Free Ebooks – A Dead Giveaway

Free Kindle ebooks must be one of the most searched for phrases on the Internet. And a dead giveaway.

Everyone wants something for nothing.

However, most of the sites that offer lists of free Kindle ebooks are doing so to either attract traffic for pay per click advertising on their site, or they are trying to make Amazon Associate income from paid book sales and luring traffic by listing a few free ebooks.

Amazon makes this easy, by offering a whole host of tools for affiliate marketers to list Amazon products, including free Kindle ebooks that are made available by KDP Select self-published authors every day.

But is it all a dead giveaway?

What do the authors get out of free Kindle ebooks?

Well, not very much at all.

When KDP Select first started, there was one benefit for authors, in that free downloads counted towards a book’s sales rank and helped in gaining a little traction.

However this is not the case now, so giving away thousands of copies of an ebook gains precious little for the author.

I know some authors believe that offering free ebooks via KDP Select is still a useful promotional tool when launching a new title, but I think that is about as far as the benefits go.

Having a new ebook listed on free ebook sites will at least give a book some exposure.

Once a book is launched, though, is there any value in continuing to offer the ebook for free for five days in every ninety-day period of KDP Select?

I doubt it.

There are some benefits to free Kindle ebooks, though.

There are other ways to leverage free ebooks so that an author can get something of value in return. Particularly if an author has a number of titles already published.

One method is to use Amazon’s ‘Price Matching’ to force an ebook to be permanently available as a free Kindle ebook.

Update: Amazon no longer price matches. Details here. However, you can still make an ebook free on Smashwords or Draft2digital, to distribute to their retailers.

If a book is the first in a series, this is a very good tactic to hook new readers, who will then hopefully go on to buy more books in the series.

I used ‘Price Matching’ on one title for a few years, and the book attracted new reviews and more importantly, ‘Shared Notes & Highlights’, which are quotes and extracts from the book that are highlighted and shared by Kindle readers and then appear on an Amazon page of the book.

The other marketing use of a permanently free ebook is to promote your other titles at both the beginning and end of the book, with hyperlinks to the other titles.

If you offer a book for free using ‘Price Matching’, make every download a valuable promotional tool for your other books as well as social media and blog links.

How to make a permanent free Kindle ebook.

Amazon will not let an ebook be listed for less than $0.99, so to force an ebook to be permanently free on Amazon Kindle it needs to be offered for free somewhere else.

The easiest way to do this is to set the price of your title to free on Smashwords or Draft2Digital. After a few weeks, it will then be free on Apple, B&N, Kobo. Once your ebook is listed for free, go to your ebook page on Amazon and under the section ‘Product Details’, click on the ‘Tell us about a lower price’ link.

If you can get a few friends to do the same, it helps speed things up. It will take a few weeks for Amazon to change your price, but once they do, your ebook will be permanently free for Kindle.

Another way to profit from free ebooks is to offer them to help build a sizeable email subscriber list. If you have a WordPress blog, there are many plugins available to manage downloads, so you could offer a number of titles at any given time.

But in return for offering a free ebook, you get the reader’s email address.

Once you have collected say 1,000 addresses, you have a ready-made audience that you can keep informed about new titles, book signings, interviews or news.

This is a great way to build a very valuable marketing resource and to be able to get closer to your readership.

These are just two ideas for getting better value from free ebooks and I am sure there are many more creative ways to use them.

Perhaps after reading this, think about how you can better utilise your free ebooks as a marketing tool, and don’t just give them away on Kindle through KDP Select because you can, and then get absolutely nothing in return.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.