Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Writers of speculative fiction can share can share experiences and advice here.
I am reproducing this social media post from a young, enthusiastic writer George Penney, who is co-author of an entertaining short book, OverLondon, and has a website

This is alarming and I feel writers here should be aware of this horrible incident.

"A couple of lovely people have asked why our OverLondon ebook isn't available in the stores.

Exactly 1 month ago I woke to receive an automated email from Amazon KDP that said they'd terminated our account and had confiscated all of our royalties.

The decision had been made by an AI bot. To say that it's been a difficult month would be an understatement. This came just after a close family member had passed away. Suddenly the project we'd put our whole life into for 4 years was dead in the water.

We immediately wrote an appeal email to Amazon and sought help from the Alliance of Independent Authors. (They're amazing, if you're Indie or thinking of it, be a member.) And then we reconfigured, schemed, planned and hustled on what to make of the mess that was now our publishing career.

And now exactly 1 month to the day after a bot terminated our account and upended our lives. We got another automated email to say that it's been reinstated. Just like that.

We can only assume that it was both our appeal email and help from the Alliance of Independent Authors that got this sorted. Either way, the profanity and relief in our house today is rather epic. As is the feeling of frustration (rage) that an AI system could so arbitrarily upend our lives. "

*Admin, please could you edit the title back to AI ? Thank you.
xiagan liked this
Yes, this is one of the many issues with Amazon. I've heard similar stories from a lot of independent authors, people who have very little to say against the giant that is Amazon and their automated systems. It is a side effect of their size that they can't possibly deal with all issues in person, and thus people fall into the cracks and get treated unfairly. What's worse, it's incredibly difficult to actually get heard once you've been affected. Appealing to get your case looked at by actual humans is incredibly difficult.

It's the same on big social media sites and other types of sites. While not remotely as serious, I had a similar experience when I got a playlist delisted on Spotify. The feeling of powerlessness was really unpleasant, like being ground up by the gears of this huge machine. I can only imagine what it would be like for something that is so much more important. If and when I start publishing my writing, I will make sure not to hang it all on being sold and promoted on any one site, particularly not Amazon (though likely I'll end up there as well, as sadly it's nearly inevitable today).

As for the "AI" part of it, that's the word on everyone's lips now, but these systems have been automated for a long time. The new "AI" wave just brings it more to light, I guess. They're still just algorithms, only now some of them are trained with machine learning. The craze over these generative models is bonkers because they are so blatantly flawed in a number of ways. They are a powerful tool, but a tool still needs a human hand to be useful. They cannot think for themselves, and most importantly, they don't know when they are wrong.
DragonFlame, xiagan liked this