A Cautionary Tale, Part 2

Last week, I wrote “A Cautionary Tale” about what initially appeared to be a bump in the road in the release of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). What I didn’t know was that the problem would continue to exist not just for that day but for days and days. In fact, it isn’t completely dealt with as I type this. Things are better, for certain definitions of better, but I’m still seeing the negative impact of what happened.

A quick reminder of what happened. A week ago yesterday, I woke to an email from Kindle Quality Control saying there was a problem with the file for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It had the right cover but the wrong ASIN and interior file. Within half an hour I updated the file. Approximately six hours later, I received notice that the file had gone live. Except it hadn’t. For most of the next five days, the purchase and KU read for free buttons would not be active. Some of the time, it would say the book was unavailable. Or the buttons would be there but the disclaimer that the book was under review and therefore not available for purchase would be present. Those few times you could buy the book, you might have gotten the correct book or you might not have.

Making matters worse, for whatever reason, the emails that should have been sent out to those who had pre-ordered or purchased before the file was pulled were not. Nor did Kindle Customer Support have a clear idea of what was going on. Some of those who tried helping those with the wrong file did what they were supposed to do — the pushed through the updated file. Others said to return the book and try to buy it later. Still others said to wait and see if the update came through later.

The result, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a number of returns (the most I have ever had for any book) and negative reviews. Both of which brought up other issues.

Finally, last Wednesday, I had had enough and I e-mailed Jeff Bezos. I knew he wouldn’t actually see the email but it made me feel better. It was a business-like letter, detailing everything I had been through to that point. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call late in the day from someone who had gotten the job of trying to find out what was going on and making sure things got cleared up.

Long story short, she talked to different departments and made sure the web page was made stable and my book could be purchased. She talked to the folks in charge of reviews. She listened as I explained how this fiasco had impacted the book’s release and prevented me from doing any true marketing because I couldn’t guarantee those interested would be able to buy the book — or that they would receive the right one when they did.

She admitted that the problem pointed out some shortfalls in their process when a book is under review after the quality of it is called into question by Amazon customers. There is no clear procedure for letting Kindle Support know what is going on or what phase of the review they are at. Nor is there a clear procedure for letting the author know what is going on. All authors get is an email saying the book is under review and they will be contacted when it is approved. Well, you get a note from KDP saying the file has been approved but that isn’t the same as QA saying it is approved. So my contact at Amazon is recommending that this process be improved so others don’t have to go through what I have.

As for the 1-star reviews based on getting the wrong file, well, I’m stuck with them. The Review Department — I think you are starting to get the picture. This quickly became a situation where one hand didn’t know what the other was doing and didn’t care once it did — won’t remove the negative reviews. It doesn’t matter that they have nothing to do with the book. The fact that they deal with customer experience is enough to make the “valid” reviews. It doesn’t matter that these reviews are coming in now because Amazon didn’t act quickly enough doesn’t matter either. All I can do is grin and bear it — and as you to down vote them.

Actually, there is more I can do but I need your help to do it. If you received the wrong book after Thursday of this past week, especially if you have yet to receive the correct one, let me know. When I contacted Amazon yesterday about the continuing problem, I was asked to provide specifics.

Amazon is very understanding about my concern and understands this has cost me money and some good will with my readers. Their recompense for it is to allow me a couple of extra days of promotion through Kindle Unlimited. This is more than a little counter-productive, although I accepted it. First, I rarely run promos for a new book. Second, that promo (if I run it) won’t make up for the money I’ve lost. Nor will it replace the good will that has been soured. In fact, it might cause more ill-will. After all, I would be doing a giveaway or countdown deal for a book my readers have just paid full price on.

What am I taking away from all this? Good question and one I’m still asking myself since this is still an on-going situation. I’ll try to sort it out here.

For me:

  • I have to be even more careful than ever before to make sure there is no issue with my work when I get ready to upload a file.
  • I am going to think long and hard about doing pre-orders in the future. Not only because of the impact they have on publication day numbers (As Dorothy pointed out, pre-orders don’t count toward release date rankings but count on the day of the pre-order) but because of the length of time it has taken to deal with the current situation.
  • While I am still frustrated and disappointed in Amazon and the way it has handled this situation, especially the negative reviews, I will continue working with them. They have tried to do what they can to assist me and they are still the big dog when it comes to indie publishing. They are also the easiest of the outlets to access and use, both as a reader and as a writer.
  • I will pay closer attention to what is happening re: foreign sales if I do another pre-order because I might have spotted the issue a few hours before Amazon notified me if I had this time.
  • If I should get another such notice form Amazon, I will download the preview file (again) before uploading a new file. This serves two purposes. It will let me see if I did upload the wrong file (which I still deny because I checked my copy of not only what was uploaded but the preview file I downloaded) but it gives proof to Amazon that the problem is on their end. What happens when you upload a file to Amazon, that new file overwrites the old file so they will not admit any problem being their fault because they can’t check it on their own servers once that new file is uploaded.

Regarding Amazon:

  • It is still the only real game in town so I will continue working with them.
  • Amazon needs to improve the communication between departments within the KDP process.
  • Amazon needs to reconsider its policy about reviews and make it easier for authors to challenge reviews. I have no problem getting a negative review because someone doesn’t like my work. But when, as in this case, I have jumped through every hoop to correct a technical problem and yet Amazon drags its feet, those reviews are on them and not on me. I should not continue to be punished as a result. No author should.
  • Amazon needs to make it easier — as in possible — to contact the Kindle KDP QA people after a book has been removed for review. As it stands right now, the only thing you can do is contact Kindle KDP support (which can be fun in and of itself) and then ask them to contact QA. You may or may not be successful.

The biggest decision I have to make now is about what my next step should be. I will continue letting my contact at Amazon know of any problems with the book’s download that are brought to my attention. I am planning on a new title in the series, an extra title that will take place before the events of Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). I’ll figure out a way to make it available to those of you who have stuck with me through all this before it goes up for sale on Amazon. (It may be that I will announce it here and on my blog and put it up for a very limited time for free there before it goes up on Amazon. I’m still working on that.) But do I start writing Victory from Ashes now, putting it out ASAP, or do I keep with my current publication schedule and not write it until later this year, early next year? What are your thoughts?

