For a few thousand fans of independently-published books about zombies, Christmas came early this year. That's because author James Crawford's book Blood Soaked & Contagious was recently reduced from $5.99 to free.
More than 6,000 people downloaded the free flesh-eater book. The only problem is that Crawford never wanted the book to be free. And Amazon, even though the error in pricing was theirs, is refusing to give the scribe a red cent for any of the books the company gave away.
Paid Content reports that Kindle Direct Publishing has a rule that if an author who is selling their book directly on Amazon puts their book for sale elsewhere for cheaper, KDP can drop the price of the book on Amazon down to the lower amount.
When Crawford put his book for sale through KDP and listed it at $5.99, he also put a free three-chapter teaser up on the Nook Store. Amazon, using an algorithm that tracks these things, saw the free teaser and Nook and dropped the price of Crawford's full book on Amazon down to $0.
"They found something that is quite similar, asked no questions, and used their power to discount my novel 100%," Crawford wrote on October 7. Crawford then began battling with KDP's outsourced customer service, and on October 20 Amazon finally fixed the pricing error and started actually charging for the book again. By that point, it had been downloaded for free 6,116 times. And Amazon refused to pay royalties on any of the copies it gave away for free. Crawford started a little social media campaign, his story started getting picked up and yesterday, almost a month after the saga began, a Kindle Direct Publishing rep called Crawford and told him that while he won't be getting any money, Amazon will "research the entire chain of events and will get back to you in a day or two."
Some fans of Crawford are saying he should just chalk up the mistake to free publicity and move on. Others have told him he should sue.
It's tough to say how much money he would be due. Obviously a lot of the people who downloaded his book likely did so because it was free. But there's no doubt that some of them would have paid good money for it too.
Whatever the case, Amazon's response of, essentially, "tough shit" doesn't seem to cut it.