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 Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, 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.
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: https://www.paywithatweet.com/