October 12, 2017

I Am at War with Amazon
Today’s blog is only partly table tennis related. In fact, the main connection is that I’m doing a lot less table tennis stuff temporarily as I’m spending more time in my battle with Amazon, plus of course I sell table tennis books on Amazon. Here’s the situation.

I’ve used Amazon for years, both as a buyer and seller. I have an author page there with 13 books – eight table tennis, six science fiction. (“The Spirit of Pong” counts as both, so yes, 8+6=13.) I make a pretty decent living selling my books there (along with coaching).

On October 31, my new science fiction novel is coming out, “When Parallel Lines Meet.” I co-wrote it with Mike Resnick (a legendary SF writer) and Lezli Robyn. We even had a launch party for it at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention this past weekend. I have ten preliminary copies, though it doesn’t officially come out until Halloween. (That’s a coincidence.)

Here’s the problem. On the kindle and audio versions, it correctly has all three of us as authors. But on the print version, it only has Mike Resnick.

I pointed this out to our publisher months ago when the novel first showed up for pre-orders, and he contacted Amazon. When you have an author or publisher page, as we do, there’s a “contact us” link at the bottom of the page, so contacting them is easy. Three weeks went by, and nothing happened, so I contacted the publisher again. He was irritated, saying that he’d been getting bureaucratic problems at Amazon, and hadn’t been able to get them to make the correction.

Now I’ve been through this before, where I needed Amazon to make such changes, and it’s a quick fix on their end. So I told the publisher I’d take care of it. I contacted Amazon, requesting they put Lezli and me on as co-authors, and pointed out the facts:

  1. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors in both the kindle and audio versions.
  2. My Amazon author’s page links to the book as being one of my books.
  3. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the publisher’s page.
  4. Lezli and I are listed as co-authors on the actual COVER of the book.

Now things get insane.

An agent from Amazon responded, asking if I’d like to be listed as the Illustrator for the book. (!!!) I responded by pointing out I wasn’t the illustrator, I was a co-author, and could you please make the correction.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was a co-author of the book. Gritting my teeth, I explained that I had already done so, but gave all the info above again.

The next response was a request for me to show that I was co-author of the book. This was written right above where I had given all this info. I pointed out that I had already done so, and what other proof did they need? Did they believe I co-authored the kindle and audio versions, but not the print version that had my name on the cover?

The next response was that they would forward the info to the proper people to make the change. I then waited about five days, with nothing happening. I then contacted them again, asking the status. The response? A request for proof that I was co-author of the book. I gave all the info again, while pointing out that it was all there in front of them, in previous emails.

This went on in various ways for approximately 15 emails, where I kept repeating the same info. The problem was that a different agent was responding each time, and none took the time to look at previous emails or files.

Finally, an agent responded by saying that, golly gee, I was right, I was co-author of the book! He promised to have the change made, but that it might take up to four days for it to appear.

Minutes after receiving this, I received another email from another agent telling me that for me to be listed as a co-author, I needed to be registered as an author as Amazon. I responded by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, and that I had given links to my Amazon author page in at least ten different emails, and gave it again.

The response (again from another agent) was that I needed to register with Amazon as an author before they could put me down as co-author. As my head exploded, I again pointed out I was registered with Amazon as an author, and gave the link again, and asked if there was anything else I needed to register with.

The response (I am not making any of this up) was they would put me down as a co-author if I registered as an author with Amazon. These were not automated responses; these were actual responses from different agents, none of whom seemed to be looking at previous emails.

I responded again by pointing out that I was a registered author at Amazon, but if there was some other registration they wanted me to do, let me know and I would do that as well.

The response was a request that I register as an author at Amazon.

So I again responded, this time sarcastically, giving all the info above, giving my author’s page again, links to the kindle and audio versions, the publisher’s page, and challenging them to actually look at the cover of the book. I then explained that I was a journalist, and I am now considering writing all this up for the New York Times. Never, I pointed out, have I ever faced such bad customer service. Apparently it’s easier to register to own a machine gun in America than it is to register as an author at Amazon even after you are already registered as an author at Amazon!

The response this morning? A personal apology for all the problems I have gone through, and a promise that they would put Lezli and me down as co-author of the book I co-authored . . . as soon as I registered with Amazon as an author.

As I was about to post this, I got another email from still another agent at Amazon, who also apologized for the inconvenience – and asked if I would register as an author at Amazon so they could put me down as co-author. I’ve now sent them about 30 emails, and gotten about an equal number in response. I’ve explained in about 20 different emails that I am a registered author at Amazon, with a link to my author’s page. Since it took about 20 emails to convince them I was a co-author of the novel (despite this being incredibly obvious), will it take 20 emails to convince Amazon that, by golly, I am a registered author at Amazon, with an Amazon author page and everything!!!

I’m reaching the point where soon I’ll have spent as much time and typed as many words as I did in writing my portion of the novel itself. This is the ultimate in bureaucratic insanity. Maybe I should threaten to sue them if they refuse to put me down as an author of my own book? I can show monetary damages (a central requirement of lawsuits) by the very fact that they won’t put me down as author of my own book. If someone wants to buy the print version of the book because I wrote it, the page doesn’t show me as an author.

UPDATE ADDED AROUND 12:45 PM THURSDAY - The idiots (at this point that's the only word that fits) just asked me to provide a screen shot of the error. Think about it - I've provided the link that goes to their own Amazon page where they can see I'm not listed as co-author of the novel I co-wrote, but rather than look at that page, they insist I provide a screen shot of it!!! 

UPDATE ADDED 7:30 AM FRIDAY - I received two separate emails from Amazon. One said they would make the correction within 96 hours (just as a previous one had said a week ago). The other? It said that if I registered (there we go again!) "then we will check for the amount that is charged to you and proceed the refund." Complete lunacy since I was never charged for anything or asked for a refund. 

UPDATED ADDED SATURDAY NIGHT - They finally put my name down as co-author after dozens of emails and constant non-sensical responses. Only - despite my request in EVERY SINGLE EMAIL that Lezli Robyn and I be put on as co-authors, they only put me, leaving Lezli off. I have never seen such constant blundering. Anyway, I'm running the MDTTC October Open this weekend, but will go back on my quest to get them to get this right. Who knows how many dozens of hours it'll take. Here's the print version, with Lezli's name missing. 

UPDATE ADDED MONDAY MORNING - I won!!! This morning they added Lezli Robyn's name to the print version. It only took about 30 emails and many hours of work. Here's the print version, with Lezli and my names both on it!!!  

MDTTC October Open
Here’s the info page. I’m running the 3-star tournament this weekend. Deadline to enter is 7PM Friday. Some events might fill up before that, so enter early!

Spin Is the Answer. What’s the Question?
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Online Coaching
Here’s the podcast (30:50) from PingSkills, which covers numerous other topics as well.

Liu Shiwen in Search of Unprecedented Fifth Title
Here’s the ITTF article about the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

Large Turnout for Annual Sports Science Meeting
Here’s the ITTF article on the JTTA Sport Science and Medicine Committee International Meeting.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2017
Here’s the video (10:15).

Table Tennis Manager Game and Trailer
Here’s the video (28 sec) advertising a new online table tennis game, Table Tennis Manager – and it’s FREE.

Angry Doubles Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

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