May 26 2015
If you’ve ever wondered what happens when Amazon screws up a price match, here’s a cautionary tale. I learned a few things:
1. It’s important to have a distinctive title.
2. It’s important to ensure the authors’ names are not similar (especially if the titles are).
3. It’s important to remember that Barnes & Noble is sloppy.
In April, I released A Way Home, the third book in my gay Amish series. Several days after release, a friend mentioned that I was shooting up the $0.99 chart at Amazon.
That would have been great if I’d priced my book at $0.99, but it was $4.99. Except it suddenly wasn’t. All I could do was email Amazon, since there is no phone or live chat support (which really needs to change). About twelve hours later I received a response.
No, sadly you did not solve my problem, because Saturday was five days away.
I also learned not to take KDP support’s first answer when they tell you they need time to look into a problem and will get back to you within the week. You must persist to have your issue solved quickly. Now, I realize the KDP staff are busy, and I appreciate their hard work. But I had not changed my price, it was release week, and this is my living. It stood to reason that if the book had been price matched, they should and would be able to tell me that immediately. I triple checked all the other listings, and it was $4.99 everywhere.
After a largely sleepless night, I was checking other sellers again when my eye caught the name “Rebecca” in the URL for the Barnes & Noble listing. I peered closer, and saw that my URL said:
Er, what? I searched for Rebecca Andrews’s book, and guess what? It’s — wait for it — $0.99.
I realized Amazon’s bots had gotten confused thanks to B&N’s sloppiness. I immediately contacted Amazon again, and by noon they’d returned the price to normal. I was very relieved, needless to say. Several friends sweetly wondered how Amazon would repay me for the loss in royalties, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen, since their bottom line is: “Please note that we retain discretion to determine our retail prices.” So even if it’s their mistake, too bad, authors.
It is what it is, and we don’t really have a choice unless we don’t want to sell our books on the biggest worldwide platform.
When I pressed them as to why this had happened since my book was never priced anywhere at $0.99, they told me they’d had a system problem that led to automatic price matching without human approval, and the rep was very apologetic. I hope it’s been fixed now, but in the future I’m still going to do my best to create titles that are unique. I knew “A Way Home” wasn’t sparklingly original, but I hadn’t even thought to look at the names of the authors with similar titles. I certainly will in the future! I’ll also be checking my B&N URLs carefully.
The same thing happened the next week on Amazon UK with the price dropping to 99p, and again I was told they’d need days to look into it. But when I responded again saying that wasn’t acceptable since this was clearly an error, they changed the price back that day, and said it wouldn’t happen again.
It likely wasn’t a bad thing in the end to do a brief sale at $0.99, but in the future I’d like it to be my choice when I change the price on my books. It’s much less stressful that way!
p.s. I have to give a shoutout to Draft2Digital, who were quick to respond to my email about the B&N cockup, and worked to have it fixed quickly on the B&N site. Great service!