The worst April Fool’s joke EVER that wasn’t a joke. Amazon takes me to the mat.

The last 3 days of my life have been pretty much hell.  Thank you to all my readers and the other indie authors who reached out to me via Facebook, email, and private message to offer me your support.  It really helped.

So here's what happened to me on Easter morning (6:30 am Washington time):

I woke up to check my book reviews on Amazon, something I do first thing every morning.  I like to thank anyone who reviewed my books as part of my overall reader experience, etc.  You can imagine my surprise and confusion when I noticed all of the comments I'd left as I went to bed the night before were gone.  Poof! Disappeared.
“Weird,” I thought.  “Where did all those review comments go?  I don't want to have to do them all over again if I don't have to.  Did I forget to press Enter?”

Then I went into my emails.  There was a post in the Apocalypsis discussion forum on Amazon, a thread someone started about my series where I drop in and discuss things with readers occasionally.  I follow the thread, so I get an email alert when someone posts there.  Someone posted a question about the series, looking for my answer.  I clicked on the link and went to the little reply box on Amazon to answer and got a red message:  “Only those in good standing at Amazon may post.”

“WTF?” I thought.  My heart rate increased and my face started to burn.  “Oh, shit.  This is not good.”

And then I scrolled up.  And I saw that every single post I'd ever made in that forum had been deleted by Amazon just minutes earlier.

I clicked over to my book product pages, and saw that every single comment I'd ever made on a review had been deleted by Amazon.  I was following right behind whoever was doing it.  You could see the time stamps on them.  BAM!  Delete.  BAM!  Delete.  BAM BAM BAM.  Over 700 comments on 15 books deleted in a matter of minutes.

I couldn't figure out what the hell had happened.  I went to the TOS and re-read them.  No changes.  I've already received permission from Amazon twice to respond to reviews in this manner, so I wasn't breaking the rules.  I never said anything rude or harassing or any of that.  WTF?

I emailed customer service asking for an explanation, giving them all the details.  24 hours later I get an email saying this:
This is [name removed] from Amazon Communities. We'd be happy to research the situation with the comments and posts in forums you are reporting but unfortunately, I couldn't find these comments based on the information in your message.
At your convenience, please write back to provide the following information:
-The time and date of the comment in question
-the website link or the URL of the thread
-the title of the thread
Once we receive this information, we'll look into this for you.

Again, I'm like, “WTF!”  But I'm yelling it now.  I have a headache and feel nauseated.  Easter sucked big eggs and the day after Easter is no better.  All I can think is, “What did I do?  Did I do something wrong?  How did this happen?  Why didn't they email me before they kicked my ass to the curb?”

Another 12 hours or so later, with still no word from Amazon and still no reinstatement of posting privileges and all comments still gone, I emailed Jeff Bezos.  I figured it wouldn't be him getting the email but maybe somebody would get it who could do something.  Someone had to know what this was doing to me and provide me an explanation.  If I'd done something wrong, I deserved to know what it was.

The next morning I noticed my posting privileges were back (today).  And some of my comments have returned on product pages.  All comments have returned to the discussion forum, as if they'd never been erased.

Then I got an email from executive customer relations that said this:
Hello Elle,

I'm [name removed] of Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your letter concerning the removal of your posting privileges and discussion posts and asked that I follow up with you. Let me be the first to offer you a sincere apology. Your account has been re-instated and all your discussion posts have been restored to the live website.

We take the removal of posting privileges and discussion posts very seriously. While our goal is to preserve the Community experience by protecting our customers from discussion posts that do not adhere to our guidelines, we do make mistakes. The cause, in your case, had nothing to do with any guidelines violations and was purely human error. We are working with the individual to ensure proper training and education are in place.

Thank you for calling this to our attention, and please feel free to write back to me at [email removed] if we can be of further assistance.

I emailed her back to tell her THANK YOU first of all, and second, that they haven't restored everything and that I want everything restored.  I'd say we're 15% there.


That's the end of the story for now.  I hope it has a 100% happy ending eventually.  But I just had to post this and let all of you know what happened, and how a person who needs “proper training” can really turn a writer's world upside down and inside out with the click of a button.  It scared me very, very badly.  I wondered: What if some improperly trained person at Amazon decides my books should be taken down?  What if some person makes an arbitrary decision that makes it impossible for me to sell books?  Where will my family be?  Where will my career be?  I don't make enough money on the other sites to survive.  This rocked my world in the worst possible way.  I'm still sick over it.  Now I need to figure out what I can do to protect myself and my livelihood from Amazon's decisions and mistakes that could easily impact me like this or worse.  I have too many eggs in the Amazon basket right now to feel secure.

