Can You Make Your Book Free on Amazon? Self-Publishing 101
Making a book permanently free is an effective way to win new readers into your fandom. People don’t have to risk money to discover whether they like your writing. They can simply download a book and read it, and will often be willing to sign up onto your list or read your priced books confidently.
Unfortunately, Amazon has surprisingly rigid pricing guidelines. Take a look at the pricing screenshot below:
See the price range listed?
It turns out that Amazon has an ideal range for a book price. If you price your book too high, they'll cap your royalties at 30% instead of 70% of your selling price. Too low and it’s the same thing. If you price your book for free, you’ll get an error message and have to choose a higher number.
That puts a lot of writers in a sticky situation.
How to Make Your Book Free on Amazon
The Conventional Method
There are two ways people have priced their books for free on Amazon. One is conventional and works more intuitively with Amazon’s platform, but is more limited. The other is a backdoor approach (discussed below).
The conventional method is by far the easiest, so we’ll cover this first.
One thing you can do is put your book on KDP Select. This is an option you have in your book’s setup page, and it’s a simple box to check. You can learn more about KDP Select here.
KDP Select gives you a taste of the free experience upfront—while still paying you for the pages read. Subscribers get to read your book for free as a part of their subscription. In addition, you get five free days for every ninety-day cycle that you can spread out and use to get readers who aren’t even subscribed to the program.
Here’s the catch: if you’re on KDP Select, you can’t publish anywhere else. And your books still aren’t really free except for those five free days. If you’re going with a standard free book strategy, this might not be the best method to use.
The Backdoor Method (Does It Still Work?)
A common workaround for authors who still wanted to publish in multiple markets was to have Amazon price-match their books with a competitor where the book was already free. Amazon claims to do price-matching automatically now, but removed the price-matching option itself. This means that this method sadly no longer works, at least not reliably.
The bottom line is this: if you have a book you want to give away, it's best to go through non-Amazon platforms.
And that might not be a bad thing if you wanted to publish your books wide to begin with. You can still get readers, and Amazon can still be a convenient option for everyone who uses it as their one-stop book shop.
How have you tackled the free book issue on Amazon? Please share your experiences with either of these two methods in the comment section below. You can also click the blue button to join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers.