One of the questions we ask our authors is whether they want their ebook to be exclusive to Amazon, or available at multiple retailers (commonly known as “going wide”). We will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of both approaches in this article, so that you can make an informed decision about what to do with your own book.
Being exclusive to Amazon means having a single place to track sales, make changes, etc. For some people, that alone is enough to make exclusivity worthwhile. But Amazon does reward exclusive authors with some benefits.
Being exclusive is the only way for an indie book to be included in Kindle Unlimited (often abbreviated to KU), Amazon’s ebook subscription service. Readers pay a fixed monthly fee, and in return, they can read as many KU books as they wish. For people that read a lot, this can be a very good deal. Authors are paid according to how many pages of their books were read. The amount paid per page is tiny, but some authors report that most of their earnings are from Kindle Unlimited page reads.
Kindle Unlimited isn’t the only benefit to bring exclusive. For five days in every ninety, your book can be free, or you can run a countdown deal. Why give your book away for free? Chances are, many more people will download it while it is free. Some of them will review it, and those reviews may help persuade people to buy it once the price goes back up. If they like your writing, they might buy your other books — this is particularly relevant if it’s the first in a series.
When running a countdown deal, the potential buyer sees the normal price as well as the discount price. There is also a countdown clock, to give a sense of urgency and encourage purchase. If your book gets the 70% royalty rate at its usual price, sales during the countdown deal will earn 70%.
Finally, Kindle books sold in Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India only get the 70% royalty rate if they are exclusive. For most people, these markets represent a very small proportion of sales, so it makes little difference.
In the US and UK, Amazon is the market leader in ebook sales. Nobody knows exactly how much market share they have, but it’s generally acknowledged that they are the largest ebook vendor in these countries.
But they are far less dominant in the rest of the world. So being Amazon-exclusive limits your ability to sell elsewhere. Some of these are large markets, and books in English will sell even in countries where it is not the first language. While Amazon has sites in twenty countries, Kobo has over forty and Apple has fifty-one.
Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the book for free, but they have to pay for a subscription. On the other hand, if your book is in a library, people can read the book for free without a monthly subscription. When you opt to go wide, we set up your ebook on Draft2Digital. They distribute to six library services, making your book available to libraries world-wide. In 2021, libraries in the Philippines unexpectedly bought copies of Jen’s children’s book. Those sales were only possible because the book wasn’t exclusive to Amazon.
Ironically, another benefit is that the only way to have a book permanently free (known as a “permafree”) on Amazon is to have that book on sale at other vendors. With books in a series, setting the first one free can be a powerful marketing tactic. The free one hooks readers, who then go on to buy and read the rest of the series. Amazon won’t allow an ebook price to be set to free, but other stores will. Making the same ebook free elsewhere, then asking Amazon to match the free price, is the only way to get them to make an ebook permanently free.
Mistakes to avoid
An ebook needs to be enrolled in KDP Select to access the benefits of exclusivity. Enrolment automatically renews and is for ninety days at a time, but the renewal can be cancelled.
A common mistake is to try and get the best of both worlds by switching between exclusive and wide every few months. We strongly advise against this, because you’re more likely to get the worst of both worlds. A reader on Kobo, for instance, will be unhappy if they buy one of your books, then find they can’t buy the next one because you’ve switched to being Amazon exclusive.
Some authors will complain that they never get sales on the wide vendors, but do nothing to get those sales. Whenever you link to your book, use your Books2Read universal link. That will allow readers to buy from their preferred store. As a bonus, it will direct them to their local store. British readers will go to the UK store and see prices in pounds. Canadians will go to the Canada store and see prices in Canadian dollars, and so on.
Ultimately, being wide is a mindset. If you only think about getting sales on Amazon, there’s little point being elsewhere. But if you think in terms of sales everywhere, then being wide may well suit you and your book.