Amazon now offers free samples on Kindle books and makes making money even harder for writers

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Content creation of all kinds has been getting harder and things are not slowing down. Free samples of books are another piece of evidence here. I’ve written two books. Every once in a while, I use them as examples when people challenge me that “you hate print.”

“I don’t hate print. My books virtually only have made money in print. Most copies sold are in the printed format.”

But buying print books is kind of like buying shoes online. You don’t get to try them on – in the past at least. You also don’t get to read pieces of the book before you buy. You just buy the book and when it arrives, like it or not. And sometimes you just put it in a pile and never find out whether it’s a good one or not. I’ll get to reading it next year.

The same model happened with CDs or albums back in the day. I knew one song out of 16 and bought the whole thing. Today, my kids think that’s the craziest thing ever: We buy one song at a time on iTunes nowadays.

Of course, the buying on-demand model on iTunes is much more customer-focused, which happens to be the topic of my second book. On iTunes, you can also listen before buying.

As a customer those models are awesome.

  • Sample whatever you are considering buying
  • Buy it or not based on the experience

That same model happens with the free samples on Amazon.

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How the Amazon free samples work

I like to read! But I also like to spend my time and money wisely – i.e. for only things that interest me or that I need. So as a consumer I’m a big fan of the download

From Amazon – these pictures are from the iPad app – click on the book and then pick the Kindle version.
free samples in kindle version on amazon

Then “download sample”

free samples of books in the amazon app

From there it’s an easy jump to your Kindle app.

free samples in kindle

How long are free samples?

how long my book takes to read in kindle ... under 3 hours

According to Kindle, my book takes just shy of 3 hours to read with 188 pages. I also found it interesting that 24 passages had been highlighted 587 times. Now I kind of want to know what those passages are. They seemed to have an impact. Could we make them the free samples if they are the most impactful?

Of the 188 pages 16 – or close to 9 percent of the book – were included in the sample. They were basically the first 16 pages.

Other samples I’ve seen/tested/read they also were the first few pages. I’m guessing that at some point Amazon will perfect an artificial intelligence model where the most impactful sections – not just the first ones – will be shown to maximize sales.

Keep in mind, while free samples can impact sales positively or negatively for the author they also impact sales for Amazon. Every time, I sell a $17 book, I see just over $5 on Amazon. The rest goes to Amazon for printing, shipping, their profit.

Of course, Amazon can also make even more money when we run Amazon ads for our books!

But given how easy it is today to publish a book, it’s nice for consumers to have a weigh to test before having to buy.

What marketing tasks are you looking forward to the most to be automated through artificial intelligence?

What can authors do to maximize the free samples function?

The consultant answer is: “Make sure your content is worth reading.”



Who doesn’t want that?

Of course, there’s truth to that statement. If the sample blows, nobody will buy the book. Make sure you know who you are writing for (personas) and find a way to be unique and stand out from the rest. Also, keep in mind that your book should start out strong, given that readers may make a decision to pay or not for 91 percent of your book after reading the first 9 percent.

Do free samples impact buying/not buying? The results of my quick and informal Twitter poll show a mix:

twitter poll on free samples for books

Twenty-one percent of people always buy the book, 14 percent never, half sometimes and 14 percent don’t use free samples and just buy the book.

I still think writing a book is a differentiator. So is podcasting. More and more people and organizations are sharing their stories in those mediums, but there’s still room to make an impact.

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