A Word or Two of Warning

Let me start out by saying this is not a screed against Amazon, at least not too much of one. The issue I ran into yesterday isn’t exclusive to it. It’s just that when the main storefront for indie books has a glitch and it rises up to bite you on the butt, it hurts–a lot. 

Long story short, Jaguar Bound was scheduled to come out this Friday. I’d already had to delay it due to real life being a bitch of late, not just for me but for those good folks who help me put together the best book I can. But no problem. I had it all in hand. I knew when I needed to get the final files uploaded and everything was rocking and rolling on schedule.

Then I checked the countdown timer KDP plasters across the top of the page for our pre-orders. Hey, usually I love that timer. It keeps me focused and helps me not blow the deadline. Of course, I don’t usually find myself coming down to the wire like I have on this book. Like I said, life has been “interesting” these last few weeks.

Anyway. . . 

I checked the timer and did a double-take. It was wrong and not in my favor. The usual deadline, which is 1900 hours the evening three days plus five hours before release date. You see, for almost everything, Amazon uses Pacific time. . . EXCEPT when figuring when you have to upload your files for pre-order release. Then it uses GMT. 

I’ve gotten used to making one last check of my files the final day I can upload files for a pre-order to make sure everything is a go. Because I was running later than I like due to complications with getting the file uploaded, I checked my countdown timer and it was off by hours, hours I didn’t have to give up because–duh–real life commitments.

So I did the business-like thing. I contacted KDP Support, explained the situation, pointed out that their ToS and FAQs still say final uploads must be done 3 days in advance and noted the issue with the timer. After some back and forth, the tech approved me moving the book back to Monday next week. I set it up, announced the delay–with apologies–on my blog and social media–and went back to work.

Except, the change didn’t take. It didn’t take twice. Additional calls to KDP Support revealed the following:

  1. KDP knows there is a problem with the countdown clock. It does occasionally decide to take time away from the author
  2. KDP knows this but has not, so far at least fixed the issue
  3. KDP techs have no way to override the program, no matter what the reason. Once that timer starts, the software runs everything and humans are helpless. (Hmm, sounds like maybe they are sharing software and/or developers with FB. It worships the power of the ‘bot as well)
  4. And here’s the kicker. The only options you are given when you are at this point is to cancel the pre-order and hope Amazon will waive the penalty of no pre-orders allowed for a year (and there is no guarantee they will) or you can go ahead and upload the file, incomplete though it might be and, as soon as the book goes live, upload the correct file. 

As I later announced on my blog and social media, I chose the latter. Except I’m sure I did it in such a way Amazon won’t exactly appreciate. I uploaded the file with a disclaimer attached saying it is not the final file. That if you have bought the book and you see this particular page, you have the wrong file and this is how to get the correct file. I included instructions on how to download the correct file or contact me–and I set up a special email account for this purpose–in case it doesn’t work. 

And I set my alarm to make sure I’m sitting at the computer at midnight Friday GMT to upload the correct file.

Now, as I noted, this isn’t an exclusive problem with Amazon. I’ve heard of it happening from time to time with other storefronts as well. Also, this isn’t a widespread problem with KDP, which is probably why they aren’t putting a lot of effort into fixing it. 

So, word of warning. Keep an eye on that countdown timer, Check it daily because mine glitched and it caught me at a really bad time, leaving me to take action I really didn’t want to take.

The second word of warning also deals with Amazon primarily and is something I’m seeing with my own sales numbers and am hearing more and more about from other writers. I get that there are times when folks accidentally hit the wrong button when they are on an Amazon product page. I understand that there has to be a policy about when and how someone can ask for a refund for e-books bought on any given platform. Amazon has what is probably the loosest return policy of any of the ebook retailers.

On the whole, I don’t have a problem with it. I’ll go months and months without a return. Then I’ll get his with a spate of them. There is almost always a pattern. Someone will buy most, if not all, of a series and then return them. This has happened more often since I pulled most of my library out of Kindle Unlimited. It doesn’t matter that my books, most of them, are available through Overdrive and other online library-type sites. These folks will “buy” and then return after reading.

This appears to be a special problem in the romance genres, although I see it more in my SF offerings. This happens because Amazon allows returns during a longer window than the other storefronts do. 

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when returning an ebook is appropriate. I’ve done it when the formatting is so bad, th book is basically unreadable. If the book turns out to not be what it was advertised as being. But it really chaps me when someone buys a bunch of books, reads them and returns them simply because they can. 

If you’re having a hard time making ends meet and want something to read, contact the author. A lot of us send out e-arcs to folks for reviews. We might ask you to put something up on your blog. We certainly want a review put up on your sales platform of choice. We don’t require it to be anything more than an honest review. 

In other words, there are ways to get books other than “buying” them and then returning them after you read them–something that means the author doesn’t get paid.

Sorry for the rantish kind of post today. Now to find coffee and get back to work. I have a death scene to write for Destiny from Ashes and it has been kicking my butt. I really, really hate killing off characters.

20 comments

  1. This isn’t a screed either, just an observation: last Thursday and Friday, the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader was down completely. As in “This page cannot be found” down. Apparently they had issues.

  2. Always willing to help out any time you might need my particular skill set.
    Fixing the Zon’s particular foibles is however a bit beyond me.
    Will note that they have been rather generous with E credits of late for folks willing to defer fast deliveries of physical products to a usually slightly later date. And you have never been out of line in your pricing anyway.

  3. Pricing . . . I noticed that a Big Five paranormal romance of about 250 pages (pocket paperback) is selling for a dollar more on Kindle than for dead tree at the local B&N. And more than the dead tree version at the ‘Zon. *facepaw*

    On topic, thank you for the reminder about “upload early if not often.” I have not done pre-order in a long time, so the warning is timely.

    1. And I have read, but do not fully understand, an article noting that Kindle will no longer sell any books through the Kindle APP on the Google App Store because Google wants Kindle to use Googles’ payment system at a cost of 30% of the sale price.
      As for Kindle pricing, in many cases, I am finding it cheaper to buy used hardbacks from AbeBooks.

      1. Kindle isn’t the first one to have to do this. Apple did it earlier. The reasoning is they don’t want to have to pay the additional fees because it means either cutting into their own profits (or, more likely, seeing a change in ToS which would decrease royalties to authors/publishers) or raising prices.

    2. Not to justify stupid pricing, but we have to remember that Amazon and, I assume, the other storefronts can discount print books but not Kindle trad pubbed books without publisher ok.

      1. This was a print copy on the shelf, without a discount at checkout. That’s why I facepawed. If it were just on the websites, I’d assume it was B&N and the ‘Zon running specials. No, it seems that [big publisher] is trying to nudge people toward print, or at least away from e-book.

  4. On the whole, I don’t have a problem with it. I’ll go months and months without a return. Then I’ll get his with a spate of them. There is almost always a pattern. Someone will buy most, if not all, of a series and then return them.

    Not knowing what you’re seeing– could this, at all possibly, be from the “buy all” button?

    I know there’s some series where it takes you to the nice page where you can buy all the books you do not yet have, with one click– and I can imagine someone getting really hooked on the first half of a book, buying all, and then the book doesn’t go where they think it was going.

    …probably not going to outweigh the “buy these, then return them because you got what you want and nothing is forcing you to not lie for personal profit” folks, says the depressive side, but if you’re the sort who doesn’t want to think poorly of someone in specific without very firm reason, it may be a chance.

    1. (or, of course, someone getting drunk and clicking the “buy whole series” button and then when ht ey sober up, going “what did I just do?”)

    2. No, I’ve had some of those. This is usually part of a series. The first three or four books. Those are returned. Then the next few of the series. Then returns. It doesn’t happen often, but it seems to be happening ore often now. I do know there have been videos and other posts about how to do this and use KDP as a lending library even if the books aren’t in KU.

      1. That is bloody rotten. There’s a series I quit in high dudgeon, so I “began* hard-deleting them from my Amazon account.

        Amazon wouldn’t let me (or just as likely, I couldn’t figure out how to make it do so) just axe them. It insisted they go in as returns. So I stopped. I owe the author for an e-book.

  5. Tbh it sounds exactly like someone is sucking up series to post on a torrent site.

    Grab the books, suck out the data, return books, post as a torrent.

    Now, if it’s multiple people buying a series and then returning the whole thing I would suspect something different.

  6. Question, that my search-fu hasn’t been able to answer – when an ebook is returned, who eats the up-front delivery charge? You… or Amazon? (For a typical ebook at 2MB, that’s $0.30 per sale.)

    1. Because the royalty hasn’t yet been paid–I’ve never had one charged back to me where they’ve hit my credit card for it–the delivery charge is a non-issue. My guess legally–and this is not legal advice–is that Amazon does because it is already charged against us as authors and they can’t double-dip.

  7. Update:

    I just uploaded the correct file. We will see if it actually goes through. The book is live in some parts of the world, but not here in the US yet. Who knows if that qualifies as “live” for the purposes of Amazon and we will see how long it takes for the changes to process through. I’ll wait until morning to see what shows up in the preview–and, yes, I can tell from that if it is the right file or not.

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