Hasslein Blog: A Plea for Policy Change to Amazon's Jeff Bezos


Hasslein Blog

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Plea for Policy Change to Amazon's Jeff Bezos

Dear readers,

Please excuse my indulgence in this post, but I sent the following letter today to Amazon's founder, chairman, and CEO, Jeff Bezos, and wanted to also post it here since it discusses an absurd and counterproductive Amazon policy that affects every single writer who uses Amazon Author Pages to promote their work, and because it partly involves Hasslein Books' titles. I tend to doubt my letter will change anything, but I firmly believe that it's always worth trying. If you're an author, I recommend you let Amazon know how you feel about their policy as well.

—Rich Handley


Dear Mr. Bezos,

I write to you today to express concern about a pair of emails I received regarding my Amazon Author Page. Recently, I've been adding books to my page for which I've contributed substantial amounts of writing, in an effort to make it easier for readers to find my work. Today, I added Planet of the Apes Archive Vol. 1: Terror on the Planet of the Apes to my page, for which I penned both the foreword and the afterword. After doing so, I received an email informing me that although the book would be added, Amazon has a policy of not listing books on Author Pages for those who have written foreword, introductions or afterwords, and that herein, no further such books would be listed on my page.

I politely protested this policy, but received another email repeating the rule. With all due respect, your company's reasoning on this matter is flawed. Here's why:

For every book on my Amazon Author Page for which I'm listed as an editor, I'm also one of the writers. I don't list any books on my page for which I am only the editor and not one of the authors, such as those put out by my independent publishing company, Hasslein Books. For example, I'm the editor of Total Immersion: The Comprehensive Unauthorized Red Dwarf Encyclopedia, but not the author. Hence, although I have an editor credit on the book's landing page, it's not included on my Amazon Author Page since I don't take credit for others' work. On the other hand, I'm both an editor and an author of The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planetof the Apes. Hence, it's listed on my Amazon Author Page, as it should be.

So far, your staff have been quite helpful and friendly, and have added all of the books I've asked them to add. But given today's emails, that's apparently no longer going to be the case. That's a problem for me, as there are several unannounced books for which I've been both an editor and an author as well, but which I won't be able to include on my Author Page now, once the publishers announce them. This is going to majorly dampen my enthusiasm when those volumes come out. In fact, it applies to a majority of the books to which I've contributed.

For Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone, for example, my co-editor and I conceived of the project, brought it to Titan Books and 20th Century Fox, hired all of the authors, and then each wrote more than 40 pages (a short story and an introduction). I'm one of the book's seventeen authors. But because I'm listed on Amazon as the editor and my co-editor is listed as an author due to how the publisher set up the landing page, your policy would dictate that I wouldn't be allowed to have it on my Author Page, yet he would. How is that a working system? How does that make sense? 

The same problem applies to all of my Planet of the Apes and Star Wars books from Sequart—I co-edited each of them, but I am also one of the authors for every volume. Each of these books is a team collaboration, and I wrote lengthy essays that ran with my byline alongside the work of the other essayists. We're all equal contributors. But if Sequart decides to list me as the editor while setting up the book's listing on Amazon, suddenly I'm not allowed to have any of them on my Amazon Author Page? Again, that makes no sense to me.

As for forewords, introductions and afterwords to other books, those involve a good deal of writing and research on my part. In fact, for the books from IDW and BOOM! Studios for which I've written a foreword, an introduction and/or an afterword, I'm the only person who wrote anything new for those books—they're all reprints of classic comic strips (Star Trek, Star Wars and Planet of the Apes), and I was invited to compose all supplementary text created for each book, in essence having me present the strips to the fans. And in the case of IDW's five Star Trek hardcovers on my Author Page, they're actually reprinting my personal comics collection, and I'm the one who conceived of the project in the first place. So how sensible is your policy if I'll no longer be able to list such books on my page?

The thing is, I'm not trying to be argumentative, arrogant, difficult or rude—honestly, I'm not. Your staff are all just doing their jobs, and I appreciate how helpful and expedient each has been every time I've asked to have a book added. They're not the enemy and neither are you, and I mean no disrespect to anyone involved whatsoever. But the bottom line is this: Amazon's policy is just too rigid. It screws over authors like me, whose contributions aren't so clear-cut and black-and-white. For the Titan and Sequart books, for example, my name is on the front cover of each volume, and I'm one of each book's authors, yet I wouldn't be able to have any of them on my Author Page, simply due to an arbitrary "no editors" rule. It's a policy that is dismissive of what editors do, and it's as unrealistic as it is admittedly offensive. I urge you to reconsider.

I use my Amazon Author Page to promote my work, in the hope that others will buy it after finding it all listed together. If I can't list half my books from now on due to some ill-conceived policy about what constitutes an author, then of what use to me—or to any writer, for that matter—is the Author Page? If a writer has helped to spearhead a project from start to finish and has contributed many pages to a book, as I have with my books from Titan and Sequart, how is that writer not an author? If a writer pens supplementary materials for a book, such as an afterword, an introduction, a foreword, a lexicon, or whatever else, as I have with the books from IDW and BOOM! Studios, how is that writer not an author?

More importantly, why would Amazon want to reduce its revenue opportunities? From a promotions and marketing standpoint, that seems nonsensical. What could you possibly gain from making it so that I can't promote all of my books at Amazon from a single landing page? Wouldn't you want fans of my work to be able to easily find and buy all of it? How could you possibly be better off as a seller of books if half of the titles containing my writing aren't listed when people look me up? Honestly, I'm baffled by this. Please help me understand.

Better yet, please consider making your policy much simpler and author-friendly. I respectfully recommend that if an author wishes to list a book to which he or she has contributed as a writer on his or her Amazon Author Page, then let him or her do so, provided that there's proof of that individual's involvement. How would such a policy in any way constitute a problem for Amazon? It would mean more potential book sales. You'd win, I'd win, your customers would win—everyone would win. The current policy, on the other hand, hurts all of us.

In short, I see no downside to letting authors include foreword, introduction and afterword contributions on our Author Pages. Where's the business logic in limiting my ability to promote my books that you sell? Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Rich Handley

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