Confirmed by Colbert: Amazon does rip off authors!

This blog post is an update to a story on my blog written over two years ago regarding the inaccuracy of Amazon’s reporting of sales to authors.  It seems that even authors published through traditional publishing, not just us Indie folks, have been affected.  Just ask Emmy award winning TV journalist Stephen Colbert!  Watch the video –>  Stephen Colbert Amazon vs Hachette

stephen colbert takes on Amazon

So let’s get this right, Amazon!

I have a list over over 150 authors who have contacted me regarding this subject. Story, after story, after story of Amazon and CreateSpace inaccurately reporting sales. I personally have experienced it with all three of my books loaded onto CreateSpace through our small press, AgeView. I have, as many of you do, copies of receipts from friends who have bought the books; screen shots of their verified purchases, yet the sales never showed up. And let’s not even begin to talk about Amazon’s “expanded distribution.”

What a joke!!! My award winning Flying Solo trilogy is in over twenty countries, but do you think I have ever seen a fraction of the sales through “expanded distribution” reporting? Hell no!  Don’t get me started!  Most recently, I have heard about Amazon’s fake book companies that “resell” your used book!

That is why many Indie writers, including the authors recently signed with AgeView, have decided to circumvent the dragon. We use Amazon only for what we have to. Afterall, over 50% of all book sales are through Amazon, so one really doesn’t have much choice. But any other stuff, like expanded distribution, goes through Lightning Source (which is part of Ingram) for print and BookBaby for ebooks. Forget the KDP rip off. Another Amazon scam.

So, thank you! Thank you! God bless you Stephen Colbert for posting your experiences and multiple disgruntlements with Amazon on TV to a very captive audience. Continue to shout about it from the roof tops. And when you are ready, contact us ! Our small coalition of Indie writers will band together for a class action lawsuit to take on the giant. Or at least tarnish them a little with mass media!

stephen colbert shoots Amazon the bird

Take that Amazon!  (photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

Please reblog this story everywhere. Facebook it. Google plus it!  And “link” it in! Maybe, just maybe the Associated Press or Oprah will pick up it. Add your email and comments to our list if this atrocity has happened to you. Because if you are an author, you know it has!

What makes Southwest Airlines rock? Superman-like service that’s what!

Southwest Airlines logoOn a rainy Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, MD, I was desperate to catch my flight back to Dallas.    After all, my showtime as an author over, it was back to reality.   On Monday AM, I was due back at my real job.   The one that paid the aching nursing.

 Honored to have been selected to participate, I had been in DC as a part of an amazing group.    Academy Women, a Women in Military Service leadership group had invited four authors, all book award finalists from the Military Writer’s Society of America.  I was one of them.   What an amazing event it had been.  Young, brilliantly smart women representing the multi-cultural tapestry of America.   Midshipmen, Cadets, Lt. Colonels and Generals.   Students and leaders.   Active duty and retired.   It was a mecca of honor, courage and commitment.

The two day conference, designed to mentor future women leaders of tomorrow was held at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Hallowed halls depicting the history of women’s service within our U.S. armed forces.  As featured authors, we presented on what motivated us to write about women in service.

I had timed my departure from Arlington down to the tee.   A quick dart up 295 to the Baltimore-Washington parkway and I would be on my way to BWI – and my Southwest Airlines flight back to Dallas Love Field.  Except for one small detail, somehow I missed my turn.   I was on 395 and then Highway 50, being stopped at every red light in roughtown DC!  There wasn’t a chance in heck I was going to make my 5:20 PM departure.   And that was the last series of flights back to Dallas that evening.

To make matters worse, once I got to I-95 into Baltimore, my cell phone died.  I had no way to notify Southwest I was going to miss my flight!  According to the new cancellation policy, I would lose those funds.   For a starving author, that simply wouldn’t do.  This honorary trip has alrea-dy cost me more than $400 bucks.

As I approached the terminal, I had to make a choice.  Return the rental car and surely miss the ten minute notification window or park at departures illegally, run in and try to find an agent.   I chose the second.   Rushing inside the terminal I spotted Southwest gate agent, Darlene F.   She greeted me with calm reserve. “Take a deep breath, with the rainy weather, some of our flights are about ten minutes late.

A smile and a plan - taking care of customers!

A smile and a plan – taking care of customers!

“No, you don’t understand” I protested.  “My plane to Dallas leaves in twelve -minutes.  I am going to miss it and couldn’t notify you.  I can’t afford another ticket!” my voice quivered.  The tears had started up.

