Do Amazon and Createspace rip off Indie publishers with failure to correctly report sales?

Guest post by John. R. Clark, Managing Editor at AgeView Press

When AgeView Press Indie pubbed the book FLYING SOLO in May of 2012, the author, Jeanette Vaughan  immediately began tracking sales.   She heard from excited friends and family who immediately emailed when ordering their copies.  The first sales were off of Createspace’s e-store with the title ID number given to the author.   Then, through Amazon, a week later, when the book went live on the site.  Finally on Kindle, when the ebook format was completed.

ostrich head in the sand

“Where, oh where are my royalties?”

Initially, things appeared kosher.    People exclaiming that they had ordered the book, were showing up within a day or two on the electronic royalty reports with a reasaonable accuracy.    But by June and July, sales descrepencies were noted by the author from customers claiming that they had purchased the book directly through Amazon, not an Amazon affiliate.    Many of these sales were simply not listed.The author contacted Createspace customer support, who gave assurance that all sales were being accurately reported.   FLYING SOLO was now also on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, as well as expanded distribution channels, which included Amazon affiliates in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.    Sales were being reported to the author from readers and bookclubs in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The first note of apparent discrepancy came when a dear friend of the author ordered three copies of the book from Amazon in June.    These books were ordered all at the same time, from Amazon.com direct.   Yet, that cluster of three sales was never posted as such.      Another instance in early July involved the same issue.    Again, a customer ordered three copies, yet no sales were trackable through Amazon’s channels for three sales purchased on the same day.

In the meantime, the author was making public appearnances, being featured on blogs and radio, and rounding with booksignings.   During the months of June and July, no expanded distribution channel sales were posted on the royalty report, yet customers were emailing the author letting her know how much the book was being enjoyed overseas.   More than 15 five star reviews for the novel were posted on Amazon.

What should have shown as a surge of sales, as the book peaked, never appeared on the royalty reports.   The author was suspect.   She contacted Ingram directly, only to be informed that they were not supposed to reveal information to an author directly.  So, the Indie publisher, AgeView Press made the call.    Ingram showed 16 copies of the book ordered through their system total since May.   Those sales never showed on the June or July royalty report.    The author filed formal complaints with Createspace customer service, but received only canned letters in response explaining  that indeed there was an issue with reports in Expanded Distribution and it was being investigated.   Advice to the author from Createspace?  Please be patient.

By August, it was clear there were gross inaccuracies.  The 30 copies ordered from Barnes and Noble never showed up.   Few, if any, sales were listed for August.    Yet. the author had confirmation of over 4,000 copies in distribution worldwide.    The crowning blow came in September.   A plan was devised.    A friend, agreed to help with the investigation.   She ordered a copy of FLYING SOLO on September 7th, taking screen shots of her order and confirmation of payment directly from Amazon.    She printed out her receipt showing date and time of purchase.   The book arrived on September 13, to San Jose, California.   Photos were taken.   The sale was complete.    Copies of all screenshots and receipts were scanned and sent to the author.    By September 20th,  no sales were shown at all on Createspaces report.    Phoning Createspace, the author was informed that no sales were showing for Amazon for the month for that title.    It was time for outrage!     What had been suspected, had now been proven.  Not once, but twice!

Time to climb up the foodchain.  After many phonecalls and emails to Createspace, a Senior customer service “executive” phoned personally and stated he would investigate.    Talk about a wacky result.    Due to the print on demand status of Createspace books, sometimes they are one or two books ahead.   Thus even though your book was printed in one month, but sold in another, a royalty might actually show up in the prior month for that sale.   What???

No one expects to get rich off of writing a book.    Few and far between experience the Oprah Bookclub golden orbs of success.    But how are authors to trust a system, happy to take their money for assisting to create and publish a book, which does not thoroughly, detail accurate sales?    Simply outrageous.   What options does that leave the Indie publishers?     How can they possibly track the success of their marketing efforts.   Is the publishing world doomed to be controlled by the big six?     Are small bookstores and Indie presses to be overrun by powerhouse chains which offer the Indie published writer no turf?

How can the press or the author be sure those sales are accurate with no detail?   Rise up Indie authors!    Repost this story!    Tweet it, facebook it.    Make it go viral.   Print it and send it to your local newspaper and the Associated Press.   This abject fraud is outrageous and MUST STOP!

John R. Clark, Managing Editor, AgeView Press

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189 thoughts on “Do Amazon and Createspace rip off Indie publishers with failure to correctly report sales?

  1. smfernand says:

    Making a federal case out of this would likely be an expensive, drawn-out, and behind-the-scenes process.

    What if an investigative reporter for a major news organization dug into this story? Goliath cheats David. Sling a stone of bad publicity into the eye of Amazon, and let’s see what happens then.

    I, for one, shall be forwarding this blog string to whomever might want to scoop this up and run with it. Please do so, as well.

    S.M.Fernand

  2. I, too, have have the same problem with discrepancies between BookScan and CreateSpace reports and I got the same runaround that many other posters have gotten. I sell few enough books that I could correlate when BookScan said I sold a book with the jump in rank at Amazon, so I believe BookScan was reporting real sales, but they never showed up on my CS reports. I got tired of the runaround and gave up complaining about it, but I am certain that something was wrong. I asked CS if someone could be printing my book and selling it without my permission and they said they couldn’t answer that. They assured me that they were paying me for all the copies they printed and so the other sales must be used books, but that was simply not possible.

    • Credit Whisperer says:

      I posted this the other day, but it has other printing over it on my screen.

