Full dis­clo­sure: I am an idiot. Hypothetically.

So you’re prob­a­bly thinking:

How do you acci­den­tal­ly pub­lish a book?”

Hypo­thet­i­cal­ly, it goes like this:

  1. You make your eBook avail­able for pre-order and click the Pub­lish button.
  2. KDP says, “Hey. You just pub­lished an eBook. Do you have a paper­back to go with that?”
  3. You say, “Yes—yes, I do.” You fill out the forms it offers you.
  4. You pub­lish it, think­ing the paper­back will also be avail­able for pre-order.
  5. You belat­ed­ly won­der, “Wait. Will it?”
  6. You find out Ama­zon does­n’t offer pre-orders for paperbacks.
  7. You think, “I just pub­lished my paper­back. For real. Three months ahead of sched­ule. OH CRAP!

How can you fix that?

Bad news and good news.

The bad news is: You can’t.

Sor­ry. Just kid­ding about the good news. You still can’t.

I imme­di­ate­ly con­tact­ed KDP sup­port and was told that, as soon as The Noth­ing With­in appeared on Ama­zon, I should unpub­lish it.

For­tu­nate­ly, that’s easy. On your KDP Dash­board, look (with cha­grin and self-loathing) at the book you just acci­den­tal­ly pub­lished. To the right is a but­ton with three dots, like this:

KDP action button with an ellipsis

Click it, and you’ll see an option to unpub­lish the book. I unpub­lished before any­body bought the book—or prob­a­bly even saw it was avail­able for purchase.

So that fixes the problem, right?

No. Maybe you weren’t pay­ing atten­tion. I said you can’t fix it.

The prob­lem is that the book’s prod­uct page still appears on Ama­zon. It shows the book as “out of stock we don’t know when we’ll have this again.”

That’s sort of okay, but the real prob­lem is the pub­li­ca­tion date.

The book’s pub­li­ca­tion date com­mem­o­rates the date of your mis­take. Maybe you don’t care about that, but I did. I’d already told sev­er­al edi­to­r­i­al review­ers and the Library of Con­gress that pub­li­ca­tion was three months away. Some review­ers care about that: they’ll only review books that haven’t been pub­lished yet.

I con­tact­ed KDP sup­port a few times. One per­son asked whether I’d like them to esca­late the prob­lem to tech­ni­cal sup­port, and I said “Yes, please!” Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the sup­port per­son who received my “Yes, please!” mes­sage replied, “Sor­ry, we can’t do that.”

The prob­lem is the book’s ISBN. Once it’s made avail­able for sale, from Ama­zon’s point of view that ISBN is irrev­o­ca­bly taint­ed. The date of your mis­take is the date of pub­li­ca­tion for that ISBN. You’re not allowed to change the date, even if nobody actu­al­ly bought it.

If I can’t fix it, can I at least fudge my way around this problem?

So glad you asked. Here’s what I did.

Strategy: Hide your mess and cross your fingers

1. Get a new ISBN

Clear­ly, you need a new ISBN for your not-mistake-paperback.

Ama­zon offered that I could wait for the real pub­li­ca­tion date and just use one of the ISB­Ns that they pro­vide through KDP. Since I’m pub­lish­ing through my own house, Hum­ble Quill LLC, I used one of the block of ISB­Ns that I’d set aside.

So we do this:

  1. Use Bowk­er (or what­ev­er ser­vice you use for ISB­Ns) to set up a new paper­back with the new ISBN.
  2. Assign the new ISBN to your paper­back through Bowk­er (or wher­ev­er you bought it).
  3. Con­tact every sin­gle blessed orga­ni­za­tion that has a record of the old ISBN and let them know about the new ISBN. For­tu­nate­ly, some of them let you make this change your­self online.
  4. If you’re also using a print ser­vice provider like IngramSpark, con­tact them to change the ISBN.
  5. If you’ve applied to the Library of Con­gress for a Library of Con­gress Con­trol Num­ber (LCCN), sub­mit a change form through your PCN account.
  6. Wait for all these changes to per­co­late through the system.

2. Make a new paperback

Next, we want to treat the mis­take-paper­back like the embar­rass­ment that it is. We start by cre­at­ing a not-mis­take-paper­back that will be un-embarrasing.

  1. Change the book’s copy­right page to reflect the new ISBN.
  2. If need­ed, change the book’s barcode.
  3. If your eBook and your mis­take-paper­back are linked, use the KDP dash­board to unlink them. It might take a while for that to take effect. You unlink them through the ellip­sis button:
    pop-up menu showing the
  4. Make a new paper­back on the dash­board with the new ISBN, upload­ing any nec­es­sary files.
  5. Don’t make the mis­take of pub­lish­ing it this time. 
  6. Through the KDP dash­board, link your new not-mis­take-paper­back with your old eBook. Again, this might not show up right away.

3. Wait

Even though you can’t fix it, it might pos­si­bly fix itself if you’re lucky.

Ama­zon sup­port told me at least three times that they would nev­er, under any cir­cum­stances, remove the erro­neous prod­uct page, nor would they change the incor­rect pub­li­ca­tion date.

But a week or so after I took the above steps? Mirac­u­lous­ly, I could no longer find the mis­take-paper­back no mat­ter how hard I tried. I tried pret­ty hard.

I don’t know why. Maybe some auto­mat­ic cleanup took care of it. Maybe some­one in the sup­port chain took pity on me. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Fallback: Make your mistake-paperback unappealing

Note: Because my prob­lem resolved itself, I did­n’t need to take this step. But I’m hold­ing it in reserve in case that phan­tom Ama­zon page comes back.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I can’t promise your mis­take-paper­back will dis­ap­pear like mine did. If it does­n’t, you’ll prob­a­bly want to make clear to every­body that it’s not the final ver­sion of the book. Two ways to do that:

  • mark the cov­er clear­ly as an Advance Review Copy
  • make it so expen­sive that nobody will ever want to buy it

But for those changes to take effect, Ama­zon Sup­port told me I’d have to re-pub­lish my mis­take-paper­back, if only briefly. Then, once the changes appear on the mis­take-paper­back­’s page, I can unpub­lish it again.

Fin­gers crossed, it won’t come to that.

That’s all

I hope this helps if you’re ever in this unpleas­ant situation.

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