Would you pay Amazon to offer a Free Kindle Book?

Are the benefits of giving away the first book in a series on the Kindle so high that it’s worth paying Amazon to do it?

It’s not a trick question.

What does a Free Kindle Book offer do?

Free Book Offers get you a lot of publicity and a lot of readers

A free book generally makes it to the top 10 of the Kindle Store, usually the #1 spot.

Of the most recent 10 free offers i.e.

  • The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry. NEW! Oct 2nd.
  • The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore. NEW! Oct 1st.
  • Starfist: First to Fight by David Sherman and Dan Cragg. NEW! Oct 1st.
  • Etc.
  • Every one of them hit the Top 5 and over 70% hit 1st or 2nd place.

    1. That’s probably tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
    2. A lot of bloggers link to the book – most of those links stay forever.  
    3. Even after your book is no longer free it stays in the charts for weeks and lots of people end up buying it (rightly or wrongly). For example,

      Weapons of Choice hasn’t been free for weeks and it’s still #14 in the Science Fiction charts.

    A lot of people who read your book and like it buy another one of your books – which brings us to the area where free book offers work best.

    First Book Free Offers greatly increase Sales of the other books in the series  

    Scott Shannon, publisher of the Del Rey imprint at Random House has talked about the impact of giving away the first book in a series - 

    Shannon said Del Rey has had especially good luck with Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” fantasy series after offering the first book for free. He said sales for the other Temeraire novels increased by more than 1,000 percent. “It’s been stunning,” he said.

    However, the actual sales rankings from the Kindle Store are more telling.

    Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik took over the Kindle Store Fantasy Rankings due to their free book offers.

    This is what we saw with the Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik giveaways in March (my original impact of free post on March 24th) -

    In the Fantasy Section of the Kindle Store:
    1) Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (free).
    3) His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (free).
    8. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb (#2 in the assassin series – not free).
    10) Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (#2 in the Temeraire series – not free).
    11) Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb (not free, Assassin series).
    17) Black Powder War by Naomi Novik (not free, Temeraire series).
    34) Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (not free, Temeraire series).
    44) Fool’s Errand (another Robin Hobb book, continuation of FarSeer series i.e. the Assassin books).
    46) Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik (not free, Temeraire series).

    This is what we see today, even though it’s been a few weeks since the Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik books were removed from free offers -

    Fantasy Section of the Kindle Store:
    24) Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb.
    25) Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb.
    34) Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb.
    45) Golden Fool by Robin Hobb.
    48) Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb.
    57) Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik.
    58) Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik.
    63) Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.
    65) His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.
    77) Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb (somewhat related to the Assassin and Fool Series – set in the same world).
    78) Black Powder War by Naomi Novik.
    83) Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik.
    85) Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.
    91) Mad Ship by Robin Hobb.

    This is what the free book offers did for Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik -

    1. Their books (in March) had 4 of the Top 10 and 9 of the Top 50 sales ranks. Only 2 of those were free books.
    2. From end March through early October i.e. for over 6 months they have had good sales rankings.
    3. Even now, when the free offers are gone, their books have 5 of the Top 50 and 14 of the Top 100 spots.
    4. These are good, good rankings – For example, Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Universe is at #72 in the Fantasy section of the Kindle Store. 9 of the Naomi Novik and Robin Hobb books are selling more.

    Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik are not the only example. 

    Take the free giveaway of Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. It’s Book 1 of the Riley Jensen, Guardian Series.

    Here are the rankings in the Fantasy section of the Kindle Store today -  

    Fantasy Section of the Kindle Store -
    2) Full Moon Rising.
    6) Kissing Sin by Keri Arthur. Book 2 of the Riley Jensen, Guardian series.
    13) Tempting Evil by Keri Arthur. Book 3 of the RJG series.
    17) Dangerous Games by Keri Arthur. Book 4 of the RJG series.
    22) The Darkest Kiss by Keri Arthur. Book 6 of the Riley Jensen, Guardian Series.
    23) Deadly Desire by Keri Arthur. Seems to not be part of the Series.

    Giving away 1 book free got Keri Arthur -

    1. The #2 spot for that book and a lot of publicity and new readers.
    2. That translated into getting the 6th, 13th, 17th, 22nd, and 23rd spots in the Fantasy section of the Kindle Store.
    3. That’s 5 of the Top 25 spots for her paid books.

    It’s working in a lot of Niches in the Kindle Store, and for a lot of authors

    Take Giving Chase by Lauren Dane, which is #2 in the Kindle Store because it’s free.

    Not only do tens (or perhaps hundreds) of thousands of readers download it, you also get, in just a few days, these results -

    1. Taking Chase by Lauren Dane at #18 in the Romance Charts.  
    2. Chased by Lauren Dane at #27 in the Romance Charts. 

    Another good example is Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning which was free a few weeks ago. That has led to the following rankings in the romance section of the Kindle Store for Karen Marie Moning’s books -

    1. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning at #14 in the Romance section of the Kindle Store. 
    2. Bloodfever at #32.  
    3. Faefever at #37.
    4. Darkfever at #64.

    Combine these with other authors who had free books earlier i.e. Lara Adrian, etc. and you can see that free book offer authors are gradually taking over the charts, and not just with the free books.

    Closing Thought – I’d pay to give away a book in the Kindle Store

    You obviously have to have a very good book to get results such as

    1. Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik who stayed in the Fantasy charts for 6+ months. 
    2. Keri Arthur who has taken over the Romance Charts.

    However, a free book offer gets you in front of a lot of people – it gives you a shot in a Kindle Store overflowing with 350K books.

    Am waiting for the next Rick Yancey book based off of a free book and have $60+ in purchases of Robin Hobb and Naomi Novik books. The same thing is happening with a lot of other kindle owners.  

    If you have a series, find a way to get the first book out for free. 6 months in the genre bestseller lists might be calling out your name.

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