Update: Done! I’m keeping this page here as a record indefinitely. Despite my efforts to update the page title, it seems to be stuck. Whoops. But the process was completed in October of 2020.
I’m going through a major transition: changing my writing name. Since I currently live abroad, I’m holding off on certain changes until I’m back in the states. Considering the current virus situation, that will probably be a while from now. In the meantime, I’m documenting my experience here.
It all starts with a blog post: [I will be changing my writing name]
Please read that first. I’m not going to repeat it all here.
But I am documenting the steps I take. After the first step, each of these will be added (and kept grammatically) in real time:
- I have declared my intention in a public forum. That blog post. Prior to that post, I had to give this decision a lot of thought. Then I had to decide when and how to go public with my decision.
- The name itself? The reasons why are documented above. Therefore, the next question is what I’m changing it to. I’m roughly 95% settled on a new writing name, but I’m about to test it out in the website header. In the process, I’ll be temporarily changing my site details (that’s some techy bit I hopefully don’t break 🙂 ). Then I’ll monitor my google search results and see how I feel about it in a few days.
- It’s been about four days. How am I feeling? Well, google has now decided to show my blog page (instead of my home page) when I search under the new name. So I’ve just updated my blog page to give people a better greeting. In the meantime, I do feel reasonably settled into the new name. But I’m going to change my site details back now for until things become more official. I haven’t updated my book ISBNs yet, since I’m intending to handle that once I’m back in the states. As for what’s next, I’m debating which step should come first: the twitter announcement, a difficult conversation with family, updating my book ISBNs, or officially updating the site details / URL. The official site update may coincide with the twitter announcement.
- I appear to be procrastinating. Yeah, the “difficult conversation with family” in step three should be very telling. And I get to do it over facetime. I’ve just brainstormed ways to approach this conversation. I’ve also brainstormed steps in the process and what I can do for it now (since it looks like I’ll be abroad for a while longer). In my marketing research, I’ve come across ARCs, a concept I was already somewhat familiar with. I have yet to figure out how to do them in a way that amazon will find acceptable. However, that may be a way to approach the conversation. As things stand now, here are how many reviews I have (counting both Amazon and Amazon UK): Victim 3, Into the Unknown 2, Will to Speak 2. Goodreads? About one each.
- It’s occurred to me that I set up a youtube channel awhile ago. I had some ideas for it that I just never really got around to implementing. So I barely had any videos on it, and what I had was more than a little dated. Today I set up a new channel under the new writing name. I haven’t updated much on it yet (I didn’t even upload artwork or a video), but it exists. Also, I cleaned up the old channel. I’ve decided that I may be updating my writing name on my books from abroad since I’m going to be here longer than I intended. Therefore, it makes more sense to try to update them from abroad. I think I’ll update twitter next. (5.5. This may be another way of procrastinating the difficult conversation with family. Note for the future: it’s early September of 2020, the year of COVID-19.)
- Twitter is done! That’s something more concrete. A little discouraging (since I logged on and almost immediately saw a post talking about the apparent lack of success among indie authors), but done. Next, I changed the site header to the new writing name. I’ve also settled on what exactly I’m doing for my legal name change. That’s too personal for me to include it here, but someone did ask me what Ren is short for today. I actually answered with the name I’ll be changing to legally. And it felt . . . decently good. Not perfect, but I don’t expect perfection. I just expect it to feel better. And, yeah, it did. My decision is made. The next steps are formatting the rereleases, setting up the ARCs (hopefully properly this time), and the difficult conversation with family.
- The conversation is now done. I also discussed some other difficult topics like flights and my visa where I’m staying (don’t worry, I’m not in any danger). The twitter-related contact information on the site has also been updated. And I have a more concrete list of next steps to take.
- I have updated the covers on this site and drafted several emails. I’m running into a bit of an issue with amazon, but it should be resolved soon. In the meantime, I’ve taken the time to update and add in both an “About the author” and an “Also by Ren J Dorian” page to the printed versions of each of my books. Into the Unknown and Will to Speak are officially ready for the rerelease. Victim is almost ready. However, due to reader feedback (and, honestly, the fact that I have evolved as a writer), I will be making some minor edits to clarify a few things. It’s nothing major, and I will soon be posting a blog post on the subject. Next I’ll be backing up this site (for transitioning it to the new URL) and sending those emails.
- [Looking Back and Looking Forward]
- I’ve finished updating the URL / domain for this site. The old site will forward here until that domain expires. In the meantime, I have to go through years of old posts and check the links. I just searched google and found that it’s still directing people to my blog when I google my new writing name. The bigger problem? It’s still sending them to the old URL and I don’t know why. But that might correct itself sometime within the next few days. Also, I’ve added a note about the name change to all my official bios I can find online. I’ve noted a date about a month from now for when I’ll go through and delete those old bios. Thirdly, the official rereleased version of Into the Unknown is now available. All three of my books should have gone through online at the same time, but amazon flagged the other two (for being rereleases, apparently, since I didn’t realize I had to take the old ones down first even when I’m using their system to (hopefully) transfer the reviews). Whoops. That means that now I have to go and officially unpublish all the old ones online before resubmitting the other two. Then I’m going to send the appropriate emails for transferring Into the Unknown’s reviews. The other two books should get through amazon’s system tomorrow (hopefully). I’ve already documented the current reviews in case something goes wrong.
- Victim now has the rereleased paperback on amazon. Supposedly the ebook is published (i.e. through their content review process) as well, but it’s not showing up when I search. I already emailed them about transferring the reviews. However, there might be another problem: Into the Unknown’s original (now unpublished) version is currently showing as a paperback option. I don’t know why, especially since the original has officially been unpublished. It is appearing as unpublished on KDP’s bookshelf when I log in. Considering my past experience with amazon, I know that it can take time for changes to go through their system. I’m going to wait a little while to see if their system corrects itself. I’ve noted a date when I’ll contact them if it doesn’t. My third book, Will to Speak, apparently got flagged and blocked for “territory rights”. I have no clue why. But it just got flagged almost immediately after I submitted it again, so I had to email the support address they gave me. I received a response saying that they’re currently receiving a high volume of emails (which hasn’t happened any of the other times I’ve had to contact them while changing my pen name). Part of me is wondering if this is because the narrator, GT, is non-binary. But, if that’s the case, wouldn’t I have had the same issue with Into the Unknown? I’m probably just overthinking it. More likely is that whoever did the initial review screwed up since I made a mistake in this process initially. To be fair, I thought I was following their initial instructions to change my pen name through their system. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve now had to contact them at least five times over trying to change my writing name (and that’s not counting the emails asking them to migrate the reviews). And it looks like I might have to contact them again over Into the Unknown’s old version. F*ck!
- It would be so, so much easier dealing with amazon if they would actually let me communicate with the same employee. I get the occasional email that allows a reply. But, otherwise, I guess it’s all resolved from amazon’s side. The employee who received my email over Victim’s reviews told me that migrating the reviews isn’t possible. This is AFTER Into the Unknown’s reviews were successfully (I think, see above) migrated. I replied that it’s already been done and I added layers of former correspondence to that email. F*ck! As for Will to Speak’s “territory rights”, my side says that worldwide rights are enabled. They responded to that by saying that no rights are currently enabled (despite worldwide being selected, for some reason). Apparently the fault is on my side for not selecting the territory rights (even though they’re already selected). I just logged in and selected all of the individual territory rights, but now I can’t submit for publication since the paperback version was taken out of draft status. It doesn’t say “live” or “blocked” just “draft unavailable”. I don’t know what that means! Or why this is still a problem. I just turned to my roommate and gestured at my laptop. “Because they couldn’t make it easy” was going to be the start of a rant, but I stopped myself. I’ve done what I can tonight and will be trying to fix it again tomorrow. F*ck! (And to top it all off, my laptop “lost” the touchscreen driver after the update. I don’t know how, but now it thinks it doesn’t have a touchscreen. So now I can’t use it like normal. I have a lenovo that’s made to convert between a laptop and a tablet, and I typically like using the touchscreen.)
