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Amazon’s Unwritten Print Pricing Rule

Amazon’s Unwritten Print Pricing Rule

KDP has had a longstanding print pricing requirement that ebooks sold through the platform may not be sold for more than the list price on other retailers or websites.

When Amazon folded its CreateSpace print-on-demand services into its KDP platform, few authors realized that this restriction was applied to print books as well. If you priced your paperback at $14.99, but it was available on other retailers for $12.99, Amazon could take disciplinary action against your account.

This condition was once buried in the text of the Print Pricing help page:

You must set your Print Book’s List Price (and change it from time-to-time if necessary) so that it is no higher than the list price in any sales channel for any physical edition of the Print Book.

By “list price in any sales channel,” we mean the suggested or recommended retail price or, if you sell your Book directly to end users, your own sales price, for an edition of the Book available outside of our Program.

However, some time in the last 90 days, that language was removed from the Print Pricing page. I discovered this while researching an unrelated issue. To the best of my knowledge, the change wasn’t announced anywhere on KDP’s site.

Answers are hard to come by

I contacted KDP’s support to inquire whether that restriction has actually been lifted, or simply moved to a different part of Amazon’s widely-scattered terms and conditions.

After an hour-long phone call with the KDP support team during which I was passed from department to department and one representative to another, I was finally given a definitive answer: the restriction does still apply, even though it’s no longer documented anywhere on the site. (One of the agents I spoke with stated that this issue would be raised with the internal department that handles this documentation, and any adjustments should be made within one to two months.)

If you sell your paperback edition for a lower price than the list price on Amazon, and it’s spotted by Amazon’s staff or reported through the “tell us about a lower price” link at the bottom of every book’s details, the book will be referred for corrective action. This generally begins with an email instructing you to lower your book’s price or face consequences. According to KDP’s support team, if you fail to comply with this now-unwritten rule, Amazon may, at its discretion, either lower your list price forcibly, remove the book from sale, or disable your account entirely.

Amazon’s representative suggested that the policy appears “somewhere” in the terms and conditions, but when I directed her to the relevant pages and clauses, she admitted that she could not find any mention of the policy.

Chaos within, chaos without

This precarious situation underscores an ongoing problem with Amazon’s policies. The company’s rules and guidelines are scattered across dozens of pages, few of them linked. Changes to the rules are rarely announced. Previous versions of these pages are not available to authors through the KDP site, and there is no author-facing knowledge base tracking these updates. Customer support agents may be confused by the changing rules, and often give conflicting advice.

Yet somehow, authors are expected to understand and remain in compliance with these rules or face potentially devastating consequences to their business.

Amazon has a huge communication gap, and it’s one of the leading causes of friction between authors and the corporate giant. Deletions of reviews for undisclosed reasons. Threatening emails citing violations of obscure policies. Vaguely worded policies which even Amazon’s internal staff don’t completely understand. Undocumented and unannounced changes to rules. Contradictory rules. Inconsistent enforcement.

Most authors are eager to comply with Amazon’s rules, but authors can’t comply with the rules if they don’t know what they are. Amazon must do better at communicating these ever-changing policies to the public and its own staff.

Over to you

Have you run afoul of Amazon’s policies? How was it resolved? Let us know in the comments below!

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John Doppler

From the sunny California beaches where he washed ashore in 2008, John Doppler scrawls tales of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror -- and investigates self-publishing services as the Alliance of Independent Authors's Watchdog. John relishes helping authors turn new opportunities into their bread and butter and offers terrific resources for indie authors at Words on Words. He shares his lifelong passion for all things weird and wonderful on The John Doppler Effect.

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  1. I asked them exactly this question – could I sell my paperbacks directly through my website at a lower price. Initially, they sent a link to their t’s and c’s, and I pointed out that if I’d been able to find any clear policy there, I wouldn’t have needed to ask. They then told me they acted like any other book retailer, so could set their own price, and so could I, or any other shops for that matter. The policy for ebooks is different – you can’t undercut amazon with those. I asked for verification of that response, and they confirmed I had understood it correctly. I’ve kept the emails!

  2. Thanks John for this informative article. My book is listed on Amazon via the assisted self-publishing company I used to publish my book. Are they meant to notify and update Amazon on changes to pricing or is it the author? After-publishing service is practically zilch except for ‘invest’ in this or that marketing, promotion service.
    I’m about to indie publish my next book and looking at Amazon for e-book and maybe print book – any additional thoughts?
    The print book will be available via my website also.
    cheers

  3. Since Createspace was folded into KDP authors have to wait 60 days to get paid, it used to be 30. The new templates are horrible and the old designs are unavalable. But Bezos has his billions and thats all that matters.

  4. Thanks for this article. My publisher lists my books on Amazon. I am not sure how he finds them. But all my reviews I have written for others on my account have been deleted with no explanation or justification. I found out when I had bought books over Amazon specifically to read and review and then couldn’t do so. This about 3 months ago and I have not had one reply to my emails. I did contact their FB page. All their marketing posts are full of complaints as it’s the only outlet for people. Of course all I was provided with was the email address I had already been writing too. An unsatisfactory conclusion for me. As customers we feel like we’re treated like an inconvenience.

    1. Hi Ana,

      that is so frustrating. Here’s a tip: I’ve found that if you (or your publisher) go through Amazon Author Central, there’s a contact number and email. Use the CONTACT US option, and click on ‘Call me’ and they will call you directly regarding reviews (you fill out a brief form). They may not have an answer right away, but they will open up a case and give you a case number so you have it for follow-up purposes.

      *Note: they are closed on weekends.

      Hope that helps!

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