I wrote a short story a few years back called GARBAGE, INC. Nothing particularly memorable, but I needed something to read at a convention at the time, so that was what I went with. This was September 2010, if memory serves. A few weeks later, I decided to self-pub the story as an e-book, not because I had any dreams of retiring from the profits, but because I was interested in this new avenue of distribution--more or less, I wanted to test the waters. I published on Kindle and Smashwords, the latter meaning the story would be available at other e-tailers, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, etc.
I sold maybe 20 copies of the story since then.
Fast forward to April of this year. I thought I'd offer the story for free through the KDP Select Program. I'd had a decent amount of success with my MG novel EVE HALLOWS AND THE BOOK OF SHRIEKS when I offered it for free, and I wanted to see if I'd have similar success with GARBAGE, INC. Yeah, not even close. After 5 days, the story was downloaded about 200 times. I'd accomplished that in the first hour with BOOK OF SHRIEKS. Oh, well. Experiment over.
About a week after the free period ended, I received an email from Amazon stating that my account could potentially be terminated because Amazon's automated web scouring minions found GARBAGE, INC. still listed on Sony's Reader Store. Crap! I'd removed the story from Smashwords and had checked to make sure it'd been taken off B&N, Kobo, and iTunes, but I'd forgotten about Reader Store, mostly because I've never sold anything through Reader Store. It's the easiest one to forget.
I explained this to Amazon through email, and, as an act of goodwill, I unpublished the story from Kindle until the problem was resolved.
Amazon never responded. Sony removed the story from Reader Store. I thought everything was okay. I never republished the story again because, as I mentioned, I only sold 20 copies of the damn thing anyway. No big loss, as far as I was concerned.
Around the beginning of June, I received another email from Amazon:
During a review of your catalog, we found that one or more of your titles contain content that is freely available on the web. Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has their work claimed and sold by anyone else.
If, in fact, you are the sole owner of the publishing rights for the books listed above, please provide the URLs for all websites where you have previously published this or any other Kindle content. Please respond within five business days with the requested URLs so we can verify you have the sole publishing rights, or the books will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store. If the content of your book(s) are in the public domain, please confirm this and include the information you used to make this determination.
If you have already unpublished the books listed above, please reply with that information. We ask that you unpublish any other book that closely matches content that is freely available on the web for which you do not hold the sole publishing rights, or whose content is not in the public domain. If we discover any other titles you have submitted fail to comply with these conditions or do not meet our Content Guidelines in any other way, your account may be terminated.
I responded that I was not aware the story had been distributed for free anywhere and asked if they could provide that information so I could correct it. I also informed Amazon that I unpublished the story back in April based on a prior email. I took complete responsibility for the issue, figuring I did something wrong. It was, after all, possible I'd published the story on some site and had forgotten about it. It happens. I'm a promotion whore. I put stuff all over the place and forget about it.
Once again, I received no response, so I also followed up with KDP support, and--shocking--received no response from them, either. Eventually, I let it go.
Yesterday, July 17, to be exact, I received yet another email from Amazon that my account has been suspended:
As a next step, I contacted a representative from Amazon's Author Central, and he assured me the issue is with Amazon and not with me. He said he'll contact KDP directly to resolve the issue.
Maybe it'll get resolved, or maybe I'll get another threat, this time demanding my first born unless I can provide proof she is my child. Either way, Amazon needs to reevaluate how they handle such situations. It's frustrating as hell.
Look, I applaud Amazon for cracking down on cases where people are illegally uploading material and passing it off as their own, but what they're pulling here is just stupid.