Hi, so I decided to make my first novella Trickling Sands which is a mystery detective free on Amazon. It has since then made some new sales, though not a lot. My reason in doing this is so that over time, I can build enough buys/downloads so that agents and publishers can pick up my next work, which I have completed. What is you guys take? Do you think this is an good strategy?

Hi there :wave:

As this is a question relating to the publishing industry, your thread is better suited to the #industry-insider club. I’ve moved it there for you.

Thanks for understanding,

Hollie - Community Ambassador :azanthiel:

I honestly don’t know.

I would have been more inclined to save it and use it as a freebie reward for signing up for my mailing list.

See, the problem is, you have a sales history now, and like it or not, you’re going to be judged by that sales history. Free downloads don’t count as sales. But if the free downloads are resulting in sales, maybe it’s worth it? I don’t know. I myself wouldn’t set something to free on Amazon unless I had other content for sale.


Permafree downloads usually only work if you have a whole series that would benefit from the read through or to build your mailing list, like @XimeraGrey suggested. Otherwise, I don’t really see the benefit. Even if readers absolute love your free novella, what book are they going to read next from you if you haven’t published anything else yet? Even if you publish something a year down the line, those readers will have long forgotten you.

Also in my experience, the days of permafree books as a marketing hook are gone. There are thousands and thousands of readers who download anything for free they can get their hands on, just for it to wither away in their library without them ever opening it. And even if they read it, they rarely go on and buy a subsequent book because they have so many free books to choose from. Finally, there are the readers who would never touch a series which has its first book permafree since they believe it’s of substandard quality. You get what you pay for, so if it’s free, it can’t be good.

I did quite a lot of paid advertising over these last few years, and tried free days as part of my Kindle Unlimited promotions with very little sell through. For me, it works best to temporarily reduce the price to $0.99 for the whole series and then raise the price again after about a week. Hard to do with a novella since the price is already low to begin with, plus you face the same problem again that you won’t see read through unless you have already a bunch of books published.

The chances that you might attract a traditional publisher with any of those strategies is slim to none unless you earn well into six figures like Mark Dawson, and if you already established such a track record as a self-publshed author, you don’t really need the support of a traditional publisher anymore.


I think it’s worth looking at the perceived value effect too. To a customer, seeing a book listed as 0.00$ as a regular price suggests that the book isn’t good so the author is trying to give it away. Pairing the novella as an ‘extra’ is a stronger idea, I think. It adds perceived value a newsletter, or to an actual purchase.

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Does permafree still work? I thought Amazon had changed their pricing matching thing, now I think they don’t allow permafree pricing…

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So true, but she was looking to traditionally publish her next novel. I think she was hoping to tell an agent that her novella had n-number of readers. And maybe some good reviews.

I don’t agree with this. If they read the free one, they know the quality. Being free has nothing to do with it. Now they might be put off having to pay for the others, but those aren’t you’re target audience anyway.

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Why not? Put it up for free on another site and then click the link that you found it on another site at a lower cost. Amazon will match it.

What I meant is that they shy away from the free one. If you hook them, it’s a different story, but I know of plenty of readers who wouldn’t touch a free book because they think it will be of lower quality or it wouldn’t be free.

I tried permafree. It didn’t work for me at all and I know that many of my author friends shy away from it now because the landscape has changed so much. It’s good if your experience is different and you still find success with this strategy.

Interesting. I guess I feel that way about a $0.99 book. But if it’s free, what do you have to lose trying it?

It doesn’t match sometimes lol

I agree,though I see Sal’s point. If I notice a series and the first book is free I might try it if it pushes my buttons. I’m open, but there are a lot of people who, as she says, either want everything for free or others that think free equals rubbish. It does very often, unfortunately.

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To answer that, I give you a few fun facts:

  • I used to run free Bookfunnel promotions to build my mailing list. On average, 35% of those who download the book for free are repeat sign-ups, and about 10 to 15% of those are on my blocked list, meaning they signed up before and then unsubscribed during the onboarding process, so I don’t include them any longer on my subscriber list.

  • A FB friend of mine made a survey two years ago around New Years (she raffled off a $50 Amazon gift voucher to get them to participate) and it turns out that 63% of her subscribers never even read any of her books. They got on the list through a free promotion or signed up to her list from her permafree book, but since they join so many subscriber lists, they don’t have time to read them all. There were other authors in the same FB group who did similiar surveys afterward with similar result.

  • My usual opening rate of my newsletter list is between 33% to 40%. If I add anything with FREE in the tiltle of the mail like “Claim Your Free Gift” or “Your Free Book For Launch Day”, those numbers jump to over 75% (amd needless to say, the click through rate on free links by far outnumbers the click through rate on paid links, even though I did have some success with promotional links). However, that doesn’t mean these readers are actually reading the free book.

