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What Went Wrong?

Last night, I started making notes on the next couple of entries in the new Road to Publication series I’ve been doing. It dawned on me then that we talk a great deal about the process of writing, editing, formatting, etc., but we don’t talk a great deal about things that can go wrong with the process. Specifically, things that can go wrong once you upload your files to online marketplaces or distributors. I know there are those among us who have horror stories. I have my own. That is what I’m interested in.

In the comments, I’d like you to answer the following questions:

  1. What went wrong in the publication process? (Needs to be specific and it needs to be something you experienced. Please, no second-hand tales.)
  2. How did you discover there was a problem?
  3. What steps did you take to find a resolution to the problem?
  4. How long did it take and were you able to come to a satisfactory resolution?

For example, here is one of my tales of woe. Early on, I wrote a book titled Wedding Bell Blues (I blame Sarah. It is all her fault.) This was in the early days of indie publishing so it wasn’t beneficial to limit to only one marketplace. Using one of the aggregators–probably Smashwords back then–I released WBB into the wild. One of the sales channels was Kobo. I made decent sales through them on this title and wasn’t ready to pull it from there.

Then Kobo decided it needed to make sure its customers weren’t being exposed to erotic titles or covers that ventured into erotica. A number of titles in many romance sub-genres were pulled, including WBB. Why? Supposedly our covers violated their new terms of service. Except mine did not. There wasn’t a nipple or hoo-hah or anything in-between to be seen on the cover. It was tame even by Harlequin standards.

Worried, not wanting to lose the sales, I tried contacting Kobo. Oops, that didn’t work. So I tried again. Calls were made and messages left. Emails sent. No response. Not even a canned one. Smashwords was no help because, well, Smashwords. I tried changing to cover. No go. Because the original cover had been deemed smutty, Kobo locked out the book.

Other authors were finding the same thing. After several weeks of trying to get someone, anyone to respond to my queries, I gave up. I pulled not only WBB fro Kobo but my other titles as well. Why? Because I couldn’t trust them any longer. If they weren’t concerned enough about me, as a customer and as a vendor, to answer my inquiries, why should I help put money in their pocket?

I lost hours of writing time trying to find a resolution and there was not a satisfactory one because Kobo made it clear they could care less about me as a vendor on their site. I haven’t looked back since pulling my titles.

So what is your story?

43 Comments
  1. Kobo announced (with three days notice) that they would be closing the submission window… in mid December, and would be closed until a week after New Year. So my Christmas release never made it out the door.

    October 30, 2019
    • Damn. Were you able to release it elsewhere?

      October 30, 2019
      • Yes, but apparently a lot of people were really, ah, I will say irked (since this is a family blog).

        October 30, 2019
  2. This happened this year, but to a book that had been in the Amazon marketplace since 2014. One day I checked on it and about have the reviews were gone. I was not pleased, to say the least, but I’d had reviews disappear in the past only to get reinstated a few weeks later, so I didn’t worry too much about it. But after a month they still hadn’t returned. That’s when I finally noticed that my ebook and my paperback of the same title had become unlinked, and so the reviews for one weren’t showing up for the other. I dropped a quick note to Amazon and it was fixed within an hour. Not thrilled they became unlinked, but I was pleased with how quickly they addressed the issue once I brought it to their attention.

    October 30, 2019
    • Mary #

      They tell you to wait for your books to link, but I have ALWAYS had to poke them. (Now they say up to a week, up from three days.)

      Though they have been prompt when poked. Those of you who follow Sarah’s blog may remember that the Sunday before last, the link showed only the Kindle version of Sorcery and Kings, but last Sunday, it showed both of Queen Shulamith’s Ball. (If you look here you will see it was fixed on both.)

      October 30, 2019
      • Once the books are live, I go to my Author Central Page and make sure the books are linked to my author page. Usually–as in all but once or twice–that has taken care of linking the different versions to one another.

        October 30, 2019
        • Mary #

          I did that, too, as soon as they were active. Still had to poke for the link.

          I also had the covers not appearing when searching, but when I asked about it appeared to have been a general glitch, quickly fixed.

          October 30, 2019
          • The same glitch caught me, too. It lasted for about 72 hours, then got fixed.

            October 30, 2019
  3. Kobo took Death of a Musketeer off sale under the “obscenity” thing. There is no sex in the book. There is no sex on the cover.
    I could never figure out what the heck was wrong except maybe “web crawlers with the mind of dust mites.”

