Apple Made Its Decision. My Turn.

Rotten Apple

Rotten Apple

Apple rejected How To Think Sideways Lesson 6: How To Discover (Or Create) Your Story’s Market.

Not because of links to Amazon this time.

Because of content.

Lesson 6 includes my “Amazon River” technique, in which I show students how I use a couple of useful bits of Amazon’s website software and the Amazon database to figure out how to find alternative genres for their books if they aren’t having any luck selling it in the genre they wrote it for. I’ve successfully used this technique to place both TALYN and MIDNIGHT RAIN.

This is not just essential information for writers publishing or hoping to publish commercially—it’s also the fastest way for self-pubbers to find potential new markets for their existing work.

And there is no other website in the world on which you can do this as quickly, as completely, or as successfully.

So now it’s down to me.

I cannot sell PART of the course on Apple. So How To Think Sideways will not appear on the iBookstore. Neither will How To Revise Your Novel.

But I also will not deal with this sort of head-up-ass behavior from a distributor. You don’t tell someone “The problem is the live links,” and then, when that person has complied with your change request and removed the live links, turn around and say, “No, no. The problem is the CONTENT. You can’t mention Amazon in your lesson.

This is not professional behavior from a professional market.

And cold moment of truth here—you cannot write a writing course that includes information on publishing and self-publishing and NOT mention Amazon. It’s the place where your writers are going to make about 90% of their money.

So I’m pulling ALL my work from the iBookstore today. I apologize to iBookstore fans. I tried. Hard.

But I’m done.

Previous Posts in This Discussion

Same morning, three hours later…

All my self-pubbed books are now out of the iBook store. The work by me that is still there is commercially published, and I cannot do anything about its presence or absence.

But, for writers, especially those involved in or considering self-publishing, I can no longer recommend Apple as a professional distributor. Requiring no links to a competing website was borderline…but I complied because I wanted to keep the courses available for students who could not get them any other way.

Requiring the removal of actual lesson content, however, is unacceptable. No, it isn’t censorship. Again, only governments have the armies that allow them to censor.

It is simply an unbelievably stupid business decision, since the people buying the lesson would have to pay for it BEFORE they read the content, and would not abandon Apple because of the content.

The big markets that meet my standards for good distribution practices for self-publishers are now down to and Barnes&

I don’t yet have anything up on, so cannot yet report on the quality of service of the site. It does have an interesting “Pay on Demand” feature that kicks in once you’ve hit their sales threshold.

I’m backlogged getting lessons set up on my own site, Amazon, and B&N, but will start testing once I catch my breath.

I’m deeply disappointed by the loss of Apple as a viable market. I know a lot of folks hate the company. I loved it, though—and recent decisions on this issue as well as the issue of sandboxing in the next OS make me realize it’s working hard at making itself a company I won’t be able to support.

image_pdfDownload as PDFimage_printPrint Page

About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

204 comments… add one
  • Ian Daniel Sep 5, 2012 @ 4:50

    My book has been dropped from the iBookstore last week. I didn’t even get an email to let me know, I found out by chance. E-commerce Get It Right! is a book about ‘umh’ ecommerce and I use Amazon references throughout for the obvious reason that Amazon is the best ecommerce site on the planet. My book has been selling well for 10 months and then they drop the bomb.

    This move is like kids in a playground – its really pathetic.

    I guess Apple can only go one way, down!

  • George Baker Jul 31, 2012 @ 11:22

    I voiced my concerns on this issue to Tim Cook directly. Let’s see if it gets anywhere. Here’s a link to the email.

    • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 11:59

      Thank you. Please note that I still have every Mac I ever bought—seven in all—plus two iPads, an iPhone, and a couple of iPods of various ages and capabilities. I SERIOUSLY wanted to have my work up on the Apple iBookstore. I wanted to support the products that have made my work life so much more pleasant and have removed the endless time-wasting frustration of Windows.

      I hit the point of diminishing returns, though, where I realized pursuing trying to get my work on the iBookstore was costing me money, and much worse, time. Time is the one thing I will not waste in pointless, vague run-arounds that fail to include even such basic information as the filename received or the filename reviewed.

      I’d still love to have my work up on Apple, and I’d still love to be able to recommend them as a market. I hope they do not follow the direction every step they’re currently taking indicates they intend to follow.

  • George Baker Jul 31, 2012 @ 8:02


    I just saw this and all I can say is Good Job. We need more of this for companies like Apple. I now think back again about how closely they now resemble the group in their 1984 commercial that back then they were revolting against. I forget who made that point originally but it is so true.

    • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 12:01

      Sadly, I see the same change.

  • Jet'Dillo Jul 30, 2012 @ 15:50

    The “Blame it all on the junior subfunctionary/CS Rep” response is lame and indicates a further failure of management to impress upon their underlings the importance of following company policy and not just making things up on their own. This includes allaying fear of punishment for NOT being a policy maximalist when confronted with an ambiguous situation.

