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Amazon Remains Mum on Authors Fears of Book Sales Skimming

A canned reply is all that Amazon brass is handing the literary community on why thousands of high-performing authors book-sales dashboards have frozen. In the past month over 22,000 Amazon.com eBook authors have scrambled to the giant online retailer’s kdp Amazon Community Board to complain to the global Goliath about the appearance of lost book sales.

Visit Are Your Sales Figures Updating Normally Now? for details. https://kdp.amazon.com/community/forum.jspa?forumID=7  for more.

“My sales figures screen has frozen,” has become a common complaint among thousands of independent authors who have flocked to Amazon’s book distribution platform in search of an explanation of sudden, and dramatic, lost revenue.

The most recent glitch in sales reporting seems to have begun on 14 September. On that date, Tasha Harrison [no relationship to A.V. Harrison Publishing] posted this message, which has received 22,843 viewings:

When the reports glitch happened 2 weeks ago, my sales figures froze for several days. Before this, my novel Package Deal (which I uploaded to Amazon back in February) had grown steadily to sell about 5 copies a day.

Since my sales figures started updating again, I’ve only been selling about 1.5 copies a day. I emailed KDP about the problem who apologised for the glitch and said they were still working to fix things.  Then I emailed again yesterday, asking when, roughly, could I expect to see my figures return to normal, and they replied saying everything was now fixed and my sales figures were already back to normal.

… is anyone else experiencing a similar problem?

Ms. Harrison’s query out to colleague authors started an avalanche of sympathy messages and an outpouring of the retelling of similar experiences from the IndieAuthor community.

Usually authors keep their royalty figures under their hat and take it on the chin if book sales plummet.  In this case, authors are screaming for an explanation, and the silence from Amazon has been tomb-like.  I like that comparison, as I write about the after-life.

I contacted kdp Amazon yesterday asking for an explanation of why my sales dashboard had frozen, but my Amazon Rank was climbing.  Actually, I did receive a response to my query from kdp Amazon rather quickly.  The Amazon representative responded that there was no problem – everything checked out.  Although immediately after my query, my Author Ranking dropped 21,000 points!

I have been in contact with several author friends who have experienced their own inexplicable drop in sales.  One California high-performing author who contacted me has been selling twenty-five books a day over the past year.  This author’s sales have dropped to ten books a day since 14 September.  Another author, from Australia, reports that she usually sells thirty copies a month of her leading book, but that her book-sales dashboard indicates only two book sales this month.  In both cases, that’s quite a drop.  Especially in the case of these two well know authors, whose marketing experience is extensive. But a read-through of the kdp Amazon Community board on this topic is wildly illuminating on past-sales in the pre-14 September golden days.

Ms. Hill offered these personal statistics in her curiosity over her own frozen US book-sales dashboard:

Yes, my US sales (usually over 200 a month, has been frozen for four days – since I ran a KDP freebie last Friday) ~ I usually sell 60 – 90 books in the UK, but this month I’ve sold 8 (eight).

I have a last weekend news release which has enjoyed 802 hits in TWO days, but has resulted in no sales.  Visit http://www.prlog.org/11999016-seventh-haunted-house-located-by-seattle-author-this-one-in-the-wallingford-district.html for details.  My Facebook fan weekly total-reach for the past TWO days has been 572, although that reach has resulted in no sales.  I use Twitter extensively and my TweetReach hits 7,984 Tweeters with an ‘impressions’ range of 109,000 but, according to kdp Amazon, there have been no sales to record on my US dashboard.

It’s a paranormal phenomenon!

http://www.avharrison-publishing.com  and http://www.emilyhillwriter.com

 

About Emily Hill

Avatar of Emily Hill
Emily Hill is owner of A.V. Harrison Publishing - a coaching service for Traditionally Published and Self-Published authors on the topics of trends in publishing and getting to market. She is also the author of a number of independently published titles including a series of ghost stories in the series 'The Ghost Chaser's Daughter'. Writing ghost stories is her passion. . . Bwahahaha! Come see her. . . on Halloween!