What this all shows is that writing is like any other business. Not every release goes as smoothly as you want it to. There can be breaks in the supply or delivery chain. It would be easy to throw my hands up and say I’m never working with Amazon again. But that would be a perfect example of cutting off my nose to spite my face. Mistakes happen — and did, on both our parts. Now I have to work my butt off to make up for the problems and rebuild from it. Fortunately, Amazon has done what it can. Not as much as I would have liked but more than many companies would have. So I move forward. All I have to decide is which path to take — or, more specifically, which book to write now.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate knowing if you are still having trouble getting the right file downloaded. I’d also appreciate it if you would leave a review once you’ve read Honor from Ashes. Those reviews will go a long way to counter the negative ones.



  1. “Amazon needs to reconsider its policy about reviews and make it easier for authors to challenge reviews. I have no problem getting a negative review because someone doesn’t like my work. But when, as in this case, I have jumped through every hoop to correct a technical problem and yet Amazon drags its feet, those reviews are on them and not on me. I should not continue to be punished as a result. No author should.”

    You’re right. I have seen too many 1 star reviews for things that were not the seller fault. (disk scratched in shipping for example) Things like that should not be held against the seller. In this case, I did down check those reviews. Hopefully if enough of us do that, it will drive those down. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to review the book right now. (I’m still trying to work through books I got last year.)

    1. Just last week, I got a one-star review for my latest novel because the reader didn’t like getting an ad for the audio book version of the novel while he was reading the book on his Kindle. The review had nothing to do with the novel, of which he only read two pages, and it was for something entirely under Amazon’s control. I requested the removal of the review because the complaint was about Amazon, not the book. You can guess Amazon’s response:

      “I understand your concerns, but the review doesn’t violate our posted guidelines, so I’m unable to remove it in its current format.”

      Gee, thanks, Amazon.

      Admittedly, 20 of the other 21 reviews are five- and four-star reviews, with the remaining review being three-stars. And fortunately two more people have posted five-star reviews since the one-star review was posted. But it still sucks that my book got dinged for someone’s displeasure that they got an ad while reading the book. (That only happens if you buy the cheaper, ad-enabled Kindle, too. So, it’s like the reader is pissed off at me because he chose to save a few bucks when buying his Kindle.)

      It’s nothing like what Amanda suffered through and it does put me one closer to the magic number of 25 reviews, but it still sucks.

      1. I remember contacting Amazon when the first one of those showed up on my Kindle Fire. I was not amused. At least the CSR explained that the author had nothing to do with it, that it was part of the latest update to the Fire’s OS and to the app’s programming.

      2. Actually, that kind of one-star review doesn’t hurt. As long as your average is 4 and above, when readers click the only one star and it’s an idiot…

        Well, we are known by our detractors as well as by our friends 🙂

    2. It seems one of those items where you should have two ratings. Fulfillment and product.

    3. I have no problem with bad reviews that are earned. For e-books, that means looking at the craft, the formatting, etc. I even understand getting upset with receiving something you didn’t pay for. But when, days after the correct file has been uploaded, the issue persists, Amazon should react and should — at the very least — remove those reviews that came in after the upload. As for being behind on reading, I hear you. I would love to have a couple of weeks to just sit and read and not worry about anything else.

      1. I disagree. I think that Amazon should leave the review, but add a mea culpa to it. This would be good for the author by making it clear that while there was a problem it was not the author’s fault and for Amazon by giving them incentive to fix problems both quickly and correctly.

          1. Honestly, I think it’s best if Amazon has a complete hands-off policy. The consequences of the former have not worked out well for any other media platform.

            1. I would normally agree but when the reviews are because of their system being slow to (or failing to) update, then the authors shouldn’t be penalized.

              1. Perhaps a mass-answer option could l d be enabled at that point?

                IOW an addenda in italics to the review stating “this review was caused by Amazon.com (or publisher – or both) that has since been resolved?

                Keep the opportunity and thus temptation for Amazon employees to use reviews to virtue signal and educate their interiors to a minimum?

  2. Hmmm. If some people are still getting the wrong file – it exists somewhere on Amazon’s systems. The geographic pattern of any responses you get to your query could be very interesting.

    (Yes, I have worked with distributed systems, although not as massive as Amazon’s – and have encountered nodes that have refused to update. One reason I always ran tests on DST switching…)

    1. Agreed. That is one of the reasons I’m asking folks to let me know if they are still having problems. The updates should have worked through the system days ago. Shrug.

    2. Long ago I ran a node on a store-and-forward network called RIME, that was sort of a Stalinist version of FIDOnet. RIME ran off a central server and every node had to dial in at their appointed timeslot to get their mail.

      Every time there was a change in DST the whole thing fell apart for days. That’s not even counting the nodes in states that didn’t participate in DST or changed on a different date, and a handful from out of the country entirely.

      Each time I’d suggest they just set the schedule to GMT and be done with it. It never failed to start a lengthy thread of pop-eyed outrage, because supposedly-intelligent sysadmins simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that it didn’t *matter* that time zone you used, as long everyone using the same zone…

      1. Oh yes. Last long job I had, we had people in… Qatar, Egypt, Sweden, France, Brazil, Mexico, Alabama, Arizona, California, Mexico (also two zones), and China.

        I could never convince the mail admins to just set the damn thing to stamp everything by UTC. Finally downloaded an app that let me keep as many clocks as I wanted on the desktop…

  3. Thank you for letting us follow along, Amanda. I’ve bookmarked these posts and have added things to my pre-release triple check checklist.

    At the moment I’ve pretty much given up on pre-orders. The stress does not seem worth any benefits currently available.

    1. I’m still on the fence about pre-orders. One thing is certain, I won’t hold one for as long as I did this time. Still, I’m not sure I will do it for the next book or two. Let’s just say I’m a little gun shy right now.

      1. Your article plus several other pre-order horror stories (like Amazon not updating the final version of the book and releasing the pre-order placeholder one) have convinced me to stay away from the whole mess. The only exception would be if I want the release of a sequel coincide with a Book Bub promo for the first book in a series, in which case I’ll have a ready-to-go book with a delayed release. But otherwise, the potential problems seem like too much hassle.

