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What To Do If Amazon KDP Asks You To Prove Your Publishing Rights

What to Do if Amazon KDP Asks You to Prove Your Publishing Rights

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:

Hello,

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.

Sacha Black

ALLi’s Blog Manager Sacha Black

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.
This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Are you lumping copyright and publishing rights together? Because sometimes Amazon will demand proof of your copyright ownership, and sometimes they will demand proof that you have publishing rights, and those are not the same thing. Does the answer to either demand seem to be the same documentation?

    1. As an author-publisher, you are both copyright owner and (unless you have licensed the rights, in which case you would not be publishing the book), thereby the owner of its publishing rights. So yes, the same documentation suffices for both, for a self-publishing, indie author

  2. I’ve also gotten the rights challenge email from Amazon if their bots have detected that the book’s content is “freely available on the Internet.” This sometimes happens after the book has already been approved for sale and even after it has been on sale for a while. It can be triggered from me sharing sample chapters of the book on my own website, as well as when I publish books where the content was serialized online first and then collected into a book for sale. Each time so far that that’s been the case, I’ve been able to send a strongly worded email and provide links saying YES, the content IS available on the Internet, right here on the website that matches the author/publisher name and therefore the rights are owned by us. I usually end by asking them to tell me if they’ve detected the text appearing anywhere ELSE since I would like to go after those pirates. They don’t reply to that, but they do tend to restore the book for sale after 2-3 days.

  3. I had a client go through this recently for an ebook. It was an original work. Not anything from a previous publisher. She screenshot her ISBN account. That didn’t work. She double-checked that everything matched. She does use a pen name but had published previously on Amazon under that pen name. No matter what she did she got the exact same email back. The ebook was submitted for pre-order everywhere else without a problem (Kobo, Apple, Nook, Google, D2D).

    She spoke with Author Central and they couldn’t help. Finally, she asked support to revert her book to DRAFT so she could work on it. We removed all material in the back matter that related to any traditionally published books in case the content was the problem This was in the ALSO BY author section. She submitted again. Same thing. Once again we asked it to be reverted. Then we deleted it from the account.

    Next we set up the paperback book. No problem. It sailed through. We waited a week and then using the metadata from the paperback book (outside of the ebook ISBN) and submitted it. It went through.

    I have two theories, neither of which can be proven because Amazon never says specifically what the problem is. Their email covers a myriad of possibilities and if none of them are true, I can only say it is a bot error. One theory I have is that because the ebook was for pre-order it was in a different Q&A loop than usual and that loop has more false positives. Theory Two as to why it was accepted after the paperback was in, is that using the already accepted paperback metadata to tie the ebook to that product, has it skip the logic that compares metadata to potential problems. The only difference in metadata between the paperback and ebook was the ISBN. A third theory, is that by the time we tied the ebook to the paperback, there was no reason to have the ebook on pre-order as there was only a week left to the release date.

    It would have been nice to try these theories in isolation, but that’s tough to do when one is freaking out about having their book available on time. As a last resort, we did discuss the possibility of not loading to Amazon direct and instead having D2D load. Fortunately, we did not have to take that approach as the percentage the client would lose (though appearing small) is significant if Amazon is the largest segment of their ebook income.

  4. The Amazon bots generally flag a book if the account name, imprint, and author name are not the same. And of course, they don’t have to be. What you need to provide them with is proof that the author name has given rights to publish to the account holder.

    If the account holder is a corporation, for example, and the author name is you personally, then you need a publishing agreement between the company and the person.

    If the account holder is you personally and the author name is a pen name, then you need to provide legal proof to amazon that you are using the pen name. Provide a declaration of trade name, affidavit, or DBA form showing that the pen name is a name you have adopted for your business.

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