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How to make your book free on Amazon in 5 simple steps

How to make your book free on Amazon in 5 simple steps

Here’s how to make your book free on Amazon.

I’ve seen a lot of posts try to make a big deal out of it. But if you decide that permafree will work for you, then you just need patience.

Step 1) Either don’t sign up for Amazon KDP Select or opt-out of KDP Select with your existing ebook. You’ll need to wait for your 90 day deal to expire.

Step 2) Make your ebook free everywhere online. That includes Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore and Kobo.

Step 3) Ask friends, family and kind strangers to click on this red-outlined link on your book’s Amazon product page:

Amazon's "tell us of a lower price" feature

Step 4) Email Amazon support and tell them the book is available for free on other sites.

Step 5) Wait for Amazon to price-match to zero.

It may take a while for Amazon to get around to price-matching. Some writers have told me that it took over a month! If a month passes and nothing happens, have more of your friends click on that link above and/or contact Amazon support.

To be clear the “perma” in “perma-free” is anything but permanent. You can always start charging again if you want to.

Good luck, my friends!

by Ben Zackheim

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Prepare your book for its free Amazon KDP Select days

Amazon has a bridge to sell ya!

Is Amazon KDP Select worth it?

Amazon KDP Select has a bridge to sell you! No, really.

Amazon KDP Select has a bridge to sell you! No, really.

If someone tells you, “I have a bridge to sell ya!”, would you believe them? Of course not!

But what if the mayor of New York City was the one talking? That makes it a tougher question. It’s conceivable that he could sell it to you. He’s the mayor! But wouldn’t he have to massage the bureaucratic engine of the city to make the sale happen? Isn’t he just one powerful person in a city of powerful people?

That’s the conundrum we find ourselves in with Amazon. They actually do have a bridge (to success) to sell us, and they could indeed sell it to us.

But will they do any of the hard work required to make the sale?

Does Amazon KDP work hard enough to justify your exclusivity?

As I mentioned in the last post in this series on KDP, there are over 20 million Amazon Prime members who can check out your book for free. Amazon has a big stake in showing those millions of people all of the amazing benefits they get for their $89 membership fee. One of those benefits is your KDP Select book! But to finish my point about the promotional possibilities, there’s just no way to tell when/where/whether your book will get a spotlight of any kind. Amazon has many ways to highlight books. Recommendations, newsletters, lists, you name it. But Amazon is also a long tail company, meaning they’ll only give real love to the top 20% of products in any category, leaving the 80% who don’t hit their proprietary criteria to fend for themselves.

It’s one thing to say you have the bridge, it’s quite another to say, I’ll  walk you through the sale. Just like the mayor of New York doesn’t really know how to make the sale happen, Amazon can’t promise that KDP Select will be a bridge to success. But they want you to think it can.


Remember that scene in Jaws, when the captain gets a peek at the shark for the first time?

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” he says, while watching the death of him swim away.

The way I see the bookselling world is as follows:

“We’re going to need a shorter list…”

If you think about it, we’re all on a bunch of lists.

Our names and our books are in the databases of businesses across the bookselling spectrum, from Amazon to Smashwords to Ingram. If you’re #457,098 on a popularity list, or a best-selling list, or a “best of” list then your visibility is — well, it is what it is.

Now, if your name and/or book is #412 then you’re much more visible! You’re more likely to show up in a newsletter, or to get reviewed, or to show up in a recommendation widget on some site somewhere, somehow.

In the same vein, to survive in the publishing world you need to be on a shorter list. I say do press releases, because it puts you on a shorter list. I say post your book to every site that allows it, because you’ll be on a shorter list. I say share as much free content as you’re comfortable sharing because you’ll be on a shorter list. My point is, if you’re not high on many lists then you need to be on a bunch of short lists.

