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Amazon May Have Just Killed Free Kindle eBook Promotions

8407445294_4f422efed9[1]When Amazon announced new restrictions yesterday on how their affiliate partners could promote ebooks, they said the new rules would only affect a fraction of a percent of affiliates.

Sadly, that is not true. The new rules are actually going to affect all Amazon affiliates, and  complying with the new rules is going to require the affiliates to do the impossible.

Amazon wants affiliates to control what customers do after they click a link and go to Amazon.

According to the new 80-20 rule (my name for it), Amazon affiliates will be penalized in any month that one, their affiliate ID shows up on more than 20 thousand free Kindle ebook purchases, and two, the total number of paid Kindle ebooks account for less than one in five purchases. If an Amazon affiliate can’t comply with the rule, they will lose their income for the month.

When that rule was revealed yesterday there was a lot of hand-wringing among the free ebook sites as well as among authors and everyone interested in promoting ebooks by giving them away for free.  There was a lot of discussion how this would kill most of the value in KDP Select (the optional free days is valued by indie authors as much as the KOLL payments). There was talk about how this would damage the ability of free ebook sites to promote ebooks while still covering the costs of running a website.

Update: Andrys Basten has pointed out that Amazon’s new rule might have 3 clauses, not 2. The first requirement for the 80-20 rule could be that the rule only affects sites that, in the opinion of Amazon, "are promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks". The rest of my post is now hinges on a drone at Amazon deciding on whether an affiliate fits under the first clause.  That does not exactly fill me with confidence. (Note: Other reports suggest that Amazon has said there are only 2 clauses.)

This is all true but we were thinking too small. You see, Amazon’s new rule counts all free ebook downloads, not just the ones linked to directly.

For example, let’s say you click on this link to Amazon and then get 5 free ebooks. Even though I didn’t promote one of those free ebooks, I am going to get dinged for all 5 downloads. They will count towards that 80-20 rule.

The problem here is two-fold. Not only could Amazon potentially penalize any affiliate, this rule also assumes that affiliates can control what Amazon customers do after they click the link.

The larger Amazon affiliates are but a single download frenzy away from going over the 20,000 limit. What’s more, this Sword of Damocles dangles over even the small and medium free ebook sites. Earlier today I heard from George Burke, the owner of eBookDaily, a 2-month-old free ebook site. According to George his site has now has 12 thousand active members. Under the new rule George is going to lose his Amazon affiliate fees in any month that the members average more than 2 downloads each.

I am only slightly kidding when I say that Amazon expects affiliates to practice mind control over everyone who clicks a link. Crazy, no? I’m still not sure how they expect that to work.

But the free ebook sites can always switch to promoting paid ebooks, right? That will get the average up and minimize the chance that they’ll violate the 80-20 rule, right?

I’m not so sure.

The problem with trying to encourage the average ebook buyer to pay for more ebooks is that the ratio of purchased ebooks to free ebooks is rather low. I have been told, and a second source confirms, that the average ebook buyer probably downloads 15 free ebooks for every one they buy.

Edit: My original source says that the ratio of free to paid acquisitions is even higher than 15:1 (that was old data).

Second Edit: Smashwords reported in April 2012 that they saw 100 free downloads for every paid ebook. Look at the slides here (slide #49).

That’s a 15:1 ratio, and in order to comply with the 80-20 rule the free ebook sites (and all other Amazon affiliates) will have to try to get Kindle customers to buy 4 ebooks for every free title purchase at least 1 paid title for every free one either by getting them to download fewer free ebooks or by getting the customers to buy 4 times as many ebooks as they buy now.

One possible solution is that they could switch to listing more paid ebooks. Many sites already list a lot of paid deals, so I’m not sure that will have much of an effect in changing people’s behavior. Affiliates could also stop listing free ebooks entirely, but there is no guarantee that it would have any effect on the downloaders.

In any case, the real problem here is that Amazon expects affiliates to control what happens after someone clicks a link.  I know it sounds crazy but that’s what Amazon wants.

If anyone can think of a solution, please share. Also, please feel free to point out the flaws in my reasoning.

If you ask me, I think Amazon should simply disallow affiliate links on ebooks.  It would be easier on the affiliates, but it might also be more damaging on Amazon’s bottom line.

