free book

Benefiting From Free/Permanent Free Books?


My Question: Do you feel you are subsidizing the reading habits of a small portion of readers when offering your e-book(s) for free?
There are lots of pro’s and con’s regarding free books. Authors are discussing this topic since years – just look at the KDP forums, this thread for example: “Do not give your book away free! EVER”.  There are eight pages of opinions about this topic.

If you wrote only one book so far, it does not make sense at all to set it up for free.  But after the fourth or fifth book or a series, offering one book, maybe the first in the series, as a permanently free book on Amazon will help you to introduce many new readers.

Learn in this blog post several ways how you can arrange this without opting for the KDP Select exclusivity!
Permanently Free eBook?
The only official method of pricing an ebook for free in the Kindle store is for authors is to enroll their books in KDP Select, an optional program that requires exclusivity.  Amazon likes to offer books at rock-bottom prices, but on the other hand, Amazon is the only online retailer who restricts the ability of authors and publishers to price their books permanently for FREE.

Free via KDP Select
Paying members of KU can ‘borrow’ books as part of their membership.  Authors can only give their book away for free, as a 5-day-promotion, during a 90-day KDP-Select period. The rest of the time, it remains paid for people who aren’t part of this KU lending club.  Or as a Prime Member have the opportunity to get certain books/magazines for a free read.

The catch: your book must be exclusively sold on Amazon. No Apple iBooks, no Barnes & Noble, no Kobo, no website sales. Exclusivity!  Exclusivity is great for Amazon, but it’s not so great for those indie authors and self-publishers who want to maintain their independence and build a readership across all online retailers.

How Permanently Free Works Without KDP Select:
There’s another, better way, to have an e-book permanently free on Amazon and it doesn’t require exclusivity.  Self-publishing authors have been using Smashwords and other online retailers to get permanently free e-books into Amazon without exclusivity.  It is a way to trick Amazon’s price-matching.  They just price their books on Amazon for $.99 – and offer it at Smashwords for free.  Soon Apple iBooks will pick up the new free price, B & N and Kobo will follow suit.

Now you need to let Amazon know about your free book. Click the link under the “Product Details” where it says, “tell us about a lower price” to report that your book is available for free at another retailer.
Provide Amazon with a direct hyperlink to one or all of the retailers.  You need to report the book separately at their other stores in different countries as well.  Go to,,, etc. in order to encourage price matching in each (country’s) store.  Amazon will then – not always right away – but most likely eventually “price-match”. This way your book will be eventually permanent free on Amazon’s website.

Series and Prequels Will Profit Most
If you write a series, price your series starter as a perma-free book.  The reason: It is proven that series with free series starters earn more overall sales than series without free series starters.
Apple’s iBooks does more to promote free than any other retailer with their regular “First in Series Free” promotions. Free books can build higher readership (provided they are as good as the paid ones) and can help you establish your first reviews.  However free doesn’t mean the reader will read it or finish it, they’re probably less likely to finish a free book if it doesn’t keep their attention.

Another great way to introduce a new book is also to write a short prequel and set it up for free
– with lots of info and links to your upcoming new book.
Your Decision!
If you have a standalone book on pre-order, you can price another standalone book free to drive up readership, and then use the last pages of the free book (and not only those) to advertise your pre-order.  At the end of every book, you should provide a list of all your other books with sales links.  Bestselling author Derek Haines: “I had a perma-free ebook for a couple of years using this method, and it did wonders for my other e-books.  As long as you have enough e-books published to allow you to use one as a loss leader, it is well worth trying.”

Really Smart Authors use “Pay-with-a-Tweet”
The greatest disadvantage of giving away your e-book on Amazon for free: You will never know who downloaded your title.  To learn more who is interested in your writing: give away the e-book from your own website and let readers “pay-with-a-tweet“.

The benefit will not only be that you get to know your audience, but they also automatically spread the word about your book to all their Twitter followers, and those may re-tweet it too. You get the idea!

See all the details about “Pay-with-a-Tweet” here:


Rafflecopter: Another Free Tool for Book Buzz


Why Do We Love “Free”?

