How Do You Improve Sales at Amazon UK, Apple Overseas Stores, and Other International eBook Sites?

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |


When I first got started e-publishing (two-year anniversary coming up), I was mostly worried about selling books at Amazon. Everybody said they were the big kahuna (and they are). I did upload my ebooks to Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and, through them, Kobo and Apple, but there didn’t seem to be much information out there about how to increase visibility in those stores and sell more books. And international sales? Nobody was talking much about the possibility of those (other than through Smashwords, which sells ebooks in any format to anyone who will buy).

Apple International Ebook SalesI wasn’t too concerned about this until I started thinking about becoming a full-time independent author, AKA ditching the day job. I didn’t want to depend on one revenue stream, not if that money had to pay all the bills. As lucrative as Amazon can be, one never knows when they might switch the tables (dropping to a lower royalty rate or putting your account on hold for some reason or another), and then where would you be? (This is one reason I’m not a fan of signing up for KDP Select and Amazon exclusivity.) So, I thought it was important to increase sales in the other stores and maybe even the overseas versions of those stores.

Easier said than done! I’ve heard of some folks having success by participating in forums for different e-readers (i.e. the Nook Boards and Mobile Read) and for different counties (such as the UK Kindle Users Forum), and I did dink around on these sites in the beginning, chatting and giving away coupons. In general, though, I find forums to be a time sink. You can spend a lot of hours there and earn few, if any, sales. I generally only recommend forums for people who enjoy being a part of that sort of community anyway.

What did make a difference for me, especially with Amazon UK and the international Apple stores, was having a book permanently free on those sites. I’ve talked a lot about this before, but I made my first Emperor’s Edge book (and eventually my first Flash Gold novella as well) free at Smashwords about a year ago. I had the freebies distributed through their partner sites, and Amazon eventually matched the price.

What took longer, but did eventually happen, is that Amazon UK (and DE, ES, IT, etc.) price-matched the ebook to free as well. That’s when I started seeing sales of my other books in those stores. It was a similar process for iTunes. It’s taken a while for the free ebooks to percolate through, showing up in the international Apple stores, but I’m now selling books every month in Apple AUD, DKK, GBR, etc. and am making between $1,500 and $2,000/mo overall in overseas sales.

With many of these sites, it’s very much a $40 here, $20 there kind of income. If I tried to target each of these countries individually through forums or paid sponsorships, it’d be a tall order. But the free ebook is an advertisement itself (as we’ve discussed, it works best if it’s a Book 1 in a series), one that doesn’t require me to spend extra time or money on promotions. People around the world are getting new e-readers and browsing the free sections of the various stores to find goodies.

Some folks (usually authors) still sneer at the idea of putting out freebies, but most public libraries have limited ebook catalogs, so I believe more and more readers are using the free book sections on the various stores as the equivalents of libraries. They are places where readers can try new authors at no risk. And then, if they like what they find, they go on to buy more.

I do want to emphasize that it takes months (it did for me anyway) for a free ebook to find its way into the international stores, maybe even longer at Amazon, since you’re waiting for their price-matching bots to come along. This isn’t going to work if you only want to make your book free for a limited time. This isn’t to say you can’t make international sales without having a free ebook out there, but it’s certainly what made a big difference for me.

Have any comments or other suggestions for authors hoping to sell more in the international stores? Please comment below and share them.


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Comments (29)

I thinking of following your lead and make my first Inside Evil book free when I publish the third in the series. I do truly believe that people want freebies, but once they’re invested into a novel series, they’ll happily spend money on the author.

It’s good to see that your free book advice worked well on other websites too. I better crack on and finish that third book!


It definitely helps to have a bunch of books out there that folks can go on to read if they get into your work. 🙂 Happy writing!

I would echo what Lindsay has said here. I have been reading this blog for well over a year and taking the advice (though never posting, because I haven’t had anything to add) and took the steps of making two of my books free in the last few months (1st in series for both of them.

The US sales took an immediate jump, and now that things have price-matched in the UK, I’ve seen a huge rise in, Apple, and other store incomes, to the point where I’ve made close to $3,000 (after currency conversions) thus far this month from foreign sales. It’s a beautiful strategy, although I echo it takes a while for the price matches to occur (still waiting on .de and .it, at least).

And while I’m here, thanks for the solid advice, Lindsay! Couldn’t have done it without following your lead.

Interesting. I am going to put the first of each of my series free as I publish the third one. Is there something magical about book 3 in a series?