Barnes & Noble made a similar move last March when they stopped paying affiliate commissions on Nook ebooks. I’m sure you can recall how badly they’ve been doing this past year in terms of Nook hardware and content sales.

Amazon probably won’t suffer quite so much of a slowdown in growth, but they are still creating an opportunity for one of their competitors to step in and start trying to take customers away.  Given that more people read on smartphones and tablets than on ereaders, this is a real possibility.

image by dqqd

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Bill Smith February 23, 2013 um 7:40 pm

Amazon is asking affiliate sites to do the impossible — they cannot control how many books people download after they get to Amazon. This is ridiculous.

The other option is for all these free ebook sites to dump their Amazon affiliate program and go to Smashwords, who pays 11% commission and has no such restrictions.

Authors would be well advised to go to Smashwords, too, since authors are relying on free ebook promotions to promote themselves.

The free ebook promotions have been a critical factor in making Amazon the largest ebook retailer — if all that outside traffic (and the sales that go with it) goes to another site, it will put whoever works with affiliates in control of the ebook market (eventually).

Bill Smith February 23, 2013 um 7:46 pm

To follow up, Amazon can’t afford to disallow affiliate links at all — it drives a lot of traffic to their site. If all of a sudden everyone is pushing readers to other sites instead of Amazon, it will result in a huge decrease in sales at Amazon — there is much discussion of "ebook discovery" these days — and reviews, comments and affiliate links are a huge part of discovery in the absence of a physical store to browse.

Why would any blog or site bother to link to Amazon and get nothing when they can link to the same book at Smashwords (11% commission) or Kobo (5% commission)?

This is a huge opportunity for the other ebook vendors to pounce.

Will Entrekin February 23, 2013 um 11:06 pm

Is this a bad thing? How many blogs and authors wrung their hands that giving books away might "devalue their art"?

Amazon’s playing a longer game than anyone can currently see. KDP Select and the widespread use of free promotions did a great job maintaining Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market. So far, five years after Kindle’s introduction, there’s really no competition, only other options. Mainly because this is the sort of long game Amazon continues to play.

Free promotions have been effective, but this seems like a further step and positive development in indie-dom. Most of the indie authors who’ve so far made their names have done so via low- or no-priced ebooks (Locke, Hocking, Howey, et al.). Maybe it’ll be good to see free more as a strategy than a solution.

I wonder, too, if it’s a sign that Kindle (and its associate platform) is doing better than either Amazon or Bezos predicted (shrewd as they may be). I’ve seen various analysts and tech blogs mention the "loss leader" idea, and maybe it’s right now leading with more loss than they’d expected but solely because it’s just doing so damned well.

April February 24, 2013 um 1:20 am

I can tell you at the end of March how it pans out for my blog. We stopped freebie posting today.

Richard Adin February 24, 2013 um 6:54 am

Clearly, Nate, you are overreacting. If this wasn’t a 100% positive move for all parties involved, we know that Amazon wouldn’t do it. After all, Amazon is our friend, and friends don’t screw friends. [said with sarcasm]

Seriously, this is really a great move for people like me. It will encourage free ebook sites to link to Smashwords, which will encourage authors to sell their ebooks via Smashwords, which means that there will be fewer Amazon exclusives. And, yes, I know that I can install a Kindle app on my desktop and download Kindle ebooks and then strip the DRM (maybe) and convert the book so I can read it on my Sony or Nook. But why would I as the consumer want to do all this extra work when there are thousands of ebooks already available to me at B&N, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords. Missing out on some Amazon exclusives does me no harm; it does the authors more harm because it means no possible sale to me.

I suspect — I do not know — that the crackdown has come because Amazon is not selling enough ebooks as opposed to giving away free ebooks. At some point in its life, Amazon has to start bringing in dollars for investors, and you don’t do that with freebies.

As regards the ratio of free ebooks to paid-for ebooks, I suspect that the ratio is probably closer to 25:1 or 30:1. I know that I rely on free ebooks to determine whether I like an author or a series, and if I do like the freebie, I then buy the other ebooks by the author. But what that means is that I download many more freebies than I buy, because like many other readers, I find that too many of indie ebooks are not worth the time to read.

