From author Adam Dreece:
Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.
Welcome to the world of eBook siege weapons. Launchable by any anti-fan or jealous competitor, an indie author or small press can be utterly destroyed on Amazon without defense or recourse.
Every book, every book review, everything I’ve built up over years, is gone. No proof was provided, no opportunity to defend myself given. Like an ancient, vengeful god who had been tricked, Amazon acted as judge and executioner, with no need for jury or trial.
In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.
When I got the email, I sprang out of bed and emailed them immediately (They were “kind enough” to provide an email address “in case I had any questions.”). It thought it had been bad enough that I had been hammered with emails by them over the Xmas holidays to prove I had the copyright of each of my books, but I did. Now, things had gone nuclear.
I included in that email to them, an email thread between me and one of their KDP support people from a few weeks earlier. I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.
The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine. I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books. There’s no way for me to know though, because Amazon gave me no information.
The reply I got back from them was terse, “We will need some time to investigate this matter.”
. . . .
Last night when I was on FB, I read in a group that a woman just saw the same pattern happen. An inexplicable, 25k page read bump. She was wondering whether she should report it or not. I was going to share what happened to me, but I didn’t want to freak her out or presume that I was right. I then read elsewhere someone else getting hit with an unexpected 5k bump that was ‘instant’. I wondered what was happening. Then a friend pointed out another author she knew had been nuked by Amazon last week too. I read his FB post, and it was exactly the same as what happened to me. However, he’d been following this story a bit longer than me, and had heard of this type of thing happening. Now, he was a victim of it.
I realized that anyone can do this to anyone, and there’s no defense. Amazon assumes and acts, and doesn’t even leave us a means for proving our innocence. A friend asked if I had a lawyer, and I laughed. Have you ever seen someone go up against a titan? You’re bankrupt before you get anywhere near anything resembling justice.
. . . .
I understand Amazon needing to stop scammers from taking any share of the money from their KU money pool, absolutely, but WTF?! If you can detect these “systematic generated accounts” or whatever, then filter them the F out! Don’t make authors like me collateral damage in your simplistic approach. Give us little guys some kind of defense! Or how about a means to prove our innocence? Is it simply that there are so many authors out there that you don’t have to care? How about looking at all of those legal documents and copyright notices you asked me to provide just before nuking me?
Link to the rest at Adam Dreece and thanks to Randall and several others for the tip.
Unfortunately, PG has heard similar stories from other authors in recent months.
One of the things that most impressed PG when he first met a group of Amazon employees who managed KDP several years ago was their statement, repeated several times, that they regarded authors as their customers. Given Amazon’s stellar customer service, this was an impressive attitude toward authors, far different than the perspective traditional publishing has about all but its bestselling authors.
PG is concerned that this attitude may have eroded into something much less author-friendly.
On some occasions, law enforcement officers sink to a cynical view of the communities in which they operate, forgetting that, even in the worst neighborhoods, most people are not criminals. This is part of an emotional burnout that can effect those who spend a lot of time dealing with bad actors.
OTOH, there are people who try to game KDP Select and Amazon’s sales rank algorithms in ways that are inimical to both readers and honest authors. For obvious reasons, readers and honest authors would like such scammers kicked off Amazon. They stink up the place in many different ways.
PG suggests that Amazon needs to put some additional work on both its back-end systems designed to catch bad behavior and on the people side of scammer detection operations. The company needs to up its game to maintain operational excellence in this facet of its business.
One of the fundamental tenets of customer relations is that it’s much easier to keep an existing customer than to attract a new one. Another tenet is that handling small customer transactions well is important because a satisfied customer is much more likely to return.
The sum of small transactions adds up to a larger and larger number over time and the lifetime value of a customer, including an author who is an Amazon customer, is huge.