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How Free Can Turbocharge Amazon Associate Commissions

When I first started getting into affiliate marketing, there were only a few programs available and Amazon Associates was one of the kings.

To this day, Amazon remains one of the most popular programs despite various changes (1 day cookies, argh!!!) because few affiliate programs that give you access to such a wide range of products. It could monetize a personal finance blog as well as a grilling blog as well as a scotch blog (all those examples are from personal experience).

The name of the game in affiliate marketing is to have your readers click on the links, get delivered a cookie, and, hopefully, buy something on the site. If you’ve been at it for any period of time, you’ve probably developed your own ways of providing value and enticing readers to click through.

Here’s something you probably didn’t think about — offer them something free.

Give your readers free Kindle ebooks.

Why Free Kindle Books?

People love free and there’s nothing like being able to give the people what they want. What’s nice about free, especially if it’s only free for a limited time, is that people will click through and download the ebook even if they have only a passing interest in it.

For example, I was searching through the Business & Investing category and stumbled on Kindle Money Mastery: How I Make Six Figures Through Amazon Kindle Publishing Revealed by Stefan Pylarinos. I have no interest in publishing a book, let alone an ebook on the Kindle, but the book was free and I downloaded it. I might want to read it one day even though I have no idea who the author is (it’s Stefan Pylarinos and he runs

A few clicks and the book is waiting in my iPad kindle reader.

How To Find Free Kindle Books

It’s quite simple, go to the Kindle eBook Store and do a search for a title that matches whatever niche your site is in. Then sort by Price: Low to High.

I found that searching by keyword was hit or miss, I preferred to search by Department, sort, and pick and choose from there.


The left arrow points to where you can pick the department, the right arrow points to the sort. Sadly, if you change your search you have to re-select Price: Low to High each time.

Beware the 80%/20,000 Rule

Don’t go overboard, Amazon has a rule against too much promotion of free Kindle eBooks:

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. This change will not affect advertising fees earned prior to March 1, 2013.

1. At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks
2. 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links.

The bar is fairly high and according to Amazon, it’ll affect less than 0.1% of affiliates. You have to have a pretty large audience in order to promote 20,000+ free Kindle eBooks in a month.

To find out how many books you’ve “sold,” log into your Associates account and look at your Misc. Referrals Report. There is a box for Kindle Free E-books Summary, that’ll tell you how many Free units, Paid units, and the ratio.

To protect yourself, I recommend using something like Pretty Link for your affiliate links (Amazon calls them Special Links). When you see that you’re getting close to 20,000 free Kindle eBooks, change the links so that they aren’t affiliate links anymore (or promote a friend!).

In the event you do manage to trip this rule, you won’t be kicked out of the Amazon Associates program. You just won’t earn any commissions for that month.

Have you used this strategy to set your cookie? If so, do you have any tips and tricks to be more effective?

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In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog ( that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

29 responses to “How Free Can Turbocharge Amazon Associate Commissions”

  1. Michael says:

    Great idea. Now is an excellent time to do this as we’re heading into the holiday shopping season and you’re much more likely to get incidental purchases when people click through for the book. And the recommendation to use redirects is spot on. While it’s unlikely that the vast majority of publishers will trip the 80%/20k rule, once you release bare affiliate links into the wild, you lose control.

    • Jim says:

      20,000 is a LOT but if you’re doing that much volume of free books, chances are you’re also doing quite a bit in affiliate sales so you want some insurance. 🙂

  2. Do you earn commissions on the free ebooks or are you banking on them buying something else?

    • Jim says:

      You’re banking on them buying something else.

      • That’s what I figured!

        Either way, I think I may institute a “Free eBook Friday” to my email, Facebook and Twitter followers. That way it won’t clog up my site!

        Do you find that a new eBook is free each week? I just looked some up for personal finance and there were about 3-4 good ones. I’m guessing that a new one pops up every few days?

  3. Meg Sylvia says:

    Very interesting. I’m in the middle of building my first niche site, and have been debating whether to go with Amazon or a site like Commission Junction (or both!) I think this a great idea and may definitely give it a try once the time comes to start promoting affiliate products.

    • Viet Do says:

      There’s definitely no harms with joining multiple affiliate networks (as it’ll give you a lot more flexibility in finding the right programs to promote). As far as I know, no program out there requires you to use them exclusively (and if so, that’s kind of silly).

    • Jim says:

      Always both!

      At the peak I was part of at least a dozen affiliate networks. I even set it up so that I could, by changing one line of code in a PHP file, switch which network I was using. Sometimes servers go down and when you’re doing a lot in affiliate, you can’t afford that downtime. That along is a good enough reason to be a part of multiple networks.

    • Jason says:

      In my personal experience, took forever to redirect, causing poor conversion (YRMV). Amazon has been great for us because of the trust people have with Amazon and the variety of products, which increases basket size.

      • Jim says:

        I’ve never tested how quickly some of these servers redirected but if CJ did have a noticeable delay, that would hurt conversions for sure.

  4. Hey Jim,

    Yah there were a bunch of affiliate sites that were promoting free Kindle books with Amazon’s affiliate program for the past few years before they made this change. Amazon basically was like… ‘yah the people you are sending here are just downloading free books and happen to be buying something’ so they shut that down.

    I’ve been meaning to follow up with you as we have some mutual friends. Will send an email soon.

    Great post

    Chris Guthrie

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Chris – I had a few friends who got swept up in the “Amazon hates you because you’re a deal site, go away” and this was one of the things that got them in trouble. When you have a lot of that deal type traffic, it’s easy to hit the 20,000 limit pretty quickly.

      I may have beat you to the punch on an email 🙂

  5. Ryan Cote says:

    Jim, you just gave me an awesome idea, fantastic, thank you! Like you said though, the 1 day cookie is awful. But it is what it is.

    • Jim says:

      It’s additive to whatever you’re doing right? For some sites there are very few options. We gotta work with what we’ve got. 🙂

  6. Fred says:

    I have been doing this with my blog every two or three months. I should do it more often. Although my blog is investment oriented, it is amazing the totally unrelated things that people buy, after just looking at or downloading a free investment book. Recently, I had people buy video games, a coffee maker, a children’s book and a laptop computer!

  7. Annie Logue says:

    I’ve had some success promoting free MP3 samplers, too.

  8. Jason says:

    Great idea, Jim. Have you experimenting with promoting Amazon Prime memberships? You get $2 per qualified trial membership. In October they were offering a $6 per promo!

  9. Kyle says:

    This is a great idea. I’m always looking for free books for myself. I might as well let other people know about them to earn myself a few extra pennys

  10. Carlinton says:

    Very interesting! I have taught about joining the Amazon Associates program and I am thinking more about it after reading this article. You have given me some ideas as to how I should approach affiliate marketing especially with amazon.

    I am thinking of create some ebooks for my website. I think I will give away the first one for free. I would like to see how persons will react to the free offer.

    Thanks, I have learned a lot!
    All the best! 😀

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