Quit whining when you get caught breaking the rules

Almost every author who has ever considered going indie, every small press that has weighed the different options of getting e-book titles to the public has read any number of terms of use documents. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords and others all have their own set of rules that have to be followed. The rules deal with what sort of files you need to upload, what royalty rates are and when payments will be made, what sort of material you can upload, etc., etc., etc. One of the most important terms in the ToS documents is about pricing. For authors, it’s because pricing is often tied to royalty rates. For the retailer, it’s because they don’t want to be undercut by other retailers.

The most common ToS when it comes to pricing is what I just said. If your e-book is priced at $4.99 on Amazon, you can’t then go in and price it at $3.99 everywhere else. If you do, Amazon has the right to drop the price to match that at the other retailers. The same goes if you try to pull a fast one and actually give your book away at another retail site and Amazon finds out. If their search engines discover your book is being given away, they can and will drop their prices to match.

The problem from the writer’s standpoint with this is that you have absolutely no control over when Amazon drops the price or when they return to the original price. If you’re lucky, Amazon will contact you and let you know that it’s found your book at a lower price and you need to come into compliance with their ToS. This has happened to me a couple of times when their searches have found my work on pirate sites. All it’s taken from me is an e-mail back to Amazon telling them that I hadn’t authorized the site to carry my work and that I had sent a take-down notice. Easy enough.

However, when you try to game the system by lowering your prices to free on one site because that site allows you X-number of promotional days, you can’t then whine and bitch because Amazon matched that price. You especially can’t do that if you admit in your whine that you know you were in violation of Amazon’s ToS. When you send your email to Amazon asking them to return your e-book back to its original price because it is now back to normal at the other site(s), you certainly don’t do yourself any favors if you get snarky with them. You are the one who broke the contract with Amazon.

No, I’m not going to get more specific than this because this incident came to me through a private e-mail list. I don’t have permission to excerpt the e-mail or name names. So I won’t. But, going back to my post the other day, there are simply times when you need to stop, read what you’ve written, consider it and then consider whether it really serves your best interest to hit the send button.

But, if you do feel the need to send an email and then berate the company, any company, for enforcing the ToS you agreed to, don’t then go on a tirade about the reviews you then got on your e-book. Yes, there does seem to be a correlation between the number of free downloads and the number of negative reviews a title gets. I’ve seen it with one of my books. It is something I take into account now when I consider taking a book for free.

Even if you do feel the need to complain about it, then don’t complain that someone downloading your book for free can’t be an “Amazon verified” purchaser because the book was free. An “Amazon verified purchase” is simply a means of noting that the reviewer got the book from Amazon, nothing more. That can also be found in the FAQs, iirc. But, if you haven’t paid enough attention to know Amazon will enforce its ToS, you probably haven’t taken the time to read the various FAQs and understand them.

Then, don’t compound the problem by complaining that you don’t have a way to take down negative reviews. Certainly, don’t go in and try to debate the issue with the reviewers. That will simply make things worse. But to try to say that we, as authors, should be able to handpick what reviews are allowed to go up on our product pages is to want to game the system in a way that is unfair to our readers. As a reader I’d resent the hell out of it. Besides, trust your readers enough to be able to tell a valid review — one that actually read your book and put some consideration into the review — from the ones who just like to troll indie books to give them negative reviews.

In other words, if you are going to be a writer, pull up your big boy pants and treat this like a business. That’s what it is. Grow up, grow a pair and be profressional.


  1. What if you have a pair, but either you misplaced them, or your wife has them and you can’t let her score points by asking after them?

    1. Pam, I know what you mean. I have a few of those. Besides, if we took them down, think about all the entertainment we’d be depriving our readers of when they check the reviews. 😉

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