Anyway, I hope this move by Amazon ends up boosting Smashwords and making more indie authors choose Smashwords rather than Amazon KDP.

George February 24, 2013 um 7:44 am

Amazon has a stranglehold on the ebook market. You’d have to be a fool not to realize that since they’ve eliminated the competition soon they will start raising prices, limiting choice. These are the people who remove buy buttons if you don’t bend to their will. Why Richard thinks amazon would do it if it were only positive for all parties is unsupported by their past actions.

Ronald Mortris February 24, 2013 um 8:05 am

I started buying ebooks over 10 years ago from Baen. I only added Kindle/Amazon about 4 years ago. Just a few weeks ago the two finally signed an agreement that included removing almost all free or discounted content at Baen. And it was retroactive. Baen had a practice of placing old ebooks at the start of series in their free download are in order to encourage new readers to start these old series. 16XX franchise and Honor Harrington are examples. When Baen closed their library ALL of these books were removed, even those that I had paid for. I no longer have access to books that I paid for. And after 3 computer replacements and the fact that there is no easy way to download their ebooks I had gotten lazy and just signed onto their website to read online. I no longer had backups on my hard drives. My content to ebooks I paid for no only longer exists but I cannot even rebuy the books as ebooks. I don’t think I bought anything from Baen or Amazon since.

Ryk E. Spoor February 24, 2013 um 9:33 am

Ronald: Your statement is close to 100% untrue, an impressive achievement. The Baen Free Library was temporarily reduced, yes, because the *identical* content can’t be available for free, or Amazon’s *automated* systems will note "hey, that’s up for free" and then reduce the price of their copies to suit. However, the BFL content is going back up as authors provide more stuff (usually just a new foreword or afterword) that makes the one on Amazon a "special edition" so that it will not be subject to that restriction.

You may not be able to re-download your stuff that you had before, but jeez, if you don’t backup, that’s what you risk. My "Digital Knight" is no longer on the BFL either, but not due to Amazon; due to the fact that the rights reverted to me and not Baen.

On the other hand, we’ll be putting _Boundary_, the first in the series, up soon.

fjtorres February 24, 2013 um 11:15 am

Eagerly awaitng the full release of the third to see if there’s an aswer to "Why saturn?" 🙂

Dave March 17, 2013 um 5:31 am


I have enjoyed your first 2 boundrey series books and plan on getting your third when it comes out in May. I buy almost all my books from Baen electronically. I either read them online or download them to my Galaxy Note to read. I was looking for some of your other works to tide me over until May and decided after reading the first two sample chaptors of Digital Knight, to purchase the book from Baen. I found it unavailable and started looking around to discover why until I found this post. Is Digtial Knight likely to be available at Baen anytime soon? I like to support Baen as they seem to be straight shooters and not so much a faceless goliath such as Amazon.

Love your work both with and without Mr. Flint.

Be well,


Timothy Murphy February 24, 2013 um 8:55 am

Ronald – stop spreading lies. First, the Baen Free Library is still there – it is reduced in size due to licensing issues resulting from Baen deciding to sell through third party vendors (including Amazon) but it is still there. Second – downloading from Baen is easy – if you cannot manage that I can only conclude yuou are essentially computer illiterate. Baen had always reccommended downloading and backing up purchased e-books (making it possible for you to do that is one of the main reasons they insist on only providing DRM free files) – if you failed to do that don’t blame Baen for your losses.

liontime February 26, 2013 um 4:11 pm

Went to my shelf today. Picked up an ancient paperback copy of " A case of Concience". I’ve had it for decades. Didn’t have to worry about back-up or any this stuff. Paid once can enjoy it for the rest of my life without worries. I read all the stuff about e-reading and I just laugh.

Andrys February 24, 2013 um 9:57 am

I referenced your article (thanks) and wrote a blog entry and I do have a somewhat different take from yours on this. Won’t leave a direct link since your spam filter is far too moody and aggressive on those 🙂

Nate Hoffelder February 24, 2013 um 10:17 am

You’re right, there is a third clause. It does limit the fallout to the free ebook sites.

Damn. I hate missing an important detail.

