While the aim of many indie authors is true independence, at the moment, many of us still rely heavily on one particular store: Amazon. Which is why when you receive a threat from them, like having your publishing account closed, or your affiliate account shut, or your book pulled unless you can prove you own the rights, it's scary. In this post, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team looks at what you should do if Amazon asks you to prove your publishing rights.
The first thing to say is: if you get a notice from Amazon KDP about publishing rights, don't panic. And don't take it personally. Yes, we know it's framed in threatening language, and promises dire consequences if you don't comply, but please remember it's triggered by a bot and is not personal.
There's a huge amount of plagiarism and piracy out there and what you've received is a standard, pre-written email that's triggered by a variety of different circumstances. Amazon has no interest in punishing legitimate rights holders so once you can demonstrate that you are not only the publisher, but also the author, all will be well.
The challenge for most author publishers is knowing why the email was triggered and what kind of proof they are looking for, as communications with KDP support desk are not always clear, and can take time.
Time you may feel don't have with a five-day deadline looming over you.
Follow this how-to guide and you should be fine.
Why Would Amazon Ask You to Prove Your Publishing Rights?
Here are some typical reasons why Amazon can ask you to prove you are the rights-holder of a book you've written and published:
- You are using two different ISBNs for the same book i.e., one ISBN on IngramSpark and one on KDP Print (which you shouldn't do, only use one ISBN per format. See our ultimate guide on ISBNs for information on how to use them correctly or download our short guide)
- Rights have reverted to you from a previous publisher but not been cleared by KDP
- You've had some other metadata change that implies (for whatever reason) a change in rights ownership
- You've changed your imprint name — this is something that can happen when you add an imprint name to your IngramSpark dashboard. You need to check it for each book you're publishing as it can default to the wrong one. If this happens, contact IngramSpark to change for you.
- Someone reports you for a copyright infringement (even if it isn't valid)
- A bot error
And, alas, it may just be some other unnamed and unexplained reason.
The Proof Requested
Depending on the type of alleged infringement, you're likely to receive an email with wording that goes something like this:
Thanks for using Amazon KDP. Copyright is important to us — we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else. To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within five days. If you publish books for which you do not hold the electronic publishing rights, your account may be terminated [or some other dire consequences].
It will also suggest “acceptable documentation”, which may include:
- A letter from a previous publisher reverting rights back to the author
- A signed copy of the agreement between you and the author
- A signed copy of the agreement between the author and the previous publisher
- A signed letter from the previous publisher indicating that they do not object to your edition
- Documentation showing the previous publisher holds nonexclusive rights
- If previously published through KDP or CreateSpace; an email from the address listed in the previous KDP/CreateSpace publisher's account indicating that they do not object to your edition
- If the author has an official website, an email from the address listed on the author’s official website indicating that they do not object to your edition
And it may outline examples of documentation they cannot accept including (but not limited to):
- A personal statement by you that you have the publishing rights
- A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed
- Contracts that have not been signed by all parties
- Ghostwriter agreements or contracts
- Private Label Rights documents
Proving Your Publishing Rights
The problem is that many indie authors don't have many of the suggested proofs. We're one-man bands wearing publisher, author, marketer and business owner hats all at the same time. Why would we sign a contract with ourselves?
Amazon is covering all the bases but the way they frame their request can leave an author puzzled and confused.
While many American indie authors register copyright, most of those based outside the US do not, so sending copyright proof isn't a viable option.
Futhermore, several indie authors submitting some of the suggested proofs have met with varying responses.
Proof Submitted with Mixed Success
Many ALLi members report submitting a range of evidence that has had mixed responses including:
- Invoices and bank statements for editing costs from both your end as the publisher and from the editor's end
- Similar invoices and statements for cover design invoices
- Strongly worded emails with website links, showing that they are the author
- Affidavits from distributors
- Approved copyright documentation
- Emails from an email address with the same name as your official author website
Proof Submitted with Consistently Positive Success Rates
- A screenshot of your ISBN account showing your name as owner and the imprint name. Ideally with your book's ISBN displayed also.
While ISBNs (depending on the country you reside) can be expensive, encounters like these with Amazon provide even more reason to purchase your own ISBNs, if you haven't already.
ALLi blog manager Sacha Black recently had “the email”.
The most frustrating thing was not knowing exactly what the issue was and having to guess. I tried submitting invoices and bank statements after reading threads in the member forum. But that was to no avail.
Thankfully, I remembered changing my imprint name and saw that the book metadata had defaulted to my author name instead of imprint.
I screenshot the processing information in my Ingram dashboard showing the date and time of metadata revision and then paired it with a screenshot of my Nielsen ISBN account. That seemed to do the job. But it was nerve-wracking not knowing exactly what the issue was, nor if I had any evidence that would be accepted.
If I didn't own my own ISBNs I'm not sure what would have happened. I suspect my preorder would have been cancelled and my book deleted.
Points to Note
- Expect at least 24 hours between emails from Amazon—something that adds to the stress of only having five days to sort the evidence.
- If you're finding your evidence is being rejected and you're a current member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, contact member support for help.
- Don't lose your temper with the support desk people. The help they can give is limited and you will not help your case by giving them a hard time.