First pirates now this…

Today I should be concentrating on my next release. I should be feeling happy that last month I had the best month ever in my writing career as Bea Paige.
March was awesome, at least it was until the weekend.
Without going into huge detail about the workings of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and how Kindle Unlimited works (readers pay approximately $9.99 a month to read as many books as they want without having to pay individually for them) I am going to tell you how thoroughly let down I’ve been by Amazon as an author, and as a customer.

This weekend Amazon removed almost half of my KENP page reads (I get paid approx  0.05 per page read of my books – doesn’t seem like much but most of my earnings come from page reads rather than books brought outright).

So, what does that mean for me?

It means approx 40% of March’s earnings was taken from me by Amazon amounting to around £550. GONE in a matter of seconds. At first I thought it was a glitch with the reporting tool… it had to be right? How can all those page reads just disappear without a trace or notification?  So, I calmly wrote an email to KDP support team enquiring what went on. A few hours later I received this email from the content review team at KDP:

Hello,

We are reaching out to you because we have detected reading or borrowing activity for your books originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. These accounts might be related to a third-party marketing service you may have used. Please note that you will not receive royalties associated with illegitimate reading or borrowing activity.

We fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books but take seriously activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors. We encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books. You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your books manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs.  Please note that future violations of our policies could result in account-level actions, up to and including termination of your KDP account.

While we cannot offer details of our investigations or advice on marketing services, you can email us at content-review@amazon.com if you have other questions.

Regards,

Amazon KDP

The first thing I did was cry. Ugly tears, if am going to be brutally honest here. To receive this email was utterly devastating to me. To not only have my integrity questioned but to also not be given any indication how I might have unwittingly  (and I can assure you I have never sought out any way to manipulate Kindle services) ended up doing something wrong was horrific. Not only that, I was being warned that if there were ‘future violations’ I may have my account terminated?! Gobsmacked was an understatement.

In March I advertised my books in my facebook group, in my newsletter, and with AMAZON’S AMS adverts. So, I sure as hell like to know where this dodgy manipulation has come from?  What did I do? I wrote back to them of course. Here is what I sent:

Dear Amazon

I received your email this morning and I am shocked and appalled. I truly don’t understand how this has happened, the only advertising service I use is your AMS? I also did your Amazon giveaway, where I purchased my own ebooks via you to giveaway? Could either of these have been the cause? If you can’t prove to me that they aren’t, how can I trust that these are safe?

I am a relatively new author who works part-time to supplement my income so I can do what I love and write. I CAN’T afford to use external advertising. I rely on my own newsletter, chatting about my books in my own Facebook group. I haven’t used any advertising in March, or before that even because I have zero budget for it. I’m at a loss to try and figure out how this might have happened and now I’m under the threat of having my account closed down if it happens again, when I can’t even begin to understand how it’s happened in the first places so that I can make sure I avoid anything potentially harmful to my business.

At the end of February, I released a book, and two further books in March of the same series (the Brothers Freed) and I assumed that the months KENP were to do with the new releases. This by no means was a huge uptick in KENP, in fact, I was a little disappointed it didn’t do better! I didn’t get hundreds of thousands of new page reads. I think my best day sat around 16k the day after a new release which isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination. Now that day is down to 9k page reads.

I’m certain that this email will make not one jot of difference to you being such a huge company with massive power, but for me, someone who works by the rules and with nothing but my own hard graft, I feel that I am getting penalised for something I have no control over whatsoever. I am terrified I will be targeted again with my new release coming up in May and feel utterly powerless.

This may mean very little to you, but for me just trying to do what I love, the right way with integrity is important to me. I would never be underhand and seek out such a way to promote my books. Like I said, I have zero money to pay for advertising as it is. Any money I earn on my books goes back into future books for covers, editing and any change left over I chuck at your AMS ads.

I am honestly devastated. This has had a massive impact on me. I don’t even think you will respond to this email but I feel it important you realise that this kind of blanket email with no factual information is as heartbreaking as it is devastating.

