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How Indie Authors Prove Publishing Rights

How Indie Authors Prove Publishing Rights

In this post, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team looks at what you should do if Amazon or any other third party ask you to prove your publishing rights.

Proof of rights ownership is actually very straightforward for indie authors. If you have self-published, and no third party is involved, you are indisputably the rights holder. Here's how to show that.

Sometimes requests from rights buyers are framed in ways that confuse an author. The rights buyer is used to dealing with third-party publishers, and may ask for proofs that you don't have, or don't even understand, while failing to ask for things that would easily establish proof, because they are not used to dealing with author-publishers.

A simple declaration of ownership, with links to your website, particularly your sales pages and bio, is usually sufficient proof for rights buyers like an overseas publisher, TV or film agent, or suchlike, particularly if you write from an email address with the same name as your official author website.

Occasionally, ALLi Members have run into rights buyers who want more. In the absence of registered copyright documentation (which most authors outside the US don’t have), the best option is your ISBN record.If you’ve purchased your own ISBNs (ALLi’s recommendation) a screenshot of your ISBN account showing your name as owner, your imprint name and your books' ISBNs displayed also.

Other “proofs” include:

  • Invoices and bank statements for editing, design, promotion and other publishing costs from both your end as the publisher and from the supplier side
  • Affidavits from distributors like IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive or StreetLib

Any one of these should be more than enough.

Proving Rights Ownership to Amazon KDP

While the aim of indie authors is true independence, many of us still rely heavily on one self-publishing platform: Amazon KDP. When you receive a warning from KDP about having your publishing account closed, or your affiliate account shut, or your book pulled unless you can prove you own the rights to one of your books, it's scary.

The tone of the email doesn't help but 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, but 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 show that you are not only the publisher, but also the author, all will be well.

The challenge for most of us is knowing what triggered the email and what kind of proof they are looking for, as communications with KDP support desk are not always clear, and sometimes can go round in circles for a very long time.

Time you may feel you don't have, with a five-day deadline looming over you.

Why Does 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 to Amazon

Again, the way KDP or ACX frame their requests leaves authors puzzled and confused. The problem is that many indie authors don't have many of those suggested proofs, which are really aimed at third-party publishers. We are publisher and author. Why would we sign a contract with ourselves?

While many US authors register copyright, most of those based outside the US do not, so sending copyright proof isn't a viable option for most of us.

And to add to the confusion, indie authors submitting some of the suggested proofs have met with varying responses from KDP and ACX support desks.

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.

In summary, one of the outstanding advantages of self-publishing is being able to reach your readers without having to

As you mature as a writer and publisher, your rights become ever more valuable. When somebody asks you to prove them, they will be relieved to know you are both author and publisher and that there is no complicated rights or permissions trail to get lost in.

Just tell them who you are, what you do, and point them to your website. Unless it's Amazon in picky mode, or a rights' buyer with a particular process, nine times out of ten, that will be more than enough.

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This Post Has 18 Comments
  1. I’m going through this right now with KDP, and it feels like I’m talking to a wall.
    I provided them screenshots from the account of my previous publisher which shows my pen name, the works I’ve published with them, isbn, book formats and even covers. I even attached an email where it clearly states that my contract with the old publisher ended August 16. I’ve been shot back with emails from KDP saying it’s not enough evidence.
    How can it not be? Are they even checking what i send them? It’s frustrating because I really don’t know anymore what kind of proof to send them.
    The last email said that because the email i used with the old publisher doesn’t match the one KDP they can’t confirm that i own the copyrights. What a logic.
    I’m planning to contact my old publisher and ask them for a statement. I just fear they will take too much time to respond and ask for a payment. I really don’t want to pay for an email.
    Funny thing is they already accepted the ebook version of the same work but now I’m being haunted by the printed version. Should i just delete it or revert as draft and try again later?

  2. Rushmore press publisher my book on Amazon and another book website, later I find out Rushmore press is Scam from Philippines. Since ghey publisher my book I didn’t get any royalties, at all. My contact was only for one year. I talk to Amazon and asked them to remove my book from website, they refused.
    What should I do? Any ideas? Or suggestions

  3. Rushmore press publisher my book on Amazon and another book website, later I find out Rushmore press is Scam from Philippines. Since ghey publisher my book I didn’t get any royalties, at all. My contact was only for one year. I talk to Amazon and asked them to remove my book from website, they refused.
    What should I do? Any ideas? Or suggestions

  4. I am going through this with Amazon right now. I was advised to wait until 1 week before my launch to publish on Amazon, now I wish I had done it weeks ago. I am hoping this documentation works. I had sent in just my trade name registration before and “that wasn’t enough”
    Yes, I am freaking out about having my ebook ready in time for my launch date now 6 days away! I agree, it’s VERY frustrating that they don’t tell you what the actual problem is. I have now sent screen shots of my ISBN ownership , my registration of my trade name (imprint) and screen shots from Ingramspark. I hope that fixes this.

