* Dear Mr. Bezos …
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 8, 2017
Dear Mr. Bezos,
I believe I have been treated in an appalling manner by the Contents group within Amazon’s Create Space. This is so contrary to every other experience I have had with Amazon that I thought you would like to know what happened and take appropriate action. I apologize for the length of this email, but the detail included will give you an idea of what I was dealing with and the level of frustration that resulted.
Let me say first that I love Amazon. I use Create Space and Kindle Publishing and am thrilled with the way you permit me to be a published author with all that means. I am also a Prime member and purchase just about everything from amazon, and have for years.
My novel A FLOOD OF EVIL was first approved by both Create Space and Kindle Publishing, and then suppressed. The extensive correspondence presented below, accumulated over many hours and days of frustration, describes what happened and the basic questions which remain unanswered: Why was my book suppressed? What prompted the suppression? Why was I not notified?
To which I would add … Do you agree I was mistreated by Amazon?
Here are the facts …
1. I published my 5th novel in June, on both Create Space and Kindle. A FLOOD OF EVIL (AFOE) is set in Germany and Poland in the 1920s and 1930s. It tells the story of two young people, a German Catholic boy and a Polish Jewish girl, who fall in love and devote their efforts to trying to prevent Hitler from reaching power.
2. AFOE was reviewed and approved for publication in June 2016, with no issues noted.
3. Sometime in early October 2016, AFOE was removed from publication on your German site. I was not notified of the removal.
4. In early March 2017, while I was arranging a book club meeting in Berlin, I checked the German site (amazon.de) and learned for the first time that my book had been “suppressed” and removed.
5. I contacted Create Space and received no explanation for what had caused the removal nor any advice as to how to restore it. I was told it was the Contents group which had removed it, but that neither I nor Create Space Customer Service (CSCS) – btw always terrific to deal with – could actually ever speak with the “unreachable” Contents people.
6. Meanwhile, AFOE was, in early March 2017, also removed from the US site (amazon.com), again without notification or explanation.
7. After several increasingly contentious interactions, it was suggested by CSCS that perhaps the swastika on the cover of AFOE was the problem, although of course this was not mentioned when the cover was approved in June.
8. I received the following email from CSP Tier 3 firstname.lastname@example.org on March 13, 2017 … “I’m unable to provide specific information about the suppressions. The only information I’ve received from the Content Validation’s team is the one related to the swastika as the suppression reasons for October and March for the paperback. Regarding the Kindle edition, I’m unable to get information from them about any suppression. … In terms of the Content Guidelines, we have them in our site. However, we are unable to provide specific information about the possible rejections. If you have questions, you can reach the Content Validation team for this. I understand about the notifications and I’ve submitted feedback about it. I’m unable to get more information as to why it wasn’t sent. Please feel free to contact them directly at email@example.com any additional questions.”
9. I responded as follows in an email also dated March 13, 2017 … “I appreciate your efforts but you must realize that your answers are inadequate and insulting. You suppressed my new novel for months and you provide no notification or explanation. I think amazon should be ashamed. I will take this further.”
10. On my own initiative, still without instructions from anyone at Create Space or the Contents Group, I submitted a new cover without the swastika and AFOE was within a few days returned to all sites.
11. As instructed, I sent an email to the Contents group dated March 14, 2017 … Content Validation Request firstname.lastname@example.org … regarding CreateSpace Support Request / Case #06176858 … “Below you will find an email from Create Space Support advising me to contact Content Validation regarding the unanswered questions related to the suppression of A FLOOD OF EVIL on amazon.defor over 4 months and subsequently on amazon.comfor several days. … I am told that Create Space Support was unable to obtain answers from Content Validation and that I should contact you directly. … My questions can be summarized as follows: 1. What specific guideline did my original cover, which you approved in June 2016, violate? 2. What happened in October 2016 (.de site) and in March 2017 (.com site) to cause my book to be suppressed? Thank you for your attention to these questions.”
12, Meanwhile I did get an answer of sorts from Kindle Direct Publishing email@example.com dated March 16, 2017 … “We take violations of laws and proprietary rights very seriously. It is your responsibility to ensure that your content doesn’t violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other rights. Just because content is freely available does not mean you are free to copy and sell it. In accordance with German law, we cannot publish content that displays swastikas.”
13. I regard this March 16 answer from Kindle as both arrogant and incorrect, as well as nasty, blaming me for not knowing information you did not make available and which is also incorrect. … My original cover was approved by both Kindle and Create Space. … Here are 3 problems with the Kindle March 16 response … (1) Amazon’s guidelines do not mention swastikas. (2) German law provides exceptions regarding swastikas which would seem to exempt my book from coverage. (3) The amazon .de site contains many book covers that contain swastikas. … more about these problems later.
14. Back to the Contents group … As of this date (April 7, 2017), I have never had the courtesy of answers as to what prompted the removal of my book from either the .de or .com sites … or why neither Create Space or Kindle Publishing failed to notify me of such “suppression.”
15. I did receive a very nice communication (March 21, 2017) from Jeremy Stoffel at Executive Customer Relationsecr@createspace.com … “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me this afternoon. I’ll make sure that your voice is heard regarding the feedback you gave me. I have created order number 164773070 for ten copies of the book with a new cover and they will arrive on March 29th. Please feel free to follow up with any additional questions you make have.”
16. I have received the 10 copies. Thank you.
17. Please note that neither amazon guidelines nor German law specifically prohibit swastikas on book covers, and amazon’s site contains many, including these …
18. German Law regarding swastikas … The GermanStrafgesetzbuch(Criminal Code) in § 86a outlaws “use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations” outside of the contexts of “art or science, research or teaching”. This concerns Nazi symbolism in particular and is part of the denazification efforts following the fall of the Third Reich. The law prohibits the distribution or public use of symbols of unconstitutional groups–in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting. … (3) Subsection (1) shall NOT BE APPLICABLE if the means of propaganda or the act serves to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes. […]
As stated above, my basic questions remain unanswered: Why was my book suppressed? What prompted the suppression? Why was I not notified?
Again repeating what was said above … Do you agree I was mistreated by Amazon?
Hoping to hear from you, and still a loyal Amazon customer, I remain …
LEWIS M. WEINSTEIN