Making a book Perma-Free on Amazon

I have received questions about how I was able to offer Crazy Lovebirds:  Five Super-Short Stories free on Amazon. I created this book as a sampler of my flash fiction-- it’s a quick read of five flash comedy pieces. From the get-go, I wanted it to be free, but that's not an immediate option on Amazon-- so you need to follow a few steps.
Here is how the process worked:

--First, select something short that represents your writing well. Do NOT take one of your existing books for this purpose.  Use different material-- either new or excerpted.  
Why? That way, you don’t have to exit Kindle Select or any other programs for your "real" books.  No reason to complicate life -- this experiment is supposed to make life easier, not harder. Remember, this is an "add-on" to your existing marketing strategy-- you're using your writing as your calling card.

 --I picked pieces that had been published in humor and flash fiction magazines, so they were edited.  If you are picking new material, edit it well.

--I hired a designer from the website Fiverr to create a cover for it. I did pay the princely sum of $5 for it.  The cover was delivered in about 2-3 days.I had two versions, one for Kindle and one for Smashwords ( total expenditure for cover design was $10.) I didn't want to waste time adjusting picture size, but if you are so inclined, you could easily do this yourself.

--Any book with a Table of Contents, no matter how short, can run into troubles on Kindle’s platform. So, I hired someone on Fiverr to format for me. After my first (and much-documented) experience with Kindle publishing, I am happy to delegate this task, although others claim it is a breeze.

--Upload to Kindle and join the “Kindle Select” program which is, for those unfamiliar with it, a 90 day commitment.  This program entitled me to 5 promotional days in which I could make the book free.  (Do not choose the automatic renewal option.) Price the sampler at .99 to give it a fair shot.

--Use the promotional days to test different approaches. I used 1 day for a Control, in which I did nothing except make the book free, to get a baseline. I also played around with keywords (comic fiction vs. romantic comedy, etc.)  Play around with taglines, too. I also experimented with paid vs. unpaid placements, using the venues from the Author Marketing Club website.

-- If your book is selling like gangbusters after your promotions, stop reading this blog post -- and please stay in Kindle's Select Program. You don't need more than 5 free days per quarter. Everyone else, read on.

--After 90 days, exit Kindle Select. Publish to Smashwords.  Again, I found it simpler to have Fiverr format the sampler for Smashwords for $5. Chose the FREE option on Smashwords and enter your book (if it is properly formatted) into their premium program which sells to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.   At this point, your ebook is .99 on Amazon and free elsewhere. (Note: when publishing to Smashwords, take out references to Amazon or Kindle in your book.)

--Post your freebie on a site called getfreebooks.  By this time, you shouold have a good idea for an appealing tagline (if you're experimented with your 5 promo days.) This site will generate a fair number of downloads for your book or it did in my case.  Promote your free offer on your blog or Twitter.

--After 3 weeks, Amazon "matched" price of Smashwords (no alert to me)  Instantly, the book started to rise in the rankings and got more downloads than any of my “Kindle Select” promotions.  It continues to do well without any promoting on my part. This is the major difference from KDP promotions.  The book does the work, not the author. It is your ongoing form of advertising. (I did put the word "free" in my keywords after a few days.)

 -- You can now evaluate the impact of your free offer. I did not see any decline in the free downloads on Smashwords after Amazon went free. Monitor how many sales of your “non-free” books you get after, say, 2000 downloads of your “free” book.  (Remember, most downloads don’t get read immediately so don’t expect an instant uptick in your other numbers.) And let me know how it goes!

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