Maybe it comes from our ancient and once necessary habit of collecting and gathering food in the wild – which our ancestors got for free. “Not seeding, yet receiving food for free”?   The word “free” initiates a response in our minds that’s completely different from any normal business transaction. ….in the land of pricing, zero is not just another price – nothing beats the emotional surge of FREE!

Ever Shopped at Costco?
Retail giant Costco is infamous for the large quantities of free samples they give away. An article by The Atlantic highlighted that when free samples of pizza are provided, Costco sales of pizza go up by 600%, when wine is sampled, sales go up by over 300%.  Did you realize: even ordinary neighbourhood groceries offer now from time to time free samples.
The convenience store chain 7-eleven gives away unlimited free slurpees on July 11th every year (July 11 = 7/11 = their company name).  You’d expect them to lose a lot of money, right?  The opposite is true:  They make boatloads of money through doing this campaign. In an article published by USAToday, the company said the sales of slurpees skyrocketed by 38% of July 11th during their promotion.

Run Viral Giveaways.
Many authors set up giveaways on Amazon for print books – and now even for ebooks.  While this is an effective way to generate excitement, it is even better to create giveaways that encourage Tweets, Facebook Likes and email signups – and you get to know who signed up for your prize and is interested in your book.  At Amazon you will NEVER find out who downloaded your free book or to whom they will send the free print version of your novel.

Rafflecopter is a free giveaway tool that you can embed in a blog post, on your website, your email newsletter, or attach directly to your Facebook page, e.g. to encourage more likes.  Why Rafflecopter?  Because it’s easy to use and free.  It takes only minutes to create a Giveaway.  And it gives you the ability to create multiple entries so that through one Giveaway you can fulfill various objectives, including link building and social engagement.

Giving away free copies of a book is a well-known way to generate buzz and maybe reviews. Instead of solely distributing advanced reader copies (ARCs) to book bloggers or reviewers, set aside a few copies for a free giveaway that gets people excited to read your book, even if they don’t win one of those free copies of your book – or perhaps an iPad or iPod – if you want to splurge.  You can do this before or after a book’s release, and give away either print or digital copies. Run a Rafflecopter on your blog for your next book or to promote an existing one.
The Free Rafflecopter Giveaway Plan Includes:

  • Unlimited usage
  • Embed anywhere
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Random winners
  • Twitter and Facebook entry options
  • Free-form email entry options
  • CSV exports of the participants
  • 6 languages to get the message out (English, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Portuguese)

Take a tour to learn all the details.
Entrants Will Promote Your Book – Automatically.
Rafflecopter makes it easy to run book giveaways while simultaneously getting entrants to promote the book or participate in the conversation.  It is a bit like “Pay-with-a-Tweet”.  For example, with the free version of Rafflecopter, people can enter your giveaway by:

  • Tweeting a message you specify.
  • Following a specific Twitter profile.
  • Visiting a Facebook fan / book page.
  • Leaving a blog post comment.

Benefits of Using Rafflecopter for Giveaways:


  • Grow your network. Running a giveaway is a fantastic way to build your social media following on sites such as GooglePlus, Facebook or  Twitter.
  • Generate leads. A sweepstakes is great for growing leads or increasing the number of email list subscribers. It’s a lead generation secret weapon.
  • Save money. Run a free Rafflecopter; Just budget for the cost of the prize (or prizes), how you will market it, and the time you spend on managing the process.
  • Gain product exposure. Launching your product with a giveaway is an amazing way to generate buzz around your brand. Having the prize be your product will help gauge interest and fuel excitement.  Using your product as the giveaway’s prize is one way to get people excited about your product and try it out.
  • Additional benefit: the participants tweet and post about your giveaway in order to be able to enter it.
  • Give back to your fans.  Want to share the love & give out prizes to your fans?  Running a giveaway is a great way to show your appreciation.
  • Save time & headaches. In relation to other internet marketing channels, running a giveaway doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge. In addition, the amount of time spent into creating and launching a giveaway promotion is relatively low. Rafflecopter makes this process fast and easy.
  • Have some fun. Everyone loves the chance of winning! There’s nothing more joyful than delivering the good news to your winners. Relative to other marketing channels, running a giveaway can be a blast.
  • Liven up your community. If you’re looking for a way to get your fans excited, running a giveaway will get your books more exposure and remind them of you as an author.

