A dilemma of “Amazonian” proportions

d2d post

(EDIT/UPDATE: Due to some finagling and various wheelin’ ‘n dealin’, many of my works are starting to filter back onto the Amazon website. However, it still doesn’t negate the main points of this post. – 2/27/14)

I’d like you to do me a small favor, if you would…

Go to my Links page and click on the link labeled My Ebooks on Amazon.

Go ahead, I’ll wait…. I’ll just browse through some dirty pictures on Tumblr while you do.

(Ooooh, that one’s sexy as hell!! Gotta reblog that one….)

Ohh, you’re back? Cool… What did you find?

What’s that, you say? My ebooks are not listed there anymore???? Well, gee…. I wonder why?

Could it be because most of my books are incest-related? Mmmmm, could be, rabbit, could be… Did my ebooks possibly violate Amazon’s strict “no incest-related themed books, period”?? You bet your sweet mother-fucking ass they did!! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.) But then again, so did the author of this book. As far as that goes, so did the author of this one. Go ahead, take a look, I’ll just do more dirty pic snooping while you enjoy the utter Amazonian hypocrisy.

Oh, you’re back? Okay… Quite an interesting read, isn’t it? Apparently as long as you’re God or you make Amazon a lot of money, you can talk about incest and other taboos till you either throw up or start sporting a massive sized boner.

Noooo, the reason my books are not listed anymore is not due to content. Quite frankly if Amazon booted them out for content, I’d be using the “Banned on Amazon” label as a banner-sized selling point. And not ALL of my books are incest-related, although most of them are. Except for some minor daliances between cousins, none of the stories in my Spinning Heads series are even REMOTELY incest-related. But hey, THEY’RE gone TOO!! So what’s the big-ass deal here, Amazon???

The reason my books are no longer listed on Amazon is because I am being penalized for something somebody else did. Along with a couple thousand other authors and independent publishers and distributors.

My publisher, Boruma Publishing, uses a service called Draft2Digital to distribute to some of the bigger name ebook retailers – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBooks. Draft2Digital happens to be a FANTASTIC service for independent authors and smaller publishing companies by making it a thousand times easier to get a story converted into ebook format and distributed to the major retailers. They are also in negotiations for distributing to many of the not-as-big retailers as well. Many indie authors and publishing companies availed themselves of D2D’s services. Well over two thousand in all, dealing with many thousands of books. Praises were being sung right and left about how great D2D was to use, easily beating Smashwords by comparison.

Last Friday, my publisher received an email from Draft2Digital. I have been given permission to use that email here. This is basically what it said:

Dear Jo O’Brien:

We are currently experiencing severe distribution issues at Amazon. At this time they are not accepting any new books from us, and they have begun removing live books from sale.

Late last night, we received a message from Amazon informing us that they considered our account to be in violation of their terms. At the same time they blocked all access to our account and began delisting our books.

While Amazon has proven difficult to work with in the past, we’ve always responded promptly to their complaints both with regard to the immediate incident and with new procedures and programmatic solutions to prevent recurrences of the problem. We had done the same with the specific complaints that triggered this action, and we believed–and still do believe–that we had fully and satisfactorily addressed the matter.

I believe the termination was made in error due to confusion on Amazon’s part, and we are doing everything we can to pursue immediate and complete reinstatement of our account. Unfortunately, Amazon has historically been uncommunicative and inflexible concerning account issues, so we can make no guess as to when the matter will be resolved.

I deeply regret the inconvenience this creates for you, and share your frustration at the unfairly short notice. We are working aggressively to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and we will keep you updated as we learn more information.

Sincerely,
Kris Austin
CEO
Draft2Digital, LLC
https://www.draft2digital.com

Basically what happened was, Amazon apparently discovered that a couple of authors who had accounts with Amazon were also submitting to D2D in order for them to distribute to Amazon, in effect creating a double-listing of their books. This is apparently against Amazon’s very complicated Terms of Service. (Amazon, by the way, seems to be the only major retailer who has that particular clause in their TOS.) Apparently this also brought to light the fact that a handful of authors who were previously banned from Amazon were using D2D to get their books listed again on the Amazon website. Well, apparently an Amazon-sized hissy fit got thrown, resulting in the above email being sent out to all of D2D’s clients.

D2D worked diligently in trying to rectify this situation. They immediately purged the authors that Amazon said were double-listing through them, and tried to comply with all the issues Amazon had with them. The result was the following email that D2D ended up having to send to all their clients yesterday:

Dear Jo O’Brien:

We have finally received follow-up communication from Amazon concerning the suspension of Draft2Digital books that took place on Thursday, January 30th. They offered us no opportunity to appeal or correct their complaints, and showed little concern for the impact that action has had on our users, but they did at last provide some detailed information concerning the fate of the books in our account.