    October 30, 2019
    • “Kobo took Death of a Musketeer off sale under the “obscenity” thing.”

      Smells like a Puppy Kicker works for B&N maybe? There has been some pretty blatant enemy action out there lately. It would not amaze me to discover some pink-haired jackass pulled a stunt like that.

      It would also not amaze me that a web bot did it. This is why I am not a fan of self-driving cars. If we actually depended on these systems to live, we would all die three times a week.

      October 31, 2019
      • No, it wasn’t a puppy kicker. This was before all that. It was a policy Kobo put into place in response to some change in Canadian law. The problem was there was no appeals process in place. Back then–I can’t speak to now since I refuse to work with them any more–they weren’t set up to deal with authors and had no desire to change things. The books in question were simply locked and you could do nothing about it.

        As for “pretty blatant enemy action” being out there, not really. Most every instance where we’ve seen such allegations over the last few years have turned out to have other causes. Sometimes it’s been a software glitch. Sometimes it was Amazon or another store being overzealous in applying new standards. Sometimes–gasp–it’s been an author or publisher screwing up and not wanting to admit they were the cause of the problem. After all, it is so much easier to blame Amazon (or BN, etc). This is why I asked for only examples of problems you personally experienced.

        October 31, 2019
        • I was thinking more of the shenanigans at Farcebook, Twitter and PayPal. Nice to hear there are no known extant examples in ebook publishing to date.

          October 31, 2019
          • Even where those are concerned, a number of times we’re seeing folks crying conspiracy it turns out there is more behind it.

            October 31, 2019
          • Mary #

            There was. An Amazon employee dumped all the Castalia House books. But — it’s not common.

            October 31, 2019
            • Mary, unless you have first-hand knowledge, something I asked for, we aren’t going to consider this because we don’t have all the information. Certain folks involved with Castilia have been known to manipulate the facts to suit their narrative.

              October 31, 2019
      • snelson134 #

        ” It would not amaze me to discover some pink-haired jackass pulled a stunt like that.”

        Especially when you consider the number of B&N employee blogs, newsgroups, etc. where the brick and mortar store employees gleefully described telling anyone who came in asking for books by “conservative writers” that they were out of stock or not carried, while leaving boxes of the books unopened in the back, or hiding them on the undersides of table displays where no one could see them (but they were “on the floor”), etc. ever since the Bush administration.

        And these were people who had to lie face to face! How much more often would it happen when they can do it from behind a keyboard?

        October 31, 2019
        • Less often, actually, because their every action is tracked and logged.

          And censorship is an inefficiency; it becomes damage to the system that allows customers to easily spend money, and is also wasted time and effort that isn’t spent doing the work they’re actually paid to do.

          I doubt Amazon much cares one way or the other, as a corporate culture, about their views – but it hates inefficiency. And so those employees get found by the drag on the system they create, and routed out just like the ones who are sneaking hour-long lunches and naps while on the clock.

          And when the culture doesn’t permit it, you’ll always get one or two who will do that – but you won’t get the cultural reinforcement of “It’s okay, it’s in fact really good; you’re one of us because we all do that.” And thus, just like why you don’t see PETA attacking bikers or Antifa trying to own the streets and beat up folks in Texas, you don’t see the SJW’s attacking from inside amazon en masse.

          October 31, 2019
        • Steve, what part of “you must have first hand knowledge” and “this is about challenges you’ve had in the publishing process” do you not understand? And then there’s the whole bit about you deciding to bring politics into the discussion.

          October 31, 2019
  4. Things that have gone wrong with Amazon…
    For some reason (and I suspect it was action on the other side) I could NOT convince them that the refinishing mysteries had reverted. I put them up, they took them down and chided me for violating copyright
    I finally sent the letter with reversal of rights to EVERYONE (including bezos) and put the thing up. It stayed up.
    I’ve only had this problem with THAT series and considering I practically had to dynamite it loose.

    October 30, 2019
    • TRX #

      Hmm… I wonder if there’s some database or service they’re using to determine who the copyright holder might be. If the former publisher was also a subscriber, they might not have been in any hurry to update the entries.

      October 30, 2019
    • I had that happen with a couple of books when they reverted back to me from NRP. It took an email and that was all. I think it really depends on who you get from their version of customer service.

