17 Apr 2017
So you’ve got your books up on Amazon. You put some of them in the Kindle Unlimited program, so you’ll get paid if someone reads them. Great! Now all you need to do is sit back and earn that promised five-figure income.
Until you get an email from Amazon saying you’re toast. Your books have been pulled from Kindle Unlimited, or from the website altogether. Or maybe you were part of Amazon Associates and you did something there.
In any event, you’re in for a baaaaad day.
Perhaps you cut a corner and bought a dodgy review service. Or you didn’t read the Terms of Service (TOS) and missed a critical rule. Or, worse of all, you didn’t do anything but be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Here are eight scenarios that could kill or damage your career on Amazon. Or at least give you a few sleepless nights.
1. Put your website, email, or book reviews in your book description.
Yes, I’ve seen it done. Michael Lister urges readers to go to his website for free books. Marcus Sakey adds his reviews from Lee child and Gillian Flynn, while A.R. Shaw publishes a long review from another author.
(Then there’s this technique by Susan Gillard who has a 45-book mystery series. Her book description contains links to the 44 other books on Amazon. While that appears to be legal, I’ve heard of one author who had to take his links down after a customer complained.)
So here’s the lesson: just because you see someone else do it, it still violates Amazon’s Terms of Service:
The inclusion of any of the following information in detail page titles, descriptions, bullet points, or images is prohibited:
* Pornographic, obscene, or offensive content.
* Phone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, or website URLs.
* Availability, price, condition, alternative ordering information (such as links to other websites for placing orders), or alternative shipping offers (such as free shipping).
* Spoilers regarding Books, Music, Video, or DVD (BMVD) listings (information that reveals plot elements crucial to the suspense, mystery, or surprise ending of a story).
* Reviews, quotes, or testimonials.
* Solicitations for positive customer reviews.
* Advertisements, promotional material, or watermarks on images, photos, or videos.
* Time-sensitive information (i.e., dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.).
The violation might just earn you a nastygram telling you to take it down, rather than expulsion from the garden, but it is a risk.
2. Include a free book in someone else’s box set, even if both are available in Kindle Unlimited.
So you have a free book in Kindle Unlimited, and another author asks you to contribute to a box set that would be available through KU as well. You’re thrilled! What a chance for cross-promotion.
The set goes up … then comes down, along with a note from Amazon saying you violated their TOS. What the heck happened?
The answer is that Amazon gives one publisher the right to put a book in KU. That’s all. If you serialize a novel in KU, and then offer it as an omnibus, then you should be all right. But if two publishers have the same book, the bot’s gonna catch you.
The problem here is that Amazon did not announce this. It simply started pulling books, leading to a lot of upset authors emailing for details and much gnashing of teeth.
Another problem is that inconsistency in actions on Amazon’s part. Sometimes, the box set is pulled. Sometimes, it’s the author’s book. Sometimes both.
Welcome to the world of algorithms and bots. To police the more than 5.1 million ebooks, plus 1.5 million in KU, Amazon has to rely on artificial intelligence to make decisions, followed up by human intervention when they get it wrong.
Look at it this way: Amazon’s looking for scammers who steal content, repackage it and sell it for cheap. In the end, they’re protecting you.
3. Using a dodgy book promotion service.
This is one that can catch unwary authors. They hire a promotional service that promises to get reviews for your book, but use fake accounts to flood your page with ineffective five-star reviews.
If you’re caught with these types of reviews. Hope that the worst that happens is that they disappear.
4. When joining Kindle Unlimited, by not pulling your ebook out of every retail vendor.
Sometimes, it’s because you didn’t notify all your vendors. Sometimes, the vendor didn’t check all its sites. Sometimes, it could be a pirate site that Amazon doesn’t recognize as such.
No matter how it happened, you’re responsible for getting it fixed.
5. Misusing Amazon Associates links.
The Amazon Associates program is designed to encourage you to link to their products on your blog or website. If a reader clicks on one of those links and buys something, you get a percentage of their spend.
For example, say I create an ad for my website to publicize Amazon’s romance books. I like romances. For example, I blitzed through Mary Balogh’s two books in her latest series: “Someone to Hold” and “Someone to Love.” If you’re a Regency romance fan, I highly recommend you get them.
So I figure I’ll recommend her books to you. I can create a link, like I did above, that takes you to her two books. If you click on it and buy her books, I’ll get a percentage of the purchase price. Neat, huh?
The problem comes if I try to insert Amazon links into, say, my newsletter, which is not the same as my website. Or if I insert it in a comment on someone else’s blog.
Amazon doesn’t like that, and you could get kicked out of the program if they catch you.
6. An unusual spike in KU reads.
This is serious. It could be you found an ad that really worked. Or it could be sheer dumb luck.
To Amazon, a sudden spike in read could mean you hired someone with a link farm or bots to read your books on KU.
Worse, some of these spammers try to hide their tracks by reading books from authors who have nothing to do with the scam. Too bad; Amazon will still yank your account.
The only thing you can do is get on the horn to their customer service department and try to work it out. Whether you want to or not, you must do this. You are the only advocate for your career. If you don’t take it seriously, who will?
7. Swapping reviews.
These are illegal under the TOS, even “circle jerk” reviews, in which several authors each review another’s work, but there’s no direct trade involved. Violation will result in a nastygram telling you to take it down.
If you want to use another author’s blurbs, put them the Editorial Description section.
8. Do Nothing.
Sometimes, something will happen even if you didn’t cause it, as J.M. Poole explained on his web site.