Back in July, I decided to lower the price of my e-book Mousetrapped, which has always been $2.99, to 99c for a limited time. The idea was that with the first chapter of Backpacked now stuck at the end of it and with its 99c price-tag enticing, presumably, more people to buy it, it would help me sell more copies of Backpacked when it came out. I planned on only doing this for 2-4 weeks, depending on how well it went, before returning it to $2.99 in time for Backpacked‘s release.
But if you pop over to Amazon’s Kindle store this morning, you’ll see that Mousetrapped is still 99c, and it’s the middle of September.
And Smashwords are the reason why.
Before we go any further, let me just say that this is not a rant against Smashwords. I don’t make unreasonable demands of the self-publishing services I use – unlike *coughcough* some other self-publishers we know – and only blame myself for the situation I’m in. I’m telling you about it today so you know what might happen when you lower your book’s price, so you can take it into consideration before you do any price-changing. That’s all.
Let’s go back to the end of July. Mousetrapped‘s e-book is for sale on Amazon’s Kindle store and, through Smashwords, Barnes and Noble’s Nook store, Sony’s e-book store, Diesel, Kobo and Smashwords.com. Your e-book has to be the same price everywhere – if it’s not, it’s not fair to the retailers OR the customers who’ll buy your books from them – and so one morning, I changed the price of Mousetrapped to 99c on Smashwords and immediately afterwards, went over to Amazon KDP to do the same thing.
Within hours my book was 99c on all Amazon sites, and within days, everywhere else too. Simples.
Flash-forward three weeks or so, when I decide to put the price back up. Again, I go to Smashwords and change the price to $2.99, and then to Amazon KDP where I do the same.
But apart from Smashwords.com, the price didn’t change anywhere. It remained at 99c. I was expecting the retailers Smashwords distributes to to take a while, but when Amazon, which you deal with directly via Amazon KDP, didn’t change, I e-mailed them to find out why.
They told me they had to offer the e-book at the lowest price it was available for anywhere, and it was 99c on Barnes and Noble. Therefore, it had to stay 99c on Amazon’s Kindle store.
I went to Smashwords and unpublished my book. I only sell a tiny fraction of my books from there anyway, so I wasn’t worried about a loss of revenue or anything – the most important thing was getting my book back up to $2.99 on the Kindle store.
A few days later I checked B&N; Mousetrapped was gone. Woo-hoo! I went and re-published my book again at $2.99, and again Amazon failed to increase it. I e-mailed them (again) and this time they told me they couldn’t do it because my book was 99c on Kobo.
I waited a few days until it had been about 10 days after I unpublished, but my book was still available – and still 99c – on Kobo. I decided to try a different tack, and republished it on Smashwords (at $2.99) but through their Distribution Channel Manager, opted out of Kobo entirely.
But last time I checked – which was while I was writing this, at 7.30pm, Sunday September 11th – Mousetrapped is still on Kobo, and it’s still 99c. It’s now been almost a month since I went to return my price to $2.99 and I still haven’t managed to do it.
And this is about more than how many books I sell, or my plans for promoting a new book. It’s about my income. On a very bad month, I’d sell 500 copies of Mousetrapped at $2.99. Presuming that all of those come in at the 70% rate (which most of them normally do), that’s an income of approximately $1,045. At 99c, Mousetrapped sells around 1,100 copies a month which at the 35% royalty rate – which is all it gets priced at 99c – that’s an income of approximately $381. I make my living mostly from selling these books, so being down $664 a month is not something that goes unnoticed by my wallet.
I don’t think that Smashwords are doing anything unreasonable here – presumably updating their third party retailers takes time. I get that. But if I’d known how much trouble it was going to be to get my price back up, I would never have done it in the first place.
And what really annoys me is that this is all being held up by an e-book retailer that has managed to sell just 13 copies of my book, a book that has sold about 7,000 copies from the Kindle store.
Not to mention how quickly everyone managed to lower my price – funnily enough, that seemed to happen without any delay at all.
UPDATE: Thanks to helpful advice in the comments section, I have now e-mailed Kobo as of 3.25pm GMT on Monday September 12th, and asked them to remove my book from their store. I gave them all the relevant information and sent it from my catherineryanhoward.com e-mail address, so there should be no question about whether or not I’m the author. Let’s see what happens…
UPDATE 2: [Wednesday 14th September] Angela at Smashwords e-mails me to say that she has contacted Kobo on my behalf re: the price change. She also advises me (as Mark did below) not to unpublish my book just to expedite a change, and to re-publish it, which I’ve now done. The book is $2.99, but still 99c on Kobo.
UPDATE 3: [Thursday 15th September] Mousetrapped is now the euro equivalent of $2.99 on Kobo. Kobo has a help desk system where you track “requests” and since the request I personally submitted 3 days ago hasn’t even been assigned to a customer service operator yet, I have to conclude that the price change is either a) a response to Smashwords contacting them or b) finally, a reflection of the change I made. I’m inclined to believe it’s (a). The thing is, Mousetrapped shouldn’t be on Kobo at all anymore because I’ve opted out of its distribution channel and, subsequently, unpublished it – and I’m going to leave it unpublished on Smashwords for the moment. It’s great that Smashwords responded to me (eventually) and that Kobo responded to them, but what’s the point of having an “Edit book details” if the editing doesn’t take affect without a follow-up e-mail? I just don’t think a few hundred sales out of 8,000+ is worth this kind of effort. Yesterday Lulu announced that they now have a free MS Word doc-to-Epub converter, and will distribute to Barnes and Noble and Apple’s iBooks – the only two retailers where I sell anything significant through Smashwords. I’ve published Backpacked with them and I’ll see how it goes. If that works out, I’m going to re-think my strategy re: my e-books and who I publish them with. I want to offer the broadest range of editions possible and reach as many readers as possible, but I also want to have enough control to make changes to my books if need be.
UPDATE 4: [Thursday 15th September at 8pm] SUCCESS!!! A month after this headache began, Mousetrapped is finally back up to $2.99 on Amazon.com! You’ve got to love Amazon KDP; I republished after I saw the increased price on Kobo this morning and only a few hours later, it’s back up to $2.99.
UPDATE 5: [Sunday 18th September at 10pm] I just got an e-mail from Raylene at Smashwords in response to the message I sent them about my 99c/$2.99 problem, which I can see from their response was sent by me on 2nd September. That means that Angela could not have been responding to the same message. What was she responding to? This blog post, I think. Hmm.
Things I want you to know: my new book, Backpacked, is out now; I’m offering 25% off my formatting services until the end of this week and if you want to buy Mousetrapped for sofa change, now is your chance.