      October 30, 2019
  5. “This was in the early days of indie publishing so it wasn’t beneficial to limit to only one marketplace. ” Why do you think it is beneficial to limit to one marketplace? Are there places that demand exclusivity and deliver net value in exchange, for an indie publisher/writer?

    October 30, 2019
    • Most people find that Amazon provides the most sales. In addition, if you go exclusive with them, you get 70% of the sales instead of 30%.

      October 30, 2019
    • Amazon does, for some genres, at the moment.

      October 30, 2019
    • As Lee said, Amazon is the majority of the sales most writers see. Many have found there is no downside in going exclusive with Amazon because the sales you might have had through BN, Apple, etc., are made up with “page” reads through Kindle Unlimited. Plus, by being exclusive, you can put your titles up for pre-order as well as take advantage of other perks.

      October 30, 2019
    • Mary #

      I still go wide.

      October 30, 2019
  6. Gina Marie Wylie #

    I have had two problems with Amazon, one fairly serious…a paperback proof copy arrived with the right cover, but someone else’s book interior. I contacted the other author and Amazon, and the author had gotten my book, and the wrong cover (she was horrified, mine was 3 times as long) it took a few days for Amazon to get the right books/covers but they were very nice about it. The other problem is ongoing “Kindle Quality Notice.” Yes, indeed one I had an airplane parked in a hanger, but I do not spell “check” with a “Q” — the first time customer service laughed and said they would remove the notice. I was not amused when I got another notice about the same thing. A NastyGram resolved the issue.

    October 30, 2019
    • I’ve been able to get rid of the notices by simply going to the page on my dashboard and telling them to “ignore” the so-called error.

      October 30, 2019
    • Synova #

      What is a Kindle Quality Notice and do they scan all books for errors?

      October 31, 2019
      • It is an email you get monthly from Amazon if quality control issues have been reported to them. The notices remain active (you’ll keep getting them) until you either “fix” the errors or tell Amazon to ignore them.

        A number of writers have panicked when they get the notice because the emails are not worded well. A quick glance at the opening could lead you to believe your book has been locked or removed from sale. While that can and will happen if the book is really badly formatted, riddled with errors, etc., that is the exception and not the rule.

        https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GWCUU33VBJHFSRYN

        October 31, 2019
  7. 23 skidoo

    October 30, 2019
  8. Usual part of the process with Lulu for print books is the cover-spine will be misaligned when we get the proof copy in (which is why we get the proof copy, to check for print issues.) Edit cover, reupload, and get a new print copy to check. It does not go live to the public until it is fixed.

    I’ve less issues with the digital version, IMO.

    October 31, 2019
    • This is why I always recommend getting a print proof and not relying on just the digital proof. I’ve had cover issues happen even though the digital proof looks fine. I’ve also had a 300 page book arrive and have only 60 or so pages because somehow the font size got screwed up.

      October 31, 2019
  9. 1. Missing Reviews: about 300 reviews disappeared off one series. We don’t track the number closely, and it fluctuates now and then (usually up, sometimes down, but this was a very large and noticeable number.)
    Discovered when looking at the Amazon page for the books to see what the also-boughts are running for those books.
    Contacted KDP help; problem resolved withing 72 hours. (I think it was within 24 hours, but it’s been over a year.)

    2. Rights reversion on reprint: When the rights reverted on the westerns, KDP would not publish (locked in review) because they had been prior published on Amazon with a different publisher, and wanted to make sure we had the legal right to sell them. Sent rights reversion letter.
    Amazon requested further clarification, and we got version of rights reversion letter on publisher letterhead; resubmitted, books were unlocked, and published.
    Took about a week, including getting the letter from the publisher (blazingly fast, considering we were asking them for extra work on something they weren’t going to make money on.)

    3. Currently, cussing Amazon Print’s cover requirements. Could have had books up weeks ago in print, but the covert art which is exactly to their …lovely… template is still getting rejected. That’s still in progress. Will no doubt get sorted out.

    October 31, 2019
    • I get frustrated with the hoops regarding rights reversion but, to be honest, am glad Amazon has tightened up in that area. As for the cover requirements on print version, yeah, I’ve run into that as well. In all but one case, I managed to do a minor size adjustment and get it accepted that way. The one it keeps choking on? I’m going to retry this weekend. If it doesn’t work then, I’ll get in contact with Amazon and see what they can do on their end.