Fbone February 24, 2013 um 7:12 pm

It appears, confirmed by Amazon, that there are only 2 clauses. They are used to decide if the site was promoting free ebooks.

You may have originally been correct.

Nate Hoffelder February 24, 2013 um 7:46 pm


Her interpretation makes more sense, but it also assumes that Amazon wrote the new rule in a less than clear manner.

Andrys February 24, 2013 um 8:38 pm

Fbone, I saw Karen’s post at MobileRead about an email from someone — but the person is not named nor is there a title. Someone else received an email reply like that today but said they’d want to check with another party when the shop reopens.

Also, their legal team would have to rewrite that paragraph to say what some at Amazon may really want it to say. Because it doesn’t say that. In legalese, that kind of thing is pretty important. One could even pick on "primarily free" to describe books that are primarily free but there’s no such thing – they’re free or they’re not, at any given time.

Fbone February 24, 2013 um 8:57 pm

I agree it’s not very clear which is why there are emails floating around.

However, "promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks" can be defined any way Amazon chooses.

Scott Tuttle February 24, 2013 um 9:59 am

Ebooks for a penny then?

Mike Cane February 24, 2013 um 10:50 am

A 15:1 or 25:1 free to paid ratio?

Well, once again I’m on the fringe.

I’m like 3,500:0 so far.

But I have hundreds in my Wish List TO BUY when I finally get a damn tablet.

fjtorres February 24, 2013 um 11:19 am

Well, I’ve had very few glitches with the FireHD8.9… 😉

Mike Cane February 24, 2013 um 5:46 pm

Um…. no.

fjtorres February 24, 2013 um 8:23 pm

I know that.
Just a reminder that sooner or later you’ll have to let go of the dream tablet and buy something actually shipping. 😀

Fbone February 24, 2013 um 9:01 pm

It seems the latest specs on the 7-8″ tablets are a downgrade to what is expected.

Mike Cane February 24, 2013 um 5:48 pm

The cry to stop the flood of free eBooks is really "We must stop the free eBooks because no one is buying MY eBooks."

Even if there was NO free, no one would likely buy your damn eBook anyway.

There were hardly ever any free PAPER books. Yet MOST paper books failed and had sales that were crap and couldn’t offer a writer a living.

Wake up.

Scott February 24, 2013 um 6:14 pm

Amazon is just doing what google already does, It is giving itself the power to determine the validity of any click and decide to not pay for ANY valid clicks if they by their own unknown and incontestable reasons decide to not pay.

At least they don’t do a google and decide you kick you out of the program completely without any recourse.

Pam Uphoff February 24, 2013 um 10:04 pm

Amazon is cracking down on the wrong side of the problem. Free e-books, and download sites are free advertizing. If Amazon wants to sell more, they ought to restrict multi-book writers to only go free with a third or less of their titles. Rotating through one’s complete stockpile, giving them all away, may not be the best way to maximize sales.

Adam February 24, 2013 um 10:45 pm

If I ever complete my stories and get them good enough to publish, I will publish on Smashwords first and only on Kindle if I think it’s worth it. As I have a basic plan to release some free short stories and a free book 1, I wouldn’t want any affiliates to lose money by directing people to my free stuff on kindle. Without releasing any free material, I doubt I would generate any sales at all. I have downloaded quite a few free books, but as a result I have bought the remaining books of about 8 series, and a few other series I have bought one or two sequels to.

Adam February 24, 2013 um 10:46 pm

PS without those free books I would have only stuck with authors I already knew such as Michael A. Stackpole.

Guest February 25, 2013 um 2:23 am

Totally agree with Bill Smith (first comment). If Amazon don’t want you just go to Smashwords. Leave them alone and get a better deal elsewhere.

Rumor: Barnes & Noble to Rethink Digital Strategy | Digital Book World February 25, 2013 um 8:01 am

[…] Death of the Free Ebook? (The Digital Reader) Amazon has announced new rules for its affiliate sites that should limit how they promote free ebooks: The new rules have heavy penalties for websites that rely mostly on free ebook promotion as part of their business models.   Fake Best-Seller: The Story Behind the Story (Leapfrogging) This blogger/author got an unexpected call from a Wall Street Journal reporter; unfortunately, it wasn’t about his new book but about how it spiked onto the best-seller list and then just disappeared. You’ve probably read the story in WSJ. Now read the story behind the story. […]

Andrys February 25, 2013 um 9:03 am

I replied to a forum posting on this at Amazon and am putting it here also to see if I can make clearer my own understanding of this and the reasons for it.

The post:
What’s interesting is that an affiliate could cause downloads of 40,000 free books in a month but if these are 'only' 60% of all Kindle books ordered, then it’s okay. [It’s a matter of balance and probably expenses covered.]

Of a bit more interest to me is whether they will change the wording in the explanation of their changes linked to by Nate Friday, in which they say [the capitalization surrounded by "=" signs below is mine]

'1. What is changing for Associates who refer free Kindle eBook sales?
Starting March 1, 2013, Associates who we determine are promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks =AND= meet both conditions below for a given month will not be eligible for any advertising fees for that month within the Amazon Associates Program.'

Clearly attorneys know that the word 'AND' above should be changed to "WHEN" if the first statement is not to be taken as part of the set of circumstances defining what could cause income to be eliminated for a month.

Right now the 2 numbered conditions further define their "determine"-ing Associates who are "promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks … =AND= who meet both the conditions below that.

If they change that word to "WHEN" — then it makes a large difference.
If they are to take away income otherwise earned, they have to be clearer.

And they have to state it identifying themselves with name, title, serial number and rank 🙂 Kidding aside, at least a name and title.

ColoradoDan February 25, 2013 um 1:35 pm

How about encouraging authors to charge a penny per book? Problem solved?

Jamie February 25, 2013 um 4:42 pm

I was just thinking this too. i would certainly pay a penny for an e-book. (but I wont pay $.99.)

Amy February 25, 2013 um 6:24 pm

Does anyone know if Amazon can enforce this on social media accounts/pages that promo free eBooks? I’m not very familiar with how affiliate programs work.

Fbone February 25, 2013 um 6:57 pm

Amazon (as confirmed by email from CS) stated the following: (Nate was originally correct)

(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.

Lee March 2, 2013 um 2:21 pm

Fbone stated:

Amazon (as confirmed by email from CS) stated the following: (Nate was originally correct)

(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.


This is my first time at this site and I am here only because I received a notice from my free ereader newsletter website stating they had to discontinue the free ebook list (to U.S. users) I got every day due to Amazon’s new regulations. I had no idea what they were talking about so I went looking and ended up here.
I am not as learned as those of you who post here and my website experience is sorely lacking in all aspects of the term so please keep that in mind when I say, in response to FBone…. so….. don’t link.

I read in that statement…. "attributed to your Special Links." (Now, I may be way off base here and forgive me if I am. I am not website savvy.) Your 'Special Link' is a door that you have created for that customer’s/user’s convenience. It gets them into Amazon and directly to the spot they wanted to go without having to go through the front door and weave in and out of 'aisles' doing search after search until they find what they were looking for. Call it a side door… direct access. That door has your name on it. That allows Amazon to know who is coming in and from where. While the customer/user is in Amazon that door remains open and stays open until the customer/user closes it (leaves the site.)

There was a time when linking was not that great of a thing. Cut and paste was the answer and there are still places that do cut and paste (or, if you prefer, copy and paste) instead of links. Like I said, I am not learned in these kinds of things but I would think that going back to basics would be something to consider. And it should, in theory, eliminate that 'side door'. Of course the customer would have to put forth a little more effort to get the freebies but the lists would still be there for them to access which is something not happening right now.

Anyway, that’s one laymen’s view on it.

Enjoy your day!


Andrys February 25, 2013 um 7:11 pm

In response to the usual "CS says" — when have we been satisfied with CS emailed replies, which often differ depending on whom you ask. We need official answers, especially an explanation of the possibly inaccurately worded official Amazon explanation online of changes to its Operating Agreement (as opposed to a CS reply).

Here’s what I wrote just now to the Amazon forum in response to this, to William.

From: Arts 7:04 pm
"Customer service" replies almost always come with conflicting information from different CS reps, and most of us don’t rely on those answers but request more official ones.

An Amazon rep with a name and some authority needs to be clear here, as I mentioned last night.

