For several years I’ve used Instafreebie and BookFunnel to give out ARCs (advanced reader copies) to my email list. Recently however, there have been some KU controversies concerning free book giveaways for authors enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. I want to be careful not to break terms or get in trouble with Amazon, so I did some digging.
I’d previously received a response from Amazon that giving away ARCs by email in order to get reviews is not against KUs terms. It basically says the same thing in KDP Select’s terms HERE.
You may also provide professional reviewers with a copy of your book via email for the purpose of editing, proofreading and helping with other quality improvements.
For that reason, I haven’t been very careful with the ARC files I put up on Instafreebie and BookFunnel. I figured since…
- They aren’t the complete book published in KU
- They aren’t free for everyone but protected behind an email optin
- They are ARC copies for reviews and so readers can help me find quality issues
…then I’m still not breaking terms, even if I’m giving away more than 10% of the book that’s in KU. Also, since I was using sample books to drive sales of the full book on Amazon, and nowhere else, I didn’t think this was a problem. Also, so far Amazon hasn’t made any moves to crack down on Instafreebie or BookFunnel – though I assumed the day would come eventually.
Most of these samples I put up before the book was published and in Kindle Unlimited, and for the above reasons I kept them as free offers for my list. As I mentioned earlier, I emailed customer support and they confirmed I was allowed to give out ARC copies this way.
HOWEVER, that was several years ago, and since Amazon changes policies quickly, I don’t want to be taking risks that could get my account penalized. Also, as one reader pointed out today, since people follow me for publishing advice, I need to be more careful about what I actually do so that people don’t assume it’s OK without doing their own research and understanding the risks.
ALSO, since I do lots of publishing experiments and sometimes make mistakes, my account is already on thin ice: if you enroll a book into KU and you’re in Instafreebie and Bookfunnel, it should be fine – but if they find a copy on an ebook store like iBooks or Kobo, you’ll get banned from KU and have all your books removed (I nearly had that happen last year). The first time it happens, they might give you a pass, but I need to be extra careful now.
So I’ve just removed most of my free books from Instafreebie and BookFunnel, and will be more careful about how I use them in the future. That said, I still think they’re two very useful platforms, so here’s the new strategy I’ll use going forward.
Book marketing with Instafreebie and BookFunnel
Step one: I’ll put up a sample in IF and BF, and also make it permafree – this will probably be the first 5 to 10 chapters, and they can sign up on my list to get the rest when it’s ready.
I’ll take advantage of IF and BF’s “joint author promos” feature to join as many promotions as possible.
I’ll also set up some massive book giveaways with targeted advertising. If you give away print copies, or if you do this before you publish the book, it won’t break KU’s terms.
Step two: When the book is done, I’ll update the file and set a limited amount of ARC copies to send to my list. I want enough so I get some reviews quickly, but not too many (I was doing 500+, these days I’ll probably do 200). I want to do this a few weeks before launch, so they have time to read the book.
Step three: Publish the book on KDP, and ask people to review. I may give myself some extra time and remind them to grab an ARC copy and review the book. I need enough reviews to make sure the book will keep selling (20+). Once I have reviews, delete the book from IF and BF, or reduce to only 10% of the total project.
I have been updating the permafree books to the full version, but won’t do that anymore because readers have difficulty updating the file on their devices; so from now on I’ll publish the full book as a new project.
If I leave the sample up on IF and BF, I’ll probably also change the cover or title or blurb – I don’t want people thinking I’m breaking the rules because the book looks the same. Previously, you could add a book in KU and it won’t get flagged if it’s also in IF or BF, but that could change, and it’s best to be careful.
Step four: Make sure all previous versions have been unpublished, then enroll the book in KU. Use Amazon Giveaways and GoodReads giveaways to buy/gift copies to my list on launch. You’re allowed to give away copies this way if you’re in KU, because you’re buying them. It’s a good idea to keep it at full price for a few months because it may give you an advantage when applying for a BookBub deal. I don’t usually have that much patience, but ideally I would have it full price on preorder, enroll in KU at full price, tell my audience about the GoodReads and Amazon giveaways, let them know it will be on sale next month if they want to wait.
THEN: Schedule a 99cent promo deal with lots of ads. Let my list know it’s available, or they can wait a few weeks and get it for free. Use my free days to give out more ARC copies to my main list (free downloaded from KU should show as ‘verified reviews’.
Get 1000+ downloads to hit #1 in my categories.
PREORDERS: I lost my preorder privileges last year (for the second time) because I missed my deadline date (by 5 minutes) but they’re nearly back. I’m generally PRO-preorder, but in the future I’ll set up preorders when I have a first rough draft, about a month or two before I publish (or longer, if I add a preorder link for a sequel in the back of book one of a series… you always want people to have somewhere to go after they’ve finished a book).
It’s fine to have a preorder up and ALSO be in Instafreebie and BookFunnel though, because you can’t enroll a preorder book into KU until after it’s published.