    You should expect CS PR disasters when throwing the customer under the bus and hiding behind the corporate coattails is the easier choice for frontline employees.

  • Lief Jul 30, 2012 @ 11:19

    Department of Justice.
    That is actually illegal. It falls under the antitrust laws.

  • Thatch Jul 29, 2012 @ 17:57

    Have a look @ , they might be a help – I have nothing to do with the company other than as a consumer ( Andrew Dubbers music book )

    I had a chance to contact them for a client ( a writer as well ) and their tech support was truly awesome.

    Worth a look (you can just delete the comment if you like)

    • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:33

      I’ve kept the link here because it might appeal to someone else. (TO ALL READERS: If you decide to use it, read their contract first, folks. I haven’t. I just looked over the site.)

      This, however, is not my way of working—nobody sees my first drafts (with the one exception of TALYSMANA, which I did as a demonstration), and I don’t welcome in-draft comments.

      My revision process is not like anyone else’s, and my first drafts are not even remotely representative of the manuscript I have once I’ve revised. So I wouldn’t be willing to work this way.

      But again, it might appeal to some of my folk here.

  • Justin Putney Jul 29, 2012 @ 12:50

    Hi Holly,
    I too have disheartened by how Apple and other companies have policed distribution channels. It was one of the motivating factors for creating a product that could distribute ebook content in an open format:

    Best of luck in distributing your books!

    • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:24

      Good for you. This looks really cool.

  • Jeff Jul 29, 2012 @ 9:41

    I removed ibook from my ipad as soon as apple forced kindle and the like to remove there in app purchase capabilities. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

  • Counsel Dew Jul 29, 2012 @ 8:47

    Doing my part, I’ve started #LessonSix as a hashtag on Twitter…

  • Si Jul 29, 2012 @ 8:44

    As I understand the contention, they will not host your book because it promotes how to use Amazon, an alternate book store and competitor.

    How is this any different then asking a store A to sell something to promote Store B, who they are in competition with?

    Because I am not seeing how this is Apples fault.

    • Holly Jul 29, 2012 @ 10:46

      I’m not saying they did anything they didn’t have a right to do. I’m saying I can’t teach the course without Lesson 6, which necessitates the pulling of the entire course…and I’m not interested in distributing my work on a platform so timid and unsure of the quality of what it offers that it thinks my lesson showing writers how to switch genres and find new markets for that work—which uses a competitor website as RESEARCH SOFTWARE—will somehow endanger it.

  • Howard Jul 29, 2012 @ 8:37

    I don’t support Apple’s selection policy one bit and I think that someone inside the Apple iBook organisation is doing them no good.

    However I don’t see any evidence in this article that the second rejection based on content is true at all. It does not contain any similar quote from Apple to that which rejected the initial version.

    I also find the pique exhibited by the author in pulling all of her titles to be really childish and petulant. It undermines her credibility in my view.

    Apple is a fantastic company with fantastic products. The hysterical reaction by commenters here only goes to undermine their claim to any kind of rational thinking.

    iBooks is not a great product, and the management of it seems suspect. But that’s as far as it goes.

    • Holly Jul 29, 2012 @ 10:57

      Here’s the first email I received from them. Boldface is mine.

      Dear Holly Lisle,

      One or more assets from your submission, How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, need to be replaced:

      Ticket #: 1438977
      Ticket Type: Book Asset
      Apple ID: 541126811
      ISBN: 9781937533304
      Vendor ID: 9781937533304
      Full book asset:

      Competing Website(s)

      Jun, 29 2012, 12:13PM – Apple:
      Book file contains links from competitors: Amazon, in the chapter Q&A 6, under “Question 9”
      Please log in to iTunes Connect to view this request and upload replacement assets:

      If you have any questions about this report, contact us at the iBookstore.


      The iTunes Store Team

      Here’s the FINAL email I received from them before I removed my courses.

      Dear Holly Lisle,

      One or more assets from your submission, How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, need to be replaced:

      Ticket #: 1438977
      Ticket Type: Book Asset
      Apple ID: 541126811
      ISBN: 9781937533304
      Vendor ID: 9781937533304
      Please note that the changes in this ticket were not executed. The ticket has been returned to you for additional corrections. Please make all of the changes requested below.

