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My adventures with Amazon.com’s Author Page

I visited Amazon a couple of days ago, blamelessly wishing to buy a couple of books, and an invitation popped up: if I happened to be the author of The History of the Ancient World, The Well-Trained Mind, and other books by Susan Wise Bauer, I could construct an Author Page.

Simple fact of writing in 2009: anytime you get offered an opportunity to promote yourself, you should take it. (Hey, all those people who post one-star reviews of my books should have some competition. Particularly when they make nasty statements without supporting evidence. But I digress.)

So I followed the link to my Author Page, where I posted my photo and a brief bio. Now any Amazon.com readers who are dying to see what I look like can indulge themselves.

Amazon then notified me that it would have to confirm my identity with my publisher. Works for me; I don’t want random people masquerading as me on the world’s biggest online retailer.

Apparently this involves checking with my publisher to verify my email address. I’m kind of curious as to who, at W. W. Norton, got to answer that particular important query.

Anyway, within 48 hours I got an email from Amazon: “Hi Susan Wise Bauer…”

Congratulations! Your publisher has verified your account information. Your Author Central account is now activated.

We encourage you to sign-in to Author Central and share more information about you and your books:
Add your books and suggest changes to your bibliography
Post a photo and provide a biography (if you haven’t already)
Connect with your readers by blogging
Any information you’ve already provided through Author Central will be reflected on the Susan Wise Bauer Page shortly.

Thanks,
The Author Central Team

Five minutes later I got another email from Amazon:

Hi Susan Wise Bauer,

Random House was unable to verify that your email address belongs to Susan Wise Bauer.

We’d like to help you complete the activation of your account. If you believe there has been an error, you may contact your publisher through Author Central. Or you can contact the Author Central Team directly.

Thanks,
The Author Central Team

Quite apart from the weird sort of logical parodox in the salutation and first line of this email (not to mention the use of the hyphenated adjective “sign-in” as a verb in the other message), this puzzled me because I have never written ANYTHING for Random House. So I sent them a query. Why, I wondered, were they pestering Random House, as 1) I am not a Random House author, and 2) Norton already confirmed my identity? (And why would I want to contact my publisher through the very indirect route of Amazon’s Author Central Team when I could simply call the editor-in-chief’s cell phone? But perhaps there are reasons I’m not aware of.)

A day later, I got this response:

Hello,

I understand your concern as we have contacted “Random House” to approve you as an author even though they are not your actual publisher.

We requested that “Random House” approve your registration because they are listed in our records as your publisher, or at least one of your publishers.

We sometimes have more than one publisher listed for an author, and in these situations we send approval requests to all publishers listed.

*****However, only one publisher needs to verify your account.*****

After looking into your Author central account, I see that one of your publishers “Norton” has already approved you as an author and your Author central is active now.

You can find your Author central page using the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IQW9KY

You can now add or edit your photo as well as biography on this page.

I hope this information was helpful. Thank you for using Author central.

Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

Best regards,

Sujay P.

As there’s no way to contact Sujay P., I can’t point out that this link goes to the Author Page of a nice man named Briane Keene, who apparently writes horror for a publisher called Leisure Press. Nor can I ask them to correct their records to reflect that I do not and have never written for Random House. Or, indeed, any sub-section of the Bertelsmann Group.

I do, however, appreciate the sudden appearance of caution in the vague and non-specific salutation, “Hello!”

If I were a bad person, I’d see whether I could edit Brian Keene’s account. But I resisted the impulse (and I’m hoping that whoever got sent the link to MY account shows similar restraint).