A lot of people seem to struggle with getting their book permanently free on Amazon. Meanwhile, whenever I want a book to go free, it usually goes free within a few hours at most. So, I thought I’d share my method for making a book permanently free on Amazon.
First up, a few caveats:
- Amazon doesn’t officially allow books to be free, so they can change their rules at any time and your book will go off free;
- I’ve had issues in the past where books randomly go off free and then back on. So this isn’t without its problems. Once they go back to paid, it usually goes back to free within a day, though;
- In case you didn’t already realise, when Amazon price matches, it’s very difficult to get them to stop. So if you want your book to be temporarily free, you might want to rethink it. Your book may end up free for months after doing this.
So, at the moment, Amazon has a policy of requiring that they’re the cheapest price for a book on the market. Their bots are constantly searching other online stores for cheaper prices. If they find a cheaper price, they’ll match down.
If they do this, you lose out on the money from the difference. Traditional publishers don’t lose out – in that case Amazon covers the difference. That’s just part of being a tiny indie author-publisher.
Anyway, my method for making a book permanently free is fairly simple:
- I put my book on Smashwords, using a Smashwords ISBN. I’ve never tried with my own ISBN, since I don’t see much point yet in having one. It should work with a personal ISBN too, though.
- I set the price on Smashwords to zero.
- I put the same book on Amazon with the Smashwords ISBN as the ISBN code. This, I think, is the key step.
- I wait until the book goes free on Smashwords’s channels. Especially Barnes & Noble, that seems to be the key store.
- Then I report it on Amazon using the “Tell us about a lower price” link on the book page. This step isn’t really necessary, as I’ve had books match to free quickly without ever using this link. But it can’t hurt.
That’s it. Those five steps have gotten two of my books permanently free, one of them for almost a year, with no problems. Other people, meanwhile, say that they try for months with no luck. The thing that most of those people are trying, is using the “Tell us about a lower price” link. I don’t think that link does much without an ISBN in common.
A final note: every Amazon store is priced and run separately. So price-matching in the US won’t automatically price match elsewhere. The most important store elsewhere, in my opinion, is the UK, and they do price match quickly as well. Australia won’t price match for me, no matter what I do. If anyone knows a way to get Amazon Australia to price-match, let me know. I’ve contacted their support and they said that Amazon Australia’s policy is to be very selective on what they match.
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