Their very paragraph ONLINE that is meant to explain the changes in the Operating Agreement in official mode doesn’t say what any email rep has said to some — yet people refer to emailed replies from CS reps as "Amazon says" …

We do know, from experience, how cs reps come up with different responses to our questions depending on which rep is answering, following any boilerplate notwithstanding

Amazon wrote their initial emailed notice (a notice I didn’t receive, by the way) a bit differently, though not enough to define solidly anything, especially not in an email alert vs an officially-worded Online explanation of an Operating Agreement change, which one would think would have gone through their legal department, as the online site’s explanation is visible and an official statement.

Some responses are being made from CS reps referencing only the emailed-notice’s paragraph. Nothing’s been said with actual authority and clarity yet, by Amazon.

The online explanation of changes itself clearly makes the first statement important, and Michael Gallagher, ranked No. 1 in Kindle Edition blogs, said in his web blog last night that Amazon’s first statement of three (the "determination" –to start– that a site is promoting primarily free Kindle oboks) is key and is part of the set of conditions.

One thing is clear though — Amazon itself has not said anything clearly enough.

Here is Michael Gallagher’s web notice about this to his audience of, he mentions approximately 125,000 visitors, and of special interest is his interpretation of the changes as well as how he is going to change his blog (and it’s not a small change).

Fbone February 25, 2013 um 10:16 pm

What I posted was taken from Amazon’s Affiliate QA section. And is what Amazon’s CS are cut/pasting in their emails in response.

Andrys February 26, 2013 um 2:34 am

Fbone, following our thread above, the 7:42pm one I posted — which shows after it — is about Karen/Korland’s receiving a response referring to "all 3" criteria – and that comes from Amazon Affiliate Q&A too.

"Mystery’s" note has the "If" clause. For both notes, there are 3 criteria with 2 of them listed after the first one.

Add that I’ve found out that more than a few affiliates did not receive the initial emailed notice or alert from Amazon. (I didn’t either.) As you saw, Michael Gallagher did and he lists the 3 steps together in his blog announcement explaining the changes he’ll make.

So it is really still a question and it’s going to be clarified sooner or later.

It’s actually easy for them to be clearer though — in the Changes paragraph, which I’ll just do below in two versions re the key first statement

First, the actual statement they put online officially re their Operating Agmt changes and then the second example where I substitute the words "when they" for their original "and" (highlighted by me with asterisks to make them easier to see).

1. "Starting March 1, 2013, Associates who we determine are promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks *and* meet both conditions below for a given month will not be eligible for any advertising fees for that month

Revised to match only two steps:
2. "Starting March 1, 2013, Associates who we determine are promoting primarily free Kindle eBooks *when they* meet both conditions below for a given month will not be eligible for any advertising fees for that month


This is just to say that what they’ve said online and in email (including saying "all 3 criteria" in emailed responses and saying "If they determine…" in other emailed responses) show a lack of clarity by all this,
which is very bad when they are explaining why they’d eliminate earnings for a month.

As a result, Karen/Korland (the one at Mobileread Forum) is waiting for further word from them now.

I’m not saying anyone is wrong. Just saying Amazon is being too unclear on an important matter.

Andrys February 25, 2013 um 7:42 pm

Books on the Knob/Karen/Korland has received an email now that says "all 3" are important but the two conditions that follow the first statement are numbered or listed but are stated in connection with the first statement.

In an email response received by "Mystery" on the Amazon affiliate forum, the reply made the 'determine…promoting primarily free…' an "*IF*" clause and the the other 2 conditions had to be met when one’s situation satisfied the IF condition.

This is basic legalese and programming. If the "IF" condition isn’t met, you don’t apply the conditions within the IF condition.

Still, Amazon may have written the official Online explanation of changes =without= the legal dept’s help. OR the legal dept was asleep on the job. What’s likely?

So there is nothing definite yet. Michael Gallagher is another one I trust, and he reads the first set of 3 circumstances as important.

It’ll all depend on what Amazon decides on all these conflicting emails.

Margaret Daley February 25, 2013 um 8:27 pm

I don’t see what the big deal is for Amazon. If those sites are bringing customers to them, why should they be so upset about paying those sites. Getting those list out is helping Amazon.

