BTS023, KDP Select or Going Wide: Which is Better for New Self-Published Authors?
Over the years, there has been a big push by some well-meaning people to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and publish your books to all of the platforms or go wide. But, is this the best advice for a new author?
In this episode, I’m going to discuss the difference between going wide and enrolling in the KDP Select programme and what you need to consider before deciding. And at the end of this section of the podcast, I’m going to share three actionable steps to help you decide which option is right for you. After that, in the second part of the podcast, I’m going to share with you a short behind the scenes author diary update.
A Little Transparency
As always, I’ve decided to devote an entire episode to this topic because like you, I’m on the fence about whether to go wide or be exclusive to Amazon. All of the content in this episode has come from my research to help me make the right choice for my books. The research I’ve put into this show includes listening to what others have to say, reading the terms and conditions of the KDP Select programme, reading blog posts, and paying attention to what other self-published authors are doing.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the show.
What is Going Wide?
Going wide is defined as Publishing your books on all the available online platforms and not being exclusive to Amazon. For those of you who are new to self-publishing, going wide includes platforms such as Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play, Nook, and the multitude of smaller online stores specific to certain regions. But, you don’t have to upload your books to all of these platforms individually—this is were aggregators such as Draft2Digital, Publish Drive, and Smash Words come in handy.
Before I dive into the pros and cons of going wide, I just wanted to point out that this list is by no means, exhaustive.
I’ve purposefully tried to keep it short. If you’re this way inclined, I recommend you do this activity for yourself. I did this recently with a bit of research, and the result came up surprisingly even or very close.
But, without further ado, here is the list of pros for publishing wide.
- Greater control over pricing—you can price for free everywhere else but Amazon. Now that I’ve said this, you can ask Amazon to price match your book, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours.
- A perma-free first in a series book works for a marketing-wide strategy.
- The ability to sell direct to your readers.
- Publishing wide helps you reach a worldwide audience of English speaking readers.
- You can sell books on google play—as of 2019, Google has 1 billion users through the Android OS.
- Going wide gives you the ability to reach the mobile-first economy.
- You can enrol an ebook in a library programme.
And, now for the cons of publishing wide.
- You need an email list to be successful in publishing wide.
- You have to upload your ebook to multiple platforms, and as a result, changes or updates need to be made multiple times.
- Availability does not equal sales.
- Publishing wide means you need to pay to play, but Amazon is starting to become this way as well.
- It takes a while to build momentum on the stores.
- If you publish wide, you will get a 35% royalty rate in the smaller markets on Amazon instead of the 70% which is available to KDP Select authors. And, I’m referring to smaller markets like the Amazon Store for Japan.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service where for 9.99 USD or 7.99 GBP, a reader can download a maximum of ten books at a time. But, you can technically read an unlimited amount of books, magazines and audiobooks. As an author to enrol your books in the Kindle Unlimited programme, you need to tick the KDP Select box in your author dashboard. One of the most controversial aspects of this programme is the need to be exclusive to Amazon, and thus, gives rise to the much-heated debate of KDP Select versus going wide.
How Does Kindle Unlimited Work?
The interesting thing about the Kindle Unlimited reading programme is it gives readers the impression that the books are free. Because the reader doesn’t click a button every month or pay per book, it can give the impression of a risk-free purchase. This illusion of a risk-free purchase is what helps a reader decide to take a chance on a novel by a new author.
Now that I’ve given you a brief overview of the KDP Select Program and Kindle Unlimited for readers, it’s time to dig a little deeper and look at the pros and cons of being exclusive to Amazon’s KDP Select.
- You need to be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days—depending upon how you look at this first point, the exclusivity period could either be a pro or a con.
- KU has a pool of people who read lots of books in specific genres.
- Readers can try a new author risk-free if you’re a part of the KU programme, even if you have zero reviews because the readers perceive your book as free.
- Reads are weighed the same as sales and contribute to the books sales rank.
- The programme gives you access to promotional tools such as five free days and countdown deals.
- Bonuses are available for top sellers.
- You can receive top royalty rates in all markets.
- The process of distributing your ebook is easier because you have to upload your ebook to one place.
And now, for the cons of being exclusive to Amazon.
- In regards to the terms, you must choose between the countdown deal or free promotion, every 90 days. But, you can still manually change your books price.
- The terms make it harder to have freedom over the price of the ebook ’to use the countdown deal the book must be left at a price for 30 days before starting the deal and 14 days after the countdown price change.”
- Unfortunately, there are lots of scammers in KDP Select—it’s a scammer magnet. But, Amazon is cracking down on these scammers.
- Due to the exclusivity clause, you cannot distribute an ebook enrolled in KDP select to libraries.
- Your not paid in royalties but are paid according to pages read. The amount is decided by Amazon, and it tends to decrease every year.
Consider Your Goals Before You Decide
Define what you want to achieve before you press publish. It’s easy to get caught up in the debate and not consider what you want.
Do you want to make your book available to family and friends?
Or, do you want to make a living as a writer?
