Setting The Record Straight: Missing Bestseller Reappears Amid Rumor And Speculation.

Twenty days after it mysteriously vanished from Kindle UK, our bestselling novel Sugar & Spice finally reappeared overnight, just as coverage of the problem peaked. We can only speculate as to whether this bad publicity for Amazon helped speed the process.

But amid the understandable concern that most fellow authors expressed, some naysayers jumped on the bandwagon to suggest Amazon had deliberately pulled the book due to some policy breach and that we were desperately trying to cover this up with a fabricated story about a missing link.

I guess the problem when dealing with a bunch of fiction writers is that they have overdeveloped imaginations.

At the time of writing we have not had confirmation from KDP that the book is back, nor any final explanation ofย  what caused the problem, but let’s be absolutely clear:

Amazon did not “pull the book”ย  – this was a technical glitch, that has happened to other authors as well as us. It is only the fact of this book’s bestseller status and the twenty days it took Amazon to rectify the problem that has brought this to everyone’s attention.

For the record I reproduce below all the emails from KDP so far concerning this issue.

*

During the latest frenzy of exchanges over what really happened with Sugar & Spice there were some widely publicized suggestions that we were trying to “game the system” by having a US Edition and a UK version of this novel.

This is an appropriate place to set the record staright on this matter too.

We took numerous negative reviews from American readers who complained about bad-spellings (British English!), British slang, and not understanding the British police and criminal justice system. Even Red Adept marked us down because she didn’t understand certain UK prison-slang terms, and she also made comment about the British spellings.

Bear in mind this was a British novel writen by two British authors, set in Britain with British characters in British locations and institutions, and written in British English.

In the event we took the decision to totally rewrite Sugar & Spice for the US market. Not just American English. We relocated the entire story to New York state, with American characters, American locations and the American criminal justice system. It took us almost as long to research and rewrite the US version as it did to write the original.

We elected to use the same cover (with US Edition clearly marked) precisely so as not to mislead buyers into thinking this was an entirely new novel. Both novels are available and readers can make a clear choice as to which one they elect to read.

The comments about gaming the system are both inaccurate and grossly offensive.

What follows are all the responses from KDP to date regarding the missing book. It should be clear from reading these that there was never at any time any suggestion that the book had “been pulled”.

 

From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Subject: Your Amazon KDP Inquiry
Date: 9 November 2011 16:08:17 GMT
To: private email address
Reply-To: “kdp-support+A39ODZM0GJRD5X@amazon.com”

Hello Sarah,

I’m very sorry for any frustration this issue has caused. We’ll need a little time to look into where your book went.

We will contact you with more information by the end of the day on 3-5 business days.

Thanks for your patience.

Regards,

Laverne L.
Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com
=============================
Connect with KDP and other Authors on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing

***

From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Subject: Your Amazon KDP Inquiry
Date: 14 November 2011 00:09:35 GMT
To: private email address
Reply-To: “kdp-support+AHN9MCTCMHP3M@amazon.com”

Hello Sarah,

I’m sorry for the delay in resolving your issue concerning the availability of your Kindle title on the UK Kindle store.

My colleague is currently researching your issue with the technical team and will follow-up with you shortly with a resolution. It usually takes 1-2 business days for this sort of research, but in this case it’s taking a little longer. I’m very sorry about this delay.

Further, Amazon KDP will not reimburse for any lost sales of your Kindle title. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause to you.

Thanks for your cooperation. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Regards,

Hemanth Badri
Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com
=============================
Connect with KDP and other Authors on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing

***

From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Date: 19 November 2011 05:54:26 GMT

To: private email address
Subject: Your Amazon KDP Inquiry
Reply-To: “kdp-support+A3PSIUGNGSVDW4@amazon.com”

Hello,

I’m extremely sorry for the delay this issue has caused. One of my colleagues is currently working with the appropriate department regarding this.

It usually takes 1-2 business days for this sort of research, but in this case it’s taking a little longer. I’m very sorry about this delay.
She’ll be in touch shortly with an answer for you. Thanks for your patience.

Regards,

Seeta C

***

From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Date: 23 November 2011 19:12:51 GMT
To: private email address

Subject: Your Amazon KDP Inquiry
Reply-To: “kdp-support+A2GS6B4V1HRXYL@amazon.com”
Hello Sarah,

I understand your concern, and I apologize for the trouble you’ve been having.

This issue had already been raised to our tech team for research, and they’re currently working on a fix. They have identified that the issue is with a search attribute associated with your Kindle title. I have now notified them to have this worked upon on top priority, and get it fixed ASAP.

We should have this resolved very soon. I will also have one of my team members check on the status of the issue constantly, and get back to you as soon as the issue is resolved.

Again, I’m very sorry for any inconvenience caused due to this delay.

Thanks for your understanding.

Regards,

Karthik
Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com

***

From: Kindle Direct Publishing
Date: 26 November 2011 11:16:20 GMT

To: private email address
Subject: Your Amazon KDP Inquiry
Reply-To: “kdp-support+A2I42YI377EDEX@amazon.com”
Hello Sarah,

I am very sorry for any frustration that this issue had caused.