Kelly Stock (writing as Bea Paige)

In the meantime, I got onto my author friends, and posted in author groups I am part of asking if anyone else was affected, if anyone could give me some advise. Only to find out it happened to DOZENS of authors. All of whom who had page reads stripped because some algorithm or computer programme in Amazon deemed that there was some sort of dodgyness surrounding our page reads.
Hard working, honest authors bashed the same way, just like me.  They all received the SAME blanket email with nothing to back up the accusations and no recourse. Basically, we’ve done an ‘investigation’ but we aren’t going to tell you what that lead to or how we have deemed you guilty. NOTHING but ‘we cannot offer any details of our investigation.’ NADA.
I’d like to explain something before I continue. I write in a small but hugely popular ‘Reverse Harem’ genre. They are VORACIOUS readers and fiercely LOYAL. They read tons of RH books via Kindle Unlimited in Amazon because for them it is more economical to do so. As an RH author I have to have my books available in Kindle Unlimited if I am to reach my readers because the majority have membership there. It would be unwise for me at this early stage in my career to pull my books from KU. Beleive me,  I’ve been thinking about it for my sanity and well-being. Can I afford emotionally and financially for this to happen again. The answer is no, I can’t. But going wide (putting my books in outlets other than amazon) is risky for me. Would I lose readership, would I lose money, would the stress of trying to launch again elsewhere, in multiplte market places be too much. Yes, most likely. So for now I have chosen to stay where I am even though there seems to be a very real chance I could be lobbed out from Amazon for good, if I am caught up in this again.

So why me? Honestly, I have no clue. Amazon sure aren’t telling me how this has happened.
However, at the end of February I re-released the first book in a contemporary RH series, then in March I released books two and three of the series. I did this because I know my readers want a finished series. I wanted to give them that without having to wait too long. I hoped people would like book one enough to want to read the next two books in the series. It seemed to work, I had a great response from readers and it was the best month yet in my authoring life. I beleive this would fairly account for the spike in page reads.
And by best, I don’t mean I earned thousands of pounds. It was a humble amount, but enough to make me think that perhaps I could, sometime in the future, do this full time. That dream was shattered at the weekend.
Once I pulled myself together enough I talked to other authors, some of whom suggested I email Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, here’s his email address if anyone wants it – jeff@amazon.com.
Honestly did I expect an answer – no, but I wrote an email nonetheless. This is what I sent:

Dear Jeff,

I wanted to send you this email too. I’m not sure if this will reach you or not, but I wanted to try. Yesterday I lost thousands of KENP page reads from my account. I’m not a big author by any stretch of the imagination so this was noticeable for me… almost 50% of my March income was lost by my KENP just being stripped without any explanation, until this morning (please see email from your content review team below).

My response to this email is also below. I just want you to know what an impact this has had on me. I don’t earn lots of money from KDP. I’m not one of those huge authors who can afford to take this knock. I write because I love to. March was the first month when I genuinely thought that perhaps I might be able to make this my full-time job. To be able to do what I love. Now it would seem that has been put in jeopardy over something that I have NO control over and had nothing to do with anything I’ve done.

I am truly devastated. I don’t think Amazon realise quite what this means for someone like me who started this journey to show her kids you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and believe in yourself.

I’ve had to hide from my children today.

I don’t want them to think their dreams can be shattered and that it is possible to feel so completely and utterly helpless as I do right now. To them, I am their mum, the one who can do anything through hard work and determination, not this woman who has been so thoroughly devastated by one email.

Anyway, it’s likely this will end up in the depths of someone else’s in-box and never reach you, but at least I tried.

Thank you for your time.

Kelly Stock (writing as Bea Paige)

This morning I got this back from the KDP content team:

Hello,

Thank you for your email regarding the status of your account.

We re-reviewed your account and have decided to uphold our decision. You will not receive royalties for illegitimate reading or borrowing activity.

As we previously stated, we cannot offer details of our investigations or advice on marketing services. If you have additional questions, you can email us at content-review@amazon.com.

