Tag Archives: content review

All’s well that ends well?

Looks like calling Amazon’s customer service atrocious and sending them a link to yesterday’s blog post did the trick. Last night I got an email — that seemed to be from an actual person! — that Oregon, Elsewise had been approved, and my documentation for my publishing rights was sufficient. I even got an apology for the “inconveniences.”

It’s interesting, though, that I had to start getting nasty before anyone with more than two peas for brains (or possibly anyone at all?) took a look at my case and realized how I was being sent in circles for nothing.

Lessons to take away from this rather nerve-wracking experience:

  • Whoever or whatever is on the other end of emails from the Amazon Content Review Team does not answer questions, so it is futile to ask them. Answering questions is beyond the scope of the Artificial Non-Intelligences (or ANIs for short).
  • Being tactful and diplomatic is unnecessary when dealing with ANIs, and may even be detrimental.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try again. ANIs will keep spouting blocks of text back at you in accordance with certain keywords found either in your email or the documentation you sent as proof of authorship.
  • If your case concerns a collection of short stories with a different title than any of the stories in the collection, you’re up sh*t creek to start with, and should escalate as soon as possible. ANIs have a fixation with the book title, and are incapable of understanding the difference between book title and story title.
  • Trying to address the illogical demands of the ANIs will only lead to grief. I’m not quite sure what it was in yesterday’s email that triggered an end of the runaround, but the threat of bad publicity probably doesn’t hurt. “Atrocious” or some other negative adjective in connection with “Amazon service” may also help in getting out of the vicious circle of contradictory demands in the varying text blocks.

I hope the next time something like this happens to me, I’ll remember to take my own advice!

Oh, and in the midst of all this kerfuffle, I actually sold 2 copies of Oregon, Elsewise — probably more than all of last year. 🙂

Looks Like “Oregon, Elsewise” Will Soon No Longer Be Available on Amazon

For a surprisingly long time, Amazon has been surprisingly nice to me. When I request changes and / or additions to my categories, the changes are made much faster than they used to be, and when a category is turned down, the reason makes sense. When I write to price match a book to make it free in order to promote other books in a series, the response has been prompt, and on occasion I have even been wished good luck with my sales.

Now, unfortunately, I find myself in another skirmish with Amazon, this time over my short story collection Oregon, Elsewise.

I had the story collection on sale for 99c, and last week, I finally got around to changing the price back to $2.99. A few days later, I received the following email from Amazon:

Hello,

During our review, we found that your book contains interior and/or cover content that’s available from a different publisher. We need you to confirm your publishing rights before the book is made available on Amazon.

Oregon Elsewise: Eight short stories of an Oregon that never was by Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) (ID: 6316799)

To publish the book(s), reply to this email and send documentation and/or verification showing you hold rights to the content. Please submit any documents you have, along with an explanation of any previously published books within 5 days. If we do not receive the appropriate documentation, the book(s) will be unavailable for sale on Amazon.

Acceptable documentation may include:
• A letter from the previous publisher reverting rights back to the author
• A signed copy of the agreement between you and the author
• A signed copy of the agreement between the author and the previous publisher
• A signed letter from the previous publisher indicating that they do not object to your edition
• Documentation showing the previous publisher holds nonexclusive rights

Examples of documentation we cannot accept include:
• A personal statement by you that you have the publishing rights
• A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed
• Contracts that have not been signed by all parties
• Ghostwriter agreements or contracts
• Private Label Rights documents

Need help with what to send us?
For more information about how to confirm your rights and frequently asked questions (FAQs), visit Help:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672400

If you have questions or believe you’ve received this email in error, reply to this message.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

Given the obvious boilerplate email, I could only guess at what someone or something at Amazon was objecting to in my extremely modest short story collection. I’ve gotten a couple of objections from Amazon like this before, and they usually had to do with stories that were available in archives of online magazines. For that reason, I came to the conclusion that the problem was with my short story “The Leaving Sweater,” which (at the time of this writing) was still in the archives of Strange Horizons.

