How much does a 99c ebook cost on Amazon?

No, it’s not a trick question.

Fact is, Amazon may not be selling your 99c ebook for 99c. It may well be selling your 99c ebook for $3.50, and pocketing most of the difference.

For those of you lucky enough to have strong sales from the US market it’s perhaps not something you’ve ever given a thought to. And when you look at the six million Kindlefires expected to be sold over the Holidays, plus all the nooks, it’s really not something you need worry about.

Sellers with a strong US base can expect a bonanza this Christmas season for sure.

But spare a thought for the rest of the world. Because the vast majority of your potential readers don’t live in the USA. And if you’re thinking,  So what? Amazon is the world’s biggest book store and my book is available for 99c anywhere in the world, then think again.

Consider: The new Kindlefire is not, and for the foreseeable future will not be sold in the UK or Germany or France, despite those countries having Kindle sites. And a reminder here that the B&N nook is utterly useless outside the US as B&N do not download outside the US borders.

Two fantastic new ereaders, purpose built for ePub3, are in fact exclusively for the US market. The rest of the world is stuck with the old b&w Kindle.

But actually even that’s not true. Britain, France and Germany are stuck with the old b&w Kindle. The Kindle isn’t available anywhere else except by having it shipped over from the USA.

Sure they can download the Amazon app in the rest of the world so what’s the problem?

Well, three problems, actually.

First, if you haven’t got a Kindle then there’s no reason why you should shop at Amazon rather than another store. As above, B&N isn’t a option. And while you probably have your books on iTunes and Kobo through Smashwords, there are plenty of other ebook stores that Smashwords doesn’t get you out too.

Ah, but buyers will still come to Amazon because it’s famously the cheapest, right?

Wrong.

This brings us to problem two.  If you happen to live in, say, Belgium or Italy, just across the border from Kindle France and Kindle Germany, then that 99c ebook from Amazon is going to set you back nearly $3.50.

No, that’s not a misprint.

Amazon is obliged to add 15% VAT (European tax) on ebooks (even though the same book in print is exempt!).  In fairness Amazon have no control over this, but that means the 99c ebook is now $1.15.

Which is not $3.50, I hear you mutter. Bear with me.

The thing is, for buyers in Belgium and Italy Amazon then thoughtfully add a $2 surcharge (none of which goes to the author ) so your 99c ebook now costs the poor reader $2.99. And then Amazon are forced to add that 15% VAT, so the 99c ebook clocks up $3.45 on the buyer’s account. And this is per book, so buying three 99c books in your series will cost them ten bucks!

At which stage, if they’ve got any sense, the buyer thinks twice and goes and looks at another ebook store where the company doesn’t penalize them for where they live.

And in case you’re wondering, your “free” book isn’t free either. Your free book will cost you $2 in Italy. Or Hungary. Or Egypt, China, Argentina… You get the picture. Most of the world’s population do not live in the USA (or the surcharge exempt countries like Canada and Australia). But many still speak, write and read English and are your potential customers.

If you are relying on Amazon for your future career then, unless you have a really strong position in the US market, it would be wise not to put all your eggs in one basket.

What about problem three? I’m coming to that.

You see, Amazon may be the biggest book store in the world, but it rips off buyers in almost half the world with a $2 surcharge which can only act as a brake on sales.

And the other half of the world it blocks from buying altogether!

Yes, you read right. Amazon blocks sales to potential buyers.

I live in West Africa. I can’t buy my own book on Amazon, let alone yours. There are two hundred million English-speakers in West Africa. But Amazon does not allow you to download ebooks here.

Across Africa there are 350 million English-speaking people. But part from some limited access in South Africa, Amazon blocks downloads to the rest. Add in all the English as a Second Language readers on the continent and the number of people who can’t buy your books is humungous! And that’s just in Africa. The same block applies in English-speaking countries in Asia like Singapore, as but one example.

And for those countries that Amazon does think are worth letting your books download, they add the aforementioned $2 surcharge with the seeming intent of making sure no-one bothers.

Once again, unless you have a very strong position in the US market, over-reliance on Amazon could be a negative move.

Ad even if you are really strong in the US, can Amazon be relied upon as part of your business plan?

Our experience suggests not, and should be a salutary warning for any authors who think that because Amazon is bringing in the cash things can only get better.

Back in the summer Amazon arbitrarily removed the subtitle on our UK best-seller Sugar & Spice, without notice or explanation. To make matters worse, the book went into “publishing” phase (which drastically reduces visibility) for three entire days. Sales plummeted. We dropped from number two on Kindle UK to out of the top twenty.

By some miracle we climbed back to number two, only to have the same problem happen a week or so later. From selling nearly a thousand a day to just a few hundred is a huge drop. The second time the book never fully recovered.

We can’t be sure that Amazon’s balls-up cost us the number one spot, but we can say unequivocally their mistakes costs us thousands of sales.

Fortunately lightning never strikes twice.

Except when it does.

Last month Amazon managed to lose the reviews of countless ebook sellers. Among them our very own Sugar & Spice went from 240+ reviews to “Be the first to review this item.”

Needless to say sales plummeted. Our 130+ five stars are a big selling point. Making Sugar & Spice look like a new book no-one has ever heard of was unhelpful, to say the least. By the time Amazon had fixed the problem we had lost crucial chart and category position. How many sales Amazon’s errors cost us is hard to say, but it must have been substantial.

Thankfully it couldn’t happen a third time, surely.

Oh no?

Two weeks ago the Kindle UK best-seller Sugar & Spice literally vanished from Kindle UK. It still shows live in KDP, but there has not been a single sale for over two weeks. A search on Kindle UK reveals nothing. The book does not exist and has never existed. Trying to use the existing links we use for promo gets you nowhere. An error message comes up.

First KDP took several days even to acknowledge our email saying there was a problem.

Then they said it would be five working days before they could look at it.

Then they said they were looking at it and it would be another three days.

Then they apologized for the delay, confirming the problem was their end and saying they would prioritize the fix.

We’re now in our third week without our best-seller on Amazon UK through absolutely no fault of our own. KDP further kindly advised us they would not reimburse for lost sales.

Luckily we hadn’t any paid-for promo with POI, etc. If we had it would have been utterly wasted because the links that sold 100,000 copies suddenly don’t work. The book doesn’t come up in searches, or alongside our other titles under the author, or in the buyers also bought. Needless to say if we had spent money on promo Amazon would not reimburse us for our losses their error caused.

By coincidence the latest KDP newsletter announced that only thirty indie sellers had managed 100,000 sales.

We’re one of them. In fact we achieved that figure with just one title.

Not For Sale In UK

That same title is now unavailable not only in half the world where Amazon blocks downloads, but also is unavailable in the UK. Bizarrely it’s fine on am.com, but UK buyers cannot buy from am.com. As we enter the busiest sales period for ebooks, one of Amazon’s biggest selling indie books cannot be bought on Kindle UK.

Just how long does it take for a huge corporation like Amazon to fix a broken link to a product that is one of their best-sellers?

Over two weeks and counting.

