Does Giving Away Free Ebooks Sell More Ebooks?

Free Kindle Ebooks Sell More

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 its Free book promotions page, apart from this broad explanation.

“The Amazon Best Sellers calculation is based on sales and is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on

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 early days of Kindle Direct Publishing, one book for free carried the same sales weight as a paid sale.

This created a silly situation where you could become a bestselling author overnight without selling a book.

This changed quite quickly, however.

Over time, the value of a free ebook against an actual sale dropped to 50% and then later to 10%.

Unfortunately, Amazon does not give precise weighting percentages now on 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 enroll 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 overall Author ranking on Amazon.

It always seems to fluctuate in line with the number of ebooks that I give away free of charge.

Of course, I can only use Kindle free ebook promotion if I have my book listed in KDP Select. In the graph below, it is very clear that I enrolled in KDP Select in May and exited in late October.

My ranking dropped immediately at the beginning of November, as did my sales, as soon as I could no longer offer Kindle free ebooks.

Unfortunately, I cannot access this graph over a five-year period.

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.

It is certainly not hard data that can prove conclusively whether free Kindle books help sell ebooks. But 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.

The first free ebook I offered was a romance book. It ranked very well at #6 in a very competitive genre.

This, of course, will boost my ebook’s paid ranking a little when it goes back to paid, and it will hopefully lead to actual 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.


It can depend on your genre

One point to consider, however, is that some genres perform better than others.

While self-help, science fiction, and young adult ebooks tend to do quite well, memoirs and historical novels may not.

Also, I believe Amazon Prime members can still get one free ebook per month. It may help, but I have no data on this issue.


Kindle free ebooks sell ebooks bestsellers


It’s not a lost sale

There’s another factor to consider about free ebooks, and it’s the misconception that by giving away an ebook, it is losing a sale.

This is not true at all.

Kindle owners who download free ebooks would not have bought them and likely won’t even read them.

But by simply downloading a copy to a Kindle or one of Amazon’s Kindle reading apps, they help give my sales rank a small boost, which in turn helps ebook sales.

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

But there are some difficulties that Amazon now has in place.

These make it difficult for readers to find a list of free ebooks. It is not easy to find free Kindle books on Amazon, even with advanced search.

Kindle Unlimited, Kindle book deals, Kindle singles, and prime reading bestsellers are all easy to find in the menu. But free Kindle ebooks are not.

But when readers search for books in their preferred genre, they will see free ebooks in their search result list. It’s a stumble upon the result method, but it still works.

So do free ebooks help sell ebooks?

Yes, but it is a much harder road today than it was a few years ago.


Related reading: How You Can Offer An Easy Free Ebook Download To Readers

7 thoughts on “Does Giving Away Free Ebooks Sell More Ebooks?”

  1. Avatar for Aleksandr Anufriyev
    Aleksandr Anufriyev

    I don’t believe you are poor…
    “The grandeur of a profession is…above all, uniting men: there is only one true luxury, that of human relationships.’
    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  2. 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.

  3. 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?


  4. 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. :)

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