Amazon blocked my book. Why? I don’t know.

Last Monday, I logged onto my Amazon author’s page and much to my surprise, I learned that my book, BONE GIRL, was blocked. Amazon refused to sell it.

BLOCKED2I immediately emailed the company and received no response. I sent a second email on Tuesday and again, I received no response. Meanwhile, BONE GIRL could not be bought in e-book form on Amazon. It was and is still available at Nook, Kobo and iBook. Smashwords, the distributor I used for my books, had no qualms with BONE GIRL.

On Wednesday, I received an email. Amazon demanded I prove I am the author of BONE GIRL. Okay. No problem. I publish the book via my own small press, Baskethound Books. I sent them an image of my business license. On Thursday, I sent them a copy of the copyright for BONE GIRL. This is the only book I have bothered to seek a copyright for, and I did it only so that I could submit it to a writing contest.

On Thursday, I made the mistake of publishing my experiences to a writer’s board called KBoards. I asked if other authors had the experience of Amazon suddenly and without warning blocking their book. The replies soon came and with them, the venom of my fellow writers. Here’s what those writers had to say: Of course Amazon blocked your book: it has the word “bone” in the title; it must be erotica. Of course Amazon blocked your book: you are copy-catting the best book of 2014: GONE GIRL. It’s obvious: just compare the movie poster to your cover. How dare you? I expressed my innocence: I’ve never read GONE GIRL. I didn’t even see the movie. My book cover features a horse; the movie poster features Ben Affleck. How similar are those? In the end, I asked that my profile be removed from KBoards.

Some writers think Amazon doesn’t help anyone but itself. I don’t know if that’s true. But, I’m foolish enough to wonder if Amazon blocked BONE GIRL with no warning and no explanation, what is to stop them from blocking A YEAR WITH GENO or any of my other books? Will I just log on one day and see that they are not for sale? Maybe.

Some authors publish their books only on Amazon, and I have chosen that route on occasion in the past. But now I’m asking: is it possible for me to publish my books without using Amazon at all? Well, maybe. For example, my readers love print books. Okay. What if I choose – and I do love that word – to publish CELEBRATION HOUSE and its two sequels only in print? I could do it via Ingram Spark. Then, if readers want a copy, they visit Barnes & Noble in person or online and buy one there. Or they could go to their local independently owned bookstore and request the book. It’s not like I’m a bestselling author. Not yet.

As for ebooks, what if I publish with Smashwords only? Readers could buy it from Kobo, iBook or Nook. It’s still available, just not on Amazon. This idea intrigues me: is there life without Amazon?

One last thing: what really bothers me about Amazon and its decision to block my book is that there’s no accountability. I queried them three times to ask why. Why did they block my book? But they do not tell me. They have no phone number. I have only the option of sending emails. It’s kind of like KBoards. The people who post there, especially the venomous ones, do not have a public profile. They like to remain anonymous. That way, they can say whatever they want and there’s no accountability. Hmm. Does that seem like cowardice? I don’t know. What do you think?

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, still trying to learn how to manage an event venue

P.S. I forgot to say: Amazon removed the block yesterday. Why? I don’t know.

Formatting for Dummies

In three days, I will self-publish my second book, Bone Girl.

Unlike Celebration House, this novel required much more of me than just writing and editing. Because it’s self-published and I have a budget of, oh, let’s see, NOTHING, I did all of the work myself. When I say work, I mean writing, editing, revising, proofreading and my least favorite activity of all time, formatting. In fact, I’ve spent nearly every free minute of the last week learning to format my book. (Note – the amazing cover art was the work of Jason Gurley. Wouldn’t it make a great movie poster? I think so too).

Because I am naive. I believed all of the websites when they said how simple it is to self-publish an e-book. Easy! Just download your manuscript in a .doc or .docx format. Yeah. Well, no.

You start with Smashwords because they will distribute your e-book to many of the major retailers, such as Apple, Kobo, iBook and Nook. But Smashwords’ “meat grinder” as they call their computer program and no, I’m not making this up – forbids any extraneous formatting in the document. Thus, the first thing you must do is copy and paste your manuscript to a Notepad document, then copy and paste it back to a word document. The nearest I can figure, and I read those instructions many, many times, this “nuclear” treatment removes any underlining and thus problematic formatting. But it removes a few other things too like indents, italics, chapter breaks, line spacing, etc.

Then there’s Kindle. Be sure any words you want centered do not have an indent or they will look, well, weird, and, uh, off-center. Also, pages must be separated by a hard return, a page break.

Not so on Nook Press, which is Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform. Nook requires a section break, so kindly delete all of the page breaks from the manuscript for Kindle and insert section breaks for the manuscript for Nook. My Aunt Mary Rose is waiting for this book to be available on Nook, so by golly, I’m gonna make sure it’s there.

Oh, and then there’s the print version. That manuscript must be in a .pdf file. I haven’t even started on that project yet. You see, creating a print version takes money and I’m rubbing two nickels together. Because honestly, I could have paid someone to do much of the work for me. But, no. I’m too cheap.

Or perhaps, to be brutally honest, I’m too broke. Three days ago, I tiptoed into my bedroom and as my husband was just starting to wake, I whispered in his ear, “Honey, I just spent $275 on our ISBNs.” His response: “What’s an ISBN?”

An ISBN is a number assigned to every book, fiction or nonfiction, to help booksellers keep track of inventory.To clarify, Bone Girl requires three ISBNs: one for the e-book, one for the print version and one for the audio book. Oh, yes, it’s going to be available in audio format also. Exciting, isn’t it?

I know I sound whiny as I relate the ugly albeit boring details of how I’ve spent the last week, but I take this treasure away: I can do this. With patience and perseverance, I can learn to format an e-book. Maybe you can too…

Bone Girl is not going to be perfect. At least, not this first edition. There may be too much white space or a chapter heading that looks a little drunk, but my hope is that readers will be too engrossed in the story to say, “Holy buckets! She’s got an extra return on this page.”

And this sense of accomplishment, wow! It’s like a drug. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but every time I learn one more technical step, even if it’s a basic one like composing a page on my blog with one column rather than two, well, I just glow. I’m so proud that this 45-year-old dog learned a new trick. I hope you feel this way when you overcome a tech challenge.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon templates that authors can purchase to help format their e-books and print versions. I plan on using one for the print version of Bone Girl. They’re fairly inexpensive – about $30-$40. Sounds like a real timesaver. Ah, heck, where’s the fun in that?

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Letting it go.