I can honestly say I’ve had what amounts to the worse experience with Amazon that I’ve ever had. I will try to be brief and get to the point of things.
When KDP Select (the “borrowing library”) was still rather new earlier this year, I tested it out with a title. I didn’t like the results. I made sales, but almost no borrows, and the few I did, I managed to net so little profits, I realized early on that I had made a mistake. I was not alone in these feelings. Because Amazon demands exclusivity, I had removed the book from the other sites I depended on for royalties, including Kobo, BN, Smashwords, and Omnilit. The question was, how to get the book out of the borrowing library?
Then I read that if you published your book elsewhere, Amazon would forcibly extract your book. I–and rather a lot of other authors, admittedly–used this technique to fix our mistake. It was a “solution” that was passed around social media for quite some time, actually. I totally acknowledge that I was in breach of the Amazon exclusivity clause, and make no excuses about it. I did this purposely to try and save myself from a possibly detrimental loss of sales
Then KDP became better. There was more money involved in the global fund, and more interest in borrows. Again, I experimented, but this time I was pleased with the results. After all, publishing is often about experimentation. In fact, I was pleased enough to enroll almost all my present titles in the borrowing library, and they started doing very well as borrows even as other distributors like B&N, Kobo and others began to falter.
Then everything went to hell and didn’t come back.
Before I continue, let me explain. In the course of publishing through multiple distributors, your work winds up going down different channels. Collectively, these are sometimes referred to as the “publishing pipeline,” though it really resembles a tree branch. For instance, you publish your book on Kobo. Kobo then feeds the book down through different channels to various sites. They then publish your book on a branching number of other sites. You have little control over this aspect of publishing, which is why your book may wind up on varied and sundry sites, some of which aren’t even US-based or English-speaking. Further, you need to be aware that shutting down a distributor does not immediately stop the pipeline. A book removed from Kobo, or even B&N, may take days or even weeks to disappear off other sites. This, again, is something you have no control over. It’s just another aspect of publishing.
Which is exactly what happened to one of my books, specifically A Werewolf in Time. The book was distributed through Kobo to the French-language site http://www4.fnac.com. I was not aware this site even existed, and I certainly had no control over it.
Now let me back up for just one second. A couple weeks ago, Amazon contacted me to warn me that another title of mine was found on a different site. In this case, The Dreadful Doctor Faust. They were wrong about this. The book was not in their Lending Library, and they had no right or reason to take me to task over it. I responded as such and they apologized for their mistake.
Then, just a few days ago, they again contacted me about A Werewolf in Time being up at http://www4.fnac.com. In this case, they were correct, however they gave me only five days to remove it, and warned me that one more infraction would cause me to lose all my privileges and I would be banned from the Lending Library for 12 months. I explained that I would get it removed, but reminded them that I had never authorized the publishing of the book on that site and that their former warning (the one about Faust) was a mistake on their part. I felt they were being unduly harsh and simply nitpicking an excuse to toss me out of the program. I had only breached their exclusivity clause once, not twice as they were implying.
Amazon, however, decided to set me up for failure. I begged an admin (in English) to remove the book, as well as all my other books they had on their site. I thought better safe than sorry. However, the admin I had contacted only deactivated the one book. A few days later, I got this email:
Due to repeated violations of the KDP Select exclusivity requirement, the following books and the rest of your catalog will be removed from KDP Select within five days of receiving this message and you will be suspended from enrollment in KDP Select for a period of 12 months.
A Clockwork Vampire (The Mrs. McGillicuddy Mysteries #1) (Steampunk Paranormal Romance) (ASIN: B005KN45E4) is available on: http://www4.fnac.com/a4770052/The-Mrs-McGillicuddy-Mysteries-A-Clockwork-Vampire-Mrs-McGillicuddy-1-K-H-Koehler#FORMAT=ePub
Books enrolled in KDP Select must be exclusive to Amazon in digital format during the entirety of their enrollment in the program.
Please note that all titles will remain available for sale in the Kindle Store. They will no longer be eligible to earn a share of the KDP Select fund, however you will be paid for any borrows that your books accrued prior to their removal from the program.
You may reply to email@example.com if you have any questions regarding this email or believe this decision has been made in error.
Kindle Direct Publishing
To which I responded:
I know it won’t make any different to you people, but I want it on record that I am protesting your decision regarding this matter below on two points:
1. You state “repeated violations,” but one of the violations previous was Amazon own fault and you even stated as such and apologized for it. See below:
Kindle Direct Publishing
This was an incorrect message and was sent in error. We apologize for the confusion this has caused.
Thank you for understanding.
Kindle Direct Publishing
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2. You have chosen a site (http://www4.fnac.com/) where I have absolutely no power over the content. This site in a foreign, French-based affiliate of Kobo’s, which receives Kobo’s titles through a distribution channel. I have no account there. And even though I removed all my books from Kobo, the channel did not immediately dry up. There was no way to control what went up on it. I even requested that the first offending book be removed, and after some time, finally found an English-speaker who could do that. I requested that all my titles be removed, but the person I contacted did not remove them. There was nothing I could do about their decision, and no way to remove the books myself.
I believe your judgment is harsh and unfair, and frankly I’m ashamed to be affiliated with Amazon. The way you treat your indie and small press publishers is deplorable.
As you can imagine, I received no response, and in five days from the time of that email, September 4, all my KDP Select titles will be deactivated and I will be banned from the Lending Library for no less than 12 months. Yes, I think their punishment is harsh and ridiculous. Although I tried to meet their requirements, they did not give me nearly enough time to remove my books from that site–assuming I was even able to find the same English-speaking admin to request the removal.
This will probably affect my royalties negatively, but let’s be honest, this is what Amazon wants–a total monopoly on the publishing industry, and the power to slap down and keep the independent writer and small press publisher in chains. Amazon has set itself up as the gatekeeper, the Evil Empire who will only allow their handpicked writers to pass and flourish in the new landscape of publishing.
This is what Amazon does and who they are. You have been warned.