      October 31, 2019
      • How did you adjust sizes – which way? Because we’re exactly to template, so I’m wondering if we should go slightly smaller? slightly larger? Drop just one dimension?

        October 31, 2019
        • I think I tried adjusting upward slightly and then back down to the “proper” size. And, yes, it was only one dimension.

          October 31, 2019
  10. “In addition, if you go exclusive with them, you get 70% of the sales instead of 30%.”

    Errh, no, at least not for me. In most of the world, my books all have 70%, and I did not give them exclusivity. Of course, they have more programs than you can shake a stick at, so perhaps they have someplace something with that limit, but it is not universal.

    October 31, 2019
    • That’s in response to one of the comments above. And you are right. If you price a title at $2.99 – $9.99, you get 70%. It doesn’t matter if you are exclusive to Amazon or not. However, if you go exclusive, you have benefits (like being able to offer pre-orders) you don’t have otherwise. Also, the page read payout for many authors more than make up for the loss of sales through other channels.

      October 31, 2019
  11. I did typesetting for a book a few months back and everything looked good. Trouble is, IngramSpark had different margin rules than KDP, and when the publisher tried to switch he kept getting errors.

    Only took a few minutes for me to fix, once I saw the error messages, but I’d just started an actual full-time job and didn’t have those “just a few minutes” for an embarrassing couple of weeks.

    October 31, 2019
    • This is what irks me the most–the different size requirements between the various platforms available to us. Glad you got it figured out and fixed.

      November 1, 2019
  12. I ran into the problem with the different margin requirements when I was preparing my paperback version for Amazon and IngramSpark last spring. IS wanted an additional 1/8″ inch for the gutter and same at the top. As I was adjusting that, I realized the font size I’d chosen was too small (my fault). With the adjusted margins and the larger font size, the book was maybe 20 pages longer. So back onto the IS site to get a new cover template, and back into GIMP to adjust the spine thickness.

    Don’t get me started telling about my quest to convert my cover file to the 240% total area coverage Ingram limits you to. I suppose it’s easy if you can afford PhotoShop or InDesign, but I can’t.

    I got the necessary changes made to get my print file approved by Amazon in mid-May. For IngramSpark, it took me (with much procrastination) till late August.

    November 3, 2019
  13. With my first ebook, what went wrong was a comedy of inexperience. I researched the dickens out of the self-publishing process, I read up on and absorbed all sorts of advice, I was determined to do it right the first time.

    The mistakes were pretty much all on my part. I chose to do a pre-order, and somehow I missed the bit about either a) uploading your placeholder file far enough in advance to give you time to do any or all revisions by the lock date, or b) uploading nothing but a file that’s complete and ready to go live.

    I thought my file was in pretty good shape. The HTML looked good in the previewers and all it really needed were the live links to my webpage and the popular book reviewing sites, and the open-source font credits on the copyright page. Oh, and I had to get the HTML to work on my table of contents. No problem! I uploaded the preliminary version and went on vacation for the next week and a half.

    You know where this is going. All those last-minute details took a lot longer than I’d thought. And I had to get picky and make sure my website was actually up and had content before I published— don’t want any dead links, right?

    Then I realized I needed to do a last-minute, final proofread. Which, of course, revealed that my climactic chapters weren’t written as strongly as they needed to be, so I had to rewrite them.

    I spent almost 24 straight hours at my computer, not sleeping, not eating or drinking, hardly even going to the bathroom, trying to meet my pre-publication deadline. Going down to the wire, I was having trouble with the margins on the title page, and uploaded file over file to get it to look decent.

    Even so, I would have made it. Except that, well, I work on a laptop with a small screen. The KDP publication page doesn’t fit in it side to side. Between that and my exhaustion, I failed to see the button off to the lower right that says “Publish.” I thought once the new file had uploaded I was home free.

    (Or something, The short term memory wasn’t functioning that well.)

    Upshot was, what went live was the version I’d uploaded three weeks before. And me, being the perfectionist I am, told my friends and family on social media not to buy it, because it wasn’t right, blah, blah, blah, wait until I can upload the revised version, etc., etc.

    Which killed the sales momentum I’d built up during the pre-sale period stone dead. The ebook has never yet recovered.

    November 3, 2019

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