When indie authors talk about being ‘wide’, they mean not being exclusive to Amazon. This is, unfortunately, due to Amazon’s predominance as a marketplace in the US & many Western European countries.

The Wide strategy predicates upon a few ideas:

– firstly, while Amazon is the 300lb gorilla in the US and many Western European countries, it’s dominance is significantly less outside of those markets. Google Play, iBooks, Scribd, Kobo, etc. can often contain a higher % of a local market than Amazon or at least, be a significant %. For example, in Canada, Amazon is just 57% of the market with Kobo taking up another 25%.

– even in the US, Amazon is only 83% of the market share (authorearnings.com report for 2018). That leaves another 17% of the market that you are missing out by being exclusive. 

– when the vast majority of indie authors are moving to Amazon, it leaves a dearth of books for readers in the other marketplaces. As such, you could easily become a big fish in a small pond.

– income from a variety of sources is  more stable than reliance on a single source. This is for both long-term stability (what if Amazon crashes / blocks your author account / has payment issues/etc.) and for short-term stability (sales on wide platforms are often more stable due to lower competition levels and differing algorithms).

– by being non-exclusive to Amazon, you open up the potentially lucrative library market. Library readers can often be a large source of income and new readers.

– by being wide and establishing yourself across multiple regions and retailers, you increase the chance that your particular work is a ‘hit’ in that specific market. A book that doesn’t sell well in America might do well in India or South East Asia.

– being wide allows you to sell direct (see next post for more details) which is (often) the highest % return you can get.

– new product formatting options and distribution methods are open to you while you are wide. This includes  subscription sales (like with Scribd)  or pay per chapter programs (like with Radish and Tapas) or Patreon ‘advanced chapter’ options combined with web serial publishing.

– lastly, by being wide and selling in a variety of platforms, reaching the most number of readers as possible, you increase the chance that your work  might be picked up by foreign publishers for translations. 

While some of these justifications I have seen for myself (stabler income, less reliance on Amazon, more opportunities to reach new markets, library sales, product formatting and distribution options); others like foreign translation opportunities are much less likely I believe unless you have significant sales already.

Distributing Wide – Options

Very briefly, when distributing wide, your options include direct distribution wide (i.e. signing up directly with multiple ebook retailers like Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Google Play) or going through a distributor like Smashwords or Draft2Digital (for ebooks) or FindAwayVoices or Authors Republic (for audiobooks).

Going through a distributor reduces your income as they take a % cut from your sales. The advantage though is that it’s a lot easier and reduces the complexity. 

General advice is to go direct with the major market retailers (named above) and then having D2D or the other distributors offer your work to the other markets. 

In general, with a wide strategy, the best option is to distribute as widely as possible. That means using as many options as you can.

Oh, one other advantage of using distributors is that they often disregard minimum $ payout amounts. So if you are selling very low in specific retailers, you still will be paid out by the distributors rather than having to wait multiple months to hit your minimum threshold if you went direct.

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