“Just breathe.  Consider me Lois Lane.  See Clark Kent over there?” she joked pointing to a grey haired, pleasant gentlemen at check in. “We’re gonna work some magic for you and save the day.  Have you got your reservation?”

I nodded and handed her the copy of the electronic ticket.   –

“You go turn in your rental car, before you get a ticket.  When you come back, just find me.  We’ll have it all worked out for ya.  No need for those tears.”

I smiled then with a huge sense of relief.   Dashing back out the front door of the terminal, I managed to get to my rented VW bug just before the airport cops made it around the circle.   Off to the rental car pavilion some two miles away.  Then, back on the rental car bus to the terminal.   Total time? Fifteen minutes.  It was now just after 5:00 PM.

Running into the terminal, I spotted “Lois.”

“Here comes your problem child” I called out.

“Head over to Kent” she pointed. “He’s gotcha all sorted out.”

“Really?  Wow, you guys are awesome!”

“That’s what cha get when you fly Southwest.  Great customer service”

“Boy, no kidding!  Thank you so much” I exclaimed.

As I made my way to the counter,  My “Clark Kent” who was really gate agent Kent B. gave me a big smile.  “Got cha all taken care of.  We routed you through St. Louis, but you’ll be home before bedtime.  Your flight leaves in twenty minutes”

“Wow, you guys are just awesome.  I can’t tell you enough how great my service has been on Southwest!   Great flight attendants.  Kind, upbeat people at the counters.  It’s been great!”

“Thanks, just doing our jobs.  But it’s nice to hear.”

What surely would have been a missed flight and hassle on another airline, was made doable by people that really care about their customers.    Thanks Southwest – yet again.  I know I have a choice when I fly.  Thanks for reminding me why I love to fly Southwest!

They love to fly and it shows!

They love to fly and it shows!

Indie publishing options? Yep You’ve Got Em!

Amanda M. Thrasher author

A woman with a pen and a purpose!

This post is a guest blog post by successful Indie publisher Amanda M. Thrasher of Phoenix Rising Press.   Not only is she a publisher but an award winning author who knows the ropes.   Enjoy!

Despite what you might think many authors CHOOSE independent publishing- commonly known as self-publishing, instead of going down the traditional publishing path.  Reasons vary, but include the following:

1. queries and submissions take forever

2. marketing via the author is still required

3. splitting royalties gets old

4.  tracking sales can become an issue

5.  pressure to meet projected sales in order to keep advances is a burden

6.  reserve held against royalty accounts for returns (unsold books returned to publisher) actually a reason most authors aren’t familiar

and my personal favorite

7.  overall lack of control of the product – your book

I left my publisher for some of the same reasons, as did my business partner.  I personally pulled three titles.  But once that decision was made, time was of the essence. We decided that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it our way –  the writers/author way.  It was for this reason that we started our own small press.   Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC was founded this year, 2013.  We’re not a traditional publisher – don’t even claim to be.  We’re authors working together for the good of all, marketing cooperatively.  We know strength in numbers is smarter than working alone, gives us industry recognition under a label. I guarantee that’s where most small authors miss the boat –truly working together to sell titles, that’s different than a plug, true cross- selling.

Cross marketing is so important to what we’re tying to build, strength in numbers.  In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s an authors responsibility.  Everyone pulling his or her weight benefits all.  Ten heads are better than one.  Just ask our authors – we ask them.  Why? Because we know their creative minds have brilliant ideas and they count.   We know the industry is changing.  That’s not news.  It’s our job to try and keep up.

We took six months off.  We didn’t do events or even promote our own work, in order  to build our label.  We networked to figure out what options we had and what industry requirements were needed.   The issue was returnable books, mandatory for large vendors.  How would Indie press deal with those?   There were  choices out there, but they were combined with risk.

Solution?  We used certain printers who offered specific things for authors and vendors, retailers, wholesalers, depending on the fan base required.   We plotted the  market, overall goals, projections of potential sales.   Going with a small press gives you options and strength in number.  There’s far too much additional  information to share within a blog,  but there are some basic differences between a small press and self-publishing alone of which an author should be aware.  Please feel free to contact me regarding questions.  I’ll share what I know, still learning, but we’ll get there.   Options – yep, you’ve got em!

Fundamentally, here are some resources to begin scoping out!

*CS = CreateSpace

*LSI= Lightning Source Ingram (Lightening Source division of Ingram)

*Returnable Status= Returned books that do not sell

*BookPartners=Printer

Here are some basic differences to understand between CreateSpace and Lightning Source:

 CS – Cheaper books for author / direct sells.

