Category Archives: Ebook Pricing

How To List At $0.00 On Amazon. No Exclusivity Or Price-Matching Required.

SFK FREE

Free On Amazon! And No, This Is Not A Self-Promo Post.

Yesterday I took one of my Sherlock For Kids titles out of KDP and uploaded to Amazon by another route and listed the price at $0.00.

Today here it is on Amazon at $0.00 with the immortal words “This price was set by the publisher.”

  • No exclusivity. It’s still on Apple, Kobo, etc.
  • No Select five days free every ninety days. This is free for just as long as I want it to be.
  • No going free on other retailers and just hoping Amazon will price-match, or getting friends to tell Amazon there’s a better price elsewhere. In fact it’s still at 0.99 on several retailers, but free on Amazon.

How? By uploading my title to StreetLib, the Italian aggregator (don’t panic, the site is in English!) that in many ways continues to lead the aggregator pack.

StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle has said this is a six month trial and that she hopes indie authors will use this option wisely. I’m sure we (mostly) will.

Free can be a great tool in our indie tool kit, but as above, indie authors have never had the option to list free on Amazon except a) by going exclusive and being able to list free for five days in Select, or b) going free on another retailer and hoping Amazon will price-match.

Now we have the option to list free on Amazon for as long or as short a time as we like, subject of course to either StreetLib and Amazon not changing the rules down the road.

As part of a multi-book and growing series I hope this title will now find lots of new eyeballs and lots of buys of the rest of the series, both on Amazon and on other retailers.

My thanks to StreetLib for making this option available and working so efficiently.

For those who haven’t used StreetLib before, it has some of the best distribution available from any pay-as-you-sell aggregator, and lots more to commend it too.

There are some downsides – not least the clunky interface – but the StreetLib team are working on that and to bring many new features to StreetLib this year.

But the free-on-Amazon option has to be the best thing they’ve come up with to date.

Do pop along to StreetLib (LINK) and at least check out what they offer. Access to Google Play, for example, and the best Italian and Latin American distribution of any English-language aggregator.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group (LINK) on 16 March 2016.

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Draft2Digital Territorial Pricing Option Now Live!

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Sorry, Smashwords, but rival aggregator Draft2Digital (D2D) just took another big leap forward today as its territorial pricing options went live in the D2D dashboard.

Instead of just setting a US dollar price for your ebooks loaded through D2D you can now price for each country/territory. For Europe, no need to worry about adjusting for VAT. D2D does that for you and include VAT in the list price you set. But do remember that the net price your “royalty” is based on will be the VAT-exclusive price, not the list price the reader pays.

You can act now and update your pricing on existing books in D2D simply by opening a product listing page at “publishing”. Below the US price box you’ll find a button to select territorial prices.

And (we’ll get accused of Amazon-bashing for this but facts are facts) it leaves Amazon’s KDP standing.

You can set prices in euros and pounds sterling, of course, and Indian rupees and Brazilian reals, and Mexican pesos and Australian and Canadian dollars, and Japanese yen, just like on Amazon.

But you can also set prices in New Zealand dollars and Hong Kong dollars.

And in Danish and Norwegian krone, and Swedish krona.

And even in Swiss francs.

It isn’t stated, but our guess is these territorial prices will feed through to Apple and Kobo (and Nook UK), and possibly the Page Foundry sites like Inktera and Versent. The Scribd feed from D2D is only for the subscription service.

Yes, it’s more effort for you, poor souls, but it won’t take long and only needs doing once. And so worth doing.

Set your titles cheap for places like Hong Hong, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, etc, where Amazon has no store so can’t play the pernicious MFN card. Take full advantage to find new readers in new places. Run special promos in Sweden and Switzerland. Offer a special deal to Danish readers. Let buyers in New Zealand pay in their own currency at a great price.

What a great way for D2D to end the year,

Needless to say we’re happier than a lamb with two tails. Guess what we’ll be doing this afternoon. 

Ebook Bargains UK

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Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who’s The Cheapest Of Them All?

