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Writers - Promotion resources > How to make your book free at amazon

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message 1: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
I used to think that traditional publishers had an advantage over indie authors since they could get their books released at $0, build a readership and then increase the price. Under amazon 'rules' the lowest price and indie author is allowed at publish at is 99c (and its equivalent in UK and Euro currencies).

Indie writers, being the resourceful people that they are, have found a way round this, however. This exploits another amazon 'rule' - that no book on amazon KDP should be offered at a lower price elsewhere. So, the method is to also publish your book on Barnes and Nobel, make the price there $0 and then get some friends to complain to amazon that they have seen a lower price elsewhere (there's even a button for this on the each book page). After some delay and after a few more friends have complained, amazon will then reduce the price to zero.

This works (or has worked up to now), even though it is more or less certain that this is an outcome that amazon neither foresaw or intended.

Why would a writer want to do this? And what are the risks?

That's another story that we should address below.

Suffice it to say, specifically, that I do not recommend this nor is this intended as any form of encouragement for anyone to do this.

Best wishes


message 2: by Seb (last edited Jul 18, 2011 12:11PM) (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Just to add, it is not so easy to get amazon to stop your book being free, I hear!


message 3: by Larry (new)

Larry Moniz (larrymoniz) | 109 comments Seb wrote: "I used to think that traditional publishers had an advantage over indie authors since they could get their books released at $0, build a readership and then increase the price. Under amazon 'rules..."

Frankly Seb, I don't get it. Maybe some authors write just to have their names on Amazon, or perhaps for lots of other reasons. Nonetheless, for lots of writers, books are a business. It's how we pay the rent, put food on the table, etc. I've been a paid professional writer for 45 years and just don't understand another mentality. Writing is hard work and deserves compensation. In addition, Amazon is a business and is seeking to break even at the very least and, ideally, turn a substantial profit. It costs money to process each book put up for sale and additional costs for downloading each book. No business can survive on freebees.
If someone isn't willing to take a chance on a book and spend $0.99 cents for it then I don't believe they're serious about reading and books. They just want something for nothing. For me it's a no brainer. No pay, no book. Lawyers, brainsurgeons and grocers don't give away their products. Why should authors? For whatever it's worth, that's my take on the situation.

message 4: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

Those are my views, exactly!

However, some of the motivation may be in the following: a writer friend of mine who did this had over 36,000 downloads in one week when the book was made free. When the book had been $0.99, the number was a few hundred. What is it about many readers that they won't pay that $0.99?

So, maybe the hope is that all that exposure will result in other books by that author then being sold.

But just to repeat, I agree with you. Writing (and promoting) is hard work and should there should be fair recompense. Flooding the market with free books does not help with that. So, that's my humble take on this.

message 5: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Writers are still making their books free on amazon. I just don't get it!

Best wishes


message 6: by Tahlia (new)

Tahlia Newland (tahlian) | 11 comments Seb wrote: "Just to add, it is not so easy to get amazon to stop your book being free, I hear!


Yeah, how do I stop it being free? I had a short story free, just to get some exposure. It worked but it's time to put a price on it again.

I think it's fine to do this for a short period of time as a promotion, but not as a permanent thing.

message 7: by Seb (last edited Dec 10, 2011 04:35AM) (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

Yes, that's a problem.

Just to add that there's now a new 'legal' way top make your book free at amazon. If you join KDP Select, you get the facility to promote your books 'free' for 5 selected days in the next 90 days.

Also, you book is made de facto free to amazon Prime users who can borrow it for an unlimited time via the Kindle Users Internet Library. The author gets a share of the KDP Select pot depending on how many times their book is borrowed.

There are discussions out there that amazon may become much harder on those who take the backdoor route to making their book free, as discussed above. But I don't now how real that threat is.

Best wishes


message 8: by Larry (new)

Larry Moniz (larrymoniz) | 109 comments Seb, this is a story posted in my forum more than a month ago. I think it clearly indicates the "free" dangers. Now I have to wonder if this was a backfired strategy.

Is it a monumental goof or did a Kindle author get ripped off by Amazon to the tune of more than $21,400? We don’t pretend to know the answer, but coming on the heels of several rather odd goings-on at Amazon, this writer has to wonder.

