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Amazon’s Pre-Order Quagmire, Redux

5327472911_11f1b47665_bMany authors were pleased last year when Amazon gave all authors and publishers in KDP the option to put their Kindle ebooks up for pre-order, but author Mindy Klasky reports that we celebrated too soon.

Earlier this week Klasky shared her experience with putting an anthology of holiday-themed stories up for pre-order. Even though the authors jumped through all the hoops, including uploading a placeholder text and then uploading the finished ebook ten days before it was due to go live, Klasky reports that the process still crashed and burned:

On November 17, Mischief Under the Mistletoe went live.  Shortly after midnight, approximately 8100 pre-orders were fulfilled. Alas, Amazon mistakenly sent those customers the placeholder file instead of the final file. (New customers who placed orders after the book released, received and continue to receive the correct file.)

Forty-eight hours later, the situation remains unresolved. Nearly 40% of our reviews are one- or two-star reviews, commenting exclusively about the problems of the placeholder file (without comment on the substance of that one story or, obviously, the content of the missing eighteen novellas.) As a consequence, we have had several advertisers drop our pre-purchased advertisements, because we have not met the four-star threshold for those ads.  (We have been denied refunds on those ads.)

Amazon has admitted its error, confirming that we did upload the final file on a timely basis. They have admitted that pre-order customers incorrectly received the placeholder file.  They maintain they have “pushed” the correct file to pre-order customers; however, very few–if any–customers have received the pushed file.  In fact, some customers who have complained have been instructed to delete the faulty file, request a refund, wait for a week, and re-order the boxed set. (ETA: That week’s wait, of course, pushes the re-sale past the date that counts for we authors hoping to hit a bestseller list.) Customers who have manually deleted the placeholder file and attempted to download the final file have generally found that their ereaders mistakenly re-load the placeholder file.

The situation was ultimately fixed (for certain meanings of the word) when Amazon sent buyers an email telling them how to download the correct edition of the ebook, but the Amazon hasn’t taken any steps to repair the PR damage it caused (all the one-star reviews).



As painful as that sounds, this tale raises more questions than it answers. For example, how widespread is this problem?

In the fifteen months since Amazon enabled pre-orders, this is the very first time that I have heard of Amazon screwing up the delivery of a pre-order. The closest I could come to confirmation are a few off-hand comments over in the comment section at The Passive Voice. Both commenters said that they had heard about this problem happening to authors they know, but they did not name names, share first-hand experiences, or post a link to corroborating reports.

Does anyone have similar experiences with getting caught in the gears at Amazon?

Mindy Klasky via The Passive Voice

image by GuySie

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Kate Wrath November 21, 2015 um 1:30 pm

I have also heard about this happening to other authors, and to be honest it is frightening. I don’t have any nightmare stories like this, but Amazon did mistakenly blacklist me from pre-orders, saying that I failed to meet the terms (upload on time) for a previous pre-order. The issue was resolved easily through email.

I’ve now done pre-orders on two books, however, I’ve chosen not to bother with my latest release (due to be out in two days). Aside from always having those horror stories from other authors floating around in the back of my head, there’s also the fact that pre-orders do not work the same for us indies as they do for traditional publishers. If you are traditionally published, all pre-orders are tallied and count toward ranking in a big chunk on your release day. If you’re an indie author, they simply count on the day the book is purchased. They don’t add up and give you a big one-time boost. So then… what exactly is the point? Yes, I know that you can spend a longer time on marketing build-up, buzz creating, and all that. But I can mostly do that anyway. My rankings will almost definitely be better with a straight-off release. The people who would pre-order will most likely buy the book on day one (instead of sporadically, over a few weeks), and that will add up with all the people who would wait until the book is actually available to buy. The only real benefit of the pre-order system that I see is the notification email that Amazon will send out. But does it make up for the inequality of the system? No. Not in my opinion. When it works the same for indies as it does for traditional authors, then I’ll celebrate. So no. Not yet.

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