If Amazon treat their best-selling authors like this, what chance them making an effort for you if you’re just starting out…

No question Amazon is huge and no question we owe our success to them. But can they be relied on to do the only thing they can do for us – make our books available?

It seems not.

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Comments

  1. Charley R says:

    Ooer … that makes me very nervous indeed. Though I suppose you could probably have glitches like that on any large internet site – that’s the trouble with cyberspace, it has bugs. Still, Amazon is being pretty daft by missing out on selling in so many potential market countries – reckon they’ll amend that any time soon?

    • You’re right that all companies, big or small, will suffe glitches, Charley. But hard to believe many of them would take three weeks to fix a simple problem, especially when they are losing income through it!

      Amazon’s wider myopia when it comes to selling oversesa is just beyond our comprehension. There ae no extra cost involved in sending a download to a third country, whether it’s Belgium, Barbabados or Bnagladesh.

      As for why I cannot buy books here in West Africa… It’s just crazy!

  2. Talli Roland says:

    Mark, thank you so much for this post. It’s a real eye-opener. Until you mentioned it last week, I had no idea about the two-dollar surcharge for the rest of the world, or the fact that Amazon blocks purchases. With the majority of my sales coming from the UK and countries other than the US (although my sales are slowly picking up there), I’m very worried.

    However… what is the alternative? Outside of the US, there’s no competitor, really, is there? I understand Waterstones is launching a device and WH Smith is partnering with Kobo, but from what I’ve seen, they’re nowhere near comparable to Amazon. I’d love to hear your thoughts on alternative strategies, because given your experience, I’m there with bells on!

    Thanks again for the post. Fingers crossed everything gets back to normal for ‘Sugar and Spice’!

    • No question Amazon is huge and wonderful (most of the time) Talli, but there are alternatives and they are growing every month.

      This week sales of smartphones in China exceeded sales of smartphones in America for the first time. China has a HUGE ebook market and we are in negotiation with several outlets looking for ways in. The same goes for many countries across the world.

      We are incredibly lucky to have as our work-tool one of the most widely-used languages on the planet, and there are many lucrative markets out there both in English-speaking countries (India, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc) and in English as Second Language countries (China, Japan, most of Europe) that Amazon deliberately or through surcharging stops buying our books.

      Because of our sales with S&S we’ve been able to get a foot in the door and move to discussion stage for “indie” uploads to several international ebook stores (we also launch our own ebook store next month aimed specifically at English-speakers in India, China and Japan), as well as talking to international publishers interested in ebooks and print.

      In all probability Amazon will remain the key outlet for US and UK sales for the forseeable future, although the WH Smiths-Kobo deal could be interesting (Waterstones is a good place to be too, but I have doubts their ereader will ever come to fruition).

      We’re looking at alternative strategies constantly, and will keep everyone posted as and when we have more news.

      • Talli Roland says:

        Interesting about China! I’ve heard that they’re big into paid serialisations there (was it you I heard that from? The Guardian? Somewhere!).

        Thanks again, Mark!

        • there was a blog post on Konrath from Barry I think all about the paid serializations. It was very exciting. :)

          • I’m under the impression that the market in China is controlled by the government…Could be wrong on that, of course. But if the authorities are in control (and they’re Communists, remember) , I don’t see that much of a possibility to expand. Look at what happened to Google and Twitter! Neither of them are in China!

  3. 17 days and counting, here’s the latest email:

    Hello Sarah,

    I am very sorry for any frustration that this issue had caused.

    I see that this issue is still being investigated by the appropriate team. We’ll try to resolve this issue as soon as possible and get back to you to notify the same.

    Thanks four your understanding and for your patience.

    Regards,

    Kindle Direct Publishing
    http://kdp.amazon.com

  4. This is really disgraceful. I don’t know how you are keeping your cool. I would be going spare.

    • Disgraceful is the word for it, Dave.

      And I wonder how many other authors with less public profile and platform are experiencing the same issues that we just don;t hear about.

      • Wow, that’s bad. For myself, I’ve noticed a few problems with Amazon–notably the difficulty they have with categories–but have yet to suffer getting dumped into a virtual oubliette, at least not yet. Hope the fix is made soon, and in all fairness if they’re not going to compensate you they should at least set your rank at the level it was when it disappeared.

        • Me too, I’ve had problems with their categories…But a virtual oubliette and one that would be so easy to pull out of…I find that incredible, awful, unbearable!

          I do wonder about Amazon…I live in Italy and of course suffer from the $2 surcharge. Even a free book costs me $2 plus!!But a couple of times, I’ve been able to buy books at 99 cents. So I thought to myself, hey, they’ve woken up at last!

          But no, they haven’t. Just bought another book at the damned $3.45 price…Obviously priced at 99 cents for American citizens.

          What is even more extraordinary is to block English-speaking Africans (with the exception of South Africa). Why? Are they racist? Of course not! But it’s weird tosay the least. What reason could they have for hurting their own sales in this way?

          Has Amazon grown too big too fast for its own good?

  5. Diana Layne says:

    What is the solution? We’d say here in Texas they’re too big for their britches, but…the alternative?

    • For the US market the only serious alternative is B&N, which is not easy to get on to except via platforms like Smashwords, and there is much circumstantial evidence to suggest Smashwords uploads get ignored with internal promo on B&N.

      For all these faults Amazon is still the best bet for most authors, but there are myriad small and large alternatives internationally, if we can but gain access.

  6. Miriam Joy says:

    This IS one of the disadvantages of epublishing. Real books (by which I mean paper books)can go out of print or be removed from amazon. This is obvious when you talk to a couple of Hirst Publishing authors, one of whom fired her publisher on camera while on stage at a Doctor Who convention … the book IS linked to DW, that’s not just a weird place she chose to do it. However, it is hard to make a paper book disappear completely, especially if there are copies in libraries, second hand bookshops…. they’re not making a killing for the author but the word is still getting out! Amazon are very silly. But is seeing your online complaints going to make them move faster so as not to lose face, or make them dislike you and move more slowly as a result?

  7. Wow! You’ve done your homework and now we have a lot to mull over on this Sunday morning.
    The frustration level through all of the Amazon snafus must have been high.
    Thanks for taking the time to post this tutorial on the reality of e-publishing as opposed to the superficial “look at us.”

    Consuelo

    • Frustration is the word, Consuelo.

      We’re acutely aware of how important Amazon has been and will continue to be for our career path and even if we become mega-sellers in China and India Amazon will continue to be a primary focus for us.

      More importantly we’re acutely aware of how important Amazon is to the indie movement, and we love them for that.

      But we’re on target to lose an entire month’s income the way things are going, and had we still had just the one book that would have been hugely damaging.

  8. Wow, this is scary information. Thanks for keeping us informed, and bravo to all of your legwork. XOXO

  9. I’ll be blogging about it too today or tomorrow to try and get as many eyes on this as possible.

    • Cool

    • David, please post your link so we can read it.

      Mark, thanks for the info and I really hope Amazon speeds up and gets this resolved for you guys. I’m hoping to write full time w/in the next year and something like this would make it impossible. Not that I don’t have my books available other than Amazon (I’m in the US), but that’s where most of my sales come from.

