free ebooksThere are occasions when a writer may want to offer a book for free as a promotional tool.  Now making an ebook free shouldn’t be that difficult. On most publishing platforms it’s very easy. Just select ‘free’. But on Kindle, the minimum price you can charge is $0.99. So how can you get your ebook price to be listed there as free?

Well, it’s not so easy. Currently I have one ebook listed for free on Kindle and this was by way of a complete and innocent accident. I published Vandalism of Words a long time ago on both Kindle and Smashwords. Obviously free on Smashwords and $0.99 on Kindle. Then about a year ago, my Kindle sales went through the roof for this book. When I investigated further, the reason was clear. The book had been reduced from 99c to free on Kindle. (US only by the way.) So how did it happen?

Amazon use what they call their ‘Price Matching Feature‘ to reduce their prices of items in their stock to match lower prices that are being offered by other suppliers of the same product. So logically, Amazon had seen my ebook offered on Smashwords for free, or potential buyers had notified Amazon of the free offer, and they matched it. Ok, cool.


I have a second free ebook now. Vandalism Too, which is logically a new version of this Vandalism series. Also listed for free on Smashwords, but no matter how many times I have advised Amazon that it is available there for free, they insist on leaving their price at $0.99. Clearly Amazon are highly selective in applying their ‘Price Matching Feature’. All I can advise is that you get all your friends to let Amazon know by using the ‘tell us about a lower price’ link on your page and cross your fingers.

So there you have it. Yes you can get your book listed for free on Kindle. But only if Amazon want to do it.

Making Your Kindle Ebook Free
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14 thoughts on “Making Your Kindle Ebook Free

  • 05/11/2011 at 4:28 pm

    Interesting article about James Crawford’s experience Alphya. Few authors who publish on Kindle know about this. It is hidden in the fine print that of course no one ever reads.

    Now that I have read the fine print and after contacting Kindle, I now understand. If you publish with them, be very careful about what you do elsewhere. Their ‘Price Matching Feature’ can even be enacted if you give away a few copies on your own website or blog.

    As it is all done digitally, all they are looking for is a link to your free book. So this is probably how this author’s sample came to be included in their net.

  • 05/11/2011 at 5:58 pm

    To give away, or not to give away?

    The obvious lack of concern Amazon have for their contributing authors is sickening.

    Just so long as they hog the marketplace and turn a profit, they couldn’t give a damn about the long hours we have put into creating the product.

    Amazon offer ‘read inside’ and sample downloads. What’s the difference between that and posting example chapters on Nook – none!

  • 05/11/2011 at 6:35 pm

    I have to say I’m not too keen on “giving” my book away on either Kindle or Smashwords though I do currently have a free coupon for Smashwords customers which expires on 2nd Dec. I wonder if this means Amazon will advertise my eBook for free to match this offer on Smashwords…?

    I can’t make up my mind whether I think it’s better to sell your books at the extremely low price of 99c or 99pence, rather than at 2,3,4 dollars/pounds when one has worked so hard to write the book in the first place. But on the other hand, I think it is going to be the case that readers will download a cheaper eBook by an author they don’t know rather than a more expensive one, again by an author they don’t know. I find it a rather thorny issue. I have my current novel on Kindle at £1.14 (last time I checked) yet in paperback it is £8.99. I guess what I’m trying to say (rather badly) is that we all value our work tremendously and feel it is well worth a lot more than 99c or 99pence. To offer it for free – I’m a little hesitant to do; but then again, I did write it so that people would read it. I’ve also noticed that Amazon offer customers to download samples and “read inside” my book and like Jack says, it makes one wonder whether Amazon have any morals at all.

    Crystal Jigsaw
    aka Kathryn Brown

    • 05/11/2011 at 8:32 pm

      One could argue all day about ebook pricing Crystal. At the end of the day though, I still firmly believe the whole deal is about Amazon selling Kindles, and as such they need content. And cheap content at that. The future is already being shown to us with cheap advertising supported Kindles and lending libraries. It’s all about cheap, cheap, cheap.

      So authors can postulate as much as they like about the value of their work but in the end, it’s only content for a new and popular device.

      If you are an unknown author, at 99c you have a chance of being read. (Easier when free.) But at $2.99 and above, who in all honesty is going to pay for an unknown author.

      It’s not about value. It’s about readership. No matter what one thinks about Kindle’s business model, it has given new authors a wonderful opportunity. If they can get their head around what is being offered to them.

      • 05/11/2011 at 8:47 pm

        Derek, I totally agree with you which is why I get confused about the pricing element. I have a Kindle and love it. They are incredible devices and certainly have given new authors a fantastic opportunity to make a name for themselves.

        Thank you for replying to my comment.
        Best wishes, CJ

  • 05/11/2011 at 7:10 pm

    My own experience (wanting to put out a free short-story excerpt from a new anthology) was that Amazon didn’t care all that much about the book being free on Smashwords. However, the minute my Smashwords distribution put the book free on Barnes & Noble, it went free on Amazon in about ten minutes. I suspect Amazon’s algorithms factor in the competition factor, and the fact is that Smashwords on its own doesn’t have the kind of volume that B&N or even Kobo does.

    Alphya and Jack, Kris Rusch’s blog had a really good analysis of that story and how it’s been overblown, in addition to talking about her own experiences with free loss leaders. It’s really good reading (as is all her blog).

    • 05/11/2011 at 8:20 pm

      A terrific article Scott. Kris Rusch states the ground rules with Kindle extremely well.

      As I said in my post, Kindle are choosy for some reason. The new ebook I mentioned that I have tried to have made free is a case in point. It’s free everywhere, but Kindle ignore it. I am of the firm belief that Kindle only use this ‘price matching feature’ to their own benefit and not as a general policy.

  • 05/11/2011 at 8:14 pm

    Here’s something else I learned from someone’s comment to a blog post the other day which I found interesting though I haven’t validated to date. It seems if you list your book at say, $2.99, for Kindle (qualifying for 70% royalty) but list the book elsewhere (i.e. Smashwords, B&N, etc) for $0.99, should Amazon reduce your book to $0.99, you still receive 70% as a royalty. As I said, I haven’t looked into it yet.

    • 05/11/2011 at 8:17 pm

      Keep investigating Claude! I would be surprised, but who knows in this mirky world of Kindle.

  • 06/11/2011 at 1:12 am

    Hi Derek!

    I just went to Amazon to tell them (again) that ‘Vandalism Too’ is available elsewhere at a lower price. Either they don’t provide that option on their mobile site, or they don’t let you do it more than once per item. I’ll check when I get back home.

  • 06/11/2011 at 2:13 am

    I remember when you first published Vandalism Too and you asked people to report it being free with Amazon’s price matching feature. I reported it then and have done so again now. Perhaps they’ve caught on to your scheme, Derek. They’re gonna keep your book at 99c for the sole purpose of trying to piss you off!

  • 06/11/2011 at 11:26 am

    This may be sheer coincidence, but the 2 books I mentioned in this post have disappeared from my Kindle account list this morning. Very odd. The books are still ‘live’ on Amazon, but well, like I said, an odd coincidence.

    I’ve sent a message to KDP, so we’ll see what response I get.

  • 06/11/2011 at 1:52 pm

    There is one other thing which Amazon does that completely baffles me.

    When they offer a brand new copy of our work at ,say £8.69, why is it that they also offer a ‘used’ copy at £10.82?

    This is precisely what Amazon.UK are currently offering for the paperback version of my scifi novel “Onet’s Tale”. The kindle version remains the same it was months ago at £2.86.

    Go figure!!!


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