  4. I tried removing the book and downloading it again, but kept getting the wrong version until I went to my account page at Amazon on my PC and clicked on the updated file notification. The next time I downloaded the file, it was the correct one. My point here is that I wasn’t able to fix it from my device alone, but had to go on my computer. I didn’t need to get Amazon support involved, but I still haven’t figured out how to get automatic updates.

    1. I’m glad it worked for you. I know some folks who did the same thing and it worked and others it didn’t work on. That’s why I’m trying to gather as much information as I can. Maybe that will help prevent it from happening to some other author down the road.

  5. First step, make the file right. You’ve done that. Second, let Amazon know. You’ve done that.
    Suggested third step: cobble up a brief explanation of what happened, if possible no more than a paragraph. Then send a copy of that paragraph, along with a request they delete or change the bad review, to each reader who posted one. Offer them a free copy of your next book, or maybe one of your previously posted books.
    A few won’t change their review, maybe none of them will. But I don’t think it will hurt. The negative reviews reflect the belief that you had attempted to deceive or ‘cheat’ readers. By letting them know that it was all the result of an honest mistake, you might change some minds.
    Each review has an ‘Add a comment’ link. I would use it. I might also put that brief explanation of what happened on your blog and your various Author’s Pages. Get the information out there.
    If nothing else, you’ll have done all you can, so put it behind you and move on.
    I would stop the pre-orders, as you suggested you might. Pre-orders leaves you without the flexibility to pull the book, do any necessary changes, and republish. That might get rid of the one-star reviews. You might think about doing that anyway, a month down the road. Amazon offers the option of uploading different editions of your books. It’s something you might consider exploring.
    The worst thing about bad reviews is that they hurt your options regarding promotions, down the road. My own experience indicates they aren’t the sales-killer you’re afraid of. Good reviews will soon overwhelm them. My only book to draw one-star reviews (The Ship, published in December) is by far my best seller. As for those one-star reviews, they’re now buried in a mass of better ones and you really have to hunt to find them. I doubt most prospective purchasers will bother.
    Good luck.

    1. I’ve done most of what you’ve suggested. This is the first time I’m made a concerted effort to check reviews at least once a day and have been responding to all of them, positive and negative alike.

      As for offering to give away the book, I have made that offer to several — not in response to the reviews but to those who have let me know they have continued having problems. To the person, they have turned me down, saying that it is Amazon’s problem and not mine. That is why I decided to figure out a way to do another story in the Honor and Duty universe and offer it for free for a short period before offering it up on Amazon.

      With regard to updating via a new edition, I have considered that. But first I want the issues with this one to be resolved. I do NOT want to run the risk of a repeat. Where the negative reviews are concerned, I’m not so worried about sales down the road but sales right now. When those negative reviews make up a good portion of overall reviews, they impact not only what the reader sees when they are on the product page, but author and title ranking. But we will see what happens the rest of the week.

  6. For what it’s worth, the only time I take my Kindle off airplane mode is when I’m notified of a mandatory software update. All books get downloaded to my computer then side loaded to the Kindle. Sure, it’s an extra step or two, but I feel better when I’m in control of my content.

    When you buy physical goods from Amazon you at least have the opportunity to rate delivery and packaging separate from your satisfaction with the product itself. It truly sux that Amanda is getting grief for Amazon’s screwup.

  7. Amazon is not the only game in town, nor is it the easiest site to work with (that distinction goes to D2D, IMO). To make a book free on Amazon without being in the KDP Select program, you have to get them to price match. Everywhere else, you can set it free directly.

    Right now, Amazon accounts for about 60% of my sales. That’s certainly the lion’s share, but the sales in places like iBooks and Nook are not insignificant. Back in 2014, I made the mistake of depending too much on Amazon to market my books for me, and got seriously burned when KU launched and none of my books were in it. They still aren’t, because I hold to the position that exclusivity is a bad deal for both me and my readers, but the sales outside of Amazon are picking up the slack, and growing at an encouraging rate.

    Any author who is exclusive to one retailer can never be truly independent.

    1. I will agree that D2D is easier to work with than BN or Smashwords but, imo, Amazon is still the easiest. But to each his own. The real problem with D@D is that it doesn’t distribute to Amazon. As for setting a book for free places other than Amazon, the last time I tried to do so, it was also getting them to match prices. That may have changed. My biggest issue is that I did not get enough sales either going directly to BN, iTunes, Kobo, etc., to justify the time it took to format, track and all the other things you have to do to keep control of your accounts. When taking those low numbers and then paying someone else — D2D or any other 3rd party — to distribute them, well, it really wasn’t worth the effort. I have more than made up any loss of income by going to KU and limiting my sales to Amazon. Since most folks now read on tablets or smartphones or their computers, the audience isn’t as limited as it once was.

      But experiences differ author to author and title to title.

      1. It takes a while to build up sales on the other sites (years, sometimes) and you have to learn other strategies that are different from those on Amazon. It’s work, to be sure. But I’ve found it to be worth it.

        1. I’m putting in a whine for the poor reader.
          I can budget $9.99 per month for Kindle Unlimited, and I rarely get anything that’s not KU. I take advantage of Baen’s Gimp program, and there’s always Gutenberg and Open Library, but mostly, unless it’s KU, I simply can’t afford to read it. I know that there were some people who put up their purchase and KU earning numbers right after they changed the formula (summer 2014? or 2015?)
          It makes me sad, knowing that the only way I’m going to be able to read some books is when Open Library gets them, but who knows? Maybe when Kenneth turns 16, I’ll let him have a driver’s license so he can take me to the library.

          1. I would love to put my books in KU, but the exclusivity requirement is a deal breaker. As for pricing concerns, my novels are all $2.99 and $3.99, and I set two books to free every month. Currently in the process of changing my catalog around, at which point the most expensive book will be $5.99 (and my newsletter subscribers will probably be able to pick it up for free eventually).

          1. Same here. KU currently accounts for 60% of my sales. There simply is no way going wide would replace those sales (not to mention the fallout from the drop in ranking removing the books from KU would entail, or the marketing options available to KDP Select members).

            1. Well, better hope that KU3 doesn’t break your winning streak. Kindle Unlimited is a horribly broken system, and I doubt it’s going to be around five years from now. Certainly nowhere close to its current form.