      DD, I was wondering about the government/intl. trade issues, and thank you for the flip side of the coin on this.

      I guess it’s never easy, hey? (yeah, that’d be northern US. LOL)

  10. This is ALMOST as shocking as the penalty decision in the Man United V Newcastle game yesterday! ALMOST!

    • That was a shocker.

      Do you guys have an estimate of how many sales you have lost out on?

      • With the latest glitch nowhere near so bad as back in the summer when we dropped 800 a day. That hurt!

        This time we were a year into our release, so were slowly winding down anyway, but still losses in four figures, and with no sales for almost three weeks our chart and category positions will be decimated when they finally sort things.

  11. Tonya Kappes says:

    I understand there are a lot of issues here, but what about the ITIN (exempt) that UK authors can get from the US embassy?

    • The ITIN is a tax emption, Tonya.

      None of the surcharges referred to in the post are tax related. That is pure profiteering by Amazon.

      Your 99c ebook sells for $3.45 in Italy. Amazon pay you 35c. They pay the European of 45c. The other $2.65 goes straight into their coffers.

      You then still face the tax bill on your 35c…

  12. Lois Lavrisa says:

    What a nighmare!

  13. ;)

    I proudly drink the mark Williams Kool-Aid. As a business woman, I cringe at the attitude that some people have that is 100% Amazon-centric.

    I tried tweeting my Fr. and Germany links on Twitter. Didn’t get any sales. Tweeting my UK link though does seems to get me a few sales. :)

    It looks like India has a site called Infibeam.com (looks a great deal like Amazon, but to my knowledge, it is not Amazon affiliated) and they sell the Pi ereader. The Pi2 just came out and it’s 9,999 Rs or about $200. I checked their site to publish through them, but there is nothing automated, you have to apply. http://www.infibeam.com/Books/publisher-author-guidelines-a.html It’d be great is a coalition of authors applied and had all of their books listed… hint hint, wink, wink, ;)

    It’s kind of like the music industry. I would be perfectly happy to never make it in the United States, but be HUGE in India, UK, Japan, etc. :) Besides, International Bestseller sounds sooo cool.

    • Already trying with Infibeam and several other major players, EA, but there are sticking points about accounting, tax and payment transfers with this and several other major options. The moreso in China and Japan where the arangements are expected to be made in the local language, even if the books are English language.

      But just a matter of time before an indie author becomes a mega star in one of the huge foreign markets. And when you think that India and China between them have eight times the population of the USA…

  14. D. D. Scott says:

    Okay…where to begin on this one…

    First, this is NOT an Amazon-only issue…and what I mean by that, is that it’s also very much an international trade issue.

    You accurately mentioned, Mark, that Amazon has no control over VAT taxes…as they also have no control over taxes in any country they do business with.

    Second, there are also foreign governments and laws in effect across all these borders.

    I have two degrees – one in political science (with a specialization in international law and foreign relations) and one in psychology – and I can tell you that it is NOT Amazon’s fault that peeps all over the world are “blocked” from their goods and services. Many of the countries you’ve mentioned, including your very own Africa, block access to all kinds of products and services.

    Not to mention, with today’s international crimes and terrorist activities, the cost of doing business around the world is dramatically rising.

    Now then…also consider that the surcharges of $2.00 on purchases could also be a type of “tax” or “surcharge” cost of doing business fee for Amazon in these countries.

    It is very dangerous to assume a company’s business practices are its own and in no way reflect on the locations, governments and international status of the countries they are doing business in and with.

    • Miriam Joy says:

      Great to have an alternative point of view! I definitely thought that about the VAT thing as well.

      • D. D. Scott says:

        Thanks bunches, Miriam!

        This is a very slippery slope post today, and, with all due respect, Mark and Saffi, I DO NOT AGREE with your analysis!

        You simply cannot have this kind of one-sided look at an issue that is completely one of international law and global trade.

        Another point, B&N announced recently that it is preparing to go international too…so you will have that option as well in the near future.

        • But on your theory. DD, B&N will face exactly thesame restrictions as those you suggest Amazon is facing – the same restrictions that somehow don’t apply to Apple or Kobo.

          International trade agreements are irrelevant. Where local taxes or other duties apply Amazon imposes them, as with VAT.

          Amazon does not need an international agreement with the government of another country in order for a person in that country to buy a product over the internet. If it did then companies like eBay and iOffer would be out of business.

          To stress the point, I can buy a print book from Amazon and have it shipped here if I fancy paying the ludicrous price and the three month wait. Or are you saying Amazon has somehow come to an agreement with all these countries for print book but not for downloads?

    • I can state for sure that the Government where I am has absolutely no say in whether Amazon choose to download or not. Most of the Govet official here do not even know what Amazon is, and certainly don’t care.

      This is a blanket ban by Amazon. they do not do downloads to “Africa”.

      As for VAT, the VAT is a European tax. As stated in the post, Amazon are obliged to charge this and this is clearly stated in the listing. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the surcharge.

      Amazon is selling either from it’s European base or its US base. There is NO legal condition that states Amazon can sell an ebook in France or Germany at one price but must charge $2 extra for the country next door.

      Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia are all part of the EU just as Britain, France and Germany are. We are all governed by the same body that regulates trade. Free trade and movement of goods across European borders is a legal requirement. It is very likely the Amazon surcharge in most European countries breaches those regulations.

      When Amazon make $2.65 on the sale of a 99c ebook (after paying the European tax) that is sheer profit for them.

      If other companies were surcharging your argument might stand up, but curiously iTunes, Kobo, etc can sell to these same countries and not impose the surcharge, which is uniform where they do choose to download.

      And yes, curiously I can buy from iTunes and Kobo in West Africa without a problem. Hard to imagine iTunes and Kobo are flouting these international restrictions and Amazon is observing them religiously.

      • D. D. Scott says:

        All I’m saying, Mark and Saffi, is that it is extremely naive to assume what you see on the surface of an international business transaction is the entire state of that transaction.

        Deals are made day-in-day-out, deals that most of us have no clue as to who is actually getting paid what and how much.

        Deals are not just made between legitimate international bodies and governments. Let’s use your own Africa as an example. Deals are not just made with your public government entities. Deals are also made directly and indirectly with the war-lords of the villages and groups you are trying to help there.

        Embargoes are in effect, that many of us never know about, due to terrorist activities, gem smuggling rings, and other black market entities.

        You simply cannot blame just a single company when you’re looking at an international trade issue.

        • Hi DD,

          The Amazon surcharge applies where I live here in Sweden. All e-books have $2 slapped on them.

          It also USED to apply in Ireland (where I am from), but was abolished late last year. It also formerly applied in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but was abolished around the same time.

          It also applied to the UK, Germany, and France, before those countries got their own Kindle Store.

          This is not an international trade issue.

          Dave

          • D. D. Scott says:

            Wavin’ atchya, David!

            I totally hear what you are saying…but…

            ALL TRANSACTIONS ON AN INTERNATIONAL MARKET ARE INTERNATIONAL TRADE ISSUES!!!

            Look at it this way…there would be no reason to decide whether or not to “abolish” or allow a surcharge unless there were international trade issues to consider.