- I had to run through a bunch of amazon emails today. I bit the bullet and apologized to someone who claimed that what I’m doing isn’t possible (contradictory to basically everyone else I’ve dealt with who says it’s possible but that I did something wrong and need to fix it according to their random set of other instructions). I’m hoping that the apology gets them to ignore me so I can (hopefully) work with someone else who knows how to migrate the reviews. Apparently this does involve “linking” the old and new “versions”. I’m not sure I’m okay with that, but I can leave it that way for now. Eventually I should have more reviews on just the Ren J Dorian versions, even if I have to lose some in the process. If I can actually get my beta reviews through, then I’ll put them directly on the Ren J Dorian copies. Will to Speak has two problems now: the territory rights issue is ongoing (for some reason, even though I’ve been informed that there’s no content restrictions causing it), and the ebook is “live” but “page not found”. I really hope that the ebook is an issue that will fix itself soon. I emailed them again about the paperback version of Will to Speak since it wasn’t in draft status. Once it was put back in draft status, I went through and changed the selection from worldwide rights to individual territory rights. I selected all territories, so hopefully that will work. I’ve now started setting aside some time in the mornings to fixing that day’s addition of the “ama prob” (my shorthand in my phone for the latest amazon problem). I’m hoping I can get it all done shortly if I just keep chipping away at it. The current status? Into the Unknown is successfully changed with both ebook and paperback available (with the former reviews), but the paperback sometimes redirects to the old (unpublished) version. Victim has the paperback republished under the new name, but the “live” ebook is not findable on their site. Victim is waiting for ebook / paperback linking and the reviews update. Will to Speak is stuck in a weird limbo over (I think) territory rights, but will hopefully be successfully republished on their system under Ren J Dorian soon. I own the copyright, so the “territory rights” issue reads more like an error on their system.
- The territory rights issue is resolved. (I think, since I’m not even sure why it was a problem to begin with.) Will to Speak’s updated paperback is available, but now the ebook has a problem. It was officially published on their system a week ago, but the details page hasn’t appeared yet. To my knowledge, it’s supposed to appear within 72 hours. I just sent what I hope is the last email I have to send amazon about the pen name change. In it, I’m asking them to migrate WtS’s reviews, and if there’s a problem with WtS’s ebook page. Victim and Into the Unknown both have the reviews migrated, but they’re appearing with the old version as a “former paperback addition” that is temporarily unavailable. I’m going to leave that as is for now. Victim’s ebook hasn’t appeared yet, but I’m giving that issue a bit longer to resolve itself. In the meantime, I’m going to try to get actual ARC reviews in through their system (at least through the editorials, even if nothing else). This whole process has taken over a week. And it’s not even done yet. F*ck. I’m waiting until everything is changed over before I announce it again on twitter (and I’ll make a little post on my personal fb). But the length of the process just with amazon (not helped by the conflicting misinformation I’ve received from them) has made the process even more frustrating. F*ck!
- “Besides that, I understand your concern about the eBook version of above title not showing up on the detail page. Upon checking the title, I see that it was linked from our side only a few days ago. I think this is the reason for it not yet appearing. Can I ask you to wait another 72 hours, and if it will still not be displayed (the eBook) then contact us and we will investigate it thoroughly.” –email this morning from amazon support. It’s been a week and the ebook hasn’t appeared yet. The person I’ve been in contact with most (the one that actually allows email replies and seems to know how to do more) also just politely told me to use the regular contact form on amazon’s kdp site instead. Right now, I’m glad it’s only three books that I have to push through. On the bright side, all of the reviews are now migrated.
