How Can I Make Money Giving Away A Free E-Book On Amazon?

How Can I Make Money Giving Away A Free E-Book On Amazon?
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Is it sensible for me to promote my latest book by giving away some free ebooks on the Kindle? How can I avoid pitfalls about poorly-formatted MOBI formatted ebooks (I’ve heard horror stories), and what costs should I expect for publishing my ebook, and for promoting it?


There are many firms that are putting poorly formatted MOBI files (the file format required by Amazon for the Kindle) up for sale on Amazon. At BookLocker, we offer high-quality, hands-on, custom Mobi formatting and conversion. Read more about what to watch out for in the industry HERE. If you need to contact me for a quote or questions, you can do that HERE.

With regards to giving away a free ebook on Amazon, you’re referring to a KDP Select Promotion. Here is how it works:

Amazon requires you make the ebook exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Amazon processes the vast majority of ebook sales. So, you lose some of the market for the ebook you choose to make free, but by no means do you lose a majority of it.

The “giveaway” part of all this is you can give the ebook away for free to the general public for any 5 days of your choosing out of that 90-day period in exchange for granting Amazon 90 days of exclusivity.

In my experience, KDP Select Promotions work best if you have three things in place before you start:

1.) More than one ebook to sell. You give away the free ebook to get people hooked on all your other ebooks, which they buy at full price. At, I created a KDP Select Promotion, which I used for an 8-part science fiction series last fall. We had significant success with generating sales using this strategy.

2.) Proper categorization on Amazon. Amazon has an overall best seller list, broken down into paid and free books. Then each category has its own best seller list, also broken down into paid and free ebooks. It is much easier to get on the top of a category’s “free” best seller list than the overall best seller list. When you do that, lots of casual browsers on Amazon see the ebook. Ideally you want to get in the #20 position or higher on any of the lists because that puts you on the first page of results.

3.) A formal advertising campaign, scheduled to hit during the giveaway period. Amazon doesn’t publicly reveal much about how their ranking algorithm works (for obvious reasons). But, the fact that the rankings get recalculated hourly is one thing that is publicly known. That means if you can get a lot of downloads in a short period, the book will go up on the free bestseller lists. The only way to do this is effectively is by coordinated advertising campaigns, all scheduled to hit at the same time. The advertising method and budget I’ve created that usually has the best return on investment is about $300.

This is different from the old Amazon Best Seller campaigns for free books because you’re offering something for FREE to the reader.

But, even with all three of the above in place, a successful KDP Select Promotion can still be a bit of black magic. In my experience, there is not a direct correlation between free downloads and book sales. There are too many other variables involved, including the type of book and the potential market for that title. One campaign I ran had a massive number of downloads, but the long term sales of the author’s other books turned out to be weak. Conversely, another ebook I pushed has just 5000 or so downloads and, months later, is still generating strong sales with the rest of the author’s books. (That is the 8-part science fiction series I mentioned earlier.)

My conclusion from this is that a book series, especially one with many installments, could benefit from a KDP Select Promotion, but other books may or may not.

As a side note, while Kindle readers are price sensitive on the first installment of a new series, it seems that, once they are hooked, they aren’t sensitive to price any longer. I experimented with the pricing of that 8-part science fiction series by cutting the list price for installments 2 through 7 with the expectation that we would sell more copies. It didn’t happen. I sold just as many copies at the higher price as I did at the lower one.

Have a question for Angela (writing/publishing) or Richard (marketing)? Contact us here.