Helping authors publish

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Publishing wide vs Amazon exclusive

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.

Amazon exclusive

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.

Going wide

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.

Introducing our Bespoke Publishing Package

When we first started Author Help, it made sense to create a complete publishing package so that authors could get everything they needed in a single off-the-shelf bundle. But every author needs something different.

We recognise that some authors may need help getting up and running on social media, some want their work only in paperback, and some have particular needs around images. Books of different lengths and complexities take different times to work with.

We have rewritten our package offering from the ground up. There are new services available, we’ve hammered out the calculations, and we’ve put together some internal processes.

By making our package modular, each author we work with can get the service – and the price – that’s right for them. Plus we’ve added a few little extra touches!

So go take a look at our new publishing package or contact us to book a free consultation.

How to Set up Local Links to Ebook Stores

Screenshot showing message that UK users get when shopping for Kindle books on Amazon.com: "Kindle titles are available for UK customers on Amazon.co.uk."
UK readers can’t buy Kindle books from the US store

It’s generally considered good practice to link to all the stores where a given ebook is available. What is not always understood is that users in different countries should ideally be directed to their own stores. For example, a reader in the UK should be sent to a UK store where the vendor has one, with prices in British pounds. A user in Canada, on the other hand, would want prices in Canadian dollars.

In some cases, vendors insist on readers buying from their local store. Amazon, for instance, won’t allow British users to buy from Amazon.com. So, if you link to your book on Amazon.com, your British readers will have to go to Amazon.co.uk and find it there in order to buy it.

Universal Book Links

You may be familiar with Draft2Digital’s Universal Book Links (UBL). If you have a Draft2Digital account, or create an account at books2read.com, you can create universal book links. These links take the reader to a page that lists all the stores where the ebook can be bought. A less well-known benefit is that when the user clicks on the link, they will go to their local site if the store has one.

Universal book links are useful in some circumstances, but they require an extra click on the part of the reader, and every extra click is a point where a sale can be lost. If you have space to list individual stores, you can still take advantage of UBL’s ability to send a reader to their local site.

Screenshot showing the right-click menu used to get the Amazon link from a Books2Read page
Getting the Amazon link from a Books2Read page

To do this, set up your book’s universal book link as normal, then go to the universal book link page. Right-click on the store that you want a link for, and click “Copy link address” or “Copy Link Location”. The link will have a “?store=” bit at the end, e.g.

https://books2read.com/u/bzppKZ?store=amazon

Use that link instead of a standard one, and your reader will go straight to the local version of the store, without seeing the universal book link page.

Kobo & Apple Links

For Kobo and Apple links, there is another way to create localised links, without setting up a universal book link. For Apple Books, simply insert “geo.” between the “https://” and “itunes.apple.com”, so that your link looks something like this:

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-losing-role/id1058016165

This works with audiobooks as well as ebooks. The reader will be taken to their local Apple Books store.

For Kobo, there are two options. You can use a link like this, with your own ISBN at the end:

https://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781466105478

This works even if you didn’t use an ISBN when uploading the book. In this case, the Kobo book page will show an ISBN starting with 123, which can be used.

The other option is to remove the country and language code from your book’s link. This is an example Kobo link, with the country code (gb) and language code (en) in bold:

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/operation-nimrod

If we remove the country code and language code, we get:

https://www.kobo.com/ebook/operation-nimrod

This link will redirect the reader to their local Kobo site.

WordPress Plugin

This is, of course, all really quite technical, and if you have a lot of links on your website, changing them all could be time-consuming. I’ve written a free WordPress plugin that you can use to do this automatically. It’s available from the WordPress plugin directory, or you can search for “Local Links Robin Phillips” in the WordPress plugins screen. It will automatically edit your links on the fly, so all of your existing links will be localised, as well as any that you add in the future.

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