            The countries you mentioned decided to “abolish” these surcharges because they figured out they were hampering trade. They made this choice – abolishing the surcharge to amp-up business via these platforms – versus keeping those transactions at a lesser amount to benefit some other entity, perhaps cell phone company lobbies as was the case in Canada.

            No international price is ever set without international consequences accounted for.

          • Hi DD,

            My point is that this isn’t a charge levied by international governments. It’s levied by Amazon, collected by Amazon, and kept by Amazon.

            Apple, for example, sell e-books in Sweden with no such surcharge (as do many others).

            To be clear: it is nothing to do with the governments of the countries in question, Amazon is doing this independently.

            I have a fuller explanation of the whole surcharge issue here which I wrote back in July:

            http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/amazon-hold-back-the-growth-of-e-books-around-the-world/

            Dave

        • rae says:

          Honestly you’re really reaching here, if you’re saying that African Warlords are going around blocking the internet in Africa. For a start Africa is not a country it’s a continent. There is more than one country there. Secondly the majority of the countries aren’t war ravaged. Thirdly you can go and read the State Department’s reports to see which countries are blocking internet and not allowing Freedoms (expression, information etc) to their people’s. Really not seeing the African countries heading the list of problem countries with regards to internet freedoms.

          Yes there are things going on that we don’t know about but if there is a embargo or some kind trade war the country concerned usually proclaims it loud and proud – see Nigeria with British Airways and Virgin.

          Amazon’s $2 surcharge is nothing to do with any trade war or whatever, it is just Amazon profiteering. IIRC there was a surcharge kerfuffle with Kindles, Kindle Store for UK users. I can categorically state that the UK wasn’t embargoing Amazon at the time. Nor was there any black market, smuggling rings or other black market entities involved.

          At the end of the day Amazon is great for sales but anyone that puts all their eggs into one basket is an idiot from a business perspective.

          • D. D. Scott says:

            Totally agree with you on this point, Rae (and thanks for mentioning that):

            At the end of the day Amazon is great for sales but anyone that puts all their eggs into one basket is an idiot from a business perspective.

            But I do totally disagree with you on loud and proud embargoes. The most powerful ones are the ones most never know about, disguised in the form of policies that just making it damn near impossible to trade in that country or continent.

            And yes, of course, you’re totally accurate that Africa is a continent and not a country. I apologize for my misnomer there.

          • Precisely so, Rae. The UK has never had any agreeement to restrict trade that suddenly evaporated when it got its own Kindle site.

            And as you say the US State Dept makes public any countries that try interfere with free trade.

      • Erica says:

        Good point, Mark.

    • Teresa Morgan says:

      I can’t imagine the issues that Amazon faces in trying to negotiate with other countries to allow their books to be sold there. Mark can say Amazon is just being belligerent in ‘blocking’ Africa… but Africa isn’t Africa. It’s 56 separate countries. Imagine negotiating with 56 separate countries! And some of the governments involved might have a huge interest in not letting Amazon sell books in their countries.

      This blog post makes a lot of assumptions.

      • D. D. Scott says:

        Bravo, Teresa!!!!

        This is EXACLTY what I’m saying here!!!

        It is completely naive and actually irresponsible to take this kind of issue with a company without knowing and representing all the behind-the-scenes facts!!!

        Thank u for your well said comment!!!

        It is totally, factually incorrect to ever begin to say that Africa and/or most Third World countries have a single voice or entity that makes decisions for them!

      • More to the point, Teresa, imagine how Kobo and iTunes and the others appear to have managed it!

        Amazon by the way have refused on any number of occasions over the past year to answer the question of whether or not there is a good reason for the $2 surcharge.

    • You may be right there. But the $2 surcharge for Italy makes no sense at all if it doesn’t exist as well in the French or German market (and it doesn’t, natch – that’s the whole point) : this is the Eurozone after all! By the way, I make this comment as an economist…

  15. Ruth Harris says:

    Awful story, Mark, so sorry for you & Saffi. The bitter truth is that the same things can & do happen to TradPubbed authors. The word is Distribution and if your publisher (whether Big6 or Amazon) screws up on distribution, it’s the author who is helpless and who pays the price. Publishing is a tough, often heart-breaking business & people who have gauzy fantasies need to understand that.

  16. Sibel Hodge says:

    Mark, I feel so bad for you having your book removed. I hope you get it sorted out soon. The amount of sales you’re losing is devastating. I’ve had several problems with KDP messing up my book descriptions, and I would get the same emails as you. It took over a month to get them sorted out again with a lot of frustration. This happened twice! There’s also been the problems in KDP reporting where they have been frozen several times in the last six months or so – OK, so eventually they have caught up again but how do you know the sales they add on are accurate? I don’t think KDP departments actually talk to each other because some of the responses to emails are just ridiculous.

    It looks like VAT on ebooks in UK aren’t going to be removed. See: http://www.kuforum.co.uk/kindleusersforum/thread-4693.html?highlight=vat+on+ebooks which also bumps up the price, unfortuntely.

    • Ruth Harris says:

      Sibel, want to agree about the frustration of dealing with KDP. Both my DH and I have had problems with our book descriptions getting royally screwed up. Getting them straightened out was a job in itself—very frustrating and time consuming. You’re right about the KDP depts not communicating because their email replies are incredible. Lot of times, I think they just send corporate boiler plate and have no clue what the real issues are.

      In fact, right now, my Amazon Author page is screwed up. Instead of showing my Kindle covers as they have all along, suddenly ancient OOP TradPub covers have appeared. God knows from where. They keep promising to fix the problem; then I get emails saying the engineers can’t find the necessary code to put the page back the way it was when I originally uploaded the files. Extremely frustrating to go to the effort & expense of getting professional covers & then having them suddenly disappear. No one knows why &, as of now, no one seems to know how to fix the problem.

      • Why, Ruth, this is terrible! Yet another piece of evidence against Amazon!

        Obviously shows they’ve grown too big too fast fortheir own good – behaving like an old corporation now, and it all happened in record time: from savvy, young innovative start-up to crusty, slow, rigid mega-corporation! All in 5 years! How sad!

    • It’s sort of reassuring to know KDP aren’t reserving their incompetence just for us, Sibel.

      Very sad about the VAT.

  17. Lee says:

    This is a eye opening article. I’ve spent time in the UK and Europe and was hounded by the VAT tax, and when I left it was pain to get it reimburse because I was an American leaving the country. It never occurred to me, or just never gave any thought that something that is suppose to be .99cents would jump up to three times that because of tax and other add ons outside the U.S. Doesn’t make buying anything on a reader very inviting in those countries. One thing to consider although there is a lot of English speaking countries outside of the U.S and UK, are they as technology driven as we are? Would having the ability to buy a book on a reader really be something people in less developed countries do? This maybe what Amazon is considering.

  18. thank you for the information. In my experience, Kindle was very slow coming to Canada. We couldn’t download books with the app and we couldn’t buy the Kindle because of our Canadian cell companies. It had nothing to do with amazon. Even now, there are many things I can’t buy on a Kindle (games especially) because they don’t work on my Kindle or they’re not part of the cross border agreement or because they’re taxed differently than books (free trade gives us books without duty but may not apply to games).