Regards,

Amazon KDP

That’s it. That’s all I got. Cue more tears…. Then following the tears, I got angry.
How dare they accuse me point blank that I’ve somehow been a part of ‘illegitimate reading or borrowing activity.’
If their algorithms thought that my gentle climb (it wasn’t even a spike) in page reads wasn’t because I’d released several books my readers were waiting for and instead assumed it’s illegal activity, then they ARE WRONG!
Moreover, if they have proof that it is illegal, that somehow through NO FAULT OF MY OWN I’ve been affected I sure as hell would like to see the evidence so that I can PREVENT it from happening again!

This morning I sent this email to Jeff, which will most likely end up in some lost email black hole… but still.

Dear Jeff

I’m not sure whether you received my email yesterday? I’m not sure you will get this either, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

 Below is the blanket email response I received from your Amazon KDP team this morning after having almost 50% of my KENP page reads stripped for March from my account over the weekend. My email to them about it is also below. I received no further explanation. Nothing bar this. 

I’m not sure it would make a difference to you, but the loss of £550 to me is huge. Huge. I’ve spent the majority of the weekend in tears because I can’t for the life of me work out how I’ve done anything wrong bar from working with hard graft and integrity. I use your AMS ads. I send out newsletters to my 7.5k subscribers and chat daily with my 800 followers on Facebook. I spend time cultivating relationships with this readership (they are voracious and supportive and wonderful). I released two books last month which I think fairly accounts for the page reads (I was even disappointed as I had hoped to do better) my best day was 16k the day after books two’s release on the 10th, now down to 9k.
Tell me how am I to move forward without knowing what on earth I did wrong? How can I prevent this from happening again without knowing who to avoid? Should I stop advertising with AMS? I appreciate KDP and Amazon, without it I wouldn’t have been able to get my books out into the hands of my readers. But, honestly, I am gutted by this. By this blanket response, by the way my hard work was taken and trampled on so ruthlessly.
I have a family to take care of. I work part-time to supplement my writing. I work around the clock. I do it all because I love to write and bring these books to people who love to read them.
Despite what has happened I have released a boxset today of my books and I have a new release on pre-order for May 2nd. I am terrified that at some point this month or early next month page reads will be just stripped because some algorithm or computer programme has deemed that my books have been read unlawfully and to top it off that I may be penalised for something that I have NO POWER to prevent, and my account could be stripped. This would be DEVASTATING for me.
I want to say categorically that I have NEVER used any untoward or shady ways to promote my books. That is not who I am.

I understand that many of my friends and authors in the same genre have also been affected. We are a close-knit community, we care about each other and we are helping each other through this time. So are our readers. Perhaps we don’t have the power, perhaps as authors, we are beholden to you, Amazon, but our readers have a voice. I hope you’re ready to listen.
Over the weekend I was upset, distraught, disillusioned. Today I am determined.
I get you have to do this. That there are authors who use these underhand tactics to get thousands of pounds in page reads. I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.

I am just a mum, trying to do what she loves, trying to show her kids that you can do anything you want with hard work, with passion, and with determination.
I hope you understand just what kind of effect this has had. I am one person with one voice and perhaps it isn’t loud or powerful, but it IS important nonetheless.

Regards Kelly Stock (writing as Bea Paige)

Will this email make a blind bit of difference? I highly doubt it.

So what do I do know? Keep writing, keep believing that one day all this hard work will pay off. That some good will come out of this mess. That one day I will be able to write full-time. That I will be brave enough to go wide and not have to worry about Amazon pulling the rug from under my feet and most of all, keep going. This past weekend has been a real downer. Today I’m feeling determined.

If you want to help support the authors affected (see a list below) please read their books. Leave reviews. Send them emails telling them you love what they do. Even better help us raise awareness, write to Jeff. Flood him with emails about this. Support us by signing this petition.

Support Indie Authors

These are the names of the authors also affected and links to their Amazon pages. They are bloody awesome authors… some only new off the bat in March. This list is not exhaustive and are only the ones I know of, so if you hear of any more, please support them as well.

Thanks all for listening,

Bea Paige xx

Serena Akeroyd
Cat Banks

Tamara White Author
K B Wheelock
Riley Walker 
K.B. Ladnier
Wendie Nordgren
Tabitha Barret
Author Sariah Skye
Elle Cross
Jazz Michaels
Lacey Carter Andersen
Amelia James Sinclai
Nikki Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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