Follow Up–Amazon Warning Labels

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigAmazon

Once again, I chose to focus on being patient as my New Year’s resolution.  By this point,   it’s my top recurring resolution of all time.

As I’ve written recently, one interesting thing about being a self-published writer is how quickly we can become accustomed to…indeed, addicted to…control.  We have control over everything as a self-published writer, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Actually, however, we don’t have control over everything.  One glaring exception is our retailers.

For a week, my addiction to control and my patience were both sorely tested. 

As a quick review, I mentioned in my post on January 22 that I had received an email from Amazon about quality control measures they were implementing. The email requested changes to my book file.  If the changes weren’t made, the book would get a warning label on its product page at the first of February.   My email focused primarily on a formatting issue that needed correction–the file was formatted in 2011 by my previous formatter. The book received an attractive (and very pricey) interior book design.  Unfortunately, apparently the formatting doesn’t work well with the current Kindle devices.  Some elements apparently don’t show up…including chapter headings, the first letter of each chapter, the dedication…you get the idea.  The day I received the email, I made the corrections Amazon asked for, contacted my new formatter, and published a new file to KDP.

Amazon’s initial email implied that my uploaded and corrected file would be automatically reviewed.  However, since I’m now apparently something of a control freak, I decided to email Amazon on the 21st and open a ticket on the issue.  I’m withholding the names from the Amazon KDP customer service emails.

The timeline went  like this:

Jan. 20…received initial quality control email. I fixed all the problems with the help of my formatter and published the updated, corrected version.

Jan. 21…I wrote the KDP customer service team early in the morning to let them know I’d uploaded a corrected file and request a review of the book so that Amazon could note it was in compliance.

Jan. 21…from Amazon: Thanks for letting us know you’ve republished an updated version of your book. I’ve forwarded your information to our Quality team for follow-up. Our quality team will review your file. You should hear back from them in the next 1-2 business days. Thanks for your continued patience.

Jan. 29…I follow up with another email, concerned I was getting close to Feb. 1 and I hadn’t heard back from Amazon regarding a review.

Jan. 29…Email from Amazon again requesting the (same) corrections that I’d already made and stated on the 21st that I’d made.  And this: “Sorry for any delays in this review process and notification.”

Jan. 29…I wrote back (a bit panicky now): “Hi, All of the issues have been corrected over a week ago. Please have the review team confirm.

Jan. 30: From Amazon: “Hello, We’ll need a little time to look into this. We’ll contact you with more information by the end of the day on Tuesday, February 2. Thanks for your patience.

Feb. 1: From Amazon: Thank you for resubmitting your content to us! We have reviewed the new content, but several serious new issues are now present in your book and we have had to block your book from sale. (Following that was a list of the same requested corrections that I had fixed on the 20th and stated on the 21st that I’d fixed).

So, Monday was a Code Red day. That was the day there was a warning label on one of my most popular books–a book that’s been available since 2011. As you can see below (sorry, couldn’t get it any larger without getting blurry, but you get the gist of it), I did get one of the dreaded warning label (“item under review”). Worse, the book was removed from sale (“book is currently unavailable”).   I wrote several emails back to Amazon.  These emails  all still contained the words “please” and “thank you,” (I am Southern, after all), but there may have been excessive use of exclamation points on my part.  :)  I included screenshots of the text locations in question, showing there were no remaining issues.

Amazon3

I mentioned that the book was one of a series. And that various readers had informed me that the first book in that series had been featured by Amazon a week earlier as one of the KDP Daily Deals for their mystery readers (bad timing for me).   I mentioned that the book that was removed from sale has quite a few reviews and is the free book I give to readers for subscribing to my newsletter.

The only good thing was that at some point in this process, KDP opened up phone support to me. At least, this is what a representative stated in an email. However, I’m wondering if  maybe we can receive phone support all the time.  Amazon linked me to a site where I could request a call-back “in five minutes.”  Here’s the page:   https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us  .  Their hours are 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, Monday through Friday. They called right in that 5-minute window and I explained the timeline and the fact that everything had been corrected 10 or 11 days earlier.