  • When I still had permafree books, the downloads jumped in the first couple of weeks before tapering off into oblivion. I tried different series and even had several books for free at some point, but the results were always the same.

  • During my last few “free book” campaingns, the numbers of downloads during KU free book promotion days went down from around 5-7K to just over a thousand. I used to get a few decent reviews from them, however, since Amazon created the purchasing threshold limit, those reviews have more or less disappeared because of a lot of the freebee hunters don’t meet that threshold.

So what did I conclude from that (and those are my own conclusions – I’m sure there are plenty of authors who might disagree):

  • The majority of those readers who download books for free are not interested in buying books.
  • The bargain hunting has been extended to sites like Bookfunnel and other promotional sites that help authors build their mailing list and those freebee hunters sign up to pretty much any list (and likely don’t read the books afterward).
  • A huge subscriber list that wasn’t organically build might not reflect a true picture of “fans” who are following an author.

Add the articles, blogs and trends that indicate that some paying readers shy away from series that include free books because of potential quality issues, and I decided that giving away free books is no longer the strategy for me. However, I’m sure that some authors still find success by doing it. I also think genre and the total number of books on an author’s profile may influence those stats.

Yet, on thing a permafree book always does: it screams self-published. I don’t know of any traditional publisher who utlizes permafree books (even though I do know of a few who temporarily made a book free as part of a BookBub promotion to boost slow sellers).

I agree with you here. I think the only time a $0.99 book works if it’s a temporary reduction, and it’s clear to readers that it’s temporary like the KU countdown timer that says that the book will be full priced again after x amount of days or hours or a FB ad indicating that it’s a limited time offer. People love a good bargain, but that’s what it has to be: a bargain. A book that’s permanently $0.99 is no longer a bargain but a cheap book. I believe when it comes to buying behavior, there’s a huge difference.

The only exception to this are novellas. I don’t think people are happily paying $2.99 or even $3.99 for a book that’s less than a 100 pages long. However, if the novella is the only book on an author’s profile, this could backfire as well. But then again, building your platform with just one published book is a challenge in itself, no matter of the length of the book.


I guess so does KU.

I never gave a novel away for free. In fact, when I release a new novel I don’t even enroll it in Select at first. People have to buy it to read it. I remember @AlecHutson thought that was a bad strategy, but I don’t write Fantasy so my novels aren’t 150,000-200,000 words and make more on a sale than pages read for the entire book.

I’ve given short stories away for free, but not on Amazon. That’s how I built my following. Your points are great. Thanks.

I know that at least Limitless has books in KU (I guess they do count them as traditional publisher ): and saw a few smaller publishing houses to have first in series books in KU. But ultimately, I think that most traditional publishers go wide, so yes, it’s a good indicator for self publishing.

I just pulled all my books from KU. I had a lot of sucess last year when my FB ads were booming, but since then things have slowed down so much that it’s no longer worth it.

Perhaps I misunderstood what you said earlier. I actually think going wide is a perfectly legitimate route. Someone on here was talking about putting their book up only on Amazon but not enrolling in KU, which I didn’t understand. Personally, I think it makes sense to at least try being exclusive, as its only for 3 month stints. Also, a few genres do really well in KU.

I do love my KU page reads. Yesterday I had over 40,000 combined on my three main books - that’s about 200 USD, while my royalties from sales was only 100. Most indie authors I know who are Amazon exclusive make more from page reads than from sales. I make about the same whether my books are read in entirety in KU or bought outright (my books average 150k words and I sell them for 4.99-5.99)

That’s me. Although exclusive to Amazon, I don’t enroll a novel in KU when first released, and then enroll it in Select.

That’s my point. My novels are 75k–95k. I make more on a sale than a complete book read under KU.

Honestly, I think you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by doing that. KU readers read KU books, for the most part, and they are far more likely to try new authors, as it costs them nothing. It seems to me that you’re just ignoring a massive market that would cost you nothing to enter.

Also, why are you not wide if you’re not in KU? Why not put your book up on ibooks / kobo / etc?

Edit: Oh, wait, are you saying you don’t enroll it in KU when you first release, but enroll the same book later in KU? I suppose that makes some sense. But why not put it up on Draft to Digital to grab some wide sales while your book is not in KU?

I simply don’t want to bother. Amazon has 85% of the market. It’s not worth my time distributing to the other 15%. Also, after the novel has been out for a while, I enroll it in KU. This way I don’t have to bother unpublishing it from the other places. The reason I don’t enroll it in KU right away is because people who know my writing are willing to pay a little more to get to read it sooner.

Is the strategy right? Who knows? But it’s not keeping me up at night.