27 comments

  1. …and?, ….so? …in conclusion??!!!
    …Amazon is skimming book sales dollars and should be criminally charged accordingly?? or what?

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  2. So… I’m assuming your title is also your conclusion? I”m waiting for your closing paragraph. Or would that be considered slander or libel since there’s no “proof” that amazon is doing something scandalous? Sounds to me like a major glitch in the system and they don’t want to admit something is broken.

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  3. Wow – seriously worrying. My sales dropped off a cliff in September and are selling at half their usual rate this month. A In addition, I track my books on NOvelRank.com, which gives very conservative estimates of sales – they and normally they run at approx 50% less than the true Amazon figure – but suddenly & suspiciously the gap between it and Amazon has closed dramatically. I guess the author/Amazon contract does not allow for audits? It’s very arrogant of Amazon not to give a response on this.

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  4. Well for once I’m glad to say I hardly sell any books. At least my sales can’t go down…unless…I’m not going to have to start giving Amazon money an I?

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  5. Possible that Amazon made a change to their systems which is leading to inaccurate accounting. The lack of transparency is worrying, and highlights the greater difficulty in auditing sales of virtual/electronic product vs physical. Given the vast volumes of ebooks and mp3s Amazon sells, they should be very transparent about their auditing processes.

    Surely any changes to their system would be controlled and logged, and a simple check (by Amazon) of the revenues they pay out prior to and post 14 September would clearly highlight any unexpected/unusual figures.

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  6. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  7. “A canned reply is all that Amazon brass is handing the literary community on why thousands of high-performing authors book-sales dashboards have frozen. In the past month over 22,000 Amazon.com eBook authors have scrambled to the giant online retailer’s kdp Amazon Community Board to complain to the global Goliath about the appearance of lost book sales.”

    This doesn’t even vaguely resemble the truth. The thread has 22,000 views. It had around 400 posts. It includes multiple posts from the same people, dozens in some cases, perhaps 200 or so posters in all. Of those not everyone in the post is complaining.

    The actual number of people complaining is almost certainly less than 1% of what you’re claiming here.

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  8. All I know is that prior to mid-September I averaged 20 or more sales of my horror-thriller, WISHBONE, daily. I have a successful blog, I market like crazy (I have a professional PR Team), and press. Since mid-September I have experienced on-and-off-again freezing lasting several days or more. Each time my rank falls and I have yet to be able to regain my formerly steady rank due to a lack of consistent sales reporting. Last Sunday I had three people write me to say they had just purchased my kindle edition, yet ZERO sales were reported that day. And like roaches…if you see one, you actually have one hundred! If three people take the time to reach out and say they’re excited to have just purchased your book, chances are there were at least a dozen sales that day. What angers me most is I have written to KDP and had two different answers only a few days apart…(1)that they are aware of the problem and currently working on it…and then, (2)that there is no problem. Which is it? And for JR Tomlin’s comment above…books don’t just tank suddenly. Yes, books do have a shelf life, but it is a gradual decrease. These are very sudden and substantial ceases in sales peppered with an occasional few numbers typically following a complaint, then frozen again. I have also gone from an average of 8000-12,000 downloads on promotions days to a mere 418. We shouldn’t be giving our work away for free anyway, but I won’t get into that here. Amazon! Get Your S*** Together!

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  9. Yes, I have 48,000 Twitter followers, a successful blog, etc. My Amazon sales since Sept. 14 are practically nonexistent. I have one short story which is listed as having a sales ranking – and yet Amazon has never informed me of a single sale of that ebook. Strange days, but what can we do about it?

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    • Avatar of Emily Hill

      David,

      I am represented in this matter by a Seattle intellectual-property law firm.

