Protection Racket

We are probably about to commit career suicide but seeing as it’s not exactly a successful glittering career, there won’t be many people at the funeral. We can always change our name. But for those who know us well, you’ll know that we would be prepared to sacrifice everything we’ve worked hard for for the sake of our principals and what is right. And we’re aiming big. We’re going after the giant that is Amazon. We know we’re never going to slay this giant and will probably lose our lives on the battlefield but we’re drawing our swords anyway and running in with battlecries. It’s how we roll.

Yesterday we released Bad Romance, the follow up to Gunning Down Romance. Or, at least, we tried. We uploaded the file to Amazon at midnight. At 6am they emailed us saying they wouldn’t publish it until we’d filled out the contributors section – we’d already put our author name in and it doesn’t say the contributors section is mandatory – so we did this and saved the file, thinking as they’d already processed it, it would be a matter of quickly amending the file and publishing it. How wrong we were. NINETEEN hours it took them to release the bloody book. So once again, we had a book launch without a book. Thank you Amazon for fucking up yet another launch. Last time they put Soul Asylum up on their site at 9am but wouldn’t let anyone buy it until 2pm. If they think ruining our launches will make us fall in line and become obedient, they clearly don’t know us. That behaviour will cause us to rebel even more.

We knew something was wrong when Ryan texted at 8:15am to tell us to stay calm if the book didn’t go live for a couple of hours. He’d experienced the rage from Soul Asylum’s first hand and doesn’t cope well with our rants. After 19 hours, even we can’t maintain our calm. But did we rant, swear and brutalise Amazon like we did at Soul Asylum’s launch? No. After 4 terrible book launches, where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, we’ve now become resigned to the failure. So we spent the day incredibly despondent instead. It’s a good job we are seasoned in the art of depression! The Darkshines opened their painful, numbing arms to us and welcomed us back.

So we’d like to say this – Amazon, fuck you.

We are sick of Amazon treating Indie authors like shit and we are not going to sit back in silence. Most of you have probably read our ranty post about their tax system. While they now pay international authors electronically, did they let authors know about this change so they could change their settings and avoid a cheque charge? No. They put a tiny announcement in the Help section. Who visits the Help section once you’re set up? We only found out about it through a contact of someone on Twitter. See Amazon doesn’t seem to like authors very much and they appear to hate international authors even more. Smashwords on the other hand, pay by PayPal, like every other website. But Amazon don’t own PayPal so won’t use it. It’s not beneficial to them.

So after the 19 hour upload to Amazon, how long does it take to put the same file on Smashwords? Five minutes. We’re not kidding. In that time they convert it for sale across ALL e-readers. Five. Minutes. They also pay authors higher royalties on the cheap books. If you want to change your pricing, go right ahead, it’s your book. Hell, download your own book for free, after all, you own it. Amazon will not change your pricing. You also have to pay to download your own book. If you want to make your book free on Amazon and you’re NOT in KDP Select, forget it. If you’re not in the club, you’re not getting any benefits. Even if you tell Amazon the book is cheaper elsewhere. Even if you get all your friends to tell them it’s cheaper elsewhere, they won’t do it. They will not be dictated to by some nobody. But if THEY want to make your book cheaper, they will. Without telling you. Without ASKING you. It’s your book, why should you be involved in this decision?

Which brings us on to KDP Select. This is Amazon’s lending library. People can borrow your book for free. Except it’s not really borrowing because they never give it back. Basically they’re downloading it for free. And do you get paid each time this happens? LOL. Of course not. Amazon have a pot of money which they distribute between the authors in KDP Select after a period. Except when more authors join, does the pot increase? This is Amazon remember. They have increased it ONCE in the year we’ve been self publishing. Think how many authors have joined since then. We refused to sign up to KDP Select for one reason – Amazon demands once you’re in, you make your book exclusive to them for THREE MONTHS. If your book is already on another site, you have to take it down or they won’t let you in. We hate being forced into things so if anyone tries, they have  a fight on their hands. Getting us to do something we don’t agree with is the equivalent of stealing food from an angry badger. Can you imagine if libraries allowed you to stock your book with them providing you only sold through Waterstones? There would be outcry. But Amazon can get away with it. Why? Because they’re the online equivalent of a Mafia protection racket. And if Amazon want to sue us for libel on that statement, we have this to say – prove us wrong. What happens in protection rackets? You pay them money and they don’t trash your shop and destroy your livelihood. What happens with Amazon? Play by their rules and they won’t take your book off their site. We’re not joking. Why do authors put up with this? Because it’s Amazon. It’s the biggest bookseller. Everyone goes there. Smashwords is so much better for authors but hardly anyone knows of its existence. But sorry Amazon, we have swords, we can protect our own damn shop.

But what is pissing off most Indies is the reviews. Indie authors’ sales depend on reviews. If Amazon suspect that you are an author or in any way connected to a book, they will pull your review off other authors’ books. We’ve had reviews pulled off our books. Our writer friends have had their reviews taken down. Writers are readers. The two are conjoined. If you COMPLAIN that they’ve taken your review down, they tell you they suspect you have a financial connection to the book and they warn you that if continue to complain, they will remove the book from their site. Bear in mind, this isn’t your book, it’s someone else’s. They are basically saying ‘shut up or we’ll punish this innocent person.’ Protection. Racket. We read other peoples’ books, we know a lot of writers and read their books and if we want to leave a review, they will take it down. Because of ONE traditionally published author. RJ Ellory. He wrote glowing reviews on his own books and  terrible reviews on other writers’ books under a fake name. So now Amazon is punishing EVERY writer.

If Amazon read this, they will probably remove our books and ban us for life. But we’re not going to hide. In fact, we’ll tag Amazon in this post so they can find it. We’ll fight them alone if we have to. Most people will probably say ‘then leave Amazon, if you don’t like their terms.’ But this is where the protection racket side kicks in. It’s so hard to make a living as a writer. Without your books being on Amazon, you can kiss goodbye to your career. Which we’re probably doing now. Unsuccessful career, we’ve enjoyed you. So we’ll give you a kiss to remember and hope there isn’t a bounty on our heads.

Amazon, this is for you.