I scanned the original contract for “The Leaving Sweater” and sent the jpgs to Amazon as an attachment to the following email:

Dear Amazon Representative,

I am attaching a scan of my contract with Strange Horizons for my short story “The Leaving Sweater.” This contract makes it clear that Strange Horizons had exclusive rights to my story for only 60 days after first publication in 2007. They continue to have non-exclusive rights to my short story, which is why it is still available on the Strange Horizons site 15 years after the first publication. I can, however, also request that the story be removed from the site, if you deem that necessary. But since “Oregon Elseweise” is not in KDP Select, I assume “The Leaving Sweater” can remain on Strange Horizons.

From this contract, it should be clear that I hold the rights to my short story and it can be republished in my collection, “Oregon Elsewise.”

If this is not the story for which you needed publishing rights information, please let me know, and I will scan whichever contracts you need and send them to you.

I hope this clears things up.

Sincerely,

Ruth Nestvold

No such luck. Here’s the answer I received from Amazon:

Thanks for your message regarding the following book(s):

Oregon Elsewise: Eight short stories of an Oregon that never was
Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) : 6316799

We’ve reviewed the information you provided. Based on our review, we’re unable to confirm that you hold the necessary publishing rights.

The information you provided is insufficient because of the following concerns:

• The title of the book listed on the document(s) does not match the title you entered in your KDP account
• The document(s) does not list the author of the book
• The author of the book listed on the document(s) does not match the author you entered in your KDP account

• The model name listed on the document(s) does not match the book details you entered in your KDP account

In order to publish the book(s), reply to this email within 5 days and provide us with further documentation and/or verification showing you hold rights to the content.

Please reply to confirm your publishing rights within 5 days. Otherwise, the book(s) will be unavailable for sale on Amazon.

For more details about KDPs copyright guidelines, visit Help:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672400

By this time, my husband and I were already beginning to argue whether there were any real people behind these emails, or if they were only generated by AIs. I was still hopeful there might be an actual person or persons dealing with my case, and I answered with the following email:

Hello,

I don’t understand this response. My book “Oregon Elsewise” is a collection of several of my short stories, previously published in various venues, which I list under “Credits” in the manuscript of the book:

“If Tears Were Wishes” first published in Abyss and Apex, January 2008.

“The Leaving Sweater” first published in Strange Horizons, June 25, 2007

“The Old Man and the Sneakers” first published in Farthing, April 2006

“The Other Side of Silence” first published in Futurismic, 2006.

“Sailing to Utopia” first published in Flytrap, May 2006

“The Sea Gives, the Sea Takes Away” originally published in a revised version as “A Debt to Collect” in Northwest Passages, 2005.

“Story Hunger” first published in the collection Story Hunger: Short Fantasy Tales About the Power of the Word, 2013

“The Tiresias Project” first published in Futurismic, July 2004

I do not have a contract for “Oregon Elsewise” (the complete collection) because that is the name I came up with for this collection of my short fiction. I have already provided you with a copy of the original contract for “The Leaving Sweater,” which is addressed to me, Ruth Nestvold, and clearly states that I am granting Strange Horizons first publishing rights to my short story, “The Leaving Sweater,” exclusive to Strange Horizons for a period of 60 days.

If “The Leaving Sweater” is not the short story for which you require further publishing information, please let me know which of the above stories you need the original contract for. None of them will include the title “Oregon Elsewise,” however, because that is only the name for this individual collection, not any previously published fiction for which I have a contract. There is no story in the book entitled “Oregon Elsewise,” which you will see if you look at the book more closely.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a closer look at this matter. It is not unusual for authors to give collections of their fiction a completely new title, and not merely “The Leaving Sweater and Other Stories.”

Thank you in advance for looking into this. I hope it can soon be cleared up. Please let me know if you require copies of my contracts with Abyss and Apex, Farthing, Futurismic, Northwest Passages and Flytrap, in addition to the contract I already provided from Strange Horizons.

Sincerely,

Ruth Nestvold

Sounds fairly convincing, right? Nope. Here’s the next boilerplate, hard-to-decifer email I received from the Amazon Non-Intelligences (artificial of not):

Hello,

Thanks for your message regarding the following book(s):

Oregon Elsewise: Eight short stories of an Oregon that never was
Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) : 6316799

We’ve reviewed the information you provided. Based on our review, we’re unable to confirm that you hold the necessary publishing rights.