- Author central has been (I think) fully updated. I created the new bio and uploaded it to the new page a few days ago. I also put an update on the old page so that viewers would see the change in name. Today, I took the time to fill in some editorial reviews from early readers. I’m not entirely sure that’s okay with amazon’s system, but at least one beta told me she’s not willing to try to get her review in through amazon’s process again. She emailed me what should be her reviews. Now potential readers can still see her thoughts (albeit as “editorial reviews”). Aside from that, I’ve learned that goodreads will require me to make a separate account. I only have one email address, so that’s going to be frustrating. Also, the wrong version of Will to Speak is showing up on the new author page. F*ck.
- “Greetings from Amazon Kindle direct Publishing!.I apologize about any inconvenience you may have experienced.I would like to inform you that we need a little time to look into this matter. We have reached out to our technical team for further assistance.We’ll reply and send you more information on 15 October, Thursday.Thank you for your patience and understanding.” -KDP, after I emailed them asking why the ebook versions of Will to Speak and Victim haven’t shown up after a week. Today’s October 9, 2020 in the US. And I just had to send them another email about why the wrong version of Will to Speak is appearing on the new author central page. F*ck.
- My author central pages are acting up. I went to check my rss feeds after the latest blog post (to make sure they’re working). To clarify: I checked both. Now my three books have disappeared from the former page. The rss feed wasn’t even working. Google tried to take me there via Y (which, for reasons I don’t understand, still technically exists as “out of print” on amazon). That’s the only book that still goes to the old page. But maybe that’s a good thing? Weirdly enough, the state of my old author page actually made this name change feel more real. That’s an odd feeling, and one that I’m surprised hasn’t shown up this strongly sooner. Given the current state of the old page, I’ll probably take the photo down soon. The new page is still showing the wrong cover for Will to Speak, but the rss feed is successfully working. But I guess that just shows how surprisingly unpredictable this process has been.
- The representative who handled Will to Speak’s cover apparently didn’t read the query. They “added the book to the correct Author page as per your request”, which means that they didn’t read my request. I looked back over my request to be sure, and it just says that the wrong edition cover is displaying. I explained the context of the situation by saying that I just went through a change in pen name to Ren J Dorian. This is the first time, in all the issues I’ve had with amazon, where I’ve actually followed the little survey links in the email. I gave them all bad marks and explained how frustrating this whole process has been. The website redirected me to let them try again, but I don’t currently have a US phone. This means I selected the chat option and was prompted to engage with a representative named Charu. I’m reasonably sure this person was just a chat bot, but they ghosted me anyway. I logged back into author central to try to reclaim WtS myself. The system let me, but then informed me that it could take five days to reappear. Five days turned out to be five minutes. While I was there, I took down most of the old author bio. I left enough information to let people know I’m still writing under a new name, but that I’m disconnecting them further for safety reasons (among others). I even left a positive note for the reviewer who first gave Y a negative review.
- Goodreads apparently doesn’t like to be contacted. I had to find their contact form through the a link on the Librarians group (admittedly, for a sci-fi writer, I don’t typically find technology intuitive). But now I’ve contacted them about the pen name change in an attempt to delete the former account and entries. I’ve already redone everything under a new account since goodreads doesn’t allow me to just change the name on the former. I have found this process a bit frustrating, but it’s not near as bad as dealing with amazon right now. Although, speaking of, I did finally contact amazon about the ARC reviews problem (they’re still blocking my betas for not having a verified purchase).
- Amazon sent me a $5 kindle credit. I don’t know if that’s a random promotion or if it’s because of my most recent negative experience with one of their representatives. But I claimed it out of curiosity and went through their random “recommended” selection. The main takeaway? I’ve been undercharging for my ebooks by not keeping aware of the market. I have to resubmit them through KDP anyway to (hopefully) resolve the latest linking problem. So I moved the ebook price up from 2.99 to 4.99. I’ll see how much of a difference that makes after I finish getting through this pen name change mess. I also received another email from them telling me to contact a different email address that turned out to be invalid. It looks like I may have to sacrifice my old reviews and go back to begging. Also, it’s been a week and tech support never responded (this is likely another good reason to resubmit them).