Go Global In 2014

Not for the first time this year, a survey has shown that a certain e-commerce giant, famed for offering better value than anywhere else, comes in a poor second or third when it comes to offering the lowest prices.

Bargains-hunter site Shopsavvy (LINK) have just completed a survey of popular consumer goods across seven categories – computers, electronics, entertainment, home and garden, kids, and sports and outdoors – and found Wal-Mart offered lower prices across the board compared to Best Buy and Amazon. (LINK)

This comes as no surprise to us. We’ve been monitoring ebook prices through our daily promo newsletters, and found that, even with Amazon’s Most Favoured Nation clause which dictates indie authors may not list on another retailer at a lower price than on Amazon, the Everything Store often does not have the lowest price ebooks.

In the US Amazon holds its own best, thanks to a common policy among most retailers that $0.99 is the lowest price option available. But even here we often find Txtr US (LINK) has ebooks as low as $0.75 and even $0.60. Likewise the Smashwords partner stores Inktera (LINK) and Versent (LINK). Very few indie authors are in the Books-A-Million store (LINK), but when they are it’s quite usual to see a price point of just $0.79.

In the UK Txtr (LINK) again regularly undercuts Kindle UK’s bottom line price of £0.77. So does Nook UK and Apple. Nook UK often carries titles at 75p, 65p or even 60p.

Apple has a policy we would love to see implemented at Amazon – that all list prices end in a nine. Apart from anything else it keeps the product pages looking professional. When you see an ebook prices at CDN$1.11 or AU$1.13 or 102.73 rupees it screams out that this is an indie title and the author/publisher has taken the lazy option and set the US price on Amazon and then let Amazon set the other prices against the US dollar.

And it’s not just about looking good. It’s about making/losing sales.

When we set that .99 price point on the US we do so for a reason. Because it’s a psychological ceiling to the buyer. $0.99 is under a dollar. $1.03 is over a dollar. $2.99 is clearly cheaper than three dollars. $3.23 is not.

You think it doesn’t matter? Then why not set your US price at US$1.03 or $3.23 instead of the carefully listed 0.99 or 2.99 you carefully chose?

Exactly. It matters.

And it matters all the more in Australia, where lax price listing in KDP can send your ebooks soaring over the psychological ceiling you set for the US, seriously impacting your sales.

Amazon already makes selling in Australia that much harder by setting the lowest price for a 70% royalty at AU$3.99 on Kindle AU when typically the same title will be available on Apple AU, Txtr AU, Kobo AU, Google Play AU, as well as Kobo partner stores like Angus & Robertson and Bookworld, etc, at just AU$2.99.

For those who chose to let Amazon set the price against the US dollar that AU$3.99 ebook, already obliged to be a dollar more than on Kindle US or Kindle Canada (and no, currency exchange rates do not justify this difference), shoots up to around the AU$4.40 mark on the Kindle AU site. An AU$4.99 title will appear at about AU$5.50 if you take the lazy pricing route.

Another factor impacting pricing on the Kindle UK and EU stores has been VAT. When you set your list price in KDP, Amazon adds the VAT to the list price showing. So even if you carefully chose 99p (£0.99) as your UK price point in your dashboard the price showing on the UK product page would be £1.02 or £1.03.

This matter resolves itself in a few weeks when Amazon adopts a new policy of setting UK and EU prices on the product page at the price we chose in the dashboard. But be warned even then if you are letting Amazon set your UK/EU price by the US dollar rate the price showing will still likely be an untidy one.

The new change kicks in from 01 January 2015 and is going to cause a lot of confusion for indie authors selling in the UK and EU with regard to the royalty they will receive. We’ll take a closer look at this development later this month.

Meantime, pop along to your Kindle listings store by store, country by country, and see if you have a tidy list price below the psychological buy ceiling, or a messy one above that ceiling that could be deterring readers.

You can do so via the KDP dashboard, or simply go the store direct. Open the Amazon store where you are (you may need to try a different browser to avoid Amazon re-directing you to your local store again), find one of your titles, and check the URL address.

