Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Loss of Indie Free-dom

Many an indie author has gained notice and a foothold in sales by actually giving their book away for free, but the benefits of such a thing may be going the way of the dinosaur. 

For those of you scratching your head and wondering, "Free, you say? How can that possibly help sales?" worry not, I haven't gone off my rocker. In the past, when an author listed their book for free, spread the word, and got as many people to download it as possible, it climbed the ranks of free books, and if they were lucky, made it into the top 'selling' free books. Lists of top selling free books in all different types of genres were extremely popular trolling grounds on Amazon for readers looking for a free read. One way this helps sales is that people are more likely to buy your second, third, and following books if they have read the first. Another way is that it got the author up on the lists, got them noticed, and if they were lucky, the sales picked right up where the downloads left off as soon as their book went back to paid. Sounds crazy, but it worked. 

Worked being the key word. There was a time when we could 'tag' books on Amazon. This helped people find books that were tagged with words like 'fantasy', 'dragons', 'vampires', etc. Amazon tags disappeared. You may have noticed the Amazon 'Like' buttons are disappearing as well. Some books have them, some don't. Authors and published are unable to control which do and which don't. The 'Amazon Gods' are the only ones who know why this is disappearing. The 'Likes' helped books get noticed by easily promoting them on FaceBook, as well as in other ways, such as the effect how many likes a book had on the mysterious algorithms. 

And now, Amazon is messing with free books. The 'best selling' lists of free books are getting harder to find, some are even disappearing. Many websites offer links to books on Amazon. This is part of Amazon's 'Associate' plan. Those sites (blogs included) can get a percentage off books sold to customers who click on them through the website listing them. Amazon has put their foot down on those websites who promote mostly free books, saying they won't pay them for advertising if the majority of the books they advertise are free. This means authors who used such websites to spread the word about their free book, will find fewer websites willing to spread the word for them. Which honestly, was the best way to get your downloads up and get onto the 'best selling' free lists. 

Whether you're a reader who enjoyed discovering new authors through free books, building your reading list with them, or you're an author who used them as part of your marketing plan, this will effect you. The only constant in this business, is change. 


Author of the paranormal Earth-conscious channeler series: Born of Fire (FREE novella), The Secret of Spruce KnollChanneler's ChoiceRise of a Rector, and the historical fantasy, To Ride A Puca. Heather also has stories in the following anthologies: In His Eyes  and Winter Wonders


  1. I suppose with change will come a new or different way to work at climbing the lists.

    1. I think so. There is always a new way, it's just a matter of finding it.

  2. It makes it so hard to play when they keep shifting the goal posts.

  3. And Amazon's recent announcement about Goodreads just gives them more power over the book world. It's scary how much they control what's out there!