Kindle Keystone CopsThis will be my last rant about anything Amazon for a while. I don’t want to bore the pants off my readers. However, a couple of nasty little issues have come to the surface over the last few weeks that have really bothered me and for those of you who are publishing on Kindle you may want to keep an eye open.

About two weeks ago, I discovered by complete accident that one of my books, Vandalism of Words’ had been reduced from $0.99 to free by Kindle. I only noticed this when I happened to check my Kindle sales and saw a huge jump in sales for this book. Well, sales is not the best term. As I was to also discover, even though Kindle list these as ‘Unit Sales’ when they reduce a book to free, my $0.30 royalty goes out the window.

So I checked what had happened and had to ‘cop it sweet’ as I had been offering the book ‘on promotion’ over at Smashwords for free. In Kindle’s terms, they have the right to match a lower price being offered elsewhere. Mind you, I have no way of offering my book for free myself on Amazon Kindle, which is another issue I suppose.

Anyway, the upshot is that ‘Vandalism of Words’ is now happily residing on a lot of Kindles, which is very nice. However, as of today this has meant forfeiting $2,200 in royalties though. That really is very expensive promotion.

But alright, I have joined in Kindle’s game and promoted my ‘free book’, so all is well in the world.


As I live in Switzerland, it is next to impossible for me to see what price my Kindle books are being listed at in the US because Kindle kindly add an ‘International Delivery Charge’ of about $1.30 to all Kindle downloads outside of the US. Yes, even on free books. So my free ‘Vandalism of Words’ will cost $1.30 for anyone outside the US. Even for me. But Kindle make a nice little profit on my free book huh?

But I did find a way. By clicking on ‘Show all reviews’ I discovered I could see the price of my books in the US. I wish I hadn’t. Here I found two of my books that I have listed for $3.99 being offered for $2.99! Now this is not fair. I haven’t offered these books at a lower price anywhere. They are at exactly the same price of $3.99 on Smashwords.

So sent a message to Kindle asking why, and was it possible to at least advise me of when my book prices were lowered. The answer?

‘Hello Derek,

Thanks for your comments about Price matching feature of Amazon.  From your email I understand that you expect us to send you an auto mail, whenever we change the price of your title on Amazon. And so you can keep a track on this. I am sorry; at this time, we are not set up to send any such mails to our publishers. However, we’ll consider your feedback as we plan for further improvements.

Customer feedback serves an important role in helping us to improve our platform and provide better service to our publishers. Thanks for taking time to offer us your thoughts.

We hope to see you again soon.’

Well one would think that if Amazon can scour the net with their ‘price matching feature’ a simple email shouldn’t be that difficult. And I was struck by the word ‘feature’. Oh, and the reduction on my two books from $3.99 was happily ignored in their response.

Ok, I give up. The monolith wins again!

Books By Derek Haines
Derek’s Vandal Blog
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Kindle Kaper Kops
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17 thoughts on “Kindle Kaper Kops

  • 20/06/2011 at 4:28 pm

    Hi Derek,

    Funny, I also e-mailed Amazon regarding Kindle last week. I asked why books on Kindle are the same price as hard copies. When Kindle was promoted, the pitch used was books will be $9.99. I told them my Kindle now sits on a shelf because I will not pay the same price for a Kindle book as the hard copy is comparable. Also I've exhausted the free books offered. I am disappointed in the selection of free/inexpensive Kindle books.
    So, I'm back to the library and Amazon.
    My reply was similar to your reply!
    Both our concerns seem valid and unfair. I hope things improve for you and all authors.
    Thanks for listening!

  • 20/06/2011 at 4:40 pm

    It seems Amazon like it both ways Mary. They appear intent on ripping of both ends of the Kindle pie. The authors and publishers get short changed and the reader gets over charged.

    I firmly believe that the ceiling price for any ebook is $9.99 and that is for major titles such as Harry Potter etc.

    For me, I'd be happy to get to $3.99 – $4.99. But that becomes very difficult if not impossible when Amazon arbitrarily lower my price without my approval.