      Full book asset:

      Competing Website(s)
      Rejected Reason(s):
      Competing Website(s)

      Jun, 29 2012, 12:13PM – Apple:
      Book file contains links from competitors: Amazon, in the chapter Q&A 6, under “Question 9”
      Jul, 18 2012, 4:54AM – Apple:
      Epub internals validation passed
      Jul, 18 2012, 4:54AM – Apple:
      The following ticket task(s) have been updated by the feed: Full epub
      Jul, 18 2012, 1:21PM – Apple:
      Please Note: The original change request was not fulfilled. Your changes were not saved. Previous issue was not addressed. Please review your file before resubmitting it. Thank you.
      Jul, 19 2012, 8:35AM – Apple:
      Epub internals validation passed
      Jul, 24 2012, 11:56AM – Apple:
      Please Note: The original change request was not fulfilled. Your changes were not saved. Original Issues have not been resolved.
      Please log in to iTunes Connect to view this request and upload replacement assets:

      If you have any questions about this report, contact us at the iBookstore.


      The iTunes Store Team

      As noted, however, I HAD changed the lesson, HAD removed the links, HAD complied with their request. Since the links were gone, their only possible objection—NOT STATED—was content.

      Stop being a dick, Howard, and talk to me. You want to call me childish and petulant, do it directly. I’m right here and I answer my own posts. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to work with folks who won’t give me a run-around and bullshit excuses.

      • Tim King Jul 29, 2012 @ 18:26

        I admit, Holly, that I had assumed, based on my reading of your post, that Apple had actually said that they didn’t want you even to mention Amazon. I did not know that this was a conclusion you had drawn based upon Apple’s continued rejection of the content. That said, it does appear from the report that they got the modified ePub file, and that they continued to reject it.

        Might it be that there is a different link to Amazon? Or maybe the text “”? I haven’t checked it myself, but I probably would have given up before you did, just out of frustration. (Although I might go back to it in the future.) It sounds like Apple’s software system doesn’t know what it’s talking about. (As a veteran software developer, I’m disgusted with how many software systems don’t know what they’re talking about.) Or rather, it’s not telling you what it’s talking about, and if you were to make any progress with it, you’d have to argue with it for a while, back and forth, between episodes of pulling your hair out and inventing new curse words that could figure prominently in a future Cady book, the whole process which would make me, personally, question whether it could ever be worth the effort.

        You’ve mentioned the low quality of the Smashwords meatgrinder. Sounds like a similar thing.

        On the other hand, could it be an issue of trust? Is Apple asserting plausible deniability? Or are they merely incompetent? Or maybe both? (Kinda like a politician.)

        Makes me kinda sick just thinking about it. Ugh.


        • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:15

          Hi, Tim. Because of the awful, vague communication that is the standard from Apple where producers of content is concerned, you NEVER get a clear answer from them.

          There were no secret, extra links I missed. There were three in the original file, there were none in the revised version.

          They received AND REJECTED the corrected version TWICE.

      • Jose M Jul 30, 2012 @ 1:34

        Umm that reply doesn’t seem to match the title of this post at all. Perhaps the links somehow still made it to the version you sent to Apple, or maybe their checking software messed up?

        I had a quick look on the iBookstore and there are plenty of books about using Amazon for selling. It just beggars belief they wouldn’t allow your chapter.

        Perhaps you should have waited for Apple’s reply to your query before posting such strong worded series of posts that caught so much attention? Or perhaps this is all a good marketing strategy since you said you never made much money from iBookstore anyway.

        • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:12

          I had THREE replies from them. TWO were after I’d paid my ebook formatter to do a special edition for them, and had uploaded that version TWICE. They acknowledged the new uploads in their emails.

          In both instances, I uploaded the new version, which had a different filename. In both instances, after receiving the NEW file, they stated the issue had not been fixed.

          Since the links HAD been removed, and since they were still complaining about “Competitor Website” as the reason for rejecting the the lesson, the ONLY conclusion I can draw is that the lesson was rejected for content—which in their terms of service, they reserve the right to do. They state they can reject a product for ANY reason.

          You may find your belief beggared, but in the real world, experience trumps faith, and what I have presented here are the facts of my experience.

  • Counsel Dew Jul 29, 2012 @ 7:33

    Apple has become that which Jobs himself preached against in 1983:

    Finny how people/companies change…

    I support your move and will look at your other options. Which method gives you more money? Mind letting us know that information?

    • Holly Jul 29, 2012 @ 11:01

      Amazon and my own on-site shop pay best.

      • Jose M Jul 30, 2012 @ 1:02

        So you don’t share Andrew’s (of “Travel a Modern Guide”) view that Amazon’s download charges are exorbitant?

        When you say “pay best” is that in total revenue due to more sales or revenue per book?

        • Holly Jul 31, 2012 @ 7:10

          He’s full of shit. I’m paying between a penny and three pennies per download on average. I have a couple lessons that are illustration-heavy. One of them I’m paying a whole dime per download for. And this is across, at this point, right at 40 separate products.

          He might have put together book that had tons of pictures, and ended up paying an exorbitant download fee.

          If everyone was paying that, no one would use them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.