The Frustrating Side of Self-Publishing

This isn’t the blog post I planned to do, but it’s the one that I’m doing anyway. I’ve had a right morning of it, and I needed to vent, so fuck it. Here we go…

I ordered some author copies of my book last week from Amazon. Author copies are the same as regular copies, but I only pay the printing costs and it doesn’t impact my ‘sales’ rates. Anyway, when they arrived, I opened the box, and I could have cried. I didn’t, but that’s beside the point. Honestly, the quality of the books I received was dire. They were covered with smudges that looked like grubby fingerprints. Honestly, they were disgusting.

So, my first thought is, ‘What if these are being sent out to customers like this?’

Self-published books are not cheap to buy and I would be mortified if people were receiving them in the state that I received these. I truly appreciate every single person that has bought my book. So, if you received a copy that looked like those in the photos, please do let me know and I’ll get that sorted for you ASAP.

My second thought was, ‘I wonder how many other people have experienced this?’

I did the thing that we all do, and posted on FB about it. I’m in two fabulous self-publishing support groups and posted photographs there. When I tell you that SO MANY people have experienced the exact same thing as me, you wouldn’t believe that it was possible books are still going out looking like this. I received some great support and feedback from the lovely people in those groups. One lady told me to switch the covers from ‘matte’ to ‘glossy’ until the issue is resolved, which I have done, so fingers crossed that works.

At this point, I got in contact with Amazon Customer Services.

And from this moment onwards, it was a wild ride. It’s always the luck of the draw when you’re talking to Amazon Customer Services. Not that I have anything against them. I couldn’t do their job and I think that they’re treated like shit, most of the time. However, the first person I spoke to was useless. I asked for a refund and replacements to be sent to me, preferably fast-tracked, but I was told this wasn’t possible as, get this, Amazon print through a ‘partner’ service called AEU Sarl UK, meaning that they have no way to get new copies sent out to me ASAP. I would have to order again.

I want to point out here that the reason I ordered author copies in the first place was to send them to Barnsley Libraries, and now this is super delayed. Obviously, I wasn’t happy.

So, the customer services rep said that I could send the copies back for a full refund, which I agreed to do. I asked for contact information for AEU Sarl UK and, get this, I was told that they couldn’t give that information out. Like, what? She said that the best she could do was to put a note on the system that tells them I was not happy with the quality of the books. I said to please do that, but I’m fairly certain she was just appeasing me. After a little toing and froing about why they couldn’t give me the information of the people printing my book, I was told that she’d pass my email on and they would be in touch. I thanked her and decided to go about my day.

During this time, I’m reading comments from other self-published authors on my FB posts and I’m learning that other people have been allowed to keep their marked, gross copies, and still receive a refund.

Now, I will not sell these shitty copies, because they’re, well, shit. However, sending them back to Amazon means taking them to the post office and I’m far too lazy for that. Plus, what the hell are AEU Sarl UK going to do with my returned copies? Send them out to customers, more than likely. So, I tootle back over to Amazon Customer Services, and I’m put into contact with a fabulous customer service rep, who restored my faith in humanity. Shout out to Alwin!

Anyway, the customer services rep listens to my rant and says that he is sorry for my experience. Awesome start. Second, he says that he has a link to get into contact with AEU Sarl UK. Sounds promising? Nope. The link takes me to AEU Sarl UK’s page and then, when you ask a question, guess where it sends you? BACK TO AMAZON CUSTOMER SERVICES BECAUSE AMAZON FULFIL THE ORDER. I almost died. I explained this to Alwin and he apologised again, not that it was his fault at all. Long story short, Alwin checked with his lead and was able to allow me to keep the author copies AND receive a refund. So, I still don’t have contact information for AEU Sarl UK, but they should be contacting me soon. If not, I’m sure I can dig out some way to contact them in the meantime.

My question is this… Why the hell are Amazon not allowed to give me the contact information of the people printing my book?

It feels like I’ve walked into this strange parallel universe. This is so bloody weird to me, that I can’t wrap my head around it. Somebody suggested going through Kindle Direct Publishing to ensure that they are aware of the quality issues with the paperback. I did that. The response was astounding… “By looking at your recent order I am able to confirm that the books associated to this order were printed using a third-party printer. On some instances, when the ordering volume is high, we use third-party printers so that we can fulfill orders in a shorter period.” They did apologise for my experience and have said that my feedback will be used to further improve the service, but who knows?

This has not only been a huge waste of my day so far, but I have lost faith in the ability of KDP to publish books that are actually of a decent quality.

I NEVER thought that I would have to worry about the quality of the books being sent to customers. It never crossed my mind. I wonder whether this is something that traditionally published authors have to worry about too. I was considering self-publishing my second book without even putting it to traditional publishers, but now I am not so sure. For those of you out there, both self-published and traditionally published, what are your thoughts on this? Have you ever been through something similar? I look forward to hearing your thoughts. So that’s it. That’s my rant. Believe it or not, I tempered the language I used. It’s really frustrating to put yourself, and your book out there, only for the self-publishing service (THAT SHOULD BE RELIABLE) to fuck up. Anyway, here’s to my new glossy covers. Happy Holidays!

Here are the self-publishing FB groups for those interested:

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