              1. I don’t see how it is horribly broken. Perfect? Far from it, certainly. There are plenty of problems. But Amazon may fix them. KU 2.0 is far superior to 1.0, IMHO, and the last set of tweaks seems to have curtailed some of the abuse of the system, as witnessed by how the per-page payout has stabilized in the last couple of months (it may not last, of course, but then I figure Amazon will tweak things in response; it seems to want to stay in the .45 a cent payout range, which seems reasonable to me). If the number of subscribers grows, or if Amazon considers the service something valuable enough for it to pump money into it, people will continue to derive a good deal of income from it.

                When KU becomes unprofitable for me, I’ll move on. Meanwhile, my bills are getting paid and then some. Don’t see how impoverishing myself now by going ‘wide’ will improve my situation when or if KU goes away. Choosing to be worse off today because I may be worse off tomorrow doesn’t sound appealing.

                1. You haven’t been following the latest scandal with page count scammers. So many people are making five figures a month with text generators and click farms that courses have sprung up teaching people how to do it. But this type of gaming shouldn’t be a surprise, considering how the program is essentially a zero sum game for authors.

                  1. Actually, I have. And it’s no skin off my back. During the height of the scamming era, January, when KENP’s payout hit a low of .41 a cent, I still managed to hit the KENP All-Stars. Sure, the shenanigans cost me .04 a cent a page that month – not exactly the end of the world. Given that the payout went up again, my guess is that Amazon quietly did away with many of the scammers.

                    Even if they didn’t and people are still scamming the system, what do I care as long as the per-page payout remains in an acceptable range? I don’t like the idea of people stealing from the system, but at seventh and last it’s like worrying that other (legitimate) authors are making money. It doesn’t affect me directly, if at all. Hasn’t affected me at all so far, other than reducing my payout by a few percentage points on the worst months. Regardless, I still got paid sixty days later, on time, the check cleared, and I made more money on borrows than sales.

                    As to being a zero-sum game, ultimately the entire book market is a zero-sum game. There are X dollars doled out a year by readers and Y books that split that money among them. KU’s fund is a smaller sub-market with somewhat different dynamics and the added bonus that its participants are more likely to try unknown indie authors than the market at large. The KU people clicking on scam books aren’t likely to be interested in science fiction, so their buying behavior doesn’t affect me any more than the people going into the coloring book craze affect me. If someone somehow convinces mil-sf readers to click on random-word generated books and The Big Book of Random Words, Vols 1-5 hit the top spots of the Space Marines Best-Selller list, then I’ll begin to worry – and not that much as long as the per-page payout remains good and sales are steady.

                    Again, if the “scams/Amazon going evil/the sky falling” drive the per-page price below a certain level, I’ll leave the program. Until then, I’ll keep cashing those checks. How is Amazon hurting me?

                    1. The general book market is not a zero sub game, in the same way that the general economy is not a zero sub game. If it were, the socialists and progressives would be right, and redistribution would be the only logical answer to economic injustice.

                      We can’t all be All-Stars. A lot of writers have been hurt disproportionately more than you have by the scamming. Outside of KDP Select, however, we can all succeed without the system pitting us all against each other.

                      Take care.

                    2. And by the same token, KU isn’t a zero-sum game, either. You’re the one making the silly claim. Just like the book market, there are X dollars and Y books. The distribution model is different but the system keeps growing and changing, just like any other market.

                      And before you say All-Stars again like that somehow disqualifies my experience (nice of you to borrow the SJW tactic, btw), for most of my indie writing career I’ve averaged about $600-700 a month in sales, not exactly JKR or Stephen King – and KU has represented a huge chunk of those earnings, so yeah, KU was a huge boon to me long before I had a good month. And the 0.04 a cent cost of the scams hurt me a LOT more when I had millions of page reads in January than when I had tens of thousands or less in the previous months. So actually, no, I was hurt more in absolute dollars in January, and I was hurt the same proportionally during the previous months when I was seeing a fraction of those borrows.

                      KU doesn’t pit anybody against anybody. All markets are pies with an absolute amount over a given length of time and everyone carves out a piece. The KU pie also varies, and your share depends on how well you do. So tell me why the book market at large isn’t zero sum and KU is. The rules aren’t quite the same, but like in every market, there are winners and losers. Except the KU reader that reads my book today can pick up Sarah’s or Amanda’s book tomorrow, and we all make money. His reading their books doesn’t hurt me any more than someone buying your book on Barnes and Noble hurts me.

                      But, hey, no one is begrudging your choice. You are the one who can’t seem to accept the answer “okay, that’s nice, but I’m making a lot more in KDP Select than I would outside it.”

                    3. “So tell me why the book market at large isn’t zero sum and KU is.”

                      Same reason the general economy is not zero sum: because wealth is created, not simply redistributed. If readers decided to buy twice as many books, then twice as much money would come into the system. If twice as many readers decided to read someone else’s books, that would not take away from my own earnings.

                      In contrast, KDP Select is a closed system. Authors are paid a share out of a common pot. If readers decided to read twice as many KU books, Amazon might increase the pot, or they might not. We have no way of knowing whether the increases to the pot are commensurate with the growth of the KU subscriber base. In KDP Select, if twice as many readers decide to read someone else’s books, I would get a smaller share. My income would go down even if the size of my readership remains unchanged.

                      “You are the one who can’t seem to accept the answer ‘okay, that’s nice, but I’m making a lot more in KDP Select than I would outside it.'”

                      That’s an excellent counter-argument if short-term gains are the only thing that matters. But I’m trying to build a long-term career. Ten years from now, most of us will not remember what was said in this comment thread. But our careers will be impacted by the conclusions we draw from it.

                    4. KU is a subscription system. If more people subscribe, more money is available. Not a closed system, bud, except in the sense that the book market is a “closed system’ in the sense that there are X billion of people there, so that’s the upper limit to how many book buyers exist.

                      “That’s an excellent counter-argument if short-term gains are the only thing that matters. But I’m trying to build a long-term career. Ten years from now, most of us will not remember what was said in this comment thread. But our careers will be impacted by the conclusions we draw from it”

                      Guess what, I’m trying to build a long-term career, too. And I’m doing it by building an audience, both within and without KU. You’re laboring under the misconception that refusing to make money now is somehow going to benefit you later. Because short-term. Guess what, pal, long-term we’re all dead.

