A few days ago I decided to sign up for amazon’s author central as I had heard some pretty good things about that program, it featured some interesting goodies and hey, it was free, so what did I have to lose, right? Well, it turns out that I had a lot to lose, thank you oh so very much, because almost immediately the response I got by clicking my name in one of my books was a nicer page… in which all of my recent work, the ones that were actually published by amazon’s own subsidiary CreateSpace, were missing. Still, I didn’t panic as there was a note saying that those books would be added in a couple of days, which they were. So far, so… well, I wouldn’t say that was ‘good’, but I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say it was ‘bad’. In fact it was only when those books were added that things took a turn for the worse.
What happened was that the listing for Soulless, a book I had spent almost a year rewriting, defaulted to the old, out of print edition, though even after all this time amazon won’t list it as ‘out of print’, just as ‘out of stock’ (which is laughable for a POD published book, but that’s another story). I contacted them, asking them what I could do to fix that particular situation, and the reply I got amounted basically to ‘that’s the way our pages work, tough luck’… okay, not quite they did add a button that said that there’s a newer edition available, one I would have assumed would have been added by default when a new edition became available, but apparently it hadn’t been.
Also, as if their defaulting to the old edition weren’t bad enough, amazon had decided to link the old edition to the ‘look inside’ content of the new one… the fact that the content of both books is not the same is apparently irrelevant as far as they are concerned (to be fair, I have to say I’m not sure if this is a new development or if the problem had been there all along and I’ve just become aware of it as a result of this little SNAFU).
Anyway, back to the contact form I went. This time I clicked on the ‘I want to delete my Author Page’ option, as this seemed to be my only way out under the circumstances. Before I had even typed a single character that one had already gotten me a ‘he he, you are screwed’ message (okay, technically it read ‘In order to help customers better browse their favorite authors and find new ones, Author Pages are not removed’, but it amounted to the same thing). I wrote to them once more to try to explain once again what the problem was, and I am currently waiting for a response, but the thing is that, in light of the glowing reviews I had seen of that particular program, and how dismal my experiences with it have been in the short time I’ve been affiliated with it, I figured I might as well post this little heads-up, especially if you are trying to bring out a new edition of an existing title… or if there is even the smallest chance that you will someday have to do so.
Now to the obvious question: is this a real problem that is worth considering before signing up for this service, which does have some good things going for it, or is this just a one off fluke that is unlikely to come back to haunt most authors?
Personally, I suspect it is a little of both. If you had the option of deleting your author’s central page as a matter of last resort should the need arise, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it is not a big deal, but as things stand the decision is a lot trickier. In fact I can think of a number of instances in which this could come back to bite an author… even one who is fairly certain that this will never become an issue. The first, and most obvious, one of these that comes to mind is this: if you are trying to bring out a new edition because of a conflict with a previous publisher who is scamming you when it comes to royalty payments and refusing to pull your book from the market (no, this is not my case, but I am aware that that’s a common enough problem for self-published authors), you will find yourself fighting not just your hypothetical publisher, but also amazon and authorcentral policy of sorting by sales rank. Sure, you may be trying to drive sales away from a specific version, but as long as your author page gives priority to the one with the most sales you are effectively screwed (that is just a matter of common sense, as a new edition will almost invariably have fewer sales than one that has been in the market for a while, and that in turn will only serve to perpetuate a vicious cycle in which the old one remains the default one).
Okay, that’s it for today’s little heads-up. I will keep you posted regarding any future developments, and hopefully things will improve, but for the time being I have to say that dealing with Author Central has been a less than pleasant experience (UPDATE: this thing is turning out to be a lot worse than I had previously thought, you can read about the latest developments here).
And finally, in case anyone wants to have a look in spite of amazon’s best efforts, the current version of Soulless can be found here.