The information you provided is insufficient because of the following concerns:

• Documentation or information explaining the edition previously published on Amazon has not been provided.
• Documentation has not been provided to confirm you are the original author of the content.
• Documentation has not been provided to confirm that the author granted you rights to publish the content.
• Documentation has not been provided to confirm that rights were reverted to the author from the previous publisher

In order to publish the book(s), reply to this email within 5 days and provide us with further documentation and/or verification showing you hold rights to the content.

We’re unable to accept the following documentation to confirm publishing rights:
• A personal statement by you that you have the publishing rights
• A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed
• Contracts that have not been signed by all parties
• Ghostwriter agreements or contracts
• Private Label Rights documents]

Please reply to confirm your publishing rights within 5 days. Otherwise, the book(s) will be unavailable for sale on Amazon.

For more details about KDPs copyright guidelines, visit Help:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672400

If you have questions or believe you’ve received this email in error, reply to this message.

Thanks for your cooperation,
Amazon KDP

Sara
Amazon Content Review Team

Sara! A person!
Isn’t that the name of an AI? husband Chris says.
No, that’s Siri, says I.
Same difference, says husband Chris.

But writer Ruth still has not given up completely. The short stories in question were originally published so long ago (over fifteen years), that most of the contracts were in a hybrid digital / print form. The publisher sent me the contracts per email, asked me to print them out, sign them, and then send the signed copies back.

Given how long ago the original publications were, some of the contracts were in hard copy in boxes in the attic. But I dug them out, scanned them, and sent them with the following email to Amazon:

Hello,

I am attaching copies of the remaining contracts for the short stories contained in my collection “Oregon Elsewise.” Some are scans of paper contracts, others PDF files. In all the contracts it is made clear that after a period of exclusivity from between 60 days and 18 months, all rights reverted back to me. None of the short stories were published after 2008, which means I now hold all rights. For “Story Hunger,” which was not previously published elsewhere, I have scanned a rejection letter as proof that I am author of the content. In addition, I have written to the editors at Strange Horizons and asked them to remove my stories from their archives, as per my contracts with them. Hopefully that will keep such problems from happening in the future.

If this documentation is not sufficient to prove to you that I have the publishing rights for the short stories contained in my collection “Oregon Elsewise,” please remove it from Amazon. The short story collection sells a couple of copies a year at most, and it is not worth my time to continue to pursue this matter.

Sincerely,

Ruth Nestvold

It was not sufficient. Here is the final email (for me, at least) I received from Amazon:

Hello,

Thanks for your message regarding the following book(s):

Oregon Elsewise: Eight short stories of an Oregon that never was Nestvold, Ruth (AUTHOR) : 6316799

We’ve reviewed the information you provided. Based on our review, we’re unable to confirm that you hold the necessary publishing rights.

The information you provided is insufficient because of the following concerns:
• Some documents are missing valid signature is missing from one or both parties
• Some document(s) does not list the title of the book

In order to publish the book(s), reply to this email within 5 days and provide us with further documentation and/or verification showing you hold rights to the content.

We’re unable to accept the following documentation to confirm publishing rights:
• A personal statement by you that you have the publishing rights
• A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed
• Contracts that have not been signed by all parties
• Ghostwriter agreements or contracts
• Private Label Rights documents

Please reply to confirm your publishing rights within 5 days. Otherwise, the book(s) will be unavailable for sale on Amazon.

For more details about KDPs copyright guidelines, visit Help:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672400

Publishing books without holding the necessary publishing rights is against our content guidelines and may result in the suspension or termination of your KDP account.

If you have questions or believe you’ve received this email in error, reply to this message.

Thanks for your cooperation,
Amazon KDP

Daniela
Amazon Content Review Team

And now it’s Daniela. (Another AI? How am I to know? None of my questions are ever answered.)

And as if the rest weren’t enough, I’m also being threatened with the termination of my KDP account. But I have no idea what else I can possibly provide to prove that I’m the author of the short stories I wrote — stories that I included in a collection I mostly created for my friends and family, since I grew up in Oregon, and that I dedicated to Nancie Fadeley, the significant other of my father, and my substitute mom.

So if my bad luck holds, it might even be the beginning of the end of my writing career. All because of a collection of my short stories that never earned me more than a few dollars.