Two edits were made for clarity.
1. I had 700 reviews and ratings, not reviews only. I apologize for not realize you could rate without reviewing on Amazon until it was brought to my attention.
2. updated verbiage on the review notice to avoid semantical conversations or confusion based on policy.
3. A link to part 2 that includes more of the process and my fight.
The last 30ish hours have been very hard for me. Somehow, I offended Amazon's KDP system and my entire career has been taken down. This blog is my attempt to share only the facts, while leaving out any opinions and emotions. At present, 43 books have been unpublished, over $300 in advertising dollars on a new release from 12.20.21 are wasted, and over 700 reviews & ratings are now gone. All of this occurred just 24 hours after my latest release, which was the first release I've had since last Christmas, due to fighting a mystery illness and COVID parenting a toddler - writing took a backseat.
Please consider sharing this blog on your social media. I want to effect change within Amazon more than I want my career back. If enough of us make noise, it's possible this can all be changed.
This post might be lengthy, but I promise, It's not extraneous information.
To set the stage about me for what it might be worth, I am a 2x USA Today Bestselling Author. I began publishing through the fantastic confidence of CHBB Publishing in summer of 2015 before branching out to self publish in summer of 2017. Since 2015, over 54 novels were written and published. Many were shorts in anthologies. Some of those shorts were republished when the anthologies ended and rights returned, but not all. While my review count was a modest total of just over 700, they were still reviews.
I write across the bulk of romance subgenres, with a focus on paranormal romance, steampunk romance and Christmas romance. My works are not all under 18 friendly, but some were.
On Monday, December 19, 2021 I uploaded a listing for preorder through Kindle Direct Publishing (to be referred to as KDP in future references). The listing included a cover, my name, the book name, and a blurb. There were no files attached and the release date was set for December 15, 2022. it was book 5 in my Modern Christmas Fairy Tale series.
Blurb: Love at first sight isn't real, but Xander couldn’t deny his attraction to the stunning woman he met at the Christmas market. Even if she was nobility from Europe and more than a little out of his league. Being a homeless, ex-military man wouldn’t win him any favors. Xander wanted to be more than he was, to change his stars.
Lily ran from a list of suitors a mile long only to trip and fall into a man’s arms. She let him think she was merely a tourist, and explored his city as he saw it. She didn’t expect to find herself attracted to him, or to ever see him again.
When Xander saves the life of an antique shop owner, the man happens to see a rusty lamp Xander held onto from his days overseas. The owner offers Xander a handsome seller's fee, and Xander takes it, knowing with that amount of money, he would change his world. All that was left to do was find Lily and help her choose him over the other men fighting for her attention.
One magic lamp. One displaced army vet and one royal princess are thrown together for a Christmas adventure.
Shortly after, I received a message that I had violated copyright with my content and that my preorder was locked.
After 5 hours of searching their platform I found nothing with the same title or similar cover. I did however, of course, find my own series and similar covers. An email exchange occurred during this time and it was reinstated. I did inquire as to what caused the issue, but was never responded to.
Christmas and the Lamp went live shortly after.
Wednesday morning, I submitted a preorder for my next book, The Race, and it too, was quickly published live.
I checked my email midmorning and found the following email.
I went to check KDP even after verifying the email address was legitimate. The random ruling was.
As I am human, my next course of action included breaking down. I have been a published author - indie house, small presses, and self - for just over 6 years. I have been included in or solo'd in 54 novels + the two preorders.
Per the email, my books were gone. My reviews were gone. My royalties would not be paid - yes, you read that correctly, Amazon was going to keep money I made on all my BACKLIST titles because the preorder raised a flag. I also cannot create another KDP account to begin again (which is fair if I'd done what I was accused of doing or anything else).
I took to social media for help, because my account was blocked so I couldn't "contact us" beyond a form fill and I wasn't content with that. To see the Facebook post, click here.
The next 5-7 hours (5 continuously and then another 2 here and there after) were spend trying to get ahold of someone to make a decision.
The steps I took (condensed but assume each step occured anywhere from 5-12 times):
What I learned/encountered:
I went to bed heartbroken, and clingy to a small shred of hope.
The first thing I did this morning was check my email. Nothing. I held hope that it meant they were taking it very seriously.
Then the emails began. They continued to uphold that there was something misleading and dangerous to sellers about a listing with nothing more than a title or blurb that sincerely do match. At the time of writing this, I'm up to 11 "rejections".