I see that this issue is still being investigated by the appropriate team. We’ll try to resolve this issue as soon as possible and get back to you to notify the same.

Thanks four your understanding and for your patience.

Regards,

Anuradha Baskaran
Kindle Direct Publishing
http://kdp.amazon.com

 

We’ll update with any further observations from KDP if any are forthcoming.

Meanwhile a huge thankyou to everyone who expressed their support publicly (especially to David Gaughran for making sure this issue got a far wider coverage) or privately.

 

MW and Saffi

*

Sugar & Spice is available as it has always been from amazon.com and is now available once again at amazon.co.uk.

 

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  1. And what about all your reviews?

    Does Amazon back up their authors’ pages so when something like that happens, they don’t lose all their readers’ efforts as well?

    If you lost the reviews, it will be like a new book and you have to start all over again! That would be so sad ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    This is a big problem for us writers: we don’t own the content on these mega sites and all the incredible effort we put into collecting reviews can vanish in an instant…

    Le’s hope for the best and that your reviews go back up…
    Wish you luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Miriam Joy
    • November 29th, 2011

    At least it came back eventually! That’s something, right? And having your reviews will mean that people will start buying it again – you said in a previous post (or was it on WG2E?) that it was probably putting people off so they weren’t buying your other books.
    # always look on the bright side of life …#

  2. (Must resist temtation to start whistling.. or trying to whistle in her case…)

    I’m SO glad it got found! yeah!

    But now I have a question… So as a resident of the USA, can I still by the UK edition? I’ve gotten this hankering to know more about you guys across the pond since Charley and Miriam have become my virtual best friends. especially after the hilarious conversation with Miriam about Jumpers. *grin*

    • You sure can: here’s the link for .com (UK version)

      http://www.amazon.com/Sugar-amp-Spice-controversial-ebook/dp/B004AYDK22

      • Thanks! You can bet I’ll be purchasing this once I get home (where my laptop with the kindle app is). Figure it’s about time. :}

        • Look forward to seeing your review of it!

          • Epp you want a review? Oh dear… Looks like i”ll be hunting down that Anne’s blog post to find out how to best do it… You guys are okay if I’m practicing with you right? *giggling grin*

            • Oh, no! Don’t follow Evil Anne! You might get troll cooties. Amazing what a poop-storm my little blogpost stirred up. I really didn’t know how many art-for-art’s-sake, writers-must-never-think-of-profits, people there are out there. It’s been one amazing education.

              But seriously, writing a review shouldn’t be intimidating. Even a few sentences can be helpful to a reader.

              In Evil Anne world, the most useful reviews don’t say, “this is the best thriller I ever read, but my professor says thrillers are trash, and besides the barrista gave me a latte instead of a cappuccino this morning and I’m hung over, so two stars.”

              But I have learned my world is not the only one by a very, very long shot.

              • Awe Anne *huggles* I believe in your world and I don’t think it’s evil… :}

              • Hey Anne! I thought that your poop storming blog post was fantastic! In fact I wondered if wouldn’t be a good idea to make a synopsis of it for writers to put on their websites? Like a manual for readers to understand how important they have become and that they now are the new gatekeepers!
                On art for art’s sake: That’s the commercial versus literary discussion and I think both sides are right! There is room for everything. Some authors write to entertain people who want to escape reality and some want to challenge them and make the think! And more often than not it’s a combination of the two. Who cares what the label is? We all have to keep our readers firmly in mind when telling a story. If done well the rest will follow, “inshalla” ๐Ÿ™‚
                And yes, it would be great to get paid for our work like most people on the planet and I consider spending days, months and in my case years on the computer to write one book work. Passionate, all absorbing but still work. A total head-fuck as my teenagers like to call it.
                Warmest wishes from freezing cold, yet sunny London ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Complaining about it being British!? WHAT THE FRUITCAKE! That’s just outrageous, I’m sorry, that is utterly outrageous! Do we go and whinge about THEIR spellings? No we don’t! Yet they still have the nerve to go and suggest it’s wrong!? WE GAVE THEM THE STINKING LANGUAGE! Grrrr.
    Sorry, that really made my blood boil. No offence to any Americans meant – only those who seem to think it’s not okay to write English in the British way.

    Relieved S&S is back – and I will endeavour to up your sales by buying one of my own once I get my mits on some cash. It’s only fair I buy what my co-authors write, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Absolutely, Charley!

    • I love it when you get angry, Ms Charley.

      Not so sure we gave them their language as they took it with them when they kicked us out. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • It is extrordinary that anyone would expect a novel set in England with English characters to speak and be spelled in American English. WTF?

      I am astonished that Red Adept would complain about it. Frankly, I would prefer that.

      • We were astonished by Red Adept too, JR, and have since given that reviewer a miss.

        But complaints about misspellings, from American readers who did not understand the spelling variations were legitimate, were looking bad in reviews. And once a review like that is up there is no way of challenging it without making the reviewer look stupid.