      An Amazon rep has called me, and they are aware of both my claims against them and my ‘Amazon Mum’ blog.

      We are currently in the process of compiling comparisons and author’s substantiated claims for review relative to a class action. There are easily thousands of affected authors.

      If you are interested further in this topic, you are welcome to contact me directly.

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  10. Until yesterday, I have never experienced any difficulties with Amazon in terms of tracking sales or rankings.

    The sales screen was out of commission for around eight hours, then went back to normal. I can’t help but wonder if it this has anything to with the mass review removal that happened during the last forty-eight hours to so many authors. Maybe Amazon’s computers focused too much memory on removing ‘bogus’ reviews and it ended up causing the sales tracker to crash.

    :)

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  11. Avatar of Emily Hill

    Dear All,

    First off, ‘Thank you’ to Self Publishing Review for posting my blog ‘Amazon Mum’ –

    The phenomenal number of hits is what is a grabber in this story. And, of course, the silence from kdp Amazon is an interesting study of passive-agressive.

    Chris, your concern that I not libel myself is appreciated. That would be a nasty turn of events, so yes I am observing in my blog only the level of interest/fear in author’s reaction to Ms. Harrison’s thread and also the non-existence of Amazon’s public reaction to it. I haven’t accused Amazon of anything other than deathly silence to what appears to be a systemic problem.

    In the meantime, the kdp Amazon dialogue thread that inspired my blog has grown from 22,800+ to over 32,800+. Now if it were ONLY the disgruntled write-ins to the ‘Are Your Sales Figures Updating Normally Now’ generating the 32,800 hit-count each of the 500 write-ins would have visited Ms. Harrison’s thread 65 times each – I’m compulsive but, gosh! I’m not THAT compulsive lol

    I can appreciate that if the kdp dialogue thread was say, 3000 or 6000 we might be able to blame the victim (the authors who are losing sales while their analytics are skyrocketing) but when a Topic reaches 32,000 and is whizzing around the net like some kind of popped party ballon – Now THAT grabs my attention!

    Once again, I’d like to thank Self Publishing Review for posting my blog.

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  12. Blogs are protected by the freedom of the press act. As long as you post the truth or what you BELIEVE IS THE TRUTH it is not libel.
    As per the Electronic Frontier Foundation… https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal

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  13. My book sold over 900 copies last month.
    KDP said I sold one book today–all my books included.
    Hmmm.

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  14. Avatar of Brooklyn Hudson

    The KDP Community page is shut down. Hmmmmmm……….?

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  15. Just wanted to add another voice to the chorus. My book sales are way, way down this month. I’ve been told that October’s slow for sales, but I wasn’t expecting a 50 percent drop.

    At this point, I’m far more worried that Amazon is simply pushing its indie publishers into the background. A technical error should have been fixed by now.

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  16. I am one of those authors who saw sales suddenly cut off at the end of August, after having had the number of sales since August of 2011 drop off drastically. To date there have been no reports of sales all of October. This means that there is something seriously wrong with both the reporting system and Amazon’s responses, and I question the honesty of anything Amazon’s KDP says if all they can do is to send canned messages, rather than actually address the problem. I sell copies of my ebooks everywhere else but Amazon, so if they are not selling there it means that my sales have either been cut off or the glitches (there have been more than one) have not been fixed. Count me a dissatisfied author.

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  17. OK.

    I’m fairly new to writing and publishing online. In fact I started putting my work up for others to buy on Amazon in January of 2012, so this is based only on that time period, the one between Jan.- Nov 2012.

    I’ve been adding, on average, one to two full length novels per month and my sales from April to August were about eight thousand books per month.

    September I made just under six thousand sales, but had a new book out in a series that did very well. I’m fairly new, so there were limited sales for that single titled.

    In October it was drastically down. Now my all time best selling title is barley moving along. This all started dropping off in early September, except for the new works.

    I don’t know exactly what is going on, but I do know that it’s strange and very exacting in time.