What you want as your end result, will determine which path you take. But before, you create a marketing plan, consider whether your goal is realistic. I know, I’m being a killjoy, but you’re not going to make a living with one book. One book is not going to make you the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King. It’s a slow build.
What Steps Do You Need to Take to Help You Achieve Your Goals?
For those of you who are not sure, in order to make book sales, you need to build up the know, like, and trust factor with your target audience. In short, people buy from those they know, like, and trust. But, lucky for you, online bookstores have a dedicated review section. So, your first step should be to figure out how to get your first ten reviews. Not selling your first 10,000 books. Forget about sales for now and focus on reviews.
How do I know this?
It’s a similar thing with selling a service, you need to build that know, like and trust factor and collect testimonials. Sometimes this means giving something away for free, like three free coaching sessions in exchange for a review. This is why people harp on about having a street team or a team of advanced readers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these terms, a Street Team are a group of readers who get your book for free and leave a review when it’s published.
Before You Decide Consider This
I just want to preface this next section by pointing out that I’m not having a go at anyone in particular or being mean-spirited. That’s not my intention here. Nevertheless, over the years there are a few things I’ve noticed that I think is important to share this with you in order to help you make a choice that’s right for you.
Before you choose your side in this debate and choose to go wide or publish exclusively with KDP, there are a few things you should know. Sadly, not everyone who promotes going wide is completely honest about how they achieve their success. It’s not always a deliberate lack of honesty, quite often when you’ve been doing something for a while, it can be difficult to remember what it’s like when you first start out.
People who promote going wide and not putting all your eggs in one basket have a few things in common:
- A rep at one of the stores (kobo, apple)
- A large backlist of books
- Other streams of income outside of book sales
- A small number of books or a series already in KDP for a specific reason
- Started self-publishing before KDP Select existed, during a time where the marketplace was less competitive
- Have a huge email list of fans who are waiting for their books to be released
- Have the money and time to invest in pay per click advertising
- Help—aka an author assistant or a team of virtual assistants to help the author do all of the tasks in their business
As a brand new author, you’ll have none of those things. And, I’m not saying that having these things is bad, but they do make going wide easier. Yes, pursuing a career as an author should be about paying attention to the long-game and not short term profits. Nevertheless, sales should not be your first priority, overcoming obscurity is actually more important than short-term or long-term sales.
How to Decide Whether KDP Select or Going Wide is Right For You?
Choosing to publish wide or enrolling in KDP select should not come down to creative freedom or being scared that Amazon may change the rules, it should be about serving your readers. So, are your readers enrolled in KU or are they wide? As an author, it’s your job to do the research and figure out where these readers are before you make a decision.
And, most importantly, as of November 22nd, 2019, the exclusivity period is only 90-days. You’re not signing your book to the programme for its entire lifespan. It’s not an all or nothing decision. You can change your mind and opt-out at the end of the period.
How Do the Other Platforms Sell Books?
And, one final point, consider how the other platforms work. Amazon is a giant recommendation engine, and thus, provides a tailored experience to every user. Whereas, the other online stores are not algorithm based but are essentially the online version of a physical book store.
So, what does this mean for you, the new author?
The front pages of the non-amazon online stores are highly curated, and you’re seeing the books the store wants you to see, instead of what you want to buy. Sure, you may wander into a physical bookstore and find a few books, but with a recommendation engine like Amazon, I always end up buying a book that I like when I go to the site. For instance, as I was researching the GBP price for KU for this episode, I purchased four kindle books purely from the Amazon home page.
To help you get the most out of this episode, I’ve created a three-step process to help you decide whether publishing with KDP Select or going wide is right for you.
Step #1 – Create your own pro-con list for publishing exclusive and wide based on your own research.
Step #2 – Next, look at the books in your genre on Amazon.
How many self-published books are in the Kindle Unlimited programme? After this look at the books in your genre on the other platforms. How many of those books are self-published?
Step #3 – Now consider, do you have an email list of fans?
If not, are you prepared to build an email list of fans in your genre before you hit publish? It’s worth pointing out that if you’re yet to release your first book, your time will be better spent writing a great book and building a fan base as your release. But, nothing is stopping you from creating a reader-magnet in the same genre or series as your book and trying to build an email list.
As you look back at your answers to these steps, you should have a good indication of which programme is right for you. And, remember, it’s easier to go from KDP select to wide distribution than the other way around. That fact is purely based on Amazon’s exclusivity clause.
My best advice to you is to ride the KDP Select dragon as long as it serves you. And, when it starts becoming less effective than by all means, create a new strategy and publish wide. But, give it some time, and create a marketing strategy because you’re not going to see results instantly—it takes time to see if it’s working for you or not.
As always, I have an important question to ask you. Where are you in the KDP Select vs going wide debate? Do you plan on trying out KDP select or do you want to go wide? Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the topic.
In the next episode, I will discuss the steps you need to take to self publish your first book after you’ve finished revising your story.
Thank you for listening and happy reading and writing, everybody.
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I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.