Selling an E-Book: Results of My Kindle ‘Permafree’ Experiment

Carol Tice

After writing and marketing more than 10 self-published e-books, I thought I knew something about selling an e-book.

I mean, it’s not like I’ve done too badly — I’ve earned over $50,000 from my e-books, over the past 8 years or so. I’ve done that mostly on my own blog, right here.

And I’ve done free-book offers before — just did a 5-day one for two of my ebooks, a few weeks back.

So I thought I had a clue how to market an e-book, and how to do a free-book promo.

Then I released The Recession-Proof Freelancer, in April. That’s right — as Covid-19 spread, I basically locked myself in a closet for 3 days, and wrote about how I grew my freelance income to six figures in the last recession. I also unpacked a 12-point action plan for how you can thrive in the current downturn.

My plan was to unleash this as a permanent-free e-book on Amazon, as well as selling it on my site.

But here’s what really happened…

Amazon selling: 2 ways

First off, a little background for the unfamiliar. There are two basic ways to self-publish on Amazon.

One is to sell exclusively on Amazon, through their KDP Select program. If you’re in KDP Select, you can easily run 5-day free-book promos. But that’s the limit on those.

Selling an e-book: KDP Select - MAKEALIVINGWRITING.COM

Obviously, Amazon likes authors to go all-in on Amazon and use KDP Select. One enticement: You get into the royalty pool in their Kindle Unlimited program, in which everyone who subscribes to Amazon Prime gets a lot of e-books included.

Amazon paid out over $30 million in April alone through that program. Not insubstantial, though you can assume the big best-selling authors get most of it.

But there are some downsides for authors, most importantly that you don’t capture the emails of Amazon buyers. You don’t know who they are, and can’t easily sell to them in the future.

The other way is to sell multiple places, including Amazon. If you do that, Amazon insists that you never price your book lower elsewhere. Amazon always has to have the lowest price. Fair enough, I thought.

I decided early on not to make Amazon the center of my book-selling world. I make a few thou a year from there, but mostly sell on my site.

The logical choice for my new e-book was to sell multiple places and try to make my e-book permanently free on Amazon. Since I hadn’t done that before, I started researching how to do it.

Selling an e-book that’s ‘permafree’

With a quick Google search on ‘selling a permafree e-book on Amazon,’ I began to worry.

I turned up discussions of how Amazon had stopped making e-books permafree. Instead, authors said, Amazon was sending nasty notes to writers and kicking their e-books off Amazon. When they sent notes pointing out their e-book was for sale for free elsewhere.


I investigated further, asking around on one of my go-to places, the Facebook group Free Kindle E-Books & Kindle Unlimited Books.

There, I was reassured that Amazon was back at it, making e-books permafree. How long does it take?

“It just took 2 days for mine,” one writer told me.

Relieved, I moved forward to launch my e-book in multiple places, and make it free everywhere. Including Amazon.

My e-book launch debacle

To me, The Recession-Proof Freelancer needed to be permanently free. I wanted as many writers as possible to have it. I wanted to be magnanimous, and to just get this survival info out to a wide number of readers.

This recession isn’t going to be over in a week. Our economy is going to take many months (years?) to figure out this Covid lifestyle.

So, in late April, TRPF popped onto my website. Excitement!

It was up. And it was free. Here on the blog, anyway. On Amazon, it was 99 cents, while we waited for the permafree magic to happen.

I promptly reported to Amazon that my site had the e-book for free, like you do. There’s this link you can find if you scroll down, just below the list-ranking stats:


When you click that, you get this little form to fill out:


Then, I eagerly checked Amazon each day, waiting to see the beautiful “$0.00” price to appear.

Dissolve to weeks later…

You’ve probably guessed where this is going. As I write this nearly a month later, my e-book is still 99 cents on Amazon. No sign of when or if they will ever make it permafree, as I dreamed they would.

I’ve reported it multiple times. My friends and staff team have reported it, too.

After a week, we broke down and threw it up on Barnes & Noble for free, too. We reported that link to Amazon, too.

Still nothing.

On the bright side, I haven’t gotten a nasty note, or seen my e-book ejected from Amazon.

But the bad news is that I’m promoting a free e-book, high and low. I mean, I signed up on Help a Reporter Out as an expert, and have been giving interviews to promote it.

But if people go to Amazon, it’s 99 cents. Amazon is making me a liar. It’s embarrassing.

I ask a Kindle expert

Totally disappointed, I recently broke down and asked my favorite expert in Kindle e-books, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked him, after outlining the steps I’d taken so far.

