Earlier this evening, during a break between edits for AHW6, I saw something on a Facebook page “What To Read After Fifty(50) Shades Of Grey” regarding Jamie McGuire, author of the indie (and now traditional) bestseller Beautiful Disaster:
** SPECIAL NOTE: Please Read This!! **
From Author Jamie McGuire:
I have looked into this as best I can, but being a Saturday, Amazon isn’t responding.
It appears that Amazon has sent a mass email to everyone who’s ever purchased the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster. They are encouraging readers to request a refund. When asked why they are offering this refund, Amazon customer service has given several different reasons, the most common is problems with content. THERE IS NO PROBLEM WITH THE CONTENT OF BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and it makes no sense for them to encourage a refund for a book that has already been read and enjoyed 6+ months later, but that is the only information I have for now.
Customer service admits that if you do NOT get the refund, your copy of BD will NOT be affected. If you get a refund, they are offering to reimburse the $4+ difference it costs to purchase the $7.99 version, but what they aren’t telling you is that **I** am paying for every refund.
Last week, I sent an email to Amazon asking why the self-published version of my book is still experiencing returns. Returns are only allowed for up to 7 days after purchase. 6 months after the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster went off-sale my account was still seeing negative amounts for returns. I’m not going to assume the reasons behind this mass email, but it appears that Amazon customer service is now encouraging these returns.
I was not notified of this. This email has nothing to do with my publisher Atria books. If you do not get a refund, your copy of BD will not be affected. If you do, the refund will show as a negative amount in my Amazon KDP author account. Because BD is no longer available, this money will be taken out of my Providence sales.
In other words, this is very bad, and I have no idea why this is happening. Please do not return your copy of BD, and please help me spread the word to not return your copy of BD.
I will let you know what else I find out from Amazon. In the meantime, your support has brought me to tears. I love you all. ♥
Well, you can imagine my shock at reading this. While I have yet to meet Ms. McGuire, she and I were fortunate enough to share similar career choices around the same time when our bestsellers were picked up by (separate) publishing companies. I won’t lie, I found this story difficult to believe; Amazon surely wouldn’t be this stupid, would it? I purchased BD as an indie book in 2011, long before the author signed a contract allowing the novel to receive a wider, worldwide distribution.
Yet, an hour ago, this is the email I received in my inbox:
Hello from Amazon.com,
We want to let you know that the edition of Beautiful Disaster that you purchased is no longer available. You can order a new version that is now available here:
You can also request a refund on your original purchase by responding to this email. After the refund is issued, you will no longer be able to access this item.
The Kindle Team
Alright, be prepared for a long post, because I’m going to deconstruct this email for you, then educate you a little on how self-publishing works. If I go off on a tangent I apologize in advance; I’m a little worked up about this, not only on Ms. McGuire’s account but also on account that many people, myself included, have moved from the self-publishing world into traditional publishing. The two worlds, in many ways, don’t mix perfectly, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a confusing and underhanded attack on an indie author.
First off, let’s start with this line:
“We want to let you know that the edition of Beautiful Disaster that you purchased is no longer available.”
No longer available where? On my Kindle, or in the Kindle store? Because if Amazon decided to erase a story I’d already BOUGHT AND PAID FOR almost two years ago, I’m gonna get a little pissy. Nobody steals books from me – that’s a grave sin where I come from!!
“You can order a new version that is now available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008JMKN4Y “
Let me tell you something kids: the new version is no different than the old version. Oh, I’m sure a few lines have been cleaned up, maybe some new front matter detailing which publisher is offering the “new” version, etc. But, let’s be honest, THE STORY IS THE SAME. Even the cover is the same one the book was graced with when Ms. McGuire signed the traditional contract. So, why do we need a new version Amazon? Please, enlighten me.
“You can also request a refund on your original purchase by responding to this email.”
Oh no they didn’t! Oh no, no no no. Amazon, didn’t you read your own rules and TOS? Don’t you understand how this stuff WORKS? Let me pull from the above statement by Ms. McGuire herself:
Customer service admits that if you do NOT get the refund, your copy of BD will NOT be affected. If you get a refund, they are offering to reimburse the $4+ difference it costs to purchase the $7.99 version, but what they aren’t telling you is that **I** am paying for every refund. Last week, I sent an email to Amazon asking why the self-published version of my book is still experiencing returns. Returns are only allowed for up to 7 days after purchase. 6 months after the self-published version of Beautiful Disaster went off-sale my account was still seeing negative amounts for returns. I’m not going to assume the reasons behind this mass email, but it appears that Amazon customer service is now encouraging these returns.
