Monday 14 October 2019

When Amazon's KDP Met East Midlands Writers...

East Midlands writers heard from Darren Hardy, manager of the KDP UK (kindle direct publishing) at an event organised via the Society of Authors last Thursday evening.

They held the event at The Nottingham Mechanics- the regular venue for Nottingham Writers' Club meetings, so this was a local and a great opportunity to attend.

This was only the second time KDP had run this session so they're still refining the event and learning from each one.

Though I'm not sure Mr Hardy was quite prepared for the RNA members attending.

Basically, it was KDP promoting and showing how easy it was to self publish with them and generate up to 70% in digital and up to 60% in print on demand royalties.

They provided a helpful A4 handout with relevant details and URLs and examples of royalty calculations.

For those who had not used KDP there was a run-through of the process, though the images on the screen were not large enough to read the text from a distance, it was explained and key aspects highlighted.

Apparently the help button on the dashboard connects to a tech team whose only job is to sort out the technical issues or queries writers may have during the process. There are also webinars, which if you can't watch at the time they're running, you can access later via the video library.

Questions were raised during part one and more again with the part two content.

There were insights into Author Central and how the writer could use their profile. Their suggestion that authors should link all their social media accounts to their Amazon author profile was met with scepticism by some audience members; I raised the question of algorithms and writers losing reviews, or being banned from leaving reviews.

Mr H said this was only when there was a financial connection, a gift card or cash had been paid for a review. He said that if an author contacted them about disappearing reviews, they would look at it. A human would look at it...

Sadly, he did not appear to believe that authors were losing reviews when they'd done nothing wrong, but as they would not tell the writer the actual reason for review removal, and consequently not reinstate them (some are); it was not a satisfactory answer.

But the audience were also told to contact the Society of Authors with the details of when and what had been removed, so the Society could feed that back to KDP. He admitted that there had been a glitch last year, and they had reinstated those reviews but was unaware of any recently.

There were complaints of cover colour inconsistency from the print on demand service, but again there was no explanation, just let the Society of Authors know as well to feed it back.

Four RNA members I know of had received damaged books in the last few months because of poor packaging, including one sent back by the carrier, before it got to the author, because of the state it was in. It appeared Mr H was unaware of these type of complaints.

Another attendee asked about the get 50 reviews and visibility improves. That isn't right, we were told. It's the metadata, so using the best categorisation and effective keywords in relation to the book is the important thing.

There are some promotions that authors can be invited to take part in, but, unlike those occasions when Amazon reduces the price but the author still gets their set royalty rate, the invited promotions will be at a reduced royalty rate...

KDP encourage writers to set up their author central profile on each of the Amazon sites, but they have to be done individually, so sign in, apparently using your normal Amazon log-in details, and complete your profile for each one. Cut and paste is the only shortcut for this.

Print & e-book...
There's more but hopefully you'll get the opportunity to attend their future events in other parts of the country, so sign up to the Society of Authors non-members newsletter- if you haven't done so, as this was how I heard the news of this free event and booked.
While I learnt a few useful things, I went away disappointed.

The KDP manager was not as well briefed as he could have been, so when he couldn't really answer the negative issues writers raised, it showed and suggested, right or wrong, that KDP thought everything was rosy.

Hopefully, he'll take back those negatives and get them resolved.

The good news is that one RNA writer who had received damaged books a couple of months ago, received her latest author copies in good condition and better packing. So maybe there's hope for solutions.

If KDP do more of this event, hopefully, they'll be able to answer any difficult questions writers raise.

All that said, any opportunity to hear from KDP direct is to be welcomed...


Patsy said...

I've had different colour covers, and the images cropped differently, even when buying the same book in one order. It might not look too bad if a customer just gets one, but if I'm displaying multiple copies at an event, or offering them to bookshops it looks terrible.

I've lost reviews too. I know money doesn't come into it as I've never offered any reward for a review. Unless people have details of what's missing and who wrote it there's no way to even ask for it to be looked into. Are we supposed to take screenshots of every one, just in case they vanish?

Carolb said...

Patsy- all valid points that I agree with.

I pushed the fact that many of the lost reviews had no financial element, but he then said there must have been another reason for it. He seemed convinced their system was fine. Many of the audience didn't.

As many authors don't check their reviews regularly they aren't going to know what or when reviews have disappeared, so perhaps taking a weekly screen shot may become the norm for writers, just in case.

The cover colour issue seems to be random, and we were told that the books are printed in a number of countries, UK and Poland were just two of those mentioned.

But do keep reporting the issue to both KDP and the Society of Authors, the more they hear about it, they may actually look into the why...

Helen Baggott said...

Very interesting, Carol. The speaker sounded out of his depth. I don't buy author copies from KDP because I use either IngramSpark or a local printer. IS provides the essential distribution network that KDP doesn't. Without IS, my book would not be in libraries and being sold around the world to shops and other online sellers. I bought my own ISBN rather than use the free one offered by KDP. Without that, I wouldn't be able to use IS or have my own copies printed. Using KDP and IS together is a better option. However, there are costs to consider and it's all about author expectations – and managing them sensibly.

Carolb said...

Helen- Thank you. I didn't feel he was as well briefed as he could have been. He was there to promote using KDP exclusively- something I would not do myself; Likewise I'd get my own ISBNs.

I can certainly see that for a writer who doesn't want to develop an author business around their books, using Amazon might be better for them, but of course that can still have drawbacks, so shouldn't be entered into without thought.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reporting on this meeting, Carol. I found it very interesting. So far, I haven't had any issues with KDP. I'm currently waiting for some author copies to arrive for a book fair, so I'll be keen to check them, in view of some of the comments. Thanks also to the comment from Helen re: Ingram Spark, it may be something for me to consider for the future.

Carolb said...

Penny- thanks for commenting. Glad it has been of interest. :-)

The issue with author copies doesn't seem to be happening to everyone, which doesn't help resolve the issues. But knowing about it, it's a good important to check for consistency.

I believe it's becoming more viable to have the Ingram Spark option as well as KDP, though obviously for IS you need your own ISBN barcodes, but it's probably worthwhile.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Very interesting, Carol - I'd read about it on FB too. As you say, he sounds a bit out of his depth! I like KDP and haven't yet had any major issues, though I'm also going to be using Ingram Spark for wider distribution.

Carolb said...

Rosemary- I think it may be that the reporting of issues goes up the chain but not necessarily across, so he may not have been aware of the issues so could only give a limited response. Hopefully he'll be find out more for the next session.

I believe using Ingram Spark is a good idea as there's scope for producing large print as well as paperbacks, alongside the wider reach. Good luck with it.x