Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Amazon price matched my free short stories

Why my short stories are free:

Amazon recently price matched my 5 short stories that are free at every other online store.  I use these as a way to get my writing out there so that people will hopefully buy my novels if they like the shorts.  It was very common for sci-fi and fantasy authors to write short stories for magazines like "Astounding" and "Amazing" back in the golden age of pulp fiction.  This is my eBook version of their strategy.

Ereader News Today

Ereader News Today is a website that has "Tips, Tricks, And Free Ebooks For Your Kindle".  I talk to Greg, the admin of the site, to let him know about the short stories when they went free on Amazon.

The site is wonderful for Kindle readers because it alerts them to deals and also gives tips for using the devices.

Anyway, he emailed me this question:

"Hi John,

Was there anything that you did to get your books free or did Amazon just decide to make them free?  Another author was asking me about this and I wasn't sure."
My long winded response

Short answer.  I made the stories free elswhere.  Then, on the Amazon page of each, there's a spot near underneath the Amazon rankings that says:  Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price?  
Tell them about the lower price on one of the other stores, preferably B&N as they're the biggest competitor.  A Smashwords link probably works too.  After that they price matched mine a few weeks later.  Theoretically it will happen faster if more than 1 person reports lower prices, though I don't have statistical evidence of that. The Author does not make any money off of free eBooks that are price matched.

That wasn't as short as I expected, lol.  As far as the long answer goes, I spent some time figuring this out as much as possible. Much of this is my personal opinion after paying attention to responses from Amazon and watching their behavior.

Amazon doesn't really want to give books away for free. That said, they pay very close attention to what everyone else is doing, especially Smashwords and B&N right now.  Authors like giving away free ebooks if it will bring readers to their paid books. (it does - free ebooks on Amazon had directly resulted in 17 sales of my 2 paid books since Friday, when I only had 3 all month before that)  Amazon sees that it works and realizes that it has to match the successful activities of its competitors while also trying to come up with new means of leading the market. 

They didn't do it very often before because until last month, their contract didn't allow for them not to pay the author if they price matched for free.  In April they added a provision that stated they would not pay the author if they pricematched a book that was free elsewhere.  Then it looks like they matched authors that had their books free on Smashwords or B&N from what I can tell; that's largely speculation though.

I still think Amazon would prefer to sell the books.  I don't think they will offer a free option anytime soon, though I could be wrong.  They know a lot of Indie Authors tend to be crafty marketers and have created a system for those authors to work with.  I know that I've had 20,000 downloads since Friday between all 5 books.  I think a lot of them will be read later and some even forgotten by those readers, but I've seen my for sale books jump and I expect a larger number of purchases of them for at least a month or two as a result.

Anyway, I hope that helps.  I also hope I didn't bore you to death. ;)  lol.  Hmmm . . . I should make this email into a blog.  *laughing*

Have a good week and feel free to email me any time if you have any other questions. :)


Anyway, I thought I would share my speculations on this blog as I mentioned in the letter.  *grin*  The eBook revolution is really an extraordinary event and it's fascinating to see the world changing at such a rapid pace with every new technology.  It will be interesting to see what happens next.


AL Fetherlin said...

I was just going to ask you this on Facebook. Good thing I looked up your blog.
I have followed your free-short-story footsteps on Smashwords and will attempt to follow your instructions for Amazon.
Thank you!

John H. Carroll said...

Hi Amy,

The short stories are really working well for me. I've had 70 purchases of my 2 for-sale books on Amazon in the 3 weeks since then where I'd only had 7 the three weeks previous.

Honestly, all of this is really fun. :D I love the community of Indie Authors that is becoming established. It's nice to have people to go through this with. :)

Tunks said...

Thanks for the link as well. It should come in handy now that I have my kindle

John H. Carroll said...

Hi Tunks. :) You're welcome. It's a really good site.