Where it says (for US) Amazon (dot) com (slash) your title, simply change the (dot) com coding for each country.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) co (dot) uk for the British store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) ca for the Canada store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) com (dot) au for the Australia store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) in for the India store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) com (dot) br for the Brazil store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) co (dot) mx for the Mexico store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) co (dot) jp for the Japan store.

Change Amazon (dot) com to (dot) de for the Germany store.

For other EU countries – Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands the codes are respectively ES, IT, FR and NL.

Ebook Bargains UK

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A Royalty Cut By Any Other Name… Kindle Unlimited Launches In The UK.

Go Global In 2014

As Kindle Unlimited is launched in the UK today, it’s clear the Big 5 boycott is holding steady.

No major trad pub titles are in apart from the same handful of selected big names like Suzanne Collins and J K Rowling, and a selection of heavyweights from another era, like Arthur C. Clarke and Kurt Vonnegut.

Amazon has been able to muster 650,000 titles for Kindle Unlimited’s US and UK sites by pulling in Select titles, nearly all of which are in English.

But what happens when Kindle Unlimited goes “international” and extends its reach to Germany and France, and possibly other European Kindle nations like Italy and Spain, as is widely expected next month?

A safe bet the Big 5’s EU operations have no more intention of getting in bed with Amazon on this than their US and UK counterparts.

This puts Amazon in a difficult position, as there are far fewer local-language KDP Select authors to pad out the European KU offerings than there are English-language titles. A KU France or KU Germany launch that asks readers to pay for access to a handful of French or German titles and a ton of foreign language (English) titles is not going to have readers stampeding to sign up.

The UK version of KU, by contrast, should do very well, at least at first. But will it benefit indie authors long term? Somehow we doubt it.

Oyster isn’t in the UK at all and Scribd, while it can be used by Brits, is almost unknown this side of the Atlantic. It means Amazon has an open goal in Britain.
Bear in mind readers who are not indie authors will have no idea that the three big names used for promo are pretty much the only three big names. It will probably take several months for the penny to drop, as readers exhaust the handful of names they do know, and are tempted to try those they don’t.

It’s a clever ploy by Kindle chief Russ Grandinetti – the most dangerous man in publishing right now – to play this as an opportunity for readers to try new authors they might otherwise have avoided. At face value it sounds like Grandinetti is supporting both readers and indie authors.

Unfortunately, given the quality of much of KDP Select’s offerings, many readers will find out the hard way, using up their monthly download limit instead of using Look Inside, that for every top notch indie title that can compete with the best trad pubbed titles, there are a dozen NaNoWriMo first drafts with a home-made cover that should never have seen the light of day.

With the first month free Brits will be rushing to sign-up and try it out, and as with the US launch, Amazon will be giving heavy promotion to KU titles to make sure it looks like a success.

No coincidence this UK launch is one month from the dreaded Q3 financial statement, which will report Amazon’s worst losses ever.

The surge of Brits signing up to KU and the inevitable ton of downloads that result, will be a major news item to deflect attention from the financial mess Amazon is in. And you can bet your grandmother’s bottom dentures Amazon will forget to mention that the first month’s sign-up was free, so totally meaningless.

But for indie authors getting all these downloads from KU this is great, right? As Hugh Howey delighted in telling us, he saw absolutely shed-loads of KU borrows after Amazon thoughtfully included his titles in the scheme.

But there’s the thing. Howey didn’t volunteer his tiles for KU. He couldn’t. He was non-exclusive on multiple retailers, and the KU rules are quite clear that indie authors, unlike other publishers, have to be exclusive with Amazon to get any preferential treatment.

So Amazon put his titles in KU anyway – hey, they make the rules, they can break them – and then made absolutely sure Howey got maximum visibility so the KU borrows would mount up, knowing Howey would then let the world know how well KU had done for him.

And lo and behold, it came to pass.

Howey’s borrows soared, but of course his income didn’t.

As we’ll explain further below, KU is an integral part of Amazon’s stealth royalty cuts programme. A KU borrow pays out around $2. A sale of the same title gets 70% of list price. For a $4.99 title a KU borrow means a drastic cut in income over a sale.

