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  • Why I Canceled My Amazon Prime Account (following Amazon's Spamming of My Inbox)
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Why I Canceled My Amazon Prime Account (following Amazon's Spamming of My Inbox)
Written by
Brooke Warner
August 2014
Written by
Brooke Warner
August 2014

For those of you who follow publishing news, or who are KDP authors, you know that on August 9, Amazon sent a very bizarre email to all of its KDP customers, which has been dissected best, in my opinion, here and here.

You can read the full email here, but this post is really about why I canceled my Amazon Prime account the next day.

There is no question in my mind that without Amazon, self-publishing would not exist in the way it does today. Amazon has truly given authors a gift in creating an easy platform to create books (CreateSpace), a simple ebook portal (Kindle Direct Publishing), and a marketplace in which to sell (Amazon.com). There is a reason Amazon has its loyal followers.

I have long been in the camp of people who love to hate Amazon. It’s a “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” kind of attitude we who profess to not love big imposing corporations looking to take over the world seem to adopt. I feel this way about Google. I feel this way about Apple (except I’m one of those crazy Mac people and I actually don’t hate them at all). I do not feel this way about Walmart. I’ve quasi-defended Amazon even as they create problems for me as a publisher. They would much rather cater to my authors directly than solve my publisher problems with me directly, or even through our distributor. It might be a little bit paranoid to think that they actually have a motivation to put me out of business because they cater to authors, and they make money off of authors, but yeah, my mind goes there sometimes when I’m barred from doing a simple transaction and my authors email me to tell me they were able to solve their own problem by emailing Amazon directly. Thanks, Amazon.

So it was not without amazement at the size of their cojones that I read Amazon’s August 9 letter in which they botched a whole bunch of historical facts, but also compared the “struggle” that they’re having to control the way Hachette prices its e-books with the mid-twentieth century resistance to the paperback. (Yeah, not at all the same, I assure you.)

Amazon suggested:

[I]t’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

I got some emails, and some forwarded emails, on August 9 and 10 from readers (and loyal Amazon customers) whose messages were along the lines of: Hell yeah—I should not have to pay more than $9.99 for ebooks. Go Amazon!

But here are a few important points to consider:

1. Why should Amazon get to decide how a publisher prices its e-books? In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, consumers will decide with their spending dollars. Chuck Wendig makes this point much more brilliantly and hilariously than I do.

2. Books are not a one-size-fits-all kind of product. If you believe that books are works of art, then not all e-books should be priced, by mandate, at $9.99. Though Amazon lists all the costs e-books avoid—printing, over-printing, returns, warehousing costs, etc.— there are many other costs that e-books carry, from editorial to design to conversion. If we want to continue to see high-quality books available in e-book format, we need to be able to make an exception to this rule for some, not all, books.

3. More than 80% of Hachette’s e-books are priced at $9.99 or lower. Most publishers want to price their books at $9.99. In my opinion, Amazon is seeing the world through a KDP lens, where authors are e-book publishers and not print/digital publishers with a much broader, deeper, and more historical understanding of their investment. Even though Amazon has its own traditional imprints and should have this broader understanding too, they’re also a company that undercuts its own profits to remain the top competitor across all industries, but especially books.

4. As authors, we should be concerned about the devaluing of intellectual property. Amazon is telling us first that our books are products only worth what they deem appropriate (what the reader will pay). But readers have been trained, in no small part by Amazon, to expect to get our books for ridiculously low prices. Yes, there’s more competition out there and so the market responds to competition by price adjustment and lower prices, but Amazon has set this in motion by creating a huge incentive for its KDP authors to price their books between $2.99 and $9.99. It gives 70% royalties to authors who price their books within this range, and 30% to those who price outside of it. I’ve maintained for a while that this seems an awful lot like price colluding to me.

There’s more, but I’ll leave it at these points for now. I promise I don’t hate Amazon. I’m just sort of peeved at them right now. And that’s why on August 10 I canceled my Amazon Prime account. I decided that I’m not going to reward arrogant behavior, and I wanted to see how it would be to order stuff from other sites. On August 11 I ordered a pillow from Bed Bath & Beyond and an ashtray from Global Industrial. So it’s the 19th and they haven’t arrived yet. That’s okay. I got free shipping and I’m practicing delayed gratification.

I also don’t want to live in a world where the place I choose to shop gives me a bullet-pointed list of talking points to sway one of their vendors to set their prices a certain way. I’m pretty sure this is what the government does with food, but corn and milk farmers are subsidized. And since Amazon is not the government (yet), I want its politics out of my inbox. I also want authors to know that while Amazon is obviously going to remain the primary retail outlet for your book, it’s not the only game in town. Educate yourself on the options. Don’t be exclusive to Amazon. Like your grandma (maybe) always said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

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  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks, Kamy.

