In Which the Createspace Content Validation Request Team Suppresses My Newest Book

Update 7/1/18: Both Luckbane and Soulbright are now back on track.

Today I received the following email:

“Hello Tony,

Thank you for reaching out

We have reviewed your response and can confirm that your book complies with our guidelines. We had incorrectly suppressed your title in error and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.

Regards,

The Content Validation Request Team”

No explanation, but at least I got an apology.


So yesterday I submitted my book files for Soulbright (Otherworld #2) to Createspace yesterday like I always do. I received a pop-up verification that my files would be in review for a day or two before I could order a proof. It was pretty standard. I then decided to update Luckbane‘s cover. It was just a few minor tweaks. I changed the font color to white to match the rest of the series and the ebook cover. I also added a number 1 to the Otherworld logo (that sword and gear thing at the bottom of the book). Soulbright has a 2 there. You get the idea. The pop-up reminded me my files were in review. I went about my merry.

Today, I checked the status of my book, because frankly sometimes Createspace is pretty fast. Instead of the expected “In Process” or the celebratory “Awaiting Proof Order,” I saw something I’ve never seen before.

“Suppressed.”

The entire line associated with Soulbright was greyed out. I stepped aboard the anxiety train. There was no explanation. There were no emails or notification in the Createspace Message Center. I didn’t have an email from Createspace at the email my Createspace Member Account is associated with.

I immediately contacted Customer Service via the little Contact Us link at the bottom of the page. An email delivered through their contact form got me the only response related to this fiasco that I ever received in my Message Center:

“Thank you for contacting CreateSpace Member Support. This message is to confirm that we have received your support request. Please look for our reply within one day of sending your message.

We also have representatives available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To talk to us, please visit our support page.

Regards,
The CreateSpace Team”

So I filled out the Contact form again and requested a phone call. I was given an email address to address the issue: validation-request@createspace.com.

Dutifully, I sent my email at 1:08 PM:

“Hello,

I am quite anxious that my newest book, Soulbright ID:*******, submitted for review yesterday, is now being Suppressed. I have been writing and promoting this book, the sequel to Luckbane ID:********, for the past couple years. I even released Garden of Stone ID:******* with the subtitle A Prequel to Soulbright.

I am the sole author and copyright owner of all materials associated with my books, including content and cover art. The cover art is meant to depict a stylized render [a signature disc weapon that appears in books associated with my protagonist, Copper Gallows] and an eclipse, as his character is changing.

I would like this matter resolved ASAP.

Regards,
Tony Breeden
TonyBreedenBooks.com”

I also provided them with a contact number and my Createspace member ID number. While I waited for a response, I did a little investigation. First, I wanted to know why a book might be suppressed. According to createspace, “Suppressed” indicates that “The availability of this title has been pulled due to infringement of our content guidelines.”

That sounded pretty serious. Further investigation through Createspace forums and angry author blog posts indicated that Createspace was basically asking that I prove I own the copyright to the book I just wrote.

Keep in mind that at this point there is no way this could be due to a complaint or copyright counterclaim. I had literally just submitted the book files for review. It seemed random and arbitrary.

Then it got worse. Luckbane was suddenly “Suppressed” as well.

I received the following contact from the Createspace Content Validation Request Team at 3:44 PM:

“Hello Tony,

Thank you for publishing with Amazon.
I am contacting you regarding the following content:

Title: Luckbane:
Author(s): Tony Breeden (ILLUSTRATOR); Tony Breeden (AUTHOR)
Title ID: *******

Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has his or her books sold by anyone else.
To publish your book, please respond with documentation confirming your publishing rights within four days

Acceptable documentation can include:

– If you are the author and you are republishing your book after your publication rights have been reverted to you, a signed reversion letter from your former publisher
– If you are the author and you are publishing under a pseudonym, please state that you have the rights of the content along with the pseudonym used.
– If you are the author and your content has not been published anywhere else, please state that you own the rights to the content you are publishing.

– If you are not the author, please provide documentation where the author confirms your rights to distribute the content, such as a signed contract between you and the author granting you the rights to publish the book in the territories, languages and formats you have selected or other similar documentation

Documentation we cannot accept includes:

– A statement by you that you have the publishing rights without verification by the author/copyright holder
– A copyright application for which registration has not been confirmed

If you publish books for which you do not hold the publishing rights, you may lose access to optional services or your account may be terminated.

To learn more, please see:
https://www.createspace.com/Help/Rights/ContentGuidelines.jsp

We appreciate your understanding.

Sincerely,

The Content Validation Request Team”

This was obviously a form letter. It was about Luckbane with no mention of Soulbright, so it did not appear to be a response to my email. Not only were they [likely] asking me to confirm that I own the entire publication rights to Soulbright… they wanted me to verify that I own the entire publication rights to a book I published through them FIVE YEARS AGO!!

I responded at 5:02 PM. No, I had not calmed down by then:

I own the entire rights to the content I’m publishing. Always. I own the rights to the entire Otherworld series, including Dreadknights, Luckbane, Garden of Stone, Soulbright, and forthcoming titles like Blindsight and Dreadknights 2.

I literally just updated the cover art for Luckbane to include a number 1 in the Otherworld logo (sword and gear) and changed the font color to white to match the rest of the series. This book has been published since 2013. Over the past five years, I have made several minor updates to the book’s promo material (letting my readers know about my newest books as I publish them). This is ridiculous.

Since I own the copyright and no one else ever has, why was this hassle necessary? It’s certainly not based on a complaint, tip or counterclaim. It couldn’t be! I alone own the publishing rights! I wrote it!

