Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Amazon's Jackbooted Thugs Are At It Again

I've had Amazon pull one of my books a few times before.  The frustrating part of it is that they have no definition of "offensive content" that actually provides any guidance.  Their whole policy is one sentence:  What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. .  WTF?  There is no court of law where that definition would hold up because it's far too broad to have any meaning at all.  What it really boils down to is:  it's our site so we can do what we want.

The second annoying thing is once someone (or something) flags a book for offensive content, no one has any idea why.  I've emailed and emailed and emailed them and never gotten a reasonable response.  Really I think it'd make a good Michael Moore-type documentary to have me go to their help center in India and try to track down and confront whoever flagged my book.  (And I say India because every email has the name of someone with an Indian-sounding name, so I assume that's where it's coming from.)

The latest beef began a month or so ago when they alerted me to some "book" called When You Were Young that had the same text as MY book When You Were Young.  I looked it up and it was 7 pages long with a different author name and different cover, but the first chapter of my book.  Only it was published 2 years later.  It had a sales ranking so someone bought it for some reason.  Or maybe they borrowed it.  Either way it seemed pretty dumb.  So naturally I tell Amazon this person is plagiarizing my book.  For once they agree with me and pulled the thing.

That should be it, right?  Well a couple of days later they come back demanding I prove I own the copyright to my book.  As proof they wanted a letter from the publisher, something official saying I'd filed a copyright with the government or whatever, or an email from the owner.  It's like, 1. I published the book with your platform so technically you're the publisher, 2. I don't bother wasting time and money filing copyrights, and 3. I wrote it so why would I email myself?  They sent me an email saying that was fine...and then blocked the book two days later.  So I have to send them an email asking why they blocked it if they had approved it?  Then they unblocked it.

Now that should be everything, right?  Well no, a few days later I had submitted a paperback for Transformations:  The Gender Swap Collection, which was an omnibus of a bunch of my books.  Instead of approving the paperback they say they can't publish it because of something about mentioning it's a box set or whatnot.  Before I could get around to attempting to fix that they blocked it for "offensive content" and for good measure blocked the ebook too.  And yet they didn't block any of the individual stories included in the collection.

Then a few days later I get the ultimate kick to the balls when they declared I'd had three books blocked already so now they were going to suspend my account until I took a loyalty oath--or promised I wouldn't do whatever it is I did again.  Since I haven't the slightest idea what I did it's kind of a hard promise to keep.

You might say, well just write clean books.  Except one of the ones they blocked, Transformed for Mother's Day Too, was a clean book.  It wasn't classified as erotica so it shouldn't matter it had kids in it.  There was no sex, no violence, and very little bad language.  One of the people who reviewed it originally said it was wholesome enough to let her grandkid read.  So if that gets blocked, what the hell is safe to publish?

Of course this would be a lot easier if they just said what the hell was wrong, but see above.  There's no way to know why they flagged a book.  It's like if a cop pulls you over, doesn't say why, gives you a ticket that doesn't have a reason on it, and then says if you do it again he'll put you in jail.  You'd be like, What the hell did I do?  If you don't know what you did, it's impossible to avoid doing it again, but Amazon chooses to hide behind vagueness and boilerplate than provide anyone with actual reasoning.  And now that they're threatening to shut down my account, the shit is getting real.

It would be nice if I could just go to Smashwords or Draft2Digital or something, but they don't distribute to Amazon.  Amazon has walled themselves off from any other site and if your book isn't on Amazon you might as well be trying to sell it out of the trunk of your car.  And in all honesty Smashwords and Draft2Digital aren't really much better about that stuff, though I think they've provided slightly more specific responses.

It really leaves me between a rock and a hard place.

2 comments:

  1. I've heard of other authors getting the copyright request. They said all you have to do is write back saying "Yes, this is my book." You can use your website(s) as proof. Amazon continues to have big problems with people trying to scam and/or game it. They have bots to look for things, and avoid using real people. So yeah, it's all a very bleak situation. The only good news is I've never heard of a legit author being permanently suspended. So, most likely all will be resolved.

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  2. might not help much..but is there a person or department you try to call? might be worth the time to speak to someone instead of an email.

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