How Does Giving Away Kindle Free Ebooks Sell Ebooks?

kindle free ebooks sell ebooks

Free Kindle ebooks sell ebooks because they help sales ranking

Free Kindle ebooks sell ebooks in the end through a complex algorithm that Amazon uses to calculate an individual ebook’s sales rank. In simple terms, each free ebook that is downloaded counts towards the ebook’s sales ranking.

Amazon does not give precise details on their Free book promotions page, apart from this broad explanation.

The Amazon Best Sellers calculation is based on Amazon.com sales and is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.com. Your book will drop in sales rank in the paid list from the time your free promotion begins to the time it ends. However, since sales rank takes previous sales into account as well as recent sales, your previous paid rank will influence your new rank when your book enters the paid categories again.

A short history of Kindle free ebooks

In the very early days of Kindle Direct Publishing, one free ebook carried the same sales weight as a paid sale. This was changed quite quickly, however, and over time, the value of a free ebook against a real sale dropped to 50% and then later to 10%.

Unfortunately, Amazon does not give precise weighting percentages now in their help pages. Well, not that I could find anyway. All I could find was this brief mention regarding the effect of Kindle free ebooks on sales ranking.

In the Kindle Store, the Best Sellers Rank is divided into Free and Paid lists. If you enrol in KDP Select, your book will have a ranking in the Free list during its free promotional period. Once the free promotion is over, your book’s previous Paid rank will influence its new rank when it enters the Paid categories again.

With so little hard information to go on, understanding how Kindle free ebooks sell ebooks is difficult to calculate.

Kindle free ebooks help author rank

The only measure I have been able to rely on to any degree is my own overall Author ranking on Amazon, which always seems to fluctuate in line with the number of free ebooks that I give away.

Of course, I can only use Kindle free ebook promotion when my ebooks are enrolled in KDP Select. In the graph below, it is very clear that I enrolled in KDP Select in May, and exited in early late October.

My ranking dropped immediately at the beginning of November, as did my sales, as soon as I could not offer Kindle free ebooks.

Unfortunately, I cannot access this graph over five years, but it would show the other periods when I have had all my ebooks enrolled in KDP Select and the same increase in both ranking and sales during my previous enrollment periods.

While it certainly is not hard data that can prove conclusively whether free ebooks sell ebooks, all I can say is that from my own experience, they do.

Kindle free ebooks sell ebooks rank

As you can also see in the graph above, my ranking nosedived at the end of October. Due to this, I have now returned some of my ebooks to KDP Select, and the very first free ebook I offered (yesterday and today) for free is ranking very well at #6 in the very competitive romance genre.

This, of course, will boost my ebook’s paid ranking when it goes back to paid, which will hopefully lead to real sales.

Over the years, my rule of thumb has been that if I can get a free ebook into the top 10 free ebooks in its genre, sales will almost certainly follow.

Kindle free ebooks sell ebooks bestsellers

Another factor to consider about free ebooks is the misconception that by giving away an ebook, it is losing a sale.

This is not true at all because people who download free ebooks would not have bought it, and quite likely, won’t even read it.

But by simply downloading a copy, they help boost sales ranking, which in turn helps boost sales.

So yes, it can be a good deal, and why Kindle free ebooks sell ebooks.

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

6 thoughts on “How Does Giving Away Kindle Free Ebooks Sell Ebooks?

  • What makes me laugh is that people think they’ve made it when their book climbs towards #1 in the ‘free’ list. No, what actually matters is sales, or increasingly these days since Amazon changed the rules for the four quadrillionth time – the number of pages actually read. :)

    Reply
    • By the measure of #1 0n the free bestsellers, Jack, we have both ‘made it’, many times over! But we are still poor, starving writers. Such is life.

      Reply
  • Hello there,

    My Kindle book has been slapped with the adult content label and I was wondering if this will completely negate any benefit from running freebie days?

    Will any bump in rankings be masked due to the filter?

    Cheers

    Reply
    • It shouldn’t make any difference, Andrew. All Kindle sales rankings are calibrated the same way.

      Reply
  • You can now get around the KDPSelect requirement by republishing your books on Pronoun. You can go free at any point and not be exclusive. It’s a nice option. Pronoun is also owned by MacMillan, so that’s what shows on your author page.

    Reply

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