Last week, Amazon decided that I'm not the author of one of my books.
My first reaction was to make a joke about it on Facebook. Then I sent Amazon a happy little note assuring them that Maggie Pill and Peg Herring are one and the same person.
I got the identical email a second time.
In the meantime, my FB friends made suggestions, some facetious, some not. A lawyer friend said to get a DBA (Doing Business As) for Maggie Pill and send them a copy. That would be a great idea if I weren't in Florida. I called the county clerk for my home in Michigan, and they won't accept an application that isn't signed by a Michigan notary public.
Another author said she'd had the same problem. She'd sent Amazon an email from her pen name's email address, saying that she had the right to make changes on the book. I did that, also sending a copy of said email in reply to theirs, so they had one from "Maggie" and a copy of it from Peg.
No dice. This time, I did get a list of things I might be doing wrong. Perusing the list, I learned that the message had to be signed by hand by both parties.
Okay. Print the message, sign Maggie's name and my own, scan it, send it.
Got the same generic email back.
Angry now, I sent a message listing all the things I'd done and asking for a specific reason why ONE of Maggie Pill's eleven books had been singled out as a forgery. The sales are still getting credited to me. It's still listed as part of the Sleuth Sisters Mystery series. I ended with "and SHE IS ME."
This morning I got a message saying that I can now resubmit the book for publication, after making sure my metadata is correct.
Since I have no idea what was wrong in the first place, I'm a little lost, but I did it. I played it safe, leaving blank any line that isn't compulsory.
In 72 hours, I'll know if it worked.
I don't really blame Amazon or anyone who works there. This is the way the systems we have in place work, and they're designed that way because people don't read instructions. The first thing I did was wrong, because near the bottom of the original email, they said they wouldn't just take my word for it that I'm Maggie Pill.
Still, it's hard to correct something when you're not sure what the issue is. What has changed since the book was published back in 2018?
We've all been led through looping instructions that take us back to the beginning, no wiser than we were when we started. Somewhere in the system there's an algorithm that says, "Okay" and moves you forward, but good luck finding it. A human being might have been able to see that Maggie's books are listed on my bookshelf and always have been, but I doubt that humans are involved in the initial stages. To be fair, the big entities we deal with daily are inundated with people who don't read, don't understand, and don't follow directions. Companies insulate their human beings from the frustration of having to explain over and over in the simplest terms what customers should be able to understand.
On the other hand, those who design the systems might do better with the specifics. Customer confusion often results from the assumption that we speak their language and use their terminology, so while we're scratching our heads at instructions about metadata and pixels per inch, they wonder, "Why don't those idiots understand?"
Decades ago, I read John Hersey's My Petition for More Space, which highlights the absurdities of bureaucracy. These days I find myself avoiding contact with automated systems whenever possible, aware that I'll end up angrily screaming, "Customer representative!" and often end up unable to do what I intended.
I used to wonder how people in the Middle Ages survived with the threat of things like beheading and branding hanging over their heads, but then I consider that we live in a world where the appointments we need, the concerns we want to lodge, and the items we want to buy force us to deal with a faceless, uncaring, often non-human bureaucracy that cannot interact with us on the level we seek. There's only a box to check or a phrase to speak. No explanations accepted.
It's a lower level of stress than beheading, but since it's long term and unavoidable, it might kill you anyway.