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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story short: I started out Amazon exclusive and in KU in 2017 because it was the easy option for somebody beginning to self-pub. I've remained in KU because my box set (which is how most people read my major series) is $9.99 but 3,000+ pages long, so I actually make more money at the $12 KU payout than if somebody buys it and I get a $7 royalty.

But the books in my newer series (two books, writing the third) are much shorter. I'm significantly better off if somebody buys them outright than reads them through KU. Plus I've been doing this long enough now, and make enough money from it, that being too lazy to put my books on multiple platforms doesn't cut it as an excuse anymore. So I think when I release this third book, I'm likely to take the other two out of KU and go wide with all three.

What should I know about going wide in 2021? What do you wish you'd known or done when you went wide? Am I likely to have any issues with having one series in KU and another not - should I take my earlier series wide as well?
 

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Hi Shane, I exited KU in 2017 and don't regret it. My wide sales are 51% of my total, so expect to double your income (after some time.) It takes a year to get footing at other sites. One nice thing, you can rank in the top 10 and stay there longer in other sites, which helps full-price sales. After a promotion, I'll see full-priced sales for months longer at B&N, Kobo and Google than at Zon. iBooks is a mixed bag but does ok.

There's not as much work to it as some say (and complain). Honestly, once you set it up, they run smoothly. You'll find sites like Kobo & G have a wealth of promotional tools and ability to "schedule" sales (including that nice slash over the full price, showing the lower sales price - which Zon only does in price match). B&N and Google have useful Coupons you can generate, good for any time period you set and any % discount. These are great! Put a 25% coupon in the back of book 1 and see sales pop for book 2. However, it's only good on those 2 sites.

B&N paperbacks are way superior in quality. This may or may not matter to you, but 19% of my sales are paperback, so it matters to me. Lately, Zon's ppbks seem to fall apart randomly and you get complaints.

added note: You'll need to market separately to each site. I found that an "overall" advert to all sites works well on FB. You'll have to link it to your website, but it's ok. For years I used to have 5 separate ads, linking to Kobo, etc. individually. I found the 1 blanket ad works just as well and says "available at: ...[list all] or your favorite bookstore."

In 2021 the only thing else you need to know: chanting at midnight helps. But only at midnight. Good Luck!
 

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I went the opposite direction: started out wide, put most recent book (in a genre reported to favor KU) in KU. My general feeling is that it depends on your genre, and also on how much work you're willing to put into the marketing side.

A mailing list (and promotions which enable people to sign up for it) tend to be important when publishing wide. I largely stopped using Prolific Works when I had to fall back to the free plan (financial reasons) and couldn't figure out how to acquire email signups on that plan for my mailing list, but Prolific Works did me a lot of good when I had the paid plan and any new signups went directly to my Mailchimp list. Bookbub ads (the Bookbub equivalent to AMS) are the one semi-successful form of paid marketing I've used on wide books, but they can be tricky to scale, and they require frequent (6-8 weeks) refreshing of your image and promo language to get people's attention. I found David Gaughran's book on this topic helpful.

Of the people who made the case for publishing wide when I was starting out, only Patty Jensen really made it clear how much work it was. I haven't seen a lot of trouble with having books in KU and books out of it simultaneously, maybe because my wide stuff is a different metaseries and genre from the new series in KU.

If I were giving advice to an author just starting out, I would probably suggest they go with KU: less work to deal with while you're learning the ropes and building an audience. Authors who already have an audience, such as yourself, are probably better equipped to make the most of publishing wide. Good luck!
 

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You probably know about Draft 2 Digital, but I'll mention them anyway. Although, I originally went with Smashwords (for many sites) and managed certain ones (e.g. Google Play) manually, when I checked out D2D, I was really impressed with their services.
 

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Hi Shane - my books do better wide than in KU, although I will start my next series in KU and then migrate wide when I reach book 3 or 4. One thing about being wide is 99-cent promos don't work as well as they do when you're in KU and can make up the cost of ads/lost income with KU page reads. So for a single book, or two books, I think KU will work better.