                      Your advice: “Welp, since KU is a) a nest of scammers, b) evil because Closed System Zero Sum Badness, c) It’s broken and will shut down this year or next year or five years from now, then:

                      Get out of of KU, cutting your income in half or more (in many cases, something in the 60-70% range between sales lost and ranking/visibility loss.

                      Then spend a lot of time and energy working with the half dozen other income trickles out there until you eventually derive 40% of your income from it, which is going to be less than what you were making before.

                      But wait! By your own admission, you’re still making 60% of your sales from Amazon, so if Amazon turns evil, you’re still screwed. All you managed to do before that dark day arrived was make less money. Because reasons. What an awesome deal. For a beginning writer, that’s terrible advice. It’s hard enough to get any visibility, and you want them to cut themselves off a large lucrative market where readers are far more willing to give newbies a try. The main reason I’m expounding on this at this length is not to convince you (you’re clearly a True Believer), but to hopefully convince any aspiring writers who read this blog that you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.

                      Guess what, thanks to KU I’ve grown my readership from a few hundred to a few thousand people. If/When I quit KU, I’ll still be better off than you, since at least some of those readers will follow me. And I’ll still have all that short-term money sitting in the bank. But go ahead, be a master of your own destiny – what master, btw? We’re all here singing for our supper; dependent on the good will of others to pay for our work. But I’ll go back to my tenant farmer field (or is it sharecropper?) and sing while I labor under the hot sun.

                  2. Oh, you mean the very thing Amazon has taken steps to stop? Or, as C. J. mentioned in his response, that had minimal impact on the rest of us when you look at the whole picture?

                    Look, we get that you are an Amazon hater, whether you want to admit it or not. The truth is, for most of us here, KU has been a much better option than the old KDP Select program. I make more in one month of KU payments than I was making in a year of sales from BN or any of the other outlets. As for your claim that Amazon doesn’t have most of the overseas market, it certainly has more than BN. It isn’t as difficult to use as iTunes which requires a Mac or third-party to upload. And don’t tell me to use D2D. Why should I give up a portion of my royalties when I can do something myself?

                    The bottom line is, until one of the other outlets can 1) actually compete with Amazon in numbers and 2) offer me the same perks, it isn’t worth my time to use them. As I noted elsewhere, anyone with a smartphone, laptop or desktop or a tablet can read a book bought from Amazon. All you have to do is download the app.

                    1. Minimal impact on KDP All Stars, perhaps. But not all of us can be KDP All Stars. Don’t discount how much this has hurt people who are not you.

                      I am not an “Amazon hater” for being critical of one of their programs, any more than I am racist, sexist, or homophobic for disagreeing with the progressives. Frankly, it surprises me that you would play that card. Then again, you do have a vested interest in KU which may keep you from looking at it too critically. And the way the incentives are structured, it pits authors against each other, which is exactly what is happening here.

                      You can thank iBooks for your 70% royalties. They are the ones who introduced that royalty tier, pressuring Amazon to follow suit. They are one of many growing markets with a lot of eager readers. Those readers may not be worth your time, but they are worth mind.

                    2. Sorry, but the Amazon royalties have been 35% and 70% as long as I have been with them — which is pretty much from the beginning. As for the “hater”, that’s the way you come off in your comments.

                      Regarding pitting authors against one another, are you serious? This entire business is pitting one author against another. If you try to go traditional, you are in competition against every other author trying to find and agent or a publisher. Then you are in competition for readers. As indies, we simply skip the first two steps and go straight into competition for readers. It doesn’t matter if you are in KU or not.

                      Believe me, I look at the KU program critically and have from the beginning. If you took the time to go back and look at my posts about the program (going back to the beginning), you would see I have been both supportive and critical along the way. However, I do contend you are wrong when you say it is a broken program, especially when you give no more proof of it being “broken” than you have. Frankly, it is far better than it has ever been and Amazon does respond to concerns and tries to make it better. Are there hiccups along the way? Sure. That’s only natural. But Amazon does listen to authors and its customers, our readers. That is more than I can say for a lot of the other outlets.

                      As for the rest of it, I have never been an All Star although I would like to be and continue working toward it. I’m just a schmoe working hard to be the best writer I can be. I’ve done my research and for what I write and based on my experience with other markets as well as that of other authors, the financial return from Amazon far surpasses that of the other outlets. Does that mean I wouldn’t jump to see someone actually go into competition with the Big A? I’d love it.

                      No one here is telling you that you’re wrong. We’re simply telling you what our experiences have been. You, on the other hand, appear to be condemning us for our opinions. That might not be your intent but it is how it reads. So let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

                    3. A little less gaslighting, please. Of course you are telling me that I’m wrong. Nothing wrong with that, in a civil debate. And if I have violated the lines of civility, please point out how.

                      Also, check your facts. Before Apple got into the eBook market, KDP royalties were 35% across the board. This is well documented by people who have been selling ebooks longer than either of us.

                      The general book market does not pit all of us against each other. If it did, Sarah Hoyt would not do the promo post thing on her blog (thank you for that, BTW). Also, book bombs would not be a thing.

                      KDP Select pits authors against each other because payment is based on each writer’s share of a fixed pot, which none of us has the power to grow. Your share decreases when others do better. And Amazon doesn’t tell you how much you will be paid until after your books have been read.

                      It’s a fixed pie. Tenant farming, as opposed to homesteading. That’s all I’m trying to point out.

                    4. Oh my, moving the goal posts. I so love it when folks do that. Look, I have talked about my experience and the experience of other writers I know. You come in and claim the system is broken and cite one instance that is being corrected even as I type this. Okay, we get it. You don’t like KU. Fine.

                      Your argument that KU pits authors against authors because of the pool is ludicrous. As I pointed out, we are pitted against one another from the moment we sit down and start to write. We are in competition for agents and editors and publishers. We are in competition for readers. Guess what? That means we are in competition for money, an unknown monetary pool. As for the KU pool, we know withing hundredths of a percentage what we will get paid. No one is making us enter the program and no one is making us stay in it.

