Post-Crisis Update or How Amazon Quartered My Income For No Reason

In March of 2018, I had the worst month, sales wise, of my entire career since it had become financially viable in 2015.

In April of 2018, I finally managed to get some new cover art out that I had been holding onto for awhile, and also finally managed to release my first ever feature-length novel, DEMONESS II. At the same time, I also decided to try something I'd been waffling about for awhile. I took down the old, episodic versions of my series HELLCATS and re-released it as a novel with brand new cover art.

This created a perfect storm.

I began selling. First some, then a lot. Then, as April was beginning to close out, a metric fuckton of books. I was selling like crazy. To this day, I don't know what precisely did it. I think that mostly it was luck. Right books at the right time. That and being in the Kindle Unlimited probably helped a lot.

As I pressed on into May, I was still kind of dazed, but also ecstatic. It felt like finally, FINALLY, after years of desperate struggle, writing my fucking ass off, (I average about one novel per MONTH for three solid years), I was finally receiving what I had fucking earned. And I planned on capitalizing on that.

I published WOMEN OF THE WILD, a novel I had written and edited in late 2017 but was saving for later, figuring that now was the perfect time. I busted ass and got HELLCATS 2 out the door as fast as I could and got to work on preparing Hellcats 3 and Demoness III as well.

And then it happened. In the afternoon of May 10th, at around 4PM, I went to check on my sales numbers and suddenly discovered that I couldn't log in. I also checked my e-mail and found this message waiting for me.


Hello,

We are reaching out to you as a follow-up on our previous communication regarding reading or borrow activity originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. We detected continued illegitimate activity after our communication and, as a result, we have suspended your account to protect our publishers and readers experience.

We need you to take the necessary actions to stop the activity. We encourage you to review any marketing services you may have used, since you are responsible for ensuring that the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. Once you have done so, please send a response to content-review@amazon.com which includes a statement that you reviewed all marketing services you may have used, and confirms the discontinued use of any that might be responsible for this activity.

Once we receive this affirmation, we will reactivate your account. Please be aware, any additional illegitimate activity may result in termination. If we don’t receive this affirmation, we will terminate your account after 14 days.

Regards,

Amazon KDP


Naturally, this sent me into a fucking panic. I responded to the best my ability...and they responded by taking down every single eBook I had ever fucking published in my entire life. I got a message back from Amazon the next day stating that they had decided to reinstate my account, but when I asked them about all my missing books, it took them a whole day to respond that it was a glitch and they would need five motherfucking days to 'look into it.'

Well, while I was initially waiting for that message back, I freaked the fuck out and ended up emailing Jeff Bezos, since in an interview he gave out his personal email address and claimed that he would personally review any problems that anyone had with Amazon.

Although to this day I never received a response from Jeff, or from that Amazon associate who claimed they'd get back to me within five days, my eBooks were put back up within 24 hours. So...that was nice at least.

But now I had a problem. That 'previous communication' they mentioned was from a weird little situation that had happened back in February of 2018. I'd noticed that ALL of my KU reads for the month had vanished. At first I didn't think much of it, I thought it was a glitch, but then I received a message warning me about 'reading or borrow activity originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services.'

I didn't know what the fuck they were talking about, and while at first they admitted that my reads had been taken in error, they never gave them back. So that second message I got was my second strike, which resulted in a suspension.

I was terrified that a third false positive would result in a flat-out termination, which would basically cripple me as a writer, if not outright kill my career.

Now, I did some research and determined that what was most likely causing this was this situation:

1) Some worthless piece of fucking shit scam artist writes some 'books', throws them up in the Kindle Unlimited, then creates a fake bot account to 'read' all of their books, so that they earn money for page reads.

2) In order to hide the fact that this is a fake account, they have their bot read other author's books to completion.

3) Amazon discovers the fake account, and decides to punish EVERYONE who has had a book read by that account.

No one knows for sure if this is what's happening, this is all just guesswork, because Amazon flat out refuses to give anyone a straight answer as to why they are being arbitrarily fucked over.

(Side Note: Yes, I understand the logic behind Amazon's refusal to give out information on this subject, because then the scammers could take that information and find new workarounds. I understand that, but people's accounts should NOT be suspended/terminated without an actual human being getting involved and they should NOT be taking this 'guilty until proven innocent' approach. It. Is. Wrong.)

Obviously, I was terrified that if whatever tripped up this bot the first two times with false positives did so a third time, Amazon would summarily execute my account despite the fact that I have never done anything shady or against the TOC.

For the record, not only have I never attempted to manipulate Amazon, the Kindle Unlimited, or my readers, nor do I ever have any intention to do so, I don't even know how to. Seriously, I'm not that smart, I just write stories about people having adventures and fucking, and I'm not even great at that.

I tried to come to Amazon with my concerns, but they literally stonewalled me. I never got ONE response to a few emails I sent asking what kind of guarantee they could give me of any kind of protection against this happening again, or even just some advice or help against preventing these false positives.

