Perma-free on Amazon, 2015 version

Perma-free is a controversial method of getting your work out there, but it still works as a promo tool for some, especially if you have a series of books. I will not be discussing here whether it’s a good or bad thing to do; but if you do decide to do it, here’s how. I just did these steps, so I know they work.

Step one, of course, is to ensure your book is free elsewhere. This one remains the same as always, and has been described countless times. Just to refresh your memory: use Smashwords. Even if you have publisher accounts on Nook or iTunes already, these won’t let you set up a price of zero. Only Smashwords can do that for all channels – as far as I know (still not sure about Draft2Digital). Kobo is the only publisher that lets you set up a perma-free book directly, and that will come useful later, but Amazon doesn’t see Kobo as as much of a competitor as Nook or iTunes in US, so that alone may not always work.

All your other books, you can sell directly through retailers, if you so wish. But the book you want perma-free, has to be distributed through Smashwords (or equivalent).

Once you’re sure your book is free on as many other stores as possible, you have to inform Amazon. The old way was to simply get your friends to report the price match from the book page, through the “tell us about lower price” link. But this no longer works as well as it used to. In fact, it didn’t work for me at all. I waited and waited, and the price remained stubbornly as it was – until I’ve discovered the truth. So here’s what’s changed: right now, the best and most reliable way to ensure your book is price-matched to other retailers, is to write Amazon a letter.

Log in to your KDP account, click Help, then Contact Us. From the list of topics, choose Price Matching. Fill out the form with the following information: your book’s Amazon info (title, link, ASIN), and all the channels where your book is currently free that need matching to.

The Shadow Third Cover 250The turn-around on this is almost immediate – for the main Amazon regions at least (see below) – as opposed to the “Tell Us” button. A day or so later, your book will be price-matched – plus, you get an e-mail confirmation, which is always nice. But there’s a trick to it. Amazon now wants you to inform it of EVERY COUNTRY your book is free in, to match it to its own regional stores. Linking only to .com versions of the retailers will only match your book on Amazon.com.

This isn’t easy, since some stores don’t have regional versions, so I had to do some digging. I used the following list of links to make sure I covered all possible regions for “The Shadow of Black Wings”:

(The only one I’m missing so far is India, but I never had any success selling books there, so it’s something I will have to live with for now.)

Just search for your own book at each of these links, and you will have the contents for the letter ready. Click send, wait no more than a few days for a reply, check if the books are really free everywhere you wanted them (you may need to clear cache or view in incognito mode to see the change) – and start promoting! 🙂

Note: it may still take a few weeks for the effect to trickle down to the more obscure Amazons, like NL and BR – and they might revert to full price at any moment without notice. Just another down-side of the silly way in which KDP manages regional websites.
Thanks to the good folks at Alliance of Independent Authors, who first taught me this trick!
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8 thoughts on “Perma-free on Amazon, 2015 version

  1. Hi James,

    Your post is very insightful and helpful, thanks a lot for sharing!

    I’m currently trying to get my book permafree on Amazon everywhere.

    I used draft2digital, wrote to Amazon and got my book free on Amazon.com only.

    I performed searches in the local stores you mentioned above. I found my book on Kobo, but in none of the local iTunes stores. How did you get your book listed there?

    Was it via Smashwords (i.e. do they list it in the iTunes stores from all territories) or did you do something else to list it in the local iTunes stores?

    Thanks 🙂
    Eugene

      1. Thanks for the tip, James! I found Draft2Digital to also be very hassle free. The whole process was very smooth, so I highly recommend them.

        I submitted to them also to iTunes, but I can find my book only in US.

        So my question was also how to get your book in the international iTunes stores (Canada, UK). With Smashwords they automatically publish your book worldwide, or you needed to do something special to get your book published in Canada, UK, etc.

        I’m also waiting for a reply from Draft2Digital to see if they submitted my book also to the local iTunes stores (but even if they did, it is not currently published there).

        Cheers,
        Eugene

  2. Hi James,
    I have successfully implemented this strategy for a series of vegan cookbooks, which has been awesome.

    But I just tried this strategy for an erotica book (first book in a continuing series) and got this response from Amazon:

    “Thanks for the pricing information. While we retain discretion over our retail prices, I’ve passed your feedback on for consideration.

    We’ll need a little time to look into this issue.

    We’ll contact you with more information by the end of the day on August 28, 2015.

    Thanks for using Amazon KDP.”

    Have you ever seen anyone get this response before? I’m kinda freaked out they’re gonna block the book or something.

    Otherwise, why does the CS rep need to forward this for further consideration?

    Any info would be really appreciated, thanks!!

    1. Hi Josh,
      I got this automatic response when I first used this method, but the price was adjusted after that without me hearing from Amazon again.
      Thing is, it really is a discretionary process, so if CS decides they don’t want to reduce the price of your book no matter what, there’s little anyone can do. Perhaps they don’t see other retailers as competition in erotica genre…

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