The customer service rep accessed the book and verified on the phone that all requested changes had been made.  She sounded baffled and stated that she couldn’t understand why, when it only took a couple of minutes to check, the book had been flagged with the label.

I didn’t say, although I suspected, that the reason it had been flagged is because a real human being hadn’t verified my corrections.

The rep said that she’d note that all corrections had been made and verified by her, and that she’d forward the request/ticket over to the quality control department.

I assumed this might go into the same black hole as earlier, but my fears weren’t justified.

Although I never got notification that the warning label had been removed,  my frequent (obsessive?) refreshing of the book’s product page finally indicated that the label was removed on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

However, once it was removed, I received another email from Amazon:

Feb. 2:  (from Amazon)Hello, I wanted to let you know that I’m still working on this with the concerned team. It’s taking longer than usual to resolve this, and I’m very sorry about the delay. I’ll be in touch with you again with an update as soon as possible. Thanks for your continued patience. Regards, (name withheld).

***Update: Feb. 11:  (from Amazon):  Hello, Thanks for your patience in this matter.I checked with the concerned team and learned that, currently there are no issues in the content of your Kindle book “A Dyeing Shame”; hence, you may ignore the email that you have received in this regard. I am sorry for any confusion caused.
Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

My takeaways from this (besides that we all should keep a very close eye on our inboxes and spam filters for emails from Amazon):

  1. Immediately address the requested corrections.  Even though I did immediately address the issues, I still ran into a problem.  But if I hadn’t  immediately addressed them, it would have been much worse.
  2. Immediately, even though the Amazon email doesn’t specify this, let Amazon know that you’ve made the corrections. This opens up a support ticket.   I did immediately let Amazon know, but I still ran into a problem.  Again, if I hadn’t let them know, it would have probably taken even longer to resolve.
  3. Amazon is very good on promptly returning emails….same day.
  4. However, Amazon may not actually have human screeners looking for the mistakes.  Or, perhaps, the human screeners are overwhelmed.
  5. Keep following up.  Escalate. I should never have waited until the 29th to follow-up. This was my main error.
  6. If they open up phone support to you (or if it’s open all the time), give Amazon a call immediately.  This is your best shot at getting the problem taken care of.

This is, with any luck at all, my last follow-up on this.   I’m not going to lie, this stressed me out in a way that was far out of proportion to the scope of the problem.  But when you feel helpless and frustrated and your book has a warning label and is removed from sale?   There’s a bit of stress involved. I’ve got 19 books out and I can only imagine the kind of stress I’d feel if I had only one.  And, despite the many thanks from Amazon for my continued patience…I  apparently still have a lot to work on in the resolution department.

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24 thoughts on “Follow Up–Amazon Warning Labels

  1. At least you got through to someone and verified at least one human works at Amazon. Because those emails all sound computer generated with no human interaction. I don’t blame you for being frustrated. Glad it’s fixed now.

    1. Alex–I have confirmed that at least one human works there, yes. :) Ha!

      The emails had different reps’ names on them, but that certainly doesn’t mean anything. Could have been computer generated. The call center is almost certainly located offshore, but at least the phone call resolved the whole mess in fewer than 24 hours.

  2. Oh, I’m sorry that you had such trouble, Elizabeth! I can only imagine how frustrating all this must have been for you, especially considering how conscientious you are. It’s good to hear that it’s resolved, but yes – fair warning to all of us.

  3. I’m happy for you that this was finally resolved. The latest that I’m hearing now is from people who have books in the Kindle Select Program (Kindle Unlimited) who have lost significant page count after Amazon’s recent tinkering with the algorithm that determines pages. That will be the next big battle for a lot of authors.

    I personally only saw adjustment of about 1-2 percent for my books that are in the program. Others are seeing significant decreases. One author friend of mine has a book that, in print, numbers 260 pages. Her Kindle Page count used to be over 300 pages. The adjustment took the Kindle page count down to 189 pages – an adjustment of well over 35%. Everyone that’s ever read a ‘Kindle’ page on any device knows you don’t get as many words on an electronic page as on a printed page, no matter the font size used within the Kindle software. She’s livid and rightly so. It’s money out of her pocket. She’s now going back and forth with Amazon over that.

