Thursday, November 15, 2012

Letter to Amazon's "Community" Staff

I just got an email from ("We ban more authors by lunch than Barnes & Noble does in a week!") how I can attract potential readers to my author page (linked below. Hope that doesn't qualify as "spam" and violating your precious, corporately-generated TOS.)

Here's the problem, in case you haven't sussed it out, yet: By summer last year, Amazon had banned me, a longtime account holder (since 1999, two years after Amazon launched) and someone who'd purchased countless thousands of dollars of merchandise from you, no doubt making incrementally more miserable the lives of countless temp workers who toil their hearts out for little money in your sweatshop warehouses.

Mere months after I'd published my second novel through Kindle, I was banned for life from posting anything on any Amazon domain anywhere on the planet earth. This means no comments on message boards, no reviews, no comments on reviews, nothing. Every time I've reached you people about this issue, I get the same snotty, arch, canned response telling me you have "no intention of reinstating (my) posting privileges" as you hilariously call them. Furious, I set up a new account, only to be told by your invariably automated system that I had to buy something first before I'd get "posting privileges". Pay to play, in other words

This lifetime banning came about when a handful of right wing trolls, realizing they couldn't engage me legitimately on the message boards, decided to report me for "spamming". The "spamming" consisted of simply providing permalinks to my product pages in my tagline. Quite often when posting a message, I didn't even flog my books, which is part and parcel of being an independent author.

But your fascist automated system and a handful of right wing trolls are controlling the biggest, most pervasive bookselling site on earth. You may sneer and scoff at that but the proof is in the pudding. The more informed of us know that, as with Twitter, Facebook and virtually any other dot com behemoth on the internet, your system is completely automated and all it takes is for two or three complaints to come in, however specious and fallacious, about one person and the system shuts down that person with no appellate process and no chance to air their grievances. It's a fascist, one strike and you're completely out for life rule that alienates not only indie authors (off of whom you make money, so you're just cutting off both our noses to spite both our faces) but also your own customers.

So, I asked the girl on the other end of the phone today, how am I supposed to get people to go to my product page if I have no way of getting the word out? I do not do Facebook for much the same reasons I now refuse to buy merchandise directly from Amazon (I go through independent vendors) and Twitter and my blogs are problematic at best. You don't need a degree in marketing to know that if you want to have a prayer of reaching readers directly, you have to be able to do so at the bookselling site.

So I was banned for life by you fascist cunts for doing the same thing that other authors do, something I was told I'd have to do when I published my first Kindle novel. The agreement was simple and straightforward: We publish your book for free, you do the publicity.

But some right wing trolls had a problem with a liberal who knew how to skewer their arguments and make them look silly so they figured since they couldn't legitimately engage me, the next best thing was to make me disappear. So they gamed your automated system and got me kicked off Amazon for life for doing something that an author is supposed to do: Publicize their books. Only on can an indie author get banned for life worldwide for actually trying to sell a book.

I keep getting told by you people that I violated your TOS without you making the slightest effort whatsoever to explain how I'd done so. It's obvious you haven't the slightest fucking idea what you're talking about. I've reread your precious TOS with a fine tooth comb. Nowhere does it say that permalinks to product pages for legitimate books are a violation. Unlike the right wing trolls (who pride themselves on not reading or buying books, btw), I do not peddle hate speech. I am not a pornographer. I am not a plagiarist. I am a legitimate novelist who'd been trying to do the same thing as a half a million other Kindle indie authors: Trying to make a buck.

And since your fascist system is completely automated, you lack the wherewithall to suggest to these right wing ass pirates that if they don't like a certain permalink, they can go on to the next message or if they choose not to read comments from a certain author, they can block them.

Instead, your automated system implements this scorched earth policy that begins with censoring like the Nazis of old all "offending" comments followed by a lifetime banning, like this isn't going to alienate authors who have a network and tell each other of the inherent dangers of publishing with an entity such as yours?

All you're doing by alienating legitimate indie authors is drive them to your competitor Barnes and Noble and their Nook platform.

In summation, your entire business model sucks. You bully publishers, you bully authors, you bully your customers, you bully and brutalize your warehouse order pickers and shippers and it was with anger and extreme regret on my part that the Justice Department dropped charges of price fixing against your corporation. You use your bloated size to bully everyone on the planet earth who doesn't see things Jeff Bezos' way. Entire publishers' catalogs disappear if you don't get the deep discounts you demand. Entire communities of authors disappear. You people are the Wal-Mart of the bookselling world: You offer cheap books at the expense of authors, publishers and warehouse workers. Frankly, I don't see how you people can sleep at night.

I only hope and pray that one day you get the attention of the good folks at Anonymous and your website, fittingly, also disappears forever in the ethers.

Robert Crawford

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