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This post has just come to my attention and I felt it deserved to be re-posted on my blog. It is about missing or under-reported book sales on Amazon/Kindle/Createspace. I have long suspected something like this. Sometimes I would hear from people that they bought my books, but sales numbers would not match up on KDP or CS reports. Unlike the author in this piece, I am not into meticulously tracking each sale, however even I noticed multiple discrepancies – sometimes gross ones – in the past year or two. I even complained about it last year, but received a canned response. It appears that Smashwords is more accurate in reporting sales, although their reports are delayed.

Many indies are too busy to watch their sales, or they may simply give Amazon the benefit of the doubt, while unfortunately, constant oversight is required. This is a very disturbing situation, and only one of many that are troubling where Amazon’s practices are concerned. For example, in last year’s scandal, Amazon was implicated in a massive meddling with indie book reviews. It also manipulated algorithms to give unfair advantage to the Big 6 and to Amazon grandfathered authors. Another example: a friend of mine is a non-fiction indie publisher, who prints her books through her own channels. When her books have been ordered, she mails them to Amazon. She has complained that Amazon has been repeatedly losing her books, reporting them back to her as canceled sales. Her investigation revealed that the problem with lost books was a widespread one.

Whether these kinds of actions are deliberate or are based on terrible accounting/tracking system and lack of organization, this is completely unacceptable. Please read the post below. The author of the post asks everyone to Tweet/FB and otherwise share it. So do I. Awareness is key. Thank you!

Guest post by John. R. Clark, Managing Editor at AgeView Press. Re-posted from http://jeanettevaughan.wordpress.com

When AgeView Press Indie pubbed the book FLYING SOLO in May of 2012, the author, Jeanette Vaughan  immediately began tracking sales.   She heard from excited friends and family who immediately emailed when ordering their copies.  The first sales were off of Createspace’s e-store with the title ID number given to the author.   Then, through Amazon, a week later, when the book went live on the site.  Finally on Kindle, when the ebook format was completed.

ostrich head in the sand

“Where, oh where are my royalties?”

Initially, things appeared kosher.    People exclaiming that they had ordered the book, were showing up within a day or two on the electronic royalty reports with a reasaonable accuracy.    But by June and July, sales descrepencies were noted by the author from customers claiming that they had purchased the book directly through Amazon, not an Amazon affiliate.    Many of these sales were simply not listed.The author contacted Createspace customer support, who gave assurance that all sales were being accurately reported.   FLYING SOLO was now also on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select as well as expanded distribution channels, which included Amazon affiliates in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.    Sales were being reported to the author from readers and bookclubs in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The first note of apparent discrepancy came when a dear friend of the author ordered three copies of the book from Amazon in June.    These books were ordered all at the same time, from Amazon.com direct.   Yet, that cluster of three sales was never posted as such.      Another instance in early July involved the same issue.    Again, a customer ordered three copies, yet no sales were trackable through Amazons channels for three sale purchased on the same day.

During the months of June and July, no expanded distribution channel sales were posted on the royalty report, yet customers were emailing the author letting her know how much the book was being enjoyed overseas.

What should have shown as a surge of sales, as the book peaked, never appeared on the royalty reports.   The author was suspect.   She contacted Ingram directly, only to be informed that they were not supposed to reveal information to an author directly.  So, the Indie publisher, AgeView Press made the call.    Ingram showed 16 copies of the book ordered through their system total since May.   Those sales never showed on the June or July royalty report.    The author filed formal complaints with Createspace customer service, but received only canned letters in response explaining  that indeed there was an issue with reports in Expanded Distribution and it was being investigated.   Advice to author?  Please be patient.

By August, it was clear there were gross in accuracies.  The 30 copies ordered from Barnes and Noble never showed up.   Few if any sales were listed for August.    Yet the author had confirmation of over 4,000 copies in distribution worldwide.    The crowning blow came in September.   A plan was devised.    A friend, agreed to help with the investigation.   She ordered a copy of FLYING SOLO on September 7th, taking screen shots of her order and confirmation of payment directly from Amazon.    She printed out here receipt showing date and time of purchase.   The book arrived on September 13, to San Jose, California.   Photos were taken.   The sale was complete.    Copies of all screenshots and receipts were scanned and sent to the author.    By September 20th,  no sales were shown at all on Createspaces report.    Phoning Createspace, the author was informed that no sales were showing for Amazon for the month for that title.    It was time for outrage!     What had been suspected, had now been proven.  Not once, but twice!

Time to climb up the foodchain.  After many phonecalls and emails to Createspace, a Senior customer service “executive” phoned personally and stated he would investigate.    Talk about a wacky result.    Due to the print on demand status of Createspace books, sometimes they are one or two books ahead.   Thus even though your book was printed in one month, but sold in another, a royalty might actually show up in the prior month for that sale.   What???

No one expects to get rich off of writing a book.    Few and far between are the Oprah Bookclub golden orbs of success.    But how are authors to trust a system, happy to take their money for assisting to create and publish a book, which does not thoroughly, detail accurate sales?    Simply outrageous.   What options does that leave the Indie publishers?     How can they possibly track the success of their marketing efforts.   Is the publishing world doomed to be controlled by the big six?     Are small bookstores and Indie presses to be overrun by powershouse chains which offer the Indie published writer no turf?

How can the press or the author be sure those sales are accurate with no detail?   Rise up Indie authors!    Repost this story!    Tweet it, facebook it.    Make it go viral.   Print it and send it to your local newspaper and the Associated Press.   This abject fraud is outrageous and MUST STOP!

John R. Clark, Managing Editor, AgeView Press

Lada’s 2 cents: I want to note that ironically, on both KDP & CS, one can only track sales if there are FEW sales on the title. Once your book picks up in sales, there is no possibility of tracking them whatsoever – talking from personal experience. This may be the reason very few ever complain about this. They don’t know about the problem because they can’t see it. Due to system latencies, there is a certain delay in reporting on KDP when sales really pick up, but all that should still be sorted out within a couple of days or so. CS is different in that there are normally fewer paperback sales than those of ebooks, but reporting on CS is also done on a monthly basis. To be honest, in the past, I have rarely looked at CS reports, just collecting my royalties whenever they would show up. Perhaps, it’s high time I started paying more attention.

The only way one can confirm the problem (or not) for sure, is when multiple copies are purchased at once, and the author knows exactly when that happens. For example, the article above was triggered by the fact that B&N purchased a substantial order of the author’s book, which it appears never got reported.

*According to some, even Steven King complains about under-reported sales/royalties, albeit by his publisher. 😉

As I pointed out in the beginning of this post, last year Amazon was implicated in a huge scandal with Indie review removals and other meddling. They ignored or denied everything flatly, until the outcry was so huge that they had to tweak their customer service and attitude since. But… and this doesn’t surprise me a bit, they never admitted the problem, and never apologized to anyone. I feel that there is something similar brewing now.

From past experiences, they would never admit they were wrong – and this is a norm in corporate America. Having worked for major finance companies for years, I speak from extensive personal experience. Hopefully, they’ll at least make an effort to fix the problem when the outcry becomes too big to ignore.

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**Also, check out my predictions/finance/investment/geopolitics blog: Futuristrendcast.wordpress.com