Alright, education time!! Sit around my chair kiddies and let Ms. Fawkes give you a little lesson on how self-publishing works. When an author and a book love each other very much, they… oh wait, wrong speech. *sheepish look around* Alright, other formats and ereaders not withstanding, when you purchase an ebook from Amazon, the sales is automatically (barring some lag from servers) calculated to the author’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account. This, let me tell you, is an AWESOME service – a self publishing author gets to see in real time (!!!) how many sales they have.
There is a catch to this however, and while it’s in the reader/buyer’s best interest it has the potential to be abused by some people: when you purchase the ebook, you also have a 7-day window in which you are able to refund the book. If, say, there’s a formatting problem, or some other type of error with the file (or, in most cases, if the buyer just really dislikes the book), you have the option to return it for a refund. Most self-published authors learn to accept that they will have a certain number of returns. Such returns are par for the course, and normally not something we authors go around discussing because, as I guess you can imagine, wider knowledge can lead to wider abuse of this option. However, in this case, to understand why this is a problem, you need to know the root cause.
Like I said, this is a 7-day window, and once that window is closed the sale is final. Except, um, not in the case with Ms. McGuire. According to records, I purchased the original novel in spring of 2011, yet now, two years later, I’m being urged by Amazon to ask for a return so I can get the new version.
So, essentially, what’s going to happen is that Amazon will be logging returns via KDP in Ms. McGuire’s self-publishing account, giving her a negative number of sales. Negative sales numbers work against an author just like they would in any other business: instead of being paid for the sale, YOU ARE PAYING FOR THEM NOW. If Ms. McGuire has any other books for sale via KDP, whether under another pen name or this one, the negative sales from the unpublished, older copy of her book (WHICH IS NO LONGER FOR SALE!) will penalize positive sales for other stories. If not, and all the books she has available are no longer through KDP… That’s going to be one heck of a bill. Because the email I received went out to literally THOUSANDS of people who, in the last 2+ years, have purchased BD from Amazon. Before it was a bestseller through Atria Publishing, BD was a bestseller through Ms. McGuire’s own hard work.
*takes a deep breath*
I don’t know what Amazon’s goal is for this move. I don’t know how many returns Ms. McGuire has accumulated so far. I don’t know how Amazon will bill her for these negative sales. And I don’t know what this says about my own experience: I too sold my rights to another publisher, have left my previous stories unpublished, but had hundreds of thousands of sales before St. Martin’s Press took over my serials. What’s going to happen to people like me, or Amanda Hocking, or any of the other indie bestsellers who turned to traditional publishers so they could get wider audiences? The whole thing is pure and utter bullshit – Amazon should NOT have sent out that email, Amazon should NOT be putting their hands in our
cookie jars previously purchased Kindle library. We indie authors had the rights to our stories at the time these sales took place; the fact that another entity holds those rights NOW doesn’t change THEN.
So if you receive any emails like this for a book you loved, from an author you care about, please disregard them. Do NOT return an indie book because you think the traditional publishing book might be “better”. I love my SMP editor, but even though she went over my previously-released serials we didn’t change much, if anything, about them except the copyright and legal script. Jamie McGuire deserves the same – don’t take money from her pocket, ESPECIALLY if you loved the book!! I couldn’t believe it when I saw the initial Facebook post about this, and REALLY couldn’t believe when I saw the above email in my inbox. Shame on you Amazon, this is totally beyond the pale!
ETA: Indie hangout Kindleboards’ Writer’s Cafe has a post already started about this with more logical information than my emotional response. Included is one person’s confusing response from Amazon when they DID return the book, as well as TOS guidelines quoted for posterity’s sake. It gets more and more confusing…
ETA2: Early this morning, I received another email from Amazon regarding Beautiful Disaster:
You may have received an e-mail from us yesterday stating that the edition of “A Beautiful Disaster” you purchased is no longer available. This e-mail was incorrect, and there is no action required to continue enjoying the book.
If you are having any problems with the book, please feel free to contact us by replying to this message, and we will be happy to help you.
We apologize for any misunderstanding our e-mail caused.
The Kindle Team
From Ms. McGuire’s Facebook and blog posts, it seems all she’s interested in is moving past this and focusing on the release of her next novel. Amazon has a history of silence over controversial decisions, so we may never know what prompted the mass emails. Given the magnitude and how many people were emailed the original memo, this doesn’t seem like an over zealous employee but a combined, higher-level tactic, and it sucks that we may never know why or how this mystery started…