Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Calls Out Amazon KDP For Shutting Down His Account

[Here’s another instance of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) terminating a writer’s account and impounding their royalties – and this one hits closer to home. A week ago the Scroll covered what three romance authors said happened to them (see #1 here), and today award-winning Nigerian sff author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki reported his own crushing setback. His Facebook post is signal-boosted here with his permission.]

By Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki: An account of how Amazon.com and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing stole my royalties and kicked me off their platform for no sensible, coherent reason. It’s more comprehensive on this Twitter thread.

But if you prefer to read it here…

Published the 1st ever Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology in October last year. Amazon said I couldn’t get royalties for it till January this year. Then on December 31st they rushed to shut my account down, just before we crossed over into the new year.

While fireworks were going out they were busy getting in one last evil for the year, to steal my royalties, over $2000 last I checked. Preorders and sales for 3 months. Proceeds for all the work, hype, all gone. For these stupid, inexplicable, senseless reasons.

[They say] I have multiple accounts/my account is related to one that was terminated. Wait, which one is it? Do I have multiple accounts or is my account related? Or is it both? My account is related to one that was terminated for violating their terms. What does that even mean?

How do accounts get related? Did account Zeus come down from Olympus to impregnate the aunties of my account and so the kids of those accounts are now related to mine? What does it even mean? If other account does something violatey what’s it got to do with me? Are they saying I have multiple accounts? Like I opened multiple accounts with the same email? Is that even possible? And if not then how do they know other accounts are “related” to me. Or, not to be paranoid, what if it’s someone opening similar accounts for this very reason?

All these I ask, and they hit me with the all these we-shall-find-out-in-the-next-episode response. Cuz it’s holidays. They can’t respond to me some days before the end of the year and some days after. But they terminated the account in the middle of the festivities, on holidays.

You aren’t online to respond. But you were able to terminate the account? Okay. So I ask all the same, they eventually get back to me. Which is basically saying whatever man, f*ck off. It doesn’t answer my questions. If anything it shows they are bullsh!tting. They are “confident”.

What does that even mean? You are confident so your confidence means you can take my money? People take money on confidence now? That how it works? Can I go to the bank and be confident the money there is all mine and take it all? For my confidence. Huh?

My money for all the expenses I’m trying to recoup, covers, author payments, etc, gone. & it’s not even all my money. Didn’t crowdfund it. And no way I can afford to pay 28 writers, 1c per word reprint rate alone. So now I’m owing someone I promised to repay once royalties kick in.

I’m owing some of the writers too cuz I couldn’t pay every1 yet, even with my silent partner whom I promised half the profits after cost, chipping in. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get dragged by them, or my writer friends I haven’t paid yet, and end up on Writers Beware.

I’ll be doing a fundraiser to try to recoup some of the money, for costs and payment and then I’ll make the anthology free. Even if just the kindle version. I think I should, to ensure this anthology continues to see the light of day which it surely must. And sort the finances.

I’ll be doing the same for the Bridging Worlds non-fiction anthology which I have made expenses on as well but which I can’t now publish as I don’t and can’t have an Amazon account. And that’s 98 percent of self-pub I can do tbh, of my profits too. So a fundraiser and free books.

Either that or fight a global, gigantic monopoly run by a cliche billionaire villain. This is the end of Jembefola Press. I know I’m usually slow. It took a while, but I think I get the message finally. I won’t be publishing anymore. At least not while I’m on the continent.

I don’t think I’m supposed to. The obstacles I’ve faced on the path to this are indicating that. Firstly navigating payment and publishing at all, getting shut out of platforms when I put in the region I’m from, having to pretend to be from the US or somewhere in the West.

Using services that mimic US bank accounts, Having to essentially, even literally lie I’m American, being unable to use PayPal, or the usual payment methods. This isn’t even the first time I was banned. 1st was from Draft2Digital for being Nigerian https://t.co/KTJhpt22kl

A serious ass company didn’t know Nigerians use VPN now cuz of Twitter ban? The most populous nation on the African continent.

Next it was Smashwords. Tried to smash my words & make me give them away for free. Well I will now. If I even can. https://t.co/V6Fi9wj0P9

Amazon was a chore to figure out and finally use. But it wasn’t the 1st time their platforms were being used to sabotage me. Shortly after publishing, racists who target works by Black authors were review bombing me on Goodreads. https://t.co/UgFRygD5zR

SFWA helped with the review bombing saga. But that was a process. And a stressful one I didn’t need in the middle of publishing, editing, organizing panels, my own writing. I almost didn’t bother. Like many folks I’m sure never bother with all this https://t.co/yExz75m7jt

And we never know or hear about those ones who didn’t bother. But always wonder why aren’t there so many African writers, why aren’t they winning awards, active on the scene, big, writing a lot, writing door stoppers, many books series. This is why. This and more.

