Monday, May 21, 2012

#Amazon “Lag Time” - Just the Beginning?


I debated whether to post about this but decided to because I think it’s time indies, and self-published authors started to talk about it.  We’ve all heard, or experienced, the slowdown in sales -- drastic decreases.    But that’s just one part. 


This isn't a bash on Amazon post, but there are some obvious inconsistencies and discrepancies occurring.  The following are things I've noticed with my account.  Maybe you've noticed the same?

Free downloads increase after promotion period

Amazon says:  “Our technical team has confirmed that there is currently a lag time, due to which there is a delay in the free downloads being reported on the Month-to-date Unit Sales reports. We are aware of this issue, and it should be fixed soon.”

Okay, so if that’s the case wouldn’t my free show higher on the Prior 6 Week Report, and then grow on my MTD report?  Not the case with me.  For the promotion I did last week, my free download count shows higher than my MTD for free downloads, than on my prior 6 week report.

And is soon, soon enough?  It doesn’t seem like they’re hurrying too much to get this fixed.  I did a free
promotion in the month of April, and notified them of the problem and received the same response. 

What does “fixed soon” really mean?

And here’s another side effect:  because sales are not updated in a timely manner we lose our ranks due to it.  I know other authors have voiced the same thing, but when the free numbers fly up well after a promotion are those really paid sales?

Look at your prior 6 week report.  If it’s like mine you showing having earned money across the line where the number of free downloads are showing.  Tell me there are not paid numbers included in there.  But if these paid sales are increasing in the free download section, again, your rank is going to suffer for it.

Ranking System

First off, let me say this.  I really don’t think free books should transfer to the paid ranks.  I don’t.  I know I’ve utilized this more recently to try and give myself a bump, but it’s not right.  And if these bumps in ranks are not so much the downloading of free books but books sold, I’m not seeing that money at the end of the day.  I fear those numbers are getting buried in the free, and as mentioned above they must be.

And here's another scary thing, have you watched your books climb the ranks but not seen the sales on your report?  Does it make you feel better for them to say there's a "lag"?  When, and do, these book sales ever show up?  I mean obviously they are calculating in "the system" to make the rank go up, so why wouldn't that transfer to immediate increases with your sales numbers?

Compare your Prior 6 weeks report to your Month to Date report

Now, tell me if they jive because mine doesn’t.  I show more sales in the past week for Ties that Bind than is showing on my Month to Date.  How much of a “lag” are we talking about?  I don’t think it just applies to free books.  And if the lag they mentioned is just showing on the MTD report, which one are we paid from because I’d like to be paid from the Prior 6 Weeks Report in that case!

Royalty rates and dollars

I’ve had issue with this part for a while but have accepted it as being Amazon’s take on accounting.  If you change your price, it will average it out and pay accordingly.  Should their system not know x number of units sold at x for this royalty rate?  I mean I’m sure they know how much they were paid for the books.  (I have a background in accounting and let me tell you this would be a nightmare!)  Isn’t this process bordering on fraud?

Increase in foreign sales

If you have your book set for the 70% royalty rate no doubt you’re aware that this is cut in half to 35% when sold to certain countries.  But have you noticed a huge increase, if not more so a swap on these numbers?  In other words the high number of downloads is now calculating at 35% while the small number is based on 70%?  If you’ve been with Amazon long enough you come to expect consistency (at least before KDP) and know this switch isn’t right.

And just for the record, below is the list provided by Amazon as processing at 70%.  You’ll realize it’s really only a minority of countries that transfer to a 35% royalty rate -- but downloads from those countries apparently are hot right now? Not buying it.

Andorra
Austria
Belgium
Canada
France
Germany
Italy
Liechtenstein
Luxembourg
Monaco
San Marino
Switzerland
Spain
United Kingdom (including Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man) United States Vatican City

Check the math

I was gasping when I looked at my weekly report yesterday, and not in a good way. 

One line showed 184 downloads of Ties that Bind at $2.99 at a 35% royalty rate -- there’s a flag right there.  (And my other books are the same, higher numbers in countries not listed above...never used to be the case.)  Anyway, what is your answer when you do the math:  184 x $2.99 x 35% = 192.56 on my calculator.  Amazon had a total of $5.25!!!

Feel your sales numbers should be higher?

Maybe your reports seem correct, but based on ranking or for another reason you truly feel more sales should be showing.  Amazon will email you to assure you there is “nothing technically wrong with your account and that all sales are recording accurately”.  They will ask you to provide order numbers.

I went through this back in March and had to “let it go” for my sanity, even though I knew things were not right.  Thanks to my readers, and the support of my fellow authors I made it to the top 100 of my genre from October 2011 until approximately mid-March 2012.  Because of this, I got to know on average how many books sell a day.  Well, March 12th they drastically dropped -- over 30/day.  Then it kept decreasing...downward spiral by then.  I started to believe the numbers the further I dropped because the lower you go on the ranks the less sales per day you can expect.

What I didn’t appreciate was them asking for order numbers to prove my side.  Wouldn’t they have this information?  The question raised is how accurate is their sales recording?

I never took them up on this until recently.  A Facebook associate of mine told me she had downloaded Pearls of Deception.   It’s a short story, and I must say although I’m extremely proud of it, short stories don’t move like novels.  The number never increased all day, nor the next.  I received her order number and forwarded it on to them.  I received a response the next day saying they would need until the end of the week to look into this.

They contacted me the day they said they would, and here’s what they said:

I wanted to send you a quick e-mail to let you know that I'm still researching the missing sale in your report. 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.

I'll be in touch shortly with an answer for you. Thanks for your patience.

Okay, so they’re admitting to having major issues, maybe there will be some resolution for the problems I sincerely feel started back in March.  Nope...I don’t hear anymore, so I email a follow up 7 days after the email from them above!  Here’s the response:

I have checked your account and I see a colleague is investigating and has scheduled a follow up for you.

My colleague will be contacting you soon with feedback from their investigations.

I Hope this Helps.

Am I missing something???  Later that day I received this:

I'm very sorry for this delay in getting back to you. The issue that caused the display of sales to be incorrectly reflected in your report has been fixed. We've confirmed that no sales transactions were lost or misreported during this period, and you may reference these by logging in to your KDP Account. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused, and appreciate your understanding.

Question:  how can they confirm there were no lost sales transactions when it took 3 emails and 10 days to “find” an order number that I provided?  Excuse me if I’m losing faith in the system.  From this email I’m not even confident they found it.

Sales - Time of Day

Here’s another interesting thing that’s come to light.  When I was on the top 100 I had sales throughout the day, now for the most part they start adding up at night.  I know I’m not alone in this as other authors have expressed this as well.  Is the “lag” in reporting causing this?

So in conclusion, do I think Amazon is doing this on purpose?  No.  What I do believe is their system isn’t equipped to handle the demand that’s been put in place with the introduction of KDP.  Do I think the matter will be resolved?  I sure hope so, not only for myself and my fellow authors, but I really don’t know how Amazon would explain this to their accountants at the end of the year.  But if Amazon can just keep avoiding emails or stand behind standard template forms, and the promise of fixing things “soon” this is never going to get resolved.  It’s time, as authors, we stop being “afraid” of them.  They are making money off of us too remember.  


....
Here's another side experiment we'll call it.  Set up an account and buy a copy of your book, and return it the next day, but not before you have your KDP MTD report up.  Return to it and refresh -- instantly the return shows.  Hmmm....