Lindsay, I have a question related to your post, and also related to personal fears. I think having 20 or so good reviews will help me sell my fantasy book. The problem is, I have only 3 to start, and they are from friends and family. My sister-in-law posted a review and it was removed, which must be related to the new Amazon stricter reviews policy. You have so many reviews, and though the first book in my series is free too, I am worried that potential fans won’t even be able to leave reviews and I’ll be forever stuck at 3. So, please comment on the state of getting new reviews as an up and comer with very little to start from (I have sold 1100 free ebooks in the past month, but no reviews as a result), and if you have advice–which you must because you’ve racked up 232 for EE (awesome achievement). Thanks,

Joseph Turkot

Hi Joseph,

Yes, Amazon is cracking down. They shouldn’t have any reason to remove legitimate reviews from people who aren’t friends or relatives though (one wonders how they know!).

It sounds like you’re doing well with giveaways. One thing you can do is leave an afterword thanking the reader for trying the book and asking them to leave a review if they have time. I did that at the end of EE and Flash Gold, too, I think. 🙂

I’ve heard some writers talk about targeting different price points in different countries (arguing, for example, that readers in the UK are really jumping for books at 0.99 GBP while US readers no longer flock to the $0.99 book the way they used to). Honestly, I’m too much of a newcomer to the field to worry about that level of refinement in my pricing. And I think that at the end of the day, the approach that you recommend is best: write a series, and get Book 1 out there for free. It will be much easier to get people to try out your series, and if they like it, then they will buy the later books. Now, I just need to finish Book 1 (and 2 and 3 and . . .) 🙂

Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else make that point about freebies taking the place of library lending but that is an EXCELLENT point. I know my library has an abysmal selection of ebooks and it’s not easy to borrow them. But I have always preferred to get books from the library first before buying them. I don’t like taking chances with my money, because I don’t have a lot of extra spending money. Freebies or even 99 cent ebooks basically amount to the same thing for me.

[…] and read her most recent post, posted the same day I began to become afraid. Her post was about how to improve international ebook sales. I figured my question would be related enough, because without reviews, how does one really get […]

Have you experimented with uploading your work to Pirate Bay, like Paulo Coehlo does?

I haven’t, JM. I know some of my stuff is out there, but I didn’t put it there. 😛 I do have some work up on Wattpad and may add more.

Hi Lindsay! Not much of an input here but as an international reader I’m SO GLAD your books are available in on smashwords! There’s nothing more frustrating than hearing about tantalizing books (free or otherwise) only to find them unavailable due to country restrictions. There are plenty of times when I came across titles I would buy but it’s only available on Amazon US, which I can’t access…

Thanks for reading, LK! Smashwords isn’t the prettiest store (and certainly not the easiest to search), but I do think it’s a good deal for readers from anywhere in the world. I keep hearing about international folks getting my 99-cent stories through Amazon and being charged 2.99 or more for taxes and whatever else Amazon demands extra for.

[…] Buroker (@GoblinWriter) on Lindsay Buroker How Do You Improve Sales at Amazon UK, Apple Overseas Stores, and Other International eBook Sites? “What did make a difference for me, especially with Amazon UK and the international Apple […]

Great post, Lindsay.

I’ve just released a perma-free book on Kobo and am waiting patiently for Amazon to price match it. I’ve already got two other books out there in the series – and HOPEFULLY my grand plan will work as well as yours has.

Lindsay, thanks for a great post, in fact a great series. Can’t wait till I have enough books (& stories) to try this clever strategy!

This post is good advice for anyone selling anything, I think. You see it in so many web applications (Dropbox comes to mind), where a great service is offered totally free of charge, but an even better version is available for a little cash. Most people just stick with the free version, but the small fraction that choose to upgrade end up bringing the company millions of dollars. And without the free version to start with, the company never would have gotten any users to begin with.

A self-publishing author is in a similar situation. Give ’em a freebie and hook ’em in. Many people (perhaps most) who take the freebie will not choose to pay for the next book in the series, but by offering the freebie you’ll probably get more sales than you would have without it.

Thanks for the blog comments, Dan! Hah, I just upgraded to a paid Dropbox account two days ago. The strategy must work! 😀

This is great advice. Thanks. As an indie author, I’m always looking for new ways to bring awareness about my books. Promoting is hard work, and many are too lazy to do it. But as the saying goes, ‘you reap what you sow.’

This strategy has worked on me many times! I know with a lot of free books going into it that I am getting the first book in a series for free specifically to hook me into buying the rest of the them. But if it’s good enough that I can’t resist buying the rest of the books, then it’s worth sending that money to the author, right? There are plenty that I’ve read the first book for free, and gotten my money’s worth, never to return. But you and Joseph Lallo, specifically, have garnered my loyalty. I’m sold on anything with your name on it, pretty much.