                      You say you want to increase the size of the pie and yet you won’t entertain the possibility that KU does just that. It does it by adding another pie to the equation. As Pat noted in his comment earlier, KU allows people who would not be able to buy our books otherwise, to read them. Guess what? That gives us money we would not otherwise have gotten.

                      As I said in my previous comment, we have to agree to disagree. I will say this as well. When you ask someone for proof of what they are saying, you had better be prepared to be asked for your own proof in return and if you refuse to do so or try to move the goal posts, you will be assumed to be a troll who is here only to stir the pot and not to have a real discussion.

                    5. Like I said upthread, I would love to put my books into KU, but exclusivity is a deal breaker for me. It would be great if KU was simply another pie in addition to all the others. With Amazon’s exclusivity requirement, however, that is not the case.

                      I’m not sure why we’re talking past each other. I’ve been following Mad Genius Club for some time, but this discussion has all the hallmarks of attacking the one who opens the doors to the echo chamber.

                      Regarding the OP however, I wish you the best of luck in getting your problems resolved with Amazon.

                    6. Minimal impact on everyone. Seriously, I used the All-Star example to show how little impact the scams had on my career. I had no impact on my on the 27 months when I didn’t win an All-Star prize or came within an order of magnitude of winning that price. Before then, I’ve had $100 months and $2,000 months and everything in between, and the one constant there was that when KU came out, it accounted for anywhere between 1/3 and 2/3+ of my income. But yeah, grab on to that All-Star Privilege schtick for all it’s worth. Because if I’m doing well on KU, I’m obviously stealing from Sarah’s share. You know, because anybody who reads one of my books will never read one of hers next, even though as a KU subscriber it costs him nothing.

                      And the KU pits authors against one another is ridiculous. We’re still selling books regularly. KU is a program that’s restricted to a limited sector of the market, and what we’re really competing for is not the fixed pot (the per-page rate is the same for everyone) but the time and eyeballs of the readers, just like in the broader market. There are only so many people reading, and they have so many dollars to spend and so much time to read in. Those are fixed factors, just like KU’s pot is fixed.

                    7. I read a lot more under KU, as a reader. I hated signing up for it, but I did. At the moment I am very restricted as to spending and will continue to be so until my sons graduate and/or I have a bestseller (Ah!). So I signed up. What I found is that I try a lot new authors and read a lot more, because “it doesn’t cost me anything to try.” And yes, I often then go back and buy every one of the author’s books.
                      What would I be doing if there were no KU? Probably re-reading stuff I liked years ago, because I don’t have the money to burn on trying people most of whom don’t pan out after 12 pages or so.

                    8. My experience has been the same as Sarah. Before my KU sub, I bought people I knew, and when my income was tight (and until the last quarter of last year, it was tight indeed), that $9.99 a month comprised my entire reading budget for the month. And I’ve discovered a handful of great new authors and tried out a few dozen other not-so-great ones, none of which I’d have bothered to check out without the low-risk option.

          2. While genre is certainly a factor, I’m not convinced it’s the only (or even most important) one.

            There are romance writers making a killing on Amazon. There are romance writers making a killing outside of Amazon. There are sci-fi writers making a killing on Amazon. There are sci-fi writers doing great elsewhere. In fact, of all the genres, science fiction seems to be most resistant to KU, according to some accounts.

            Regardless, there’s no mystical algorithm that controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

            1. Not what I’ve seen, for SF. In fact, once you’re making around or over 1k a month, no one bothers with outside Amazon, unless they’re a small press with a lot of numbers.

              1. How are you so sure? The last time someone tried to tell me how much I was making, he was off by an order of magnitude. Even trickles of income add up quickly. And Amazon has barely penetrated most of the international markets.

                    1. seriously? You’re asking me to divulge other PEOPLE’s INCOME? SERIOUSLY? Source for yours, then. You’re the one making the claim that goes against my experience, Cedar’s, Amanda’s, and everyone else’s I ever talked to.

                    2. You’ve made one of those “everyone just knows” types of assertions, and used it as negative evidence. For your argument to be correct, you would have to have knowledge of everyone’s income across all retailers, which of course is impossible. That’s what I’m calling you on.

                      It is entirely reasonable that within your own writerly circles, the only people making it big are in KDP Select. But the overall market is much, much bigger than the circles you run in (or any of us, for that matter).

                    3. You’re also making completely unsupported contrary assertions. And no, I’m not divulging anyone else’s numbers and names.
                      I’m just telling you that the ten or so authors who discuss numbers with me match my experience.
                      Don’t like it? Leave it on the side of your plate. I’m just telling you until proven otherwise, you are telling me conterfactuals.

                    4. WTF similar minded people? JOE, kindly get a grip on reality. I am threaded through pro circles, and when we get together this is one of the things we discuss.
                      I find it amusing and somewhat jaw-dropping you’re asking me to substantiate this, when you’re the one who is an outlier, and also apparently very invested in having everyone follow your model.
                      I’m going to warn you this is your last and FINAL warning. I’m under a great deal of stress right now. If you continue calling me a liar for no other reason than that you disagree, I’m going to take off the gloves and resort to vocabulary.

                    5. I have not and am not calling you a liar, Sarah. Those are words you have put in my mouth. I am criticizing your argument, not you personally.

                    6. You may not have used those words but the implication was there. Sarah and I have warned you. I suggest you step back a bit and consider what everyone has said and consider the fact that we might know something, have an insight into something you don’t have. Believe it or not, we have tried to do so with you. But when you keep coming back and telling us we are wrong to be doing things as we are — and, yes, that is exactly what you are doing whether you want to admit it or not — then you are wearing out your welcome. If we have to warn you again, you are gone.

                    7. OMFG, do you think Sarah is going to tell you exactly how many writers she is in contact with on this issue? She isn’t and I guaran-damn-tee you is it more than ten. Now, either submit your proof (since you have demanded she do so and I won’t even approach her about it until you back up your own statements) or drop it. Or to put it another way, there are a number of us just in these comments or, if you wanted to really do your research, in comments to other posts over the last five plus years who have dealt with e-book sales, domestically and foreign. Not just members of MGC but our regular commenters as well. Our experience is that KU is far from broken. It is a tool that has expanded our income and our sales — yes, sales because there are a lot of readers out there who will try a new author through KU and who will then buy our books. They will also recommend our books to others.