    My guess is that Amazon isn’t stealing sales from us, but it rather simply not showing the books for some reason. It would be nearly invisible to us and kill sales pretty fast.

    The question then is, why?

    Is it a glitch or system meltdown? If so, wouldn’t’ it be better for them to address the problem than to tell everyone it’s “been fixed” if it hasn’t?

    This doesn’t seem to be an isolated thing at all and seems to be effecting everyone not with a big six publisher.

    *Caveat: at least that I have heard so far. Even the “big Indie” names seem to have been cut in about half, sales wise.

    So either everyone has stopped reading, Amazon has decided to destroy their business, or they have a problem on the computer side of things that needs to be addressed as fast as possible.

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  18. Avatar of Emily Hill

    Dear Respondents (including the ‘F’ and ‘U’ chorus)

    My interest in blogging about this continuing, frustration-generating, curious phenom of suddenly vanishing ebook sales continues.

    What are YOUR alternatives to a kdp Amazon? Personally, I have found B&N a sluggish platform and wish they would add a ‘Tweet’ button to their product pages – THAT would be fun! ;D

    I’m throwing every title I have into the Meat Grinder – and limiting my kdp Amazon titles to distribution in the USA only.

    With the aspersions that the hack-in of Amazon-readers’ accounts on 01 September [ http://www.consumeraffairs.com/online/amazon.html ]and/or that the inclusion of the India market has something to do with the Author Screen Freeze that JR Tomlin has had the good fortune to not have experienced …lol… {wouldn’t want to need a Heimlich Maneuver in THAT person’s presence) … I’m at the point of ‘sporting around’ with alternative markets and (on KDP) alternative market-settings.

    http://www.avharrison-publishing.com/?p=1064

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  19. Avatar of Emily Hill

    Dear Dave (and a cumulative response to other posts since last week)

    I pulled my market to USA/UK exclusively because I don’t sell more than eight books a month in .de .ca .es .it combined. (altho before September i was selling 30 books a day in UK only) 90% of my titles are in kdp Select, and since they (across the board) are not selling, it just makes me feel better.

    Why give Amazon more opportunity to exploit ebooks they cannot track sales on? My gut impression tells me that books not offered in a particular market are books that Amazon cannot ‘glitch sell’ without reporting.

    I’m wanting to pull out of Amazon Select but Amazon will not release my six (out of nine) titles from kdp Select, so I wanted to limit Amazon’s ability to exploit my books.

    The Community Board dialogue thread (as those know who are following this story know) has grown to >43,000 hits and over 600 posts. When I first typed out this SPR article the hits numbered 22,000.

    Additionally since I posted ‘Amazon Mum’ (a) the hacker ‘Darwinaire’ claimed credit for a 01 September hack of Amazon (b) KickStarts interface to Amazon payments platform crashed (c) Publisher’s buy-now buttons disappeared two weeks ago (d) Jeff Bezos held a news conference attesting that Amazon is working on ‘glitches’ (his words)

    … and several action points are taking shape (1) a call for an investigation into (AT LEAST) the hack-in; (2) authors are contacting their State AGs offices; (3) author Theresa Moore has an acknowledged-open FBI file on a rights issue with Amazon; (4) Brien Dudley of The Seattle Times has acknowledged this story; (5) It has come to light that India’s government and UK government is protesting Amazon business practices in their respective countries.

    **If (a) this issue does not affect you, (b) and you are not aware of the contract terms of KDP Amazon that specifies sales reporting cycles; (c) if you are now aware that Amazon was 60 hours late on its last monthly reconciliation of sales to authors well…. good. on. you ~ move on to another blog entry!

    But WHY (JR Tomlin) in the world would you kick sand in the eyes of colleague authors when they have been either affected by a hacker, or (as Jeff Bezos describes) ‘technical glitches’ ?? “Get over it?” WoW! Good. On. You, JR for your ‘Freedom’s Sword’ success. Is THAT what it looks like from The Top??

