Friday, 3 February 2012

Amazon KDP angst

At the end of January, Kindle Direct Publishing sales reports broke. I'd sold 201 copies of Replica on the 31st January after my promotion; when I woke on the 1st I'd sold another 20. For the rest of the day, nothing. For the next day or two, sales limped in intermittently, like survivors of a lost battle.

Nobody who hasn't self-published via KDP on Amazon will appreciate the disruptive effects of any glitch in Amazon sales reporting. We all look at our stats far too often, hoping for that small jolt of pleasure we get when another sale ticks up. When things go wrong, the herd gets restive - see this mammoth thread on Kindleboards. Traditionally published authors know nothing of this; their frustrations come from being completely in the dark as to what their book's rank means in terms of numbers sold. They are reduced to asking indies about it, who are generally much more helpful than their publishers.

Should we worry that, if sales are not reported to us, they are lost in the system and will not be paid for? Almost certainly not. Terence O'Brien wrote this about Amazon's two independent systems, sales and reports:

We can look at the characteristics of the two systems. One is the ordering/billing/delivery (OBD) system. The other is the KDP reporting.

The OBD is vital to the life of the company. The time and effort devoted to that kind of system, the backups and redundancies included, and the attention from management reflect that importance.

KDP reporting isn't necessary for anything. Nothing depends on it. It's just a nice gesture from Amazon to some of its suppliers.

So the OBD system is far more robust and flexible. It can, and probably does, recognize impending problems every day, and route around them. There is no reason to devote the same level of resources to KDP reporting, not in building it or fixing it.

There's a similar difference between Amazon Customer Support, which is legendary and excellent, and KDP Support...which is not. Responses are slow, and staff often misunderstand your point, deny there is a problem, or repeatedly fail to fix an acknowledged problem. 
It's really quite bad.


  1. I know this is probably off-topic, but one of my bloggie friends is an author who lives in Malaysia and she is having a hell of a time trying to self-epublish, solely because Amazon, Goodreads etc do not have a base in her country. It's really quite heartbreaking - I've read a freebie story she sent out as a pdf to her followers and it's really quite good so it's a shame.

    Anyway!!!! Amazon customer support are really helpful so it's awful that the KPD side of things are a bit manky!! I don't know where I read this (business section of the Metro paper, I think!) but according to this news report, Amazon are losing profit with the actual Kindle device sales but are relying heavily on their e-book sales to cover some of the loss. Or something like that! So you'd think they'd be abit more helpful to you authors using their e-publishing system!!

    Take care

  2. My partner's book ( former UK Amazon top 10 ) The Dress dropped sales by 85% on Monday. Now back up to where they were before.

    Doesn't make sense.

  3. Kitty, that must be tiresome for your friend in Malaysia. Isn't there also a surcharge when you buy Kindle ebooks in some parts of the world?

    Tom, The Dress has been near the top of the UK Top 100 for so long, I could recall the cover when I read your comment. Congratulations to Sophie!

  4. The constant sales updates to be found on Amazon KDP is the old Blessing and Curse situation. It certainly is a kick when the numbers are steadily increasing just as it is depressing as can be when they sit still for hours or days on end. I think it is an instrument of torture that we, as indies, find excruciatingly painful/uplifting/distracting.

    When things are going well, as for some reason they have been the past few days, it is fun to check out the report. Almost too fun, since other things should be getting done. When things are not going well, which has been the usual state of affairs for my lone book, it is difficult not to check even more frequently "just in case" there has been a sudden and unexplainable uptick in sales.

    The ignorance supposedly suffered by the traditionally published authors sometimes seems to me to be an illustration of the maxim "Ignorance is bliss".

  5. Glad to see Boomerang doing well, Alan.

    Trad pub authors check as much as we do, but since they can only see their rankings, they obsess over what that means in terms of sales, and whether the publisher will pass on all the royalties accurately.

  6. Hey Lexi. I'm seeing the same thing as almost everyone else. Sales are at about 20% of normal. This kind of thing has happened before, of course, but I don't think it usually goes on this long. Hopefully, they will get it fixed soon enough. I'm getting altogether too much writing done.

  7. Amazon moves in mysterious ways, and they are definitely up to something. I choose to believe that whatever it is they've been tinkering with at the start of this month will turn out to be brilliant for indie authors :o)


  8. "an author who lives in Malaysia" - I live in Bangkok and I've had no issues getting published on Amazon or staking my claim on Goodreads.

    Pubit of course is a non-starter but that applies to everyone who isn't a septic.