      Alexis Stuart says: January 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      I was told they could also be guilty of Racketeering laws. Check out the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

      ​For more information please contact: Dean Browning Webb Attorney & Counselor at Law 515 E 39th St. Vancouver, WA 98663-2240 503-629-2176 http://www.martindale.com/Dean-Browning-Webb-Attorney-Counselor/157002607-law-firm-office.htm

      Dean Browning Webb is the author of “Rico Conspiracy Law and the Pinkerton Doctrine”

      Alexis Stuart, Broker Credit Whisperer® (805) 929-2839 Bureau of Real Estate Lic. # 01199688

      I specialize in Credit Power Building and Real Estate Consulting.

      http://www.creditwhisperer.com http://www.twitter.com/creditwhisperer

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      The following is how we obtained your email address: You gave me your email address.

      On Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 1:30 PM, jeanettevaughan wrote:

      > Donna Gielow McFarland commented: “I, too, have have the same problem > with discrepancies between BookScan and CreateSpace reports and I got the > same runaround that many other posters have gotten. I sell few enough books > that I could correlate when BookScan said I sold a book with the jump” >

      • We need to put our evidence together. The only way to collect evidence is to get copies of the proof of purchase from everyone we can. You will not get the proof from Amazon, Create Space or Ingram.
        We can post the evidence on a webpage for all authors to see. I would be happy to upload the documents.
        You can reach me at creditwhisperer@gmail.com

  3. Small publishers and authors could be loosing intellectual property rights to Amazon thru Daily Deals. Buyers of books are complaining they are getting ripped off thru reseller Daily Deal via Amazon. If your a small publisher with a published book with Amazon search on Amazon marketplace and watch who is selling your book and how. This thread might give you some insight on Amazon reseller Daily Deals tactics: http://badbookseller.blogspot.com/2011/09/dailydeal-usa-meet-spider.html

  4. normapadro says:

    Hello. I couldn’t see some of my sales either. I got in touch with them, but they explained why. I get my royalties when I’m suppose to. I got a few royalties when I couldn’t see them in the reports and they explained everything. I’m glad. At least I’m getting my royalties. I’m very grateful for that.

  5. Mica Jay says:

    Mica Jay says
    Hi, Thanks for raising this problem. I published with Lulu.com who negotiated a global ISBN to place the book (“Worlds Apart”) on Ingram’s database allowing retailers like Amazon to sell it.
    So the original agreement with Amazon was with Lulu.
    Having sold copies in UK bookshops but seen zero sales from Lulu I checked online and found the book for sale on 65 websites, many under the name Kessinger Publishing, with at one stage 2,900,000 “reviews” on Amazon. Amazon explained these were from booksellers and nothing to do with sales. Lulu sees no problems anywhere.
    Recently I started tracking orders. One was made via Amazon.co.uk on 4 January which arrived 4 months later on 10th April although the buyer and printer Lightning Source (LS) are both in the UK!
    (Since LS is part of Ingram’s it is included in the ISBN contract with Lulu). Whereas Lulu charges £6.82, the buyer paid Amazon £10.30.
    The second was ordered via Amazon.com on 28th February on a site showing Kessinger Publishing at $14.48. It arrived six weeks later with a slightly different ISBN on first and last digits. After several emails to Amazon asking where the money went, I was told it went to them (LS).
    When I checked Author Central on Amazon they recorded “No sales”.
    A recent TV programme on Amazon claimed the one thing that worried Jeff Bezos was customer complaints. There must be thousands of authors whose copyright is being stolen by Amazon but non US residents cannot make a legal claim against a US based company.
    If some proposed legal action was mentioned in the Press this could force them to do something. One man tried to sue Kessinger for stealing his father’s books but was told by his lawyer that a US judge might well find against him instead!

    • menieux says:

      I would talk to copyright lawyers here in the United States. The main media in the United States is owned by conglomerate corporations who will not tackle Amazon for financial and political reasons. Also, if you can get proof of the copyright infringement by Kessinger (get someone to order the book with the different isbn number), file a complaint with the FBI here in the states. I would keep contacting copyright lawyers here (most are in New York City) and suggest a class action. This is happening to a lot of authors here. There are a lot of lawyers here who will tell clients stupid things because they do not want the case. Janet at menieux@gmail.com. Good luck and keep posting.

  6. Peter Penit says:

    Many 3rd party marketplace sellers on Amazon undercut prices on books. The money from 3rd party marketplace sellers does not go into the author’s pocket. Books seem to be available for sale even if they are out of print for years especially indie titles. Amazon gets a cut of the sale regardless and seems to do nothing to stop this practice even when notified by copyright holders. Amazon also has a patent to sell used Mp3 and Mp4′s which means Amazon can resell mp3 files as used, virtually stealing copyrights through first sale doctrine. When a publisher hits the accept button on Amazon-Createspace they are agreeing to arbitrate through mediation any future claims against Amazon instead of using the court system. Furthermore, even if a publisher decides not to use Amazon-Createspace as a publisher Amazon still lists the item on their site allowing 3rd party marketplace sellers to sell the item. Hopefully these links are of help:

    https://eu.createspace.com/pub/signup/view.memberagreement.do

    http://www.zdnet.com/amazon-lands-patent-on-marketplace-for-selling-on-used-digital-content-7000010917/

    http://badbookseller.blogspot.com/2011/09/dailydeal-usa-meet-spider.html

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/thai-student-protected-by-first-sale-supreme-court-rules/

    http://www.aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Copyright-2/FirstSaleDoctrine.html

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