Not one person has responded to my request to learn what is so misleading that they can terminate my career. Not one person has even offered to call. I want this process changed, and I'll get into that in a minute, but for now, please enjoy a series of screenshots from people telling me that the work I posted at the beginning of the blog is misleading and dangerous.
My goal is to continue to message until I get a response. I do wish to get a lawyer involved for specifics, but since they can terminate anyone for any reason at any time, it's unlikely to help.
There needs to be a change. Amazon cannot keep treating clients and customers this way - we are both because we also buy our paperbacks as well as countless other products from them.
How this process should go:
A change this huge is not likely to happen no matter how loud the voices get, but I ask you, let's join together and make our voices heard so the next set of authors are treated fairly.
Please consider sharing this blog on your social media to help raise awareness of how dangerous it is. My account was terminated, but all royalties, not just on the offending book, were taken from me.
What comes next for Lexi Ostrow?
It will take some time, but while I continue to fight Amazon, I hope to republish my work on wide networks, as I've dreamed of being an author since I was 7.
I do have another, selfish, request. If you have the time, and would like to help, I'm going to need reviews to get my work shared and trusted once again. If you love to read and wouldn't mind honest reviews when the time comes, please fill out this form to receive communications on how to receive titles and necessary verbiage for posted reviews.
Please fill out this form to be contacted when I'm fortunate enough to take my career back, even if it's never on Amazon which would be upsetting for sure.
If you are an author who has been through - whether you were reinstated or not - I'd love to hear from you. Comment on this blog post or shoot me an email. Let's work together to stop Amazon from pulling this on other authors.
Thank you for your time in reading this.
For more updates please consider reading part 2 as my fight with Amazon has only just begun.
12/23/2021 05:16:03 pm
Your link above says "free copies in exchange for review" which is great, but I really, really hope your fans, people who have already read your work, will step up and post reviews again! 700 is a lot, and I am so sorry you are going through this, what a nightmare!!! I love your conflict resolution ideas, I think it would streamline the Amazon process. Good luck to you, hopefully Amazon will get you reinstated quickly!!
12/24/2021 09:09:43 am
Thank you for the support! I would love to get as many back as possible, but realistically after 6 years and many non blogger reviews, it’s not possible so I’ve got to begin to grow them again :)
Matthew W Quinn
12/24/2021 06:20:03 am
In case this doesn't work out, have you considered republishing all of them via Draft2Digital? Not only will this get the books onto sites like Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. but it's also a back-door back onto Amazon.
12/24/2021 09:10:22 am
Hi! Thanks for commenting. Author Central was technically disbanded in 2020. However, I did not think to try logging into the new portal, thank you for the idea! Unfortunately, my account is dead there as well.
Paul S. Forrester
1/3/2022 06:40:43 am
Smashwords is definitely worth a try. Very active and treat their authors well - they also publish to B&N and lots of other well known retailers.
12/24/2021 08:09:47 pm
If you are banned from Sam’s I you cannot use D2D as a back door to get back on there. D2D won’t allow it and neither will Amazon. Sorry. I’ve seen this happen to other people.
Matthew W Quinn
12/24/2021 08:15:40 pm
12/25/2021 04:00:43 pm
Technically, I have been banned, not my books - so I have been given the consent that it is tryable. Example: I could be published via a publisher for all my old titles and they would go through.
12/24/2021 06:24:48 am
Offering free copies or offering yo pay gorgeous reviews is a violation of KDPs terms of service. That's why you were rejected because you're offering free stuff in exchange for reviews. It makes the reviews and thus the book and your number of followers misleading. THAT is why you were banned and that is 100% why you won't get your account back if you continue to make offers like this and someone reports any of your reviews as being paid for
12/24/2021 09:08:59 am
I apologize that you are confused. Offering free copies of works in exchange for honest reviews is 100% in policy AND has nothing to do with misleading content.
12/24/2021 07:54:46 pm
No, the commenter above is correct though their wording was harsh. It is technically against Amazon policies to offer a free book/ebook in exchange for a review. You can give a free book with no strings attached and hope someone reviews, but to give it in exchange for a review is a violation of Amazon policy. But you are right, that has nothing to do with "misleading" content. I am so sorry you're going through this, but I'd be very careful going forward about the language you use around ARCs.
