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.


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):


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:


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.

I’m Back

I have to apologize for my absence. Okay, maybe more like a full blown MIA. There have been so many distractions, so many reasons not to post. Among other reasons, a few job changes, and the basics of family life with two children and all of their activities have kept me away.

That includes away from writing. (I’ll post about that another time. Soon. I promise. No, really, I mean it!)

Yeah, I know. Excuses excuses.

Well, no more. Time to saddle up.

So, plan on seeing more from me more often. Watch for me and I promise not to stand you up. I hope to post once a week.

I’m back. And it’s good to be here.

Two Recommendations

The Girl In The Red Hoodie was (still is, though stay tuned) was my first self-epublished book for Kindle. As with all first attempts at something, it had issues.

The story itself was done about two years ago. I hadn’t really proofed it for copy yet, but I had proofed it for content. I made some changes here and there, tried to get the language into some semblance of continuity throughout, and generally tried to get the story onto paper the same way it was in my head. A friend of mine read through it, made a recommendation or two, which I then folded in.


Then it sat. The last of the revisions were finished near the beginning of this year. And then what did I do? I procrastinated. (Did I mention that I was a gigantic procrastinator?) I found every reason under the sun NOT to go back to the story. Work was always at the top of the list, given that I’m in the middle of some pretty large system implementations (the day-job calleth). There were family excuses. Birthdays and kids’ activities, and other stuff that didn’t really take up THAT much time. But they were great for excuses as to why I had yet to publish.

And then something snapped. Not sure what. One night it just became time. Time to work up a cover, time to format the book for Kindle, time to put it out there and see what happened. I didn’t have huge expectations. Still don’t. It’s just a short story, a little bite sized gulp of serial killer nastiness. I figured it might sell a few here and there, and those would be mostly to friends and family.

In the back of my head, I could also hear the one thing my friend had told me in December: “Every day you DON’T publish is day you DON’T make money. Every day you DO have something published is a day you COULD be making sales.”

Okay. It was time.

I think the big thing that was holding me back was the fear of that final mouse click. Would I put it out there and would it fail? Would it get crappy reviews? Once out there, would I ever be able to pull it back? Would I screw it up while trying to publish it?

The answer to all these questions was a big shrug of the shoulders. Who knows? Nobody. But until I got off the sofa and tried, I’d never know for sure.

I realized that fear was probably the biggest thing holding me back. It was time to take a big deep breath and jump into the deep end of the pool.
So what happened?

Well, after publishing it I made a couple of sales, including by some people I didn’t know. Okay, so, the fact that it sold some meant it didn’t fail. After all, it didn’t cost me anything to publish it except my time and about $15 for the underlying image I bought for the cover. I can’t say I’ve broken even to cover the cost of the cover image, but the Federal Tax return covered that for me.

Did I get crappy reviews? Nope. I haven’t gotten a single one to date, so no problem there.

Can I pull it back if need be? Sure. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program will let you take the book offline whenever you want. So no danger there.

Did I screw it up while publishing? Well….a little.

In my hurry to get it out on Amazon for Kindle, I may have missed one or two (or more) tiny grammatical and spelling mistakes. Oh yeah, that proof for copy. Forgot that step. And for me, an English lit major, it was more than a little embarrassing for my mother, who bought and read it, to email me saying, “great story, but there were some typos in it, do you want me to send you a list?”. With a hung head I said “yes”.

About three weeks after publishing The Girl In The Red Hoodie, I revised the source document and then resaved the (new) final copy as a Kindle formatted document. I re-uploaded the file and now it’s as good as new. Actually, it’s better than new, since the original “new” version had typos.
What’s the moral of this story? I guess it’s twofold:

  1. Don’t procrastinate. Keep working forward, even if it’s tiny tiny tiny steps forward. But keep some momentum going or else you’ll stutter and stall.
  2. Don’t rush. Do things right. This includes proofreading your work or having somebody else who’s exceptional at it go through it. Cause it’s a reflection on YOU, the self-publisher, if you publish an e-book with crappy formatting or textual errors.

Was that too soapbox-y? I hope not. Cause part of the point of me sharing my experience with you is telling you where I screwed up so that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Til next time…

My Name Is Scott…

…and I’m an author. Well, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing for years, but only in fits and spurts. There’s this whole “day job” thing that gets in the way, because, you know, my family and I like to eat. (Starving is overrated).

As you might expect, I’m a writer with a lot of friends who write. We sort of gather in clumps or herds. And we’ve all been writing for years.

Do any of us have anything to show for it? Sure. My friend Russell Lutz has had two sci-fi books published by a small press called Silverthought. And about a year and half ago, my friend Abby Strom had her romance novel picked up by Harlequin, which was a pretty exciting deal for her.

But neither she nor Russell were making any serious money.

Now, there is a certain school of thought that says that if you’re writing strictly to make money, then you’re writing for the wrong reason. And I won’t argue that. I personally think that writers write because they have no other option BUT to write. It’s either get the story in your head out through your fingertips, or explode. And the experience is different for everybody. Some people love the act of writing and story telling. I’m not one of those. I’m one of those writers for whom the act of writing is kind of like wrestling with the angel. It’s a damned hard thing for me to sit down and get the story out, cause it never (and I mean NEVER) comes out the way I had it in my head. And the further I get into a story, the harder it is to complete.

But, whether you like to write or not, and whether you’re doing it for the money or not, in the end, you just want to share the finished product with people, and if you happen to get paid at the same time, bonus.

So this past December, at a holiday gathering of families and friends, Abby was explaining the benefits of self-publishing. But not self-publishing in print. She was talking about self-epublishing. And to lend some credence to what she was saying, she explained that she was actually making money doing it.

This certainly got my attention. But being the procrastinator that I am, it took me four more months to actually get my collective crap together and do something with it.

Finally I did. I gathered a short story I had that was pretty much ready, created a cover, and published it. The result is The Girl In The Red Hoodie, a short story for Kindle by yours truly.

As this blog progresses (probably at a slow pace–remember, I’m a procrastinating kingpin), I’ll detail my experiences in self-epublishing. My next post will be about the process I went through to get my short story ready and to publish it for Kindle. So stay tuned…