A curious thing happened to me today. It speaks largely of the promise of computing capabilities achieved and partly of the presumed state of author-publisher relations.
Last year I self-published my debut novel, HugoSF, on Amazon.com using CreateSpace (an Amazon company). I also used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to publish the Kindle version. Both editions are available on the Amazon.com web site but they’re not linked. The paperback product detail page doesn’t realize that there’s a Kindle version, and vice versa.
As a consequence, the reader reviews I have for the paperback do not appear on the Kindle product detail page, so it looks like no one has seen the Kindle version, much less reviewed it. Ironically, most of my purchases have been Kindle versions, not paperback. It is the paperback buyers who leave the reviews.
So what’s a harried writer to do?
I logged into Authors Central on Amazon.com and filled out a quick form giving them my phone number and asking them to call me. One second after clicking the ‘Submit’ button – I kid not – the phone rang. It was an automated dialing application and it told me to hold for a moment, someone would be right with me.
Before I had time to grab a pen or open a new browser window to be prepared to provide product ID’s, URLs or something of the sort, a representative was on the phone asking how she could help. I told her I had one title, two versions, and they didn’t seem to be linked. I didn’t even have to give her the name of my title or the product ID’s. She confirmed my email address and my name then told me she’d link the two versions. That’s it. The annoying promo bug “Tell the publisher you’d like to read this on Kindle” would be removed in 1-3 days and the paperback reviews would be shared across both product pages thereafter.
We hung up the phone and a minute later there was an email re-articulating the same information we’d just discussed.
Go on, give it a shot, I dare you
I dare you to call AT&T – or God be with you, Sears – and attempt any sort of linkage or cross-referencing between accounts or products. You’ll want to gouge your eyes out.
The Authors Central experience was very unusual. Refreshing, because I’m accustomed to the utter ineptness of call centers about 40% of the time, but unusual from a purely statistical standpoint. I’m not sure how many authors self-publish with Amazon directly, but I’m sure there are many. I do know they’re trying to lure writers away from publishers (see Barry Eisler) and it seems to me that they’re doing their damnedest to make it convenient.
Truth be told, I’d prefer to run all my sales through an independent bookstore – online and off. But…as my girlfriend Ina would say of my experience with Amazon Author Central, ‘How easy was that?’