- The representative who sent me the invalid email address apologized and sent me a link. I edited my original query to reflect that I’d been told to contact them through the other link. Then I sent it and now I hope for the best. All three of my books are back on amazon with the change in price. This has not resolved the disappearing ebook problem, and their tech support has yet to get back to me about it. It’d been over a week. Also, amazon’s author page for Ren J Dorian is back to showing the wrong edition cover for Will to Speak. Again. F*ck. Goodreads has yet to get back to me.
- The other address I was directed to said they can’t help me. I was directed back to KDP. The disappearing ebook problem finally earned a response (over a week later) that says they’re still looking into the problem. I resubmitted the main query (again). Now I’ve also asked them to unlink the old and new editions so that their linkage can quit confusing buyers. Right now, viewing the ebook can still direct someone to purchase the former, unpublished paperback and vice versa. I told them that some of my books were improperly linked in the confusion. I’ve been trying to fix this for almost a month now.
- I received a bunch of emails from amazon again today. The old and new editions are now unlinked, but that didn’t solve the disappearing ebook problem. It’s too early to see if it fixed the author central cover problem. That being said, the WtS ebook isn’t live? My KDP bookshelf says it is. However, one of the representatives says that it isn’t live on their side and that that’s why it isn’t appearing. I tried following the other URL for the reviews question again, but they’re insisting that they can’t respond since I don’t have an amazon sellers account. The link they tried sending me to cost 40 USD a month. I’m not paying that just so I can get an answer about ARC reviews. I tried to be clearer this time. (Here’s a tangent: I just spent most of today scrambling to try to apply for a foreign license. They think they’ll get back to me about an issue with some paperwork from the US by maybe Wednesday. If I don’t get the entirety of my application through by roughly two weeks from now, I’ll lose my right to drive in the country where I’m living now. Trying to resolve this issue ate up several hours of my day and did not leave me in a better mood. The recent frustrations with amazon don’t feel that dissimilar.)
- I feel like I’m just done. Amazon keeps sending me around to different email addresses. Another one of those was invalid today. KDP is insisting they can’t forward my queries to the correct teams, but the correct teams won’t let me contact them directly. I just apologized for being in contact with multiple representatives (which I was maintaining because of the conflicting information I received, but that probably looked like I was fishing for a better response). WtS is still not “live” on their side, and that team hasn’t gotten back to me. They missed their self-imposed deadline. I think Victim’s ebook has the same problem, since this issue appeared at the same time in the same way for both books. I emailed that representative and asked them to check, but I haven’t received a response. It is the weekend, so I probably won’t until Monday in the US. To clarify: I’m not giving up. However, I am taking a step back. I’ll let the current contacts run their course, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m going to start planning for the worst workable outcome (i.e. if all three books have their ebook and paperback versions properly linked (and “live” / visible on amazon) but no reviews). I consider that the worst workable outcome since reviews are the best chance authors have at making sales. Amazon’s system practically leaves author to beg for them.
- Victim’s ebook was apparently the same problem. I received a response much sooner than I expected. Less than an hour and a half later, I received a different response from “Kindle Content Review”. Why were they involved? I don’t know. But they cleared my ebook. It’s now back on amazon. According to my gmail, I received the first email (saying that my query about Victim’s ebook had been sent to the other team) at 12:38pm. I received the second email (saying Victim was reviewed and “successfully passed”) at 1:54pm. That’s either ridiculous or quite the coincidence. Where has it been this whole time? Will to Speak’s ebook is still disappeared somewhere.