The thing is, I understand the need to protect the readers, and other authors, and the KU itself. I would actually be perfectly fine with surrendering any ill-gotten reads I may have gotten. I'd have no problem with that.

But when my entire career, my ability to earn fucking money, can be ERASED by a company that apparently does not give a shit about authors for literally no other reason than one of their overzealous and clearly broken bots or AIs falsely targeted me, well...then naturally I want to disassociate myself with the thing that can make that happen.

I.e. the Kindle Unlimited.

Because that is literally the ONLY thing this is about.

Finally, I sent them an ultimatum: Either promise me protection from this broken fucking bot of theirs, or pull EVERY one of my titles out of the KU immediately.

Although they did not respond to ONE of my polite requests for some kind of help, to make some kind of sense of what was happening, they responded to that one almost fucking immediately. And took everything out of the KU.

So I spent the next few months trying to just get on with my life and figure out where to go from here. I was also living in mortal terror that it would happen again, because although my titles were no longer available through the KU, those that had been borrowed before everything was pulled out were still in the libraries of the users who had borrowed them, and would remain so until they naturally fell out of the KU themselves.

In short, when you enroll a title in the Kindle Unlimited, it is on a 90-day lifespan. At the end of that 90 days, you can either choose to keep it enrolled, or pull it out. As of right now, some of my titles still aren't out yet.

My thought was that my books might still be in the libraries of fake accounts, and get read, AND TRIP UP THE FUCKING BOT AGAIN.

So far, that hasn't happened. I think I'm in the clear now, but it's hard to be sure. I'm still getting page reads here and there.

Naturally, this has given me a shitload of depression, anxiety, rage, insomnia, all that stuff. Demoness III was supposed to be done by the end of June, maybe early July. 

I AM STILL NOT DONE WITH IT YET.

And it actually gets way worse. Not for me, but for a lot of other people.

I am not the only one this has been happening to.

Jan Stryvant was fucked over for no reason.

J. A. Cipriano's Amazon account was unceremoniously executed.

Michael-Scott Earle was ripped out of Amazon abruptly.

David Gaughran has been writing about this stuff for awhile now.

Here's a good article from Deanna's World talking more about this whole thing.

The same thing happened to A. D. McCammon.

That's who I could find off the top of my head. Apparently, there's a lot of others. And I've read a LOT of comments of pissed off customers who said they canceled their KU subscription in response to this shit.

Now, I don't know who is guilty and who is innocent, but based on the fact that I didn't do anything even slightly shady and I got nailed to the fucking wall by Amazon, I'm willing to bet that most of them who got slammed by this are innocent. (I do know that there's a lot of controversy surrounding Michael-Scott Earle regarding some either shady or unintelligent trademark attempts, and he called most indies stupid, but I still have no idea if he actually did anything wrong with regards to publishing practices.)

So what's Amazon's response to dozens, if not more, of innocent authors getting screwed by false positives and who knows how many people pulling out of the Kindle Unlimited and even a petition with over 1,500 signatures for Amazon to change it's policies towards Authors and KENP reads and another petition with almost 2,500 supporters to reinstate Michael-Scott Earle and J. A. Cipriano?

Nothing, basically. They stonewalled us.

So what's the fallout from this fucking disaster for me?

Well, in May of 2018, I made MORE THAN I DID FOR THE ENTIRETY OF LAST YEAR. Let that sink for a minute, because it still hasn't for me. In July? I made 1/4 of that. Now while that is still a decent income...it's looking like it's still dropping.

So basically, here's what happened. After 3 and 1/2 years busting my fucking ass, playing their game by their fucking rules, and writing like crazy, I finally succeed. Not through illegitimate tactics. Not through shady means. No bullshit, no trickery, no unsavory schemes.

I did it the fucking RIGHT way.

And my reward was all this shit, and to have it literally ripped away from me for no reason. 

And Amazon doesn't give a shit.

Now, does this mean I'm fucked forever? Probably not. I'm still going to work very hard, write a lot of new novels, and try to make my readers happy and make a living doing the one thing I actually am even remotely good at and brings me any kind of happiness. I might even manage to get lucky again and make some real money again doing this. But how often does lightning strike twice?

This brings me to the last part of my update/recap/rant.

I'm sure there are people asking "Well why are you putting all your eggs in one basket? Why aren't you just publishing elsewhere?"

Well, for one, I am. And for two: Because Amazon has a fucking 80% share of the eBook market. They're the only ones who are actually doing it right. Talk to most other authors who've gone wide, ask them where most of their sales come from. They'll say Amazon.

Amazon almost effectively has a monopoly on the eBook game.

There's a story I once heard that was about a gambling man who was playing a game of cards in a small town, and he was getting fucked over badly. Very badly. Everyone could see that he was getting cheated. And someone asked him, "Why are you doing this? Why are you playing this game if they're cheating you so bad?" And the man just shrugged and said, "It's the only game in town."

Why am I still relying so heavily on Amazon? Why am I playing their game?

