Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dear Amazon, what’s up with my Kindle prices?


How much thought do you put into pricing your books?

If you’re like me, it’s a lot.  Which is why it finally drove me around the bend that Amazon has been changing all my prices, without even asking nicely.

When you’re pricing a book, you probably pick a nice, clean number with a 99 on the end, a suffix that is invisible to consumers.  If a book is $8.74 (unless it’s clearly marked down, like from $9.99), it’ll stand out and look weird.

Know how I know?  Because for a long time, I’ve noticed that Amazon prices for my KDP ebooks look terrible.  They totally jump off the page.  Oh, they’re close to the numbers I’ve picked… but not exactly.  And that has slowly been driving me mad.

Just to pick a few titles at random, the prices were $5.11, $1.12, $5.14, $1.13.  Those are terrible numbers, numbers that jump off the page and make a buyer reluctant to buy.  That’s very frustrating, especially because I KNEW I’d priced them at $4.99, 99 cents, $4.99 and 99 cents. 

Why bother planning your prices if they’re just going to change, am I right? 

What’s going on here?

I eventually found out why this happens.  If you’re outside the United States, Amazon can tell from your browser’s IP address, and they adjust the price you see accordingly.  Without telling me, Amazon has been detecting my computer’s location and adjusting the prices accordingly.

At least there’s some GOOD news:  buyers inside the U.S. will most likely see the right prices for your books, namely, the ones you’ve so carefully chosen in KDP’s dashboard.

To test this, I ran my author page through two “anonymizers,” sites that hide your current IP address so nobody can tell where you’re surfing from.  One was in Europe and one was in the U.S. 

Here’s what the pricing looks like from each location:

Books for kids by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, available on 

There are all those terrible prices!  But look what happens if you’re seeing the same page from the U.S.:

Books for kids by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, available on

The one that bugs me the most is the 99 cent books.  I only have a couple, but 99 cents is an important thing, psychologically, for buyers on Amazon.  Here’s how one of my 99-cent books looks when I view it from my own IP address:

Four Little Jewish Holiday Books, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, only 99 cents on Amazon

And here’s how the same item looks from a U.S.-based browser:

Four Little Jewish Holiday Books, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, only 99 cents on Amazon

What can we do about it?

From what I can tell, almost nothing.  This process – paranoia-inducing as it is, is completely automatic and there doesn’t seem to be an override.  Even if you switch your default shipping address to the U.S., it’ll still pick up on your IP.

But you can at least check to see how your prices look in different areas of the world.

If you want to see how your prices look outside the U.S, you can search for a European proxy / anonymous browsing site.  Be careful; some of them are a little sketchy and you may see popups.  This is the one I used.  If you are outside the U.S. and want to make sure your 99’s are all intact to U.S. buyers, here’s the anonymizer site I used.

At least I know now that U.S. buyers can see the right prices.  But it’s still frustrating having absolutely zero control over pricing.  Still – you probably have more than if you’d gone with a traditional publisher.

So while you’re sitting down and planning your secret pricing jujitsu to make every book as appealing as possible to consumers, remember that however hard you plan, not every customer is going to see your carefully-crafted price point.  Sometimes, the numbers they see will seem kind of random. 

Remember, though; price is just one of the selling points of the book.  Hopefully, your book has other great features on offer – like the cover and description – to sell it to them… even at an ugly price like $8.74.

I’d love to hear more about how you price your ebooks (even if I can’t see the exact prices you’ve picked from here!) down below in the Comments section.


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