I heard about your books on a Vaginal Fantasy thread ages ago, and downloaded The Emperor’s Edge for free. I kind of sat on it for a while, because I wasn’t very into the genres it’s ascribed to (steampunk, specicifically), but I read a review that said to tough it out for the first couple chapters…and since then I’ve bought the next book as quickly as I finished the last.

I’m completely hooked on the characters and plot, and have plowed through the entire Emperor’s Edge series in about a week and a half. Give me a couple more days, and I’ll have the last book finished, and all the short stories read. My favorite thing about the books is that they seem to transcend that genre description, because they are so character and plot driven. The setting and world building seem to be adornments to the development of these wonderful characters, which I think helps to disregard genre and appeal to a wider audience. I am actually anxious to finish all of it so I can go back to reread and pick up everything I missed out on the first time because I didn’t quite know all the details of what was going on!

Anyway, your strategy of giving the first book away to hook readers in, and then asking for some recompense for the following installments is sound, and fair. I am much more likely to try a new and untested author for free, love their work, and send them money for whatever they churn out than pay list price for a book I might not even like. Good luck to you in the future, and know that your business strategy has gained you a loyal reader!

My one question is this: where do you prefer people to buy your books? I have a Kindle, so amazon is easiest for me…but buying from another source is really no problem at all. Do you have a preferred retailer? Do you get better revenue from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc? What I am asking is pretty much which retailer do you get the most benefit from?

I can’t comment on international stores at all but I’ve seen authors struggle with getting extra exposure on the other sites quite frequently. It seems if you don’t write erotica or possibly YA, you fail to get noticed.

Numerous people have brought up Kobo for instance. Certainly due to their poor search engine, ranking system, recommendation system, etc. It’s for a book to get noticed, even a free one sometimes.

Anyway, long story short — I actually jumped at the chance to create a site that showcases free and bargain priced Kobo books. There are a ton of Kindle sites out there but no Kobo sites it seems so I figured why not. It’s

I’ll be self-publishing my own stuff soon but I am publishing some other authors right now and anything that helps me and others sell more books I’m all for in the long run.

Hi- great blog here. My novel, Story Time is finally coming off KDP Select. It did well, but it’s run out of steam now. I also have a 10,000 word prequel that I want to run free on all venues, in the hope that once the customer reads the prequel they will purchase the entire novel at regular price (which isn’t much- only $2.99)
I will see if my publisher is willing to go the extra mile to hit the international market and direct her to come here for info- Thanks! Nel

[…] doing this longer and more successfully than I have who have called Amazon out on this scheme.  Lindsay Buroker isn’t a fan of the exclusivity, rightly pointing out that if an author’s livelihood is […]

As a writer in the UK I am finding it extremely difficult to break into the US market. Smashwords looks to be ideal but getting them to publish my books is a minefield of tax regulations. If anyone knows of similar UK website I would be grateful.

I’m not familiar with the tax implications, but I know a lot of authors outside of the U.S. use Smashwords for distribution–they can get you into Barnes & Noble, in particular, where you can’t currently upload directly if you’re not in the U.S. Smashwords is also friendly to authors overall (highest % royalty among the main ebook stores) and to international readers (no weird taxes added for delivery or anything else).

Good luck!

Many thanks Lindsay. I have registered with them and have already had one person write a review. A good one at that. So thanks again.

I have managed to get to price match but isn’t biting. Any hints on getting site ti follow suit. Is there a particular site they will price match against

EE1 is free in the UK and DE, IT, ES stores now, but it was many months before it happened, with the CA just recently dropping the book to free. I’ve also noticed that it bounces back to non-free from time to time. I’m guessing the price-matching bots that monitor the overseas stores just aren’t as active. If there are any tricks beyond waiting, I’m afraid I don’t know them.


Anthony Neil Smith shared a trick with me on twitter a few weeks back: Amazon UK will price match to match a US price.

Bizarre, but it worked!

In 2013 I believe Amazon has begun to throttle free downloads of perma-free titles in order to arm-twist people into KDP Select.

Here’s another trick I just discovered: this throttling gets turned off if — wait for it — the title has a corresponding audiobook title AND that audiobook is Whispersync enabled.

I’m guessing Amazon is doing this to promote the Whispersync experience.

For an example, see my perma-free title, “Food-Free at Last: How I Learned to Eat Air”:

There was a hitch in getting Whispersync enable for two months, during which downloads were throttled. Then when they got the kinks worked out, the price dropped to 0.00, and stayed that way.


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