For wide Fantasy / Sci-fi I find pulsing between free and paid is the thing that works really well. Also, I find the longer the preorder, the better.
 

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One plus to keep in mind: The non-Zon sites don't penalize you for low or high prices. You still get 70% even if your book is .99 or 1.99 or if it's 12.99 or 15.99. Any price. None of this "only 2.99 - 9.99" that Zon is clinging to. + This particularly helps with box sets that need to be higher priced (such as 19.99).
 

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I've never been in KU so can't answer that question, but I've seen enough people do it do know the following:

1. Take a whole series, preferably one that sold OK (the fact that something didn't sell in KU probably means it won't sell that well wide either). Use a whole series because readers have had their fingers seriously burned with authors flip-flopping back to KU. These readers are suspicious, and they're also quite willing to pay full price for the books they read.
2. Any release strategies such as rapid release are useless, because readers wide don't read that way. If anything, they're suspicious if they don't see the whole series at the platform of their choice.
3. Be committed and don't flip-flop. Really, flip-flopping is the worst you can do, because you'll destroy your audience at both ends.
4. If you're committed (see point 3), set up accounts at retailers and eschew aggregators where you can. You'll save 10-15% on your sales, but more importantly (and no one mentions this) you have much greater control over your metadata. An aggregator will just squish your metadata into a lowest-common-denominator sausage, and it's not a very good sausage.
5. Be patient.
6. You're effectively starting all over with your audience, so be patient.
7. Really, be patient.
8. If you feel the urgent need to spend money, spend it on building your mailing list instead of attempting to goose sales on all the sub-platforms of individual platforms. The other stores DO have algorithms, but they're often so balkanised based on locality that trying to tickle them is an utterly useless and costly exercise.

ETA: Join the Wide For The Win Facebook group.
 

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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that when you go wide, you're in control of your own fate rather than having all of your eggs in Amazon's basket, a topic that has been discussed many times. It's something to think about. Amazon has a history of changing the rules, payouts, etc.

If you decide to go wide, the only vendor you might want to consider avoiding is Google Play. Depending on your genre, it can be difficult to make headway on Google Play. Some writers have been successful, others not so much. The risk is that if you decide to take your books off Google Play, they'll still use your book covers and author name in URLs directing people to download the Google Play app even though people can't buy the books there. This misdirection--using an author's copyrighted covers and the misappropriation of the author's name to advertise the company's app without the author's consent-is illegal. It happened to me, and I can't get Google to remove the offending URLs even though I made it clear that they don't have my consent and that they are breaking the law.
 

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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that when you go wide, you're in control of your own fate rather than having all of your eggs in Amazon's basket, a topic that has been discussed many times. It's something to think about. Amazon has a history of changing the rules, payouts, etc.
Not technically correct. In talk about the Big Bad Amazon, people seem to insinuate that other retailers don't pull shenanigans. They do. They eff up allll the time. Just like Amazon.

If you really want to be in control of your own books, sell direct. I do this, and it's a lot of fun. But it's not for the fainthearted, because there is work and a big of tech involved.

If you decide to go wide, the only vendor you might want to consider avoiding is Google Play. Depending on your genre, it can be difficult to make headway on Google Play. Some writers have been successful, others not so much. The risk is that if you decide to take your books off Google Play, they'll still use your book covers and author name in URLs directing people to download the Google Play app even though people can't buy the books there. This misdirection--using an author's copyrighted covers and the misappropriation of the author's name to advertise the company's app without the author's consent-is illegal. It happened to me, and I can't get Google to remove the offending URLs even though I made it clear that they don't have my consent and that they are breaking the law.
I have absolutely ZERO idea where this comes from. I've never seen any proof whatsoever that this happens. Like. AT ALL.

What does happen more freely is that your books appear on Google Books.

But.

Google Books is Google's attempt to list all published books anywhere in the world, and even if you don't publish on Google Play, your books will likely appear on Google Books.

However.

Actually take the time, before flying off the handle, to see that Google Books DOES NOT include the entire book. There are huge sections missing. Again, not being on Google Play does not preclude your books appearing on Google Books.

Google Play and Google Books are not the same thing. Not even close.