    1. Anne–Ack. Yes, I keep reading about KU issues with reads and payment. Sorry about your friend. That’s taking an average sized book and turning it into something much shorter in terms of adjusting for payment.

      Wonder if the KDP phone assistance would help with that? You can choose your topic from a menu. Might be worth a go, if she hasn’t already taken that approach.

  4. Thanks for the update. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. So far, you’re the only person I’ve heard about this directly from and it helps to know what to expect rather than just sitting here letting the fear grow. Fingers crossed that this is the last bobble for you. :hugs:

    1. B.E.–I looked and couldn’t see that anyone else was reporting on this from a personal experience standpoint, so I decided to be the hapless blogger, ha!

      And you’d be fine if you got pulled in–as long as you called them right away. I think that may be key. Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Oh, Elizabeth, being a control freak and an impatient person myself, I can only imagine how stressed out you were over this. The hardest things for people like us are not having any control over someone else’s responses and actions, especially when you’ve done all the right things. So sorry this happened but so happy it’s resolved. And thanks for the warning (no pun intended) about Amazon.

    1. Thanks, Karen! Yes, I felt like maybe I was getting a crash course in NOT being a control freak from a higher being. :) And the thing was, I was so slammed with an excess of work, family commitments, driving my daughter to things for her very busy week…and we even had to put poor Chloe our corgi to sleep in the middle of this. So honestly, I was too busy to be as freaked out about the problem as I ordinarily would be (which is a good thing in many ways!)

  6. Ugh, Elizabeth. This sounds soooo frustrating.

    I’ve put all my eggs the the Amazon basket with KDP Select, and though I certainly benefited from the KU readership (I write romance), I’ve also had a similar frustrating experience, where there doesn’t seem to be a thinking person behind the response team. I also have a love poems collection coming out, and it took a lot of back-and-forth to establish that all the poems are in the public domain.

    Amazon IS a publisher–just with a different model than others. But as a tech company, their staff isn’t necessarily book-oriented… which one tends to expect from a publisher:)

    1. Rebecca–Amazon is the one company that I can praise and criticize in the same breath. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing nearly as well. And they’re great until we run into a problem. As you’ve found! I can’t even imagine how you would convince them that every poem was in the public domain. Wow. And with a different rep each time, probably?

      They’re decidedly more of a tech company, good point. They’re basically a massive search engine. And large enough not to be able to do support particularly well.

  7. Hi Elizabeth – thank goodness it’s been resolved now. It is being methodical and being careful (ie that earlier follow-up to get Amazon to get on track) .. and I can imagine how stressed you were … dealing with an amorphous organisation can be a nightmare.

    Thanks for telling us all though – and we have it accessible here .. should the need arise.

    Cheers and I hope that is your last brush with the dreaded Leviathan for this sort of thing. They are as you say quite good most of the time – once you work out what their instructions mean … but have a peaceful weekend – Hilary

  8. I haven’t had this problem with Amazon, but with other retailers and it all boiled down to the title of the new file. If it’s the same as the other one, the robots will think it’s the same uncorrected file. So I always changed mine.
    The Lucky Prince, became The Lucky Prince final file. It has never failed me when I change the title to the file.

    But I’m glad to know there are actually human beings that work at Amazon.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It was really valuable. And I’m so sorry about your pup. :(

    You mentioned that Amazon did send you an e-mail notification that there was a problem. Was there any indication on your dashboard? That seems like it would be so much easier than periodically checking every book page (for those of us who are paranoid and worry it would happen and I wouldn’t know about it) but it might be too logical for them. :)

    1. Natalie–Thanks for the kind words!

      There was no indication on my dashboard or on Amazon Author Central…at least, there was nothing that I *saw* when I was busily uploading my corrected file on the KDP dashboard. If there was a notice there, it wasn’t obvious. That would *definitely* have been a good place to post the information.

      I’d say that a good idea might be to add Kindle Direct Publishing or Amazon.com to our address books in our email programs (so that our email doesn’t think it’s spam). Sometime emails allow us to whitelist subjects, too. The subject for the initial email from them was “Amazon Kindle – Important Update Regarding eBook Quality”.

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