Why Can’t I Set The Price To $0.00?

I really wanted to set the price of my short story to nothing. I want to give it away. It’s sold a few, but not a ton. And to be honest, $0.99 for 14 pages, while not a ripoff, does seem to be kind of silly.

So I went onto Kindle Direct Publishing and attempted to set my short story to $0.00. And, as it turns out, I can’t.

The minimum price I can set for ANYTHING I publish on Amazon is $0.99.

[scratches head]

I decided to do a little research as to how could go about rectifying this situation. After all, there are LOTS of books out there that are free. So there has to be a way, right?

Turns out the answer is “sort of”.

The first direction I steered in was toward Promotions. This is a way for you to alter the list price of your book for a period of time. It’s not forever, but it’s a start. To do this, first you have to make sure your book is set up for KDP Select. So I had to select that checkbox and re-publish the book. No big deal, It’s been out there long enough it didn’t warrant a second thorough vetting by Amazon. It was ready a few hours later.

Then I went in and set the price. I made it $0.00 for five days. Huzzah!

Six days later, once the promotion had expired, I went back into the set up another and drop the price again. It seemed like a ham-fisted way to manage prices, but what the hell. I can log in every five days, right?

Yeah. No.

Apparently, you can only run one promotion every 90 days. (Mental note: must read the fine print more often).

So what’s the answer?

If you search for this topic on Google, you’ll find a lot of people have the same question. And the answer is interesting. There IS a way to make your book exactly zero bucks, but it’s really very backward.

Apparently, in order to permanently drop the price of your book, you must (CAVEAT: I have not tested this myself) publish your book on another site, something like B&N for the nook or Smashwords, set it at $0.00 on these sites, then repeatedly pester Amazon that it’s for sale somewhere else for less than they are selling it. After Amazon performs some super secret review, they will then permanently set the price to zero.

Basically, they price-match.

See the following links for more info on the how-to:

Like I said above, I have not tested this approach. It’s almost more work than I care to put into lowering the price, but there you have it. Search for the topic, this is the answer you consistently see.

What a pain in the neck.

Bad Formatting

I’ve read a bunch of books now on my Kindle. I didn’t know if I’d get used a e-book reader. Apparently I have. I like how I have a huge range of books to choose from, whatever I need to fit whatever my mood may be. And I have it all in a single device.

This is not to say that I don’t still love a good book book, because I do. But the Kindle, ah, the Kindle! So lightweight, so full of books, so many of them free (you can find all the good classics on Amazon for free). And many of them correctly formatted.

However…

One of the things you find once in a while is a badly formatted book. What do I mean? I mean that, as you’re cruising along, enjoying your purchase, suddenly you come to a bock of text that is tabbed wrong or inconsistently justified with the rest of the text. Then, BAM! you’re thrown out of the story and all you can focus on is how the  formatting is off.

(Or maybe it’s just me. But when I come across bad formatting, it drives me bonkers.)

Over the last year or two, I’ve been making my way slowly through Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. It’s a sort of syrupy story, a kind of New England confectionery fiction. It reminds me of the kind of comfort food reading people turn to when they want to escape the real world, but not to a different world of intense peril. Sure, there’s conflict, there’s drama, but never so high-stakes that you actually ever worry about the characters. But at $0.99, it’s not a bad story.

The story behind Mill River Recluse is pretty interesting. You can read how it became so successful in this article in the Wall Street Journal online. This article is one of the reasons I bought the book. I wanted to see what self e-publishing looked like.

The goal here is not to bash Ms. Chan. For from it. She took matters into her own hands, self-pubbed, and found success. All of us self-pubbers should be so fortunate. However, one of the things I noticed in “Mill River Recluse” was that the formatting is inconsistent. So, since I noticed it, I thought I’d write a bit about it.

Primarily, the bad formatting centers around the tabs and indents. To illustrate an example, I’ll use this block of text from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal In Bohemia (sorry, I had to do this as a jpeg):

GoodFormatting

This is how you would normally expect to see the formatting. This is how the formatting is for most of the time in “Mill River Recluse”. But sometimes, it comes out like this:

BadFormatting

So what’s the lesson here? The lesson I think is that, if you plan to self e-publish your work, then, once you have finished, proofed it, and formatted it, load it up into your Kindle and go through PAGE BY PAGE. Yeah, I know, a page by page review of formatting sounds like a sucky way to spend a Saturday. But not everything we do as writers is a joy. Carefully reviewing and re-reviewing the formatting will give your work a look of professionalism, which is an extra edge we all need. The added bonus is that you’ll keep your readers from getting tossed out of the story when they hit a block of bad formatting.