Are you gonna buy me a ticket on the anxiety train every time I update a book I’ve already published through you??? Because I forgot something I wanted to change in the back matter of Luckbane, and I’d like you to stop raising my blood pressure while I do it. And I also wanted to update the back matter in my other books to let my readers know about my newest book, Soulbright, which has been unaccountably suppressed! If I have to resubmit Soulbright because I find a mistake in the proof, do I get another trip on Createspace’s Suppression Merry-Go-Round?

Please stop pre-emptively pissing off the established authors you work with. No one needs preventative copyright infringement protocols. Nothing legally requires you to do it. And I just read a ton of forum threads voicing the common complaint that established authors don’t want it. Just make it a checkbox question and go back to providing great customer service like you used to instead of creating your own customer service issues.

Regards,
Tony Breeden
TonyBreedenBooks.com

At 5:41, the Createspace Content Validation Request Team sent me a copy of my response and their form letter. The email was otherwise blank.

I freely admit that this confused me, so at 6:03 PM, I wrote the following:

How many of you are working on this single content verification?? Why did I just get this AGAIN??

I am the author of Luckbane. I own the rights to the content I published FIVE YEARS AGO and simply was stupid enough to try to update the cover to yesterday!!!

No one needs a Content Validation Request Team when no one has requested validation. This is completely random. This is definitely insulting and unnecessary! Your team literally asks me to write out something in an email that I’m pretty sure was a checkbox during the Createspace process.

And you’ve yet to give me a specific reason for the hassle and anxiety you’re putting me through! What happened to Amazon Createspace’s FORMERLY great customer service?? I don’t even get a name? Just an ambush from a faceless, nameless “Content Validation Request Team”??

Have a supervisor call me at ###-###-####.

-Tony Breeden

At 6:14 PM, I received the following with the entire thread except my original email attached:

Hello Tony

Thank you for your response.

We’ve reviewed the information provided and we are happy to inform you that your book will enter the File Review process within 24 hours.

Once your files pass File Review, you can either view a digital proof or order a printed proof copy of your title. After the proof is received and you’re satisfied with it, you will be able to approve your proof for sale once it leaves our manufacturing facility.

We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and thank you for publishing with CreateSpace.

Regards,

CreateSpace Validation Request Team”

At 6:18 PM, I received an identical response to the 6:14 PM response, except that the thread was missing but my original email was attached. I did not realize that these two emails were supposed to relate to Luckbane [6:14] and Soulbright [6:18], respectively, because they chose to respond with ambiguous form letters that contained no hint of personalized customer service. I was supposed to figure it out from the thread.

I did realize that Luckbane was back on track, but I still wanted to know why my book had been suppressed o begin with, and I wanted to know if I needed to do anything further about Soulbright, so I wrote them back [rather crossly]:

Dear Faceless Createspace Harrassment Team Member,

I still want a call from your supervisor at ###-###-####. ASAP

I was still very, very angry and more than a little confused.

To my surprise, I got the original form response (“Copyright is important to us…”) in reply.

That REALLY confused me, so I wrote:

“This is the third request I’ve received!!!!!!!!! And this one comes AFTER an email from your Author Harrassment Team that claims my issue is resolved and the book will be put back under review!!

What is wrong with you people???

Have a supervisor call me at ###-###-#### immediately!!”

I received the same “Copyright is important to us” form response in reply.

I was flabbergasted. I wrote:

Form email Number 4!!!???

You just wrote me to say this is resolved. Have a supervisor call me at ###-###-#### immediately!

I received the same form response AGAIN.

A suspicion hit me. I wrote:

“So let’s test this. The Content Validation Request Team’s idea of customer service is to send the self-same automated form letter to ANY reply it gets. Because that’s not gonna cause the authors you make money off confusion and stress, right?”

And sending the test….

I received the self-same “Copyright is important to us” form response in reply.

Now, I’ve parsed out the confusion a bit and I think it means that my books are back on track. As of this posting, Luckbane is listed as back “In Process,” but Soulbright is still “Suppressed.” I don’t know why they were Suppressed to begin with. Form responses don’t tell you why. I suspect I’m the victim of a poorly designed algorithm, but who can say? You certainly can’t ask a system that only offers canned responses to explain itself.

I do know that when you submit your files, there’s a note next to the Submit button that says, “By clicking Submit for Review, you are agreeing to and confirming your compliance with the Member Agreement.” In Sections 7e and 7f of the Member Agreement, the author represents and warrants that ” (e) the Content (and our use thereof) is not defamatory, libelous, obscene, or otherwise illegal, does not invade any right of privacy, and does not infringe upon any Intellectual Property Right or right of publicity of any person or entity, and any recipe, formula, or instruction contained in the Content is accurate and is not injurious to the user; (f) the Content complies with all aspects of the Content Guidelines.” On the Content Guidelines page under the heading “Music” [strangely enough], we find the line, “Please see our Copyright Guidelines for additional information on rights.”

The Copyright Guidelines state:

“Our member agreement requires that you own or have obtained all rights to any content you deliver to us. Please do not send us any content for which you do not own or have not obtained all rights. Our member agreement allows us to reject or remove content from our service, and we have rejected past submissions for rights issues.”

In other words, I do know that by clicking the Submit button, I am telling Createspace the very thing their redundant Content Validation Request Team is asking me to write out in an email. If I later find out they hassled me because they placed the Copyright Guidelines under Music and some opportunist might try to make a case that therefore the Copyright Guidelines don’t apply to Books under the Member Agreement… well, that’s just stupid on Createspace’s part.

The bottom line is that instead of providing great customer service, the Createspace Content Validation Request team is creating unnecessary and I daresay unwarranted and certainly unprovoked customer service issues and a horrible public relations nightmare with the authors who use its service [hereafter known as the

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