If you're looking to make an actual career out of writing and you aren't willing to get fucked over even worse by Big Publishing, then Amazon's functionally the only game in town.

Making Cover Art

So I figured I'd try to help people out and offer some advice on some aspects of writing as a career, since I've technically been doing it for a few years now. (With, uh, varying amounts of success.)

Let's start with cover art, because as much as people FUCKING LOVE to say, "Don't judge a book by its cover!", they do. Pretty much everyone does.

However, I do want to emphasize that the real foundation of your career as a writer is the writing itself. You need a solid core, a firm foundation of quality writing with which to build on. Otherwise you probably won't get anywhere.

(Not trying to come off as sound liking some elitist bitch. I don't think I'm great at writing or anything, I just try my best and hope people like it, and practice pretty much every day.)

So, cover art.

First thing's first, you need to determine whether or not you have an eye for visual art. This is...admittedly hard to determine. I'd recommend just trying to make some covers and see where you land. Either you're abysmal and come to realize it's going to take a LOT more practice and research, or you might not be half-bad at it, or you're a natural.

From there, you should determine whether or not you want to put in the work. I can understand why you might not want to. It's the exact reason why, as soon as I got some money, I began working with someone to help me. Cause I suck at making cover art.

If you are looking to go it alone, here's some resources.

PIXABAY. This place is nice. It's basically just a massive collection of royalty free images you can use. I'd recommend getting an account, just so that you can download the biggest versions of pictures. It's no-bullshit, no hassle as far as I can tell. I haven't had any kind of trouble and I've had an account for awhile now. Go looking through this for images that you might want to use for your cover art. There's a ton of stuff on here, but most of it isn't amazing. There are some hidden gems though. Basically, try typing in a lot of different phrases if you're looking for something specific, because different words can bring up totally different results.

SHUTTERSTOCK. It's kinda like the pro version of Pixabay, in that it costs money. The images aren't super expensive. Individually, anyway. The pain in the ass is that you can't just buy one image. You have to buy, like, credits or something, in packs, and then use those credits to buy pictures. It isn't really a scam or anything, as far as I can tell. Once you jump through the extra hoops, you can buy the images without a problem. It's just a psychological trick they use to try and get you to spend more money. The bigger the amount of money you spend, the cheaper the individual pics are. They REALLY want you to sign up for a monthly subscription. If you want to buy just like a few pictures, it's fucking expensive. If you're invested in making covers for yourself, and you produce a lot of content, this is probably worth investing it.

GIMP. Sounds kinky, right? It's actually not. Basically, this is a free, open-source photo editing program. It is...complex. Or maybe I'm just an idiot, but it took me awhile to get the hang of it, and even now I realize that I'm only utilizing maybe 15% of its total abilities. It has a LOT of things you can do to make pictures, but it will take a bit to figure out. If you're looking for a given effect, google it. There's probably a reasonable tutorial on how to do it. If you're serious about making cover art, this is worth investing time into.

There's a lot of other stuff out there, but this will get you started. Also, IMPORTANT NOTE! If you are writing erotica and are going to use someone's picture, like a model you got from one of those sites, don't use their face! Not unless you got it from a site that's specifically okay with using models for that purpose. I doubt there exist vast AIs or bots trawling the internet, looking for erotica that uses some people's faces on the cover art, but it's just not worth the hassle if it ever does come up. Some people get really touchy with this and it's basically their legal right, I believe, to say that you can't use their face on your sexual content. I mean, as far as I know. I'm just a cautious person out of nature, so I don't bother.

Now, some general advice on making cover art.

  • No Crowding. Try not to put too much stuff on your cover, specifically text. Really, the most we need is the title and the author's name, and perhaps a byline (basically one of those little taglines you see on the covers), or maybe (MAYBE) a piece of a glowing review, if you somehow managed to get someone with a big name to publicly review your book.
  • Eye-Catching. Try to make your cover have some kind of central image or maybe a good color scheme to make it eye-catching. Something that snags your attention the second it enters your field of vision. Obviously different things attract different people, and this is more of an art than a science. Honestly though, like a lot of cleavage works well, I've heard.
  • Centered Text. It is your friend and it looks pro. Center your name, center the title. Unless you've got a stylistic reason to do otherwise, which plenty of people do. But it's gotta look good otherwise.
  • Series/Brand Recognition. If you're going to do a series of stories, they all have to resemble each other, to let the reader know that it's part of a series. Or, if you're going really big, it's part of a brand. Your brand. This can be super hard. For a long time I used pink silhouettes and I...have no idea if that worked or not. But I do know that not a lot of other people were using silhouettes, so hopefully it gave me a bit of good branding. Maybe go with a very specific font, (oh yeah, check out 1001fonts for some cool fonts, but make sure they're free to use and not licensed, or you'll get in trouble, but if you find one you really like, you can place it right into GIMP.) Or maybe create a little logo that you put on every cover.
  • Thumbnail. Whatever you make, it has to look good as a thumbnail. You know how the covers are small when you're browsing in the Amazon store? Basically that. It should still look good and be recognizable and legible at that size.

