#3 Self-Publishing on Amazon & Free eBooks


One feature of the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program is the ability to offer your digital book for free, for up to five days during the ninety day enrollment period. The downside is, obviously, that you don’t get paid on the free books. This promotional program has sparked some controversy; the concern being that offering free eBooks devalues their worth and creates unfair competition for those authors who don’t want to give their books away.

I suppose it’s all how you look at it. We tend to romanticize writing, but in reality books are a product. When was the last time you got a coupon for a free product? Did you assume that it wasn’t any good because they offered it for free? Businesses do it all the time. And like it or not, when you’re a self-published author you’re also a business owner. Your reputation depends on the quality of your product.  Your success depends on your ability to get your product and name in front of as many readers as possible.

I’m not sure I’d try the free eBook strategy if I only had one book to market though I’ve heard that it boosts sales of single titles once the promotion is over. The free downloads seem to push books a little closer to the front of the Kindle’s Book Store’s long list of titles, but they constantly revise. My plan was to offer the first book of a two book series as a freebie for several days with the hope that readers would like it well enough to buy the second. On September 18 & 19, readers downloaded almost 4,500 free copies of The Bewitching Hour.  Over the next few weeks, paid sales for The Devil’s Own Luck were about 2:1 and I’m assuming that at least some of those sales were due to the free book promotion. Would I rather have had the $12,000. I’d have received if the books had been sold rather than free? Of course. But as a new author nobody knew who I was and there are over 14,000 historical romances available in the Kindle Book Store. I needed to do some type of promotion or I would end up in Amazon’s slushpile of invisible authors.

Promoting the free downloads wasn’t too difficult, considering I didn’t know what I was doing. Friends and fellow-bloggers gave me a shout out on their blogs and on Twitter. I tweeted three times a day starting a few days before the promotion. I also took advantage of some of the sites recommended on  http://ebook-reader-vergleich.org/promoting-ebooks-with-kdpselect.html It’s packed with information, so if you’re interested doing a free promotion, consider it a must-read. You can also go on Twitter and find a ton of sites that will send out tweets announcing your book. Don’t overdo the tweets, though. You’ll lose customers if they think they’re being spammed.

Will I do another free eBook promotion? Yes. It was a little painful giving away all those free books, but the way I look at it, so far I’ve made at least a couple hundred dollars from it and The Bewitching Hour is now loaded on 4,500 eReaders (4,650 if you count paid sales) which I think will lead to more sales down the line.

For anyone who downloaded The Bewitching Hour and The Devil’s Own Luck the first week they were out, you can download the newer version (the spacing is improved) by going to Amazon’s Manage My Kindle Page and clicking on the action button.

Next week, I’ll touch on book covers…  And paranoia.

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About Diana Douglas

Diana Douglas, author. Coorganizer of the Arizona Novel Writers Workshop. Member Arizona Historical Novel Society, Member BooksGoSocial Authors, Transplanted Texan. http://www.meetup.com/Arizona-Writers-Workshop-com http://twitter.com/#!/themodernscribe
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12 Responses to #3 Self-Publishing on Amazon & Free eBooks

  1. Excellent post, Diana. This info is so helpful to me, and I’m sure to many others, too. 🙂

    • Thanks! A lot of posts on self-publishing are by authors who were able to get the rights to their backlists from previous publishers and then made buckets of $$$ because they started off with 10 to 12 books to sell. Most of us don’t fit that category so I’m just trying to keep it realistic.

  2. I agree, the free books is a great marketing tool. I know I have bought books from authors I probably wouldn’t have without getting the free one first.

  3. Denise says:

    One thing to keep in mind, with those 4,500 downloads, a large portion of the people who downloaded it are free-seekers who never pay for books and would not necessarily have purchased your book then or ever. And probably, sadly, you would not have sold close to 4,500 books so that $12k is not an actual trade off for the advertising. BUT 4500 books on ereaders waiting for people to read it, love it, and buy the next books will be awesome. You will have word of mouth and hopefully some reviews to boost sales. Go you!

  4. I agree that I wouldn’t have sold all those downloaded books and know that only a small percentage of those free eBooks will be read. (Why do people want to clutter up their eReaders with something they won’t read? Weird!) Even so, I believe that over time it’s a good move. As long as eBooks are on somebody’s eReader, there’s a chance they’ll be read.

  5. mysticcooking says:

    Thanks for another great post! What so you think of authors offering only the first couple of chapters for free on the kindle? Do you think that would be the way to do it if you only were publishing a single book?

  6. The Kindle Bookstore already does that! A reader can download the first 10% of any eBook for free before they decide to buy. I’ve bought quite a few books because I got hooked in those first few chapters.
    You had asked me earlier if you could download my books on your Nook. Unfortunately, you can’t since I’m enrolled in the KDP Select progran and this gives Amazon exclusive rights to sell for 90 days. You can get a free Kindle eReader app for your smart phone or computer. I’ve been reading on my iphone a lot, lately. I didn’t think I would like it, but I do.

  7. Pingback: What Does the Future Hold For EBooks? | Writing Fiction Blog

  8. Pingback: Free E-Book Promotion? « Digital eBook Building and Formatting

  9. Pingback: Free E-Book Promotion? | E-BookBuilders

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