Posted by & filed under Publishing and Publishers. 6 comments

This week, in the quest to get my books free on Amazon, I wrote to them asking if they could speed up the process. For anyone curious about the behind-the-scenes process, here are the letters. This will be updated as (/if) I get more responses. (Also, if you still want to help me by telling Amazon about a lower price, PLEASE do! (Here’s how)

The letters, mine and Amazon’s:

Original Letter 3/22/13

Hi there, Kindle help!

I’ve had books in the Kindle store since late 2011. Despite these books being free on Smashwords,  not one of them has gone free on Amazon. I am particularly concerned about my latest book here, being the one that I am currently focused on marketing:

Competitive pricing is extremely important to small-time authors trying to get their work out. And as long as Amazon’s price is anything higher than Smashwords, I can’t direct readers here. That means missing out on reviews, recommendations, and downloads from many Amazon customers.

This sucks. Can Amazon do anything to speed up its price matching magic?

Aelius Blythe
My books on Amazon:
My books on Smashwords:

Amazon’s response 3/22/13 (say what you want about Amazon, but they do reply FAST!)

Hello Aelius,

Thank you for your information on pricing. From time to time, we may match free promotions on other sales channels, but we retain discretion over our retail prices.

In the future, you can let us know about lower prices through our website by clicking the link to “Tell us about a lower price” under the “Product Details” section for your title. Please be sure to specify all of the websites which are selling the book at a lower price.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

My response 3/23/13

Hi Kindle people, thanks for the fast response!

See, what worries me is that for over a year I have been doing exactly that – clicking the “Tell us about a lower price”. I have also had some readers do that as well. (Incidentally, some people have reported that they get an error message when they do this…)

I get that Amazon has the final say over the price – that’s a fair tradeoff for the amazing and free services you provide. It’s just somewhat frustrating that, after reporting lower prices and seeing no result, it seems like the books that do go free are a completely random selection…..

Aelius Blythe

Not sure if that last one will get a response, since I didn’t actually ask anything. Will update if I do… EDIT: Oh wait, never mind! They did respond…..

Amazon Response 3/24/13

Hello Aelius,

Thanks for your comments about the “Tell us about a lower price” not being effective. We’ll consider your input as we plan further improvements.

Please know that we may match free promotions on other sales channels, but we retain discretion over our retail prices.

However I’ve checked for your book and I’m not able to find your book quoted for a lower price anywhere. So if you could please write back to us with the link of that website where your book is available for a lower price than what it is set in Amazon, we may proceed further.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP!

6 Responses to “Writing to Amazon, Re: Free Books”

  1. bledcarrot

    I always assumed things worked a bit differently for ebooks on Amazon, that they just took a cut of whatever sold and the owner had full control over the price. Kinda frustrating not having that control over your own book, especially when it’s not like Amazon are purchasing anything up front to onsell!

    • aeliusblythe

      Yeah, it does suck!

      I do understand – I mean, Amazon has to make money. I guess their business model might not be able to handle everyone making their books free. And I do really appreciate Amazon as a company (even with all the usual flaws of a giant corporation) and the opportunities they give authors. But yeah, I DO wish things like this were different….

  2. leokirke

    This kind of back-and-forth is similar to what happened to me when I emailed Amazon a year ago to inquire about the status of CC0 works. I never did get a straight answer as to whether a CC0 fit the “30 percent royalty” rule or not. When you sell your books on there, do you get the 70 percent royalty, or the 30 percent royalty for public domain uploads? Forgive me if I’ve asked before, my memory is terrible. I just now finished formatting the Kindle edition of my book (hopefully there aren’t any problems I’ve missed) and I’m taking a little break before attempting to actually upload it on Amazon, and I’m still not sure if I should select the 70 or 30 percent option, since my book is CC0.

    • aeliusblythe

      You know, I don’t know!

      I also emailed Amazon about the CC0 thing, and got a similarly vague response. I’m pretty sure they have no idea what CC0 is, and so have no idea what to do with it! It’s fair enough, since there are so few people using it. At the time, I didn’t pursue the matter, but I think the time may be coming to educate them…

      I did end up selecting the 30% royalty option and checking the “public domain” option under copyright status. While I’m not super concerned with the royalty (I keep my prices low and get like 25-35 cents per book anyway….), I regret not being able to be part of KDP Select. Were I in KDP Select, I could run free promotions every so often and have my books in the Lending Library. Alas, PD books aren’t allowed in KDP Select – probably because it requires exclusivity, and public domain is by definition not exclusive. I’m not sure there’s a way around that….

      However, I am concerned asking for “special treatment”. Like, Oh, so you want Public Domain material, but you don’t want it treated like Public Domain material, hmmm? WTF? As it stands right now, there isn’t really a category for people like us. There’s Public Domain and not (of course, there are the other CC licenses, but they still require claiming “rights” that I do not want.) There’s no Original Public Domain vs Aged-Out-Of-Copyright Public Domain. I think us CC0 folks need to coalesce and show people that we exist as a new category of Author. Of course, getting a bunch of rebels to coordinate is like herding cats, lol!

  3. leokirke

    Thanks for sharing your experience with it! I think you’re right. When I asked them about CC0, they took several days to consult with the “appropriate department” (legal dept., maybe?) only to write back and tell me that they had no idea and that I should consult a lawyer., a story I’ve told before.

    I’m still very intrigued by the idea you mentioned a while back of writing some sort of open letter or petition on behalf of CC0 artists, as few of us as there may be. I’m thinking that one of us (or both of us) should do something with that in the near future! Herding cats may not be easy, but that’d be a start, lol!

    I had similar reservations about asking for “special treatment” myself. It’s not as if I have magical get-rich-quick author dreams or anything. It’s just irritating that I’m given these two choices, and neither of them reflect who I am as an author. It’s not as if I’m uploading yet another copy of “Gulliver’s Travels” or “Romeo and Juliet” and trying to squeeze some royalties out of it, but at the same time, I’m not your standard copyright-loving “OMG DONT USE MY OCs YOU GUYZ” author either. Amazon’s 70 percent royalties are supposed to be for authors of “original works” presumably, and of course the principle there is that if someone’s going to pay for a work of art, then the artist should be paid. So naturally, authors like you and I are left in no-man’s land, not given the same treatment as others who create “original” works and relegated to the “lesser” status of someone just copying ancient writings, slapping some new formatting or something on, and making a few extra pennies.

    I don’t know of hardly any other authors using CC0 besides you and Aaron Pogue. Still, perhaps we could get those proud, few CC0 people out there, even the ones who work in other mediums, to sign on to an open letter or something? At the very least, I imagine most who use CC0 now would be the type open to signing a petition or an open letter of this nature. Maybe there ought to be a collective of CC0 artists or something. (Maybe there is, and I just haven’t learned the secret handshake yet, lol.)

  4. kingmidget

    Based on my experience, the only way you can offer books for free for the Kindle is if you agree to offer it exclusively for the Kindle via Kindle Direct Publishing. You have to commit to 90 days of exclusivity and then can offer your book for free for up to 90 days. That said, I do find their claims that they have the right to control the retail price odd as everything I’ve seen about KDP and the e-downloads is that the author has control over that. For paperbacks, it’s a little different, since they set a floor under which you can’t go. Good luck with your efforts. I offered my novel for free for two days — 5,900 people downloaded it and in the two months since then, I’ve sold 400 copies. After only selling 35 copies over six months.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)