There was a time, in 2013/14-ish, that scammers got into Google Play and uploaded scammed copies. Google Play closed to new accounts for a period of about 3 years. That's finished now. Google Play is open.

There was also a time, when I first joined Google Play in 2012, that they discounted by about 30%. If you were smart, this was actually a good thing, because you just jacked up the price and GP still paid you 52%.

What was a bit less cool was that they used sometimes make books free. They would still pay, but the problem was that Amazon would pricematch. No problemo. You would just jack up the price to $100, get $52 per free download on GP. They usually cottoned onto this fairly quickly and stopped making the book free. LOL.

BUT THEY STOPPED ALL THIS.

You can now set a normal price in the US, UK, CA, and AU, and they won't drop the price or make it free.

Google Play is awesome. I've been there since 2012. Many other wide people are also there.

Not saying that plagiarising and scamming doesn't happen. Not at all. It does. But it's not inherent to Google Play.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the advice everyone. I think it actually leaves me feeling more on the fence about it! Seems like more marketing work than I anticipated, which on the one hand is something I think my writing career demands and deserves at this point, but also, I'm only making about 10k a year from it, whereas in Day Job World I've just finished a uni degree and am hopefully about to shift from working in the private sector to the public sector. Which may or may not involve moving cities for at least a year. So I'm not sure whether a higher workload is something I want to take on specifically right now. (The flipside, though, is that I'm also nowhere near ready to publish this third book in the series. If I'm honest it's an early 2022 publication at best.)

You probably know about Draft 2 Digital, but I'll mention them anyway. Although, I originally went with Smashwords (for many sites) and managed certain ones (e.g. Google Play) manually, when I checked out D2D, I was really impressed with their services.
I have heard of them but I actually don't know what it all means. Do other retailers require you to be submitting your books in different file formats? For my last few books I've actually farmed out all my formatting to Philip Gessert anyway (highly recommended) so it may not be something to worry about for me.
 

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I have heard of them but I actually don't know what it all means. Do other retailers require you to be submitting your books in different file formats? For my last few books I've actually farmed out all my formatting to Philip Gessert anyway (highly recommended) so it may not be something to worry about for me.
With D2D, you submit your book once and then tell them where you want it distributed and they do all the rest; they take a cut, but it's worth it if you don't want the hassle. It is the same deal with Smashwords. However, Smashwords has an archaic bit of software (called the meat-grinder) and it is unforgiving, requiring your to submit out-of-date Word files and compile your TOC manually - for me, this is a no-no!! That said, you don't need to use the meat-grinder; you can simply upload books to Smashwords in EPUB, though that does reduce your options within Smashwords as I recall. I far prefer D2Ds system; it is very straightforward.
 

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Do other retailers require you to be submitting your books in different file formats? For my last few books I've actually farmed out all my formatting to Philip Gessert anyway (highly recommended) so it may not be something to worry about for me.
Create an epub for all vendors. Amazon is discouraging mobi now so pretty soon, I'd bet, we won't even be talking about mobi files. The only time I'm creating mobi these day is by request by ARC reviewers.

The main consideration for wide books is links. If you link a book, make sure it goes direct to the store. Amazon links should go to Amazon and B&N links to B&N and so forth. I use Vellum and they automatically produce files for each major retailer link. Without Vellum, I'd just have to make sure I manually direct each link.

D2D is great and I use them for Apple and a few other retailers but, when possible, sell direct. I'm direct with B&N and Kobo and prefer this. There are promo perks doing it this way. You can apply for promotions through D2D as well, but it seems a bit more unwieldy than directly applying.
 

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Success going wide has to be a genre specific thing. Most of my catalog is now wide (not by choice). And the drop has been immense. There is no comparison. I'm talking about an 80% drop or close to it. And I've always had some books wide so it wasn't like I was completely new to readers of those platforms.

I even release my KU books wide before they go into KU. They make tiny fractions of what they make once they enter KU. Even going wide with audiobooks only seems to make sense after a year or two on Audible.

I wish I could be less dependent on Amazon, but for my genres of romance, there are no real alternatives if you want to make a "good" living at publishing.
 
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