    Also the Kindle was only available for a long time at Amazon. But then Staples started carrying it in Canada. and now Walmart has them for sale. So Amazon’s reach is extending in the far north. It seems bizarre to me that they would not sell in other places if they could. Jeff Bezos wants to take over the world. And Kindle is one way he can do it.

    thanks again for a thought provoking post

    I wonder how much of their failure to sell or added surcharge is because of taxes

    • D. D. Scott says:

      Another perfect example, Louise (and thanks bunches for sharing it):

      “In my experience, Kindle was very slow coming to Canada. We couldn’t download books with the app and we couldn’t buy the Kindle because of our Canadian cell companies. It had nothing to do with amazon.”

      It’s not just the warring tribal leaders of Third World countries who can affect trade…also…as you’ve said…big industries in direct competition, with powerful lobbies, can also impede privileges in huge economies like Canada!!!

      And speaking of Indie Epublishing in Canada…stay-tuned to The WG2E this coming Wednesday when we’ll be getting a Canadian perspective from Bestselling Canadian Author Gordon Kirkland!!!

    • When my son wanted a Kindle last Christmas, we did not buy the one available from amazon.ca. We bought the US one and had it shipped to my American shipping drop point in Sumas, Washington. He has not trouble downloading anything. A part of the problem in Canada is, as you said, the monopolistic hold the telephone companies have on us. Another part of the problem is the protection the government gives Canadian publishers and bookstores. Competition, under the banner of ‘Canadian nationalism’ hurts consumers, while protecting the Heather Reismans in the industry.

    • The point about the Kindle itself being available is perinent her. As and when Amazon decides to make the Kindle device available then suddenly the surcharge disappears.

      I somehow doubt any Govt insists on the Kindle device being available before allowing downloads.

  19. Joanne says:

    The availability issue is frustrating but not just limited to Amazon, or to ebooks. I have had my book disappear off online book sites for no reason at all and have had to work hard to get it back up. And that’s for a hardcopy book published by a traditional publisher. It has been very hard work to even get the title into bookstores. Once they sell out, you figure that they’d re-order, but that’s not guaranteed either. So your books, even if made of real paper, are not necessarily “out there” and available for purchase.

    Also, for those of us who live in the rest of the world, this is not a new problem. As a South African, I can’t buy songs off iTunes and there are items (including book titles) across a range of media and sellers that “are not available to your area”. I don’t understand this discrimination, but these blocks, at least, come from the sellers, and not our government.

    • Exactly so, Joanne. Many trad publishers impose restrictions on where their books can be sold, so as to sell the rights to those countries.

      But indies who click the world rights button on KDP are being led, falsely, to believe their books will be available in all those countries.

  20. When you have “accidents” that drop your book from the top of the bestseller list, it suggests to me that someone is purposely trying to manipulate the list, much as it has been by other bestseller list-makers throughout history. That’s going to be a huge problem for indie authors to overcome, probably one that you can’t overcome. The other “glitches,” such as having reviews removed you can’t do anything about, either. The pricing problems overseas, and the lack of ability to reach global markets, I would hope to see fixed. The truth is, though, that on other electronic platforms, as an author I’m not making squat. Sony might be available in more places, but no one is buying their e-readers. Sigh.

    • The point about poor sales on the other platforms is well made, David. Are you uploading to these other platforms via Smashwords?

      The international markets are huge, potentially, but need their own marketing strategy and perhaps more time to consolidate.

      Plenty of sellers in China for example are selling in crazy numbers. How to become one of them is the big question!

  21. Lisa E says:

    Thanks for sharing this info; it’s very useful. What do you recommend for someone who’s considering self-publishing a collection of stories–as one larger book and also divided into mini books. I could see where the VAT could really hurt sales for me, and I would have a worldwide market.

    Is the best bet to make sure your e-books are available through iBooks, Sony Reader, etc? Do they have the same issues? I’d like my work to be sold to readers in the US, of course, but also Latin America, China, Turkey and the Middle East. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • The best advice would be to spread yourself as much as possible, and recognize which sites are strong where. At the moment clearly Amazon and B&N for the US, Amazon and Waterstones for the UK.

      But Kindle France is doing very poorly and other French sites sell more, including English language. Same goes for most of the world outside the Amazon-friendly countries like anada, Australia, etc.

  22. Stefan says:

    As a customer based in Hungary I’m grateful to Mark for bringing up the Amazon surcharge topic – my only wish is that some of the big self-publishers that signed up with Amazon recently would also start to show some concern about this.

    My view on the surcharge is that it is totally arbitrary on Amazon’s part. A couple of months ago I repeatedly tried to get some information about it from them, not giving up after the usual first blablabla replies. Finally, customer support claimed they couldn’t answer and would pass my query on to people who could. I’m still waiting…

    The funny thing is that – at least for me here in Hungary – some e-books are exempt from the surcharge (and the additional VAT).
    So, for me some e-books are free, some are 0.99, more are 3.44 instead of 0.99, some are 2.99, more are 5.74 instead of 2.99, and so on. (Claiming to include VAT in each and any case.)

    I couldn’t find out the reason for this yet. It might have to do with the kind of price the author/publisher sets: with the original prices they show the “Digital List Price” and the “Kindle Price” (usually the same), with the surcharge-priced ones they only show the “Kindle Price”.

    Which might mean: If the author/publisher sets a “Digital List Price” (“Digital List Price is the suggested retail price set by the publisher”), maybe there is no surcharge? It would be great if some of you self-publishers in the know could comment on this. Do you have this possibility?

    Mark, I agree with all the others that the way Amazon is treating you and Sugar&Spice is horrible.

    • Thanks, Stefan.

      We’re in discusion with a Hungarian publisher right now to get SS into the Budapest stores and estores.

      Like you we’ve tried repeatedly to get an asnwer from Amazon. Clearly if there was a good reason they’d be letting us know.

      The varying prices in Hungary are interesting, but have no idea why.

      So far as we know the surcharge bears no connection with the author / publisher option, but again Amazon prefer not to comment.

      • Stefan says:

        Mark – Good luck with the Hungarian version of SS (I take it you are negotiating about a translation), it won’t be easy.
        E-books haven’t really started here, and print sales are down even without that (mainly due to the economic situation), so bookstores are having a hard time. E-books might get more popular if cheaper readers become available, but there is no sign of that at the moment.

    • I noticed the same thing here in Italy: prices are highly variable for no apparent reason. I don’t know why. For my own book (the first in a trilogy) I set it at 99 cents everywhere: Amazon, B&N, iBookstore, Sony Store. The ONLY place where it is at $3.45 is Amazon! ON ALL THE OTHER PLATFORMS, it shows at 99 cents! Yet (so far) most of my sales – practically all of them – are on Amazon…!!!

  23. Philippa says:

    This is dreadful! I had no idea there were such discrepancies. I’m in the UK and have bought a few kindle books for my kindle android app. I didn’t know how much blocking and surcharging there was in so many places!

