Plucky Grandmother Fights Amazon, Apple, and BookBaby over KDP Promotion

9 Oct

The subtitle to this article is: Why is The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy selling for 99 cents (or more) October 12, 13, & 14 when it’s supposed to be free? It’s because of WHAT HAPPENED.

To qualify for Amazon’s KDP program, in which Amazon allows you to give your book away five days out of the 90 day enrollment period, you have to pull distribution of your eBook from all the other distributors, giving Amazon exclusive rights to market your book.

Yes, that means yank it away from the iBookstore (Apple and the iPad, etc.), Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Copia, eBookPie, etc.  This is supremely monopolistic behavior on Amazon’s part, something that causes all economists to cringe and then foam at the mouth. I am an economist.

But I stuffed my principles to jump at the chance to give my books away. Why? Smart people have made fortunes doing it. I wanted to give it a chance. (See Cheryl K Tardif, How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling my Kindle eBooks. Cheryl did it with the KDP program. That $42 K got my attention.)

I pulled distribution of my books from everywhere and gave exclusive rights to Amazon. I already have had two successful KDP free days with my books. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy and Lady Grace did very well, hitting #1 and #3 in their categories. Many more copies were downloaded than my “commit seppuku on the front lawn” figure of three. That’s right, my lowered expectation was three (3) downloads or I’d off myself. There’s an article about this. A funny one, with a video of an Eddie Murphy look-alike.

Despite the grueling work of letting as many people as I could know about my giveaway, I decided to do it again. My sales did increase after the books went back up to their normal prices.

I scheduled the KDP free days. That’s when IT happened. I received the following email from Amazon:

"GET THAT BOOK DOWN, SANDY!"The email says that we’re still selling The Angel on the iBookstore and we had to get it off within ten days or the book would be tossed from the KDP program and demoted to regular status, where we could sell it for 99 cents instead of giving it away.  I didn’t know that the book was distributed by anyone but Amazon, but, clicking the link, I found out it was true.

Hmm. I have had a successful KDP promotion with this book, with Amazon happily giving it away for two days. I guess their ever-vigilant staff missed its rogue status.

When we decided to go for the KDP program early in 2012, we had BookBaby, a distributor of eBooks to all the neat places mentioned above, remove our books from their terrific distribution sites. To do this, we forfeited the $99 we paid to be part of their system.

So, the right to give my books away has already cost us $99, plus whatever we would have made selling through all those other channels.

BookBaby‘s not taking the book off of the iBookstore jeopardizes my new giveaway this weekend. I’d already told various blogs and other sites that The Angel would be free. More than that, I’m doing a humongous blog tour, and have they announced that the book would be free.

I immediately and laboriously  emailed Apple (It’s not easy to figure out how to get into the seller side of  the iBookstore.) and BookBaby, trying to get The Angel‘s sales off of the iBookstore and exclusively on Amazon. I’m currently at five emails from Apple customer service. Their response can be summarized as: ‘You have to contact BookBaby and get them to remove it.” And, “We feel your pain  . . .” No, it was: “We’re really sorry and wish we could help.” But then they didn’t help.

I moved on to the BookBaby site, determined to find some way to contact someone, since they weren’t getting back to me after my first email. I found the site extremely counter-intuitive, but I finally discovered the page I’ll attach below.

Are you relating to this, indie authors and publishers? The total opacity of the system and the impossibility of getting a real person to help you. The sense of being lost in a hostile, incomprehensible world. We indies deal with this all the time, on EVERY friggin’ thing about getting our books in print and posted somewhere where at least our MOTHERS can read them. It’s a nightmare. Write a comment if you feel my pain.

This is what happened next–I found this on BookBaby:

BookBaby Removed The Angel from the iBookstore Six Months Ago

This is taken from the secret innards of our account. It shows that BookBaby removed The Angel from all the places it sets books up back in May. April for the iBookstore. They did their job.

So why isn’t it removed? I asked Apple that and have not heard back from them. I also  added the following, “You say you care, so do something.” Maybe I said a bit more politely.

Then I responded to Amazon, sending them the above screen shot and an email explaining that I’ve done everything I can. I’m an individual caught in the middle of three corporations: Apple, Amazon, and BookBaby. I’ve acted in good faith. The outcome is out of my control. Could they cut me some slack and at least let me do the KDP promotion this weekend?

I haven’t heard from Amazon, either.

Did you ever think it would be so hard to give your books away?

If you find a listing of free books this weekend and The Angel is on it, and you find its not free when you go to the book’s Kindle page, I’m sorry. I’ll get it marked down to 99 cents if I can.

Why go through all this? I contemplate this all the time. Is it worth it? Should I grant Amazon exclusive rights to distribute my work? Is the frustration worth the payoff?

One reason that I didn’t balk at giving Amazon distribution rights is on the table above. Our Total lifetime sales through BookBaby is $13.09. It’s not hard to walk away from that.

The reason that Amazon can demand monopolistic tariffs and conditions from sellers is that it is a monopoly. It has the books, and it has the customers, too. You’ll make a zillion times more on Amazon than anywhere else, at least in my experience. Plus, it’s easier to deal with one giant corporation with its rules and ways than a dozen.

Who knows? Maybe in the next five days one of the giants will get back to me and this will get handled. Or maybe not. Now to contact all those blogs and tell them that The Angel will be free this weekend. Or not.

Sandy Nathan, Award-winning Author

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-two national awards for her writing. She’s won in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information on each book. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
Sam & Emily: A Love Story from the Underground (paperback. Kindle coming)
Lady Grace: A Thrilling Adventure Wrapped in the Embrace of Epic Love (paperback. Kindle coming)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice



6 Responses to “Plucky Grandmother Fights Amazon, Apple, and BookBaby over KDP Promotion”

  1. Ilene Dillon October 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I DO feel your pain, Sandy! What a nightmare. How persistent you are. It’s making a great story, as well, which MIGHT just sell a few more books (I hope). A person with a talent as wonderful as yours should not have to work so hard for the world to “find” you and drink in your story-telling and wisdom! Hugs. Ilene

  2. admin October 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Thank you, my dear. It’s ridiculous. I wonder if it’s worth it all the time. I did hear from Apple, which is bumping up their involvement to the engineering level. Even if this gets handled, I still have to contact about a million blogs to tell them about the giveaway. Argh. Would you be interested in sending out the links to the books on one of your mailers? 😉

  3. Steven Spatz October 11, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Hello Sandy: I’m the CMO at BookBaby and this came up in my Google alert this morning. Am glad we did our part by removing your eBook per your request. Is there anything else we can do at this point? Please feel free to email me directly at

    • admin October 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

      You guys were great. It’s a problem with Apple. They’re working on it. Any maybe Amazon cut me a break for a few days and let me do my KDP promotion. I’ll find out tomorrow. Thanks for following through!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Sandy Nathan's YOUR SHELF LIFE » Plucky Grandmother Loses Battle with Amazon, Wins with BookBaby. Apple’s Trying Hard to Be Helpful - October 10, 2012

    […] you wonder what I’m talking about in the title, check out yesterday’s post.  My eBooks are on Amazon’s KDP program, which means you have to distribute your eBooks […]

  2. Sandy Nathan's YOUR SHELF LIFE » Plucky Grandmother Fights Amazon and Loses. And then Wins, Maybe - October 11, 2012

    […] of you who’ve following my Plucky Grandmother series, here and here, will know that I’d scheduled promotional days where two of my Kindle books will be […]