According to the eBookNewser column at on 11/1/11 Amazon erroneously invoked a provision of its standard Kindle Direct Publishing contract to drop Author James Crawford’s book “Blood Soaked & Contagious” from its $5.99 selling price to $0.00. Yes, they dropped the price to zero by invoking a clause that gives them that right if they find another vendor selling the book for less than at Amazon, according to Media Bistro. The hitch comes in that it wasn’t apparently the author’s book, but a free teaser that was being offered on Barnes & Noble.

Before Crawford became wise to the situation, Amazon reportedly gave away more than 5,000 copies of the book. At the list price and assuming the standard Amazon 70 percent commission, Crawford lost out on lots of revenue.

That would be bad enough. But after correcting the error, Amazon refused to reimburse Crawford for his lost revenues.

EBookNewser said: “the company told him that they cannot pay royalties on the books sold while it was free. According to Crawford, that is 5,104 books. By my calculations, Amazon owes Crawford more than $21,400. In my opinion, Amazon saying it “cannot pay royalties” is really saying it WON’T pay royalties on its incredible blooper.

There’s a lesson to be learned here for all authors about trusting book distributors.
As to the financial loss; does the author know how to spell L-A-W S-U-I-T??

For the entire story please go to this link:

message 9: by Tahlia (new)

Tahlia Newland (tahlian) | 11 comments Seb wrote: "Tahlia

Yes, that's a problem.

Just to add that there's now a new 'legal' way top make your book free at amazon. If you join KDP Select, you get the facility to promote your books 'free' for 5 sel..."

Thanks for that, it sounds perfect. I'll take that route in future, as I only want it for a few days. but I still don't know how to get the other one not free. I guess I just have to keep asking.

message 10: by Larry (new)

Larry Moniz (larrymoniz) | 109 comments Tahlia wrote: "Seb wrote: "Tahlia

Yes, that's a problem.

Just to add that there's now a new 'legal' way top make your book free at amazon. If you join KDP Select, you get the facility to promote your books 'fre..."

Once burned, twice shy?

message 11: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

Yes, there was also a technical glitch with another book, discussed here:


Good luck. Keep persevering.....

Best wishes


message 12: by Lexi (new)

Lexi Revellian (lexirevellian) | 37 comments Larry, Crawford was able to give away 5,000 books - anyone can give books away with extreme ease - but there's no way he'd have SOLD that number, or anything like it. I looked at the two book pages, and can see why Amazon made that mistake. You had to look really hard to see that one version was only a taster.


message 13: by Larry (new)

Larry Moniz (larrymoniz) | 109 comments Lexi. I can't believe you're that naive. You obviously only read parts of the story. Crawford objected vehemently to being ripped off and Amazon gave him the finger. He's a professional writer. Like other professional writers he writes for a living rather than as a hobby. Amazon is emphatically NOT the author's friend. It is a corporation like other publishers and book distributors intent on maximizing profits rather than providing a recreational activity for amateur scribes.

message 14: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
Larry / Lexi

I'm in agreement with you both! You have to feel for James Crawford; he didn't know that his free extract was going to be taken as 'evidence'. But there's no reason for him to assume that he would have sold those 5,000 or so books had his title not been free.

I can see where Larry is coming from, however, if not is such absolute terms. Writers are very dependent on amazon, especially if they have a measure of success that suggests they should change their life plans. In that vein the experiences of the Saffina Desforges duo is even more instructive, imho.

I've blogged recently about both stories, so you can get more of my point of view here:

Best wishes


message 15: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

With KDP Select, there's now a new 'legal' (and much better) way of making your book free on amazon.

I did this recently with Take No More with interesting results.

So, let's share our experiences of this so that we can get the most out of it........

Best wishes


message 16: by M. Louisa (new)

M. Louisa Locke (mlouisalocke) | 1 comments Dear fellow authors,

I did the Kindle Select free option for my historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, the last 2 days in December to astounding success. The book had done well, but was selling less and less after being out 2 years-I assumed because of a saturated market, and when the sales didn't pick up significantly the day after christmas (unlike last year) I decided to try the new option out. (I wasn't selling enough on Smashwords or Barnes and Noble to make a difference if I dropped them). I also hoped it would bump up sales of the sequel.

