The tyranny of Amazon – has finally been solved!

Beware: there be colourful language.

ETA: updated response from Amazon at the end of this post

ETA 2: After about half an hour of account wrangling with a very helpful lady called Tumi in a call centre in South Africa (seriously WTF?), I now have my account back again. I will undertake steps to cull the inactive accounts: Amazon-related moral of the tale: when signing in, always use the “sign in with your Amazon account” option. I still think this is a bug in their site that needs fixing.

General moral of the tale: locking or freezing of accounts can happen at any sales platform at any time for any reason. Say if all my books were in an exclusive program of a retailer and that retailer decided unilaterally that fishy stuff happened on my account and froze the account, or deleted the books, where would I be?

I went into this business with an open mind. I believe my books should be available on as many platforms as possible regardless of any hangups I might have about which retailer I prefer to buy from myself. That choice is up to the customer.

Or is it?

Amazon charges book buyers in non-standard countries up to $4 extra just to punish them for living in those countries. As far as I know, the internet over there is just the same as it is in other countries. They also pay me HALF the royalties if people buy in those countries. They send me cheques that cost me time and money to cash. And they take out US tax, which I can get back by jumping through a million hoops. *sigh*

What is more, with each regional sub-store they open, they will withhold a threshold of at least $100 per store before they pay out. There are eight regional stores at the moment. They will potentially hold onto $800 of my royalties. What are they? A fucking bank? Do I get interest? (Answer: noooooo!)

OK, I can understand that they’re popular and people want to buy there. So I, and other non-US writers, suffer in silence, while Amazon stonewalls our calls for EFT transfers. OK, OK, I get that you want to be a baby over Paypal being owned by the competition, but if Kobo can take my Australian tax file number and pay me into my Australian bank account, then why can’t they?

But all this is nothing in comparison with what happened this week.

I received an email from Amazon KDP support that my password needed re-setting, because my account might have been subject to a phishing attack. Okaayyyy. I’m pretty sure that there was no phishing, except perhaps that particular email, although it had no suspicious links. Still, I didn’t touch anything in the email, and instead opted to go to the website via my browser to check there. It told me that details needed to be updated, so I clicked that link. It wanted my address and other details I thought Amazon already had. Okkaaayyyy??? I didn’t like it, and filled out nothing that someone couldn’t find out by googling me.

Fine.

Now I clicked on my books, and they were all gone. My sales, all gone.

Crap. I’d somehow created a second account. But because this new account was now linked with my Amazon buyer account, I could not go back to the original (which had exactly the same details).

An email to KDP later, they’d deleted the second account warning me that “it’s against KDP terms and services to have two accounts”. Seriously but WTF? Whose fault was this fucking mess anyway?

But when I tried to log in, I got a message that my account had been blocked.

GRRRRR.

More emails to Amazon, and I also used the phone me option, which worked fine and I spoke to a very nice man called Rasheed, who was courteous, spoke English very well (so please don’t draw any conclusions about his name. He sounded Australian), but he could only help me with my buyer accounts. Of which there were several under my email address. WTF??? OK. I never buy from Amazon, and there may have been times that I’d logged on and registered only to go away and completely forget that I’d already done that next time I returned. Rasheed agreed that my buyer account had probably become linked to the wrong KDP account. He said the KDP account was active, but blocked. The books are still on the site. He said he’d contact KDP to send me a password-reset link. He did. I got the email. The link gives an error message when I try to reset my password. Might they need to un-block the account first? /sarcasm.

So, every day for the past few days, I’ve sent an email back to them that I don’t need my password re-set, that it doesn’t work anyway, but that I need the account un-blocked. Every day, they’ve sent me a new password-reset link. Which doesn’t-fucking-work.

Now they’re telling me I need to make a call to the US to sort this out. Seriously? Whose mess is this? Do I have to make expensive phone calls to sort it out?

Questions for Amazon:

Why did I get that email telling me that my password needed re-setting? It was not a phishing scam, but an email originating from Amazon.

Why is is possible for me to set up more than one account with the same email address? Why didn’t the site notify me “We already have an account with this email address, do you REALLY want to set up a second one Y/N?”

Why does your sales support staff have no clue of what your KDP support staff does?

Why is there a need for me to contact ANYONE by phone? I’m in Australia FFS. It’s not MY crappy site that’s fucked this up.

Why does your site not have a “delete account” button? I understand that you don’t want people to willy-nilly delete accounts, but certainly, such a link could go through to a support centre where someone could evaluate the status of the to-be-deleted account and, if nothing is owing on the account ACTUALLY DELETE IT?

While this goes on, I ask people who want to buy my fiction to PLEASE DO SO ON KOBO. You’ll notice that the right-hand panel of this blog has changed. I’ve deleted all the Amazon links from this panel. Instead, the images link through to my author website. Yes, you will see the Amazon options still linked there. This is because I respect the fact that some people like to buy on Amazon and like the streaming and synching and whatever. But if it’s all the same to you, please don’t.

Please, please, please?

15 January

Response from Amazon KDP:

Hello Patty,

I’m very sorry for the frustration this issue has caused you.

I have researched and can confirm that all 21 of your titles still appear in your KDP Bookshelf and the your KDP account is Active. This email address: [deleted] has four Amazon.com buyer accounts and two of those accounts have KDP accounts associated with them, the active and the Blocked account.

We don’t allow multiple accounts to be created with the same e-mail address, and you may maintain only one account at a time. This is why your duplicate shell KDP account with no titles published in it, is blocked. The account with your published titles has a different password to the blocked account, that’s the account you need to access and if you have forgotten the password, the one you need a password reset for.