        Bear in mind the hary Potter mob found it necesary to change Philsopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone and change various terms in the Harry Potter book so as not to confuse the American readers.

        We elected to give them a choice.

        • I am embarrassed for my countrypersons. I wonder if they’ll do US versions of Jane Austen, too, and Dickens and Trollope? Pride and Prejudice translated to “Uppity vs. Bigoted? Lizzy B meets Mr D? Hey, I might be onto something…

    • It reflects really badly on the reviewer…!

  4. You’ve been through quite a bad time with this, Mark. I’m really glad S&S is back. But surely there ought to be some legal way of getting compensation for the lost sales? If there isn’t, this is a real loophole in the law.
    I sympathise with the string of generic KDP emails. This is so often all one gets in Internet communication about a problem. Thank goodness the worst seems to be over.

    • Amazon’s contract is pretty watertight when it comes to compensation, Gerry, and beyond their goodwill there’s very little any author can do when things go wrong.

      We’re just lucky it happened in the late stage of the S&S sales trajectory, when it was slowly winding down.

      We seem to have made up ground (about 1400 chart places) during the day, but had to imagine we could get back to our former position from here. But here’s hoping!

    • Gerry, thanks for helping me through my time of trolls by posting your lovely review to Amazon.

  5. Phew! What a relief!

  6. Glad to see that things are getting back to normal again. It is very concerning that this kind of thing can happen and KDP’s emails were written like they couldn’t really care less. No explanation or anything. The attitude conveyed in those emails was insipid at best.

    Sorry you went through this and I hope your sales ranking will climb swiftly

    • Thanks, Alison. Glitches happen, and the time it took Amazon to sort it was disgraceful, but not as bad as the behavior of some commentators who sought to make this an issue about our integrity as writers, suggesting the book had been taken down and we were trying to hide the facts.

  7. So glad to hear S&S has finally reappeared.

    Wishing all good things for sales & a return to the charts!

  8. Thanks, Megg!

  9. How dare you set the novel in Britain! I couldn’t understand a single word!

    Just kidding ๐Ÿ˜€

    I read the UK version (even though I’m American from California) and had no problem with it at all. There were some words that I was unfamiliar with but like any other kind of slang, you just go with the flow and use your inferencing skills. The only time I get confused with the “British language” is when it’s actually spoken with a very thick accent (which sounds like this http://www.hulu.com/watch/215177/saturday-night-live-british-movie to us Americans).

    I do find it funny though that you set the American version in New York. It seems like most fiction about America is solely set in New York City. Just like most fiction about Britain is solely set in London.

    And congrats with Sugar and Spice finally reappearing on Amazon. Too bad it couldn’t have been fixed a lot sooner. But I’m sure that you’ll climb back up on the charts in no time.

    • Actually only English fiction is set in London. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • For authors writing about a foreign location, Andrew, we tend to choose what we feel we know best, and (from myriad films, books, TV, etc available in the UK) that meant NY or LA.

      We did widen it to embrace NY State, not just NYC, and had an interesting time researching US serial killers for the backdrop.

      The point about London is interesting. For our new thriller series Rose Red we originally set it in Manchester, but for most people outside the UK Manchester is a football team, not a city.

      London is to the UK what NYC is to the USA. Everyone knows it.

      Part of the problem with S&S for US readers were thet the locations, which were central to the plot, were pretty meaningless to US readers. Who in the US would have even heard of Milton Keynes, Southall or Rhyl? But for the British reader these towns are part of our identity. Even if they’ve never visited them any Brit could describe them pretty accurately.

  10. What is so worrying about this episode to me is the almost complete lack of interaction with their writers. This is at best sloppy “customer service” (although I’m not sure that’s the right term) in a company that is known for good service. In fact, sloppy is a kind term for it having taken this long.

    Interacting with KDP writers (and allowing us privileges available to publishers) is something Amazon very much needs to work on.

    • Absolutely, JR. tow days after the book reappeared Amazon still have not even notified us.

      “Weโ€™ll try to resolve this issue as soon as possible and get back to you to notify the same.”

  11. I’m glad it got resolved, and I’m sorry to hear it took so long. Hopefully, Amazon will figure out what caused the glitch and figure out how to prevent it.

    • simon betterton
    • November 30th, 2011

    Hi Mark,

    Did you get the novel we talked about by email, Doubts? I’ve sent it twice but haven’t heard anything from your end. Or has Gambian cyberspace devoured it?

    Cheers,
    Simon

    • have had emails turning up anything from twelve hours to three days after they were sent, but can confirm there’s at least on showing from you now. Will respond asap!

        • simon betterton
        • December 1st, 2011

        Thanks Mark. No rush!

  12. Mark and Saffi, or, um, Sarah–let’s hope it’s ALL OVER!! Hooray S & S is back!!

  13. What’s interesting is that every email is from a different person. Nobody takes ownership do they? Sad – but probably no different to other big companies these days.

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