Amazon may feel like the wild west, but that’s only because they are profoundly opaque about how they police their policies, what they do when a problem appears, and how/when/if they enforce what they say they enforce.
That puts authors in a precarious position. We rely on Amazon for a major stream of our income, and a suspension or termination can cut off that stream like a dam on a river.
Worse, the random and capricious relationship between Amazon’s rules and its enforcement can be nerve-wracking. Something that’s in a grey area, which you’ve been doing for years with no problem, could suddenly land you with a suspension…or a simple misunderstanding on your part (or a friend trying to “help” with limited information).
There’s not much we can do about Amazon’s rules, or how they enforce them. But if you end up on the wrong end of enforcement, here’s what you can do.
Step One: Understand the Rules
The best way to deal with a suspended or terminated Amazon account is to not let it happen in the first place. Although Amazon’s rules are complex, opaque, and ever-changing, the following are the most common reasons accounts get banned. Avoid these behaviors at all costs.
- Publishing copyrighted material where you don’t own the copyright.
- Infringing on a trademark.
- Having more than one KDP Account, unless the subsequent accounts are for new businesses with different EIN numbers.
- Publishing multiple iterations of books with the same content.
- Enrolling in Kindle Unlimited with books that are available anywhere except on Kindle (including your own website).
- Using spam or paid reviewers.
- Posting books with pornography, hate speech, gratuitous physical violence, or the promotion of terrorism.
- Creating book descriptions that inaccurately reflect the content, or that use misleading meta descriptions.
Step Two: Suspension vs. Termination
Most of the time, a termination of your account won’t happen until you’ve suffered one or more suspensions, then continued with the behavior banned under Amazon rules.
When your account is Suspended, this is a temporary freeze on your account because Amazon thinks you have violated their rules. Nothing gets deleted or eliminated, but everything is on hold until the matter gets squared away.
When your account is Terminated, the account is completely eliminated. All of your listings are deleted from Amazon and your connection with them is severed. Even if you are able to get the account reinstated, it’s likely all of your data will be gone forever. You will need to recreate your Amazon presence from scratch.
Obviously, although you don’t want either to happen to your KDP account, a suspension is much more favorable than a termination.
Step Three: If You Are Suspended
If your account gets suspended, it can be tempting to just wait out the suspension then carry on. Resist this temptation.
Remember: account terminations usually happen to accounts that have been suspended that did not change their behavior. If you get suspended, check for an email from Amazon. It will tell you when you’ve been suspended, for how long, and the reasons for the suspension.
If you were suspended for a good reason, immediately respond with a polite message describing the steps you will take to avoid getting suspended in the future. Go make any changes or fixes necessary to fix things from your side. Once you’ve completed the steps you promised, reach out to Amazon customer service again saying you’re finished. In many cases, the suspension will be lifted early.
In most cases, you will be able to do this simply by replying to the email you were sent. If not, you can use the website for Amazon Author Central Support to create a service ticket.
If you were suspended in error, the solution is very similar. Respond as quickly as you can explaining why the suspension is in error, and ask for what proof they need that you are innocent. You will receive one of two replies: they will tell you how to prove it, or insist that they were correct to suspend you.
If the former, take the list of things you can do to prove you should not have been suspended, then go do all of those things. Reply when you’re finished with the proof attached to the email. This process may require multiple iterations as they ask you to drill down with some of the proof, but in the end you should get reinstated.
If the latter, your best bet is to act as though the suspension is legitimate. Even if you disagree, your reinstatement will be faster that way than if you fight Amazon on this point. It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. The only exception is if the suspension is over something you can’t change or fix. If that’s the case, ask for clear direction about how to fix your account, then follow those directions.
Step Four: If You Are Terminated
If your account is terminated for cause, you are out of luck and out of options. Check out Step Five below for what to do.
If your account is terminated in error, you can fight the termination. Amazon will provide you with a list of reasons for the terminations, and (after some effort and patience on your part), ways to prove that the termination was unjust.
When you get that list of ways, take the time to prove your innocence. If you follow the directions, Amazon will let you back on. This may take a while. During the wait, take some time to gather the book descriptions, cover files, text files, and other material you will need to re-upload once your account is reinstated. The more you have those ducks in a row, the faster you will be back up and running once things work in your favor.
Some authors have reported that dealing with an unjust termination goes more smoothly if you hire a lawyer. That’s probably true, but not a lot of authors make enough money off their Amazon accounts to make that expense worth it. It’s up to you whether or not you want to go that route.
Either way, expect a long process and some frustration. Remain polite. Offer solutions. Have each conversation or email exchange with the mindset that you will find a solution, and surprisingly often a solution will present itself.
Step Five: When All Else Fails
If your account is irrevocably terminated, you have two options.
First, you can create a new business for your publishing pursuits. This must be a brand-new corporation or LLC with a new name and EIN. Use it to create a new KDP account from a new email address. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to do business from that account almost like nothing happened.
With one exception.
If you publish the same books you published from your previous account, Amazon will likely flag your account and terminate the new one as well. You will be starting over. Yes, that sucks. No, it’s not always a reason to just give up on the scope and reach of Amazon entirely. You can publish your older books wide with other retailers.
Second, you can go ahead and create your own audience using mailing lists, social media, public appearances, and similar methods. This gives you more power over your publishing, but also represents more work.
Honestly, we recommend both. Ideally, you will have been doing the second option all along so you just have to shift focus if Amazon decides not to work with you anymore.
Above all, when something like this happens, you must remain calm.
Let me rephrase that. Take all the time you need to freak out, yell, cry, throw things, and complain to your friends. When you are dealing with Amazon, remain calm. Approach the problem like a puzzle, and solve the puzzle.
Amazon may not be fair, but they have all the power in this relationship. That means, no matter how badly they treat you, it’s on you to stay on topic and focused. It’s not right or just, but it is the reality of being a KDP author.