I’m pleased to bring you all a special guest post today. I recently connected with Kathryn Goldman, a lawyer and writer, and after seeing some of the other articles she’d written, I knew I wanted to invite her here to “speak” to all of you about some very important issues. She’ll be back next month for an encore, but this month she’s going to walk us through what our rights and responsibilities are when we sell our books on Amazon. Take it away, Kathryn!
6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers
By Kathryn Goldman
You’ve finished writing your novel. You did it with stolen hours — early mornings, late nights, and while the laundry was on spin cycle. You’ve stolen more hours for rewriting, revising, and polishing until it shines.
You’ve invested in professional cover art and professional editing. It’s been a long and not inexpensive journey because you’ve taken the time to do it right.
From the beginning you’ve focused on your craft, incorporating the advice of the leaders in your field.
You are ready to upload your manuscript and click publish.
Now is no time to skimp on doing things the right way. That means understanding the rules.
Whatever platform you use for self-publishing — Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords — that service becomes your business partner and you need to know what you can expect from them and what they expect from you.
But reading a 20+ page contract of legalese may not fit into your busy schedule and my guess is that you’re going to skip it.
I get it, I do. The legal stuff is just not that important to you. Asking a lawyer to explain the Amazon KDP contract to you is so far down your list, it’s not even on your list.
But it’s important to me that you understand the key points of the deal you’re about to enter. I want you to understand the business you’re in. That way you’re less likely to need a lawyer in the future.
So, to help cut down the chances that you will ignore Amazon’s KDP contract completely, I have summarized six of the key terms for you here.
This is not a substitute for reading the whole contract. *wags finger*
Your Rights in the KDP Program
You have three basic rights when using KDP:
- the right to use the program;
- the right to get paid; and
- the right to protect your copyrights.
The most interesting thing about the right to use the program is that the program is undefined and Amazon is constantly changing it.
Algorithms determine rankings. The user interface helps a reader find and buy your book. The genre categories impact your meta data and therefore your sales. These all work together and a slight change in one may have a ripple effect on your results.
Your right to use KDP is limited to the right to use it in the form Amazon presents it at any given time.
Payment is based on the royalty option you select, either the 35% option or the 70% option. Taxes and delivery costs are deducted from the 70% option.
You have the right to change the royalty option you selected.
You have the right to receive a royalty report every 60 days.
Amazon has agreed to collect and pay all sales taxes on your behalf for the sales of your work.
Control over copyright is what makes Amazon different from traditional publishers.
Amazon is not a publisher. You are the publisher. Amazon is offering you the platform on which to publish your work – it is a digital content distribution program.
Generally, publishers require an author to give a written assignment of the copyright in her work which then allows the publisher to control how, when, where and in what form the work will be presented.
Amazon does not ask you to give up any control of your copyright.
Your Promises to Amazon
You promise that you are over 18 years old, that the information in your account is accurate and up to date, that you are not using a false identity, that you are responsible for everything that happens in your account even if you did not authorize it and if Amazon terminates your account, you may not open a new one.
You promise that there will be no viruses in any of the digital files that you upload.
The metadata describing your book must be accurate. Metadata means things like the title of the book, the title of the series if the book is in a series, search keywords, genre selection, the publisher and publication date.
Amazon does not allow you to use another author’s name in your metadata, or words like “best-seller” or “free.”
You swear up, down and sideways that you own all the rights to the content that you have uploaded to the program. (This is where Amazon helps protect against the work of authors from being ripped-off.)
If clearances or licenses are needed for any of your work, you promise that you have obtained them at your expense.
You promise that you are not defaming anyone in your story and that if you owe anyone any money in connection with the work, you will pay it.
A Broken Promise
If Amazon gets sued because you have broken any of these promises, you agree to indemnify their losses. That means you have to reimburse Amazon for any money it has to pay because you broke your promises. That includes attorney’s fees.
Do You Really Control Pricing?
Amazon lets you set the list price of your book within the maximums and minimums for the different royalty options
Despite letting you set the list price, Amazon clearly states that it has complete discretion in setting the retail price of your book. So, you do not control the price of your book. Amazon does. And Amazon is not answerable to you for when, whether or why they might change the price your book is sold for.
What If There is a Dispute?
If you think Amazon hasn’t paid you properly (and you can’t work it out with customer service), you have only 6 months to bring a claim against them.
You can bring your claim in your home state, if the amount is small enough for your local small claims court. If the amount owed is larger than the jurisdictional limit on the small claims court in your home state, then you may not bring a lawsuit.
Instead, you must start an arbitration proceeding in the State of Washington.
Amazon Can Change the Deal
Amazon can change the deal and the program whenever they want – going forward. They tell you that right up front.
But they cannot change what they owe you in royalties for sales made in the past.
Do You Have Any Liability?
Your liability is unlimited. If you do something that causes a loss for Amazon, you may be required to pay them back for it.
Amazon’s liability to you is limited to the amount they owed you in royalties in the past 12 months. If something happens like your book is not available for purchase during your largest marketing campaign ever and you’ve lost thousands of sales because your book can’t be found on Amazon, there is nothing you can do about it.
Amazon is not responsible for lost sales. They want the program to work as well as it possibly can, but if for some reason it’s not working, they are not liable to you.
Those are the key points in Amazon KDP contract in a nutshell. The full contract is over 20 pages (single-spaced) plus attachments, so I can understand why you may not have read through it before clicking PUBLISH.
But really, don’t you feel better knowing some of what is is there?
If you have any questions about any other provision in the KDP contract, ask in the comments and I’ll see if I can find the answer.
Kathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.
Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman
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