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It’s not just Hachette and Warner Brothers, Amazon Has Stopped Taking Pre-Orders Indie KDP Titles, Too

warner-bros-logo[1]News is breaking today that even more of Amazon’s suppliers are on the outs with the retailer.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Amazon appears to also be in conflict Warner brothers. Amazon is reportedly responding to a contract dispute with Warner Brothers by removing the pre-order buttons from movies produced or distributed by that studio:

The Everything Store is shrinking again. Amazon customers who want to order forthcoming Warner Home Video features, including “The Lego Movie,” “300: Rise of an Empire,” “Winter’s Tale” and “Transcendence,” are finding it impossible to do so.

The retailer’s refusal to sell the movies is part of its effort to gain leverage in yet another major confrontation with a supplier to become public in recent weeks.

Like in the Hachette contract dispute, it is widely believed that Amazon is using the pre-order buttons as leverage in the ongoing negotiations. It’s not clear what Amazon is pushing for, but in the case of WB it could be anything from streaming rights to better terms on DVD distribution. Warner Brothers  is a huge media conglomerate, so the bone of contention could literally be just about anything.

But it’s not clear what Amazon hopes to gain by disabling the pre-order buttons on ebook titles distributed through KDP by independent publishers and authors.

Check any ebook listing by an indie author and you’ll see that many do not have access to pre-order buttons (some still have it, though). I’m fairly dialed in to the self-pub world, and my sources have not been able to offer a reason for this decision on the part of Amazon.

Well, there is no justification for this, but then again the vast majority of indie authors and publishers have never had the option of putting up a pre-order button in the first place.

This option, which Amazon is described as a bully for taking away from Hachette and Warner Brothers, is only available to a limited number of Amazon’s suppliers. Sure, some indie authors can use pre-order buttons, but they are the exception.

The point I am trying to get at, folks, is that the pre-order button is far more of a privilege than a right, and if disabling it is a penalty then Amazon must be punishing a significant number of their suppliers. In short, if Amazon is wrong for taking the option away, they must be doubly wrong for never offering it in the first place. How evil.

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TheGreatFilter June 12, 2014 um 5:33 pm

I think Amazon has been watching and learning from Putin.

flyingtoastr June 12, 2014 um 10:40 pm

You’re totally right Nate. Amazon *should* start treating their major suppliers just like their KDP authors.

So, naturally that means Amazon needs to immediately start a 70/30 pricing split with Hachette. Oh, and allow Hachette to set the retail price of their books.

It’s only fair!


Nate Hoffelder June 12, 2014 um 10:45 pm

Authors who choose the 70% option in KDP have to let Amazon control the retail price. You should have known that. Oh, and Hachette already has the 70% split.

fjtorres June 13, 2014 um 12:22 am

…and they do it two ways:
– when Amazon chooses to put a KDP book on sale, they pay the 70% rate off the list price the publisher set, regardless of the actual sale price. So the discount comes out of Amazon’s pocket.
– when they are price-matching, they pay according to the actual sale price instead of the list. So the discount comes out of the publisher’s pocket because they set the price.

Pretty straightforward: if they control the retail price, they eat the discount–if they don’t, the publisher eats part of the discount.

Nate Hoffelder June 13, 2014 um 6:59 am

Actually, I would say that Amazon controls the retail price in both circumstances, and sometimes Amazon eats the difference but sometimes they don’t.

fjtorres June 13, 2014 um 8:18 am

I wouldn’t.
Price matching is what you do to get a sale that would otherwise *definitely* go elsewhere, so you’re selling it at the other guy’s price, not yours.
Like so much in publishing the real issues aren’t price or good vs evil; its just contract issues and controlling your own business.
Nobody likes dancing to somebody else’s tune and Amazon simply refuses to do so unless forced by illegal means. In which case they make their position clear and let the feds enforce the laws. 🙂

People keep forgetting: nobody is forced to do businesss with anybody. (A recent development for publishing, ’tis true, so the apologists haven’t internalized the idea just yet). And if you are going to do business with them the terms have to be agreeable or you walk away. You don’t get to dictate terms to the other guy just because *can’t* walk away. It’s all a matter of options: Amazon has them, other people don’t. So push come to shop, Amazon sets the clear and unambiguous terms and the (KDP) publisher agrees or goes elsewhere. And the same goes for KDP Select terms. In both cases you can always walk away, even after signing, which is more than can be said about current "industry standard" publishing contracts.

Amazon isn’t a common carrier (in FCC terms) or public service charity. They are a for-profit venture. And those tend to take care of their intrests first and last.

Nate Hoffelder June 17, 2014 um 3:37 pm

It doesn’t matter whether Amazon cuts the price and eats the difference or splits it with the author. What matters is that Amazon can cut the price any time they want.

flyingtoastr June 13, 2014 um 2:09 am

"Authors who choose the 70% option in KDP have to let Amazon control the retail price."

Since when? According to their own T&C for KDP Amazon is only permitted to drop the price of books below list if they’re price matching a third party seller. All Amazon has is an MFN clause, not the ability to arbitrarily adjust list prices. It’s very specific:

"By "price-match" we mean where we sell the Digital Book in one or more of the Available Sales Territories at a price (net of taxes) that is below the List Price to match a third party’s sales price for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book, or to match our sales price for any physical edition of the Digital Book, in any one of the Available Sales Territories."

Outside of that there is no agreement for Amazon to allow set the prices lower without the rightsholder’s consent.

So again, Nate, why is this kind of agreement cool for self publishers but not publishing houses? You write silly articles like this demanding equality, so why not take it?

Michael June 15, 2014 um 4:16 pm

"5.3.4 Customer Prices. To the extent not prohibited by applicable laws, we have sole and complete discretion to set the retail customer price at which your Digital Books are sold through the Program."

There are similar stipulations in the section for KDP Select.

"2.1(a) Kindle Countdown Deals … As with any List Price, to the extent not prohibited by applicable local laws, we have the discretion to set the retail customer price at which your Digital Books are sold."

And again a little further down in the same Select portion of the terms.

Amazon rarely exercises this option on KDP titles apart from price matching, but they like to quote this clause when their automated price matching system makes a mistake, when one expresses dismay about a $3.99 title suddenly being discounted to free despite not being marked down at any other retailer. Two out of three times I was involved with, they put the price back when queried about it, and the other time they stood by their pricing discretion (raising the price to 99c a week later, then back to full price). Frankly I’m fine with retailers being able to choose their own discounting. Heck, I’d even be cool with a 50% wholesaling arrangement, where I’d get a guaranteed 50% of list on any sale even if a bookseller gave my ebook away free.

One of the problems with inflexible pricing is that many authors and publishers are terrible salespeople, and I for one would definitely include myself in that category. If publishers were any good at selling books themselves, they wouldn’t need Amazon and other stores to do it for them.

Dave August 8, 2014 um 2:24 pm

Is it still the case that Amazon has turned off preorders for KDP authors? I’ve been asking around, and I’m getting mixed answers from authors.

Nate Hoffelder August 8, 2014 um 2:27 pm

The title of this post was a joke.

Some KDP authors and publishers have the option of pre-order buttons. Most do not have the option, and never did.

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