Author Topic: Update (Page 2): IASN has apparently shuttered. Website is 404'd.  (Read 6939 times)  

Online PhoenixS

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So, a handful of folk were asked to consult about the agenda for the meeting Marie Force (aka the Indie Author Support Network, aka IASN) instigated with two KDP executives on June 12. David Gaughran and I were two of those involved. Although the consultant group wasn't in agreement about what tone to strike with Amazon, we were all in agreement about which topics were priorities, and together we created a list of talking points and potential solutions. We had hoped to have at least one of the consultants also attend in person (they had volunteered to fly to Seattle), and to have David and/or myself call in.

We were told Amazon declined any other representatives of IASN to attend in person or by phone.

When Marie shared the outcome of the meeting with the consultants, it was pretty much what we expected: all platitudes we've heard before.

After her debrief to us, which was pretty much the same as the email that went out to the IASN membership, we each expressed our disappointment in not learning anything new, and in not being given any more clarity around the issues brought up.

One of the biggest disappointments was being told things weren't progressing as quickly as we hoped they would because Amazon was being very diligent and deliberate in their investigations. What we had hoped for was a follow-on conversation that asked why some are getting their books pulled down or rank-stripped immediately and their accounts suspended within a month or two for external behavior they can't control, while the most egregious offenders actively participating in such behaviors, with tons of evidence presented against them, are taking several months to years before action is taken against them -- and even then scammed money, bestseller titles and bonuses are not being remanded. Alas, those deeper dives on the issues that we had strongly encouraged were apparently not addressed.

We also were hoping for a commitment to developing more transparency in communications and due process for accusations made. That didn't seem to materialize either, with the same song being sung around not wanting to tip off scammers (news flash: they're already way ahead of you in the scamming, Amazon) and to direct all questions to Content Review (who, based on my experience, will reply that they can't comment any further on whatever issue you bring up).

Another issue was that while Marie was in Seattle discussing the aftermath of incidents such as Tiffanygate and Chance Carter, she herself was running an illegal pay-to-play sweepstakes -- with required purchases of 10 paperbacks to be entered for the grand prize of a trip for 2 (airfare and lodging), along with fewer purchases required to win gift cards and swag.

If my differing views about the meeting and IASN in regards to its organization and mission hasn't sealed my fate for not being asked to continue on as a consultant, I'm pretty sure my calling her out on the sweepstakes thing a couple of days after the meeting will. To be honest, my disillusionment with the IASN as it exists now and the lack of planning for its future is enough for me to decide to move on and direct my personal efforts elsewise. Such is the life of a whistleblower. ;)

I hope with the current and continued social media and regular media pressure, along with hearing from RWA and the Authors Guild on these and other issues (well, the AG isn't championing any indie-specific issues such as KU so far, but it has been involved with issues that simply happen to affect indies too), as well as the face-to-face with Marie, and the myriad reports, queries and complaints indies have been directing their way, that Amazon is, indeed, working behind the scenes to clean up the mess their storefront has become.

They are listening, of course, and have been. There has been sloooow progress. But so far, it's barely been more than a one-way monologue, with the execs providing nothing more concrete than the scripted answers the KDP chatbots deliver with aggravating sameness.
_______

Note: If you're not a member of IASN and want to read the full debrief, you'll be forced to join Marie's Author Support Network FB group. (Note that Marie's old group, which is similarly named, has become the official FB group for IASN as well.) Marie is not allowing the email contents or her FB post there to be shared and is apparently not posting it to the public IASN website. Transparency extends only so far...
« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 01:53:27 PM by PhoenixS »

Offline C_Writes

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2018, 06:12:11 AM »
Very disappointing. I did give money to this new group with the hope it would help but haven't received any updates by email. I've missed the FB updates too as FB decides what I should and shouldn't see these days. Off to do some digging and try to find the update.

Thanks for reporting back.

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2018, 06:28:35 AM »
I got the update, and the only thing interesting about it was Amazon's claim that it is moving "deliberately" against scammers.

Meanwhile, business as usual, I guess.

I can't comment on Marie's sweepstakes or whatever it is; the very first time I heard about her online, several years ago, she'd just finished running a special convention of her fans, something no other author I know about has done. AFAIK, she makes sure she always has her legalities covered, but then again, I know nothing specific about this instance.

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2018, 07:00:45 AM »
I didnt want to get too deep on it that day, since I had other things going on, but I really have a hard time believing any lawyer worth their salt approved of the way she was running that sweepstakes. I did things like that for over a decade and if theres one thing that would make most corporate lawyers have a conniption it was sweepstakes. Those are not things you want to mess around with.


