Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.
If you enroll your Kindle eBooks in the KDP Select program on Kindle Direct Publishing, you can take advantage of two promotions to help build your eBook’s sales and sales rank: Kindle Free eBook Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals.
But are they worth doing?
Kindle Free eBook Promotions
These promotions can be launched at no cost to KDP authors, with the exception of forfeiting royalties to offer the Kindle eBook for free. However, the title must be enrolled in KDP Select, which requires exclusivity. Exclusivity means that you cannot sell your eBook through your website or on other non-Amazon book selling sites. However, on your website you can link to your Kindle eBook product page on Amazon (I'm sure they'd like you to do that).
During each 90-day KDP Select enrollment period, you can run one free eBook promotion over five days maximum. The five days do not need to be consecutive. Technically, you could offer a freebie for five days, or you could offer a freebie every Friday for five weeks, or any schedule of five days that works for your marketing. So you have some flexibility there.
Offering a free copy of your Kindle book could even propel your eBook into a "Top Free" status if enough copies are downloaded. As well, once the free promotion ends, your eBook reverts back to the paid sales rank list.
Even though buyers get the eBook for free, they have technically “purchased” it and their book reviews would be classed as “Verified Purchases” which can carry more weight in buyers’ minds.
The Real Deal
I’ve found that free Kindle eBook promotions can help boost an eBook’s sales rank. I’ve even achieved up to a #2 Top Free status for one of my niche topic eBooks. But that status didn’t last long (barely a day or so) once the promotion was over. Amazon’s sales ranks are updated hourly throughout the day. So any status could have a lifespan of mere hours or less.
I do these Free Book promotions very rarely due to the investment they require and the forfeiting of “real” sales.
Kindle Countdown Deals
These promotions can also be launched at no cost to KDP authors, with the exception of forfeiting some royalties to offer the Kindle eBook at a discounted rate. However, as for Free eBook Promotions, the title must be enrolled in KDP Select which requires exclusivity.
During each 90-day KDP Select enrollment period, you can run one Countdown Deal for a total of 5 days, but those days don’t need to be consecutive and could be offered sporadically through the 90 days.
When setting up a Countdown Deal, you set up the initial discount price which then is raised incrementally to full price at the end of the deal’s period. You select the number of increments, with the number available depending on the regular retail price of the book. For example, a book that’s $2.99 may only allow a couple of price increment steps, whereas one that’s regularly $6.99 may have four.
Countdown Deals work for buyers who are budget conscious or who may be on the fence about purchasing the eBook.
The Real Deal
For my most recent Countdown campaign, I ran posts on social media and my regular weekly email. Because of my previous experiences with the Kindle Free eBook Promotions, I didn’t spend a ton of time creating these posts. And I definitely decided not to spend any hard dollars on promoting it.
During that five-day promotion period, I realized a handful of sales and royalties, at lower prices than retail, of course.
So Are Kindle Free eBook and Countdown Deals Worth It?
So are these promotions worth doing? Here's what you need to keep in mind.
- Promotion for Your Promotion is Required. You’ll need to do some promotion for your free or discounted promotion! Just because you offer your Kindle eBook for free doesn’t mean that people will automatically wander on over to your book’s sales page. I had to promote my offers in my weekly email to subscribers and on social media, increasing my promotion cost in terms of time and effort.
- Amazon Does Not Help Promote Your Offer. While your free or discount offer will appear on your Kindle eBook’s product page, Amazon is not going to do any special or additional promotion for your offer. So, as just discussed, you’ll need to promote your special offer yourself.
- Offers Can Reduce Total Potential Sales and Royalties. In very niche markets and topics, there may be a limited number of potential buyers for your Kindle book. If you give it away, and a large share of this limited market takes advantage of the deal, you could reduce the total sales and royalties that you could realize. Even if you do a Countdown Deal where you do make actual sales, the total royalties will be reduced since the price paid per eBook is reduced.
- Offers Do Little to Boost Book Reviews. I’ve also noticed that offering the Kindle eBook for free or a deeply discounted price does little to boost more book reviews, even if I’ve encouraged it in my promotions. This is no different than the struggle to get regular real reviews for a book.
All in all, an occasional Free Kindle eBook or Kindle Countdown Deal can provide you a reason to promote your eBook on your website, email, or social media. Experiment with both to see if either or both work for your market and topic. Just be realistic with your sales and royalty expectations.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 11, 2018:
Lawrence, thank you for sharing your Amazon promotion experience with us!
I’ve had very similar results to yours. True, they still might come back to get another title from me. I just hope it isn’t a freebie. :)
One of the other things I hope is that if they are Kindle Unlimited subscribers that they’ll look for my books that are part of the KDP Select program. I won’t get as much as a sale, but at least it’s something.
Totally agree that getting book sales is WORK! Appreciate you putting the exclamation point on that issue. Have a lovely weekend!
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 11, 2018:
Very good analysis of the free promotion on Amazon.
I've used them a little, and 60 people downloaded my first book, but no reviews, and not much since.
My thought was if the people read the first, and liked it, they might come back and buy the second, they still might!
I think you have to be willing to work hard to make those sales.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 28, 2018:
Hi Chatterbox! Glad you found it helpful.
Agreed, back in the 80s (when you were doing newsletters) there were so few options for self publishing. Today, we have so many options that it can be difficult to decide.
Do look at KDP. It's pretty easy to use and, of course, offers the opportunity to sell on Amazon's mega site. My experience with KDP has been positive.
Good luck with your novel and keep us posted on your publishing adventures. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
Chatterbox from New York City on January 27, 2018:
I read your article about self-publishing, and found it to be very informative. It gives me a lot to think about and to decide on. I've been thinking about using KDP, an author friend of mine uses it. I also use to self- publish newsletters back in the 80's. I have been wanting to write a cozy mystery for a long time. I have started it, but it is slow going. There are so many options in publishing, that it is a very hard decision to make. I have many writing friends, plus a writing group to discuss writing, which is helpful to me.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 11, 2018:
Linda, glad you found it helpful. If you do venture into the self publishing and advertising for it, let us know how it goes for you. Thanks for your support, as always!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 10, 2018:
This is very useful information that I may need one day. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Heidi. I always appreciate it.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 10, 2018:
Bill, it is a lot of work for, well, not a lot. I'm really only using Amazon Marketing Services ads which are set it and forget it. And, I agree, getting your fans the old fashioned way by building your author platform is the best way to go. Thanks for weighing in and have a great day!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 10, 2018:
I don't do it, probably won't do it, so there! Just seems like a lot of fuss I don't need in my life. I market the old-fashioned way and, truth be known, I don't really trust Kindle or Amazon, even though I use them for simplification. :) That probably makes no sense but there you go.