    Stinks both ways. :(

  • 20/06/2011 at 5:07 pm

    Yes it does Derek. Too bad, with such competition, you would think both authors/publishers, and customer readers would be able to enjoy reading and writing a book!
    The ceiling price you speak about is no longer. The books I now have on a wait list at the library are not $9.99. Very sad because these book are 1,000 pages and very heavy!!! :0

  • 20/06/2011 at 5:09 pm

    You actually got an answer, albeit a non-answer. Count the stars in the heavens.After being relegated to a "ghetto", and a mishmash about links and barred from groups where we can talk about our work, having those all important tags removed from Kindle, and Amazon giving us no reason for any of this, except for stopping the world wide scourge of spam. Amazon actively stopped our sales which of course is insane since they get the money. One of my books in particular was a victim of trolls. Other things too. It's been the second worst experience of my life. Of course being a writer is difficult. We all know this. This is something we need not put up with. It appears now the tags are back on Kindle. The extra stuff we put on our book pages are now gone, like "From the Author", Pleasing trolls is not what I thought books are about.

  • 20/06/2011 at 7:56 pm

    I guess railing against Amazon is fashionable but one should at least find solid rationales for doing so.

    The price-matching situation you describe is well-explained in the contract you agreed to when you used Amazon as a publishing outlet, Derek.

    As for pricing, Apple forced the issue by proposing the "agency model" for pricing when they brought up their iBookstore. I resulted in PUBLISHERS, not Amazon to set prices and forced Amazon to comply with that pricing. It was publishers who were upset with Amazon's practice to sell all eBooks for less than $10, not the other way around.

    Cheers — Larry

  • 20/06/2011 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for your comment Larry.

    My gripe is not with Amazon's 'price matching' that you rightly say is clear in their terms and conditions. My problem is that they do it without advising me, which is counterproductive as I don't have the opportunity to adapt my promotion.

    My other major concern is that they arbitrarily apply it and I have no recourse. As has just happened with two of my books that are not offered at a lower price anywhere. Well, I should say, not of my doing anyway. So why should I suffer a reduced price if 'ABC Rip Off Co' offers my book at a lower price?

    Sorry, but it still smells of a rip off to me.

  • 20/06/2011 at 8:48 pm

    I have been following your kindle experience as I try to make up my mind whether to allow my titles to go kindle. It makes for interesting reading — as do the responses to your experience. I appreciate your honesty (and lucidity).

  • 20/06/2011 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for commenting Larry . . .

    Amazon's reply to me stated they do not set the price, authors set the price.

    My disappointment is with the original sales pitch from Kindle which was the $9.99 and under pricing for new books.
    This was offered, but only for a 'limited time', which also wasn't disclosed.
    As I glance at my Kindle collecting dust on my shelf,I stick to my original disappointment knowing a Kindle book is the same price as a hard copy.

  • 20/06/2011 at 10:14 pm

    MRC and Larry,

    As long as my bum points away from the sun, an ebook is not worth the same as a real book. Just the printing and transport costs alone make it a nonsense. There is no way an ebook of any description can be worth more than $9.99. And even that is a stretch for a file of less than 500kb.

    The ebook is in its infancy, so expect more ups and downs yet. But as always, follow the money trail for the answer.

  • 20/06/2011 at 11:27 pm

    You got that right Derek!

    Hence Amazon, authors, publishers, etc. need to recognize that very fact . . . an ebook is NOT worth the same as a real book.

    As with everything in life…it IS always about the $$$$$$$$$! Right again!

  • 20/06/2011 at 11:39 pm

    Actually the content is worth the same in print and e-book. Format etc. and presentation different. Need to be aware of not de-valuing the product.

  • 21/06/2011 at 1:15 am

    You have a valid point, however . . .

    It's like a nice meal in a restaurant, presentation is everything!

  • 21/06/2011 at 4:22 am

    I am sorry to hear of the issues you and other writers are suffering at the hands of publishers. If nothing else, you are truly pioneers in this new distribution system, blazing a trail for others to follow.
    An FBI agent once told me the best way to look at research is to follow the money, it always leads somewhere. I would consider making an excel page following the daily ups and downs of pricing in their model, and see where you stand at the end of the month. Perhaps armed with hard data will get a better response. I know a lot of independent writers are watching this post.

