Amazon Demands Authors Do the Impossible – Control the Prices of Print Books Sold by Third-Party Sellers

Amazon Demands Authors Do the Impossible - Control the Prices of Print Books Sold by Third-Party Sellers Amazon
how to comply with Amazon's policies

As I am sure you know, Amazon requires competitive prices for ebooks sold through its site. The ToS for KDP specify that authors can't price their ebooks at lower prices on other sites, and if Amazon finds a lower price, it reserves the right to price match.

This policy has caused all sorts of problems when Amazon has mistakenly identified a lower-priced ebook, and it causes even bigger headaches when Amazon applies to print books.

Author Rosanne Bowman forwarded an email she got from Amazon yesterday. It seems Amazon is upset that Walmart is taking a loss on a couple of Bowman's books, so Amazon has decided to take it out on Bowman.

Amazon is committed to providing customers with a great shopping experience. We measure this in a number of ways, including high-quality content, accurate listing information, and competitive prices. We reserve the right not to offer books that don’t meet these customer expectations.

We have recently observed that the print list price you provided Amazon for the book(s) identified below is not competitive with the list price(s) of other print edition(s) of the book(s) on another sales channel:

Hook's Daughter: The Untold Tale of a Pirate Princess (The Pirate Princess Chronicles) (ASIN: 578412454) is listed on Amazon.com at $ 9.99 and at $ 4.92 on https://www.walmart.com/ip/Hook-s-Daughter-The-Untold-Tale-of-a-Pirate-Princess/951175999

In order to maintain a great customer experience for Amazon shoppers, we ask that you please reduce the KDP list price for the above titles and review your KDP catalog within the next 5 business days to ensure your book(s) are competitively priced.  As always, we reserve the right to stop selling titles that are uncompetitive with offerings at other stores, and we may remove the book(s) from sale on Amazon if we cannot provide a competitive customer experience.

BTW, Amazon may not have noticed yet but Walmart also marked down another of Bowman's books.

Walmart gets the books through Ingram, and therein lies the problem. While Bowman can set the list price at Ingram, she can't control the price set by Walmart or any other retailer any more than she can control the price through the resale market.

When Bowman pointed this out to Amazon, she was told that she should tell Walmart to change the price.

To adjust your book’s digital list price on Walmart we suggest you contact them directly.

Yes, Bowman should contact as $500 billion per year corporation and demand that it raise its price. One could sooner stop the moon, but don't tell Amazon that because they might add that to their list of demands.

I do not have a solution, so I am sharing this in the hopes that Amazon can be shamed into being reasonable.

P.S. And to answer your next question, no, lowering the print price is not a reasonable suggestion. Amazon's solution requires Bowman to take a hit on the sale of a book just because Walmart decided to. That is unreasonable, and the same is true ion general for Amazon's price-matching policy for both ebooks and print books. Why should an author or publisher take a hit to the pocketbook just because one of Amazon's competitors decides to run a sale?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

14 Comments

  1. Disgusting Dude26 December, 2019

    Amazon isn’t complaining about the print book price but the KDP (ebook) price.
    That is under Bowman’s control.

    The Walmart thing is just silly, though.
    So, half-and-half.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder26 December, 2019

      nope, this is about the print book

      click the link

      Reply
  2. LR27 December, 2019

    As an Indie author the most distasteful part of Amazon is that books that are available to be read anywhere else on the web cannot participate in the free and reduced pricing times through KDP, their ebook division.

    Reply
  3. Disgusting Dude27 December, 2019

    Somebody screwed up, then.
    Unless they’re griping over KDP Print POD books. In which case Walmart is paying Amazon for the right to undercut them.

    Lots of authors had problems with Google ebooks randomly discounting ebooks.
    They solved it by dropping Google, though that was painless, since Google hardly ever sold any books at all.
    Authors do need to read their contracts and understand what they’re signing. Amazon as well as tradpub.
    It’s not all unicorns and fuzzie bunnies.

    Reply
  4. Xavier Basora27 December, 2019

    Nate

    One solution would be to treat the contract as adhesionary. The contract would then be narrowly interpreted in the weaker party favour. Then any unreasonable clauses can either set aside or reinterpreted to something more reasonable.

    xavier

    Reply
  5. Richard Hershberger27 December, 2019

    Exhibit 387 in the Amazon Is Not Your Friend file. This is a huge constraint on self-publishing, which in practice mostly means publishing through Amazon. Amazon will screw you over sooner or later, and all the signs point to “sooner.”. It may be indifference rather than malice, but the distinction hardly matters.

    Reply
  6. Cherise Kelley29 December, 2019

    This is one of many reasons I don’t allow expanded distribution of my pen name’s paperback books. They are available only on Amazon.

    (The other big reason is third party sellers taking over the Amazon sales page for my pen name’s books!)

    Reply
  7. Kris Austin30 December, 2019

    It is possible to comply with Amazon here if you are exclusive…

    Making a policy that is only possible to comply with through being exclusive is just a way to force authors to be exclusive without them directly agreeing to it.

    This is pretty normal behavior for Amazon across all its suppliers.

    There’s a reason the European Commission forced Amazon to drop these MFN clauses way back in 2017. I’m waiting for the US to do something about it as well.

    Reply
  8. Olivier30 December, 2019

    Folks, this really very simple and is (or should be) glaringly obvious. Amazon is using a variety of underhanded methods to coerce indie authors into going exclusive with it That is the long-term goal.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder1 January, 2020

      I do beleive you’re right

      Reply
  9. Alana Terry31 December, 2019

    I received the same email . Walmart has priced my books at $6.69 and Amazon wants me to price match.

    Reply
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  11. Pamela Cummins14 January, 2020

    Finally, I see the silver lining of being tangled up in this crazy price war! To outbid Walmart, Amazon reduced my nonfiction dream interpretation paperback to WAY BELOW COST. The good news is I get paid for my paperbacks and Amazon is taking a loss as I never bothered with KDP Print and my paperbacks are only available through Ingram Sparks. Since Ingram Sparks distributes to thousands of bookstores and vendors, they can’t remove my paperbacks from only Amazon or Walmart.

    If you’re an Independent author whose paperbacks are published thru Ingram Sparks and Amazon, why should you lose money? Instead, remove your paperbacks from Amazon and allow Ingram to distribute them to Amazon. Let Amazon lose money, not you!

    Reply

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