Monday, February 25, 2013

Is offering free books part of your business plan, or isn't it?

Amazon -- whom many of my readers will already know that I despise -- has made a surprising decision.  Apparently, even though they use the thousands of free books as a selling point for their Kindle, and in fact, promote the advantages of making your book free for indie authors who self-publish through the KDP select program...  Apparently, despite all this, Amazon has decided to punish affiliates who promote "too many" free books.

I follow some blogs that list links to free books, to keep myself informed of any promotions from the major publishers, and this will be affecting them -- and possibly impacting my ability to find out about free books.  There is a blog post here that discusses the new rules and their impact on affiliates: Changes Afoot!  Essentially, if an affiliate's websites or blogs generate 20,000 downloads of free books in a month -- a little under 700 a day -- and the paid purchases referred by that affiliate are less than 20 percent of the total (meaning referrals of free books account for more than 80 percent of the total purchases), they lose all of their affiliate revenue.  ALL OF IT.  Even though they are still, technically, referring paying customers to Amazon.

This does not affect my blog, since Amazon ended my affiliate relationship years ago, after Colorado passed a law requiring them to inform customers of their state tax liability.  It does, however, make me fairly disgusted with Amazon.  After all, don't most of these referred customers still go on to buy from Amazon as well?  Is that not the point of free ebooks, to lure customers in so that they will spend money on other items?  This seems to me like Amazon is trying to find a way not to pay their affiliates.

One has to ask, how can a bookseller that uses free books so heavily in the way their entire business operates justify penalizing websites for promoting free books?  Amazon uses their huge library of free ebooks as one of the selling points of the Kindle over other e-readers, for one thing, but they also steer indie authors in their self-publishing program toward offering their books for free as a marketing ploy to increase their ranking on the site.  Now, at the same time as they are selling the benefits of free books to Kindle owners and self-published authors, they are also threatening affiliate with total loss of revenue if too many of their referrals download free books.

In the big picture of things, though, it is only one more scumbag move in the history of Amazon.  They are a bully in the marketplace, and the little people -- affiliates, indie authors, etc. -- have no choice but to put up with it.

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