The other day, I decided to make a few tweaks to my long-standing free story, A Summer Fling, with a view to making it exclusive to Amazon. No big deal, right? The only other place it was offered was Smashwords and All Romance Ebooks–also for free.
Last night, I received an alarming email from Amazon asking me to prove copyright or face permanent ban from publishing there again. Shocked, I consulted friends, who assured me this wasn’t that unusual and that it was probably in view of recent incidents of several people in my genre being impersonated online. I sent the required information back to Amazon and went to bed thinking it was over.
Imagine my surprise when I get a response from Amazon KDP that states due to an undisclosed third party claiming copyright, and their policy not to get involved in third party disputes, they have chosen not to publish my story. A story that had been on their site for three years. A story that is MINE.
Who could this mysterious third party be, hmmm? I have no proof, but I have suspicions. Which retailer–RETAILER, mind you, not publisher–recently massively screwed authors over by closing their doors with four days notice, sending an email out offering an insulting 10 cents on the dollar for owed royalties only on the promise that the author didn’t sue? Which retailer then allegedly told some authors they were holding the files of stories previously offered for sale on their site for the next seven years for tax purposes? Which retailer allegedly began manipulating sales data to reflect even less royalties owed than just 24 hours before? And which retailer has been accused of improperly reporting sales data in the past, and prevented authors from removing their books from the site (you could only inactivate them) while the allegations of unethical and illegal actions keep piling up?
Lori James and All Romance Ebooks, that’s who.
Let me just say this: the sum owed me initially wasn’t very large. I only had a few self-published titles with them. I’m not worried about the possibility of James or anyone else laying claim to my Dreamspinner Press titles–I know DSP will defend them. And after I neglected to capture the data in time (the download links would not work and I could only make screen caps of the info) and my reported royalties dropped by 2/3 with no way of proving it, I decided I would let it go. While some people may have signed publishing contracts with ARe, they merely hosted my self-published stories. They were not the publisher on record–I am.
But now SOMEONE is disputing copyright on a story I created and published myself. Someone has stolen not only my past income but threatening my future income. A Summer Fling is a lightweight little story written for the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads back in 2011. It’s not a story worth fighting over. But my other self-published titles once hosted by All Romance, books I can no longer retrieve from the site, ARE worth fighting for. So while I once considered letting this battle go, I can’t AFFORD To close my eyes to this. The possibility that someone associated with All Romance intends to set up shop again under another name, selling books they are not entitled to sell, is frightening.
For the most complete summation of the extent of fraud perpetrated by the management of ARe–and more importantly, what you can do to prevent them from getting away with this scott-free, please check out this valuable post: Publisher All Romance: Closing Hits New Low in Stealing from Authors. The details in this post are jaw-dropping. If these allegations are true, then criminal charges need to be filed.
So if you have been a victim of the recent actions of All Romance Ebooks, I invite you to file a report with the Florida Attorney General’s Office and The Department of Justice for Internet Crimes. Please spread the word to anyone you know who may be affected by this. If you are an author living in another country, please look into filing fraud charges in your country, making this an international crime.
In the meantime, I’ve put A Summer Fling back up on Smashwords. Snag a copy. Enjoy. And if you wouldn’t mind leaving a review, that would be helpful. But if you BUY this book anywhere online–you’ve been ripped off too.
EDIT: After having accepted that I am the copyright holder of A Summer Fling, Amazon’s position was that I did not have clear publishing rights to the story, based on the takedown notice of the third party they refused to name. After reviewing all the material I sent them, including the ARe agreement showing that they did not retain publishing rights to my self-published stories, Amazon/KDP still declined to reinstate A Summer Fling and advised me to hire a copyright lawyer if I wished to pursue the case further.
I’d been in contact with the publisher of the anthology in which A Summer Fling first appeared, and she took it upon herself to contact Amazon on my behalf. I also forwarded all my conversations with KDP and my documentation to Jeff Bezos. I asked only that the third party be named so I would know if I was dealing with a misunderstanding versus grounds for a lawsuit.
On 1/5/17, without any explanation other than on further review, they decided to reverse their decision, Amazon has reinstated A Summer Fling back on its listings. Heck, it’s even a freebie again.
I’ll probably never know for sure what changed their minds. Could it have been the amount of noise I made? Being contacted both by Al Jazeera and a Tampa reporter wishing to interview authors affected by the abrupt closure and failure of ARe to pay owed royalties? Was this all due to a misinterpretation of my rights to the story? Or did Mr. Bezos have someone review my detailed information and reverse the decision? There’s no way to tell. If this is the only incident of this nature, I’ll chalk it up to experience and a lesson learned about protecting the right to publish my own stories.
If it happens again with one of my self-published stories, there is only one party that could even remotely attempt to contest my publishing rights–and then I’ll have my answer, won’t I?