  24. The second part of your post was very interesting concerning the trials and tribulations of errors and/or problems an author has with a publisher. Not so different from what authors had to put up with in the past when they were contracted (eggs in on basket) with major publishing companies. And your suggestions for international markets are very good, and leaves the author with the daunting notions of how much extra work they have over and above writing a book. Making profits is really a different mind set unless you have the mind set for the whole experience.
    OTOH, the first part of your post reeked of too many flat out statements without explanation for me to do anything but doubt their validity. You mention nothing about trade agreements between individual countries, laws baring incoming trade especially internet downloads, demands of local taxes, fees charged by countries to profit from neighboring countries bigger and more stable economies, international currency fluctuations and exchange rates coupled with credit card fees.
    I see you are in West Africa, and I’ll admit to only having a passing knowledge of currency and exchange rates for Africa, but even back when I was working, with the exception of one or two countries in Africa, all currencies there were restricted and not sold. Most restrictions set up by the governments of those countries, not the US. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘tourist money’. Money that was used internally by all foreigners so the country could profit more easily. Russia had it, and China followed suit when they opened up to foreign travelers. All this comes into play when the product of one country tries to enter another, and it doesn’t matter that the item is tangible.
    Believe me, English speaking has very little significance to people who have to deal with all that.
    Sorry about them loosing all your reviews.
    Patg

    • Currency is irrelevant, Patricia. A buyer on am.com can pay in dollars with the credit card no matter what country they are in.

      As for agreements, isn’t is just amazing how the other ebook sellers don’t face this problem?

  25. You are all missing the point…

    ‘eggs in one basket’…

    We have made Amazon over 50K, and we’re treat like second class citizens. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

    I wonder if Patrica Cornwell’s book went fishing, it’d take three weeks to sort????

  26. There are three separate issues here getting all tangled up.

    1. Mark & Saffi’s book has disappeared from Amazon UK. This is awful and there is no excuse for it. I hope it gets resolved quickly, and I can’t believe that Amazon have taken this long to sort it out.

    2. Amazon don’t sell e-books to certain countries. I think there are myriad reasons for this. Some are obvious – there are linguisitic issues with certain Asian and Middle Eastern countries and, I believe, difficulty rendering their script for the Kindle. I don’t have any explanation why Amazon doesn’t sell e-books to English-speaking Singapore or most African countries (many of whom speak English, French, or Portuguese, and the rest use a Latin script which should be rendered without issues).

    3. The Amazon Surcharge. This is separate from (2) above, and I would like to explain a little more about it as there seems to be some confusion here.

    This isn’t a charge levied by international governments. It’s also nothing to do with taxes.

    It’s levied by Amazon, collected by Amazon, and kept by Amazon. Apple, for example, sell e-books in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden with no such surcharge (as do many others).

    To be clear: it is nothing to do with the governments of the countries in question, Amazon is doing this independently.

    I have a fuller explanation of the whole surcharge issue here which I wrote back in July:

    http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/amazon-hold-back-the-growth-of-e-books-around-the-world/

    I’ve done a lot of research on the Surcharge issue, and spoken to readers in around 20 different countries that are affected by it. I’m happy to answer any questions anybody has about it.

    Dave

    • D. D. Scott says:

      What if there is a reasonable “excuse” for why they’ve taken down Mark and Saffi’s books, David?

      You’re assuming that they are victims without knowing the facts…

      No company takes down, as Mark and Saffi have explained, one of their top 30 authors without a damn good reason!!! They’re hurting their bottom line as well as Mark and Saffi’s…so WHY would they do that?!

      And please don’t take this to mean that I think they’ve done something wrong…but none of us know all the facts here, except that EVERY INTERNATIONAL ENTERPRISE FALLS UNDER INTERNATIONAL TRADE STANDARDS AND POLICIES.

      To suggest otherwise, is beyond naive.

      And as far as those of you saying that we all know what happens and what deals are made at State Department levels…well that’s just asinine.

      We know what they want us to know…and that’s it. The rest all happens behind-the-scenes.

      • DD, it should be clear from the email Saffi quoted above that Amazon have not got a good reason why the book is missing. It is a technical arror, as they have admitted. they say they are tring to fix it. The book is still on sale on am.com.

        Amazon have not “taken down” the book, any more than they took down the reviews. It is a technical error that they seem inacapable of fixing.

        As for suggesting that the State Department might keep top secret trade issues between Amazon’s Kindle service and foreign countries…

      • Hey DD, these are the facts as we know them.

        1. The book is missing.
        2. Amazon have failed to communicate why, or to restore it.

        If Amazon have a genuine reason for removing a book from sale, they should communicate that to the publisher – in this case Mark & Saffi. We don’t know the reason the book is missing (or even if there is one or whether it is just a glitch). It appears that the KDP people Mark and Saffi are dealing with don’t know either. That, in my opinion, is unacceptable. They estimate losses as four figures of sales which is unsurprising given that this has dragged on for 17 days now. That delay is also, in my opinion, unacceptable.

        I’m not sure what any of that has to do with international trade or the State Department. If you are referring to the surcharge there, again, I point you to the example of the Apple Store, which applies no surcharge, and that the surcharge existed in France, Germany, and the UK until Amazon opened the Kindle Stores there, at which point they abolished it. It’s clearly an Amazon policy. We can disagree on the reasons for it, and whether it is correct or not, but I can’t see the logic in claiming it is nothing to do with Amazon.

  27. And just a slight correction to Mark’s piece, Belgium actually gets served by the French Kindle Store (along with Monaco), so there Surcharge got abolished when that opened last month.

  28. The near-monopoly of Amazon means its glitches and surcharge-greed and the lunatics who’ve learned to game the system have a a horrific impact on a writer’s livelihood.

    This weekend I’ve experienced the sadistic power of the handful of trolls who feel they own amazon and can dictate who/how and when a book gets reviewed. Cyberbullying is real. And people who work themselves in a self-righteous rage by twisting an unsuspecting person’s innocuous words are truly terrifying. I’ve heard that self-righteous rage fills the brain with endorphins– every like a cocaine high–which I guess explains why they’re always looking for new targets.

    After being the target of this attack, I suspect even more strongly that Sugar and Spice was removed because some troll reported it offensive–either to make room for a troll-approved thriller just behind it, or from a well-meaning, but unbalanced rageaholic concerned with child abuse.

    Just my opinion, of course. I have nothing to go on but my recent experience. If anybody wants to come by our blog and say something nice, Ruth and I would both appreciate it, since the troll attack is still going on. (“No one will ever review your book again, you ungrateful, ageist wretch!” ) I can’t imagine wanting to be reviewed by a humorless, narcissistic troll, but I guess if I ever did, I’ll have to give up the fantasy. Sigh.

    • Wish I could log in and see the fireworks over at ARA, but blogger has been unhelpful this week. Haven’t managed to get into a blogger site since Monday. Blogger problems tend to happen in cycles, so hopefully it will free up in the next day or so.

      Amazon have sent four emails now, none of which suggest the disappearance of S&S was deliberate on their part, but they have confirmed they are trying to fix the problem. In saying they will not compensate us for lost sales that is a sure admission that they know the fault is their end.

