TL;DR I violated the terms communicated to me and Amazon made all my books ineligible from the KDP Select Program for an entire year.
I’ve been sitting on this for a month and still haven’t reconciled exactly what’s happened. I’m equal parts embarrassed, frustrated, angry and devastated. I’m hopeful that this post might help or protect someone else from what happened to me or start to provide some closure I know I am still seeking.
In December, I enrolled Life After Joe into the KDP Select Program. The terms of this program are such that the book must exclusively be available on Amazon. Yup, all good. I’ve done this before and understood the deal. What I forgot is that I had Life After Joe available on Google Play (total sales? 0). After I was informed of this, I immediately took the book down.
Fast forward to February. I was having a wonderful run where people were consistently reading pages of Life After Joe via Kindle Unlimited. As part of my marketing plan, I decided to enroll the rest of my books. I took them offline (everywhere I could remember they were) and waited to see what would happen next. Would more people discover my books? Would I see a big uptick in pages read?
Spoiler alert, it was none of the above.
Through my own fault, I had overlooked two places were two of my books were still listed. I have 8 books in total which have been released since 2007 and — excuse alert — it’s difficult to keep up precisely with where everything is located. Amazon contacted to let me know this was the case. As with the previous infraction, I removed the books (immediately) from where they were listed.
And that’s when I was informed that as my second ‘strike’ my entire catalogue would not be eligible for KDP Select for an entire year. This fact had been communicated to me in December; I had overlooked it.
I was then and still am, in a bit of shock.
For a completely unintentional oversight on my part, I am not eligible for many of the benefits enrollment into the program allows an author. While I know there is a lot of controversy these days about KENP pages, for where I am in my career, Kindle Unlimited is still one of the best ways people can find out about my work.
The thing in all of this is that I’m not selling a lot of books. I am not a major bestseller. For the three days where there was an overlap, Amazon did not miss out on some large amount of money. Additionally, what hurts the most is that there is absolutely zero human component in the process (something they have no been excelling at recently). Even after I spoke with someone on the Author team (who was very much in my favor, who understood that I had been a human person and made an unintentional mistake), even after I sent a highly impassioned e-mail to the KDP Select Team (no, they don’t have a phone line to speak with someone), even after all of this, the rule to boot all of my books off stood firm.
I tried to bargain. I asked if only those books which had been in violation could be banned from the program. I asked if the terms (1 year) could be reduced in any way. I asked if every book but my most recent one could be banished. I was met time and time again with a quotation of the rules.
We’ll be upholding our previous decision regarding the eligibility of your book(s) for KDP Select. I'm sorry, but we can't offer any additional insight or action on this matter. However, please notice that all your titles remain available in the Kindle Store."
A selection of gifs to describe my reaction/interpretation:
The worst part? I had planned on releasing two or potentially three books this year. Guess what? None of them will be eligible for the program until my year of banishment is over.
Lesson learned? Read the fine print. Understand exactly what you are enrolling in. Understand what the consequences are if you violate those terms. Have a back up plan. Have a good support system in place.
Sure, my books are available on other platforms. And yes, my books are still available on Amazon. And of course Amazon is allowed to follow the rules they set out. I just wish I didn’t feel so depressed about the situation. I know it shouldn’t, but the banishment is having an impact on my writing (and self). There is the constant voice in the back of my head that says, ‘Why bother? You’re going to fuck something up again. Why put effort into this book? No one’s going to find it.’ I can’t get this voice to shut up. I can’t replace the voice of ‘why did you totally fuck yourself over when you had a great thing going’ with ‘Amazon is not the only retailer — now get off your ass and show them what you’re made of!’ I really hate that voice.
So, if you know of any other way around the system or contact details of someone who might listen to my case, I would love to know.
If you have a similar story and feel like sharing, I would love to hear it. Big hugs to you.
The countdown to February 17, 2017 is on and it’s going to be a very long wait until then.