Amazon KDP may be the favourite platform of many an indie author. But as H S Matthews experienced, it’s not a perfect publishing paradise…
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is ever the go-to for independent publishing needs. With good reason. It’s free to sign up, relatively easy to navigate, quite low on red tape. Only a few reasons why many authors (myself included) use them exclusively to sell their books. For author H S Matthews, however, this is not a love story. It’s a tale of false accusations, a drawn-out battle, and, in the writer’s own words, a nightmare.
The author’s journey began in 2019, when she chose to publish the first of her Lottie Jones series on Amazon, rather than battle with the time-consuming nature of querying for traditional publishing.
“Amazon was the obvious choice as it was the market leader for self-publishing and ease of use,” she says.
“As far as sales, I was happy with how they were going. There had not been one month from the initial launch of my first book that sales were not recorded. Slow some months but steady overall.”
However, in the course of her routine check on her book sales back in April, Matthews was met with something entirely different to usual. Her sales dashboard had disappeared, including her bookshelf and account details. A message announcing that her Amazon KDP account had been closed was in its place.
“You can imagine my horror,” she says. “I had no idea why. There had been no emails to inform me of any issues with the account.
“As the account was closed there was only one way to contact them initially and that was through their Contact Us button – this was message-only. All other ways of contacting them had been removed from my account.”
A constant back-and-forth
So began the battle to get her KDP account back. A battle during which Matthews received moral support from her fanbase, but little help from Amazon’s representatives.
“When I asked why my account had been closed, I received a generic email telling me that it was because I was linked to another account that had been terminated,” she explains. “I had only ever had one KDP account, so I responded telling them that. There began the endless emails, social media posts and asking for help from others.
“The problem with KDP is when your account is terminated, you cannot talk to anyone. There is no telephone contact for them. I tried going through normal Amazon customer services as well as Author Central, and although they were sympathetic, they couldn’t help. I even emailed Jeff Bezos and Andrew Jassy and tagged them in my social media posts.”
“On numerous occasions I got emails back from KDP telling me that they were upholding their decision. Each time I immediately replied back appealing. I eventually asked for the issue to be escalated to supervisors.”
Matthews’ tenacity and perseverance paid off in the end as, after the continuous opening of case numbers and sending appeal emails, Amazon KDP restored her account. Though the fight was still not quite over.
“I got an email telling me that the account had been restored, no explanation and no apology,” she says. “Two days after I logged in to find that I needed to republish everything, they terminated my account again. This time they did send me an email which I responded to, asking if it was a joke. My account was restored later that day and I did get an apology stating that it had been closed in error.”
The benefits of publishing wide
Since then, Matthews has had to start her Amazon KDP journey more or less from square one. She has had to republish all her works on the platform, and even with this process, there are kinks that are making it more difficult for her.
“My paperbacks are back up, but my eBooks have been stuck in publishing since I got the account back. They tell me that technical is working on a solution, but as a result of everything I have not made a sale since 4th April when they initially terminated the account.”
Originally an exclusive Amazon KDP user, this experience has led Matthews to go wide with her publishing. She turned to Draft2Digital after another author recommended it. And already, she is feeling the benefits.
“My paperbacks and eBooks are available in many more places than before and the sales are coming through nicely through them. I will be staying with them as well as publishing through Amazon.
“It does mean that I cannot put my eBooks in Kindle Unlimited, but that is not an issue. I like the fact that they are available to many more readers now.”
What other indie authors can learn from H S Matthews
Following her experiences, Matthews has a few points of advice for indie authors who (hopefully won’t have to) go through what she has.
“I would recommend any new author to use multiple platforms. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” she says.
“Not long after I first posted about my issues on social media, I was contacted by other authors that had the same issues. Some have still not got their accounts back.
“If [other authors] are in the same position I was in then I would say to be relentless. Don’t give up.
“One thing that others also need to be aware of, if your account is terminated Amazon will KEEP all your outstanding royalties, they say as per their terms and conditions.”
Representatives from Amazon KDP have been contacted for comment but have yet to respond.
For more of H S Matthews’ work, visit their website.