Going Free with Amazon.com

One of the lessons I’ve learned from my recent experiments with Amazon’s KDP Select is that “free” can get you some nice publicity.

As my most recent giveaway was winding down last week, “Sleeping Beauty” landed on a couple of bestseller lists. It ranked as high as #1842 in the Free Store on Amazon (maybe higher, since I didn’t notice I was on these lists until almost the end of the day). Better, it came in on two Amazon Top 100 lists. It was #38 on World Literature: Mythology and #46 on Contemporary Fantasy.

Of course, as soon as it went off being free, it disappeared from those lists and wandered back into the obscurity of a five- or six-figure standing in the Paid Store.

But that got me thinking. What if it was possible to stay in the Free Store, thereby raising the visibility of the story? What if you could stay in the Top 100 on one or more lists?

Well, in terms of rankings and visibility, that would be great. But it sure wouldn’t make you a whole lot of money.

Unless the free story was a loss-leader for a paid book.

One of the reasons I experimented with KDP Select was to see what sort of visibility I could get for the Wolf Dasher series. I put an excerpt from State of Grace in the back of “Sleeping Beauty.” Over the four days of free events, I gave away 650 copies of “Sleeping Beauty” (and therefore 650 excerpts from State of Grace) in the US.

There’s a small problem with that: “Sleeping Beauty” and Wolf Dasher do not share quite the same audience. There is some crossover, but “Sleeping Beauty” is a dark, urban fantasy with a few elements of romance. The Wolf Dasher series is high fantasy, spy-thriller action-adventure.

But, if I had a loss-leader story for the Dasher series I could give away free and keep it in the Top 100 of several Amazon bestseller lists, that would raise the visibility of the whole series. That would be, essentially, a 5000-word ad.

If only “The Darkline Protocol” were free on Amazon.com

Well, as it happens, I’ve got just such a thing. Last year, I wrote “The Darkline Protocol” for the specific purpose of giving it away for free to create interest in State of Grace. I published it to Smashwords and listed it for free, and then published to Amazon and B&N, expecting them to price match.

Neither has yet. It’s still at the 99-cents minimum price. I’ve sent Amazon a notice four times in the past week, notifying them of the lower price at Smashwords. So far, nothing.

Which is really frustrating me for two reasons. First, I’ve heard from other authors how easy it is to get this thing done. Why Amazon isn’t listening to me I don’t know.

Second, because I’ve got this plan, and I can’t really execute it until Amazon is willing to give the book away. If it were free, I could list it on the many different Kindle-supporting groups and sites that tell readers about free eBooks. I could tweet it as being free and give a link. I could push it to the moon the way I did “Sleeping Beauty.”

And, because it would stay free, once I got it onto some Top 100 lists, it wouldn’t fall off just because it went back into the Paid Store. It would stay there as long as it could sustain enough downloads.

And that would raise the visibility of the Wolf Dasher line. That would help sell more copies of State of Grace and, when it releases in November, Red Dragon Five.

But it’s gotta be free first. And, as though they somehow know what I am plotting, Amazon is refusing to play along.

So the first step in the plan is to keep hammering Amazon.com until they’ll list “The Darkline Protocol” for free. Then I can start getting the word out about it, so as to raise its “sales.”

If you’ve got suggestions on how to get Amazon to make a book free, please leave a comment below. I’ll post more updates here as the situation develops. In the meantime, if you want to get “The Darkline Protocol,” you can download free from Smashwords here. Or, if you want to give me 35 cents, download it now from Amazon. While you’re there, tell them it’s free somewhere else.



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