"Selling" for free
I had a client ask me recently why you can't price an ebook as free on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform. The author wanted to promote her first book by giving it away — she'd been told that was the best way to make a splash.
I told her that you CAN “sell” your ebook for free on Kindle Direct Publishing — they just don’t make it easy. And it often isn't a good idea.
Why don’t Amazon make it simple to set the price of a KDP ebook to $0.00?
- It would make them no money
- It would take away one of the (rapidly diminishing) benefits of participating in the Kindle Select program, which allows publishers to market their ebook by having limited-time freebie giveaways (as well as “countdown” sales, advertising, and a few other perks)
How to get Amazon to give your ebook away
In order to make your ebook “perma-free,” you need to be selling it at one of the other major retailers — Apple, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble, for choice — that does allow you to price an ebook at $0.00. Then you may need to inform Amazon by going to your ebook’s Kindle Store page (the one on the front end of the store that buyers see), and click on the “Tell us about a lower price” link just below the book’s rankings. Share a link to the free ebook on the other site, tell Amazon the price at that site is $0.00, and you should be good to go. You can also try using the "Contact Us" link on your Author Central page. (You do have an Author Central page, right?)
Sometimes, Amazon will pick up on the price drop all on their own and match it. And sometimes they play dumb and don’t want to hear about it — you may need to tell them more than once, or you may need to get someone else to inform them.
A word of warning: while free ebooks were all the rage a few years back, they seem to be much less effective as a way of marketing yourself or your book now. Amazon maintains separate rankings for paid and for free ebooks, so any boost you get by giving your ebook away will evaporate if you start charging for it again. Also, separate populations of buyers have congealed — folks who “buy” free ebooks (or download pirated copies) are much less likely to pay for them, so you’re not really marketing to the segment of your audience who might actually make you money. Which is kind of what most of us want.
Reasons why you might want to go ahead and offer your ebook for free anyway:
- You’re looking for reviews (folks who download the free version from the Kindle Store should still be marked as “verified buyers,” which makes their review more credible)
- The title is the first in a series; by giving it away you’re marketing the other books (this is what’s known in retail as a loss leader — just make sure to include links and blurbs at the back of the ebook to make as easy as possible to buy the next title in the series)
- You’re publishing the ebook not for the sales, but to establish yourself as an expert in a field (to promote your services or your speaking appearances, for example)