We've all heard the horror stories: authors who find their accounts suspended or terminated completely.
If you’re like me, every time you hear a story like this, the pit of your stomach churns with existential dread, and you ask yourself the terrifying question: what if it happened to me?
For those of you who have faced this problem, the fear has likely turned into outright panic.
I would invite you to breathe deeply, and stay calm. This does not have to be the end of the world, and there are steps that you can take that will increase your chances of getting back in good standing with Amazon.
- The difference between suspension and termination
- The most common reasons that Amazon shut down your account
- What to do if you get banned
- Backup options if none of these ideas work
Disclaimer: note that we cannot 100% guarantee that any of our advice will work to reinstate your Amazon account. Ultimately, Amazon always has the last say. The advice in this article may help, but it is not a surefire way to convince Amazon to reverse their decision.
And with that out of the way, let's dive into one of the most potentially terrifying situations that you could find yourself in.
KDP Suspension Vs. Termination
In most cases, you are likely to have your KDP account suspended before it is terminated, but this varies from situation to situation.
But what is the difference between the two?
When KDP suspends your account, it is because they identified a possible violation of Amazon's terms of service, and are essentially pausing your account until they can review it further with you.
You can think of it as a slap on the wrist for doing something you shouldn't. Now, there may be situations when you had no idea you were doing anything wrong, or they misidentified your account as having a problem.
The good news is, a suspension is far less serious than a termination, and unless you are willfully disobeying the KDP agreement, there is a decent chance you can reinstate your author account.
Account termination is much more serious, and is less likely to be reversible.
While there is the chance that you could reverse an account termination, particularly if you choose to take a legal route, it will be a very difficult and an expensive road.
At this point, your account is completely dissolved, usually due to repeated violations or egregious errors. It is also, in most cases, unrecoverable.
The Most Common Reasons for Shutting Down Your KDP Account
Amazon has a lot of guidelines that they adhere to, and it can be difficult to know what they all are and make sure you are compliant.
That said, here are the most common reasons why KDP might have suspended your account.
1. Using Copyrighted Material
Obviously it is not only against Amazon's policies, but it is also illegal to use another person's copyrighted material in your work. This includes copyrighted images, text, images of public figures without their permission, etc.
The worst part about this is that all it takes is someone to claim an infringement. They can submit a form and Amazon will immediately take action without even verifying whether the claim is legit.
But even so, it is crucial to ensure you have all the necessary rights to your book beforehand.
2. Trademark Infringement
This has made headlines a few times in the last few years, where someone has filed a trademark and then sued anyone that used that same word or phrase.
This is why it is important to check the trademarks on any book or series titles that you use, and consider filing your own trademark when appropriate.
3. Having Multiple KDP Accounts
Amazon does not permit you to have more than one KDP account. The only exception to this is if you have a separate business with a different EIN number, like Dave Chesson does with his personal and his business account.
4. Duplicate content
This is most common among low-content books where you release multiple books with the exact same content in it.
5. Enrolling Books in KU that Are Available Wide
In order to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (KU), your book must be exclusive to Amazon. If your book is listed anywhere else, including on your own website, that could be grounds for Amazon suspension.
This is difficult sometimes, because if your book is pirated, it could be flagged by Amazon even though you had nothing to do with it. This means you must also be vigilant of piracy.
If you are worried about this, you can still list your book in the Kindle store without exclusivity to KU. You just won't receive the potential benefits of having a book in KU.
6. Using Spam Reviewers
If you are trying to game the Amazon algorithm in any way, such as using spam bots or soliciting reviewers by incentivising them with anything other than a free copy of your book, that could be grounds for Amazon account suspension.
Basically, use ethical forms of marketing, don't try to game the system.
7. Offensive Content
If you have posted anything that can be remotely regarded as pornographic, promoting physical or sexual violence, hate speech, promotion of terrorism, etc., that can easily be grounds for suspension or even termination.
8. Unpublishing and Republishing Identical Books
There is evidence that newer books tend to do better in the Amazon algorithms, so you might be tempted to remove a book that is not selling well, and simply republish it.
There are legitimate ways to unpublish and republish a book, but it usually requires that you make changes. Simply un-publishing and republishing the exact same book is against Amazon's guidelines.
9. Misleading Meta Descriptions
This is why it is important to pick keywords and categories that are genuinely relevant to your book, and that your book title, subtitle, and description are accurate.
The last thing you want to do is bait and switch your readers. You wouldn't want this even if Amazon allowed it.
If you find that your account has been suspended or terminated for another reason, please let us know, so that we can update this list accordingly.
What to Do If Your Account Gets Banned
We discussed why your account might be banned, but what can you do if it actually happens? Here are a list of tips to help you along:
Tip #1: Take Immediate Action If You Receive a Warning
Often, though not always, Amazon will send you an email warning you about a potential violation.
If you receive these emails, DO NOT IGNORE THEM!
Responding promptly, within 24 hours, is the best way to resolve these issues before they even happen.
If you go longer than 24 hours, there is a good chance that your account WILL be suspended.
