That's what I get for bragging... / by Josh Guess


Several weeks ago I went nuts because I finally got into the top 3000 on the kindle store. I was really, really proud of that. That was on the night of January 19 through the morning of January 20. That period of time, that 24 hours, was my best selling single day. I was super excited.

Then, amazon changed things on me. The switch from DTP (digital text platform) over to KDP (kindle direct publishing) didn't seem to do much at first. On the twenty first, as other people were reporting problems with their accounts, from information vanishing off the pages of their long-published kindle books to the kindle converter not working and thus not letting them upload their works, I went to dinner with my wife. It was her birthday.

While I was there, Living With the Dead: With Spring Comes The Fall got booted from the kindle store and went into draft mode. Draft mode means it wasn't on sale at all. Totally unavailable. I know for an absolute fact that I didn't do that. Amazon swears they didn't. They also told me that the switch to KDP didn't do it. Mysterious universe, isn't it?

At any rate, I won't go into the hellish twelve days that followed in the detail my angry brain wants to. Suffice it to say that every problem I could possibly have had with that book, I did have. When I republished it, all of the metadata was gone--meaning that it wasn't being recognized on its own page, nor was it being shown on the pages of other books, which is a big part of how readers find your work on the kindle store. It was almost two weeks of utter frustration as my data came and went.

I was at 288 sales when all of that started, and at the rate I was going, I should have beat 400. I probably would have done better than that, really, since my sales momentum was building up nicely. I should have beat a thousand dollars, but I didn't. I got close to 900, which I am certainly not complaining about. I'm thrilled with what I accomplished last month, and the payday that will be coming in seven weeks or so.

My point is that I was on the path to much larger sales, the numbers and momentum were there to show it. Then amazon killed that momentum, purely by accident I'm sure, and wouldn't even own up to it. I sent out email after email, and through the process of trying to get some help with the plethora of issues that cropped up, came to realize a few things.

While the kindle is clearly the biggest success amazon has ever had, and while it makes them literally about a billion dollars (if not more), they just aren't as focused on support for the authors who stock it with titles. I won't go into the horrors of trying to get an honest response or any help at all here--this isn't a rant solely about amazon, for one very important reason.

With Spring Comes The Fall is back on the store, and has been for the last five days. Its data is fully integrated again, and it is selling. In fact, from 3am on the fourth until 3am this morning (which is how I measure my sales days) was my best selling day ever. Which is weird, because there wasn't nearly the same buildup as there was last month. But I'll take it.

The kindle store is still a great and easy way to publish. It's useful as hell for an indie like me, and for the most part it works well. I get paid regularly, My books' pages look good, and for the most part it's stable.

But now I've seen how bad it can get. I've heard horror stories from other authors that make my woes look like absolutely nothing. I've gazed into the abyss that is seller support, KDP "support" (I put that in quotes because while it exists in name, it does not actually exist in practice), and the false promise of a response "within 24 hours". I feel like the abyss gazed also into me...

So I take every day of selling, be it good or bad, with a grain of salt. I know now that at any moment for no reason at all, my work can be bumped off the store. Leaving me, the author, with no choice but to lose a day of sales by resubmitting it, which takes 24 hours. Then it's purchasable again. Still a less painful and faster option than hoping blindly that tech support will fix it. I promise you, no matter what the problem--they won't. Nor will they reply in any reasonable time frame.

I still respect amazon for how amazing their platform is, and for what it is doing to revolutionize the publishing machine. I just don't give them credit for doing all they can to support us, the ones who populate their super-profitable store with goods. You might have noticed that I haven't capitalized "kindle" or "amazon" in this post. That's intentional. Not to thumb my nose at them, but because they've lost that sense of scope and power in my mind that made them a bigger concept. God gets caps, Hope gets them. Freedom, even.

I used to feel this amazing love for amazon, for providing me with the platform I needed to build my career without middlemen. I still appreciate that platform, but in my mind I see the company for what it really is, uncolored by my excitement and optimism--just another big corporation interested in making money. Which is fine--that's what business is for.

I guess the rose tint was knocked off my glasses, and I'm pretty thankful for that. Better it happen now than later, and from here on out I can manage my relationship with amazon as it should be--a business relationship that is as emotionless as the servers that feed out my book. I shouldn't expect them to cater to me, one single writer toiling away in obscurity, nor should they expect me to stick just with them for distribution of my work when it's obvious there are other options I can explore in addition to them.

Sounds like a bad divorce or something, sorry. I just hated having my dream dangled so closely in front of my face, just to have it snatched away. I'm better now. /Rant over.

More to come on Monday: a happier post that will have some details about my forthcoming works due out in early March! It's gonna be exciting!