Oh holy fuck.
Allow me to shine a light on the flat out fucking ridiculous situation I’ve been dealing with since late December 2018.
So, first of all, I’m not convinced that the original problem I encountered has anything to do with everything that came after. Unfortunately, Amazon is so nebulous and opaque with regards to how they communicate LITERALLY FUCKING EVERYTHING, that I have no idea if this is true or not. I’ll provide information on what happened and theories.
This began at the end of last year, when I was finally wrapping up re-publishing my backlog. I published Valkyries 3, but it was blocked during the process. After some digging, I finally pieced together the problem. It’s one I’ve run into before, but one that always slips past my initial thought process, because it’s so fucking stupid.
The inciting incident of Valkyries 3 involves a woman coming to the Valkyries, (a team of mercenaries in a sci-fi setting for those who aren’t in the know), begging them for help after her brother was kidnapped by slavers at the edge of space. They decide to help, and end up going after the slavers. Given the importance of this, I put it in the plot description.
Unfortunately, because it was labeled as erotica, use of the word ‘brother’ in the official synopsis meant (I’m guessing but I feel about 100% confident in my guess, again, this is trial-and-error, not anything Amazon ACTUALLY told me), that it was auto-flagged. I tried publishing it again, removed the word brother and replaced it with ‘someone close to her’. It went through without a problem. Okay, problem solved.
But then, about a week later, it gets blocked again.
The official reason?
We’re contacting you regarding the following book:
Valkyries 3 by Misty Vixen
During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale. If we identify additional submissions with similar content that violates our guidelines you may lose access to optional KDP services and/or face account level actions up to and including termination.
You can find our content guidelines on the KDP website:
Now, as I’ve said, I’ve run into this before. But other times I at least had a clue as to what the problem was. The same day, I received the exact same message about the paperback version.
At this point, I was confused, as I had no idea what could be doing it. So I decided to roll the dice and reach out. This is where it gets to be a bit of a mess, with long, awkward pauses between responses, and basically just a loop of the exact same shit happening over and over again, so I’ll truncate it and highlight the important parts.
I first went through e-mail, then the phone. (For anyone wondering how in the FUCK I talked to Amazon on the phone, three things. First, they call you, you don’t call them. Second, the only possible way is to send them a message through the Contact Us form, specifically requesting a phone call. And even then, it’s no guarantee that they’ll do it. Third, don’t expect genuine help. The people on the other end range from robotic to sounding like they genuinely want to help, but the reality of the situation is that there’s an almost 100% chance they have no knowledge of how to solve your problem, nor do they have the power to solve your problem. Literally all they can do is ask the people in the other department who actually handle this shit to solve the problem, and those people are apparently assholes, as I’ll demonstrate in the following text.)
I think I talked on the phone SIX times over the past month and a half or so. The first few times, I spoke with whoever answered, explained the situation, and ultimately they told me they would get in touch with the Content Review Team, who are the ones actually doing this fucking shit, and try to get a straight answer out of them. The last few times, I escalated it, and spoke with someone from the next tier, basically a manager, and was told…basically the same thing.
The result? Always the same. I would receive a form letter from the Kindle Content Review Team that was an actual, literal copy-paste of the initial message. Sometimes I would get a simple message from the person I’d just gotten off the phone with, basically verifying that they were sending out their own message to the Content Review Team. When I got back my bullshit copy-paste response from the Content Review Team, I eventually e-mailed that initial person who had helped me over the phone, requesting further assistance, AS THE EXACT THING I HAD WARNED THEM WOULD HAPPEN DID IN FACT HAPPEN. (I specifically stated that I was tired of receiving a literally useless copy-paste response.)
What happened? I got a response to that initial email, only it was a DIFFERENT person responding, AND IT WAS ANOTHER COPY-PASTE OF THAT SAME FUCKING MESSAGE!
I feel like I’m in a fucking M. Night Shyamalan movie. Like, I’ll start seeing that fucking copy-paste response about violating content guidelines on billboards and the sides of buses and in my fucking dreams.
Well, then the situation got worse.
While at first it was initially contained to just Valkyries 3, it has since spread. Suddenly, I got a message that the Valkyries 1 paperback had been taken down for…copyright violations? This was actually the same reason the Valkyries 3 paperback was taken down…in addition to the content guidelines shit. Two completely separate issues.
Then I was informed that the Valkyries Trilogy, both eBook and paperback versions, were blocked.
It was like a fucking virus, and it was spreading.
The 17th of February was when I realized that Amazon has lost their shit.
I received take-down notices for the paperback & eBook versions of Valkyries: The Complete First Season, and Valkyries: The Complete Third Season. THOSE AREN’T EVEN FUCKING AVAILABLE ANYMORE!
So what IS the problem!?
Amazon literally won’t tell me. Like, they actually REFUSE to tell me what the problem is. I have no idea what it is, but I think it may lay somewhere within the actual text itself. I’ve been struggling for weeks, racking my brain trying to think of what could possibly be triggering their bots or algorithm or whatever fucking broken thing they’ve implemented. I’m almost positive at this point that it must be something actually within the story itself. It isn’t the title, nor the cover, nor the synopsis, because multiple titles have been taken down. Literally the only consistencies between the new versions and the old versions that have been blocked is the actual text within the book itself, everything else is different.
Initially, I thought it was something just in Valkyries 3, when both it and The Complete Trilogy got taken down, because whatever is in Valkyries 3, is obviously in The Complete Trilogy. I figured it was some word, some phrase that Amazon was picking up on. I have no idea WHAT, but it must be something. But then the mystery widened when Valkyries 1 got hit too. So it has to be some kind of recurring phrase or word. But what is it?!
I’ve thought and thought, and literally the only thing that comes to mind at all that Valkyries deals with that none of my other stories deals with is slavery. The protagonists are taking down slavers. I don’t understand why this is a bad thing, but there’s some stuff that if you pair with something labeled as erotica, no matter the context at all, it gets auto-banned. Maybe that’s just some new hot-button issue for them? But then that doesn’t make sense, because it isn’t brought up at all in Valkyries 1. So what the fuck?
The problem here is that I have no fucking clue. If they would just work with me and TELL ME what the fucking problem is, I’d be glad to work with them and try to fix it. If it’s just one phrase or something, you know? But I have no idea what it could possibly be. I’ve got nothing!
About two weeks ago, I sent a lengthy email to the Content Review Team basically pleading with them to help me out SOMEHOW. Well, as of today, not only have I not received even the basic response of another copy-paste, I HAVE RECEIVED NO RESPONSE AT ALL. Literally none. They never responded to the message.
Due to this, I’ve been forced to give up and just take down Valkyries 2. I have no idea what the problem is, Amazon refuses to tell me, so I’m going to instead be republishing the trilogy to other sites like Barnes & Nobles, Smashwords, Kobo, etc.
Goddamnit. Fuck Amazon.