Kindle self-publishers, beware
Kindle Direct Publishing has quickly become a popular platform for authors to promote and sell their own work. Whether it’s used to publish full-length books or Singles, KDP lets authors bypass traditional publishing channels and market their writing directly, up to and including setting their own prices. But in KDP’s fine print is a clause that says they can override the price a writer sets, if they find the item sold elsewhere for less or if they just want to put it on sale.
James Crawford found this out the hard way. On his blog, Crawford relates a tale of woe, in which KDP mistakenly re-priced his book, effectively giving it away and losing the writer potential sales.
He discovered the price change when sales of his book Blood Soaked and Contagious go from six copies to more than 600 over the course of a day. When he saw that KDP had set the book’s price to “free,” he emailed them immediately, but didn’t hear back for a few days. They had “seen” his book on BN.com for free and matched that price. The problem is that what Crawford was giving away on BN.com was just a three-chapter preview. He responded to say as much and again waited for a response from KDP. They eventually said that if he republished his book on their site, it would appear at the correct price starting from that moment. They did not admit to making any errors, however. While this was going on, over a period of about 10 days, 5,000 copies of Crawford’s book were downloaded for free. When he republished the book, it still appeared as a free item, and he once again notified KDP. Their response was that it would take a few more business days to correct the price. Crawford removed his book from the site entirely and continued to sell it through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
Crawford then posted a letter he sent to KDP’s legal department asking for some kind of resolution. He notes in that post he is concerned Amazon will give him some cash and refuse to ever publish his work again. Given Amazon’s size and increasingly significant slice of the publishing market, that is a worrying prospect.
Since then, Crawford republished his book on Amazon, at KDP’s request, while he kept emailing them about the situation and they kept “looking into it.” Even with KDP aware of Crawford’s situation, it took a few days for book’s price to change from “free” to “$4.99″ (though he’d requested $5.99). Over the next couple days, he says he sold a few dozen copies.
This is clearly a case where KDP’s process failed. It’s self-publishing system was not designed to give away writers’ work, and, as far as we know, this isn’t a common occurrence. However, whether it was a human error or a faulty algorithm that lowered the price of Crawford’s book, KDP should recognize that it lost Crawford some revenue and they should compensate him, either financially or by widely promoting his book for sale at the price. It might help alleviate the concerns of other authors who, after hearing Crawford’s story, are nervously monitoring their books’ prices on Amazon.com.
[Hat tip to Mathew Ingram, whose tweet brought this story to our attention.]