    • MP McDonald says:

      I don’t doubt that cyberbullies exist at all. I know of one who hides behind Barnes&Nobles profile privacy and ability to leave anonymous reviews that can’t be traced publicly. This person actually is a small publisher and hates Indies, apparently. This person one-stars the Smashword freebies that reach B&N. It’s very sad, actually because there is room for everyone.

  29. Does it occur to anyone that people in countries subject to the surcharge won’t just shop elsewhere? I live in the UAE and never, every shop on Amazon. I buy my ebooks through iTunes most of the time and get a lot from my US library. Just because Amazon is the elephant in the room, doesn’t mean we’re blind to all other options. My publishers have made sure my books are available on many sites, some of which a blocked by the UAE. That doesn’t mean my books aren’t available here, just that you have to go where you can find them for a reasonable price.

  30. Tonya Kappes says:

    Saffi and Mark,
    Today on your blog you are previewing your newest collection of short stories AND the cover is all KINDLES. Are you really that concerned with Amazon/KDP and all the issues they have had with your novels? If you were, I’d think you wouldn’t put their ereader on your covers. Talking about eggs in one basket!

    http://markwilliamsinternational.com/

    My big question~why is it only your books I’m hearing this about? I also have to wonder if this is why zero of my books were sold through your MWIP. Granted my books were only with you a month, the name of my novel was misspelled, and there wasn’t a ranking~I put my books back up on my own and haven’t had a problem. I’ve sold in every country through Amazon the first day and have continued to, didn’t have a problem with uploading, names, or ranking.

    I have family members that work for Amazon. Of course over our Thanksgiving table we had endless discussions about Amazon/KDP and I discussed some of the issues the two of you are having. I even brought up Saffi’s facebook. The long and short of it. . .there is more reason for Amazon/KDP to take down an author than glitches. I have to wonder what that is.

    • So explain Tonya why Amazon would take down a book after an entire year, yet not take down the same book with American spellings? Explain why they have sent emails, quoted here in comments which show quite clearly they are looking into the problem.

      Until a problem occurred we didn’t have a problem with Amazon either. To suggest that because it hasn’t happened to you it therefore hasn’t happened is quite facile.

      Ruth Harris in comments above details problems she’s had with KDP.

      As for your own books, I cannot help but notice that Happy New Life has been on Kindle UK for over a month – nothing whatsoever to do with us – and still hasn’t got a ranking.

      • Tonya Kappes says:

        Mark,

        I’m not saying it hasn’t happened to you. I’m saying that it’s strange that is has only happened to you and my relatives can’t even explain it~only Amazon will take down questionable novels. Again, I’m thankful for Amazon and all that KDP has to offer an Indie author like myself.

        I’m not sure what Amazon UK you are looking at.
        Here is the rank and link to Amazon UK for Happy New Life:

        http://www.amazon.co.uk/Happy-Grandberry-Falls-Novel-ebook/dp/B005USTJJA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1322448559&sr=8-3

        Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #19,693 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
        #26 in Books > Health, Family & Lifestyle > Families & Parents > Divorce
        #42 in Kindle Store > Books > Nonfiction > Parenting & Families > Family Relationships

  31. Tonya Kappes says:

    I’m not sure what Amazon.uk you are on, but on the actual Amazon.UK, your Sugar and Spice is available and ranked.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Spice-American-controversial-ebook/dp/B004W0IJCU/ref=pd_sim_kinc_24

    #3,669 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #21 in Books > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Psychological
    #38 in Books > Fiction > Psychological
    #52 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Police Procedurals
    As well as your other novels.

    AND your Kindle short story collection: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Desforges-Presents-Coffee-Break-Collection-ebook/dp/B006EKIANO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322422331&sr=1-1

    AND how very interesting that you changed the cover on it. . .I didn’t think Kindle would let you use their image. But you aren’t on board with them anyways so it was probably a good thing.

  32. D. D. Scott says:

    I also have a question about your brand new anthology’s cover…

    I was concerned when I saw the large cover on your MWi post today because you used the Kindle name in your title…that’s been something you can’t do for quite awhile now without Amazon’s permission.

    Is that why the second cover image you posted not only took all the Kindle piles out of the cover image but also used a variety of readers and not just Amazon Kindle images?

    This could be part of the reason you’re having Amazon issues…they’ve made it very clear in all sorts of places that you can’t use their name as your own…

    Maybe they’re flagging all your titles, in part, for this issue…

    Just making educated guesses here…

    • We have two cover images, for Kindle and other reputable e-reader types….and they BOTH allow us to use Kindle in the title. YOu’d think they would since they have lost us so many sales….

    • LOL! As both Saffi and David G have made clear, the Sugar & Spice on Kindle UK is the US version. If you go to am.com you’ll find BOTH versions live.

      As the email from KDP quoted in comments above shows, Amazon are still trying to establish the problem. Clearly if it was a policy decision they would have told us, and would have withdrawn the book on all sites, not just Kindle UK.

      I’m confused over the relevance of the SDP cover. The books has barely been live 24 hours, so I somehow doubt Amazon took that into consideration when dealing with the problems of the past three weeks. Just an educated guess.

      KDP have approved the anthology. Given it is a collection of short stories for Kindle readers I don’t see that there should be a problem. If there is, I’m sure Amazon will let us know.

      @DD and Tonya both: as Saffi says there are two covers – one for Amazon and one for the non-Amazon sites without the Kindle brand or name. Very straightforward. We could hardly expect B&N or Kobo to go selling a title advertising the Kindle.

    • D. D. Scott says:

      Thanks bunches for The WG2E shout-out today, David!

      I just left a comment for you!

      And I applaud your balanced presentation of this topic.

      It does appear your readers are also having issues with the “facts” surrounding this situation…

  33. Lah says:

    Just a correction: As long as you have your B&N account tied to a US or Canadian credit/debit card, you can download books anywhere in the world (This was new around the time the Simple Touch Reader came out). Not quite so useless outside of the US for travelers (though they will hopefully remedy things to make NOOK open up people who don’t have US or Canadian cards in the near future!).

    Otherwise, a very eye-opening article. Thanks for the info!

    • Same with Amazon. I can download ebooks here in West Africa as long as I log into my UK account.

      Which just reinforces the point that the Amazon restrictions have nothing whatsoever to do with internatioonal trade regulations.

  34. Glynis Smy says:

    I live in Cyprus. I cannot use A UK and A com charge the transfer fee. I am often charged the extra. It is rare for me to get a 99c bargain. When my dear writing friends send me new of their latest bargain, I purchase but often wonder where the extra cash goes.

  35. That really sucks about the book being taken off. The distinct lack of resolution is appaling on this one. Amazon US does very well, but there seem to be a lot of bugs with Amazon UK.

    One other thing about the international sales is that if ebooks are sold at the $2.99-$9.99 range in the 4 Amazon stores (US, UK, DE, Fr) then the author gets 70% of the price. However, if that same book is sold internationally, the author only gets 35%.

    So Amazon tacks on the $2 surcharge and also takes a larger cut of the sale. :(

    We’re still in the beginning stages of ebooks. I think things are going to change drastically in the next 10 years. Hopefully Indies will be able to continue to capitalize on that growth and not be shut out somehow. Situations like this truly worry me.

