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Adrian versus Goliath – Battling Amazon One Book at a Time

Adrian J. Smith Photo

I’ve made it no secret that I have issues with Amazon and their current methods to “help” authors publish. I started indie publishing in July 2021, and by November 2021, on my third indie book, I tangled with the bots. Tangling with the bots is no joke. It’s like going up against an army of Imperial droids from Star Wars.

They don’t think.

They don’t answer you.

They just repeat nonsense back at you.

How many times have I found myself in these battles? 8 of the last 10 books I have uploaded have had an issue with the Amazon droids. That is 80% of the time I am wasting arguing with a computer. And it is a waste because each and every time my book has been approved for publication.

I’ve never had a situation resolved in one email. Usually it takes a minimum of 1-2 weeks to resolve the alerts. The longest it has taken me was 27 days on the paperback for Indigo: Storm.

But this latest round of battling the empire takes the cake—almost. On February 22, I uploaded When the Past Finds You, my newest contemporary romance, trying a new launch method of no preorder to try and play with earning some rankings on Amazon in boost sales.

Guess what?

I hope you’re laughing at past-AJ and her optimism. Because I am. A hard cold laugh from present-AJ who is still bitter. February 22nd, I got my first email, the anticipated and dreaded “Alert!” and by Thursday March 2, a mere 8 days later and more emails than I care to count, my book was blocked from being published on Amazon.

Now, I have never had a book properly blocked from publication before, usually they remain “in review” until I pass inspection. Why was I blocked this time? Oh… similar author name. This is what I am always flagged on, and I think by now that I have proven myself, but with Amazon everything is book by book, and they don’t look at accounts as a whole.

It is absolutely impossible to spend time marketing my books, when I am constantly fighting with Amazon. I am constantly screaming into the empty void of droids that just say “Roger, Roger,” or in my case “We’re upholding our decision…”

Remember when I said this latest round with Amazon wasn’t the worst? On December 28, 2021, 2 days after proving yet again that my book was publishable and having Amazon approve it, my account was terminated without warning. I found out because I tried to log in to check on a book that was for sale in IHS post-Christmas sale. When Amazon terminates your account, you can’t upload anything, you can’t take anything down, you can’t use another distributer because most have clauses that with KDP terminations they won’t upload to KDP for you, and worst yet, you DON’T GET ANYMORE ROYALTIES!

That was the worst part. Amazon pays authors on a 60 day back cycle. Meaning books sold in October will be paid out at the end of December. So when my account was terminated in December, I would never have received my royalties for books sold in October, November, and forward.

The most devastating part?

When I got my account back on January 3, 2022 because I had done nothing wrong, I could see that not only had my sales plummeted (expected when no one can buy a book), but they weren’t $0.00 like you would expect.


Anyone who had borrowed my book using Kindle Unlimited and was still in the process of reading it was still paying Amazon for the privilege to read my book. Amazon was still making money off of my books! And they could for as long as anyone who had downloaded the book prior to my account termination continued to read the book. I would never see a penny of that.

But I did get my account back, so don’t panic! How did I get it back? Oh…because it was a wrongful termination. Would Amazon ever admit that? No. All I’m told is that they can’t disclose that information per their policies, which is the same answer I get any time I email now to figure out why I keep running face first into the droids.

This entire blog post isn’t a rant, at least it’s not meant that way. But there are a lot of authors who are coming up against these Amazon droids. And they need to know what they’re up against and to know that they’re not alone. Authors are flagged for varying reasons, but each of us feels the wealth of panic and fear wash through us, consume us when that “Alert from Amazon Content Review Team” email comes in.

For me, I can expect that email with every single book I upload. But the problem remains that I can’t properly market my books if all of my time is spent fighting Amazon just to even make my books available for readers. And I cannot stress to you enough the emotional toll this takes on me. I have shed more tears doing this job of publishing than I ever have in any other job I’ve held, and I have been utterly alone going through it. My poor spouse has borne the brunt of my rants and tears and absolute breakdowns over it. Bless his soul, he is the perfect person to deal with my depression.

These battles have made me question whether or not to keep publishing.

They’ve made me question if I’m utterly insane and crazy.

They’ve made me question my entire business plan repeatedly.

They’ve made me question why I keep subjecting myself to this kind of abuse.

And it is abuse. Amazon is the abusive spouse that we just can’t leave and keep going back to and have to fake for the world that everything is perfect in the relationship. They hold the market hostage, and if my goal is to be an author, someone who sells books that people get to enjoy, then I can’t leave my abuser. I’ll never be Rey and smash the empire to smithereens.

Check out Adrian’s most recent book that she had to battle Amazon to get on the platform.

Adrian J. Smith has been publishing since 2013 but has been writing nearly her entire life. With a focus on women loving women fiction, AJ jumps genres from action-packed police procedurals to the seedier life of vampires and witches to sweet romances with a May-December twist. She loves writing and reading about women in the midst of the ordinariness of life. Two of her novels, For by Grace and Memoir in the Making, received honorable mentions with the Rainbow Awards.

AJ currently lives in Cheyenne, WY, although she moves often and has lived all over the United States. She loves to travel to different countries and places. She currently plays the roles of author, wife, and mother to two rambunctious toddlers, occasional handy-woman.

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