Free Ebooks – I Don’t Know Why But They Sell Ebooks

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why free kindle ebooks sell ebooks

Free ebooks do sell ebooks.

No, my conundrum is not, I don’t know why, she swallowed a fly, but rather, I don’t know why giving away free ebooks on Kindle induces sales immediately afterwards.

Perhaps I should be wiser or investigate more intensely, but for the life of me, it makes no sense. Except that, it works.

It happened again to me today. I had a book up for free for two days, which managed to get to around #600 in the free ebook so-called bestsellers, and #20 or so in its genre.

Free ebook bestsellers is another lexical mystery for me too, as to how can something that is free be a seller? Oh, the ebook world is full of mysteries.

Anyway, no sooner had the two free days finished, I started seeing book sales appear. Why? If they had found my book an hour earlier, they could have had it for free.

Before I give you my conclusion, I should go into some things I have noticed about free Kindle ebooks.

Firstly, most downloads are in the first 36 hours, and after that, they taper off dramatically, as in nosedive. I always spread my free promotion days out in 2-2-1 days over the 90 day period.

When I have been lazy and just plonked a book up for free for 5 straight days, the last 3 days produce absolutely minimal downloads.

Secondly, I never promote my free ebook days. Yes, I know everyone does, but I am extremely miserable and I really don’t like giving away my ebooks.

I am certainly, and totally against paying to promote free ebooks, and will never understand why people PAY around $300 for the privilege!

I book my books’ free days in advance over the 90 day period and then forget about them. My logic is that if someone stumbles upon my books for free, they are totally new to my writing, and may perhaps buy one of my other books later. Perhaps.

But why would I advertise a free book to my hard-won social media contacts, who I have garnered in the hope that they may buy my books?


Algorithms sell ebooks

Anyway, back to my conclusions.

My belief is that free ebook success is all down to algorithms to help sell books.

I know I’ve mentioned these before, but they are really, really important. Not for me and you of course, but for Amazon. After giving away a pile of free ebooks, wouldn’t it be a real bummer if no sales followed?

Of course. So, if that happened a few times in a row, any logical person would say, ‘hey, this is a very dumb idea, I think I’ll stop giving away my ebooks.’

But, this would be a very bad result for Amazon, who of course love free ebooks to death because they really, really help sell a lot of Amazon Kindles. Are you getting closer to my logic now?

It’s a reward. More like a little carrot in fact. A very, very small carrot, though. A few sales, for hundreds or thousands of free ebooks?

If you give away your ebooks for free, Amazon’s algorithms go to work to promote (reward) your book for a few days, or perhaps only hours, to make sure of a few sales.

This makes you feel good of course, and even though sales drop off quickly, the positive effect of Amazon’s magical, algorithmically driven few ebook sales have you primed and ready to do it all over again, and again, and again.

So, who wins here?

I don’t know why ….


More reading: 350 Other Words For Said For Your Dialogue Writing


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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

7 thoughts on “Free Ebooks – I Don’t Know Why But They Sell Ebooks

  • September 15, 2015 at 8:38 am

    One other point Derek. They have done away with the five day giveaway each month. Now its a single five day free promo per ninety days. Just try doing more than one. What you will get is the following:-

    “This book is currently ineligible for a Free Book Deal. You are eligible to use up to 5 days of the Free Book Promotion during each KDP Select enrolement period.”

    You can’t even give your book away anymore…

    • September 15, 2015 at 8:43 am

      I just checked on one of my books that I haven’t promoted, and it still shows five days available for the 90 day enrolment period. Not sure why you are only getting one, Jack.

      • September 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

        Only one five day promotional giveaway per the ninety day period, that’s why.

    • September 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

      Thank you, Gloria. But I’ll try to do better, and strike a more respectable tone next time. But perhaps not. :)

  • September 3, 2015 at 4:07 am

    Ooh. That is interesting. I never thought of it that way, though I did get a TON of sales after my publisher did a give away.


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