What's the solution?  I would love for Amazon to have a process for taking actions like this against authors.  We're not just fly-by users of the site.  We're publishing partners, invested in the platform.  Why not email the violator and notify of the alleged violation and ask for an explanation before being so heavy-handed?  Why not wait 3 days for a response before doing something so drastic?  Why not ask a friggin manager before you erase someone's presence on Amazon?  They do this for copyright violation reports, so why not something like this?

I doubt Amazon will change the way they do things, but at least one person at Amazon will get a little training session and he or she won't do this to other authors.  Although since posting this, I've heard from another author who received a lifetime ban and has been threatened if she emails again she'll be cut off forever.  She can't risk it, so she has to just remove Amazon from her reader-experience equation.  I find that very, very sad.

I still wonder what it was about ME or my account that caused this person at Amazon to be so heavy-handed and – excuse me but – vicious in the way he or she handled the matter.  Here's the only thing I came up with, and it makes me sick to my stomach: On the night before it happened, I noticed someone had gone onto some of my product pages and down-voted all the recent 5-star reviews. I'm in there every day, so I notice when things like that happen.  I posted about it on my Facebook wall, saying that a troll (and I did have some choice words for that troll, I admit) had been going through my product pages doing that and that I was sorry for any reviewers whose reviews were being marked “unhelpful”.  To some of them, their % rating is important, and it was unfair that they were getting tagged like that just for being my fans.  Not 12 hours later (more like 5), I was slammed at Amazon by some nameless faceless person.

Is this coincidence?  Or did someone also troll my Facebook page and see that post and contact someone at Amazon to tell them I was doing something wrong by talking about down-voting?  I don't know.  But it's the only thing I can think of that might have sparked this ridiculous situation.  I waited for Amazon to come back to me and say that I wasn't permitted to talk about down-voting of reviews or something (eff freedom of speech, but whatever).  But as you can see from the Bezos-approved response, I wasn't being punished for something I did.

Human error … or is it?  I hope so.  I sure hope so.

9 comments on “The worst April Fool’s joke EVER that wasn’t a joke. Amazon takes me to the mat.

  1. Wow, that is so not cool. They REALLY need better regulations to control something like this. To think that a simple error (or downright evil vicious person who for whatever reason may not like you) could have that much power is scary. I like what Amazon has done for Independent authors but I also think they should treat you all as business associates with all of the respect they would treat any other business partners. I’m not too sure I’m happy about Amazon buying Goodreads. Only time will tell how that works out. For a company that’s quickly gaining a monopoly on Independent authors what happened to you is downright scary. I’m sorry you had to go through that and I hope they will take better steps in the future to make sure something like this cannot happen again.

    • It’s kid of crazy what’s happened since. I’m going to post a follow up when I et back from work tomorrow. Thank you for your suppoort!! xoxo Elle

  2. Wow Elle… This is a crazy situation. I’m happy that over all it has been resolved. But the point you make about amazon… And your eggs is a good one. They are such a big platform and presence in the publishing world, you would think that they would have better policies in place. I wasn’t aware of any of this happening and it truly is just more crap in an accumulating pile of things that don’t make them look good. As big as they are, they are receiving alot of bad press…

  3. This is really not cool 🙁 I can just imagine what you have been going through.

    I have a Kindle so buy all my books from Amazon, but this is really bothering me. The fact that they have bought GR, that bothers me too – the day they remove links to other on-line stores is the day I close my Amazon and Goodreads account.

    Another Indie author I read sells her own books on her website – e-books and paper books, maybe she saw what was coming …..

    I hope this gets cleared up to your satisfaction Elle, you don’t deserve this. No one works harder than you, hugs.

    • I’m going to post the follow up to this tomorrow. It all worked out. Yay, Amazon!! Sometimes it’s hard to find the right person to speak to over there, but when you finally do it’s like a breath of fresh air.

  4. Pingback: Amazon and I Kiss and Make Up | Elle Casey, YA novelist

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