Any of your books listed at Amazon through Draft2Digital will be removed from sale shortly. They recommended that you upload the books through your personal KDP account. We asked them to provide some way to migrate the current books (with rank and reviews intact), but no such option is available.

However, we were assured that if you list the book again using the same title and contributor names, their system will automatically recognize it as a match and transfer the existing reviews to the new book.

We understand and sincerely regret the inconvenience this causes you. We have made every effort to comply with Amazon’s requirements and to resolve their complaints, but Amazon’s absolute failure of communication and hostility toward our business model thwarted our best efforts.

We will continue to pursue a more stable business relationship with Amazon, but for the immediate future, we will cease all distribution there. We did receive assurances that they intend to make timely payment for all book sales that occurred through our account.

In the meantime, if we can assist you in any way, please contact our customer support and we’ll do our best to ease this transition.

Sincerely,
Kris Austin
CEO
Draft2Digital, LLC
https://www.draft2digital.com

So there you have it… Due to the actions of a handful of other authors that Amazon found objectionable, my books are no longer listed on their site. Neither are the books of thousands of other authors. Basically, with this termination of D2D’s account, Amazon has just purged tens of thousands of books from their website all in one fell swoop.

Personally, this really has very little effect on me… Yeah, there was something a tad bit ego-filling to see my books listed there, and I even did get my very first book review from an Amazon reader just a few days ago! But all in all, I’ve sold only like five books on Amazon in the short few weeks they’ve been listed. (Barnes & Noble has actually turned out to be WAY more lucrative for me!) But that’s certainly not the case for many of the other authors that got shit-canned. Many of them had dozens of books listed through D2D, some with even a hundred or more. Their monthly royalties through D2D often were in the hundreds, even thousands of dollars. This doesn’t even take into account the colossal hit that D2D is going to be taking as a business. A business that in the end only wanted to make it easier for independent authors to publish and manage their sales all in one place.

This leaves many of us in the dilemma of what to do next… Many people’s livelihoods are affected by this. It is fairly easy for me to sit here and just say, “Fuck you, Amazon.” Many authors do not have that simplistic option. My heart goes out to them. And I hope yours does too.

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3 responses

  1. Hi Forrest,
    Your message is right on target. But please allow me to add a tiny bit that almost no publishers, and few authors are either experienced enough, discerning enough, or for some reason willing, to understand.

    NONE of this is about censorship. None of this is about incest or other types of erotica. Instead, the entire appearance of this so-called censorship is nothing but a thinly disguised anti-trust case of the big ebook publishers together with the legacy printers, attempting to re-gain control of a huge book market they suddenly found themselves having lost 50% of. For the last 400 years, a few publishers have controlled all books published. Only in the last few years has this began to shift, and when Amazon sold more than 50% of their books as ebooks instead of printed, the legacy publishers finally took notice.

    Now consider: If you owned a multi-billion dollar printing company, and suddenly found your revenue cut in half by thousands of independent authors, what would you do? Right. That is precisely what is happening here.

    You would need to find a way to put these indie authors and indie publishers out of business. Since the majority of this business is erotica, particularly incest and other fetishes, this makes “pornography” the perfect target, and a socially acceptable target as well. The first place to strike would be the credit card processors. The second place to strike would be the publishers who handle certain types of erotica, ignoring the fact they also publish non-erotica. Third place to strike is to create a bundle of authors who are black-listed in the industry, and the fourth place to strike is any publisher who handles these authors.

    The fifth place to strike, and now we are into predicting the future, is to bundle all these together and re-visit the credit card processors with new demands that they drop many publishers accounts and blacklist the publishers from obtaining other processing solutions. You watch, this is a repeatable cycle, by which, if the authors and indie publishers fail to fight back with anti-trust and monopoly claims, in a few years, there will only be a few big publisher left who have locked in the entire publishing market.

    The purpose of the Lot’s Cave and Carnal Pleasures publishing companies is to defeat the forces of monopoly in publishing. How would you do that? Consider: if the monopolies use erotica as a lever to gain industry-wide control, then why can’t a publisher like Lot’s Cave use erotica to prevent monopolization? I’ll not lay out the five-step plan here, but you can see the basic idea.

    Thanks Forrest,

    Phaedrus T. Wolfe
    Lot’s Cave
    http://www.lotscave.com

    Like

  2. […] just as they did earlier this year with Draft2Digital, Amazon completely fucked over me, my publisher, and the numerous authors that they […]

    Like

  3. […] no secret how I feel about Amazon’s practices, as well as those of the other big-name distributors. The very fact that a well-known erotica […]

    Like

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