If you are a US resident and aren’t a self-publishing author, you probably haven’t noticed Amazon’s recent expansion of to include separate domains not only for the UK and Germany (amazon.de), but also for France (.fr) and today, Italy (.it) and Spain (.es).
Now, I’m all for making digital books more readily available to people in foreign countries, and I’m thrilled for readers in these countries because the availability of these new domains probably means Amazon will no longer charge them the additional $2.00 download fee they tack onto purchases made on the Amazon US site by people who don’t reside in one of the countries with its own domain site. (That is a tacky business practice, IMO. Pun intended.)
But the availability of these new domains is a bit of a conundrum for a self-publishing author because, the way Amazon calculates and pays revenues is per domain. In other words, sales are tracked separate for the US, UK, Germany, France, and now Italy and Spain. And Amazon doesn’t actually issue a payment to the author/publisher until the combined revenue for that domain reaches a minimum of $10. And once that $10 is paid out, you have to collect up an additional $10 through that domain before you’ll get paid again.
Additionally, if you want to have an author page for each of the domains, you have to build it separately with a separate Author Central account. Amazon doesn’t just copy your author page from the US site to the other domains. You have to build each one manually. (This hits ALL authors, not just self-publishing authors, but of course, many traditionally published authors don’t have any books that are being sold in these countries.)
In the six months since Amazon.de (Germany) came online, two copies of my self-published books have sold there. That’s awesome in that I’m thrilled that German readers have access to my books. The problem is, at that rate, I won’t actually get paid for those books or any others I sell until about 2050! I’ve sold none yet at Amazon.fr and since Spain and Italy just came online today, it’s unlikely I’ve sold any there, either. But I’m less troubled by selling NO copies on those domains than I am by selling a few dozen copies over the course of years and letting Amazon keep 100% of the revenue. Multiplied over time and many authors/publishers, this is a RACKET for Amazon. It’s a way for them to hang on to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues that it never has to pay out.
There’s a simple way to overcome this problem, of course. Amazon could choose to tally up all the revenues from each domain’s sales into one lump sum and pay for all sales on ANY Amazon domain. But they don’t do that and I don’t see any evidence that they’re planning to change their ways. And why would they? It’s likely to be a windfall for them, putting a little extra capital in their pockets to make up for the loss of those $2 download charges.
Now, as an author, I don’t want to and won’t limit my books’ listings to just the countries where I think I’ll sell enough copies to earn $10 in a reasonable period of time. That seems unfair to readers in those countries, who probably CAN’T buy my books from any other domains once a domain for their country is in place. But at the same time, it really KILLS me to know that these are sales for which I am very likely never to be paid. And that makes me feel less than enthusiastic about Amazon’s foreign expansion.
I guess in the scheme of things, I’d rather authors got hurt than readers. But that doesn’t mean I’m not getting hurt.