  36. That really sucks about the book being taken off. The distinct lack of resolution is appaling on this one. Amazon US does very well, but there seem to be a lot of bugs with Amazon UK.

    One other thing about the international sales is that if ebooks are sold at the $2.99-$9.99 range in the 4 Amazon stores (US, UK, DE, Fr) then the author gets 70% of the price. However, if that same book is sold internationally, the author only gets 35%.

    So Amazon tacks on the $2 surcharge and also takes a larger cut of the sale. :(

    We’re still in the beginning stages of ebooks. I think things are going to change drastically in the next 10 years. Hopefully Indies will be able to continue to capitalize on that growth and not be shut out somehow. Situations like this truly worry me.

    (I’m hoping I didn’t post this comment twice. I deeply apologize if I did.)

  37. frederick says:

    Let us not overlook Amazon’s role in undercutting so many local US businesses by avoiding paying sales taxes! What the customer is getting for their “99-cent special” is a gutting of local business, a gutting of local sales tax revenues that promote the health and welfare of their community, all for this monopolistic, price-manipulating behemoth that undercuts authors and publishers alike.

  38. UPDATE: I have now seen several of KDP’s emails to the authors. From my reading of them, two things seem clear. First, Amazon did not pull the book intentionally. Second, Amazon have said that they think it is a technical issue (perhaps a database issue, or something to do with an automated process that populates multiple pages from a database, I’m not 100% sure.).

    I have also seen emails saying that the technical team is looking into it, and that they are attempting to resolve it. They make multiple references to their attempts to fix the issue, and repeatedly pledge to do so shortly.

    That seems clear to me.

  39. Beth says:

    The question I’d like answered is what are our options, then? If not Amazon, where do we put our ebooks up?

  40. This is a very odd post. Amazon is known to operate at a loss whenever necessary to build market share, and especially for the Kindle. And yet you accuse it of purposely raising Kindle prices above what’s justified, as well as needlessly cutting off entire markets altogether.

    It might be more useful to investigate the reasons for its policies, instead of blindly condemning them.

    • D. D. Scott says:

      I totally agree, Aaron!

      I think there’s a ton more to this situation than any of us know at this time!!!

      Thanks sooo much for commenting and Welcome to The WG2E!!!

    • As said elsewhere above, Aaron, we have tried repeatedly over the past year to get a response from Amazon.

      There is no blind condemnation here. Just that the logic behinsdAmazon’s policies is beyond us.

      Within the EU there is free movement of trade and goods. It is no coincidence that when Amazon open a Kindle site in Europe the surcharge vanishes in those countries (and neighbouring countries sharing the same language – for example Austria now can use Kindle Germany and therefore is not charged. But neighboruing countris like Italy, Poland, etc, are surcharged.

      There is absolutely no international trade barrier preventing Amazon downloading to Italy in the same way it does to Germany, France and the UK. They are all part of the EU, and Amazon has a European base within the EU.

      How is it that I can download my book here in West Africa if I use my UK account from here, but not if I try to buy as a resident of Africa? I live in the Gambia, I pay Gambian taxes and observe Gambian laws. Amazon choose to block certain countries from buying. They also choose to ignore requests for an explanation.

  41. Curt Jarrell says:

    There is one point I’d like to bring to your attention which is in error. Your statement that the Barnes & Noble Nook E-Reader is useless outside the U.S. is inaccurate. While you may not download new material to it overseas you may read anything you’ve already placed on the device. I understand that some form of international connectivity is in the works for a near future expansion of Nook’s capabilities.

    • Thanks, Curt. I meant of course that the nook is useless for those without a US account to buy and upload from.

      Regrettably B&N do not make this clear and I am aware of several people who have bought nooks while on holiday on the US only to return to Europe to find they cannot purchase ebooks from here.

  42. Just a quick question from a ebook novice. What promo on POI? What is POI?
    I’m still such a newbie I didn’t even know what KDP was, but I was able to look that up. But couldn’t find anything that made sense on POI.

    Thank you for the informative article.

  43. Debbie says:

    Every time I email KDP with a problem I get a different answer. I even had a an apology from them for the previous answer being wrong and that this was the “right” answer…

  44. Debbie says:

    Interestingly, Waterstones site says: “Unfortunately, we can only sell eBooks to customers within the UK and Ireland. This is due to restrictions put in place by the publishers of the eBooks. ” So maybe it’s a one-size-fits-all there at the moment. But since Amazon’s KDP upload specifically asks for which countries you have rights to sell in, that can’t be the case with Amazon.

  45. While I completely agree that the American-centric attitude of so many Indie Authors is deplorable (and short-sighted), I’d note that you also have failed to actually examine or, at least, failed to include in your discussion any mention of any possible readers other than the American-centric Kindles and Nooks.

    My experience, from the UK-based and Middle-Eastern-based people I actually have heard from is that they are reading eBooks via either an app installed on an iPhone/iPad/iPod (which are VERY popular outside the US) -OR- they’re using Google eBooks to get the ePub format shared by the Nook. The apps installed on the Apple devices range from the FREE Kindle reader apps to the Stanza and other third-party apps for reading eBooks.

    An even larger market–Japan–also does not use or care about Amazon’s Kindle devices. Japanese people have been reading (and writing!!) eBooks on smartphones for nearly a decade. The fact that latecomer Americans have FINALLY gotten on board with eBooks seems to justify the American-centric attitude that Kindles and Nooks “must be” the only eReaders out there. It doesn’t make it true, just another arrogant American attitude.

    And oh yes, I AM AMERICAN and an Indie Author. I publish via Smashwords which makes all formats available for unlimited downloads after a single purchase on their web site–read anywhere, anytime, on any number of devices for one purchase price. As an author/publisher, I am not threatened by that business model. I prefer it. The easier it is to get and read a book, the more inclined people will be to do so. The only unfortunate expense for non-US customers of Smashwords is the large VAT some countries tack onto the eBook purchase. Since it’s all digital, I’m not sure how these governments justify that kind of charge but we Americans aren’t responsible for that cost, at least – yay, that’s ONE for us ^_^

    -sry

  46. I should note I did see that your blog post was primarily a rant about your incredible mistreatment by Amazon “the world’s #1 retailer” (snort) but I think there’s a whole other issue you started to touch on — and then got sidetracked with the rant about the injustice you suffered (and I agree it was outrageous) — so that’s what I commented on.

    I’d love to see you guys blog on GoogleBooks and/or the mishandling of books by Google. They already make it next to impossible to be an Indie Author on G+ without opening up your private email account to the worldwide public (or paying a large fee to purchase a business account).

    I’m definitely interested in GoogleBooks because of the access it gives me to brick-and-mortar indie bookstores, but I wish I could separate the idea from the Google company. They’re nearly as bad as Amazon about dealing with their content providers. Apparently content providers don’t matter; it’s all about the money — for everyone, not just capitalistic Americans (wink)

  47. Can you put it back up yourself? You’d lose all the reviews, but at least get some sales in during this season.