The Blitz

Wide or Exclusive Publishing: What Will You Choose?

The wide or exclusive debate is raging. Independently published authors across the community are taking sides on an issue that affects the bottom line and the principle of being an "indie."

The wide or exclusive debate is raging when it comes to publishing. Independently published authors across the community are taking sides on an issue that affects the bottom line and the principle of being an “indie.”

An “indie” author is one who publishes independently of the traditional industry and outside those constructs. Some call this self-publishing, but the definition is also up to debate. Suffice it to say, indie writers are ones who control the entire process of selling their books, whether they hire out parts of it or do it all themselves.

Within this community, some indies publish exclusively on Amazon because the Big ‘Zon holds the monopoly on the ebook industry right now. Some publish wide because they don’t want to be beholden to one book-selling avenue.

The big question is should you or shouldn’t you? Let’s start with what the heck we’re talking about.

What is wide?

When we discuss wide or exclusive, publishing wide means you put your books up for sale on a variety of different outlets: Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. The easiest way to do this is through an aggregator like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. Independent authors like Joanna Penn publish wide and in this podcast, she admits that Amazon represents only 11% of her book income stream. She does this because she wants to be “independent” of the constraints to one vehicle.

What is exclusive?

It means you are publishing exclusively on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publish (KDP) and taking advantage of the benefits of being an Amazon Select author. Some of those benefits include Kindle Unlimited, where they are paid for the number of pages read by readers in the program and additional promotions like Kindle Countdown. Authors who are rapidly releasing and in genres like Romance, Mystery/Thriller, and Fantasy/Sci-Fi are benefiting quite nicely from being exclusive on Amazon.

Pros/Cons of wide

  • Wide gives you the opportunity to sell books across a variety of markets and platforms. Believe it or not, not all readers buy books from Amazon. Publishing wide makes sense as eventually, Amazon will get too big. Yes, it will. Putting all your eggs in one basket just asks for trouble. If you decide to go wide right now, however, you are missing out on the benefits of Amazon exclusivity.
  • That being said, if you plan to offer your book in foreign markets other than the United Kingdom, you need to know who has the foothold and it isn’t Amazon. Kobo has it Canada. In Germany, Amazon has only 40%.
  • If you choose wide, you’ll have to market across more platforms than just one and that can become time-consuming.
  • In the long run, a wider net opens yourself to more readers and provides a safety net for when Amazon is finally brought to heel.

Pros/Cons of exclusive

  • More money now. There’s no other way around it. Amazon owns the ebook market right now and with the right kind of marketing and advertising, to include rapidly releasing books, authors can make a lot of money.
  • You get paid for pages read in Kindle Unlimited, additional promotions in Amazon First Reads, entrance into the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and the platform gives priority to KU ads (this is anecdotal as Amazon is pretty stingy with data, but appears to be accurate).
  • If you look at it on paper, right now, if your objective is to make money with your books, Amazon will provide a higher return.
  • On the other hand, you can’t offer your books on other platforms and that includes bookstores, libraries, or universities. You’ll miss out on the readers on the other platforms. If you post on KDP Select, Amazon controls the pricing of the pages read.

Wide or Exclusive? Wrapping this up

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon “owns the system.” This translates into about 83% of the U.S. book market. I’m not a fan of betting it all on one but for now, at least, Amazon is the place to be if you want to at least try to make any money as an indie author. That being said, you can still make money on Amazon without KDP Select and publish in other markets. The lack of inherent promotional opportunities will hinder you but that can be made up for if you have a concerted, focused marketing strategy. The bottom line, though, is you need to do what is good for your business objectives.

For more on this, check out the Alliance of Independent Author’s take here.