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Offline Positive

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2018, 07:09:08 AM »
Regarding KDP not inviting other authors to the table, it would make sense. Why would they sit down with people who constantly attack Amazon in public? I don't suppose that Amazon really sees them as a valued partner to bring them into the inner circle. But I could be wrong.

Offline Patty Jansen

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2018, 07:14:19 AM »
Regarding KDP not inviting other authors to the table, it would make sense. Why would they sit down with people who constantly attack Amazon in public? I don't suppose that Amazon really sees them as a valued partner to bring them into the inner circle. But I could be wrong.


If they showed any sign of transparent communication with content providers, then there would be little reason for people to go public with it.

So far, kicking up a VERY BIG stink about something and getting all the important news sites to cover it seems to be the only way to get Amazon to do anything at all. And even then, they'd rather die than, y'know, actually talk.

Online Rick Gualtieri

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2018, 07:14:43 AM »
The IASN is, in theory, a good idea. But it is an absolute wasted effort if we don’t hold the leaders to the highest standards or at least the standards they claim to uphold.




Removed quoted now-deleted post and response to it.  --Betsy
« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 02:18:10 AM by Betsy the Quilter »


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Offline MissingAlaska

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2018, 07:22:20 AM »
I got the update, and the only thing interesting about it was Amazon's claim that it is moving "deliberately" against scammers.

The word 'deliberately' caught my eye too.  I think this is code for "Our lawyers are going to make examples of a select few cheaters in court."  That could be why Amazon is taking its time, similar to what they've done in the past.  That may not be a bad way for them to approach this (assuming there are other efforts going on behind the scenes too).  We should see gradual improvements. That said, is it too little too late? Not sure...

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Offline TwistedTales

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2018, 07:29:05 AM »
I wouldn't have expected anything more from the Marie Force attempt, but kudos for trying and thanks for the update.

I don't have any ax to grind over the subject, but this link is indicative of what it takes to move Bezos/Amazon. If Amazon's shareholders can't get them to listen, then I wouldn't hold out much hope for us little indies. It seems to me no one is listening to anyone anymore, which is why people are getting more aggressive on social media. When a company won't even let you talk to a customer rep then you limit their avenues to get a message through, not that I think it'll do us much good. Until the customers stop spending vast sums with Amazon (or the government break 'em up) then we can expect more of the same.

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-shareholders-jeff-bezos-stop-marketing-facial-recognition-tool-n884296

Offline Elizabeth S.

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2018, 08:02:35 AM »
Another issue was that while Marie was in Seattle discussing the aftermath of incidents such as Tiffanygate and Chance Carter, she herself was running an illegal pay-to-play sweepstakes -- with required purchases of 10 paperbacks to be entered for the grand prize of a trip for 2 (airfare and lodging), along with fewer purchases required to win gift cards and swag.

If my differing views about the meeting and IASN in regards to its organization and mission hasn't sealed my fate for not being asked to continue on as a consultant, I'm pretty sure my calling her out on the sweepstakes thing a couple of days after the meeting will.

Since we're talking about transparency, it should also be noted that when Marie was informed about the problems with her contest, she worked to change them.

I read the exchange on the FB group and it didn't seem like the pay-to-play aspect was intentional to me.

For the record, I have no dog in the race. It just seems fair to include the whole story rather than only the part of it that makes someone look bad.

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2018, 08:17:30 AM »
I don't have any ax to grind over the subject, but this link is indicative of what it takes to move Bezos/Amazon. If Amazon's shareholders can't get them to listen, then I wouldn't hold out much hope for us little indies. It seems to me no one is listening to anyone anymore, which is why people are getting more aggressive on social media. When a company won't even let you talk to a customer rep then you limit their avenues to get a message through, not that I think it'll do us much good. Until the customers stop spending vast sums with Amazon (or the government break 'em up) then we can expect more of the same.

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-shareholders-jeff-bezos-stop-marketing-facial-recognition-tool-n884296

To be fair, the shareholders' letter of protest against Rekognition was signed by only 19 people.

As a shareholder I'm all for this initiative. Granted, I'm a small fish in that pond. But I suspect more than a few institutional shareholders feel likewise. And that's who Bezos is probably listening to.
 
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Offline writerlygal

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2018, 08:28:35 AM »
Jeff Bezos' fortune just grew to nearly $142 billion & Amazon just threatened to move its headquarters out of Seattle if it didn't lower its proposed tax to help its residents w/ cost of living increases, which resulted in the city indeed lowering its proposed tax to keep Amazon happy. Amazon also routinely refuses to pay foreign govt. taxes & leaves authors holding the bill for those. Amazon is one of the most powerful corporations/entities in the world & has no duties & owes no obligations except to its shareholders & to whatever government entities can manage to tax it.