They’re busy, spending their time and energy complaining about things like this. Trying to deal with payment systems that lock us out, funding methods that don’t also cater to us, racists systems, racist people trying to review bomb us. And this is just what is directly hostile.

You can see it’s a bit. So yea, I get the message loud and clear. Ya’ll can have your publishing industry back, for now. I know I’m the average pain loving writer. Yayyy my one million rejections. But sometimes it’s just too much. Make I rest. It’s too much because…

This right here isn’t even a fraction of what you experience coming from here. Being a disabled African writing and publishing from the continent. If I want to quantify it, it’s 0.00000 recurring % of what goes down. People think marginalized writers get points for activism.

Truth is, lots of the struggle is never really shown. Cuz it’s too ugly, personal & unfit for public consumption. Meanwhile I type “Does GoFundMe…” and the rest shows …work in Nigeria? Folks been curious. And no It doesn’t. I’ll let you all know when I figure out a platform.

24 thoughts on “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Calls Out Amazon KDP For Shutting Down His Account

  1. Y’know, all this strikes me as fraud and theft by Big River, and I’m wondering when someone goes to the feds and files criminal charges.

    Oh, more fun: in the US, that would be wire fraud, I think… and so they need to talk to the US Secret Service.

    Here I am, picturing G-men with tommyguns walking into Big River’s home office….

  2. @mark
    Hahaha. Amazon has so much money it buys off politicians at all levels so nothing will be done. They’ve been screwing their sellers and suppliers for years and nothing gets done. They sit in front of Congress and promise I’ll do better, then don’t.

  3. What Lis says. Amazon is now Evil.

    It isn’t like they need the money they’re refusing to pay to people who are owed it.

  4. I am hoping it’s evil. Because the other alternative is that a2z has completely lost control of its algorithms and couldn’t fix things even if it wanted to, and I think that’s a bigger problem.

  5. There is already a publisher responding to one of the quote tweets on Twitter and saying that this case wasn’t really the same sort of issue because the author “broke the rules” — but I think that publisher was misreading one of the tweets. Sigh.

    Anyway, let’s remember that just because Amazon says “You broke the rules,” that does not mean rules were truly broken. Lots of people have been told they broke the rules — only later to get some sort of “whoops our bad but you still lost all your rankings and reviews lollol” response.

  6. I’ll donate to any fundraising that he does.

    The GoFundMe limitations had nothing to with being for “rich developed countries“. Global banking laws prohibit digital currency transactions happening with certain countries supposedly because of terrorism.

    I know because I have friends in Africa and they complain about these bans. Oddly enough Western Union isn’t apparently covered by these restrictions as they use it a lot in countries otherwise restricted by these currency bans.

  7. @Anne Marble – “Anyway, let’s remember that just because Amazon says “You broke the rules,” that does not mean rules were truly broken.”

    No, nor does it even mean that you’ll be told what rules you allegedly “broke” or get a chance to respond to the allegation. We have a LOT of regulatory capture we need to undo thanks to late stage capitalism/oligarchy (if we can even keep our democracy alive), but honestly I’d like to see legislation at state and federal levels that says “if you are accused of breaking a contract, you must be notified of the evidence against you and allowed to respond to the allegation, or the contract is still in force.” This whole “you transgressed, you can’t know how, you can’t present any contrary evidence, HAND” is way too Kafkaesuqe for my tastes.

  8. Apart from the Kafkaesque situations, the arbitrariness, petty greed, and so on, this raises another question I’ve had about the indie author landscape.

    Because the indie authors of today are not really self-published. They have a publisher, a distributor, and a store. Those all happen to be Amazon. Except they provide much less of the services or the contractual securities that traditional publishers provide. In effect, they live in a modern digital company town.

  9. Just had another horrible thought. Companies like Amazon are likely looking greedily at the cryptocurrency fad. In the hands of Amazon and similar companies, that will be another iteration of the company scrip.

  10. @Karl-Johan Norén Huh. I was smugly informed more times than I can count that Amazon was the Shinning Savior of the indie author and Death to the Gatekeepers.
    Funny how that works out.