  • Such a good post, Brooke. And good luck to Kathryn and and Mani with resolving that issue, I hate to think of that subscription offering submarining indie publishers...

  • Brooke,

    Yes, I will keep you all updated on Kindle Unlimited. I will know more the end of October...

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Mani, yes, what Kathryn says. I think a lot of publishers are just sort of waiting to see what happens here. For now, She Writes Press is not interested in opting into Kindle Unlimited. I think they have to work out the whole payment thing. I know a lot of KDP authors are nervous. Kathryn, please do let us know what kind of results you glean from your August check!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Zetta, this is totally on point, but as I said in another comment here, not selling with Amazon would be suicide. Amazon has so much power. Sales on Amazon account for over 50% of the profits for most publishers; more for some. So I don't think that's a good option for authors, even though a lot of people like to make this point.

    That said, yes to diversity. Upload your book to Kobo; iBookstore; Smashwords; iTunes; Nook. These are just the other actual competitors in the space.

  • Thanks for the info Zetta. I am going to look into those other eBook selling avenues for sure.

    Anyone?  Where else can an author sell their self-published eBooks? I'm starting a list...

  • Zetta Brown

    I was reading an article about how there is support for Amazon in their dispute--which can only be expected--and the article listed several points to consider: 1) both Amazon and Hachette are mega corps, 2) If you hate Amazon, nobody is forcing you to sell your book with them. This is true.

    Diversity is key. Amazon may be the 600lb gorilla, but it's not the only gorilla. Believe it or not there are other outlets where you can sell your ebooks, and OmniLit has been around for years and they sell practically all genres of fiction and nonfiction. If you are a publisher or self published, you create an account and upload your books. Plus, YOU (as the publisher) set your price. Check out their Publisher's FAQs:


    Indie publishers and self publishers shouldn't put all their eggs in one basket. If the big dawgs want to fight over who gets the biggest part of the bone, that just leaves room for the smaller dawgs to run away with the other bones the big dawgs are missing.

    Our company has worked with OmniLit/AllRomanceEbooks for years, both as their conversion partner and as a publisher who sells books with them. They sell BOOKS. They're not interested in selling books as a loss leader for other things like Amazon's "jack of all trades, master of none" storefront. 

  • Mani,

    Bingo! Look at my earlier post on page 2 here about the very program you're talking about...a program Amazon announced with great fanfare last month saying it would be good for the customers, us and them but if you're in KDP you had no choice in being included...it's called KINDLE UNLIMITED. Customers can buy in for $9.99 a month and get 10 free eBooks a month for that they can keep as long as they like. What???  I, too, am with KDP Kindle.  6 eBooks I've self-published since 2012 (I have 15 with a regular publisher that I will be getting full rights back to starting in 2015 and was excitedly looking forward to self-publishing each one) AND MY ACTUAL SALES HAVE BEEN CUT IN HALF OR MORE since August 1 - lowest sales in 2 years. I am really upset, too. BECAUSE AMAZON DOESN'T TELL US HOW MUCH ROYALTY PERCENTAGE WE WILL BE GETTING. They say there is a FUND (where, in the clouds?) that they will pay us out of, sort of like their Lending Library...which, by the way, Kindle Unlimited is now lumped in with under the column KU/LOLL. I am baffled and very disappointed because after 30 years with publishers and little or no money on my 20 published novels over the years I was finally making a real living at this the last two years with JUST those 6 eBooks. Now I don't know what will happen or how much I am making any longer...when I get my check in 2 months for August's payments I will know. I can't believe Amazon Kindle KDP has done this to all its self-pubbed authors...do they really think we would put up with NOT KNOWING how much our eBooks were making us or our actual sales being cut so much? I wonder if this is their way of forcing us from the 70% royalty bracket and taking the 35% one? Only time will tell. [email protected]

  • Mani Feniger

    Hi Brooke, thanks for your post and I have another crazy Amazon issue and would love some feedback. I sell "The Woman in the Photograph" on Kindle and over the months its popularity has climbed. With the help of a 3-day free offer (10,000 downloaded) and a countdown offer, I have been selling over 200 copies/month and about 400 borrowed on Kindle library UNTIL AUG 1 when Amazon started its new subscription program where for something like 9.99/month you can have all the books you want free! This is an indie publisher killer. None of the promotions make sense if you can already get it free. The graph chart of my sales dropped like Mt. Everest to sea level by Aug. 2. I would love feedback on what others have experienced and what can we do. I know there are other outlets but none as big as Amazon. I would be grateful for suggestions. Thanks.