  5. ACX (Audible) is now doing something similar. I recently had an email from ACX asking me to provide proof of copyright for two unposted titles in my ACX account. I sent various screenshots including my KDP account showing both titles and the Nielsen Title Editor. ACX still insisted on proof in the form of US Copyright registration which I don’t have as I am a non-US author. Following further emails, ACX moved the goalposts in asking me for documentation about my account , not copyright per se.

    This has still not been resolved even after a couple of weeks but there are some useful tips in this post that hopefully will help in resolving the issue.

  6. I have an Amazon account in my name, and I wish to publish an author who is already selling his book from his own website.

    I have bought all the publishing rights from the author.

    Which documentation will I be required to send to Amazon?

    Can the author simply send an email to Amazon (from an email account that’s listed on his website), confirming that I own all the publishing rights?

    Does the author need to provide any other documentation, tax information, contracts, etc. to Amazon?

  7. 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

  8. 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.

      1. Hi,

        I’ve gotten the email as well and submitted documentation that the KDP account holder is a business. The business uses pen names for publication. However I keep getting template responses. This is the most recent:

        We’ve reviewed the information you provided. Based on our review, we’re unable to confirm that you hold the necessary publishing rights.

        The information you provided is insufficient because of the following concerns:
        • A valid signature is missing from one or both parties
        • The document(s) signatures are not valid because they are typed into the document(s)
        • The document(s) does not list the title of the book
        • The title of the book listed on the document(s) does not match the title you entered in your KDP account
        • The document(s) does not list the author of the book
        • The author of the book listed on the document(s) does not match the author you entered in your KDP account
        • The document(s) does not list the full name of one or both parties

        Any assistance from this group will be appreciated. I have many books on KDP and never had this issue before. I wonder if a human is actually viewing my messages or if it is just a bot. I have begun to solicit legal documentation to submit to Amazon.

        1. Yes, this is a common occurence and rights holders having nothing to fear from it. Just work with Amazon KDP support desk to prove your copyright ownership and all will be fine.

    1. Hello! I just received “The Email” from KDP after my attempt to publish a second collection of essays/reflections I wrote and posted directly on my website. KDP published my first book with no problem/no request for publishing rights or copyright proof, and it was a collection of essays/reflections I wrote and posted directly on my website. When formatting both books on KDP and going through the publication steps, I selected the option to have KDP assign the ISBN numbers.
      Here’s the most recent reply from KDP after my attempt to prove that the content of the second book is indeed mine, that I own the copyrights for it all:

      Thanks for your message regarding the following book(s):

      Paying Attention: What a sturdy walking stick and a daily practice will teach you
      Liz Adamshick (AUTHOR) : PRI-4GSBFK4XKS2

      We’ve reviewed the information you provided. Based on our review, we’re unable to confirm that you hold the necessary publishing rights. The content closely matches content that is freely available on the web and we are not confident that you are the copyright owner. This type of content can create a poor customer experience, and is not accepted.

      The information you provided is insufficient because of the following concerns:

      • Documentation has not been provided to confirm you are the original author of the content.
      • We are unable to establish a match between your account and the website you’ve indicated.
      • We are unable to accept a personal statement by you that you have the publishing rights.

      I’m at a loss as to how I prove that I’m the original owner of the content, and not sure what they mean by “establishing a match” between my KDP account and the website.

      What do I need to do to move forward with this?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. Hoping you see this — may I ask where you obtained your info esp the bit about “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.”? Desperate to know! Because I’m concerned this essentially means anyone who is using pseudonyms for privacy / true anon (eg for safety reasons) cannot do so as registering will publicly link a legal name w the pseudonym!

      It also feels counter intuitive in the sense that surely amazon does not ask this of big publishers who have accounts with KDP? Because that would require every pseudonymous author to have registered business names (essentially) and surely there are tonnes of trad pub authors preserving their privacy.

      I know you also mentioned affidavit but I’m overseas so I don’t know if Amazon will take (for example) an Australian statutory declaration 🙁

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