Any author who is publishing with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) knows about free ebook promotion.
You can offer your ebook for free for five days during your ninety-day enrollment in KDP Select.
What some may not know is that free ebooks for Kindle have now become another little industry in itself.
There are many, many sites on the internet that are listing and promoting free ebook offerings.
Giving away ebooks is not easy
When KDP Select first started, it was enough to book your free days and then promote it yourself via your social networks.
Now, however, there are so many free ebooks on offer every day it’s getting more and more challenging to get noticed.
On the Kindle Store, it is not easy to find free ebooks anymore.
On top of this, for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, free ebooks are of little interest or value.
To get good value now from free ebook promotions, you really need to get your book listed on as many free Kindle ebook sites as possible.
It is the only way to get the traffic you need to give away enough copies to move your book up the rankings.
This is the whole point, of course.
Getting your book up the Amazon rankings where book buyers can notice it after the promotion has finished. I gather that this has now been called the bounce.
I have tried a lot of ways of using the free days for my books.
I’ve booked a couple of days with no promotion at all, as well as careful planning and promotion of free campaigns.
I also experimented with different days of the week and of the month.
In general, promotions in the first few days of a month are worth avoiding, as are Fridays and Mondays.
Another element I have noticed through my trial and errors is that luck can also have a big hand in how successful a free ebook promotion is.
I’ve had carefully planned promotions flop, while ones with almost no promotion have skyrocketed. No idea at all why.
But in general, better-promoted ones have fared far better.
KDP free ebook promotion works best with a plan
Without a doubt, my most successful promotions have been when I have planned weeks ahead and notified as many free ebook listing sites as possible and then be picked up by some of the bigger sites.
As they all tend to pick and choose what they will promote, I would suggest contacting at least fifteen sites, and even more, if you’re keen.
It is also essential to have at least eight to ten reviews as very few will list books with fewer reviews than this.
Another crucial element is to have your book listed in the best keywords and categories on Kindle.
If your book is under the category of Fiction-Romance, it will be competing against many thousands of other titles to get a decent ranking.
But if it is listed under Fiction-Romance-Romantic Suspense, there are far fewer titles in this category, so it’s much easier to climb to a decent ranking and then profit from the bounce after the promotion has finished.
Are free ebooks still popular?
Should you offer free ebooks for Kindle? Many authors are probably scratching their heads. Yes or no?
But with 59 million Google search results a month for find free Kindle books on Amazon, there is definitely a reading market out there for you to leverage.
I have read many times that some authors are worried about giving away a book for free.
But it is worth remembering that free books are not a new idea at all for both fiction and non-fiction.
In fact, it is a very old marketing ploy and one that the book publishing industry has been using for almost ever and a day.
In my work as an English teacher, I am offered a lot of free textbooks every year.
When I was a teacher trainer, it was more than 100 free textbooks each year. Getting the right people to use or recommend them is what drives textbook sales.
Teachers, principals, school owners, and public servants in the education sector are all targets for free books because they are all in a position to recommend that students buy these books.
In other words, give free copies to people that can influence your book sales.
It is not dissimilar for fiction publishers.
Thousands of copies are sent out to advance readers, television stations, radio stations, or in fact, anywhere a little promotion or influence can be garnered.
Advance copies are also sent out to newspapers to try to get the reviews that you see printed on the back of many mainstream published novels.
Free ebook options for self-publishers
The opportunity Amazon gave to self-published authors with KDP Select was a very logical initiative.
Five days during every ninety days are available for free ebook promotion.
Why not use it and do what publishers have been doing forever to promote your kindle ebooks?
But of course, you have to enroll in KDP Select and grant Amazon total exclusivity over your ebook, which many self-publishing authors resist.
If you are not in KDP Select and you open publish, there is no restriction on how you can use free ebooks.
Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital allow you to set your selling price to $0.00, and unlike Amazon, do not restrict the period you can offer your ebook for free.
In fact, you can make an ebook permanently free. This is particularly useful for series starter ebooks.
Remember, you should view this in perspective.
Yes, there are those readers who will crawl over broken glass for anything free.
But with millions of people owning Kindle ereaders now, and many more using free Kindle reading apps, a few hundred ebooks given away is not very many.
Take note, though, that when you make an ebook free through Smashwords or Draft2Digital that your ebook listed for sale on Amazon will not be available for free on Kindle.
The only way to offer free ebooks on Kindle is by enrolling in KDP Select and granting exclusivity for your ebook to Amazon.
Yes, but not as directly as for mainstream publishers.
By offering free ebooks on Kindle, or through Smashwords or Draft2Digital, you are hoping to get your ebook into the hands of book bloggers and book reviewers.
Also, you might attract readers who may post a review of your book on either their blogs or if you are lucky, on Amazon directly.
Gaining some new readers is all well and good but isn’t finding influencers better?
If you think about this, next time you plan on offering your ebooks for free, wouldn’t it be a better idea to notify some of these influencers in advance?
By leveraging social media, you can do this.
Try to connect with as many book bloggers, book reviewers, avid readers, and small press publishers on social media as you can.
But be careful to find bloggers and reviewers who are interested in your genre. If you publish science fiction, don’t expect romance book bloggers to be interested.
Then build a list of those you can notify just before you have a free ebook offer.
Ask nicely, and don’t forget to include a link to your free ebook, so it’s easy to find.
Does free ebook promotion work?
What free promotion does is help in building name recognition.
“Oh him? Yes, I just read one of his books.”
It doesn’t matter how the reader got the book; word of mouth is gold.
Think also about how you acquire books to read. It’s not just books that you buy that you read.
Perhaps a book borrowed from someone or a library. A book you found at work. A book you found in your attic or a second-hand bookstore.
Maybe you downloaded an ebook from Project Gutenberg, Open Library, or you use the offer of a free ebook each month with Amazon Prime.
Or perhaps, a free book from the Kindle Store. When and why do you download free books?
Do you react to a daily email offering a list of free ebooks?
I can only relate my experience over the years of using both KDP Select and open publishing to offer free ebooks.
Yes, free ebooks can help boost visibility, name recognition, attracting new readers, and of course, helping gain a few reviews and real sales.
Series starters offered for free are by far the most productive, and profitable, and can often be left permanently free.
But don’t expect miracles.
As with all things, however, moderation is the key.
In the end, you want real sales.
So don’t get carried away with offering free ebooks for extended periods without having a clear idea or plan about what you want to achieve.
Free Kindle books on Amazon should only be one small part of your overall book marketing plans.
It is also worth considering that fewer people buy a Kindle device now because of the popularity of smartphone or tablet reading.
On top of that, more and more ebook readers are using Kindle Unlimited. They have little reason to be attracted to a freebie.
The same goes for Prime members, who get a free ebook every month with their membership.
It’s becoming a tough market now, so always diversify your book promotion activities as much as you possibly can and continue to look for new opportunities.
Good luck with your next KDP free ebook promotion, and hopefully, you get the desired bounce to sell a million copies.
More reading: What is the difference between KDP and KDP Select?