  11. What Amazon kdp did there is not right at all. Where are the rights of authors so much injustice and nothing is ever done to rectify it. They shouldn’t be allowed to do this without providing the evidence to you, what kind of justice is that? And they certainly shouldn’t have taking your royalties..thats high way robbery right there..no wonder he so rich..steals from the poor.
    I will certainly look out for your book ,just try other platforms ..Good luck and God bless

  12. @bill, Amazon doesn’t tell you what terms you violated, and doesn’t give you any chance to provide evidence. The lying about his nationality–it’s not at all clear to me that he did that with Amazon, but in any case, they claim that he has multiple accounts. Or that his account is “associated with” another account. They give no specifics, or about any of their other vague accusations.

    How do you defend yourself against vague accusations with no details, especially when Amazon doesn’t allow you any chance to do so?

    And they’re keeping his royalties from previous sales. Wire fraud and theft, bill.

    Just like the romance writers.

    In the later part of his post, he’s talking about the general frustrations of trying to do business online from Africa, and mentions services other than Amazon. That’s where he mentions nationality.

    And I seem to have replied to a comment that hasn’t posted. OGH, please delete if appropriate.

  13. @Lis Carey

    How do you defend yourself against vague accusations with no details, especially when Amazon doesn’t allow you any chance to do so?

    In the case of the accusation of having multiple accounts, it’s easy — you say “I have only one Amazon account.” In fact, this is such an easy and obvious response to the accusation that NOT doing so is telling, I think.

    And I agree that Amazon should give him his money, as I made clear in the now-missing post. Whether that failure to do so is “wire fraud” or “theft” is above my pay grade, and I haven’t read Amazon’s T&C’s deeply enough to see if an account holder agrees to the possibility of this (which would obviously make it not “wire fraud” or “theft”.)

    (And I say this despite being in sympathy with him in regards to the difficulty in dealing with a faceless company which isn’t really interested in your input. Reminds me of “Brazil”. A lot of this results from, I think, our government’s desire to monitor every dollar earned or spent by anyone or any company in America.)

  14. @bill–Since they don’t give him any details at all, he has no way to prove that those accounts aren’t his. Or that the account they say is “associated” with his, isn’t.

    Do you really not see the problem here?

  15. If Ekpeki violated Amazon/Kindle’s Terms and Conditions, then having his account closed is to be expected. He doesn’t address at all whether he’s done anything that would be a T&C violation. If he believed he hadn’t violated the T&C, then a defense against the accusations would make sense. But he’s going in a different direction — blowing smoke about the accusations, describing the very real disadvantages he has by working from Africa in an American/European-centric system, telling us about the hard place he is at without the royalties or the ability to reach Amazon’s market.

    You ask how he can defend himself, but it doesn’t look like he even wants to defend himself. What he’s doing is reacting emotionally to the events, and encouraging us to do likewise.

    The system is bad for him (let’s face it, it’s bad for everyone except Jeff Bezos), but it’s the system he signed up for. And that the deck was stacked against him when he signed up was common knowledge. His business venture didn’t work out. That happens all the time, often because of mistakes made by the businessman in question. That’s a risk that businessmen take. I feel bad for him, but I don’t know enough about what happened to say he was treated unjustly.

  16. bill says The system is bad for him (let’s face it, it’s bad for everyone except Jeff Bezos), but it’s the system he signed up for. And that the deck was stacked against him when he signed up was common knowledge. His business venture didn’t work out. That happens all the time, often because of mistakes made by the businessman in question. That’s a risk that businessmen take. I feel bad for him, but I don’t know enough about what happened to say he was treated unjustly.

    You don’t get, do you? The deck isn’t just stacked against him but is constantly being changed so that he doesn’t have a chance of winning. Hell even the cards themselves are constantly being changed. This is not a game that a lot of people involved in the game can expect to win including him.

    So yes he’s being treated quite unfairly. Without a doubt he got fucking shafted by Amazon.

    I’ll be contributing to his fundraiser when he does it. It’s the decent thing to do.

  17. @bill–He can’t address the specifics of the accusations without Amazon giving him specifics to address. He does deny having multiple accounts, but you can’t prove anegative, and Amazon isn’t giving him specifics to disprove.

    Amazon also doesn’t explain what their other claim, that his account “is associated with another account” even means.

    Tell me how the @#$% you think he should be defending himself against this crap.

    Amazon has committed wire fraud and theft, and that isn’t okay, nor is the blame shifted to Ekpeki, merely because Amazon has given themselves the power, with their opaque system, to do this to anyone who uses Amazon KDP.

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