Thursday, November 17, 2022

Should I Be Mad at Amazon/KDP?

My previous series of posts describes the sequence of events. They sent me an email saying that, because I had multiple accounts and my accounts were connected with one that had violated their guidelines, they were terminating my account, would not permit me to open another, would not pay me royalties accumulated between the last payment and the date when the account was terminated. All of the books of mine that I had self-published vanished from Amazon.

I wrote multiple replies, pointing out that so far as I knew I had done none of those things and asking what connection they thought I had to what account. The only response I got was to be told that they had reviewed the case and my account was still suspended. All their messages were form letters. When I received two identical form letters responding to two quite different emails of mine, one sent three minutes after the other, both purportedly by the same person, I concluded that I was interacting with software, not humans.

Today I received an email telling me that my account had been restored. There was no explanation and the tone of it — "you must review your catalog and remove any other titles currently available for sale on Amazon that do not comply with the KDP Content Guidelines" — implied that I had done something wrong, although they were willing to forgive me if I behaved myself in the future.

The natural reaction to that behavior is to be angry at them, advise anyone who asked me about self-publishing to avoid KDP, and put up my books using one of the other services, something I had already started to do.

That would be the appropriate response to a human being who treated me that way but I am not sure it is appropriate here. KDP is not a human being. It is a firm that deals with a very large number of authors, some of whom probably do things that violate their rules — the obvious two being copyright violation and pornography. They ask for reports of violations. It would be nice if every time a violation was reported to them a competent staff member spent the time to carefully check out the report, but competent staff members are expensive. It may make more sense, from their standpoint, to use software to look for possible violations of their rules in accounts reported to them, even if the software doesn't do a very good job. 

My interaction with them was irritating and it lowers my opinion of KDP, but I am not sure that if I were running things I could do better.


Anonymous said...

I think whether you should be mad depends on how much they make from your book sales (after expenses, of course). If it is in the tens of dollars per month, then I think it is reasonable for them to rely on software, and you're getting what you pay for. If it is in the hundreds of dollars, then I think it is reasonable to expect a human to take responsibility for banning you and telling you why.

Max Lybbert said...

You are correct that it’s pointless to hold a grudge against software. And you’ve already answered the easier question: you now know not to trust KDP to exercise its discretion reasonably, and to hide its reasoning as much as it can.

I’m sure that’s enough to change your behavior, and there’s no need to grumble and cause yourself headaches from the aggravation. It’s not “forgive and forget”; more like “forgive and don’t forget,” but “forgive” is probably the wrong word to use for robots.

FraserOrr said...

One quick thought. I have, what I call my first law of political parties: if a democrat sees a problem they create a regulation, if a republican sees a problem they create a tax break, if a libertarian sees a problem they quit politics and start a business to help people with the problem.

With all this nonsense going on I wonder if there is a great business opportunity to help people who get pointlessly banned to be restored, by way of some company collecting a lot of information about the way these various market chokepoints work, and helping people through them. There is certainly precedent for this in the various companies out there that help people clean up their credit report.

Anonymous said...

If the problem is computer generated, Amazon is still ultimately responsible.

But, if the problem is computer generated, here's an idea for KDP. The author submits his book to the KDP computer system. The computer reads the book and then outputs a diagnostic back to the author. If KDP is going to reject the book, it can do so beforehand, without going through the rigamarole of cancelling your account, taking your money, wiping out your work product, and leaving you in wonder as to what's wrong. The computer would tell you specifically what it doesn't like. Maybe it's a trivial problem that you can fix. Maybe it's deeper: "No libertarian ideas allowed." Whatever.

This seems like a much smoother way to achieve KDP's goal (whatever it might be).

Wiping out the whole account suddenly, without warning, seems to defy rationality. It's likely the problem is with one book. If that's so, why wipe out all the books? KDP should just cancel that book, and moreover send the (automated?) message outlining the objection. Specific enough so that the author knows what he can correct, or at least what the hell is going on.

If this irrational, insulting behavior on the part of KDP comes to the attention of higher management, I have a feeling the people involved will add to the flow of people Amazon is laying off. In other words, the guys responsible for setting up the computer system will not have the option of blaming the computer.

DinoNerd said...

You could do better. The problem is that it would cost money to do so. It's conceivable that either KDP or Amazon has razor thin margins, and can't afford to do better, or can't do better without raising prices more than the traffic will bear. But my experience suggests it's more likely that they simply want to maximize profits, and that over the shortest possible term.

Mark Atwood said...

There were people inside the company who cared, and went to bat. It's an unfortunately consequence of the legal and operational environment that corps exist in that they couldn't tell you what they were doing, or how it turned out. Mostly because if they/we did, then actual malicious outside actors would glean knowledge to actually fraud. Sorry about that.

Glad you got your account back.

Craig said...

You could do better. You could write a more honest form letter.