So let’s say the unsayable here: The enticing promise of KDP Select is that Amazon will help your books get visible within their ecosystem. Anyone who says that Amazon doesn’t promise this is splitting hairs. Of course they don’t promise exposure. In the same way that Amazon splashes their $11 million+ Global Fund figure on KDP’s homepage in hopes of triggering your “lottery brain”, they want to plant the seed of hope that they’ll do some heavy lifting for you once you sign up — in the dark, behind the scenes, via newsletters or recommendations or pixie dust they will work their magic for you.

Guess what. They won’t strain anything.

Here’s what they will do to get your book seen:

1) They’ll allow 20 million+ Prime members to borrow your book (this is often worth as much or more cash than an actual sale)

2) They’ll give you five promotional days to give away your book for free. If done right (i.e. if you do a lot of work and spend money advertising) then you have a VERY good chance of showing up on Amazon’s semi-visible Top Free Books list. This is a tab that sits behind the best seller list on the genre pages. It’s getting harder to find as time goes on.

3) They’ll let you put your book on sale for a fixed amount of time using Countdown Deals. It’s a new feature, but there are some stories of success beginning to circulate. Amazon is big on good ol’ high-pressure sales tactics (see above for “I have a bridge to sell ya” and “Buy a raffle ticket and win big money!”) It looks like the tried-and-true method of limited-time sales also performs well.

Running Man by Robert Baxter

Yes, sign up for KDP Select right away. Before it’s too late.

Here’s the thing that took me 2 years of playing the KDP Select game to learn. When Amazon takes a risk with you, you tend to come out on top. But like any business, when the risk stops paying off they’ll pull back in an instant. What that means for us is that Amazon likes releasing new services and features that are high-risk and beneficial to authors.

And then they’ll neuter it. Overnight.

An example?

KDP! What a huge shot in the dark it was for Amazon to open their market to small and self-publishers. Those who signed up early with quality work are the stars of our time. KDP best sellers and big movers got exposure, sitting right next to their big label counterparts, stealing eyes and hearts. While KDP authors are still given equal weight on the best seller lists, they’re relegated to a sorta-visible tab on genre pages. Yes, it qualifies as one of those “shorter lists”, but it’s more like a shorter, hidden list. The indisputable fact is that Amazon has pulled back their efforts to make KDP books visible on their site.

Need another example of Amazon taking risks and sharing the rewards, until they get tired of the risk?

The free promo days. Those free days were a huge risk that Amazon took with thousands of authors, and thousands of authors shared the rewards. But once Amazon grew the hell out of their library and snagged exclusivity on boat loads of  books they dialed back their support of the promotional days. They did this by penalizing web sites who promoted the free books to readers. There are a lot of reasons why they did this, some of them ultimately good for our industry. But I’m not making a value judgment here. I’m just stating the fact that when Amazon tries something new (and we go along for the ride) then we tend to come out smelling rosey.

And that’s why I’m willing to say that, as of now, it’s worth signing up for KDP Select.

The Countdown Deals product is new. Amazon is taking a risk in launching it. With KDP they gave us a new market, with free promo days they gave us an effective way to be seen, and with Countdown Deals they’re giving us a dynamic way to sell.

From the Amazon description of Countdown Deals:

1) They’re time-based: Not only does this give you more control to decide how long the book is discounted, but the time remaining for the promotion is visible to customers to increase excitement for the price discount.
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99.
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can easily browse active; Kindle Countdown Deals at, providing yet another way for books to be discovered.
5) You can monitor performance in real-time: A new KDP report displays sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance, so it’s easy to compare.

Pay attention to #4. A dedicated Amazon site is a tremendous asset for authors. It means that the same avid readers that made free promos such a huge hit now have a place to browse great deals.

In the final analysis, the biggest benefit of joining KDP Select is the experience itself. You learn a lot. You experience how Amazon thinks. You sense its reach like never before. You spot opportunities in small corners of their world. For instance, by signing up for KDP Select I learned a whole bunch about how to leverage free promotional days to help sales. I use that knowledge with my non-KDP Select books, as well.

So give KDP Select a try with one of your books. If you don’t like it, opt out so you don’t auto-renew after 90 days.