SteveH February 26, 2013 um 1:33 am

It seems reasonable that Amazon is doing this to lower the costs of giving away too many freebies/paid books ratio. At some point the Free books will loses them money on bandwidth alone.
A less draconian/lazy approach might be to just set limits on free downloads per-title…they could build a simple giveaway counter that would increment down after each download until it hits zero. Lots of sites do similar things for mark-downs. Give everyone some, give KDP Select titles more.
Once coded then they could also even add buying blocks of extra free download credits (sets of 500 or 1k perhaps) to allow publishers/authors to pay something to allow more free download units as a promotional tool. This creates scarcity of the promotion, as its not just time open-ended AND gives Amazon another micro-revenue stream too. Instant Win-Win for everyone.

E. Ayers February 26, 2013 um 1:45 am

Amazon is a business and free books are expensive to them. Free books do nothing but suck money from Amazon. How? It costs money to list them, it costs money to operate software/hardware, and it costs Amazon in customer reps, etc.

I think the day is coming that books will not be sold for less than "X" amount of money. If they are, the author will be charged a fee for each download. And I think if the books sell less than "X" amount per year, the author will be charged a listing fee to maintain them. Or will the "buyer" be charged a small fee to buy free books? Join Prime and you can download "X" amount of free books a year?

It’s really no different than keeping a small savings account at your local bank. If the balance falls below a certain amount, they deduct a fee for maintaining that account. If there is no activity on that account after a certain period time, they can close that account.

It’s really no different than the big publishers who took on new authors and if they didn’t earn out their upfront commissions, they didn’t get to sell another book. Is the day coming that Amazon will become Snob Hill? If an author can’t sell 50K copies a year per title, they won’t be allowed to list?

E-books are still infants in the publishing world. The market is shifting and trying to find a way to handle the glut of books and readers.

Sarah February 26, 2013 um 11:07 am

Does this mean they are going to start reporting how many free books are purchased through our linking? And I’m wondering how this will effect me. I post on Facebook and Twitter books $2.99 and under, so I do post free books, but it’s not he majority of what I post.

Nate Hoffelder February 26, 2013 um 11:10 am

They’re going to report on how many free ebooks you give away, yes.

Have you gotten an email from Amazon? If not then I would not worry. It now appears that Amazon directly informed the sites that would be penalized by the new rule. Everyone else found out second hand.

Sarah February 26, 2013 um 11:23 am

Son of a….

We are writing to notify you of some changes to the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement, which governs your participation in the Amazon Associates Program for All changes are effective on March 1, 2013.

Visit, to view a summary of changes to the Operating Agreement.

Jim Hayward February 26, 2013 um 4:52 pm

I must be a very atypical e-book reader owner. I tend to grab one free book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library – and sometimes I forget to do even that.

That aside, I would guess that my ratio of paid books to free books is about 20:1, rather than the 1:15 suggested. I certainly buy paid books much more often than I download free books. Maybe I’m just a bit dim.

With that being said, I do read a lot of Indie authors who have titles at very low prices. In the end, although I read as much, if not more, than before I bought my e-reader, my spend on books (both physical and electronic) has fallen quite a bit.

J Gordon Smith February 26, 2013 um 8:11 pm

The promotion sites just need to strip the free book links to the minimum (remove the affiliate wrapper).

Kindle Downloads! | PamsPrideRecommendations February 27, 2013 um 10:13 am

[…] 20K downloads in a month will lose all of their earnings for the entire month.  You can read more here. My hope is that you all will  continue to come back here daily to check my recommendations for […]

Renee D Field, Founder of StoryFinds February 27, 2013 um 11:50 am

This is a catch 20 for sites looking to promote new Indie and traditionally published authors.
1 – FREE – Amazon actually encouraged this with their KDP Select Program
2. FREE – most authors know a FREE read will bump up their back list
3. FREE – does gain new readers and especially for Indie authors who don’t have a large marketing budget
4. As an affiliate – their is no computer code I can figure out (and my IT is still looking at this) to watch how many FREEs a person grabs – it’s a click through process – they can click on one of the links from StoryFinds but each click after trails back to StoryFinds on a percentage base….so frustrating.
5. The Kindle pushed FREE so in 6 mos let’s see how sales are going.
6. The only reason a number of Canadians get the Kobo – they can access any library and upload ebooks for free – not something they can do on Kindle
7. StoryFinds – we are committed to showcasing authors one way or another.

