This week, we have a bit of a different Authors Answer. There was an incident that happened last month between an author and Amazon. The author’s account was suspended and all of her books taken down due to irregular borrowing activities in Kindle Unlimited. Here is the entire story, which I suggest you read.
The author, Pauline Creeden, has resolved everything with Amazon, and her account has been restored. However, this can be scary for an author whose main income is through Amazon’s KDP. So, this week, we discuss this issue.
Question 91 – What are your thoughts about this issue?
My immediate thoughts? That is total BS. It reminds me irresitably of the draconian YouTube system of “if someone puts in a copyright claim on you you’re guilty until proven innocent”. But at least with the terrible YouTube system you have a chance to defend yourself. With this system on Kindle Unlimited, they just told this woman that she was guilty and shut her down without so much as a “Hey, we might have a problem here.”
My thoughts are that Kindle’s reaction is a ridiculous one for a one-time spike in page reads (and not even a very lucrative one). If this author’s book had experienced a similar spike for a few days in a row, I could definitely see them issuing her a warning and maybe even temporarily stopping sale of her books until the problem could be investigated. But for a one day spike like that? How do they know that it wasn’t a class or a book club or some other large group of people who had all decided to borrow and read her book together on the same day?
With absolutely no proof that she actually did something wrong, I feel it’s totally horrifying that Kindle just possibly ruined this woman’s career with one fell swoop. There’s got to be a better way to police the kind of people who would abuse the system without completely screwing over someone who, as far as we can tell, did absolutely nothing wrong. And after reading this I doubt I’ll be putting any of my books in the KU program from here on out. It’s not worth the risk!
I guess I’m not too nervous about losing my Amazon publishing account, because having thousands of downloads a day doesn’t seem to be my problem. However, it is concerning to know that an algorithm can identify a potential problem and shut down an account without much “due process.” When you sign on to any publisher, you have to do so with eyes wide open, so Amazon should be treated no differently. They can turn us off if they want to. We’re there at their leisure. For us indie and self-published folks, we don’t have an agent to fight on our behalf, and probably not even a lawyer, so we have to trust that the truth will win out, if it’s truly an error. And that’s no easy trust…
I think the main problem is the hard-handed automatic banning response from Amazon. They have every right to do this, and it’s something that needs to be done because of the current abuses, but an automated style of response can frighten and alienate indie authors who have nowhere to turn. I can understand Amazon’s position; if they’re being spammed with phony accounts, they have a lot to handle on their end, including hammering down all the banned ones as they reappear in new forms. But having a bit more responsiveness and sensitivity to authors who accidentally get swept up in the net would no doubt be appreciated.
I think it’s pretty shitty, is what I think. Just one more reason for me to abstain from using Kindle Unlimited. That’s scary – banned for life? Books removed? From something that’s not even the author’s fault? Nah, son, I’m good. Yikes.
I’m not sure what the problem is. I agree with Amazon on this one. If someone abuses the system, they should be punished. Since it turned out that she was not abusing the system, they restored her account.
If anything, Amazon needs to crack down harder on people for this kind of shit. It makes the rest of us look bad.
I’d definitely say that closing someone’s account and banning them for life is a drastic thing to do without warning, and it makes me less likely to want to publish with KU.
It sounds like the result of a zero-tolerance policy intended for blatant scams being applied to what would have been a minor offense had she been guilty at all…which she apparently wasn’t, considering I see that they will be restoring her account.
And given the fact that Amazon does overreact at times, it is good to know that at least they correct the mistake once they realize it.
Sadly, it’s just one of the several horror stories I’ve heard of honest authors suffering because of those that abuse the system. Kindle Unlimited certainly seems to have some issues that need addressing by Amazon, this being one of them. The scammers with the gibberish books, being another big one. I have a novel almost ready to self publish and I was hoping to do the KU option, but every time I hear another one of these honest people getting shafted because of others being shady, I am more reluctant to give KU a try.
This worries me. I shied away from buying ebooks altogether for similar reasons: Amazon suspended customers’ accounts without warning because they were suspected to be connected to others who violated the TOU. And now this.
I can understand Amazon wanting to crack down on scammers and make sure they’re presenting legitimate products on their website, but when innocent authors are caught by that net it defeats the purpose. I can also understand if Amazon is hesitant to give reasons or warning if it keeps scammers from catching on and gaming the system, but what about the legitimate authors who have no intention of doing so?