It certainly has no duty to inform vendors about the actions it takes against other vendors. They are not privy to Amazon's contracts w/ each author & are not entitled to information just b/c one vendor reports another. It's kind of like Nabisco walking into Walmart & asking for detailed information on what Walmart is doing about Little Debbie breaking the TOS of its contract w/ Walmart [hypothetical situation only, not meant to cast aspersions on any company named]. Nabisco would be laughed right out of Walmart b/c there is no duty for it to inform one competitive company of its dealings w/ another just b/c that company is crying foul against another. But there's even less chance in our case of finding out information when we report fellow authors b/c indie authors & even the bigger content mill publishing companies are small fries compared to these ginormous companies. It amazes me that anyone thinks they should be entitled to such information.

My main point though is that I am not sure why anyone thinks Amazon cares about authors. Time & again I see authors turning on each other & doing Amazon's dirty work for it. Truly, the problem is Amazon & the best way to beat the near monopoly they have on authors & win the Hunger Games they force authors to play against each other is to go wide. It really baffles me that so many people voluntarily choose to stay in a system they like to complain so much about. It's Amazon's playground, kids, & they don't have to set or enforce the rules you think are fair. Why anyone would think Amazon got to where it is by caring about fairness or why they would start to now is beyond me. But, I guess have fun fighting w/ each other on social media & on forums, stalking authors' social media & reporting anything one thinks is an infraction. It's not a good look for the indie community I don't think, so I'll be in my own corner writing my own books & publishing them wide.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 09:07:49 AM by writerlygal »

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2018, 08:31:01 AM »
Thank you (and David) for your efforts, Phoenix.

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2018, 09:06:15 AM »
Since we're talking about transparency, it should also be noted that when Marie was informed about the problems with her contest, she worked to change them.

I read the exchange on the FB group and it didn't seem like the pay-to-play aspect was intentional to me.

For the record, I have no dog in the race. It just seems fair to include the whole story rather than only the part of it that makes someone look bad.

Fair enough.

Marie only made changes when she was *publicly* called out (read into that what you will), and the illegality (violating federal and state laws) of her high-dollar sweeps was compared to Chance's Tiffany sweeps. Her giveaway has been running since April 23.

It's possible she missed all the talk about Tiffanygate in the couple of weeks leading up to Chance's account termination and the buzz after the termination, including in her own group. Or if she heard it, she had trouble comparing apples to apples.

Interestingly, despite her claims that a lawyer TWICE assured her everything was hunky-dory (while the sweepstakes actually was not compliant with required verbiage, in intent, or with website functionality), instead of checking in again with her same lawyer or verifying with other legal counsel, she immediately took my word that it wasn't legal, as well as took my word for what needed to be done (I am not a lawyer, btw). And even after I suggested she check in with her lawyer as to what other disclaimer verbiage is needed to be compliant, she's only changed the couple of examples I specifically called out. It's still not 100% compliant.

So...is that better tranparency-wise?

ETA: Also, instead of stopping the sweepstakes, she changed the rules -- and website functionality -- in the middle of the giveaway. It's been promoted since late April on blogs, on Instagram, on Facebook, etc. She mentioned in one closed FB group only that the giveaway now requires no purchase to enter. However, the folk who originally saw the sweeps promoted via other venues are disadvantaged. I, personally, don't know what the laws around changing the rules of the game are.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 09:25:31 AM by PhoenixS »

Offline Saboth

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2018, 09:22:46 AM »
Pretty much as expected.

Amazon: "We are aware of your concerns and we take them very seriously".

Meanwhile:
The novice prawny author is hit with losing 1/2 her page reads, and emails stating her account might be suspended or banned unless she takes care of this problem that she didn't even know existed. Every few weeks or months she loses another 5 star review out of the blue, while praying each day to see a new good review. She continues working diligently her next book, putting a lot of care and love into it, unsure of what the future holds.

The shifty kraken author pays to have 300 five star reviews within the first week of launch, pays 5 ghostwriters to crank out thousands of pages of cookie cutter content, releases a new book every 2 weeks, ranks 100 in the overall store, makes 50 books out of 10 books, while paying click farms for rank boosts, and Amazon shrugs.

Offline RPatton

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2018, 09:38:33 AM »
Meanwhile:
The novice prawny author is hit with losing 1/2 her page reads, and emails stating her account might be suspended or banned unless she takes care of this problem that she didn't even know existed. Every few weeks or months she loses another 5 star review out of the blue, while praying each day to see a new good review. She continues working diligently her next book, putting a lot of care and love into it, unsure of what the future holds.