In 2 days 14,4000 people downloaded the book for free. This pushed me to the top of the categories of mystery, women sleuths, historical romance and historical mysteries, and in the 8 days since the promotion began, I have sold 3900 copies of the 2 books combined, and over 800 people have "borrowed" it from the Prime lending library (which will get me some money-don't know how much--but these borrows are counted as sales in terms of rankings--so they are already doing me a service.) By the way my books are $2.99.

I have posted more detail about this on my blog.

I think that this is a great opportunity for helping launch a book, or giving new life to a book. Particularly helpful if the beginning of a series, because my sequel went from averaging 15 books a day before the promotion, to 40 in the first days after, but yesterday I sold 80--I assume people who have finished the first are now ready to buy the second.

M. Louisa Locke
Maids of Misfortune
Uneasy Spirits

message 17: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod
M Louisa

Congratulations! That's impressive!

5-star thriller Take No More is available as a FREE download tomorrow for one day only (Wednesday 11th January).

Hope it will do as well as yours

Best wishes


message 18: by Julian (new)

Julian Darius (juliandarius) The KDP Select free days option is a great promotional tool, which I plan to use in the future.

I would still defend the idea of making certain books or promo items (short stories, etc.) free: yes, we all want to make money, but people love free stuff, as we all know. A free book makes the most sense if it's short, like a sampler, or a book that's old and not selling anyway. Keep in mind that giving music away has often led to more sales, especially for unknown artists. Just some thoughts -- certainly, everyone's entitled to set their own prices, and I know there are passionate voices on this matter.

message 19: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

That's good advice, imho.

The second free day for 'Take No More' has certainly spiked interest in the book.

Best wishes


message 20: by Julian (new)

Julian Darius (juliandarius) Glad to hear it, Seb! Best wishes to you too!

message 21: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

Yes, I think it improves recognition. However, you give away quite a large number of books. Maybe it's a kind of advertising campaign where you pay in the royalties you don't get for the books given as free. I think that's the best way I can sum it up.

However, what seems to be the case is a pattern for most authors. Give away a large number for books. Get a significant bump in paid for sales. Think that you're now in the 'big time'. Then realise that the bump doesn't last much more than 5 or 6 days.....

But if it gives more authors a little time in the sun, I think that has to be a good thing!

Best wishes


message 22: by Pat (new)

Pat Cher (patcher) | 5 comments Trying out my first free ebook today and tomorrow ( Friday and Saturday) . I' m new at self publishing. Published my first novel, Mi'kmaq Song in November (giveaway goodreads until march 20th).last month I self published a cookbook on Kindle. Used Kindle Select for both the novel and the cookbook (LowCalorie Special, Desserts and Sweets). Sales have been very slow.
Decoded to try the free ebook as a trial. Wanted to see the difference between a weekday and weekend giveaway. Also wanted to try it with the cookbook before I tried with my novel.
Here's what I've done to prepare for the free days.
I've created an event here on Goodreads and one one on Facebook on my group page,Recipe Low Calories. The event on Facebook is public and had a query this am about someone out side my friend group, so The word must be getting out. 
I've also used Twuffer all week to schedule tweets, announcing the free book for Friday and Saturday. I have a group of friends who retweet also. 
Was up at 4:30 this am my usual time, and of course after the first sip of coffee had to check my kindle report. 4 books given away, at 6:30 12 books were downloaded. 7:30 , 18 books. It's difficult not to keep looking every few minutes.
On Monday and throughout the next few weeks, I'll be looking at the impact on my sales. Even if my sales only go up minimally it will have been worthwhile. It's a learning experience, and I have much to learn.
Will keep you posted on the results.

message 23: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

That was a great start.

How did it work out?