                      So let’s put it this way. I have said we can agree to disagree. That should end the topic. You are continuing to stir the pot. So consider this your warning that you are starting to tread on thin ice.

                    8. I lived for a year in Georgia, the former Soviet Republic. There were signs all over that country that the Communist system had not worked. At the same time, there were people who remembered the Communist era fondly, and wanted to return to it, because they and their friends and family had benefited from it.

                      In any broken system, people’s experience of the brokenness varies wildly. Therefore, personal experience is not a reliable metric on which to judge whether a system is broken or not.

                      We can certainly agree to disagree. The reason I am still interested in this discussion is to suss out the exact nature of the areas of disagreement. Unfortunately, you seem to be conflating disagreement with personal attack, which I assure you is not the case.

                    9. Joe, the problem is you don’t seem interested in it. When we say something you disagree with, you do attack. Whether you realize it or not. I have suggested you step back and consider what we have said and I now suggest you consider the tenor of your own comments. Please. discussion is one thing, continually telling us that our experience doesn’t count — and that is the impression you give — is something completely different.

                    10. That is not the impression I intended to give, and I’m sorry if that was the case. I have a rather infuriating (to some people) tendency to stake out a position and argue for it simply to test it out and see if it is correct. Nothing personal.

                      That said, if your biggest criticism of my argument is the delivery and not the substance…

                    11. OMG, do you have to get in the last word on everything? No, that is not the only criticism. See the responses we have all posted.

                    12. That said, if your biggest criticism of my argument is the delivery and not the substance…

                      The delivery is that you’re a prancing, self-aggrandizing, self-congratulating spunkmuffin. If there was any substance apart from that, nobody but you is able to discern what it was.

                  1. Joe, truly, you’re coming across as a pompous blowhard.
                    Sarah is quite well connected in the writing community in multiple genres and with close friends associated with several publishing houses.
                    And demanding sources is a well known classic troll dick move.
                    Really dude!
                    Sharing your experiences absolutely fine, thanks for the inputs.
                    Badmouthing and demeaning others for their opinions and experiences, just not cool.

                    1. Dude, Sarah has 38 published books, some of them indie. Amanda Green has at least 6 (that I can remember off the top of my head) publications on Amazon, all on KU. The whole circle of people that work with and around Sarah contains a ton of indie or mixed authors. If there was a problem, everyone would know about it by now.

                    2. “And demanding sources is a well known classic troll dick move.”

                      Is it also a “dick move” to trust but verify?

                      I don’t doubt that Sarah is being honest about her own experiences vis-a-vis KDP Select. I don’t doubt that she’s a professional with connections and experience that are greater than my own. But she didn’t make an argument from her experience. She generalized her experience to the entire market.

                      Her exact words:

                      “Once you’re making around or over 1k a month, no one bothers with outside Amazon, unless they’re a small press with a lot of numbers… most small presses bother with the midgets, but single authors don’t.”

                      I’m on a Facebook group with a lot of well-connected indie writers who go wide with most of their books, and are doing quite well outside of Amazon. Their experience is not reflective of Sarah’s or Amanda’s experience. Therefore, when I hear broad generalizations such as “no one bothers,” it sets off a red flag. Hence asking her to back up her argument with a source, which to my mind is a lot more civil and reasonable than simply saying “you’re wrong.”

                    3. Look, I have nothing against Sarah, or Amanda, or anyone else here personally. I don’t doubt that they are honest, well-meaning people, that they are well-connected in the book world and publishing industry, and that much of their advice is quite good.

                      But here’s the thing:

                      The best advice and the worst writing/publishing advice I’ve ever read both came from the same source. That taught me a valuable lesson: that you have to look at more than just the source when deciding whose advice to follow. That’s especially true in an industry that’s changing as rapidly as publishing is changing.

                      I have to be honest: the Mad Genius Club really does seem like an echo chamber if you guys are all conflating reasoned disagreement with personal attack. Point me out where I have badmouthed or demeaned others, and I will apologize. Tell me I’m not welcome, and I’ll leave.

                    4. Joe, this is your very last warning. I’ve had it. I have asked you to step back and consider what the post said, what the comments have said and what your “tone” has been. You have refused. Instead, you continue to come in and use backhanded insults. You demand we provide proof of our statements but have yet to give any for yours. You continue to put forth that we are wrong or don’t understand or whatever because we don’t agree with you.

                      So let me put it to you very simply. Go away for the next six hours and think about what has been said here. Reread the post. Reread the comments. Look at what you said and ask yourself what about your comments tended to set us off? Then, if you want to have a discussion, we will. However, a discussion isn’t one that is one-sided, as in wanting us to prove our stance while you don’t have to.

                      Failure to comply will result in the ban hammer swinging.

                    5. My personal vote is this:
                      1.you really should stay, and
                      2. read what other people are saying, and
                      3. develop a feel for the place, and
                      4. don’t contribute another word for a month.

                      Because right now, I find NO evidence that you have accomplished anything but to irritate people. I attest, personally, that I don’t want to hear anything else you have to say for a while. It’s possible you might have a contribution to make later, but so far you haven’t brought any happiness with you.

                      Is that clear enough?

                    6. Joe, where did I make it clear you aren’t welcome? I asked you to step back and reconsider the tone of your comments. Clearly, you don’t wish to do so. Since that appears to be the case, good day.

                    7. I didn’t see this post before I went on a final rant. Apologies for the wall of text. I really need to go back to write stuff I’ll be paid for 🙂

                    8. No need for apologies, C. J. Thanks, too, for your insights on the topic. As always, I enjoyed reading what you had to say.

            2. I don’t know whose accounts those are, but a quick glance at most SF best-selling lists shows a lot of indie writers using KU, so clearly there are tens of thousands of KU readers out there. and a lot of them are not going to buy many books outside the KU system.

              I’d be interested to know how much money D2D/Smashwords pay out a month. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out it’s less than $15 million a month. If it’s more, awesome, but I doubt it. I don’t think the info is out there (or my Google-fu is weak), so I’d love it if someone could provide those numbers.

              The “official” (trad-pub) ebook market in the US grossed $3.4 billion in 2014, the set of figures I found with a quick Google search. Let’s assume it’s four billion in 2016. If 10% of that money goes to authors (which may be overgenerous on my part), that would be a total payout of $400 million. If KU’s monthly payout remains at $14 million a month, that’s a total of $168 million. That makes it a pretty darn big sub-market.

              1. You’re thinking in terms of slicing the pie. I’m thinking in terms of making more pie.

                Author Earnings Report estimates the eBook shadow market to be around 30% to 40% of what we can measure. And your 10% multiplier forgets that indies ARE publishers, and as such take a much higher share.

                You’re scrambling for numbers that support your predetermined position, rather than adjusting your position based on solid, confirmed facts.

                1. At this point, I don’t know what you’re talking about. For one, nobody is only selling their books through KU. That’s in addition to regular book sales, where we are all ‘making pie’ by marketing and promoting.

                  10% of the trad-pub ebook market has nothing to do with what indies make or not make. So say the indie market’s size is 30% of the 4 billion, for 1.2 billion. And indies get a much bigger share of that money – say 60%, which makes it $720 million going into indies’ pockets. Which would make sense, since indies as a group are earning more than their trad-pubbed counterparts as a whole. Which makes the $169 million share of that market still damn big.

                  And given the fact that facts don’t seem to make any impression on you, that’s a funny argument to take.

                  1. The KDP Select fund is certainly a sizeable share of the market–that I agree with you on. It is not the only share that matters.

                    Regular book sales do grow the pie, on Amazon and elsewhere. KU borrows do not. The only way that pie grows is when Amazon arbitrarily increases the KDP Select fund.

                    1. And when more people participate in the KU program. We don’t know if the $15 million a month comes from 30 million subscribers at $9.99 a pop and Amazon paying out half the total, or 5 million subscribers and Amazon paying out three times what it makes. But given the size of the pot and total pages read is increasing, that means the subscriber pool is growing. More people, many of whom don’t have more than $10 a month to spend, now can participate in the reading market and read at least a couple of books more than they would have otherwise.

  8. 1) Sorry you had such a rough ride, and I will pay very close attention to anything I upload (even more than before), and
    2) you have me terrified to make any changes with what’s already up – and working.

    What if I break something?

    My description, author page, and editorial reviews need updating – and I’ve been scared to death to touch them. I don’t have 1/100,000 of the energy you have expended cleaning this up.

    Any advice – from anyone – on how not to mess up changes?

    1. First of all, don’t be afraid. I’ve made changes before without any problems. This was just one of those things that happen from time to time, usually to someone else. My best advice is to simply check and double-check what you have input before hitting enter. Then, if it is a new file, download the preview file and check it to make sure the conversion was done properly. Once it has gone live, check the preview on the product page. I guess it is just check and double check.

      1. I can manage most of the things that depend solely on myself – very, very slowly.

        When I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox, the timing elements kill me every time – I cannot respond fast enough, in real time.

        But I’ll take your advice, and do it one step at a time, very, very slowly – and check and double check.

        If you’re the praying kind, keep me on your list.

        1. Just a thought, from the software development wars — grab a copy before you make changes, and even now and then while making changes. Even someone else’s web page can be saved as html to your local system, which will give you something to fall back on if the changes don’t do what you thought they were going to do. Backup, backup, backup… It’s basic, but so helpful.

  9. Amanda, write a revenge story. Ashlyn discovers she has a glitch in her payroll records, and every office she reports to appears to be empty at first; then a flushed and sweaty figure below the counter says “Just a minute,” and emerges, batting away an inflatable party doll. Same scenario every place she goes, except you might want to add some penguins, based on what we saw the other day.
    Have fun with it. And include it as added value as a prequel chapter in the new and updated release, dedicated to all those who suffered through the misery of glitched release with you.

    1. Actually, what I will do is release a new edition with the new material — but probably not any penguins. I think I will also go ahead and write the next book in the series and get it out ASAP, just to make up for all the problems with Honor.

  10. I wish there were a way for users to force through updates. On my Laptop, I still have the original cover for Kiwi, and no matter how many times I delete and re-download it, it won’t change.

    Even worse, Facebook seems to have Cached the shortlink, so if I ever post that, again, the original cover and blurb, no matter what I do.

    1. Facebook does the same with the old cover of my first book. If anyone knows what to do about that I’d love to know.

    2. I have no solution for Facebook, but I DID locate the folder where the kindle program caches the covers, and deleting them downloaded fresh and correct ones. Now if only I could tell which of the two authorized versions of the program I am actually using so I can deauthorize the other.

    1. Richard, it should be available for purchase. If it isn’t, let me know and I will report it — again. And yes, I do get royalties for KU downloads. I get a fraction of a penny per page read.

  11. I think it’s awesome that you emailed Jeff… and then someone called you! I’m both sad, and happy you had this problem. Sad, because as an indie author myself, I can only imagine the stress. But happy, because I love military Sci-fi, and I never heard of your series. Now I get to read new books!

  12. I spent the entire day dealing with banks and broken vehicles. Well, I DID have breakfast with one of my oldest friends, but other than that, it was just alligators.
    Then I return home, to find my email inbox has EXPLODED from comments on MGC. Rather than read each each comment and try to fit them into the narrative, I come straight here and read them through.
    And I don’t like what I find. There is one thread that follows the original post intent, and it provides good info and encouragement.
    Then, there is a second thread, started by Joe Vasicek, a person with whom I am not familiar and whose work I am unaware of, that STARTS looking as if it is appropriate, but then quickly adopts an offensively argumentative tone.

    Can’t we develop a three-strikes-and-you-are-out rule? MUST we endure blathering that corresponds to a person wanting only to make a meaningless point?

    1. I did when I uploaded it. Unfortunately, that was 10 days prior to release since it was a pre-order, so I wasn’t able to check what they had until the date of release.

  13. About halfway through, now. Still enjoying it, but I keep getting interrupted. Is there any way for me to contact you directly? Feel free to send it to me at tigersizer at gmail dot com. (Does that trick still stop crawlers from finding emails? It’s pretty old and lame.)

    Thank you for making this public. It must be a stressful nightmare, but you are saving others from going through the same pain.

Comments are closed.