; it’s just a plan. AKA a list of things that don’t happen. {8’>

      (2) At Amazon, it depends. If I price an ebook between $2.99 and $9.99 they give me 70% for most sales–depending on the country. Otherwise I get 35%. A lot better than deals from “traditional” publishers, but they’re taking a pretty big bite in this Internet age. Or that’s how it looks to me, anyway!

      And I will!

  2. Heather Lovatt

    The thick plottens, eh? I’m gonna go ‘google’ “You Sleigh me” and see what turns up.

    If Amazon thinks that people are gonna EXCLUSIVELY write and publish with them–meaning the story NEVER, NEVER, NEVER appears anywhere else, not on Wattpad, not on Tumblr, not on I don’t know what…

    they may as well be a Big Six publisher. They may as well SAY: stories submitted to Amazon must NEVER appear anywhere else.

    And that’d be impossible with midlist writers of the sixties, now, wouldn’t it? Writers who are bringing their stories out of mothballs.

    MY take? Someone is being lazy.

    Off to google “You Sleigh me.”

    Heather
    wordwan

    • David

      Well, KDP Select is exclusive for 90 days at a time. Got a reply from Amazon–they were talking about my own blog post where the story first appeared. The one where I took it down 15 days before their warning letter. The one that always said I would take it down, and gave the day it would happen. The one I’ve talked about in blog posts since I took it down, in which I said that due to reader pushback on exclusivity I wouldn’t be going that route again.

      This one: https://dhyoung.net/2013/07/31/wacky-wednesday-10/

      To me? This means that by signing up for KDP Select I am taking the chance that Amazon will close my account within 5 days of any arbitrary moment, because I’ll never be able to predict this stuff. I won’t put myself in that situation. So unless there are major changes re: exclusivity AND corporate business behavior, I won’t have anything to do with KDP Select again.

      • Heather Lovatt

        And have you done ‘KDP’ freebies for any other stuff you had on Amazon in the past?

        I TRULY believe what I responded in email. Someone looked at your comments for posting weekly freebies and went no further than that. And now they’re making you nervous. I know that feeling TOO well. I’ve encountered too many people, lately, in my life, who are being PUT in that position.

        And from what I’ve gleaned? Amazon is horrible at getting back to you in any way that matter.

        Dark lord, indeed.

  3. Heather Lovatt

    I’m SO glad you’re going to talk to Konrath soon. Should be an interesting moment.

    Heather
    wordwan

    • David

      Just a guest blog post. He has no idea who I am outside a donation I made to a charity, and there’s no reason he should. But the post does talk about KDP Select–just not this specific issue. More about the ways Amazon has made itself less important to indie authors & some things we might try to improve matters. Nothing earthshaking, and not really a conversation–though there may be some in the comments afterward.

  4. Heather Lovatt

    Still!

  5. Shelley Bricker

    Shiver me timbers but I’m a tad bit upset. I just finished reading Shiver On The Sky. Yes, it’s 1:32 am and I couldn’t be happier (except for that tad part I will get to in a sec) ! David, I enjoyed the story so much! Your characters were easy to keep track of, the story line flowed so well, and the surprises were awesome. Now for Tad: I went to Amazon where I purchased the story and I wanted to write a review. My purchase showed up however, when I hit write a review it said I had to wait 48 hours from time of purchase which is showing as August 19th. I believe my math skills are adequate enough to figure out I am outside the 48 hour window. I will keep trying to write the review because I feel you deserve 5 stars and damnit I want to make my voice heard! NO customer satisfaction here for Amazon. Thank you again for a wonderful story. The joy of reading it will take me to slumber land instead of my frustration.

    • David

      Very odd. It’s either something new from Amazon, or…was Shiver the first thing you bought from them? I guess it could be a technical issue of some sort.

      I know they’re trying to cut down on fake reviews, but I’m not sure how a 48-hour delay would stop anybody. Just a weird thing all around, especially since it had been more than 48 hours.

      Maybe they’re just goofy.

      • Shelley Bricker

        Got a response from them and all is well now for me to review..which I will do. They said a glitch didn’t update my purchase date. It has been 2 years since I bought from them (textbooks for the daughter yikes! That was some sticker shock) So all is good in my cyber world. This evening I will be reading Pagan Sex. Don’t know if it’s legal for me to have this much fun in one week! Hope the writing is going well and take care of yourself.

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