Not very helpful for keeping the top-selling authors in the loop. If they are going to lose money on every borrow they may as well stick to direct sales on Amazon and stay on other retail platforms as well.

But Grandinetti had already thought of that, and introduced the Kindle All-Stars jackpot payments, so the big names in KU will get a substantial cash hand-out from Amazon to make up for their lost income through the KU borrows.

But why is Amazon so desperate to keep indie authors in KU in the first place?

Quite simply, because while for the handful of top names the All-Star cash handouts will more than recompense any likely losses from KU, for the rest of us it’s a royalty cut by stealth.

Consider: While a few shorter and cheaper titles will pay more than the standard payout, most indies will be losing out when they have a borrow instead of a sale.

A $4.99 ebook sold at list price nets $3.50 for the author. A $4.99 ebook borrowed via KU nets the author around $2. Probably less because the pot will need to be shared between more authors.

It’s a simple trick for Amazon to rig the charts so more higher-priced and longer-length KU titles get noticed. Higher-priced because they pay out the same money whether a borrowed book is 0.99 or 15.99. Longer length because a subscriber can easily get through ten short stories in a month and result in ten pay-outs. The same reader may get through only two 400 pagers, or one 1000 page box set.  Far less pay-out for Amazon.

Hugh Howey proved the point. Amazon increased his visibility to maximize his KU borrows and sure enough they went through the roof.

Yet almost all KU users are existing Amazon customers. There’s no evidence to suggest readers from other sites deserted in their droves to join KU. And for those with epub ereaders that would be totally pointless anyway.

What is happening is that KU users are downloading ten titles at a time where previously they would have downloaded one. And of course they focus on the first pages of the charts, where sure enough all the big names like Howey are being heavily promoted by Amazon.

These top “sellers” dominate the upper echelons of the charts and of course stay there because visibility begets visibility.

A look at the new Kindle UK KU page is instructive. Check out the Editor’s Picks and sure enough most of them are Amazon imprint titles. Check out the recommended titles and it’s the usual handful of Amazon-imprint titles, Amazon cheerleader titles and a few better-known names from mid-sized publishers that threw their hand in.

Common or garden indies like you and me? Do be serious.

The only thing lesser indies are on Grandinetti’s radar for is cutting our royalty rates by driving all sales through KU where the payout for indie authors is far less.

And with a secondary benefit that KU users who can access these ebooks all month are far less likely to go and buy a print book from a store, or buy a print book from Amazon which Amazon will have to ship.

Luckily we indies currently have the choice. We can be in KU and earn far less for a borrow than for a sale. Or we can stay out of KU.

But for how long?

Let’s return to the problem Amazon faces with KU in France and Germany. But let’s instead pose that problem as one that might shortly confront KU US and KU UK.

Here’s the thing: With 650,000 titles in KU, the Amazon US subscription service is ahead of Scribd and Oyster, but not by much.

And without the Big 5 on board, volume is Amazon’s ONLY real selling point in making KU more appealing to readers than Scribd or Oyster are.

But Amazon only got to that 650,000 figure by hauling KDP Select titles into the frame. And Amazon only has 500,000 exclusive titles in all.

What happens when Scribd and Oyster sign up the next tranche of Big Pub and small pub titles and hit 700,000 titles each? Or more?

At the moment only HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have titles in these two subscription services. But Macmillan is currently experimenting with Skoobe in Germany.

And for two reasons it’s really only a matter of time before Macmillan, Hachette and Penguin Random House decide to put their back-list titles into Scribd and Oyster alongside the two Big 5 publishers already on board.

First, because of the proven success of the model. By all accounts Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have done well out of the deal.

But more importantly, as with the boycott of KU, the Big 5 can significantly strengthen their own position by simultaneously not being in KU and actively supporting the two key rivals to Amazon’s subscription service.

f the other three members of the Big 5 each loaded up their back-list titles to the Scribd and Oyster catalogue the gap between KU and Scribd and Oyster could be seriously narrowed, and put the focus back on content, rather than volume.

You can be sure Grandinetti already has that fully planned for.