However, if you respond politely, there is a good chance you can nip this problem in the bud.
Tip #2: Keep Trying Amazon Support
Very often, it can be frustrating to interact with Amazon customer support. You never know who you are going to get, and having the right Amazon support representative can make all the difference.
If you do not hear back, or the answers you receive are not helpful, it is okay to keep trying. You may eventually receive a different customer support representative who is more helpful.
That said, do not spam Amazon customer support every few hours with emails. As difficult as it can be when your account is suspended and you are losing sales, this process requires patience.
Note: Some contact options are no longer available if your account is suspended. You can contact Amazon through the following methods:
- Replying to the email(s) they have sent you
- Amazon Author Central Support
- KDP Support (may not be available)
Tip #3: Be Polite
Imagine if you are working at Amazon customer service, and you get someone who is completely unreasonable, incensed, and insulting. Would you be eager to help?
Chances are, the answer is no.
That is why it is important that you stay polite, thank the customer support representatives when you can, and try to be the embodiment of a nice person.
From personal experience, I can tell you that this is difficult to do. Sometimes you keep getting stock answers, or instructions to do things that you already have done.
If this happens, simply take a deep breath, and continue responding politely. Eventually, your message will sink in, or you might get a different support representative to help.
Tip #4: Admit Your Mistakes
If your account has been suspended, there is the possibility that it was done in error, but there is also a very strong possibility that you made a mistake.
If you had no idea that you were violating some guideline or other, don't worry.
When you respond to Amazon, make sure to express humility that you may have made a mistake, and politely ask if they can explain more about how you violated the terms so that you can avoid the same mistake in the future.
The more you can position yourself as someone who is trying their best to conform with Amazon's terms of service, the more likely the situation will resolve favorably.
Tip #5: Offer Solutions
Try to appear eager to help. If you know what the problem is, when you email Amazon's customer support, make sure you offer potential solutions, and let them know that you are eager to make the changes necessary so that you do not violate their terms in the future.
This proactive approach can be very helpful in reinstating your account.
Tip #6: Talk to the Alliance of Independent Authors
If none of the above has worked, and you believe you were legitimately suspended in error, one helpful resource is the Alliance of Independent Authors.
This is an organization designed to help protect independent authors from situations such as this, and is a great way to rally other authors to your plight.
Tip #7: Lawyer Up
If all else fails, and you believe you are truly in the right, a lawyer might be your only remaining way to reinstate your account. In many cases, you won’t need to go to court, but by having a legal letter or statement from a lawyer can jolt them into seeing that you truly are adamant about this, and prepared. They’ll pay a bit more attention.
Keep in mind that if you have legitimately been violating Amazon's terms of service, even unknowingly, a legal battle is unlikely to help much. Even if you are completely in the right, a lawyer is likely to cost you more than it will help.
However, in these extreme situations, it is a viable last resort.
What if None of This Works?
So what if the unspeakable happens, and none of the tactics above work. This is entirely possible, as Amazon has the last say on what happens on their platform.
It would absolutely suck to be permanently banned from Amazon, but you do have options if this is the case.
Option #1: Create a New Business
If you simply create a new KDP account, Amazon is likely to instantly flag this and shut it down. However, if you start a new business, you can get a different EIN number, meaning you are taxed as a separate entity.
With this in place, you can theoretically create a new KDP account and not be in violation of Amazon's terms of services.
However, we would recommend against uploading your old books to this new account. Amazon would likely flag this, and it could lead to further terminations.
In other words, this is a way to start all over again, with new books, and a completely separate business.
It's not ideal, but it is another way to get back on Amazon.
Option #2: Build Your Own Audience
I've said before, and I will say again: your email list is the single most important marketing tool that you have. It is crucial that you create your own audience.
In fact, when Brandon Sanderson launched his famous Kickstarter in 2022, he did this specifically to prove that he could continue to make a living even if Amazon completely disappeared off the face of the earth.
I believe that it is important to have this mindset.
What if your account on Amazon was banned? What if Amazon suddenly disappeared? These are good questions to have, and a great reason to build your audience completely separately from Amazon or any other platform.
Assuming you are not exclusive to Amazon, you can sell your books directly from your website. This may be a viable option for you. While it will take a longer time to build an audience that is large enough to sustain you with direct sales, it may be worth it to you in the long run.
Option #3: Publish Wide
If you can no longer publish on Amazon, it is time to get aggressive with your marketing of other platforms.
Chief among these is your own author website, which I discussed in the tip above, but you can also publish to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Draft2Digital, etc.
These retailers don't have nearly the same market reach as Amazon, but if you are intentional about building your audiences, you can still make it work.
Other Author's Experiences and Tips
I wouldn't normally do this for most articles on Kindlepreneur, but since the reasons and solutions surrounding KDP account terminations are so broad and diverse, I thought it would be important to share the advice and personal stories of several other authors who have gone through this process.
If your account has been suspended or terminated, it might be worth watching some of these stories for ideas on how you can solve the problem.