by Molly Greene @mollygreene
Leaving Amazon’s KDP Select program was not an easy decision for me. I absolutely loved the ease of being in Select and having all my titles in Kindle Unlimited. I didn’t mind being exclusive. My participation in Select made scheduling promos a breeze, KU borrowers paid a significant chunk of change, and my Amazon rankings were good, since Amazon factored in KU borrows.
So why’d I go?
The major reason was this: In 2015, BookBub accepted my titles for promotions seven times – nearly every time I submitted. I depended on Bookbub promos to find new readers and sell my backlist titles, but early in 2016, that accessibility ground to a screeching halt, along with my Amazon royalty payments. BookBub has become a huge success, competition from trad authors/publishers is fierce, and free promos in my category are now almost nonexistent.
So I had to change my strategy.
I came to the conclusion that going wide (self-publish speak for making your titles available on multiple book sale platforms) was inevitable. If I could no longer rock BookBub, I’d need to find a multitude of other ways to sell books. As you can see, searching for readers outside of Amazon was not at the top of my list early this year, but after much gnashing of teeth I decided to go for it. Why’d I hesitate? Because I knew the project would take a lot of time and effort … and it did.
Draft2Digital made it easier
I used Draft2Digital to simplify the process somewhat and reach platforms I couldn’t otherwise. D2D has agreements with most major online ebook sellers, charges nothing upfront, allows free books, and collects about 10% of the retail price on sales from most digital stores, which is apx. 15% of your net royalties.
In the past I’ve published directly to (and currently have author accounts with) Amazon, (multi-distributor) Smashwords, B&N, Google Play, and Kobo – and will stay direct to Amazon (of course), Google Play, and Smashwords for reasons described below. At this writing, although they all have their strengths, there isn’t a single distributor who can get you into every sale platform on the planet, so most likely you’ll choose to work with more than one.
- Smashwords is a major distributor and selling site for some authors – mainly romance, I believe – and it also provides access to Overdrive, where libraries can browse and buy your books. I’ve never made a single sale on the platform, so I’m no expert, but presence in Overdrive is a must.
- Streetlib accesses Overdrive as well, with the added bonus of distributing to Google Play (if you can’t get in directly) – which, despite its problems, is also a must, since it’s become one of Amazon’s major competitors along with iTunes. Streetlib also has agreements with a huge number of smaller international sellers, and who knows what is destined to take off?
- To be fair, D2D is currently pursuing agreements with Overdrive and Google Play, among others. The platform is easy to use and support is great, although I had a heck of a time filling out their tax info form. Gah!
Staying wide, the future: What a pain!
Each time I release a new book, I update the front and back matter of all existing titles with the new one, then re-publish the updated manuscripts. When I was exclusive to Amazon, that task was manageable. Now that there are seven books in my Gen Delacourt Mystery Series and I publish them each to Amazon, D2D, Smashwords, and Google Play (and maybe Nook – see below), that’s 2 versions (epub + mobi) of 7 books to tweak and a kagillion uploads. Updating the backlist becomes a major task. Errors cannot be made. This is where a talented, detail-oriented virtual assistant would be a godsend. Note to self: earn enough to hire one!
My friend Anne Hagan will probably advise us to use Fiverr to handle this task, and she’s probably already provided the name of a vendor who does it well and I’ve misplaced it. Anne?
Unexpected benefits of going wide
- Although my Audiobook sales were slow while in Select, I found that making my titles available everywhere boosted sales – yaaay! – and I can only assume that’s due to my enhanced presence on iTunes. Audiobook promotional opportunities are limited, and I was still searching for worthwhile ways to let the world know they’re out there. Going wide seems to have taken that task off my plate, at least for the time being.
- I received a handful of lovely emails from Nook readers asking if/when the rest of the series would be available – the sale of my house interrupted the project. Always lovely to know readers are eager to buy the next book in the series!
- D2D provides a universal sale link for the platforms where D2D publishes your title(s). I will (eventually) add these links to my website – easy peasy way for readers to find you on their preferred platform without having to post individual hyperlinks. Whoo hoo!
Something I did and am happy about was to create boxed sets of my titles and enroll those in Select and KU. My logic in making the sets borrowable as opposed to single titles is that KU subscribers have nothing to lose, whereas buyers might be more hesitant to commit to the higher price point. I have no statistics to show whether that theory is correct or not. To date, my sets have not (yet) achieved as wide a readership as the singles, but I’m hoping that will change.
Note: As I said below in comments, this issue is controversial. and now … breaking news! I rec’d a very cordial email from Amazon saying boxed sets/bundles are not allowed in KU unless the individual titles are also exclusive. I will update past blog posts with this info.
Results to date
Results are limited so far, since my escrow interrupted the effort and I just managed to get the rest of the titles up at the beginning of the month. Of course, my Amazon sales and rankings took a dive along with royalties, but D2D sales are running about 30% of Zon sales, which helps. I have a whole new source of readers, which is very cool, and have heard from some, which inspires hope. Audiobook sales are good, as I said above. Now I need to get back to marketing, big time!
When I began to go wide I was overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the project, so I published to Nook via D2D to save time and sanity. However, now I’m considering unpublishing my titles from D2D for Nook only and uploading directly to B&N, since that’s my biggest D2D seller, and let’s face it, every penny in my pocket helps.
Self-publishing and self-published authors have changed the reading landscape, and the industry is still new. It will continue to evolve. Inflexible dependence on a single strategy will lately derail and become an anchor over time. My advice, however tardy? Cast a wide net with your marketing efforts. There is nothing wrong with staying in Select if it works for you, by the way, and I’m not advocating that you leave!
Authors, what’s been your experience with going wide? Any glitches, benefits, tweaks or takeaways you’d like to note? Please leave a comment and share!
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