Amazon Change Ill-Timed

Ghost of a Chance Cover Lo-ResGood news! Ghost of a Chance released yesterday.

Then the bad news started to come in. I ended up in the hospital yesterday afternoon after severe pain in my lower abdomen convinced my doctor I needed to be seen for possible appendicitis. I spent most of the day both in pain and being treated. Everything came back negative, and they don’t really know what was wrong. I feel better today but am not well yet. That would be, if you’ll excuse the pun, painful enough.

But there was another major problem I didn’t discover until I got home last night.

I am running a free event for State of Grace to help boost the whole Wolf Dasher line with GoaC’s release. I put notes in the description of SoG directing people to the newly released GoaC and in GoaC’s description letting readers know they could get the first book in the series for free. I also bought several ads to push SoG as free.

As I lay on the hospital bed, I couldn’t understand why the response to the free event was so weak. Advertisers that had gotten me thousands of downloads in the past netted barely 300.

At home, I discovered Amazon had decided to make a little change. You see, I offer “The Darkline Protocol” as a free Wolf Dasher short story that is outside the main story arc. I therefore label it as Volume 0 through Amazon.

Yesterday, Amazon changed it to read that it is Book 1 in the series, and therefore changed State of Grace to Book 2. I checked my dashboard. I did not make these changes. It was Amazon.

So I tried to give away the second book in a series. You know, something new readers don’t want. They want to start from the beginning.

My free event tanked, which means my book launch also tanked. It’s difficult being a struggling indie author. It’s hard to find places that will advertise your books, especially new releases, and State of Grace is my most well reviewed book, making it the one I can most reliably get placed with the major advertisers.

I called Amazon customer service. A nice young man listened attentively, validated my concerns, but couldn’t help me at all. He took notes and forwarded it all up the chain.

STATE OF GRACE is Book 1, not Book 2 in the Wolf Dasher series.

STATE OF GRACE is Book 1, not Book 2 in the Wolf Dasher series.

I got an email this morning telling me to go in and manually change it. The problem is, the books still show on their editing pages as their proper volume numbers. I republished “Darkline” just to see if it would work, but it didn’t.

So I have to call Amazon again today and try to get something done. I’ll blog about my results when I have them.

* * * UPDATE * * *

After a second call to Amazon customer service, they told me that they have changed the way they market series (which I knew) and as a result the system cannot handle have a book numbered 0. So, “The Darkline Protocol” got changed by the system to be Book 1, and State of Grace and Red Dragon Five were automatically shifted to Books 2 and 3.

I was told the only way to fix this was to remove “The Darkline Protocol” from the series, and then the system would automatically reset the other books. I’ve done that, but so far the change hasn’t occurred. It looks as though I will have to call Amazon a third time.

* * * UPDATE 2 * * *

The problem is fixed, and the explanation is weird.

When I called in again, the tech did some further research and discovered that the first person I’d spoken to tried to help. Understanding exactly what my concerns were, the first tech made back-end changes to force the system to do what I wanted. He told it, from Amazon’s side, to make “The Darkline Protocol” Book 0 and State of Grace Book 1.

But he didn’t know the system would not support 0 as a volume number. So it converted “Darkline” to Book 1 and SoG to Book 2 despite his commands.

The interesting part is this. Because this tech made changes on the back-end, the front-end changes I made were overridden. In other words, the tech accidentally locked me out of my own book.

The third person I spoke to deleted the back-end changes, so that my front-end ones could take hold. So “Darkline” was removed from the Dasher series, and all the novels automatically reset to their proper numbers.

I remain frustrated with Amazon over how this went down. The programming changes they made had unintended consequences, and the timing of them really screwed things up for my book launch. Amazon is offering no recompense. They’re just saying, “Sorry, didn’t mean for that to happen. Not our fault, though.”

And that’s pretty much expected. They’re a giant corporation; I’m small vendor. I’ve really got no leverage here, and Amazon has little incentive to do anything.

As usual, the customer service from Amazon’s help desk was stellar. Every tech I talked to understood the problem and did his best to try to fix it.

But something from Amazon to smooth my feathers would have been nice.

At any rate, now that I’ve missed my advertising windows, everything is fixed. The books are correctly numbered. I’m going to have to move forward looking for new marketing opportunities.

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