  • Zetta,

    The consumer, I'd say.

  • Zetta Brown

    Amazon want their cake and eat it too. They want to publish authors, either through CreateSpace or through their publishing house (whatever it's called), and then they want to be a one-stop shop for consumers and provide them with low prices. When you do this, you're gonna step on toes. Amazon needs to pick its battles.

    Question is--who's going to win this battle? The publishing side or the consumer side? 

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Interesting, Lisa, that you didn't receive the email. That may well be the reason.

    Thanks for your perspective, Breena! I think a lot of authors feel this way.

  • Breena Clarke

    I am a proud Little Brown/Hachette author. I deeply resent Amazon's tactics. I recognize that they are instrumental in the self-publishing paradigm. However, they aren't actually giving self-published authors much. They are in business to make big bucks. Period. So, by the way, is Hachette. Why not? They aren't a charity. What they have done for me is design a breathtaking, original cover, promote the book in all media, print them, deliver them to stores of all types - including electronic sources. Writing books is an art, but selling books is a business. I've written three novels in fifteen years and I resent Amazon deciding that they can bully my publisher into giving them more money. There is also another thing I resent: that a writer who is publishing a manuscript that has not been edited and rewritten and guided through the process with the care that has been given to my books is priced at the same point as mine.

  • Lisa Thomson

    I'm a KDP author as well.  I noticed they reduced my ebook price without my permission.  Bizarre.  $5.25 down to $4.93.  Next, I've noticed many bloggers are giving away free e-books.  They say giving their writing away free is contributing to society and the good will  of mankind etc.  I just can't wrap my head around that idea.  I mean, the amount of blood, sweat and tears involved in writing a book is astonishing and then to just 'give it away'?  It's devaluing all e-books IMHO and bringing us all down.  I didn't receive the email you refer to Brooke.  I'm Canadian, so maybe that's why. Perhaps this change is only the U.S. authors. 

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Victoria, yes, I'm fine to take money from Amazon. Ha ha.

    But in all seriousness, it would be suicide for a publisher or an author to take their book(s) off Amazon.

  • Victoria Noe

    So you stopped buying on Amazon in protest, but you sell on Amazon?

  • Thanks for sharing, I am on the verge of self publishing snd looking at all my options.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Amy, thanks. It's cool we had the same response. Let's take our dollars elsewhere, right?

    Kathryn, yes, the Kindle Unlimited thing is kind of under the radar isn't it? It has been blogged about, but I think no one is freaking out yet because customers haven't started signing up for it in big numbers. I think Oyster has the corner on the market for the time being, but we will see!

    Barb and Thea, thanks for your comments.

  • Barbara Stark-Nemon

    I will say, especially as a new author with an old suspicion of large corporate behavior, it's getting harder and harder to keep an open mind on this issue and make sensible choices.  As always, Brooke, you've written a lucid and informative post on this thorny mess

  • I'm one of those Amazon KDP authors and a few weeks ago Amazon instigated a new program for us - didn't ask us just told us they were doing it and tried to make it sound like it would be a great thing for us-  called KINDLE UNLIMITED, which allows Amazon customers to buy in for $9.99 a month and they can have 10 eBooks a month to keep as long as they want. I am AMAZED that no one is talking about this because so far it has cut my actual sales IN HALF and the other half seems to have gone to the KU/LOLL column. But here's the problem...I have NO IDEA what I'll or any of the other of us KDP authors will be getting from our KU sales. They say, like the LOLL sales, we'll be getting "something" from a KU fund but never say how much or what percentage. I am beyond baffled, a little worried and scared now. Does anyone know anything about this Kindle Unlimited?

  • Thea Constantine

    I only have 'regular' kindle account and not Prime but this is awful! It's hard enough for writers to make money without this Big Brother crap. Thanks for the heads up--I'm going to write them and complain!

  • Amy Wallen

    Great job!  I did the same.  That email was astonishing.  I nearly fell out of my chair when I read it.  I thought, "Did they realize they sent this to an author?" It was though the idea of the author had never come into their heads.  And I was even published by PENGUIN, and yet I a proponent of self-publishing and independent presses.  Never mind where you are published, our work has been undervalued for too long and now they want to lower the value even more???  No more money from my pocket will go into Amazon's pocket.  Thanks for writing this blog entry.