Best wishes


message 24: by Pat (new)

Pat Cher (patcher) | 5 comments Seb
Over 500 hundred downloads the first day and a little over 350 on Saturday. How did it effect my sales? Well sales were very low to begin with, had not done any marketing. Sales doubled over the next few days, and a few more afterwards. It's still not moving very well.
One of the reasons might be a negative feedback I received from someone who glanced at the book and didn't try the recipes. I thought it was pretty mean, but c'est la vie.
I probably should get after all my friends to place some positive feedbacks, but I hate being pushy.
It was an experiment , trying it out before trying out my novel, Mi'kmaq Song. I've decided to try Mi'kmaq Song as a freebie, but for one day only, this Friday. Will let you know how that turns out. Have not had the time to do as much online posting about this one, so we'll see.

message 25: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Alaspa (bryanalaspa) | 13 comments When I tried to do that at B&N, it would not let me set the price lower than 99 cents. I was hoping to try this gambit and see if it would work as I have not been happy with the Kindle Select thing.

message 26: by Pat (new)

Pat Cher (patcher) | 5 comments As far as I know you hav e to be on kindle select. You have to go to Kindle direct publishing with your account. Select the book you want to promote. Go to the left bottom of the page and press the Action button. Select Manage Promotion. It takes you to the page where you select your preferences for your free promotion. Let me know if you have any problem. Pat

message 27: by Pat (new)

Pat Cher (patcher) | 5 comments Re my free promotion on Friday, 337 people downloaded Mi'kmaq Song (free) . I tried to suggest to most people ( except people I got in touch with on twitter) that it would be appreciated if Ithey could post areview(if they liked it :) ) . Not sure if that will work. Promotion ended Friday night so far no other sales. When I finished the promotion with Low Calorie Speciala , Desserts and Sweets I did get some sales over the next few days. Until I got a nasty unwarranted review and that seemed to have stopped the sales.

What am I hoping to accomplish with these promotions. Well especially for the novel Mi'kmaq Song, I'm hoping to get a few reviews and that if people like it they will start recommending it to their friends. Pie in the sky? I don't know. Only time will tell. 337 downloads is not very much, out of those how many will recommend the book to a friend? 10 percent ? Does running the promotion a few times work? Don't know. Haven't read of anyone who's tried. I know of people who run a really right promotion and get a thousand or more downloads and get o the op of the Kindle free book list. Seems like they do well when that happens.
As for me I'm just struggling with trying different things to see how the y will work. With this last promotion it will be a wait and see while at the same time plugging away.

Best of luck.LMK if I can help. Glad to share the little I know. Will let you know next week if I see any more action, or not.

message 28: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

Some good exposure, then.

Not too surprising that it's a difficult terrrain we work on. I went to the Kindle pages and typed 'Free Kindle Book' into he search box. What came back surprised even me - 35, 343 entries. Now that's what I call competition!

Best wishes


message 29: by Pat (new)

Pat Cher (patcher) | 5 comments Seb,
Mi'kmaq Song with it's 337 downloads reached 710 out of the 35,353. Wonder what that means. :) Like my husband would say that and $1.50 will buy a cup of coffee.
Unlike Recipes Low Calorie, Mi'kmaq Song has seen no spike in sales after the free downloads (so far). Putting on the 'thinking hat'. Reread John LocKe last night, not much help there, unless I missed something.
Other marketing books I've read maintain it's much easier to sell nonfiction. That seems to be true. My recipe book is over selling Mi'kmaq Song with a lot less effort on my part. Maybe I should stick with recipes.

message 30: by Seb (new)

Seb (sebkirby) | 339 comments Mod

That's good!

But it's all a matter of degree. A writer friend of mine recently went free with KDP Select for four days and netted 35,000 downloads!

I've recently made a blog post on recent changes that I see in the ebook market and this includes some thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages for indie authors in making their books available for free. Here's the link:

Best wishes


message 31: by Wayne (new)

Wayne Smallman (waynesmallman) | 6 comments I'm actually astonished there's no option to make a book free. But then again, Amazon aren't a public library, so it's not unreasonable for them to expect a fee.

However, they understand the principle of a loss leader, so they could easily add a rule whereby an author can only make a book free if they have other books available for a fee.

message 32: by Allen (new)

Allen Appel | 1 comments Giving away for free worked well for me when I gave away the first book in my time travel series of five books, Time After Time. It did nothing when I gave away a stand-alone.

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