Thank you.
[email protected]

Jan February 28, 2013 um 10:25 pm

The European Operating Agreement got even harder conditions: If the affiliates' conversion rate (i.e. number of ordered items per clicks on affiliate links) drops below 1%, they will kick you out of the programme for good, and keep all outstanding referral fees. Fulfilling that condition is entirely not controllable.

Anyway, my free books site will stay, and I have an idea for a plan when I come closer to hitting the 20000 (and I’m most definitely NOT going to charge the authors anything for listing their books.)

Nate Hoffelder February 28, 2013 um 10:29 pm

Can you share a link to the European Operating Agreement? I want to read it.

Jan March 2, 2013 um 11:46 am

Sure, no problem:

Item 27 is the important one.

Clytie Siddall February 28, 2013 um 11:19 pm

I agree with a couple of the previous posters: free eBooks work as a marketing device. I am a voracious reader, and I have discovered a staggering number of new authors through free eBooks (and then bought their other titles). I’m a bit selective about which titles I download for free in the first place, but from the ones I download, I think I’ve only ever encountered a handful which completely put me off that author (in two cases, because the novel’s overtly religious nature was not stated anywhere you could see it before purchase), maybe a couple of dozen which I read and which didn’t sufficiently enthuse me to follow up, and the rest (hundreds) did cause follow-up purchases.

Prior to the availability of free eBooks, I bought only "known authors" (yes, like Michael Stackpole 🙂 ). The Baen Free Library was like an all-you-can-eat buffet: I discovered a lot of new authors there.

I read (lots of): SFF, mystery, suspense, paranormal. All in ebook form.

Kindle Book Freemageddon | Mike Cane’s xBlog March 1, 2013 um 11:40 am

[…] Amazon May Have Just Killed Free Kindle eBook Promotions […]

Catherine March 3, 2013 um 7:42 pm

As a site that has been promoting free books, I have changed the way I have been posting them, and adding in more paid book posts.

Since that change, I have sold 1/10th the number of paid books each day that I normally would. So I was selling 10x the number of paid books when I was posting more free books!

Reading about eReading this week 3/4/2013 | Allegany County Library System Director's Notes March 4, 2013 um 12:21 pm

[…] Amazon May Have Just Have Completely Killed Free Kindle eBook Promotions  […]

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[…] Amazon May Have Just Have Completely Killed Free eBook Promotions ( […]

Momma April 4, 2013 um 8:01 pm

I have already decided that if this becomes an issue for my site, I will drop the Amazon Affiliate program! I will continue to welcome all the free ebooks authors are willing submit!

Jeffrey Von Stetten April 8, 2013 um 6:23 pm

one more lame move toward vendors from Amazon. We quit selling tangible products on their site because they were downright perverse in how they interact with vendors they charge fees and get commissions from. People will do just great without them.

Steve Herting April 12, 2013 um 12:19 pm

I’m one of those lucky folks that had just finished a free ebook download site for amazon, when they decided (on that same day) to go with the new restrictions, I reverted to paid for ebooks. Not much going on with that!

Chris Lockwood May 1, 2013 um 12:05 pm

I don’t know why anyone’s surprised that people download so many free books; that’s human nature,, and Amazon makes it so easy to find (at least some of) the free books that they shouldn’t be penalizing anyone for it.

I thought the idea was that the free downloads drove sales of paid ones. If so, Amazon should reward those affiliates for generating so many free downloads. If Amazon doesn’t like so many books being downloaded free, why do they have their system set up the way it is?

Finally I don’t get why anyone is bothering to promote Kindle books as an affiliate, considering how little that pays. If a book is $2.99 you would make about 15 cents on it.

eBook Piracy Not Such a Big Deal in the Netherlands | The Digital Reader January 15, 2018 um 4:34 pm

[…] it was around this time last year that Amazon took steps to curb free ebook affiliate sites. With some sites reporting that they generated hundreds of free ebook downloads for each ebook sale […]

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