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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