It’s easy for me to sit here and say Amazon should put more work into reviewing suspected scammers, and common sense should weed them out from the legitimate authors. Truth is I don’t have a clue what goes on at Amazon HQ. Maybe they’re up to their waists in scammers. Honestly, I don’t feel that’s a reason to ban authors or readers who have done nothing wrong. Many authors depend on Amazon sales for their livelihood, and others are trying to shed their day jobs and make their living with books. Amazon may be busy, but we all have jobs to do.
While I understand Amazon’s desire to keep everyone fair and honest, in the tech world it can very difficult. However, my initial reaction is to side with Pauline. If she is indeed an honest author simply trying to sell her books she should not be punished with a lifetime ban. Especially if it’s over $125. From the sounds of it, Amazon needs to stop being a corporate and start acknowledging the people who make the system successful – the authors and the readers. If the system isn’t working then the proper measures need to be taken to protect both parties. Perhaps there still needs to be actual, real, live people (an army of them if necessary) fact checking the books to make sure they are legit. It certainly does raise questions and hopefully those questions can be answered and those answers have a solution.
I can understand things from Amazon’s side. They need to prevent fraudulent books and accounts. The system is completely automated, and of course, they most likely don’t have many people going through the cases. I doubt they even look at the individual cases. And that’s why the author can dispute this. In this case, Pauline disputed it and had her account and books restored. As it should be.
However, there are so many abuses that have caused legitimate authors who have done nothing wrong to go through this nightmare, and in some cases, they have an incredibly difficult time getting their accounts and books restored. I think Amazon needs to improve how they handle this. I would personally not want this to happen to me. It makes me very wary of putting books into Kindle Unlimited.
How about you?
What do you think of this situation? Let us know in the comments below.
12 thoughts on “Authors Answer 91 – An Amazon Nightmare”
Reblogged this on North of Andover.
I think Amazon should have investigated the situation more thoroughly BEFORE taking action, since in this case it looks like the author hadn’t done anything wrong, but I do think they SHOULD ban anyone caught scamming. I also think Amazon needs some way for authors to find out WHY they’re being investigated for possible scamming or whatever, and to be able to respond in their own defense, so no permanent (or possibly permanent) action is taken on the say-so of an algorithm instead after careful consideration by a real person.
I agree. They need to be more open about communicating with the authors and investigate. I wonder how many people they’d need to do the investigations, though.
What an absolutely horrible situation. I’m not published (yet or ever who knows), but I can’t imagine not being able to sell my work on Amazon. That’s THE online marketplace. I’m glad that it seems to be getting resolved, but I echo Thomas’s sentiments (whose blog I thought I was following, but which I seem to have unfollowed for some reason, remedied that, odd…) in saying Amazon should’ve had done some recon before just shutting her down right away.
Unfortunately, that seems to be the way of things. I had a similar (if much smaller scale to my livelihood since I don’t rely on WP for income…yet) experience where something I posted riled the spam filters, and my account was suspended. When I put in the request for investigation that was the information they gave me. It had incited the spam bots in error. Well…what if I DID rely on blogging for income? There seems to be a shoot first, ask questions later culture when it comes to things like this. Amazon could afford to lose money that it would recoup if it had been a true scam situation, but the author cannot 😦
Something you posted caught spam filters on WordPress? I haven’t had that happen, and I’m at nearly 2000 posts now. Wonder what it was.
Yup. I’m trying to remember what the post even was. I know I had pictures in it and links so I’m wondering which one made that occur. It was annoying, but it wasn’t affecting my livelihood.
Probably links. It’s usually links. But I do a lot of link-filled posts.
Me too. Most to Goodreads and my own blog. I think I had another site with the post in question though.
Strange. But then, it could be that WordPress thought you were advertising, which isn’t allowed. You are allowed to advertise your own books. You’re allowed to do reviews and link to the Amazon pages for them. But you’re not allowed to do paid advertising.
That’s probably what happened.
Reblogged this on and commented:
Today we discuss a thought-provoking story that could have affected any one of us authors…which is more than a little scary!
Reblogged this on On the Edge of Enlightenment and commented:
In which we react to a situation we’d never want to be in.