By Melissa Macfie
Do you ever read the terms of service agreement before clicking “accept” when “signing” an agreement on the internet? Never did I think I would need to know those terms when signing up for a simple Amazon Promotion, but I did.
Somewhere in my upbringing the phrase “don’t sign until you read the fine print” was embedded. This made signing my first mortgage exceedingly tedious for our agent. He was patient, allowed me to read, and answered my questions—some of them repeatedly and using small words—until I was comfortable enough to sign. This penchant for reading the fine print became further rooted by various experiences where I needed to parse a single sentence to ensure a favorable outcome.
When I wrote my first book, the world of publishing was foreign to me. The little I thought I knew about publishing was invalidated almost as soon as I entered. The one thing I knew was that to survive, I had to read the fine print—starting with the publishing contract. The terms of agreement were straightforward and outlined the responsibilities of both parties. It was explained to me with patience all I would be required to do. It was reassuring.
This reassurance coupled with my confidence that I could parse a lengthy Terms of Agreement document, had me signing up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program with the enthusiasm and glee of a child. Reading terms of service agreements can be daunting, and even though it took me some time to understand the whole document, I had a good bead on what the contract laid out. Never would I have thought that I would have to put it to use.
To explain, the KDP enrollment period is for the span of three months, which renews automatically. During one three-month period, authors are allowed to reduce their pricing once per book. The point of this type of promotion is to make your book more attractive to new readers and quickly increase your Amazon ranking—not to mention your royalties. These .99 cent promotions work best when coupled with paid advertising with a variety of subscriptions newsletters which inform readers of .99 cent and free book promotions. I have scheduled many such reductions successfully in the past, but this time I decided to schedule the promotion on the first day of the new enrollment period.
Not expecting any difficulty, I submitted and paid for my books to be advertised on multiple promotion websites. Once confirmed with the advertisers, I went to schedule the price reduction at KDP.Amazon.com. According to the Amazon terms of agreement, 24 hours’ notice must be given in order for the price to be reduced, and having left a four day margin, I thought I was in the clear.
I was wrong.
Since it was technically in the last days of my previous KDP period, all the system would let me do was schedule up to the last day of that period. It would NOT allow me to schedule a promotion on the first day of the next period. In a panic, because, as I mentioned, I’d already spent money on advertising, I reread the terms of agreement and the FAQ page on the KDP site. In neither location was there any mention of scheduling for upcoming enrollment periods. But there was also NOTHING that said a promotion could not be run on the first day of an enrollment period. Time was running short, so I quickly sent an email to Amazon. It was answered within twelve hours. The response reiterated the end and start dates of my enrollment, that twenty-four hours was needed to schedule a price reduction, and that I would not be able to schedule for the first day of the renewed period.
This was a problem. I could not change the advertising I had already scheduled. It was paid for and it was too late to change things on the half dozen sites on which I had signed up. Looking over those Amazon terms of agreement again, nowhere did it state that I could not begin a promotion on the first day of the enrollment period. I was not going to let this go!
I followed up with another email. This one earned a phone call from an Amazon associate within two hours of my sending it. The phone call was to inform me that they verified my statement that this clause was, in fact, not in their terms, and as such, they would grant my request to schedule the price reduction on the first day of my enrollment period. I was told additionally that this would be the only time they would do so, as if I was the one who did something wrong.
My ire at this situation was substantially eased by the favorable outcome of my promotion the next week, and the knowledge that I was able to do it because of my diligence. However, just to be safe, moving forward, I will not schedule price reductions in the first week of my new enrollment period—and I suggest you do not either.
Now for the statistics: The promotion was a .99 cent promotion for Fate’s Hand, Book 1 in my Celtic Prophecy series, and free for Reliquary’s Choice, Book 2 in the series. The promotion took me to Number 2 in Free Kindle books for Reliquary’s Choice and Number 14 in Magical Realism for Fate’s Hand. Overall there were over 4,000 downloads for Reliquary and I also increased the number of reviews. There were 222 books sold at .99 cents for Fate’s Hand. Although I did give away over 4,000 copies of Reliquary’s Choice free, some of that does translate into money, through readers who use the Kindle Unlimited program which pays authors for “pages read.”
Melissa Macfie, author of Fate’s Hand and Reliquary’s Choice, is currently working on the third book in the Celtic Prophecy series, Oracle’s Curse. She also develops custom e-book marketing plans for other authors. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Melissa Macfie