I’ve recently seen a lot of discussion about going wide (i.e. moving away from exclusivity for audiobook and ebook and being listed on other retailers). I figure I should make a post about it all here, with what I know since I’ve been doing this for a bit and made a ton of mistakes.

What Does Going Wide Mean?

In essence, when self-publishers talk about going wide, they mean not selling exclusively. With ebooks, this means removing yourself from the Kindle Unlimited program which allows readers to read books in the program for a fixed monthly cost. Quick note – just because you are in Kindle Unlimited with an ebook does NOT mean you cannot sell your print or audiobook wide, the exclusivity is ONLY for ebooks. 

Going wide for audiobooks means removing exclusivity from ACX which pushes your book out to iTunes and Audible.

In both cases, there are significant revenue (and sometimes royalty) penalties. If you are not in KU, you do not get 70% royalties in a few markets (Brazil, India, Mexico and Japan I believe) and, of course, aren’t eligible for KU borrows and All Star Bonuses.

With audiobooks, that means your royalty rate drops from 40% to 25% on ACX. Some of that (iTunes specifically) can be recovered by removing the ACX listing of your work, but the Audible listing is still going to penalize you.

Why Do People Stay in Kindle Unlimited (KU) / ACX?

– KU gets you access to whale readers that only a smaller portion (about a 1/3 from tests) who will buy your book if you’re not in the program.

– It lowers the cost of ‘testing’ a new author out entirely. There’s no cost for these KU readers to try you which can be important for new authors.

– in certain genres, the majority of readers are in KU. So you’ll find it very hard to find readers who aren’t in KU in other retailers.  Check your sub-genre categories. If the majority of people at the top ranks are in KU, it’s likely that’s where the majority readers are.

– KU page reads $ amounts haven’t gone up, but it’s possible (and quite likely) the number of KU users have increased. So yes, your per page royalty hasn’t increased; but the number of people who might read your work has. 

– this is not likely a concern for most; but they changed their All Star bonus structure such that they take into account book length too, so even books with fewer pages have a chance to get the bonus (you still need a million plus page reads a month it seems or 2. So, you know, not easy).

For ACX:

– Audible is often 80-90% of the audiobook market in the US/UK as I understand it. It certainly is that much in certain genres. That means the drop in royalty rate for Audible can be huge and it can make it VERY hard to recover the difference.

– Longer works (omnibus editions, works over 15 hours long) sell MUCH better in Audible because they are ‘worth’ more for listeners due to the credit system put in place by Audible.

So Why Go Wide?

– not trusting Amazon / having multiple baskets. Amazon is known for booting people off their platform with little to no warning. In most cases, you will get your account back. However, this can take months. 

Not having an income during that period can be tough. 

– access and control to reader information. If you’re like me and have a personal webstore, you have a way for readers to contact readers directly (potentially, there are still rules on contact e-mails, etc.).

– greater % of income. This can be because you sell direct and get the full royalty rate (97% instead of 65%/25% ( I’m using the modified amounts after credit card fees and delivery fees are taken out, you can call it 100% or 70% if you want)) or because certain boxsets are priced over the $19.99 limit set by Amazon (or below the $2.99 limit).

– your series length works better wide. For example, my shorter works (actual shorts, novelletes and novellas, anything from 40-60k books) are all financially better off outside of KU.

As an example, I sell a 40k book for $3.99 or get like $1.20 or something from KU (I forget the exact number, it’s been years). Since a 1/3 of my readers will buy my book direct, I actually do better financially out of KU just on Amazon, nevermind the rest of my wide income. 

– access to other countries. rWhile Amazon is dominant in US & UK, other countries (especially non-English speaking ones) often have other retailers and groups being used. You should seriously consider being wide if you are publishing translations due to this

– access to libraries. Yes, you can’t have library sales if you aren’t wide.

– ability to set pricing for audiobooks

– lastly, you gain access to other promotional methods, including certain kinds of retailer specific promos, bundle options, storybundles, paid promotion newsletters and promotional strategies like permafree book 1’s. 

Some Cautions

– going wide / selling on a new retailer is a long process. The general rule of thumb is that it will take you a year to get going. It took me two years.

Even then, certain genres just don’t have a vast number of readers on non-Amazon retailers, and it might never become more than 10% of your income.

– each retailer is different. You’ll need to figure out promotional strategies for each one to push sales upwards on them. It’s a LOT more work to do so.

– your consolidation of royalty report and working out income is going to be a pain, because you’re now pulling info from multiple areas (especially if you track sales in different areas like retailers, libraries, webapps, etc.)

– do not pull in and out of wide. While it will not hurt your KU readership directly, it WILL hurt your wide rankings and product pages. Any momentum you generated will disappear and it can take even longer to get that momentum back.

And this has gotten too long. I’ll post the process stuff after this in a different post. 

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