With a vast array of retailers, distributors, and even time zones to navigate, mastering the logistics of discounting an ebook can be difficult. Below are two ways you can make your book free for a promotion, along with some tips and best practices to make the process easier. If you’re looking for help on lowering the price of your ebook, refer to this tutorial instead.
1. KDP Select Program
What It Is: An Amazon program that, among other things, offers the ability to promote a title for free for a limited time. Joining the program requires a 90-day exclusivity period with Amazon, but comes with additional benefits such as participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. KDP Select allows an author to choose up to five free promotional days within each 90-day window.
How It Works: Authors should first ensure their books are enrolled in the KDP Select program, which can be done through the “KDP Bookshelf” portal or during the book editing process on Amazon. After a title is enrolled, a free promotion can be scheduled from the “Manage Benefits” section of the bookshelf. Choose the start and end days for the discount, and press “Save” to confirm. Amazon’s website also includes detailed instructions and FAQs for free book promotions.
Important Notes: Promotions start and end at roughly midnight Pacific Standard Time, and must be scheduled no later than the day before the discount is set to begin. Authors are also unable to select both a free promotion and a Kindle Countdown Deal during the same 90-day window. For BookBub promotions, authors should ensure that their books remain free until at least 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the deal’s expiration date, and should therefore not manually stop their promotions early.
Primary Benefits: Ease of use and predictability. KDP offers the only way to directly make a book free on Amazon, and ensure that the free promotion will last for a predetermined period of time. The KDP Select interface makes the process straightforward to navigate.
Drawback: Exclusivity. Authors agree not to offer ebooks enrolled in KDP Select on any other website for at least 90 days, and must follow the Amazon program’s other terms and conditions.
2. Price Matching
What It Is: A way to offer a title for free on multiple online retailers. Authors manually change their book’s price through a retailer or distributor outside of the KDP Select program, with the hope that Amazon and others will then “match” this free discount. While this method does not require an author to surrender exclusivity to Amazon or any other retailers, it is significantly less predictable.
How It Works: Authors should first ensure that their title is available through a non-exclusive retailer or distributor that also allows setting a book’s price to free. Examples include Smashwords or Draft2Digital, and others can be found through writers’ forums such as KBoards. After the discount takes effect on these sites, Amazon and others may price match, though the time frame for this process is difficult to predict (it can range from days to several weeks). To expedite the process, you should alert Amazon about the lower price. There are two ways to do this:
- Option 1: Use the tell us about a lower price button. You may need to enlist family, friends, or other authors for help and ask them to report the lower prices, too. Amazon can sometimes take a while to acknowledge these requests.
- Option 2: Email Amazon directly and tell them the other channels where your book is available for free. In your KDP Account, select Help and Contact Us, then select Amazon Product Page, and provide them with the links to the retailers where your book is free in the message.
Make sure you notify Amazon about each country where your book is free. Provide links to your book in the United Kingdom, Canada, and India in order to get Amazon to match in those regions as well. You can find out how to get links to your book on international retailers here.
Important Notes: It can take time for price changes to filter through from distributors to the various retailers they reach, and even longer for Amazon and other online booksellers to match those discounts. The same is true when increasing a book’s price after a promotion. As a result, we generally only recommend this method in situations where a longer-term discount makes sense, such as for perma-free titles.
Primary Benefit: Availability. Authors who price match do not have to surrender any exclusivity to Amazon, and can therefore offer their titles for free on as many retailers as desired.
Drawback: Unpredictability. While this method is not necessarily difficult to implement, it can take a significant period of time for the various retailers to price match, and is not recommended for limited-time promotions.
Have you made your ebook free using either of these methods? Do you have a preferred distributor or retailer that you use? Let us know in the comments below!
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