Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Does Amazon Cheat on Royalty Statements??

That's the headline I saw recently on a tweet, and being the curious type - especially since I've now decided to indie publish - I opened the link and read the article. The more I read, the lower my stomach plummeted, and I literally felt sick! For, if it's true, then what chance do we indie authors have to earn a decent living from our writing?
Recently, there's been a spate of blog posts alluding to a collusion between some literary agents and the Big Five - one well known romance novel publisher, in particular, who will remain nameless - regarding royalty payments, or rather lack of, to authors. The words, "cheating", "dishonest practises" and "misleading statements", were scattered throughout those articles.
It's enough for any author to up-stakes, leave their publisher and go indie - as several already have - in the hope of earning any form of income from their books.
But if Amazon and CreateSpace are just as guilty, what hope is there left?

Some of my published author-friends have had their Ebook sales recorded, but not PODs. Why aren't they included on the statements?

That angers me! Is there such a thing as honesty and integrity in the publishing world? Or has it entirely disappeared in the pursuit of greed?
After all, without writers, there would be no publishing houses. Without us, they wouldn't have a business! So, as the old adage says, why bite the hand that feeds?

As a writer, I spend every moment of my spare time pouring my heart and soul into my creation, my world, my baby - my book. It takes two, three, maybe four years to write, and then the real work of perfecting and polishing begins. I get it thoroughly critiqued, edited and proofread until it's ready to greet the outside world. And when it finally is, the publisher takes - whether it's traditionally published or indie - the rights as well as my earnings and if they can tweak the sales statements, they will.
Publishing is a business and this business is lead by sharks and snakes!
Please excuse the colourful metaphors, but right now I feel like throwing my hands up in despair, for no matter which direction I choose to publish my book, I know I'll be cheated!

Here's the link to the article I mentioned above. The comments on the site lead to further interesting links. Do Amazon and Createspace Rip Off Indie Publishers With Failure to Correctly Report Sales?

If anyone has any comments or first hand experience of this I'd love to know. Actually, I'd love to start a discussion on it.
Are writers being cheated by their publishers? Can we do anything about it? Or are we simply helpless guppies?!


Cate Russell-Cole said...

I have had sales appear on statements which mysteriously disappear. I have had books thrown offline until they checked I was not plagiarising - no decency or customer relations were shown in having the courtesy to check first before treating me as guilty and I had to manually place the books back up, losing 48 hours of sales. What sparked that? I promoted my books on my web site and blog, just as you are supposed to.

As an International author without a US bank account, they are my only option and have me by the throat. I am due a royalty cheque now and wonder if I will see it. They have doubled the amount they will pay as a minimum cheque... I am losing 75% on some books and 35% on others (tax and their lack of recognition that I have worldwide rights) and they force you to sell to India, even though I have no wish to due to my work being stolen in that country previously. I won't even go into the International Tax battle I had to fight where they won't recognised an offshore business as a business, but you're obliged to be one for their tax demands. Months wasted.

This is biting the hand that feeds them. Thank you for highlighting the issue.

Tima Maria said...

Oh my stars, Cate! Your experience reads like a horror story, and that's no exaggeration. A/zon are such a huge monopoly, they believe they can get away with anything - and they do! Like you, I'm not a US citizen and I don't have an US bank account either. You have to go there to open one up! I've already inquired.
Isn't the minimum earned on royalties $100 before you see a cheque? Have they doubled that? I've also heard of other authors who were falsely accused of plagiarism and their books were pulled. It was quite a battle for them to get their work back online.
As for the tax issue, that's another headache, but I finally managed to get my EIN. The US Taxation dept. is another hurdle we international writers have to deal with.
The problem is, A/zon is a huge monopoly and feel they can do whatever they want - and they do! We need more competition in this area and until that happens, all authors, not just indie, will be taken advantage of.
Thanks for sharing, Cate and I hope things pick up for you. Keep hassling them till you get that royalty cheque!

Pamela Beason said...

I am angry on behalf of Cate and Tima Maria and all the international authors like them. Although I am in the United States and have both traditionally published and indie published books and Amazon appears to be one of the most favorable publishers for authors to deal with, the ugly truth is that there is no way that authors can truly know if any publisher is cheating them because the publisher is in control of the accounting process. Wouldn't it be lovely if someday this problem would be fixed?

Tima Maria said...

Hi Pamela, thanks for the support. I'd love for the problem to be fixed, but I don't see it happening in the near future. But who knows? With enough pressure from authors, it might happen. Where would they be without us?

Anonymous said...

Like many, many authors I have seen strong sales drop off a cliff overnight starting in October 2012. This is the reason authors are claiming underreporting of sales by Amazon. A proven sale record doesn't just plummet drastically overnight--it will taper off over time. And the problem is, fewer sales lead to a lower ranking, which results in reduced visibility, which fuels the cycle of even lower sales.

It would be very, very doubtful that Amazon would deliberately cheat independent authors. However, it is possible that their software has malfunctioned, not recording sales, and they haven't mopped up the mess and reimbursed authors for losses incurrred. But, as above, the damage has been done, the books' rankings drop, and sales fall off, fueling the cycle of destruction.

It is also true that around this same time, Amazon removed 5-star reviews, many of which were legitimate, and refused to remove clearly fraudulent 1-star reviews (by competitors, etc.), resulting in a falsely-skewed rating. And they refuse to clean up this mess (they should immediately reinstate all former reviews). They have also deleted tags that help readers find books of their interest and have removed "likes" by readers.

All of these actions are seriously devavastating to any author.

As above, Amazon needs to take responsibiloty and clean up the mess they created.

Tima Maria said...

I'm seriously wondering now whether to self-publish with them, but where else is an indie author supposed to go? Either we get cheated by our publishers, or by A/zon! Unfortunately, there's very little choice. If enough authors hassle them about these issues, hopefully A/zon will listen and fix the problem. It's time for another competitor to come on the scene.
Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Check out Ganxy. I am. I, too, have had my sales go to zero overnight on A/zon. The graph is the funniest thing. It goes all squiggly and then a straight angle downward, just two days after I posted a statement on FB about how I didn't like my Select free days results. Go figure...

"I feel too strong to war with mortals--BRING ME GIANTS!"
Wise words of Cyrano. Even A/zon is not untouchable.

Tima Maria said...

Seriously? It just has to be a coincidence, because the other doesn't bear thinking about. Ring them and check.