Going Wide or Only Publishing on Amazon

For those of us who chose self-publishing, we get to have complete control over the decisions about publishing our books. Some are fun, some are boring, and others are a struggle to make. One of the decisions I struggle with, no matter how many books I publish, is where I publish.

Not in the sense that I don’t have a clue but in that I struggle with how readers will find my books. They have SO many options: paperback, ebook, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and more. It’s exhausting to get your book formatted for each and every seller and distributor because they can’t all have one format. It’s exhausting to put in the work to get your book ready for every format and seller only to have a few sales a year from most of them. When most people get their books from Amazon, wouldn’t it just be easier, on the author/publisher, to focus on them? Many authors would say yes. This is the issue I struggle with.

Amazon has incentives to exclusivity for self-published authors. Participating in their Kindle Select program requires they have exclusive access to your ebook. That means no other retailer and no offering the entire book for free to build mailing lists. It means no libraries have access through their vendors (most libraries don’t buy ebooks through Amazon). It means irritating readers because they don’t use Amazon (so many people dislike Amazon). When you’re writing for a living, it can make or break your income.

Why? Because of what you get from Kindle Select. Kindle Select allows your readers to share your books with other people. It allows you to offer your books at a deep discount or free for a few days to entice readers (really good for a series of books). It allows their Kindle Unlimited members to read your book for free while you get paid by the number of pages they read. It can make or break your income.

There are many problems if you chose Amazon exclusivity. Like nefarious theories that participating in Kindle Select gets you preferential treatment by the Amazon algorithm. The company lacks anything that resembles transparency, so it’s difficult to know. You are committed to Kindle Select for three months at a time. They will shut you out of the system forever if they find out your ebook is listed on any other website. There are the scammers who ruin it for everyone.

For me, the choice is different with each book I publish. Even when I pick to make something exclusive to Amazon, like I did with the Jewish Holiday novelettes, I had to think about the length of time this would be exclusive. With these short novelettes, the Kindle Select option made more sense. It always does for short works. Many people don’t want to spend even $1.00 on a novel so allowing them to get it for free on Kindle Unlimited was important to get them discovered. When the entire collection is out in one volume, the shorter ones will go wide.

What does that mean: going wide. It means a lot like it sounds: the wide world of book purchasing options. Wide means you skip exclusivity on Amazon and allow the wider world of sellers to sell it. This is only an issue for ebooks, which are the most lucrative format for books. Paperbacks are fun for events and signings; to keep in local stores; to give to family and friends but most readers will buy your ebook. I’m not even going to touch the decision to only publish an ebook… until another month.

This is what I do with novels. When I am taking the time to write over 50,000 words of story, I want as many people as possible to read it. Since my novels aren’t a traditional series (I write an anthology series). I know my readers who don’t use Amazon (even for paperbacks). I don’t get a ton of sales from these companies, but its important for me to not alienate readers.

It’s ultimately up to you. What do you see as the benefits to going wide? What about others I didn’t mention about Amazon exclusivity? What’s your story if you’ve switched?

Tell me in the comments!

Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books but sometimes takes on horror. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. You can learn more about her and her books on her webpage.

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