I’ve recently had a few readers ask me why both Adventures on Brad and Hidden Wishes are both not on Kindle Unlimited. The simple answer is that I’m wide with those series, so I can’t have them in KU. But there’s a longer answer which I’m going to provide here.
Before I begin, I need to make sure we’re all on the same page. So, let’s get some things clear.
Amazon has a self-publishing service called Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Using KDP, you can self-publish your ebook and (these days), your print book directly on their site. When you are on KDP, you get paid a % of your selling price (35 or 70% depending on the price of your book and where the sale is coming from).
They also have a service called Kindle Unlimited (KU). KU is an exclusive program that publishers can use only if they are exclusive with Amazon. That means you cannot have your ebook cammpt be anywhere else, including other retail stores. With KU, you get paid per page read (a calculated page read, not the page reads you see on Amazon which isn’t very accurate normally anyway). The amount varies each month, but is generally around $0.0044 per page read.
The advantage of KU is that you get a lot of readers who are on KU and since, for them, any KU book is ‘free’ after they’ve paid their subscription fee, you get more readers who might ‘test’ your book.
Wide vs KU
Alright, so, why go wide (that is, have an ebook in multiple retailers and importantly – in libraries) rather than just have it on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited? Let’s back off here and point out that, yes, you can just have your book on Amazon without having it on KU and NOT have it on other retailers, but that’s generally a silly idea.
For me, there are a few things to keep in mind for going wide:
- Amazon is 80% of the market in the US. But, it can dip as low as around 60% in other non-US markets. While the US market is the biggest for English written books, some of these other markets are growing significantly.
- The number of competitors (i.e. other books & authors) is lower, again, because many people ONLY go through Amazon and KU these days.
- You gain access to libraries when you go wide, allowing your books to be picked up and/or requested at libraries.
- Amazon makes mistakes. I’ve had personal experience being on the opposite end of an Amazon mistake that cost my business over $100,000 in 3 months. It eventually got fixed, but we missed the entire Christmas season because of a mistake that they refused to correct quickly. Putting all your eggs in one basket, when that basket could overturn for any number of reasons, is dangerous.
- Because KU pays per page reads, depending on the size of your book & your pricing, you can often earn less per book read than if you sold a copy. This is highly dependent on the size of your book and your book pricing.
- Lastly, I’m going to mention something I haven’t had any experience with, but have been informed is another benefit of going wide – getting on the radars of foreign publishers for foreign right sales.
On the other hand, Kindle Unlimited:
- provides a large number of readers who are willing to ‘try’ new authors because the cost of purchasing your book is $0.
- certain markets (like LitRPG) have readers extremely concentrated in Kindle Unlimited. Not having your book in there loses a lot of potential readers.
- Kindle Unlimited books are considered ‘buys’ when a book is borrowed. This is not a 1:1 ratio as I understand it, but it does mean that KU books have an advantage at ranking higher on Amazon, getting the bestseller tags and otherwise gaining Amazon algorithm love.
- requires no additional marketing to generate more sales / borrows due to the above factors.
My Own Decision
Due to my desire to have a long career but still pay my bills, I’ve decided to split the way I release my series. Some of my series are wide – Adventures on Brad & Hidden Wishes. My most popular (and best selling) series are in Kindle Unlimited. That allows me to generate and develop an audience in markets outside of Amazon while still earning enough to pay the bills with my other series.
That leads me to a few things about going wide that I’ve learnt:
- It’s not enough to put books wide. You need to do marketing to grow your wide audience.
- It is a long term game. I have seen consistent and slow increases in sales for my wide books. I have gone from having my wide income be 1% of my series income (i.e. 99% from Amazon) to about 7%.
- Wide income is often more consistent. I have (mostly – see below) seen an increase in wide income from month to month or at the least, a stable level.
- Pulling books from ‘wide’ and putting them in KU to ‘get’ KU sales is a bad idea. You will lose all momentum you have generated, lowering your wide income again.
Note that I speak about small percentages and numbers here – 7% of my series income in a month works out to around $70. That’s not, in anyway, enough to live on. But, again, this is very much a long term game to develop fans outside of Amazon. When my other series finish, I expect I’ll go ‘wide’ with them too, drawing even more readers.
Okay, I’m sure there are some questions I haven’t answered, but that’s my personal reasoning. And a glimpse into the discussion points for going wide or staying on Amazon only.
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