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Self-Pub 101: Going Wide—What Does it Mean and Should You Do It?

You’ll often hear authors talking about ‘going wide’ or sticking with Amazon - so what exactly is ‘going wide’ and why would you limit your book to Amazon only? Read on and we’ll go through all that you need to know!

There are a LOT of ways that the average customer can buy an eBook. While a few years ago the majority of readers would use a Kindle or other dedicated eBook reader, these days more and more people are using their smartphones and tablets, giving them the opportunity to purchase and read eBooks from a variety of sources. For now, the primary eBook stores are:

  • Amazon
  • Barnes and Noble (Nook)
  • iBooks
  • Google Play
  • Smashwords
  • Kobo

One person with a smartphone can download the applications (apps) for each of the above stores, browse the content that each sells, and read a book from each store on the same device. So, surely it makes sense to sell your book in each store, right?

Well, it isn’t that simple.

Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer—if you’re looking for an eBook, where do you look first? If you’re like 90% of the population then Amazon is probably the first place you think of. Amazon has a huge hold on the eBook market; it has for years, and it likely will have for years to come. Google and Apple are huge companies who have put a lot of money into their bookstores, but at least so far, they haven’t been able to persuade the average eBook reader to look at their stores before looking at Amazon.

There’s a few good reasons for that. Amazon took the eBook market by storm when they released the first Kindle in late 2007. Within months the word ‘Kindle’ was commonly known and Amazon gained many happy customers. With the release of the Kindle, Amazon launched their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, allowing authors to publish their own books and market them to readers without having to go through traditional publishing.

Amazon also made superior customer experience a cornerstone of their eBook model. EBooks can be returned for a full refund, with no questions asked. This can definitely be frustrating at times for authors, but it’s a draw for readers who wouldn’t have otherwise taken a chance on an unknown self-published author.

So, obviously you’ll want to release your book on Amazon. But why not publish on the other stores as well?

We talked a little about Kindle Unlimited in a previous post - and it’s the biggest reason why many authors don’t ‘go wide’. Enrolling your book in Kindle Unlimited requires exclusivity to Amazon. You get a lot of benefits when you enroll in Kindle Unlimited, and your book could potentially be more visible to readers.

To decide if you’re going to ‘go wide’ or enroll in Kindle Unlimited and just publish your book on Amazon, you’ll have to weigh up the benefits of Kindle Unlimited membership against the requirement that you cannot publish your eBook elsewhere. There’s a couple of points and suggestions that you should bear in mind here.

The first is that if you’re publishing a print version of your book as well as an eBook, you should be aware that the exclusivity requirement applies to eBooks only. You can still publish your book in print anywhere that you want, taking advantage of Barnes and Noble’s hardcover book service. You do though need to take care that your book is not published anywhere else online—this includes blogs or websites.

The second point is that even if you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited, you’re not locking it into the program for life. Each enrollment term lasts for 3 months, so you can begin by publishing on Amazon and enrolling in Kindle Unlimited and evaluating its performance after 3 months. If you’re happy with how things are going, leave it in the program. If you’d like to test the waters in the other stores then you’ll uncheck the box on your KDP dashboard to remove your book from KDP when the 3 months are up, and can publish on other stores. Don’t worry though, you can always remove them from those stores and re-enroll in Kindle Unlimited if you’re not happy with their performance.

The decision to 'go wide' or remain exclusive to Amazon isn’t a clear cut choice, and I’ve seen authors have strong success with either approach. The performance of your book in all stores will depend on a lot of factors—the genre of the book, the cover, your marketing, timing, and pure luck.

My best advice to anyone on the fence is experiment! Try Kindle Unlimited for 3 months, then remove it from the program and go wide. Your book will still be available for sale on Amazon, it just won’t be available for Kindle Unlimited readers.

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