    Cheers to you Derek!

  • 21/06/2011 at 8:02 am

    I agree that the content must be valued Rosalie. However, the cost of quality paper, printing, gold embossed covers, book binding, shipping, stock holding, distribution and sale or return on real books all add up to a lot of expense that ebooks don't carry. Pricing the two the same is not a win for the author as even on real books the royalty is very modest. Lucky to be $1.50.

    When an ebook is priced above $9.99 both the author and reader are being exploited.

    On the other hand though, I believe Amazon's marketing of $0.99 and free ebooks is devaluing books in general. This I believe is where the most damage is being done. It has encouraged ebook spamming and has resulted in a vast quantity of extremely poor quality ebooks clogging up the Kindle store.

  • 22/06/2011 at 9:29 pm

    I didn't buy a kindle. I wanted an e-reader and one of the things I wanted was one that I could sign out books from the library with. I would be curious to know if any libraries carry Kindle books, I would guess not.
    I had no issues with kdp and my book that I had for sale there other than the fact that I felt I had to set the price (for my Novella) at $1.99 so I didn't get "raped" by their underly generous royalty scheme and that I wouldn't get paid until I had a $100 built up.
    I wonder how many books they have sold from authors who never reached that threshold? I bet they include those non-payments as profit.
    I agree that that $0.99 eBook phenomina is devaluing books and promoting spam and crap books which may tarnish Amazons name which will either a)ruin sales or b)cause them to eliminate kdp leaving all e-pub books up to other publishers.
    I would say though that until something better comes along and up ends Amazon keep publishing there however buy your e-books elsewhere, (smashwords has a good selection of great inexpensive books) and the Kobo touch is $140 Canadian and takes e-pub format and is spam free!

  • 23/06/2011 at 12:31 pm

    All true indeed D. Ryan Leask. I really think the $0.99 ebook is what is muddying the waters and doing no good whatsoever for anyone except Amazon. $0.99 is the price of a 3 minute song and one quarter the price of a cup of coffee!

    At $0.30 royalty it takes sales of around 350 ebooks to make Amazon's payment threshold. The average books sales for self-pub ebooks is about 4-7 copies per month. So it would take at least 50 months for the average self-pub to get there from one book. So yes, as you point out. Maybe some (or a lot?) of this ends up unpaid and in Amazon's coffers.

    The other 'black spot' is that Amazon charge non-US buyers up to $1.32 for their very mean 'International Delivery Charge' on these $0.99 ebooks. So you can probably add this to the 'pot of gold' that goes to Amazon and of course the author gets zero from that.

    The other burning question is why have Amazon created a price gap between $0.99 and $2.99 with their two royalty models? 30% and 70%. That is a question I have yet to see answered. One could be hopeful that they may at some stage ditch the exploitive $0.99 model. But you know, I doubt it. It's way to profitable for them.

  • 11/08/2011 at 8:33 am

    I agree with you Derek. I find it hard to believe that they have systems put in place so as to match prices but none to inform the author that this will be happening. It is a necessity as it gives you the option of either ending that particular promotion or allowing Amazon to lower the pricing of your books.
    I also have a grave issue with the end result when your book is sold at a lower price not because of anything you have done but because of the actions of a third party.

    I’ve always had some issue with the International Delivery charge. I get why it might be necessary to have one but I am continuously ticked off that for every book priced at 99c I’m paying 2.99 for it and 4.99 for a book priced at 2.99. I keep wondering, must it really be that much?

    Sometimes I’m a bit grateful I’m still in the obsessive writing and editing stage. All of this is as much of a headache as the query, agent route but I can’t help but think it is more gratifying (this might be wide eyed naivety here, but alas).

    I hate the disparity between the 30% royalties and the 70% royalties. I couldn’t compete on a 30% royalty scheme at this rate since my country has no tax treaty with the US and they will withhold 30% of my royalties.

    Everything still makes me very excited though. I think the way we read is on the cusp of a revolution and I’m happy to be able to be a (small) part of it.

    Now if only the major corporations would shock us and look out for the authors and readers opposed to just themselves.

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