“It’s just Amazon being inconsistent….like usual,” he told me. “Sometimes you just get the wrong Amazon human.  Either they’re new to their job, or never got the memo. So, other than keep trying until you get an educated or experienced Amazon human, no, I don’t have any other tricks.”

That made me feel a little better, anyway.

I do have the sense that Amazon is totally overwhelmed, with the volume of people wanting to order things online during #isolation.

Trying not to take it personally. It’s them, right?

Upsides of my permafree experiment

Here’s the funny part of this whole crazy journey: I’ve sold about 300 copies of The Recession-Proof Freelancer on Amazon, at 99 cents.

So, thanks superfans who were willing to buy an e-book they could have gotten free on my website. (I gave the first 100 or so a Zoom group-coaching call, as a thank-you.)

And super-thanks to all who are willing to then leave an Amazon review. I continue to try to crack the code of getting 100 reviews — 29 so far!

If you’re willing to help in my quest to help more writers find my e-book on Amazon and get it for free, there are two things you can do:

  1. Buy it on Amazon for 99 cents. Ideally, by searching on the phrase ‘recession proof,’ which I’m trying to rank for. Then, leave a review.
  2. Report this Barnes & Noble free e-book link to Amazon, on my Amazon page for The Recession-Proof Freelancer.

Here’s hoping that some day, I’ll have a permanently free e-book on Amazon. Could still happen, right? I haven’t given up hope.

Have you tried selling an e-book on Amazon? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Recession-Proof-Freelancer - Selling an E-book - MAKEALIVINGWRITING.COm


  1. eamon

    Hi – the reason Amazon didn’t drop the price is because you used the wrong form – the one you used is for readers. The one for authors is on the KDP help page – just click Contact Us and select Pricing – Price Match they have a template you can fill out. Mine was done in 24 hours.

    • Mikkell

      Correct, I’ve recently place about four of my books on permafree using this method and it went smoothly. I’m getting a lot of downloads on them and hopefully they end up reaching in the top 100 of Free books for even more exposure.

      I guess in the months to come, I will see what it means for the rest of my catelogue and if it will have more readers discover me and check out more books.

    • Carol Tice

      Fascinated you got Amazon to go to zero — 2 years after pricing it free elsewhere, my Recession-Proof Freelancer book remains 99 cents on Amazon. Repeatedly reporting that it was higher elsewhere had no effect.

  2. Paul

    Hi Carol. So did AMZN drop your book to $0 since the time of this post? Thanks

    • Carol Tice

      LOL, nope! Still 99 cents. Apparently, being the lowest price is no longer that top of mind to Amazon… or they don’t care if it’s on some website they never heard of for less, as long as it’s not on Kobo or Barnes & Noble or somewhere better-known for less. I gave up trying. Whatever! It was interesting to see how hard this was.

      At this point I assume permafree is hit or miss/mostly dead on Amazon for new titles. If I wanted limited-time free I’d have to go all-in on KDP Select for at least 90 days… so I’m gladder than ever that Amazon isn’t a big part of my strategy.

      UPDATE: OMG, I just looked on B&N — and it’s FREE on there! And Amazon has STILL not lowered the price. Nuts. I’m going to go submit the B&N link to Amazon and see if it changes anything.

      ANOTHER UPDATE: And… the ‘report a lower price’ link is MISSING. I wonder if Amazon has discontinued that option with ebooks. I see chat online dating back 4 years or so that starts to report the link disappearing. Seems to still exist on other physical products. What a rollercoaster!

  3. Sue Chehrenegar

    I still do not understand how to give away an e-book, or even get information about an e-book in front of people’s eyes. Is it necessary to have a website?

    • Carol Tice

      Not if you sell on Kindle, Sue — then, you can upload your book file to Amazon and sell your e-book on there! Believe Amazon has plenty of helpdesk info on how to format your file for uploading.

      If you do their KDP program and only sell on Amazon, you’re able to do 5-day free promos. After that, it has to be a price. You ‘give away’ the e-book simply by setting the price to zero, and in KDP, setting the date range of your giveaway time.

      As I describe in the post, this isn’t the way I’ve gone in the past — I’ve chosen to have my own site and mostly sell from there. Amazon is just another way people find my materials.

      If your goal with the book is to make money, best way to go is to build your own site and audience, sell directly to them, and keep all the money, in my opinion. Amazon’s royalties aren’t great! Especially if you’re not in KDP, they’re lower.

      What I WANTED to do with this new e-book is sell it multiple places and drive the price to permanently free on Amazon. But so far, no luck! Though I see scads of other books that seem to have achieved it.

      You ‘get information about an e-book’ in front of people by marketing it. You might guest post and link to it, have an Amazon book page as I do, or a page on your own website, or both (me again).
      Hope that clarifies!

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