I woke up this morning not having clue one about today’s post. I’ve been neck deep in rewrites as well as doing an editorial job for a new author who is totally AWESOME. Add in my own work hijacking me yesterday and the day before into a different project and, well, MGC fell down the proverbial rabbit hole. As I searched for a topic, I came across a thread where an author was talking about their new strategy for success and, well, al I could do was shake my head.
For anyone out there thinking about writing, the first rule you have to understand is that writing is a business. As with any business, you have to do your homework. You need to know what your various distribution paths are and the requirements for them. You need to know your audience. You need to be able to supply a product that is not just good enough but that is unique in its own way. You also have to be aware of the rules for your distribution outlets because, if you fail to follow those rules, you can find yourself tossed out of that distribution arm and figuratively, if not literally, standing out in the cold.
But there’s something else you have to do and this is where I see a lot of writers falling short — you have to not only understand that writing is a business but you have to treat it as one. That means, when there is a problem with a distribution arm, you deal with it in a business-like manner. You don’t deal with the low level drones and then stomp your feet and take to social media to whine. You keep going up the chain of command — even if that low level drone says you have no recourse. There is always a recourse. It may take time and it may be frustrating but there are steps to be taken.
Anyway, back to what started this all off.
Five or six years ago, there was a huge movement, mainly by traditionally published authors, to condemn Amazon. They laid all of publishing’s woes at the feet of the ‘Zon. Amazon was killing the local bookstores (let’s forget how the big box stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble had already basically done that long before Amazon came onto the scene). Amazon was hurting publishers by setting lower prices. Amazon was evil because it made it easy for readers to get books. These same authors cheered when the Big 5 — then the Big 6 — along with Apple and B&N got together to collude on price fixing. It was all the evil Amazon’s fault.
Today, we have a new form of Amazon Derangement Syndrome. This time, it comes from indie authors. No, not all indie authors and certainly not even the vast majority of them. This is a relatively small number of authors, many of whom have never read the terms of service or kept up with the changes in the ToS since their first signed up for their Amazon KDP account.
Amazon doesn’t have that many rules. Not really. As an author, you agree not to offer your books at a lower price elsewhere. Guess what, every other platform I’ve looked at has the exact same rule. If you are a member of KDP Select, you can’t offer your book elsewhere. But guess what? A little effort presented me with a caveat to that. You can’t offer that “same” book elsewhere but, if you have a book offered across other platforms, you can still enroll the book in the KDP Select program IF — and this is the key — the KDP Select book has new material (as in at least one new chapter or more), a different cover and the book and book description make it clear that this is a special edition with exclusive material.
So big, bad Amazon gives you a way to take advantage of all outlets if you want to take the time to do what’ required.
And all it took for me to find that out was a simple email. Amazon followed up with a phone call and then a confirmation email. Being a businesswoman, I documented it all and filed it away in case I needed it in the future.
Where some authors have found themselves getting into trouble with Amazon is that they also forget that we are covered by more than just the KDP ToS. If we post reviews, we are covered by the ToS for those as well. Amazon has worked hard to try to do away with sock puppet reviews. It has worked to get rid of paid reviews. Have their efforts been completely successful? No. Unfortunately, valid reviews have sometimes been dropped as well — until, in most cases, the reviewer contacts Amazon and clears up the misconception.
There is one thing authors are not allowed to do — and this is where a some authors get into trouble. We are not allowed to trade reviews. That means we aren’t allowed to offer freebies if someone promises to leave a review. We aren’t allowed to trade a review of someone else’s work if they also promise to review our work. Amazon runs ‘bots to check reviews to see if there is a pattern of reviewers.
I have seen author after author complaining about disappearing reviews. Most of those complaining are those I know have been trading reviews with other authors. They aren’t even subtle about it. There are threads on FB and other social media platforms where they make the offer or they talk about it — all under the guise of “helping one another out”. Guess what, when those ‘bots were were talking about start noting that you only review other authors, they are going to flag your reviews.
It has nothing to do with what your politics are. Liberal authors have been hit as have conservative. There is no huge conspiracy about it. It is a crawler going through Amazon’s database to see what’s happening. The other outlets do the same thing — they just don’t get the press about removing reviews because they don’t have the customer base Amazon does.
Does this mean I think Amazon is doing all it can to prevent the erroneous removal of reviews? Hell no. At some point, the human element needs to review the action BEFORE the removal occurs. There needs to be a better appeals process than there is right now. But — and this is a big BUT — reviewers and authors need to stop acting like whining kids on a playground and actually act like business owners in dealing with the situation. Don’t just contact customer service. If you haven’t figured it out yet, most of those on the lower level have a script and have clue zero what to do if you go off-script with them. (Exactly the same sort of situation you find with most other major companies these days.) That manager you asked for — not much better. Ask for a resolution specialist or — duh — send an email to Jeff Bezos. he won’t see it but it will get seen and it will be reviewed. Just the other day, I read an article about how CSRs at Amazon dread getting emails form Bezos that have a simple “?” on it. You see, those emails are in response to emails sent to him and that is his way of basically saying, “What the hell is going on?”
But, first and foremost, don’t put yourself in that position. If you are going to promote your work, do it through legitimate means. If someone or some company offers you promotional opportunities that seem too good to be true, they probably are. No one can guarantee to get you x-number of reviews for a price unless they are writing the reviews themselves — remember the ban on sock puppet reviews.
Remember you can review your friends work but you need to reveal if you got the book for free as a review copy. It’s also a smart move to add that you know the author. Why? Because, the last time I looked at the review ToS, there was wording about friends and family. So be open and you run less of a chance of running afoul of the ‘Zon.
Be as professional in your dealings with Amazon — or any other outlet — as you would want them to be with you. But don’t give up after a few steps and stomp off to social media in a snit. Keep working at it and document everything. That way, when you do finally email Bezos or whoever is in charge of the outlet in question, you have your ammunition.
Be professional. Treat it as a business and quit acting like precious little prima donnas who aren’t required nofollow the rules. You don’t help yourselves and you certainly don’t help the rest of us. Most of all, read the rules. When you get an email saying the ToS has been updated, follow the link and read how. You will save yourself, and the rest of us, a lot of heartache if you do.
And now for some promo of my own:
Fire from Ashes, (Honor & Duty Book 4) is now available for pre-order.
At war with an old enemy, betrayed by a supposed ally, Fuercon is a system on the brink of disaster. All that stands between it and defeat are its Space Navy and Marines – and the fact the betrayer does not yet know its secret plans have been discovered. But will that be enough to turn the tide of war?
Honor and duty.
Honor and duty have guided Colonel Ashlyn Shaw’s life for as long as she can remember. Honor kept her sane when she was betrayed by those she had fought beside. Duty gave her reason to trust again once the betrayal came to light and her name, as well as the names of her fellow Devil Dogs, was cleared. Now she and the Marines under her command are once again asked to risk their lives to protect Fuercon from its enemies.
Family and the Corps.
They are why she fights. She knows what will happen to them should Fuercon fall to the Callusians. Their lives are worth any sacrifice she must make to help keep their homeworld safe.
The not-so-secret driving force of Ashlyn’s life. Four years ago, someone betrayed her and her command. That person now works to betray Fuercon. Ashlyn is determined to discover who – and why – and bring them to justice.
The storm clouds of war gather and time is running out. Will Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs be able to turn back the enemy and unmask the betrayer before all is lost?