In all fairness, the recent round of emails no longer threaten authors with suspending their account.

Not that it makes it better, but hey at least they aren't cutting off your feet while bashing in your kneecaps...

Offline TwistedTales

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2018, 09:43:08 AM »
To be fair, the shareholders' letter of protest against Rekognition was signed by only 19 people.

As a shareholder I'm all for this initiative. Granted, I'm a small fish in that pond. But I suspect more than a few institutional shareholders feel likewise. And that's who Bezos is probably listening to.

Well, that's kinda my point. Unless you're a big player moneywise (& no indie author can claim that when it comes to that sort of money), then you don't have a vote or a voice so STFU or get out.

Haven't you heard about Amazon's other genius employment tactics - VTO or "pay to quit"? All these things add up to the same message - STFU or get out. Some of us get out, some of stay, and it's neither here nor there which way you go, just don't expect Amazon to listen to you because that's not something they do unless you're a big player, as in you're part of the billionaire club and even then you might not qualify.

Like I said, kudos for trying, but unfortunately this update is another confirmation of Amazon's unstated policy of STFU or get out.


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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2018, 10:30:01 AM »
Thank you (and David) for your efforts, Phoenix.

Ditto.

Offline bobfrost

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #18 on: June 19, 2018, 10:52:09 AM »
When Chance was informed of the problems with his diamond giveaway, he immediately worked to change the contest to fix the problems :).

Offline Phxsundog

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2018, 11:03:06 AM »
When Chance was informed of the problems with his diamond giveaway, he immediately worked to change the contest to fix the problems :).

And he told his readers to flip pages on his books without reading the content. Would you like to defend that too since his ban bothers you so much? It must be very upsetting that Chance is actually gone, I get it. He was practically god for a few dozen publishers. He thought he could get away with anything and continue to trash romance with his master class. We said enough, and so did Amazon.




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« Last Edit: June 20, 2018, 04:06:58 AM by Ann in Arlington »

Online Rick Gualtieri

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2018, 11:09:37 AM »
When did we stop teaching, if you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all?

I think that logic only gets you so far.  Would it make for a nicer world? Perhaps.  But it would definitely benefit some of those who would prefer we not speak of them.

This, like any industry, has a dark side. That dark side prospers the more people ignore it.  I do think it's far better to fight from the high road, countering the smug arrogance of those doing wrong by educating others.  But I can understand that it gets frustrating at times.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 02:22:51 AM by Betsy the Quilter »


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Offline RPatton

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2018, 11:24:27 AM »
I think that logic only gets you so far.  Would it make for a nicer world? Perhaps.  But it would definitely benefit some of those who would prefer we not speak of them.

This, like any industry, has a dark side. That dark side prospers the more people ignore it.  I do think it's far better to fight from the high road, countering the smug arrogance of those doing wrong by educating others.  But I can understand that it gets frustrating at times.

Call out the behavior. Criticize the actions. But leave the person alone. You can say someone is engaging in behavior that is questionable, without resorting to attacking the person.




Edited quoted post.  PM me if you have any questions.  --Betsy/KB Mod
« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 02:24:02 AM by Betsy the Quilter »

Offline ChristinaGarner

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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2018, 11:36:38 AM »

Many thanks to Phoenix and David for their tireless efforts, despite the cost.

As an aside, using information that's of benefit to the entire community to build up membership in a FB group is not the behavior I'd expect from someone claiming to want to help said community.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 02:24:53 AM by Betsy the Quilter »


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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2018, 11:42:55 AM »
Folks,

I'm out of town on a family emergency.  Locking the thread.  Either one of the other mods will deal with it or I will many hours from now when I get to my hotel.  And frankly, given the number of reports, more stuff may happen.  The poo is hitting the fan.  We expect better, y'all.

OK, folks, I'm going to unlock the thread.  Sorry for the delay.

Warning:  We're going to try to keep this thread open.  People who cause trouble will *at a minimum* be banned from the thread.  You're writers--choose your words carefully and think of the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish instead of going for the cheap shot.



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« Last Edit: June 21, 2018, 02:36:28 AM by Betsy the Quilter »
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Re: IASN and KDP June 12 meeting - more platitudes, more disappointment
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2018, 07:43:50 AM »
I'm out of town on a family emergency. ... OK, folks, I'm going to unlock the thread. 

Thank you for reopening, Betsy. I hope your family issue resolves well. ♥

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