When you’re publishing your books, you have a big choice to make: Should you publish your book exclusively with Amazon or put your book up on all the retailers? We’ll break down the options in this post to help you make the right choice for yourself.
Are you wide? Or exclusive?
Uh, I’m … unsure?
These terms (wide and exclusive) are often thrown about in author groups, and I get asked about them a lot. Since I have books published that are exclusive to Amazon and ones that are available on wide retailers, I thought I could give an inside look at what these two choices mean, and why you might choose one over the other.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 193 – SHOULD YOU PUBLISH WIDE OR EXCLUSIVE?
WHAT IS WIDE VS EXCLUSIVE?
I’ll do a quick breakdown. Most indie authors put their book up for sale on Amazon–and you should. It’s the largest book retailer. You can be on Amazon and not exclusive to Amazon.
If you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re making the choice for your ebook (not print) to be exclusive with Amazon for the duration of your contract (which is 90 days in Select).
WHAT DOES EXCLUSIVITY WITH AMAZON ENTAIL?
This means a few things. You can sell digital copies on Amazon and get paid that way, but also have readers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited “borrow” your book.As those readers read through the book, Amazon tracks the pages read and pays you accordingly.
And by “accordingly,” I mean that Amazon makes up a rate that they think is fair and pay you that rate. They set the rate. They track it. They pay you.
If you are enrolled in Kindle Select, it’s a 90-day contract and you cannot offer your ebook anywhere else–libraries included. It must be exclusive to Amazon.
Being wide simply means that you make your book available multiple places and it’s not enrolled in the Kindle Select program.
WHY AUTHORS MAKE THE WIDE VS EXCLUSIVE CHOICE
I’m going to explain some of the factors that authors might take into account as they’re making the wide vs exclusive choice so that you can have ideas of what
I’m starting with ethics, because for many, the choice on whether you go wide or exclusive is one of ethics. Some people take issues with various things about Amazon, from the size to the massive stake in the market to the fact that they set the prices in Kindle Unlimited.
Many people don’t want Amazon to own them and don’t like how Amazon can set and change the rate that they’re paid for pages read. There are also things happening like scammers hiring click-farms to scroll through their ebooks in KU, making bunches of money. Others find ways to inflate page reads or stuff books withe extras–which is a bonus to readers who might buy a book and get ten, but it’s a violation of Amazon terms and a way to game the system.
Often, Amazon doesn’t do anything about that. In short, many people don’t want to give Amazon exclusivity for personal, ethical reasons.
You can make money being wide and you can make money being exclusive with Amazon. You can actually make a LOT of money with select, even thought each “page” is a fraction of a penny to Amazon. It’s also possible that you can promote a 99 cent book and get the visibility from the sale, but make MORE than that through the pagereads.
Personally, I used to be about 80% income from Kindle Select (pages read) but as I’ve moved one of my series wide this year, that number has moved up to being more than a 50/50 split with more on sales–JUST on Amazon. I’m still making more money on Amazon than other retailers, but if I toss in that money I’ve made on retailers like Apple and Barnes and Noble, I’m making a bit more now outside of Kindle Select and the exclusive books.
Many people recommend that authors start out in Kindle Unlimited and being exclusive because this gives readers a reason to try a new author, since they can just borrow the book. That’s a great point.
Some genres also tend to read more in Kindle Unlimited, but I’d like to point out that I’ve seen all genres represented in wide sales outside of Kindle Unlimited. You CAN be in a hot KU genre, but still make money wide.
Kindle Unlimited can be a great place to start with, particularly in certain genres, so often this is something people will say to new authors. Being in Kindle Unlimited does NOT mean that you don’t have to promote your book though. There are TONS of books in KU, so you still have to promote.
Going wide really is a different mindset. It takes a bit more work, and some longevity. It means finding and connecting with other wide authors for cross-promotion, and look for promotional opportunities that aren’t just for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Other platforms often have promotions and things that you can take advantage of as an author there, but you’ve got to do a little digging to find them.
This might sound odd, but there are certain cultures of readers. This is a massive sweeping generalization. But often, the KU readers are voracious and hungry, but they may not commit as much to being a superfan of one author. They want to read and they want to read NOW! They burn through books quickly and can be a little undiscerning. (I’m a KU reader, by the way, so I’m cool pointing this out, even though it’s also not necessarily true for me.)
I’ve found personally that a lot of KU readers (of mine) are older, or are on fixed incomes. They won’t dip toes outside of KU. They only read what’s in there.
Authors often talk about the wide readers being more discerning, more willing to stick with one author and even pay higher price points because they LOVE that author and their books. Snag a wide fan, and you can snag a fan for life who will stick with YOU and read YOU because they love YOU, and not just because you are a faceless entity on KU.
Again, generalization. But this is something I’ve seen authors talk about. I have also seen rabid fan bases for both KU and wide authors, but I’m pointing this out as something to consider. Kindle Unlimited is like Netflix and encourages bingeing of books and that type of behavior.
This is the one I want to highlight. I’m all about finding your why, considering ROI, and looking at it all in terms of the long-term goals. I said when I started writing clean romance that I wanted to build and Emma Empire. I’m well on my way.
Kindle Unlimited has helped me get started. I used the ease of it, and the fact that my genre is very hot there, to make a name for myself and build a readership.
Long-term? I’d love to be wide. ALL wide. I’ve started with one series, where I saw a pattern of success already in wide books, and I was able to secure my first two BookBub Featured Deals for those, which helped me launch those books wide. (It’s why my sales right now are beating my pagereads.)
One important thing to realize (that I’m all-too aware of) is that how you start is how you train your readers. If you START in KU and build a KU fan-base, that’s going to be a hard sell to people who are used to your books being “free” in Kindle Unlimited.
The series I took wide was an already established one of mine. When I just launched a book wide for the first time and at a higher price point… it did not go so well for me. Many of my fixed-income, KU readers just couldn’t hack a $4.99 price point.
HOW TO MAKE THE CHOICE
I’m not going to make the choice for you or say that one is better. We’re all on our own journeys, and I feel confident saying that authors should make the best choice that suits their needs and their goals.
Take into consideration the factors above. Look and listen in Facebook groups to authors who are making the journey. Think about your long-term goals and also your short-term goals. Consider your genre. Think about how you feel being exclusive to Amazon.
And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or weird about your choice! This is just a business decision you can make for your own reasons. I don’t agree with everything Amazon does. I’m also grateful that they opened the doors that make this current indie publishing world so accessible.
TIPS FOR GOING WIDE
I think if you’re going to go wide, you need to hang out with wide authors. Get in the mindset. Study what works for them. Network with other wide authors. Wrap your mind around the mindset shift.
The best place to do that is in Erin Wright’s group, Wide for the Win. As I suggest with ALL Facebook groups, don’t hop in there and start asking questions about your own journey or how to get out of KU. Read and listen first. See the culture and group rules. There are tons of helpful people and lots of files and pinned posts with answers to many of the questions you might start with.