Today, we're going on a journey. A journey beyond the familiar shores of Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and into the vast, sometimes intimidating, but always exciting world of other eBook retailers. Yes, you heard it right. There's a world beyond Amazon! Who knew?
Well...I did. That's why I'm writing this. Seriously, can we think before we ask. Sheesh. ;o)
Amazon may be the Goliath in the eBook market, but let's not forget about the Davids. Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and Google Play may not have the same market share as Amazon, but they offer unique opportunities that can help diversify your income streams and reach new readers.
Nook, for instance, is Barnes & Noble's eBook platform. It's a favorite among dedicated bookworms who love the feel of a traditional bookstore but want the convenience of an eBook. Kobo, on the other hand, is big in Canada and other international markets, making it a great platform for reaching global readers. iBooks is the go-to eBook platform for Apple users, and we all know how loyal Apple users can be. And then there's Google Play, which, being a part of the Google ecosystem, has its unique advantages.
I go into more detail on a lot of these issues and platforms in my Bestseller Life courses, but for now let's skip all that and get right to the big question:
Kindle Unlimited (KU). KU is Amazon's eBook subscription service where readers pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to books within the KU program. Like Netflix, but for people whose brains haven't completely fallen out yet.
As an author, enrolling in KU means you're giving Amazon exclusive distribution rights to your eBook. In return, you get paid for every page KU subscribers read of your book. Not a lot (think like .0034 cents/page), but it can stack up.
It can be a pretty good dal, especially if you're a new author looking to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible. But here's the catch: exclusivity. By enrolling in KU, you're putting all your eggs in one basket.
And as any savvy business person (or egg-gatherer) will tell you, that's a risky move.
Going wide, on the other hand, means distributing your eBooks through multiple retailers. This approach allows you to reach readers who prefer platforms other than Amazon. It also protects you from any changes in Amazon's policies or algorithms that could affect your visibility or earnings.
This bears a bit more analysis. So let's do it! Analysis FTW!
Kindle Unlimited, or KU as it's fondly known, is a bit like that all-you-can-eat buffet. It's tempting, it's satisfying, and it can feel like the best deal in town. For a new author, KU can be a golden ticket to visibility. Your book, nestled among thousands of others, available to be devoured by eager readers for a monthly subscription fee. It's a bit like being invited to the biggest book club in town, and who wouldn't want that?
But, as with all things that seem too good to be true, there's a catch. And that catch is exclusivity. When you enroll in KU, you're promising Amazon that your eBook will only have eyes for them. It's a bit like a high school romance, all-consuming and intense. But as we all know, high school romances rarely last. Except for that one weird couple. You know who you are!
Seriously, though, the problem with putting all your eggs in the KU basket is that you're at the mercy of Amazon. If they change their policies, tweak their algorithms, or decide to overhaul the KU program, you're stuck. You've hitched your wagon to a horse that you don't control.
But that's okay. If history has taught us anything, it's that big companies, once they dominate the market, are intensely interested in the well-being of their customers and service providers and NEVER try to squeeze every drop of blood out of them. No sirree. And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.
Now, let's talk about going wide. If KU is a high school romance, going wide is like playing the field. You're not tied down to one platform; instead, you're out there exploring what the eBook world has to offer, you promiscuous-brained author, you!
Going wide means distributing your eBooks through multiple retailers. We're talking Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, and any other platform that takes your fancy. The advantage of going wide is that you're not reliant on a single platform for your income. You're diversifying your revenue streams and protecting yourself from the whims of any one retailer. If one outlet takes a hit, you've got others to fall back on.
But going wide isn't just about protecting your income; it's also about reaching readers. Not all readers are glued to Amazon. Some prefer the user experience of iBooks, others love the international flavor of Kobo, and others still are loyal to the Google ecosystem and choose Google Play.
By going wide, you're meeting these readers where they are. You're not forcing them to switch platforms to read your book; instead, you're bringing your book to them. It's a customer-centric approach that can help you build a loyal and diverse reader base.
Going wide also gives you a degree of protection against changes in the industry. The eBook market is dynamic and ever-changing. Retailers come and go, algorithms are tweaked, and reader behaviors shift your eBooks across multiple platforms, you're not just putting your eggs in different baskets, you're also placing them in different types of baskets. This diversification can help you weather changes in the market and ensure your self-publishing business remains resilient.
Perhaps the most significant advantage of going wide is the power of choice it gives you. When you're exclusive to one platform, your options are limited. You have to play by their rules, stick to their pricing structures, and dance to their tune.
But when you go wide, you're in the driver's seat. You can experiment with different pricing strategies, try out various promotional tactics, and tailor your approach to each platform. You can test and learn, iterate and improve. You're not just a player in the game; you're also a game master.
Of course, going wide isn't without its challenges. Each platform has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. You'll need to learn how to navigate each one, understand their unique features, and figure out what works best for your books.
Managing multiple platforms can also be more time-consuming than sticking with one. You'll need to keep track of your sales and earnings across different platforms, handle different payment processes, and juggle multiple dashboards.
But remember, Lifers, challenges are just opportunities in disguise. Yes, going wide requires more work upfront, but it also offers more potential rewards. It's a long-term strategy that can pay off big time if you're willing to put in the effort.
This approach involves making your ebooks available through multiple online platforms while simultaneously enrolling OTHER titles in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program (remember, you can't enroll books in KU and also have them available elsewhere).
One of the key values of going both wide and KU is the opportunity to maximize your reach and potential readership. By enrolling some ebooks in Kindle Unlimited, you gain access to Amazon's vast customer base, including Kindle device owners and Kindle app users. This can significantly increase your visibility and potential for earning royalties, as readers subscribed to Kindle Unlimited can borrow and read your books at no additional cost. Moreover, Kindle Unlimited offers promotional tools like Kindle Countdown Deals and free book promotions, which can help boost your book's visibility and attract new readers.
On the other hand, going wide, or distributing your ebooks across multiple platforms such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and others, allows you to tap into a broader market and reach readers who may not be Amazon-centric. This diversification reduces your dependence on a single platform, mitigating the risk of being overly reliant on Amazon's policies and algorithms. Furthermore, distributing wide enables you to take advantage of promotional opportunities offered by other platforms, such as discounted pricing, author features, and genre-specific promotions, which can help you attract readers and increase sales.
However, there are also challenges associated with mixed distribution. One significant challenge is managing the complexity of distribution across multiple platforms. Each platform has its own formatting requirements, upload processes, and reporting systems, which can be time-consuming and require attention to detail. Additionally, maintaining visibility and marketing efforts across multiple platforms can be challenging, as you may need to create separate marketing strategies and track results for each platform individually.
When deciding whether to go KU (Kindle Unlimited), wide (distributing across multiple platforms), or mixed (a combination of both), self-published authors should ask themselves the following questions:
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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