CS – 100% Royalties less production, Royalties Defined as Sales Price Less Printers Share

LSI – Returnable Status option – Mandatory for brick and mortar vendors (C.S. non-returnable)  R/ Yes R/N R/Destroy

LSI – Multiple Print options

CS doesn’t offer hard covers posted for distribution sale (they will produce) for an extra fee, but will not sell. Children’s books: can not put titles on spine or produce glossy pages, dust cover, saddle stitch, staple, perfect (again perfect bound important for children’s books name on spine), plastic comb. Nice choices for the author.

LSI- has every available print option you’d like- title on spine must be a certain page count, trim size etc. expensive due to inks, pricey but available quality, industry compliant.

C.S. picture books, a little cheaper per print page (good for children’s) gets pricy to SRP = suggested retail price (listed price)

LSI- Paper back (trade paper), Hard Cover- files are considered two separate files. Two fees.

LSI- will offer a Multi-Volume set of books sold under one ISBN. Ex: The Selected Works of William Shakespeare.

* Othello * Hamlet * Romeo and Juliet *King Lear * Macbeth * The Merchant of Venice  (Once again…options).

By the way, BookPartners and its organizer,  Tim Mallot are an excellent choice for author copies of books and books for direct purchase for special events.  They are a great source for hardcover, glossy print children’s books  requiring title on the spine.  Their books are perfectly bound and shipped direct.  We love them!

 Best wishes, 

Amanda M. Thrasher

http://www.progressiverisingphoenix.com or http://www.amandamthrasher.com

Writer’s conferences – are they worth it?

It doesn’t take much time in the Indie publishing world to be confronted by scads of folks wanting your business.  Cover art designers, book marketers, editors, small house Indie publishing services, tweeters, web designers.  And let’s not forget writer’s conferences.   Sheesh!   You could literally fritter away every penny you earned hawking your books on all of these services.   So, which ones do you need?   What’s the best value for your buck?

About a year ago, a writer’s conference truly for writers was born in Texas.   Lexicon.   I had no idea what to expect, but it was cheap and  fairly close to home.   It was all about Indie publishing and as a neophyte, I needed to learn as much as I could!   From the very first night at the Friday meet and greet, it was clear this was no ordinary conference.

As is customary, the organizer Mitch Haynes stood up to welcome and thank everyone for coming.   But then came the stunner!   He knocked people dead when he boldly proclaimed the following:    “If you’re a writer with a big ego, please pack up now and go home.  We don’t want you here.   So leave now.”   There was silence.    Who was this guy?  Writer’s with no egos?

Mitch Haynes writer

A man with a plan!

He continued,  “the reason?   No one wants to stand around and hear you talk about your book.    No one.   We know you have a book.  That is why you are here.”   Again, silence.   He had everyone’s attention.    “Now, just hear me out.   This conference is going to be different.  Just think about it.   Wouldn’t it be better to network and find out about other people’s books?    You’ll generate more magic by paying it foward for your fellow writers.   You pay it foward by talking about how great their books are. . . and you’ll be amazed.   Pretty soon, people will be paying it foward for you.   Go hawk at least 10 other people’s books here.    Then, watch the returns.”

It was a novel concept for many.   I’m convinced some still didn’t buy it.  But for those of us who did – wow.   He was right.   Over the next year, at least eight people from that conference reviewed my book.   Several people promoted it on their blogs.   I was asked to write some guest blogs.   People wrote guest blogs for me.    There was so  much valuable information learned at that conference.   How to maximize social media.   How to network and build your brand.    The nuts and bolts of the self pub Indie industry.   It was worth every penny.    Great connections.   Great networking.    And all because of the brainchild of one man willing to make a writer’s conference about the writer.   What a novel concept!   Pun definitely intended.

Here are some of the great writers I met:    Rich Weatherly      Brinda Carey       Evelyn M Byrne

Buck Steinke       JE Pendleton

So, if you are going to attend one writer’s conference this year – make it Lexicon 2013.    If you can’t mosey on down to Texas. . . start one of your own.   Just ask Mitch how!

Do Amazon and Createspace rip us off? The update.

It’s has been several months since first publishing and republishing the story about Amazon and Createspace failing to report accurate sales.  It’s absolutely evil.   Here is what has been learned.

It's almost evil!

It’s almost evil!

Hundreds of authors contacted me regarding the inability to see their sales, especially from expanded distribution channels.   The story has been blogged and tweeted.  One author, on the grounds she stay anonymous, as her book was just picked up by one of the “Big Six” and she feared be dropped, told me that over 500 of her books sales never showed.AgeView Press was contacted by the Vice-President of Customer Service at Createspace, George  X ecr@createspace.com  who explained that he takes customer concerns very personally.  He pulled up my account for my latest book SOLO VIETNAM.   Now, I know for a fact that since it was published, April 2013 that at least ten friends have ordered it from Barnes and Noble and other retailers, which should have shown up on CreateSpace’s records as expanded distribution orders from Ingram.   Mr. X kindly shared with me that I had shown one sale from Expanded Distribution.  When asked where that was from?  He was not allowed to provide me that information.    Yet, he could see it from Ingram.

