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!

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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