I’m in a bad mood at the moment, so this is a rant I need to do in order to get something off of my chest.
This morning, I decided to put one of my books at free across multiple retailers because, as the author and publisher of my books, I have the right to do that. One thing that I love about Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Play, Payhip, and Smashwords is that if I want to do something with my book, they never ever give me any grief about it. They are so easy to work with.
Amazon, on the other hand, is a nightmare. I hate Amazon. Amazon is great if you’re a customer, but if you’re an author, it totally sucks.
I can’t help it if Amazon won’t let authors who aren’t in KU price their books to free. The lowest I can put the books at is $0.99. It’s up to Amazon to price match. That, in itself, is a source of frustration since it hinders my rights as author and publisher to effectively price my own books.
But what really grinds my gears is that Amazon consistently sends me the “prove you’re the copyright holder of your own book” email even though the book has been over in that KDP dashboards for years. For YEARS. Some books they’ve made me prove ownership of copyright have gone as far back as a whole decade.
So anyway, this morning I got an email from Amazon, and in this email, they threatened to remove the book I just priced to $0.99 (since I put it free everywhere else). Why? Because they noticed similar content already out there on the internet.
Well, duh. It’s NOT a KU book. This is a book that is wide. That means I can take the book and publish it wherever I want. I don’t have to be beholden to the Amazon gods who have the right to demand exclusivity.
I get that this is an automated email I received. Something flagged the book in the system. So no human actually looked at this thing. The email came to me within an hour of changing the price.
But really, how difficult would it be to have someone over at Amazon to look through this stuff BEFORE sending an email demanding proof of copyright? I mean, Amazon’s had record profits over the past year. They’re getting bigger, not smaller. They have the money to pay people to check things over before threatening an author over something.
I am sick and tired of being harassed by Amazon. These types of emails where they demand I prove copyright pop up 1-2 times a year. Meanwhile, the same company is so lenient when it comes to allowing so much theft to flourish over there. Between ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks, I’ve had to battle thieves about 5 or 6 times now. This is why I spend money to register my copyright with the US Copyright Office. About twice a year, I’m having to pull out the copyright letter to give them my registration number in order to get the thief’s book removed or to prove I have the right to change the price or description or even the content of my own work.
The book they’re currently demanding that I prove that I own the rights to has been out for three years. In the email, they demanded to know the publication date, along with other proof. All someone at Amazon has to do is look in my dashboard to see when the book was uploaded. Since I do pre-orders, the dashboard shows when I uploaded it for pre-order. It was before the book was released. Who but the actual copyright holder would have the entire book uploaded before the book was released? Then they can also check the actual file to see if it’s the same book that is on other retailers out there.
In the email I just sent them, I was professional. I answered their questions and presented my copyright registration number. But I was tempted to get really snarky with them because I’m tired of being branded as a criminal when I’ve done nothing wrong. And I’ve been targeted multiple times. I guess someone could argue they target me since I’ve reported theft several times in the past. But before they jump the gun, they could at least check my dashboard to see if there’s a valid reason to threaten to remove my book from their site.
I don’t care how much money I’m leaving on the table by not being in KU. Being exclusive with this company is not worth any amount of money. I’ve lost $100K a year in Amazon income by staying wide, but it’s been worth it. Some things are more important than money, and freedom and peace of mind are two of them. I’ve been steadily working over the years to put myself in a financial position where I don’t have to give a flip about how much Amazon brings in for me. I never want to be dependent on Amazon for anything.
That is why staying wide this entire time has paid off. When Amazon launched their exclusive KDP Select program back in 2012, I didn’t go in. I stayed wide. When Amazon launched KU, I stayed wide. In my gut, I had this feeling that I would be glad I stuck it out. That feeling paid off today. I am so glad I learned to be content with making less money with my books. I’m living proof you don’t need a “six figure income” to be happy.
When that email came in this morning, I wasn’t scared they might remove the book. I wasn’t scared because my financial security doesn’t depend on Amazon. I will stop writing before I let Amazon have any power over my writing career. Thank God for places like Smashwords and D2D that make it easy to distribute books wide. (Retailers like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple allow authors to publish books directly to their site, and I do use Kobo and Google Play for this, but it’s been easier for me to use Smashwords and D2D for most of it.) I am grateful to Mark Coker at Smashwords for leading the way in true author independence. I think Smashwords launched in 2008, but I didn’t publish anything over there until 2009. Smashwords is what opened the door to being on sites like Barnes & Noble and Apple without having a traditional publisher. They paved the way for authors like me to be on multiple retailers, so we’re not all dependent on Amazon.
If you’re an author who wants to be in KU, that’s fine with me. All I’m saying is that it’ll be a cold day in hell before I go into that program. If people don’t want to read my books because they aren’t in KU, that’s their right. If you’re a reader who is hoping I’ll eventually go into the program so you can read my books, then you should find authors who are in there because I’ll never be there. I can’t stomach Amazon. They make me want to vomit. I’m staying wide with every single one of my books forever.