Archive | July 2014

Perma-Free, Perma-Problem?

Are books that are perma-free causing a problem for writers trying to crack Amazon’s crucial top 100 listings?

As most authors know, once a book gets into the top 100 – whether for a specific genre or for all books on Kindle – the number of downloads can soar.

For those of us (and it’s a huge number) who use it, Amazon’s KDP platform enables us to offer our books free for five days every quarter.

Now, giving away books is satisfying on one level purely because I know that at least some of those people who download my book will then read it. (Even better, some will post reviews, which helps hugely with future sales.)

But giving your book away for free is also excellent marketing. Every time someone downloads your free book, there’s an increased chance of your book’s title and cover appearing in that wonderful ‘customers who bought this item also bought…’ feature on Amazon.

I generally find that every time I give away a few thousand free copies an immediate bump in actual sales follows. And not only is it deeply satisfying to know some readers are prepared to pay money for my work but it’s also good to know there’s going to be more money coming into my bank account!

When plugging a freebie, there are many websites willing to help you – sometimes for free but more often for a small sum. Which is all well and good but those Amazon top 100 lists are still what we need to aim for.

Why? Well, according to Anthony Wessel of Digital Book Today: “Once an author is able to get their book onto an Amazon Top 100 Free Books in a sub-genre category list, the 800-pound gorilla which is Amazon takes over and usually trumps all other book sites on the market in terms of driving discoverability and potential downloads for your free book listing.”

But when I look at those lists on Amazon, I see a lot of the same titles time and time again. Sometimes it’s old classics that have been reissued but sometimes it’s books by other indie authors (some of which I’ve read).

However, I know from the frequency they appear in the free lists that they’re on offer for far more than five days every three months.

I understand this is possible because of Amazon’s price-match policy. If an author offers a book free through other publishers, Amazon will then match the price, making books effectively perma-free (or on offer so often as to make no difference).

Because being in these lists creates its own momentum, it also means that books regularly in the top 100 will inevitably get dozens of reviews from the tens of thousands of downloads they’ve had. Look in today’s list and you’ll see some books with 1,000+ reviews – twice as many of some of the classics!

Why does this matter? Well, like I say, I’ve read some of these books and they’re good. Not necessarily great but good. (Some are probably more like okay but that’s just my opinion). But because they’re perma-free and have so many reviews then more readers keep on downloading them, they stay in the top of the lists… and they’re very hard to knock off those top spots!

Personally, I think Amazon should either review their policies or bring in a new category – Top 100 Free Offers – and limit those lists to books that are temporarily free not perma-free.

Anyone got any other opinions?