It get’s better.  This time, I chose not to go with KDP select.  I never saw the increased sales following the 4,000 free downloads of my award winning novel FLYING SOLO.  Not even after hawking it with KindleMojo, World Literary Cafe and anywhere I could get the info out there.   Never saw them.   I sold very few books with KDP select.  So this time, I decided to expand my ebook availablity by having in in multiple formats, Kindle, Nook, ebook and ibook via BookBaby.

The jury is out.   Scads of folks have downloaded the book in various formats, many writing reviews.    Yet, to date I show zero sales on BookBaby.   Now, to be fair, their policy is that after a sale is made in particular month, it can take up to 60 days after that month closes for them to report the sales from their distribution.   Seriously people?    Sixty freaking days?  Dont’ we live in an electronic world?   Are these retailers like Kobo, Itunes ibook, Barnes and Noble using the Pony Express?

What the heck?   <—-please insert selected four letter vulgarity here!

As an Indie author and owner of a small press, I find this completely outrageous.  How can one possibly track the availability of their marketing?   Last year, I sold more books hawking them myself via book signings and the Texas Author Book program and made more for each copy.  The problem?   And authors, you will just love this one, the numbers of books you order yourself from CreateSpace do not count as sales!    Yet, when big publishers order 10,000 copies of a new release for distribution, that book is automatically put on the New York Times best sellers list!

Again. . . what the heck?  No that one deserves fuckity-fuck, fuck, FUCK!!!

The morale of the story?   Authors you better love what you do.   Have a great time writing your Indie books, going to book signings and enjoying your fifteen minutes of fame.    Because unless you are born under a lucky star, you are barely going to break even.

What’s sad is that because of the desire to become famous, small press and Indie press have seen waves of authors turn to the dark side.   Vampires were hot, so they wrote that.   Bondage was hotter with 50 Shades of Grey, so they wrote that.    There are literally hundreds of thousands of poorly written books which overshadow quality Indie writing that get’s literally lost in the sea of Indie wannabes.    What’s an author to do?

1.  Keep complaining to CreatSpace to show your immediate electronic and expanded distribution sales

2.  Join forces with reputable Independent Press organizations like Independent Author’s Network, Readers Alliance and Book Your Next Read #BYNR.

3.  Follow Jonathan Gunson‘s tips for Indie author success.   Follow book bloggers.   Make thoughtful posts on their blogs.  Gain their trust.   Then ask for a review.

4.  Before you tweet a random book, READ IT!   Dont recommend books that are off your brand, poorly written crap.   Save your tweets for worthy words.

5.  Keep your network of solid, proven Indie Authors tight.   Communicate and unite.   Network and promo them.   Attend worthy writer’s conferences like Lexicon. You’ll be amazed.   By paying it foward, your returns will be rich.

A lawyer, David Berke has contacted AgeView Press about joining forces with other authors to draw publicity to this dilemma.   The Associated Press contacted AgeView Press, but the journalist, Hillel Italie, HillelHItalie@ap.org  never followed up on the story.   It continues to happen.   To me and to many other authors.  Please email this reporter and let them know this is NOT an isolated incident.

We keep the faith.   Continue to try and stay positive in the marketplace.   And most of all. . . write because we love doing it!    Please feel free to SHARE and reblog this post.   Grassroots efforts really do result in action.   Just ask President Obama!

Back by popular demand! The Amazon Rip-off!

So many readers and authors have contacted me regarding Amazon and CreateSpace ripping them off with inaccurate reports of sales, that I was compelled to repost this blog.   The question remains. . . what do we as Indie Authors do about it?   Please, repost this article and tweet it.   Will someone from the press or AP ever pick it up?

I had one AP reporter contact me. . . she did not believe it was happening.  But if you are an author, you know it is.

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 Amazons channels for three sale purchased on the same day.

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 author?  Please be patient.

By August, it was clear there were gross in accuracies.  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 here 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 are 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 powershouse 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

2012 in review

Hello dear followers.   I suppose that the end of the year is for review.    Here is mine from WordPress.  Not bad for an author who reinvented herself, wrote a totally new blog starting with zero followers and finally, at age 50 published her finest work to date!   I’ll take that as success.   Thank you for visiting.   The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.