The Rafflecopter widget can be embedded on an author’s website, a publisher’s blog, a guest post in a blog tour — wherever it fits into your promotional efforts.
Promote Your Giveaway.
Rafflecopter recommends: “If you’re planning on sending out a newsletter and want to include a link to your promotion, there are two specific times you’d be recommended to do so:
24-36 hours after launch. Your giveaway has launched and you probably can’t wait to announce it to your email list subscribers. Show some patience though! Consider waiting a day or so after the giveaway has opened. This will give you a chance to promote it across a few other social networks first to make sure the giveaway is running smoothly. Wait a day after launch to make certain the giveaway is set up exactly how you’d like before telling your subscribers.”

Create Excitement on the Last Day.
Winners are randomly selected once the contest ends.
While promoting during the last 24 hours of your giveaway, create excitement but with a sense of urgency.  Here are tips that will help you make the most of the last day of your giveaway to help maximize your giveaway’s total entries.


End Your Giveaway Monday at Midnight.
Plan out a newsletter that you can send to your subscribers 24 hours before your giveaway ends (linking to your promotion). A full day is plenty of time for folks to open, read, and enter your giveaway before it closes.

Show Your Prizes on Pinterest.
Hopefully you have an audience on Pinterest, now it’s time to get to pinning!  This is where you can get visual.  Simply pin a few exclusive images of the prizes you’re offering.  Or how about a banner that describes your promotion and links to where it’s taking place?  And Pinterest, like Twitter & Facebook, allows you to use hashtags in your pins.

Tweet it on Twitter.
Send out a few tweets during the day that effectively counts down the time left to enter.  Include appropriate hashtags and call-to-action messaging in your tweets – and don’t forget to ask for re-tweets.  Use schedulers, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, and take advantage of the “hot times” where Twitter is busiest.

Submit your Giveaway to these sites to get even more exposure:
Contest Girl
Online Sweepstakes
Sweeties Sweeps
Can Contests

Write Another Blog Post.

Hopefully you connected your blog / website with your GooglePlus and your Goodreads author page already to have each of your blog posts automatically connected with your social media sites – and in turn your Google+ presence connected with your Twitter timelines?
Schedule a blog post about your giveaway not only at the beginning, but also one for the last day or two days before your campaign ends. Don’t forget to post an attractive image of your giveaway prize. Why not also write a short article on your LinkedIn page?
Get a Quick Tutorial.
How to choose and contact winners for your giveaway? How do I choose & contact winners for my giveaway?  Choosing a winner with Rafflecopter is easy! Rafflecopter gives you the tools that help you:

  • randomly select a number of winners from your entrants pool
  • help you verify the winners’ entries
  • announce the winners directly on the widget

Take a tour of the entries tab in your Rafflecopter dashboard, where you will choose winners:

After your giveaway ends, sign into your Rafflecopter account and find the giveaway’s ‘entries’ tab where you’d normally moderate entries by clicking on ‘pick a winner’ or moderate. Clicking on the ‘ADD A WINNER’ button will generate 1 random entry from your entry pool. For 5 winners, click ‘add a winner’ 5 times.  To verify the winners’ entries, view your entries by clicking on the ‘SHOW ME THE ENTRIES’ button. You can sort entries by IP, name, email address, etc.

Keep in mind that giveaways run into the same problem as giving your readers a free item for joining your email list.  You’ll get some people who are only interested in free goodies. For this reason, it’s a good idea to import these email addresses into a different list from your main one. These email addresses will be less targeted, so you won’t want to send them emails as often as your primary list.  Send them only invitations to your next giveaway, in order not to be seen as spammer.  If they like your writing, they will sign up to your newsletter list anyway.  Make sure to tell them how to join your main list in one of your auto responders.  If you get several hundreds or thousands of  subscribers from the giveaway, then even 20 percent or less will give your list a significant boost.

Get giveaway best practices in Rafflecopter’s new free 60+ page ebook that you can download from their site.

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