- Goodreads ghosted me. I’ve just deleted the vast majority of the information on the old profile (including former books I’ve read / reviewed and questions I answered). I’m distancing myself from it as much as possible in an attempt to avoid future problems. If you know me in person, then you know some of the deeper reasons why I’m changing my writing name (and, therefore, the safety concerns involved). Aside from that, the mysterious amazon “Customer Service Department” can’t seem to bother responding to me. Their “Customer Reviews” team won’t talk to me since I have a KDP account, not an Amazon Sellers account. Will to Speak’s ebook still hasn’t reappeared. I’ve also had to contact them (again) to take the wrong book off of author central. Now the Ren J Dorian version of WtS is showing up on the former pen name’s author central. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t there a week ago. Speaking of, I’ve been trying to sort out this mess with amazon for about a month now. That’s a month of NOT making sales on amazon. I’m shifting my attention to how to get some reviews back since it looks like they won’t be migrated. Right now, I’m thinking of running a temporary sale, posting it on social media, and texting some contacts. But I can’t really do that until Will to Speak’s ebook and the author central problem are sorted out.
- I received a response (again) saying that the team I’m supposed to contact can’t help me since I don’t have an amazon sellers account. I replied to the former email that sent me to that URL and asked for a third option to contact the “Customer Reviews” team. Their response? They sent me the same invalid email address I tried the first time. On the bright side, Will to Speak has officially been removed from the old author central page. That’s one problem resolved (hopefully). However, the incorrect cover is still showing on the current author central page. In the meantime, I’ve resorted to posting in the KDP community about the disappeared ebook (WtS) and how to actually do ARC reviews. Both questions are pending review. Aside from that, I received a bizarre email today. It looks like someone picked up an email I sent them a week ago (one that already received a response). They decided to answer this email (again) with inaccurate information. This representative actually sent me a link to prove that WtS’s ebook is on amazon. I followed the link. And, well, it isn’t there. There was no survey option at the end of this email, but I looked for it. (I’ve started making #SpooktoberPrompts on twitter since they’re a nice distraction. It is still October 🙂 )
- Kindle Content Review cleared WtS today. Why was it disappeared for about a month? I still don’t know. But it’s back on amazon now. The old version is still linked, so potential customers are still being directed to the wrong paperback version. KDP hasn’t responded yet to (I think) the third email I’ve had to send them about unlinking the former version. I received a reply to both posts on the community forum. I had to clarify that I just received the email today that it’d been cleared (so the one question is now irrelevant). However, the other response says that amazon only blocks reviews from accounts with a personal connection to the author or accounts that lack a $50 USD purchase history. One of my betas had me on facetime when she tried to leave a review on amazon. I saw amazon block her for lack of a verified purchase. I know he meant well in his response, but that doesn’t really help. I responded to the replies on both threads. It was nice to actually receive something. However, the GERMAN version of the “Customer Reviews” team responded to me today. The automatic half of the email was in German. (I can read anough German to understand it, and I do appreciate receiving something.) Effectively, they said there’s nothing they can do. The reviews are tied permanently to the ASINs and therefore can’t be moved to another product without linking them. There’s no way to resolve the technical issues created by linking (see above). This means I’ve officially lost my reviews. I have a plan to try to get some back (admittedly, I’m not sure it’s a great plan). One of the forum replies pointed out that reviews on their own don’t make sales. True, but they certainly help.
- WtS appears to be unlinked. I made all my ebooks free for the weekend in celebration of the pen name change (also, admittedly, in an attempt to grow my audience and get some reviews back). However, an international reader sent me a screenshot showing that amazon won’t let him download Into the Unknown during the freebie weekend. In Germany. Why? I don’t know. But I’m about to contact KDP since my sale and territory rights are set to worldwide. I’ll include both screenshots as proof. I’ve announced both the sale and official pen name change on both my twitter and my personal fb. I do try to keep my personal fb separate, but I will post something major like this. After my freebie weekend, I’ll enact a plan I have to build back more reviews. I’m not sure how well it’ll work for me, but it is nice to have a solid plan for it.
- [Results of the Freebie Weekend]
- The freebie weekend was done in celebration. I’m so glad to be through this process. My pen name has been officially changed, I have a plan to build back more reviews, and I’m done dealing with the technical issues on amazon. I’ve just changed the header on this page. My pan name change is officially complete. (That being said, the page listing at the top of my site appears to be lagging in the header change I made. But it is all finally done.)