Now, what about if you don't want to make your own cover art?

Well, luckily there's some places you can go to get relatively cheap cover art made if you're strapped for cash.

First thing you'll need is a paypal account. Pretty much everyone operates on them and they aren't too much of a hassle.

I used fiverr for awhile. I recommend signing up and then go hunting for top-rated people making cover art. You'll be able to at least get decent cover art for cheap, either 5$ or 10$ usually. I used this person for a long time. She charges 10$ a pop now but if you aren't getting a crapload of works like I used to (I needed about 9 per month), then you should be fine. She's fast and reliable and pretty good at what she does.

Now, I found the two people that I currently now work with through the website artistsnclients. This is basically a site that hooks you up with people who draw, if that's what you're looking for.

You might also want to check out deviantart. I admittedly don't really know about about it, but some cursory research led me to believe that some artists might be open for commission. Find something that you like and maybe PM the artist and ask if they'd be willing to let you use it, or maybe to commission them to create something like it.

ADVICE: If you are going to go to someone to create a drawing or something in-depth, I'd recommend being up front about the fact that you are going to use this as cover art. Tell them this right from the outset, because I think it's fair to let them know whether this is something for your personal collection or something that's going to be part of a commercial endeavor.

There's certain a hell of a lot more to making cover art and even having cover art created for you, but I think this about covers the basics.

Hopefully this helps someone.

Changes & Plans

So, a lot's been happening.

Right now, I'm still gathering my thoughts. I feel like I'm picking the pieces back up, and walking on thin ice, waiting for something else to go horrifically wrong. But I'm going to continue forward with the tentative hope that the worst of it is over.

I want to recap a little, to make sure everyone is up to speed. I'll give a rough sequence of events.

After a massive boost in success thanks to luck and me releasing new, longer content with new cover art, and seeing more success in a few weeks than I have in my entire career, Amazon fucked me over and threatened to terminate my account when they falsely accused me of attempting to manipulate the Kindle Unlimited via page reads. I defended myself to the best of my ability, letting them know that not only did I not do that, I would never do that, nor do I even know how. In the process of this, every eBook I've ever written was removed from the store. I did manage to get them all back after a few fucking DAYS.

An in-depth post about this whole sorry thing can be read here.

Realizing that I can no longer trust Amazon, and that all of this seems to be tied to page reads in the Kindle Unlimited, I began trying to pull out of the KU. In an attempt to protect myself, I took down every individual episodic title that was in the KU, instead of waiting for them to fall out naturally, as I can't just pull out. Luckily, after I asked to be pulled out, Amazon agreed and took all of my titles out of the KU. You can read about that in detail here and here.

Now, I have decided to keep almost all of my episodic stories, and individual collections, (not including the Complete Seasons and Trilogies), unpublished, on the grounds that I will be re-publishing these stories in a cheaper and better format over the next year or so, and I would rather people have access to the better versions than the inferior versions. However, if people really, really want them, I've left up the Complete Seasons & Trilogies.

I would also like to point out that as I get close to re-releasing these titles, I will take down the old versions ahead of time. This is why Royal Lust (formerly Royal Love) is no longer available, as it is coming out June 1st.

Some of you may have noticed that Valkyries and Alien Harem have disappeared from the Kindle Store. There is a reason for this. Basically, as I think about my re-releases, some things occur to me, and here's something important that I realized.

I'm not very satisfied with most of my content. The reason for this is because...well, honestly, I guess a few different reasons. My own failings as a writer to be sure, but also because I just wasn't sure what I was doing for most of it. And, to compound the situation, writing in episodic shorts honestly does fuck with my ability to tell a good story. Or at least a story to my own satisfaction.

And this has shown up a few times in the form of, for example, Valkyries. I wrote that as almost kind of like a good version of Hellcats. Or my upcoming Parasexual. It's basically a better version of Paranormal Passions.

Because I have gotten better at writing, (I mean, I hope), and because I can write novels now, I'm really feeling the urge to redo a few of my older works, as I had much higher hopes for them, and knew they could be more than what they ended up being.

Alien Harem and Valkyries are the two I intend to do full on rewrites of. I think Alien Harem could at least be a solid trilogy, maybe even a bit more, but I think Valkyries could be a full on series. And I have more I want to say with Valkyries and I think it could be a really awesome series.

Now, in terms of what I'm doing right now.

I'm working on Demoness III. Definitely not as far in as I'd like to be, and as everything finishes settling, (I also have some unrelated real-life stuff going on right now, nothing bad, just distracting), I'm looking forward to settling in and making good progress on this just about every single day until it's done! And from the layout I've created, and how comfortable I'm getting writing novels, I think this one might actually be longer than Demoness II!

Basically the same story for Parasexual. Once everything settles, I'll make daily progress on it, too. This one will likely be about as long as Hellcats, so it shouldn't take as long to write.

