I haven’t been very ranty on this blog, but now’s the time. A good friend of mine, James Crawford, recently self-published his first novel (read my interview with him) and decided to put it on Amazon. A HUGE accomplishment. So imagine his surprise when he checked Amazon (heh, I’m still obsessively checking my book on Amazon) and discovered that his book had been reduced in price—to free! He had no say in this and some sleuthing revealed that Amazon has a contract clause allowing them to match prices. More sleuthing revealed that apparently Amazon had discovered a teaser of the book he’d posted on Barnes & Noble for free, with a different cover and file size, and decided the teaser and the full book must be one and the same. More than 5,000 copies of his book were downloaded—for free. As of today, he’s yet to receive any resolution from Amazon. I won’t go into all the details because he can share them much better on his blog (http://www.bloodsoakedandwriting.com/2011/10/09/two-things-you-need-to-see-for-the-following-saga-to-make-sense/).
Bottom line, I’m outraged on his behalf. He may look into a lawyer, and I hope he can fight it, but is it worth the time and effort? I know other people who are self-published and others who are considering going that route. The internet and places like Amazon have opened the door wide for independent authors and put some fear into the big publishers. But there’s no reason to treat your customers this way. I’m sharing Jim’s story as a cautionary tale for anyone considering self-publishing. Not to say don’t use Amazon, but just to consider all your options and be careful as a little author in a sea of big sharks.
On the plus side, Jim has discovered that a number of people who downloaded the book for free are now fans and want more of Blood Soaked and Contagious. And that’s the best compliment an author can get! If you’re a zombie fan, please check out his blog at http://www.bloodsoakedandwriting.com/.
that sucks!! and yes, fans are great, but that’s a LOT of lost income! mind if I repost this?
Oh yes, please repost!
Nancy, while I don’t know you… I’d be obliged for your signal boosting!
What a nightmare! Part of the reason one gets an agent is to ensure all those legal clauses in the contracts we don’t read are understood line for line. If he had an agent, he’d also have advice on whether legal action would be worth it. On the other hand, if 5,000 people downloaded the book, he must have something popular there. Lots of folks on Amazon have chosen to put their books up for free as a marketing strategy to get folks to buy a second book. Still, an author wants to be able to make that decision! I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to one of my babies!! Even in the traditional pubishing world, 5000 books is a sucessful book!
Traditionally, you do want to give away the first book in your series for free (or next to it). Of course, in that same tradition, one doesn’t give it away until after the second book in the series is written and is for sale.
Amazon is all the way in the wrong here. But they are a big corporation with buckets of money. Sounds like Jim needs the help of a Writer’s association that can help him get his day in court.
Yes, Brooklyn Ann, that’s been my response through this whole thing.
@ML: I spent a year hunting for a literary agent and got pretty close, except my violence was too violent for her. Trust me, I’d love to snag a good Agent, even now. The morning total of books given away for free: 6116. So, if you happen to know any Agents who are looking for new Zombie authors, feel free to point them in my direction 🙂
Actually Doc’s mention of a writer’s association gives me a thought. Jim, have you heard of Maryland Writer’s Association (MWA)? They have some Virginia authors also. It might be a resource for some legal information or again just getting the word out about this. They have a facebook page.
Thanks for the hint. I’ll check them out!
I am so sorry this has happened to Jim. Yes, get the word out so others will be warned!
A small update: http://wp.me/p1MKT2-1s
James- I am one of the people that down loaded the book for free – so feel free to come and collect your royalties any time, or I can buy you lunch anytime you are in Owings Mills area. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I am impressed with your development of the characters. Don’t get too worked about the issue with Amazon- not worth the stress and it will be GREAT marketing!
Thanks Andrew… It’s only been 20+ years since High school. I appreciate your support.