Goodread Giveaway

Amazon and the Problem of Free

This months (November, 2021) I’ve put the Tedrick Gritswell of Borobo Reef eBook up for a giveaway on Goodreads. Check out this link:

That’s actually something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, the whole giveaway thing, that is.

You see, the problem with publishing through various platforms, especially Amazon, is that pricing can be inconsistent. There are various rules regarding territories and various currencies and all of that. On top of that, there’s the problem of saying ‘hey, I want to give this book away’.

I mean, it’s my book, right? I wrote the damn thing, and if I want to give it away I should be able to do so.

No so fast. If you’re an author, the above statement is true. You should be able to give your book away for free if you choose. You should be able to charge $1000 for it. You should be able to distribute it worldwide. That said, there’s the other side of the coin: As an author, you’re using a third-party platform to distribute your title. That platform costs money to operate and they can define their own rules according to their business needs.

They should be able to restrict the prices of what they’re hosting. They should be able to veto a title if they deem it unfit for their platform. They should be able to decide their own rules.

So where does that leave us? In the same spot we were before – these things can be all true at the same time. As an author, I can choose to use a platform, or not. With Smashwords and Draft2Digital we can choose the retailers to which we want to publish. By doing so, we implicitly agree to their terms for sales upon their platforms and understand that the platform has its own rules. If we don’t want to abide by the rules, there’s nothing stopping us from not using a particular platform. Free to choose and all of that.

So what’s that got to do with Amazon? Well, one of the rules Amazon has for self-published books is that the price cannot be less than $0.99 US. That makes it kinda tricky to publish free ebooks. I’m forced to charge 99c, even though on lots of other platforms I might be able to list it for free. For example, Adaptation part 1, Atlas, Broken, Grosvenor Lane Ghost and Jolimont Street Ghost are permanently free on Smashwords, Apple, Google, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, etc, but on Amazon, they are $0.99. Now, as an author, that irks me. I get it, but at the same time, I’m annoyed that readers on one platform are penalised, and readers on another are not.

Now, there was a time when it was possible to get Amazon to price match (Make it Free) but, based on the latest evidence, that’s no longer a thing :

Amazon does offer the ability to make a book free for a limited time but, as you can imagine, there’s a catch. You need to exclusively list the book with Amazon for a period of a year. I’m not into exclusive. I think that’s unfair for everyone. Heck, it would mean I wouldn’t be able to get my own book on Kobo. Uncool.

The final option that I found while poking about the other day is the Giveaway option. Now that Goodreads is owned by Amazon, there has been a change in the way giveaways are done. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty next post, but the long and the short of it is that I can give a book away… for a price. Sigh.

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