    So, so many authors, in these difficult economic times depend on a career in writing and for their sales reports to match their marketing efforts.

    For those of us looking for self-publising option to the meltdown that is Amazon – this post is a great place to plan and brainstorm the alternatives to angst and depression over losing 60% of our market.

    *Penelope Crowe! How is THAT even possible? Contact me, if you would like, at info@avHarrison-Publishing.com

    Emily Hill
    http://www.KindleGate.webstarts.com

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  20. Hi Emily,
    I am a total newbie in KDP and my first title “Secure & Optimize your PC” went live 2 weeks ago. The first five days, it was available for free and I had 605 downloads in that short period. I then proceeded to price it at $2.99 (3 sales in 5 days), then drop the price to $1.35 (2 sales in 3 days).
    Looks to me Amazon has some major issues from an IT point of view and especially when it concerns independent authors. I also learned that Amazon sells Kindle to the tune of 1,000,000/week (no surprise here as we are at year-end) BUT they apparently sell these at production costs ???
    On the other hand, I see on statistics published on another blog that the average price (in 2011) dropped from $2,00 to 1,34 in December (statistics on top 100 self-published authors). Such a rapid drop, if confirmed in 2012, represents also a major drop in Amazon income (at least re ebooks).
    I have here to give an additional element. I had in my whole career, two specialties, IT and Accounting/Finance. If I look at the issue from purely an accounting point of view, within Amazon, there should be in place a procedure whereby the account “cash coming from sales of Kindle ebooks” = “cash allocated to authors” + “cash/profit for Amazon” . Start to have the strong feeling that this procedure is not in place or if it is in place, not reconciled properly and discrepancies escalated to Senior management. By experience, it should not take more than one week for an experienced and independent auditor (daily controlled as well by your group) to review say the last 6 months records (we need to establish first the baseline prior to the drop), then find out the truth, compensate the authors for “delayed postings” (terminology just to help them deflate the issue) and get the whole process restarted smoothly again.
    The least I could say, reading the other replies, is that it stinks! even, if there is a hacker story, or poor interfaces between two Amazon systems, or glitches …. fact remains that cash came in Amazon hands with no due redistribution to self-published authors (misappropriation of funds ???)

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  21. Avatar of Emily Hill

    John,

    Thank you so much for taking an interest in this story. And for supporting my Kindlegate.webstarts page.

    Your understanding of the nuances of accounting is impressive, and would be helpful as a blog entry on Kindlegate.webstarts.

    I think that the story around Amazon’s IT infrastructure “glitches” [Bezos' technical explanation to the Big Six for the platform problems he's having] will continue to be played out over the next six months, and longer if IndieAuthors are able to compel Seattle newspapers** to expand their interest in the wild clamoring of Amazon Vendors to the hand-wringing angst of Amazon Authors and the AG’s Division gets involved [I think I'm going with the 'Ace' of the newspapers versus holding my breath that the newly elected AG gets involved. Please, prove me wrong, someone ;] If the AG Division gets involved, we can expect the review of the records that you propose above.

    Hopefully any review that takes place will expand to include all six major “Glitches” that the kdp Amazon has been faced with over the past six weeks.

    Just this week kdp Select authors experienced a ‘Glitch’ in their kdp Select Freebie Placements: To wit (1) ads pointed (2) Facebook friends primed (3) Tweets ready to fly and the system didn’t kick in resulting in LOST goodwill IndieAuthors meant to generate with their readers.

    That – coupled with the disappearance last week of the UK sales screen for many kdp authors, and the litany of other problems I outline early in this thread – makes this an issue so FAR beyond the inference that this is just an issue of new writers who are nervously over-tracking every sale.

    **Seattle Times Headline Story by Amy Martinez can be found at the ‘News Links’ tab of http://kindlegate.webstarts.com

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