The other thing I'm working on in the background right now is preparing my re-releases for, well, re-release. There typically isn't a great deal of work that goes into this, but there's enough that it warrants some preparation.

This is as far as I'm going to go on my in-progress projects. Well, writing-wise, at least. I don't want to spread myself too thin. Two projects at once is enough.

Now, as for what I plan on doing after that?

I've given it some thought, and I've decided that I will not be working on Haven after Parasexual. Instead, I will continue on with Parasexual until it is finished. This stems from not wanting to have too many series in progress at once. Three is enough. (And that's excluding the re-releases.)

That being said, I've received an unexpectedly large and positive response to Women of the Wild, and as such, once Demoness III is complete, I will begin production of Women of the Wild II. After that, I have a solid idea of what I want to do for Demoness IV, and will write that, followed by Women of the Wild III.

Once Demoness IV wraps up, I'll need to assess the situation. The thing is, I have ideas, to be sure, for several more Demoness books. But I have other ideas that I really want to get to, and I also don't want to work on a series too much, or I'll burn myself, and probably the readers, out. So there's a good chance that I'll put Demoness on the back burner.

While I will continue to work on Women of the Wild, as I have pretty solid ideas of what I want to do for Parts III, IV, & V, I'll have to decide what series to start up next. There's a very good chance that I'll finally begin my Sci-Fi Action Erotica series Wild Discovery.

Once Parasexual is wrapped up, I'll probably begin working on my rewrite of Alien Harem.

For the foreseeable future, this is how it will go. I'll have three series actively in production, with two of them being larger and more 'serious', with one of them being shorter and more focused on erotica and sex. And by shorter I mean 40,000 - 50,000 words, (Hellcats was 50,000 words for reference).

That's the gist of it.

I do, however, have one more big thing I want to talk about. My Patreon.

I've recently given it a revamp and a few things are different. One is a massive difference.

So, first of all, if you donate 1$/month, you will get access to the first chapters of my works in progress. 5$/month gets you access to the nude alternate versions of my covers and the first chapters.

I've added a new tier. For 10$/month, you will get access to all my books. This will come in the form of two downloadables: a kindle-ready file and a PDF, or you could just read it right there on Patreon. I'm planning on launching this in June and will do a full blog post explaining it. I also want to say that not everything will be available right away, mainly because of the Kindle Unlimited. Although I am technically pulled out of the KU, any of my books that have been borrowed by people will stay in their libraries until they naturally expire. So because Amazon has made me SUPER paranoid, I'm going to refrain from posting Hellcats, Demoness, or Women of the Wild related content until they naturally expire. Sorry, but I really just want to avoid any potential bullshit from Amazon.

Here's what I intend to have ready to go on launch: Royal Lust, Wanderlust, My Undead Lover, & Exploration. I will upload titles before their official release dates. Eventually, the Hellcats Trilogy, Women of the Wild, Demoness I & II, and The Misty Vixen Starter Pack will be available. I'm not going to put up my free titles (Snakeskin, Pink, Blind Date, The Pale Redhead, Large & Lovely), because they're freely available in all formats already.

I honestly have no idea if anyone will be interested in this, but I figure it couldn't hurt to experiment and give it a shot.

With how the past week or so has gone, I really feel like I need a backup plan or two in terms of being able to pay my bills and buy food.

So yeah, that's everything! Hope this was useful. Thanks for reading!

I've Successfully Pulled Out of the Kindle Unlimited - What's Next?

Right now, it's about 8AM. This whole thing has really fucked up my sleep schedule and given me some bad anxiety-related insomnia.

So. I was trying to sleep, couldn't, and checked my e-mail again for the hundredth time. My heart jerked pretty hard when I saw a new e-mail from Amazon. This is what I got.


Hello,

I’ve cancelled your KDP Select enrollment on your behalf.

Customers who have already borrowed your book can still read it until it's finished, returned, or their Kindle Unlimited subscription expires. As a result, you may see new Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) read appear in your reports until then.

See the KDP Select Enrollment Help page for more information:
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A3M9JQJV7RDER9

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

Amazon.com


So...yay?

I still feel like I'm under threat, because all the KU page reads I've gotten so far could still trigger their bot or algorithm or AI or whatever the fuck it is that's seeking 'illegitimate borrow activity' with a fucking vengeance.

So I still feel like I'm living with a fucking shotgun aimed at my forehead.

I've checked, and all my remaining titles that were in the KU are now not. I'm honestly hoping that this will be enough to get me out of harm's way.

But, what comes next? Because obviously this has all been a pretty huge upset for my plans.

Well, my brain's still spinning, but I've got a few things I know for sure, and a few thoughts.

#1) I am for sure going to forge ahead with publishing my re-releases, although I've had a few thoughts on that. Namely, I think I'm going to hold some of them back, because upon further reflection, I've realized that I might actually want to just do a full rewrite of them. Not many of them, just a few. We'll see about that. These will continue to be released at 2.99$ in eBook, and 9.99$ in paperback.

