The launch went well, the book shifting nearly 500 copies in the first couple of days. Then the downloads came in more slowly. Much more slowly. Okay, I've peaked and that's it, I thought.
Until I checked the book's product page on Amazon.
My rank had disappeared. I'd been in the top 100 chart for a couple of days, and this exposure is so valuable for generating further downloads. Once you reach the top 100, it can have a snowball effect. But my ranking had gone. Hence, my exposure had gone.
I contacted Amazon, a reply taking me past the end of the promotional period, at which the book increased to 99p and entered the paid charts... god only knew where because the book still had no rank.
The reply from Amazon was as follows:
We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.
While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.
Now, obviously I can reply to this (and I will) denying any intention of trying to manipulate chart positions and book downloads, but so would someone guilty. And from previous experience, trying to reach a person and not a robot can be difficult. Trying to get a reply that isn't copy and paste even more so.
The bottom line is this. I realise I am largely powerless and at the mercy of Amazon, and if I am innocent (and I am) then I will be treated as guilty, with no chance of appeal before the punishment.
In this case the punishment was being stripped of chart rank. Which basically means, my book didn't show in any chart listings on Amazon and the only way to know about my book would be to search for it manually. The effect has been crippling and, although my book is now showing again, I've completely missed any knock-on paid sales from a successful promotion, as well as missing a large chunk of audience while the book was still free. Further punishment, if I am unlucky enough to be convicted again of something I have no control over, is removal from Amazon altogether.
I am not alone.
This article is excellent and further evidence of authors being under the control of the Amazonian god we cannot contact or reason with.
Further anecdotal reports from fellow authors have shown my case is not isolated by any means.
Why I have been targeted, I'll probably never know. Either a large volume of downloads has triggered a robot to suspect foul play, or - more sinister - someone has targeted my book with a robot to make out as if I'm encouraging mass downloads unfairly. Either way, I'm snookered and what was a hugely successful book launch has evolved into a sales graph that would look pretty much the same if I'd not released a book at all.
Now, I'm a full-time pharmacist. I don't generate a huge amount of income at all through books and I don't write for money. But there are people who DO rely on Amazon income and this sort of issue could be catastrophic.
I have no answers, other than a refreshed inclination to look elsewhere to showcase my books. Amazon, I'm ever grateful to you for allowing me to self-publish and find a readership, but this is not how I expect to be treated.
I must extend my sincere thanks to those who downloaded the Maureen book and, if you haven't and wish to do so then please follow this link. The reception has been great and I appreciate my loyal readers so much.
And, for the first time my novella, The Anniversary - a festive jigsaw-like psychological thriller, Maureen this ain't - is free for a short while. (I set up the promotion before the above shenanigans began.) Please take a look and download if it appeals. But I find myself wishing for chart success now with the dread of repercussions beyond my control.
Maybe I should hope that some of you download the book, and not lots...
Till next time.