There was a lot of distressing news this past week about Amazon shutting down the KDP account of Violet Gaze Press, an indie publisher of diverse romance based in the UK. To be honest, I’ve never heard of them, but I felt terrible when Amazon closed their KDP account for what seemed apparently no reason.
This kind of thing is terrible, because not only do you have to fight to get your account reinstated, readers aren’t able to buy your books, you aren’t earning royalties, and in most cases, Amazon keeps royalties already earned and won’t pay them out. This is exactly the kind of thing why authors say, “This is why I publish wide.”
I am really happy for them that Amazon reinstated their account, but not without consequences: authors lost preorders and books disappeared from devices, and in twenty-four hours that time offline could equal a lot of sales lost.
Amazon accused Violet Gaze Press of having more than one KDP account–and if I ever started publishing for anyone, I would talk to an Amazon rep and find out exactly, down to the letter, what I would need to do to keep this from happening. In a Facebook group, they were talking about how maybe books were uploaded to their account from different IP addresses which triggered a bot, perhaps?, and there was talk about blaming one certain virtual assistant, though with what little I know, I can’t make sense of that.
This problem isn’t just for small presses or for bigger indies. We all have a risk dealing with Amazon and their bots. So far, I haven’t had an issue with any of my books nor have I ever been locked out of my account. I haven’t published recently, but this kind of thing, especially when I see it happen to others, is always in the back of my mind.
Amazon isn’t unreasonable. If you get caught in something like this, it takes politeness, persistence, and more than likely a lot of proof to fix an account that’s been closed, terminated, or suspended, but they usually will reinstate your account. What you lose while fighting could amount to thousands of dollars if you’re ranking in the charts. It’s distressing, to say the least, because even if you are wide, chances are pretty good that you’re making equal money on Amazon as to one of the other platforms or more and days of fighting could result in a loss of a lot of royalties.
Do I have a solution? Besides advising you to be polite and have all your ducks in a row for an Amazon rep, I don’t have anything else. It makes me think I am going to start buying the copyright for my books (just another cost for us indies at $45 a book in the US), and I already buy my ISBN numbers from Bowker instead of taking anyone’s free one. I even use my own ISBN numbers for my ebooks (which people have said is a waste of an ISBN, but with indie publishing exploding, maybe not). I credit buying my own ISBNs for KDP letting my large print versions go through without hassle. In one of my FB groups, an author was trying to publish her books in large print using KDP’s free ISBN numbers, and they kept telling her they wouldn’t allow duplicate information. They wouldn’t accept the explanation that she was trying to offer a large print version. I’ve published two of my books in large print without an issue, but I had to assign those large print versions their own ISBNs. (Something a KDP rep checked? I’m not sure.) It can get spendy, but that’s the price of doing business…correctly.
As for going wide and trying to avoid this, that’s going to have to be as personal decision. Obviously there are thousands of authors enrolled in Kindle Select (so their books can be available in Kindle Unlimited), as well as hundreds of thousands of authors who publish to Amazon and everywhere else, and many (most?) have gone for years without one thing happening. I haven’t gone through anything weird in the five years I’ve been publishing, but I have opened an incognito window and logged into another author’s KDP account to help them upload manuscripts and covers. It would be a shame if something like this happened simply because you were trying to be helpful.
I think the main thing we have to remember is that publishing is, in fact, a business, and we have to treat it as such. There are no shortcuts and if you try to take one, someone will always be there to remind you it’s a not a good thing, and maybe even potentially illegal. (The IRS wants their share and it’s better to speak with an accountant about reporting earnings even if you don’t think you’re making enough to bother.) Amazon is a business, you are a business, and it’s best to respect that relationship.
This year I totaled all my ad spend and other things I pay for to run my business. I printed off all my Amazon ad invoices, my promo receipts from Freebooksy, my invoice from WordPress, my invoice from Canva. I printed off my royalty tax form Amazon sends us and I printed off my royalty statement from IngramSpark. I gave all this to my tax guy and for the first time since publishing I reported my income. After what I spent to keep my business going, I didn’t make much, but it laid a foundation for the first year where I am going to make money and I’ll have a track record with the IRS.
Violet Gaze Press, I am sure, did nothing wrong. An Amazon bot targeted them and they worked with real people to get it taken care of. It happens, and it could happen to you. Best to be prepared. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Has something like this happened to you? How did you fix it? Let me know!
The Alliance of Independent Authors has an in informative post on whether or not to buy your ISBNs. This article skews toward buying your own:
Draft2Digital has an in-depth article about ISBNs as well, and they skew toward them being an unnecessary expense:
If you need to contact KDP about your account you can ask for a call back by indicating what you need help with on this webpage–US only: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/contact-us