It’s easy to make your ebook available for free with most of the major book distribution platforms – either directly with Apple Books or via an aggregator such as Smashwords, which distributes to Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and several others (including Apple). Simply set your price to ‘zero’ when you publish and your book will be available to the world to download for free.
The exception is Amazon and the Kindle store, where ebooks can’t be ‘sold’ for free – although they can, if you know how; it’s just a matter of understanding the system.
Publishing on Amazon
Writing and publishing an ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and reaching potentially millions of readers on Amazon, is really straightforward. You end up with a great-looking product that can be distributed far and wide on the Kindle store, depending on your own marketing and promotional skills. The only problem – for authors who want to make their work available for free – is that there’s a minimum price below which ebooks can’t be offered, which is 99p or 99 cents. You can’t set your price at ‘zero’ and give away your ebook, like you can on other publishing platforms.
Enroll in KDP Select – the easy way
That said, there is one way, but it involves locking your ebook into Amazon’s special publishing eco-system known as KDP Select. You can choose to enroll your ebook on publication or at any time afterwards.
Now, whether or not to opt for Amazon’s KDP Select programme is a whole other ball game – and a different post another time – but it does have one advantage for anyone who wants to give their book away. During each 90-day enrollment period, you can offer a free book promotion so that readers worldwide can download your book from Amazon for free.
The drawback? You can only do this for a maximum of five days in any 90-day period (so for the other 85 days your ebook will have to be priced at a minimum of 99p/99 cents). Oh, and you have to remain exclusive to Amazon during your enrollment period, so you can’t offer your ebook for free digitally anywhere else, including your own website.
In fact, if you want to offer your ebook for free on Amazon permanently, you shouldn’t touch KDP Select at all. There’s a far, far better way, and you’ll still get your ebook listed on Amazon for free. Not just for a few days. But permanently. All the time.
Amazon don’t make it easy for you to find out how, because they want to sign you up to KDP Select. But it’s called price-matching, it’s fairly straightforward to achieve, and this is how you do it.
Price-matching – the best way to list your ebook for free on Amazon
First, you need to publish your ebook with Amazon KDP and set the price at the lowest possible level, ie 99p or 99 cents. Do not enroll your ebook in the separate KDP Select programme. (If your book is already published at a different (higher) price, go into your KDP account and edit the price down to 0.99, ie the lowest you can go on Amazon.)
Because you’re not in KDP Select, you can offer your book digitally elsewhere, so now publish it on Apple Books too, or via an aggregator like Smashwords which will put it in online bookstores and libraries worldwide. At all those outlets set the price as ‘zero’, so now your book is available for free almost everywhere except for the Kindle store on Amazon. Wait for it to show up as ‘free’ in those other stores before the next step – you’ll see my book, Travels From Heart and Home, available for free in various stores in the image below. (Again, if your book is already for sale on those other platforms and you now want to make it free, go in to the accounts and set the price to 0.00.)
Go back to your Amazon KDP account to your ‘Bookshelf’, click ‘Help’ (top right of the page) and then ‘Contact us’ (bottom left) – because you’ll notice they don’t provide the help you want in their Help pages…
Clicking ‘Contact us’ brings up a ‘How can we help’ list, where you should check ‘Pricing’ and then click ‘Price matching’.
Clicking ‘send us an email’ then brings up the template to ask Amazon to ‘match’ the 0.00 (free) price at your other distributors.
Sending the email is self-explanatory, but I would write something like this:
‘Please match the price of 0.00 for my book [title, author, ASIN – ie, Amazon book ID number].
It is available for 0.00 at competitors including Apple Books [include hyperlink to your book where it is available for free], Kobo [ditto], and Barnes and Noble [ditto].
I’d be grateful if you would please match that price. Thank you.’
Finally, your ebook is free on Amazon
Having logged your price-match request with Amazon, you sit back and wait. You’ll probably get an acknowledgment email shortly and then, fairly soon, an email from Customer Support telling you that they have price-matched your book successfully. Here’s my book listing on Amazon, now showing as available for free.
A few things to note
You might get the same result by reporting – or asking someone to report – the lower (ie 0.00) price of your book in the ‘Tell us about a lower price’ link included with every Amazon book listing. But this method above is more reliably quicker.
Amazon don’t HAVE to price-match for you – after all, they don’t make any money from giving away free ebooks – but they probably will because it’s not in their long-term interest to sell things that others are giving away.
When they do price-match your book to zero, Amazon should do it in all territories that the book is sold, whether you asked them to or not – so the email outlined above might just have links to the UK page of your book, but your confirmation email from Amazon will likely show the book appearing as free across a dozen worldwide territories. You can always check using the links in your KDP Bookshelf.
Talking of which, your ebook listing in your KDP Bookshelf will continue to show your book costing 0.99 (as the image below shows), but rest assured – it is now showing as 0.00 on the actual book sale pages.
So, price-matching is the only game in town when it comes to making your ebook permanently free on Amazon, and it’s really straightforward to do.
As to WHY you want to give away your work and make your ebook free – well, here’s a useful post on the subject I prepared earlier!
[Main image, Free Share by Mike Cohen, CC BY 2.0, creditscoregeek.com]