I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

My comment: Another day, another useless response. Because all accounts have been set up under the same email address and as far as I know have the same password, my computer cannot tell the difference. It redirects to the wrong account. Emptying the cache does not make a difference.

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25 comments on “The tyranny of Amazon – has finally been solved!

  1. Sounds like it absolutely stinks. Sounds like Amazon is just making money off holding your money in their account.

    I am looking into this in preparation for the next couple of years. You don’t go through Smashwords to get on Kobo? I was also wondering what the experience was like getting signed up fo smashwords, looks a little convoluted in getting tax sorted out ie have to get forms from the irs then a letter from Smashwords.

    Best of luck

    • I have an account with Kobo Writinglife. Best thing I ever did.

      The tax issue: I haven’t bothered with the US tax system. Because the payments go into our business, I hand the whole lot to our accountant, and it gets deducted from our Australian tax.

  2. I am very sorry to hear they’re being such idiots. If it’s any consolation (I’m sure it isn’t) you’re getting a little publicity: I’ve not heard of your books, but am now fascinated enough by their synopsis to give them a go…

    Best of luck, I hope it comes to a satisfactory conclusion soon.

    • I am convinced that the problem is caused by their database which allows people to create multiple accounts under one email address without warning the customer. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanders onto a site, creates an account for the what-the-hey value, and then completely forgets about it. I am also sure I’m not the only person who uses the same username-password combination for all such disposable accounts.

      And I am not sure why this check hasn’t been built into Amazon’s back-end software.

  3. This makes me heartily glad that I do not entrust my ebook distribution to Amazon for any of my self-pubbing ventures. I am so happy with Smashwords. Granted, I have my print set-up with CreateSpace. For now.

    • I have Smashwords, too. I sell neatly on B&N. Kobo is by far my best platform.

      I have a profound belief that I shouldn’t dictate where people buy. This is why I haven’t totally removed the Amazon links. Some people really prefer to buy there. That is none of my business. If I feel strongly against them, I shouldn’t list my books there.

      I will keep trying to sort it out. They tell me the account is live and the books are certainly up. I just can’t access them or access my sales data. I have no idea what it means for my payments, but I will still try to sort it out.

    • I’ll keep trying, and report here, but I have no hope that it will be resolved soon, if at all. It seems to be a case of the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Not saying that the help desk staff is horrible or incompetent, just that the overall system is too complicated to work properly.

  4. Wow! You have my sympathy. I’m thinking that maybe I should do the direct thing to Kobo then… I dislike Amazon because I think their attitude to competition stinks. I would love to sell my books elsewhere, too, but nobody buys them anywhere else… I’ve never done the withholding thing, either because I would be required to fill in a US tax return (because I’m self employed). I really can’t be arsed with that for 30% of bugger all!

    When you talk about the Amazon back end and multiple accounts…. Amazon could have saved itself a lot of trouble by limiting the accounts to one per user/credit card. Instead we have sockpuppet-gate.

    Good luck sorting it out.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • They say that only one account per email address is allowed. I totally support that. But, if I designed a database which used email address as unique identifier in the accounts table, I would consider it a major goof-up if my entry forms did not check on this. This is what seems to be the problem. Their account entry forms don’t do their job. Come on, Amazon, do the users need to fix your system’s bugs for you?

      Close this one and let us all go on with talking about books.

  5. My experience with KDP was almost identical to yours. There is absolutely NO WAY to get to speak to a real person and each email seems to compOund the problem. In the end I had to create a second email address for my KDP account, something which had not been necessary prior to being “blocked”. I don’t know why KDP customer service is so different from Creatspace and Amazon itself. They were actually helpful but even they have no clout with KDP. It’s a nightmare.

    • I don’t need to talk to a real person, but they tell me to ring a US number. That’s fucking ridiculous and I’m not going to do that. I’m 100% happy to solve this over email.

  6. Ergh, that’s hideous. I hope they at least don’t steal all your money. You’d think that after so much bad publicity, they might consider, y’know, actually helping their customers.

    • I don’t really care about the Amazon-bashing just the same as I don’t do google-bashing or Microsoft-bashing unless those companies give me a reason to bash them. Amazon seems to go out of its way to do just that.

    • I don’t want to be an anti-Amazon martyr or anything like that. If Amazon does what it says on the box, it’s up to me to accept or reject their terms and conditions, and given their influence, I will continue to list with them and will even buy from them if I have reason to. So far, I haven’t, since their postage is much higher than the Book Depository, and postage kinda matters when you’re in Australia.

      I just want this solved.

  7. Pingback: The Tyranny of Amazon (via @pattyjansen) | Literarium – The Blog

  8. That must be so frustrating.

    My own experience with Amazon has been rather positive, except the canned responses…

    Anyway: why not use D2D for uploading to Amazon? If I understood you correctly you (yet) don’t sell there that much, so 15% shouldn’t hurt too much either. Then ask the people of D2D to try to have the other books taken down. Maybe they have more clout with the Zon than we have.

    Just a thought.

    • I sold reasonably well with Amazon until September last year, when Kobo opened and all my sales migrated there.

      I prefer to go direct where I can, because I prefer to have as much control as possible. If it gets too much work, I rather pay a student a few bucks a week to run my accounts than get another large third party involved (insert sneeze that sounds like Smashwords). Regardless of intentions, all these ventures care less about my books than I do, and especially if a site grows really fast, customer service will be an issue.

      This shouldn’t be hard for Amazon to solve. It’s just an accounts and database cross-checking issue.

    • If anything, it’s solidified my conviction never to go exclusive with all my books. One or two for a limited time, maybe, but never all of them.

  9. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #28 — The Book Designer

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