It’s pretty obvious Amazon has already pulled out all the stops to get publishers on board, and failed abysmally. The boycott holds.

To boost KU numbers above Scribd and Oyster again, if they bumped up their numbers, the ONLY option available to Amazon will be to put ALL the KDP titles into KU.

The sop to authors will be that this time they won’t have to be exclusive. But this will be one HUGE stealth royalty cut when it happens. The algorithms will be rigged to make sure the higher-priced, longer-length Select titles get the extra visibility, just like now.

More KU downloads of indie titles. Far less royalties being paid out to indie authors for sales. Especially those who refuse to tow the line and choose to still sell on other retail platforms.

Make no mistake, KU is a stealth royalty cut. Period. And as Shakespeare once almost said, a royalty cut by any other name will stink just as much.

But don’t expect any protest from the Amazon cheerleaders if it happens.

As they will tell us deadpan, struggling to keep the smirk off their face, “Hey look guys! We’ve got tons more downloads from KU, and Amazon have paid us a shit-load of cash on top. It’s so easy, anyone can do it.”

 

 

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Amazon Begs Indie Authors To Help Fight $10bn Media Conglomerate. You couldn't make it up…

Go Global In 2014

When it comes to desperate measures and stooping lower than a snake’s testicles nobody does it better than Amazon.

Emailing KDP authors begging them to write to those nasty people at Hachette is bad enough. But to dress it up with a load of bull about paperback prices, World War II and George Orwell takes sad to a whole new level.

As Amazon rightly say, “We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies”.

In the next breath, “We’d like your help. Please email the CEO of Hachette and copy us.”

Amazon implore us to tell him in no uncertain terms, “Stop using your authors as leverage.”

Quite right, Amazon. It’s fine for you to use KDP authors as leverage in this dispute which has nothing to do with us, but how dare Hachette do the same thing.

“We want lower e-book prices,” says Amazon, the company that is encouraging indie authors to raise prices through Pricing Support, while penalizing us with lower “royalties” if we try to offer readers a real bargain. Apple still pay us 70% if we price below $2.99. Amazon take 65%.

“Hachette does not (want lower prices).”

Bull. Hachette wants the right to charge a premium for new releases, just like every other entertainment media does.

A quick glance at Amazon’s listings will show only a handful of Hachette titles are priced above ten dollars. The bulk are well below ten dollars, with many at indie prices, and even free.

“Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices… Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.”

Curiously Amazon omitted to mention that they are currently being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for illegally scamming millions from parents of children using free Amazon apps. Not some accidental scam. The FTC has Amazon internal emails confirming Amazon was aware of this for a long period and chose to do nothing.

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. The FTC highlighted one internal communication in which an Amazon employee likened the growing chorus of customer complaints to a “near house on fire.”

This of course is not in any way disrespectful to Amazon app customers.

Amazon says Hachette “think books only compete against books.”

And Hachette said this when, exactly?

“But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types.”

Says Amazon, with its unlimited “free” streaming of video and music for Prime members.

“Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.”

Therefore it is eminently good business sense for Hachette and every other publisher to sell a new release at $14.99 while readers are willing to pay a premium for the new release, and then sell to all those others at $9.99 at a later date.

It’s interesting to note that Macmillan, Penguin-Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, etc, etc, are all selling new releases at $14.99 and Amazon is making NO fuss at all about this.

Where is the Amazon email asking us to spam the email boxes of the CEOs of Macmillan and co. telling them to bring their prices down because consumers are suffering?

This has NOTHING to do with benefitting consumers and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that Amazon can’t get its own way with a particular supplier in a particular dispute.

Amazon is and will remain for some time the most important outlet for most indie authors. That doesn’t mean we have to respond to this kind of underhand interference in a dispute between Amazon and a supplier we have nothing to do with.

As Amazon rightly say, Hachette is “part of a $10 billion media conglomerate.”

Amazon omits to mention that Amazon is a $150 billion conglomerate.

WTF is a company that size doing begging indie authors to intervene to help it settle a dispute with another supplier?

You couldn’t make it up…

 

Ebook Bargains UK

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