#2) I am for sure going to press on with Demoness III and Parasexual. I will try to get these written and released by June, but given all that has happened and how little I've got written over the past week, I'm not sure I can promise this. But I will be working very hard on these two titles, they will be my primary focus.

#3) Now that I am not longer beholden to Amazon's exclusivity, I am planning on releasing my titles through Smashwords as well, which will then distribute them to a good number of other platforms, chief among them the Nook, and Kobo. Unfortunately, since I have less control over the formatting there, I can't promise they'll look as good as they do on Amazon, and am really just hoping that the cover and writing make purchases through other platforms worth it.

#4) I've gotten messages from a few people lamenting my pulling out of the Kindle Unlimited, as they are fans of my work, but cannot afford to buy all or even most of my books, which I completely understand. This has led me to start thinking about producing my own subscription based service. Essentially, what I'm thinking right now is that I'll create a new tier for my Patreon. For 10$/month, you'll get access to all of my books. I don't know how many people would be interested in that, but it would at least be a good experiment, I think.

Those are my main thoughts right now.

At this point, I just want to keep my head down, steer clear of any further false accusations, and just, you know, write. And be able to make people happy and make a living off of that.

That'd be great.

Hellcats 3 Released!

 
 

Well, Hellcats 3 is out.

Normally, I'd be thrilled about releasing a new title. Even a re-release. But sadly, this comes on the heels of myself being forced to pull every single title of mine out of the Kindle Unlimited. And as such, Hellcats 3 is not available through the KU.

Why is that?

Well, if you want the long version, please refer to this blog post. But basically, Amazon has threatened me with account termination, and this was after suspending me from my account for a day, which caused a 'glitch' that resulted in ALL of my eBooks disappearing from the store for close to three days...right in the middle of me selling better than I've ever dreamed of selling.

Why was I threatened? Amazon apparently detected 'illegitimate activity and borrows' related to my account. What I've taken this to mean is that some bots, for some reason, read some of my titles through the Kindle Unlimited. I had absolutely nothing to do with it, nor do I have any way to prove that, and Amazon has adopted a guilty until proven innocent policy.

So, in order to protect myself from having my account terminated, I am no longer participating in the Kindle Unlimited, and have pulled all my titles from it. Honestly, this pisses me off, as it's not fair to me, and it's not fair to my readers, who were clearly enjoying my works.

So...sorry. You'll have to purchase Hellcats 3. I've tried to keep it reasonably priced.

You can purchase it as an eBook for 2.99$ right HERE.

You can purchase it as a paperback for 9.99$ right HERE.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT?: Basically nothing. This novel covers all of Season Two of the original Hellcats releases. Specifically, this encompasses Episodes 10 - 15, and the bonus short stories from Collections #5 & #6, and The Complete Second Season.

Here is the official synopsis:

After a fun-filled, sexy, week-long vacation, Ryan and the Hellcats are returning to their ship and preparing to deal with some new situations that have cropped up.

For Emily, this means finding a job with a bit more weight, and a higher payout, as they spent a lot more money while on vacation than she realized. Unfortunately, a higher paying job tends to mean a higher amount of danger, and while normally she doesn't balk at danger, now Ryan is part of the team, and she's grown very fond of him...

For Ryan, he has suddenly found himself in a situation he's never been in before, (though he has dreamed often of it): a three-way, open relationship with two extraordinarily beautiful alien women. As he prepares to begin sharing living quarters with Colleen, he also looks forward to getting to know his two girlfriends, as well as the other women on the ship, even better. But things get more complicated as he begins wondering about his own purpose on the ship beyond simply being a boytoy...

Mid Crisis Update (I am PISSED.)

Let me start off by saying that: I. AM. FURIOUS.

Second, this is going to be a LONG post.

In case anyone hasn't noticed, EVERY SINGLE EBOOK I HAVE EVER WRITTEN IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE IN THE KINDLE STORE.

How in the fuck did I arrive here?

Well, lets get back to where it all started.

As March of this year rolled around, I noticed something strange. All of my page reads for February had disappeared. At first, I honestly didn't think much of it. I figured it was some kind of error. Weird errors have been known to crop up, and I was busy.

Then I suddenly got a message.


Hello,

We are reaching out to you because we detected reading or borrow activity for your books originating from illegitimate accounts attempting to manipulate the Kindle programs. These accounts might be related to a third-party marketing service. You will receive royalties associated with legitimate or paid sales; however, we will not pay for reading activity related to illegitimate accounts. 

We fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books.  However, please be aware you are also responsible for ensuring that the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

We take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously.   Please know any additional violation of our Terms and Conditions – including violation caused by any marketing services you, or others on your behalf, may have used – could result in account level actions, up to and including termination of your KDP account. 

Please email us at content-review@amazon.com if you have any questions.

Regards,
Amazon KDP


So I was like: WTF? I promptly got back to them, ensuring them that not only would I not attempt anything illegal or illegitimate in regards to my page reads, I don't even know how. And as for marketing: well, I had actually finally done some marketing...back in October...and in March.