What do you think? Do you think Countdown Deals are a seismic shift in the Amazon bookselling ecosystem? Or is it a bust-in-the-making for authors? Let us know in the comments!

In my next post, I’m going to break down, step-by-step, how I set up my free promotional days. This routine consistently gets me to the top 5 in both Young Teen Mysteries and Women Sleuths genres on Amazon.

by Ben Zackheim

The $11 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?

The $11 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?

Yes, Kindle Direct Publishing Select is good and bad for writers

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. I’ve used KDP Select for every one of my Shirley Link books at one time or another, and I’ve had some epiphanies about the KDP Select Global Fund that I’d like to share. Some of my insights come from watching Amazon grow since its early days. I think I’ve identified some consistent behavior that works for us little guys, and some bad habits that do not work for us in the least.

The benefits of KDP can be summed up quick and easy (just like Amazon likes it!):

  • Get your share of the $11 million KDP pie (known as the KDP Select Global Fund)

  • Free promotional days

  • Countdown deals

  • 70% on all sales to Japan, Brazil, India and Mexico.

  • “Promotional possibilities”

I’ll cover the KDP Select Global Fund today. The rest of the touted benefits will be covered in their own posts.

Is Kindle Select Global Fund worth it?

The Amazon Treasure Chest: Do not pass go, do not collect $200

If you’re an indy writer, there’s a number you see floating around the mondo web. It’s a distracting number. It’s the kind of number that forces you to pay attention. Amazon loves to tout it. Lucky authors swear by it. And the rest of us are mostly confused by it.

$11 million.

The $11 million is cash from the KDP Select Global Fund that Amazon doles out to authors who opt-in to KDP by offering their book(s) exclusively on Amazon. If an author signs up for KDP Select and her books are borrowed by Prime members then she gets a cut of the monthly-updated fund.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

Sally is an Amazon Prime member. That means she pays $89 a year to get free shipping and other benefits from Amazon. She browses for books on Amazon and stumbles on one for sale at $2.99. But what’s this? Just above that price is a message informing her that she can read the book for free because she’s a Prime member.

Kindle Direct Publishing KDP Global Fund borrow book

All she has to do is borrow the Kindle book for as long as she wants and then check it back in from her device when she’s done. She decides to borrow the book.

The author gets up the next morning and checks her sales. In the Units Borrowed column of her online report (or the “Units Sold or Borrowed” column on her downloaded spreadsheet) she sees that someone borrowed her book last night. How much will she get paid for this borrowed book? Amazon determines the amount based on the size of the till (usually around $11 million) and the number of books borrowed in that month. Whatever percentage of the overall borrows that a book delivers is the percentage of the till that the author will receive.

I’ve seen first-hand that the amount paid for the borrow often matches or exceeds a straight sale.

So that means KDP is worth it!

Photo by David Masters

Well, maybe.

Mad Cat by Melissa Wiese

There’s an old saying that comes to mind. “If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket.” One of the reasons that Amazon touts their monthly number is to activate that same trigger in your brain that sweepstakes do. Yes, you could win the lottery and KDP could do bonzo business for you. But unlike a lottery, you can do very well on Amazon, and in self publishing without it. You can find a following and make a good living. So you don’t have to buy a ticket to win on Amazon. But you do need to join KDP if you want a slice of the prize. A slice of the prize that could get you more visibility on Amazon, and consequently more sales.

The KDP treasure chest varies by month. It’s been over 10 million more than under a million in 2015. But what does that mean? Do you really have a chance to get a piece of that large pie?

Here’s the playing field you’re performing in. There are over 20 million Amazon Prime members who can check out your KDP Select book for free. Amazon has a big stake in showing those millions of people all of the amazing benefits they get for their $89 membership fee. One of those amazing benefits is your book!

But does Amazon do enough? Or, like the $11 million hard-sell, is it an ethereal opportunity, floating around for a few dozen people to leverage?

We’ll cover that in my next post about “Promotional possibilities.” Why do I have that term in quotes? Because it belongs there. It really, really belongs there.

Go to part 2!


by Ben Zackheim