How Amazon continues to do its best to piss off its writers: The odyssey of establishing my rights to Looking Through Lace

I’m sitting here listening to a yellow jacket determined to commit suicide in one of my wall lamps, and wondering why Amazon seems so hell-bent on annoying its authors these days.

This weekend, August 5-6, Patty Jansen is hosting another big 99c promo with 100 books in various science fiction and fantasy genres. I entered my boxed set of Looking Through Lace, Books 1 & 2, and was accepted. Only now it looks like my book won’t be on sale — at least not on Amazon. And it’s anyone’s guess if I will have to take the book down or not entirely (on Amazon), for reasons no one has seen fit to provide me answers with.

But let us start at the beginning, shall we?

Early this week, I lowered the price of the Looking Through Lace boxed set everywhere it was available, just like I always do for a promotion. Price changes went through fine — except on Amazon. Instead, I got this:

Hello,

Thank you for publishing with Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 by Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) (ID:7106553)

Acceptable documentation can include:

– If you are the author and you are republishing your book after your publication rights have been reverted to you, a signed reversion letter from your former publisher
– If you are the author and you are publishing under a pseudonym, a copyright registration using the pseudonym
– If you are not the author, a signed contract between you and the author granting you the rights to publish the book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are not the author, an e-mail from the address listed on the author’s (or their agent’s) official website confirming that you have the rights to publish their book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected
– If you are a literary agent, a signed contract between you and the author or an email from the address listed on the author’s official website granting you the right to act on the author’s behalf with respect to the book

Documentation we cannot accept includes:

– A statement by you that you have the publishing rights without verification by the author/copyright holder
– A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed

If you publish books for which you do not hold the publishing rights, your account may be terminated.

Thank you,

Amazon KDP

I wrote back, asking why they were requiring confirmation of publishing rights for a book that had been published with them for over a year and a half. I listed some of the publishing credits of Looking Through Lace and explained why I still had the rights to my own novella, which was originally published in Asimov’s in September 2003.

Instead of any answers, I got almost exactly the same email, with one small change at the beginning:

During a review of your KDP submission(s), we found that content in the below title(s) has been previously made available on Amazon. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming you have the necessary publishing rights within four days:

Looking Through Lace Boxed Set: Books 1 and 2 (ID: 7106553)

Please provide any documentation or other evidence that proves you have retained rights for the book(s) listed above.

This, of course made me even more frantic. I could hardly imagine that anyone was trying to steal my novella, since it wasn’t exactly selling like gangbusters. Most of the time it just sits there, selling a few copies a month, except when I do some kind of promo. But why would Amazon keep insisting I prove my rights to my own work if someone hadn’t tried to steal it? And why wouldn’t they respond to my questions and tell me what was the specific problem so that we could clear things up? None of what they required as “acceptable documentation” applied to Looking Through Lace or the boxed set.

Every time I tried to write them to try and find out what was going on, I got one of the above canned responses, about a half-a-dozen in all — and me becoming increasingly aggravated.

Finally it occurred to me (no help on Amazon’s part) that this weirdness regarding Looking Through Lace might have to do with the fact that it was recently reprinted in a new anthology, Galactic Empires. I sent them the PDF of the contract with Neil Clarke, and pointed out the clause indicating non-exclusive rights.

They haven’t sent me any more stupid canned emails since. But they also still have not gotten around to lowering the price of the boxed set for the promotion. I used to be a huge proponent of Amazon, but since the page flip controversy, I’ve changed my ways — more and more with each passing conflict.

I feel like I’m in a Kafka novel — which, incidentally, is not by me. 🙂

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5 thoughts on “How Amazon continues to do its best to piss off its writers: The odyssey of establishing my rights to Looking Through Lace”

    1. Who knows. They never got around to lowering the price for the sale, even though it’s listed as 99c on my dashboard. I may try taking it down and republishing through Pronoun or PublishDrive, see how that goes.

  1. PS It seems almost disrespectful to like something so horrendous happening to a fellow author! So I like your post but not what caused it!!!!!

    1. Thanks. 🙂 Whatever happens going forward, eventually it should be easy enough to prove my publication rights to my novella, even though it’s been causing me a lot of grief.

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