This is a short how-to post for self-publishers or those thinking about going Indie.
First, what does ‘going wide’ mean?
In the Indie world, authors have two basic options:
- they can put all their eggs in one basket and publish exclusively with Amazon, or
- they can use Amazon and other online retailers to distribute their books.
Pros & Cons of enrolling with Amazon’s KDP Select
KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. It is the part of Amazon that handles the conversion of stories into Kindle compatible ebooks [and recently, print books as well]. If you already have an account with Amazon, you can use that account to sign in to KDP. Easy.
KDP Select is the marketing side of KDP. Although you access KDP Select via the ordinary KDP log in, you can publish and sell your ebook on Amazon without being enrolled in KDP Select.
The good thing about KDP Select is that it provides you with some effective marketing tools. Once enrolled, you can run Countdown deals, make the book available on Kindle Unlimited and run free promotions for a total of 5 days out of the 90. [Amazon does not normally allow books to be free*].
The downside to KDP Select is that the book must be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. That means the book will not be available in any other format on any other retailer for 90 days. Think Kobo, BnN, Apple etc. That’s a rule Amazon enforces quite strictly.
Another small niggle is that the 90 days roll over automatically, and you have to remember to stop it in time. I often forget. :(
Given that Amazon is the largest seller of books in the Western world, it makes sense to sell your book on Amazon. It also makes sense to use the tools Amazon provides to help market that book. Nevertheless, all tools should be used strategically. Remember, your book does not have to remain exclusive to Amazon forever.
Pros & Cons of ‘Going wide’
The single biggest advantage of going wide is that your books will be available for all formats on all online retailers, including Amazon. Again, think Apple, Kobo, BnN etc. Although these retailers aren’t as big as Amazon, you have to remember that not everyone who reads ebooks owns a Kindle.
The disadvantage of going wide is that you will not be able to run free promotions, etc., on Amazon. Nevertheless, you can make up for that by creating permafree** books on the other retailers.
As the name suggests, permafree books are always free and act as ‘loss leaders’ to entice readers into trying your books. It’s a great way to gain visibility, but only if you’ve published one or more series and can afford to make the first book of the series free. I can’t tell you how many new authors I’ve discovered via free promotions of one kind or the other.
When I published my first book in 2013, my options were Amazon [easy-ish] or Smashwords [the Meatgrinder]. Given that I didn’t expect to sell many books anyway, I chose the easy option and published only with Amazon even though I have rarely been ‘exclusive’ to Amazon.
Then Kobo seemed like something I should try so I tested the water with one book. Zip.
Then everyone started talking about Draft2Digital [D2D]. Like Smashwords, D2D was supposed to be an effective distributer but much, much easier to use. About a year ago I thought I’d give D2D a try and again tested the water with one book. That book was Miira and despite a reasonable amount of interest on Amazon, it made no impact on D2D. But…I really didn’t promote the D2D connection at all. Did not even place a permanent link to the book on my blog. From today, or more likely tomorrow, that will all change. This is what I’ve been doing all morning:
Books 2, 3 and 4 aren’t ‘live’ yet, but at least the hard work has been done. And I wanted to show off a bit. :)
To be honest, setting up a book on D2D is not hard at all. In fact, it’s a little bit easier than Amazon. The reason it’s taken me over 3 hours to setup my books is because I was not as organized as I thought I was. All my writing files are saved to a Windows folder called ‘Writing’, and each book has its own sub-folder, but there are literally hundreds of files within those folders, sub-folders, sub-sub-folders….
This is the navigation inside my main writing folder:
So many types of files — .docx, .pdf, .jpg, .rtf, .epub — and so many versions of each type because I needed an ebook version of each story and its cover, plus a separate print version and cover, plus separate ISBNs*** for each version, and PDFs for some versions and .docx versions for others… I think you get the picture.
When I was working with all these files on a daily basis, I could keep the most recent/relevant ones in memory. Now, months down the line? I checked and re-checked everything three times over, yet I still made a mistake with The Vintage Egg. Instead of uploading the file that contained the ebook ISBN on the copyright page, I uploaded the one that contained the print version ISBN instead. I caught it just in time but…. -feeling very sheepish-
With the wisdom of hindsight, I should have created a whole new folder for each published story and made sure it contained only the relevant information. But, of course, I didn’t. -sigh-
Seriously, if you have more than one book with more than one version thereof…organize your files first!
* Amazon will allow books to be permafree but only when not doing so would make it uncompetitive.
** If an author’s book is permafree at one or more other online retailers, the author can approach Amazon and request that it match the price with these other online retailers. I’m not sure of the exact process but I know that going ‘wide’ and making a book free is the first step.
*** ISBNs are not necessary when you publish with Amazon because it provides a free ASIN. But! If you intend to go wide at any point, you will need to buy an ISBN for each version of your book — i.e. one for the ebook, another for the print book and I think, a third for the audio book [if applicable] — because other retailers won’t accept the Amazon ASIN.