12/25/2021 04:03:37 pm
Books are allowed to be given for free - there is nothing in their terms and services against this so long as it is stated in the review that it is how the novel was received. Additionally, I am not forcing people to review or exchanging anything in favor of a false or positive review. It might be considered frowned upon, but it is not against their terms - I can do another blog on this at a later time and share my screenshots, but right now this is not my main concern. I thank you for being polite in looking out for me! We need to do this for each other more :)
12/31/2021 10:26:15 am
I know you mentioned that you were going to address the comments regarding offering free books to help recoup the number of reviews in the future, so I thought I'd give you the link to the guidelines since I have it handy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730
3/23/2022 10:29:25 am
Quoting directly from Zon:
Matthew W Quinn
12/24/2021 06:26:40 am
Oops. Didn't see that you hoped to republish wide *while* the fight with Amazon was ongoing. In that case, D2D might be a good way to get everything on multiple platforms *fast.*
12/24/2021 07:15:28 am
I'm so sorry you're going through this! I didn't get my account shut down, but I did have something similar a few years ago when I tried to submit a book under my other penname - Dark Angel. I'd had that pen name for years, but all of the sudden I got an email saying they couldn't publish my book because it would cause a confusing customer experience since either my title or author name was too close to someone else's.
12/24/2021 09:12:05 am
I am so sorry to hear the randomness of the situation but so grateful it worked out!
12/24/2021 09:43:01 am
I had something similar happen way back when. I was temporarily shut down because they claimed I was violating KDP Select marketing practices.
I am so sorry to hear of your troubles. Perhaps the issue here is that you set up a preorder without any ebook files, even though the publish date was a year away.
12/24/2021 08:41:55 pm
Thanks for your comment! Amazon does allow for you to upload with a file up to 3 days prior to release. I know it’s newer but I can’t find update release info without my account, apologies!
12/24/2021 03:01:31 pm
I read a number of genres and always review what I read.?Id be happy to add any arcs to my reading list in the future.
12/24/2021 03:42:03 pm
You aren't alone in this battle. You really should contact the Author's Guild. They have been helping Indies as well as trad. published authors and they have been filing suits against Amazon for this sort of thing.
Matthew W Quinn
12/24/2021 07:05:13 pm
Oh that's a good idea. There's also the Alliance of Independent Authors.
12/24/2021 08:00:06 pm
So an idea as you move forward is to calculate how much money your sales have made Amazon over the years. I'll be following, good luck.
12/24/2021 08:40:22 pm
Unfortunately I make them nothing when you compare me to a traditionally published author and a decent handful of indie authors.
12/25/2021 11:58:33 am
I'm so sorry to hear this happened to you. It goes to show how easy it is to misstep and how high the stakes can be. I'd suggest you keep trying after Christmas. I know people who have got their accounts back before, but not all do.
12/25/2021 03:58:37 pm
Hi, thank you for your comment.
12/27/2021 09:29:08 pm
Hi! Thanks for commenting!
12/27/2021 07:53:40 am
So I have read some of your books and just checked they are still available for purchase. So this means they are able to continue to make money off of your work? Is that not in fact stealing?
12/27/2021 09:27:54 pm
12/27/2021 03:52:59 pm
You have bestselling author on your cover. (Can't use it in keywords either)
12/27/2021 09:26:19 pm
Thanks for your comment!
I checked my KDP account this morning, went out to shovel snow and came back in to find my account, which housed 3 separate pen names for 3 separate genres had been closed. No trace of me anywhere on Amazon.
1/4/2022 10:47:52 am
What if you had written: "Inspired by the story of Aladdin and the lamp"
1/7/2022 10:51:14 am
Hi Lexi - thanks for posting about your experience, it's so important for authors to know what's going on. This issue affected a number of authors recently, and really stresses the point that Amazon needs a proper appeals process that can be used for cases like this - ideally before it gets to the account termination stage.
Thank you for sharing this and I truly hope all this gets resolved. I actually had a similar issue at the start of February where Amazon deleted all my audiobooks without warning. First they claimed that it was a copyright issue. Then an email claimed it was something else. I responded to that email and haven't heard a thing from them. Some of these books had been up for close to 9 years. So it was quite the surprise. I'm still trying to hear back from them. Apparently this happens all the time. All the best to you.
3/24/2023 12:22:31 pm
feb.2023 - my account along with thousands for ‘ misleading services’ 5 years on KDp and poof gone! I am still appealing- no idea what happened. I always followed kdp tos- only thing I can think is piracy. But still- why us authors suffer? They need a better system instead of instantly terminating accounts.
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