Author Brian Lawrenson Shocked When Amazon Gave Away His Book

Australian author Brian Lawrenson was surprised when his Amazon downloads experienced a huge surge and even more surprised to realize it was because Amazon has dropped the price on four of his eBooks from $2.99 to free. The short story author on Marco Polo Press in Sydney told eBookNewser about his experience.

EBN: How did you find out that Amazon had dropped the price of your eBook?
BL: On 2nd October (Sydney time) when I checked my DTP sales report, sales had jumped from an average of 20-30 a day to almost 4,000. I then went into my eBook page and found that the price of four of the 21 eBooks –my most popular four- had been changed by Amazon to zero. I immediately emailed DTP support asking why and on my Sunday received a reply saying that they had reduced the price because they had found these titles selling on Barnes & Noble eStore for free. There is a clause in their standard contract that allows them to make this change. According to reports that I have read 35 titles were selected for this treatment. I guess I should be honored at being selected.

EBN: Is Amazon still going to pay you a commission on the $2.99 price point, or do they only pay out on the price it actually sells for?
BL: The Silk Road Series eBooks are “shorts” which means that they can be read in 30 minutes. The retail price set by me was $2.99. I was on a commission structure of 70% for USA sales and 35% on sales outside USA. This is based upon the selling price which equals zero.

However of the 6,000 downloaded about 15% were sold out of the USA and commission will be paid on these. I immediately notified the DTP that I wanted to update the commission settings for the four titles to 35% but it wasn’t until your Monday, my Tuesday, that this was acted upon. The 35% commission is based upon the list not sale price so I will get 35% of $2.99 or about $1.04. In the meanwhile 6,000 titles have been downloaded. As the total now exceeds 10,000 downloads, I presume that I’ll be getting the 35% on the last 4,000. 10,000 of anything even selling for free, is pretty good going.

EBN: How long is this supposed to last?
BL: This can last indefinitely until Amazon works out that it is now paying me $1.04 and getting zero or I notify them that the price of the B & N books has been changed to $2.99. The free B&N titles of the ten books in the Silk Road series was an introductory offer and should become on a par to Amazon by the end of this month. I also have free books on Sony, Diesel, Kobo and iBooks. These are distributed by Smashwords and there is sometimes a delay in getting price updates actioned promptly. So I’m happy for now to keep the sales going and let them pay me $1.04 (unless there is some other fine print, elsewhere). The sales of my other books are up 200%, which is an unexpected serendipity.

EBN: Do you support this pricing as a promotional model?
BL: Broadly I think that the pricing model is OK. My only issue is not having been notified of the change.

The issue points out the importance of authors understanding the contents of their contracts and also keeping a close tab in their business. I plan to put another six titles on Kindle by end of the year. To me I do try to treat this as a business as it is one way of funding my travels, which are becoming increasingly more expensive (or is that my tastes).