So the marketing I did back in October of 2017 was for Desire, was very low-key, and resulted in basically no sales/page reads. So I figured, "Oh well." And didn't come back. Obviously there was no way that this could be affecting my page reads in FEBRUARY. (Side Note: My page reads for February weren't even that good. No sudden spike. No massive uptick. Honestly, they were below average.) And the marketing set for March was slightly more upscale, but...it was set for March. Obviously, it could have no bearing on what happened in February. (Spoiler: It didn't do well either.)

Naturally, I was confused. And naturally, I began asking: "So, given the fact that this is not at all my fault, when am I going to get my page reads back?"

At first, I got a boilerplate response.


Hello,

Thank you for your email regarding the status of your account.

Illegitimate reading or borrow activity is intended to manipulate Kindle services or products. This activity sometimes results from marketing services you might have used to promote your book. We encourage you to review any marketing services used. Please know that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions to avoid termination of your KDP account.

You may email us at content-review@amazon.com with any questions.

Regards,

Amazon.com


So, I sent another response, again emphasizing my need for further information on this, primarily, uh, when do I get my page reads back now that you know it's not my fault? I've been hearing stories about Amazon's stonewalling tactics of just repeatedly sending the literal same copy/paste boilerplate response, so I was about prepared to give up. The amount of cash from the page reads wasn't really that much at all, and honestly, writing erotica on Amazon is kind of like living with a gun pointed at your head. You don't really want the attention of the person whose finger is on the trigger.

But I did ask again. And I got an actual, interesting response.


Hello,

Thanks for writing back to us.

I see that you've written to us about 2 issues. I'll do my best to provide a thorough answer to each of your inquiries in this message.

1. Unfortunately, this issue is one that will require input from another team, so I can't answer it directly. I've forwarded your concerns to the team that handles this issue, and they will consider your input.

Someone from the appropriate team will reply within two business days.

*********

2. Royalties earned from pages read are available the following month, when the KDP Select Global Fund is announced. That’s why you don’t see any royalties from pages read in your sales dashboard.

Hence, you will be able to see the February report by 15th March 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund is announced monthly in our community forum on kdp.amazon.com

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.


That first issue was me asking about which specific titles had been affected by the 'illegitimate reading or borrowing activity', which was really just more for my curiosity. But the second issue was: "When do I get my page reads back?" Obviously, he had misunderstood the question, so in response, I sent him a picture of my account, specifically the fact that ALL the days in February had dropped to zero for page reads. This is where it got interesting.


Hello,

I'm sorry for any disappointment this issue has caused.

I completely understand your concern here regarding zero page reads for the entire month of February.

We'll need a little time to look into the issue. I've reached out to our Report team to investigate this issue why no pages read updated is there any technical glitch from our side.

We'll contact you with more information within 3 to 5 business days.

Thanks for your patience.


So it was acknowledged as a glitch! Amazon acknowledged that my page reads were taken IN ERROR. Now, I'll definitely admit that this was probably written by someone who didn't know for sure. But it was something. While I was dealing with this, I recieved another message from a totally different person.


Hello,

We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

We take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously.  Please know any additional violation of our Terms and Conditions – including violation caused by any marketing services you, or others on your behalf, may have used – could result in account level actions, up to and including termination of your KDP account.


Best regards,
Amazon.com


So I was confused again. I responded to it, asking what specifically this was in regards to, because I was already in contact with Amazon over an error. Unfortunately, they never responded. And to save us all some trouble, every week or so, I'd contact the initial guy asking, "So...how's it going with my page reads?" He responded two times, saying that they needed more time and apologizing...and then he never responded again after my latest attempt. So that was frustrating. But by then, I had other concerns, like the fact that March was my worst money for sales. Ever.

I was furiously trying to wrap up Sex & Survival Season 3 and Demoness II. And I did. I launched Demoness II and decided to give my idea of re-releasing Hellcats as some novels a shot.

Well, I exploded in mid April and things were fantastic. To be clear, I was making more in one day than I did for ALL of April...consistently. I have never even come CLOSE to that level of success.

Then, all of a sudden, without warning, I got this message on May 10th.


Hello,

We are reaching out to you as a follow-up on our previous communication regarding reading or borrow activity originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. We detected continued illegitimate activity after our communication and, as a result, we have suspended your account to protect our publishers and readers experience.

We need you to take the necessary actions to stop the activity. We encourage you to review any marketing services you may have used, since you are responsible for ensuring that the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. Once you have done so, please send a response to content-review@amazon.com which includes a statement that you reviewed all marketing services you may have used, and confirms the discontinued use of any that might be responsible for this activity.

Once we receive this affirmation, we will reactivate your account. Please be aware, any additional illegitimate activity may result in termination. If we don’t receive this affirmation, we will terminate your account after 14 days.

