This post about getting delisted on Amazon is getting cluttered with new information, and I want to call attention to Mark Coker’s comment here. A short recap: my novel was delisted from the Amazon Kindle on Saturday because the price on Kobo (89 cents) is below the price that Amazon allows authors to set – which is 99 cents. The book is distributed to Kobo via Smashwords premium distribution. Instead of Amazon setting my price at 88 cents, their policy is to remove the buy button entirely.
I want to reiterate: this is not Smashwords fault. I had set my book to override the default price so Kobo had actually posted the correct price with their own store discount. What this means is that if you want your book to remain on Amazon, you can’t set your book to be priced at 99 cents on Smashwords, as this will likely undercut Amazon’s policy. If you want your book to receive the 70% royalty for a $2.99 book, you cannot set your book to be $2.99 on Smashwords because retailers like Kobo will offer their own discount, which will also interfere with Amazon’s policy.
So this all stems from Amazon dictating what writers can do – knowing full well that they’re the biggest player in the game and writers would rather eschew all other outlets if it means being able to stay on Amazon. This is exactly the reaction of one writer and could be for many others.
Mark Coker, Smashwords CEO, responds to Amazon’s strong-arm pricing policies here:
Back in the old days, when publishers set a price and conveyed that price to distributors and retailers, the price remained relatively static. At Smashwords, we give authors the ability to change the price as often as they want, so it’s an infinitely more dynamic world, but one that is still gated by new complexities regarding how these dynamic metadata updates filter through the ebook supply chain.
The collision of traditional wholesale pricing model with the agency model only compounds the complexity.
Before Amazon’s draconian price parity enforcement, such price discrepancies were mere annoyances. Now, Amazon metes out instant and harsh punishment to authors who, often though no fault of their own, are unable to maintain price parity. While I think Amazon is not wrong to expect price parity, their enforcement of price parity is over-the-top excessive. I have witnessed several authors and publishers, such as SL Armstrong above, remove their books from all non-Amazon Smashwords retailers – even agency retailers who don’t discount such as Apple and Diesel – for fear of risking Amazon punishment. Authors understand that the temporary delisting of a book can have severe long term consequences, because delisting destroys sales rank, and if you’re the best-seller in a category, loss of sales rank can mean the difference between making $500 a month or $50.
If Amazon wanted to do right by their authors, and do right by the industry, they’d soften their enforcement. If they persist with their policies, they’ll coerce more authors to become more dependent on Amazon, while causing authors to take actions that are counterproductive to their long term best interests. Authors should work to maximize distribution of their books, not concentrate it on a single retailer.
In the meantime, Amazon’s policies are brilliantly designed to take advantage of the inevitable and frequent glitches inherent in the nascent ebook distribution supply chain. This works to Amazon’s advantage, while harming the long term prospects of authors, publishers and competing retailers.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with our retail partners to accelerate the speed and accuracy at which they ingest our metadata, and we’ll continue to improve our own systems to reduce the likelihood of errant metadata. We’ll also work to improve our reporting to authors such as yourself so that such long-forgotten pricing configurations don’t come back to bite you in butt later on.