Regards,

Amazon KDP


And I promptly shit my pants. I was suspended, which basically meant that I couldn't access my account. Now, to be clear, I had done NO more marketing of any kind after that one in March. I didn't really think I needed to, at least not for awhile. I promptly responded, being as thorough and transparent as possible in my response.

I spent the rest of the day freaking out, having anxiety problems, and eventually managed to sleep. Well, I woke up the next hoping for an update. Oh, I got an update all right.

Every single one of my eBooks was gone. That was when I really started to panic, because that seemed like the next step to termination. Although, oddly enough, all my paperbacks were still there. And people were messaging me, letting me know that my books were missing. Well, not much longer after this, Amazon responds, saying that they have decided to reinstate my account. I regain access and see that, oddly, all of my titles still show as Live in the store. And yet the lead to dead pages. So I thought maybe it was something that was going to self-correct. I gave it a few hours.

It didn't self correct.

I e-mailed Amazon about the problem, and then, deciding to be proactive, tried to republish a few of my titles by uploading new versions. (I needed to do this anyway, to update a few of the links in the back of my newer titles and correct a few errors I had noticed.)

That didn't work.

As of yesterday, (May 13th), I received a response from Amazon, saying that they were going to look into the error of my missing books, and they'd get back to me within 5 business days. So, if I'm very lucky, then by Friday my problem will be fixed.

But...

Let's recap, shall we?

After three and a half years of busting my ass, never once breaking the rules, struggling to make a living, and earning Amazon money for sales through my books, and writing over ONE MILLION WORDS, I finally began earning a REAL living for once in my ENTIRE LIFE. I finally began to enjoy ACTUAL SUCCESS. And I had done it without breaking any of the rules, without taking any shortcuts. I had done it RIGHT.

And Amazon arbitrarily just fucking DECIDED that I was guilty and fucked me over for basically no reason. What in the FUCK is this guilty until proven innocent shit? How can I POSSIBLY prove that I'm innocent to them? How can I prevent this from happening again!? How can I POSSIBLY know who is reading my books!? How can I stop bots from auto-reading my titles!? I have literally ZERO control over that!

And to make matters even worse, a "glitch" suddenly takes ALL of my titles down DURING THE BEST EARNING DAYS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. This has cost me LITERALLY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. And how long is this going to take to recover from this? I am EVER going to see this level of success again?

And it gets worse.

Because of this, I am basically being forced to pull all of my titles out of the Kindle Unlimited. Unless Amazon can somehow promise me that this will not happen again, I literally cannot risk losing my ENTIRE account. And I don't want to do it. I don't want to pull my books out of the Kindle Unlimited. The readers were clearly enjoying it, and some people were specifically thanking me for making it available through the KU. But now I have to deprive them of that because Amazon fucked me over for literally no reason.

I'm sorry if I seem overly petty or vindictive, but this is straight up disrespectful of Amazon to treat me, AND OTHERS, like this. I am not the only one this has happened to. I know that. And some people have had their account terminated and lost EVERYTHING.

How in the FUCK is this fair at all?

So...yeah. I'm really pissed. I'm normally a really chill person, and the thing is, I actually can understand Amazon's position. Some shady motherfuckers are using bots to fuck Amazon over, and fuck people out of page reads, and game the system. And that's wrong. And Amazon should do something about it. But this is NOT the answer. I actually wouldn't even mind them subtracting any illegitimate page reads from my account. I would gladly give those up, because I agree, it's not fair for me to benefit, even indirectly, from someone else scamming the system.

But this is absolutely NOT the way to handle this. Threatening and, in some cases, ruining the lives of innocents authors is seriously fucked up. Because for a lot of people, writing is our LIVES. Not only is it what pays the bills, but it's what we live for, what we get out of bed in the morning for. I don't write for a hobby, I don't just write as a job. I write because I love it, I write because I care about it, I write because making a living from writing has turned what was a pretty miserable life into a happy one.

And Amazon is threatening to take that away.

One final thought for right now, as I await Amazon's response. I have to say that this has utterly shattered my trust in Amazon. Before, whenever I had a problem, the responses were often prompt and professional, and they solved the problem. But this is fucking ridiculous. In an interview in 2015, Jeff Bezos himself put out a bold statement: "But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com." Basically, he was saying, "If you have a problem, email me personally. I'll handle it." I've heard people say that you do get a response if you do this.

So you know what? I'm going to do just that. I'm going to e-mail Jeff or at least his staff and let him know that his company has failed several people with this blind, guilty until proven innocent, or really just guilty, mentality.

Wish me luck.

And as a little P.S....

For some reason, the eBook version of The Misty Vixen Starter Pack still has a page, although the title is 'currently unavailable'. I got a new review for it from Aris Echevarria stating: "can't give a review because as i in the process of downloading this book it suddenly came up as "this is currently unable to download " so i tried other books by this same author and they were all gone. Censorship?" Thanks, I appreciate that. And I appreciate all the people who reached out to me to try and let me know what was happening, and who've tried to help me.

UPDATE #1
UPDATE #2