By Morgana Best
Morgana Best is a #KWLWonderWoman—a savvy entrepreneur building her writing career into a successful independent business. Follow the stories here and on Instagram. Do you have a story to share? Tell us here.
The best way to tell you why I decided to go wide and stay wide is to share a little of my journey to becoming a six-figure author.
Years ago, Random House solicited a non-fiction manuscript of mine, and I had an agent for my non-fiction. I found the traditional route slow and unsteady, so was keen to go indie with my fiction. I became a full-time author in 2011, hopped into KDP Select when it first came out and earned KDP Select author bonuses as well as book bonuses.
I didn’t consider going wide until I released the first and second books in a new series two days apart, and on the day I released the second book, Amazon removed both books from sale. My blood ran cold. Amazon was unable to tell me why they had removed the books. The ranking was excellent before the books were pulled, and when Amazon returned the books to sale a week later, the ranking was appalling. It killed the series. That was a huge red flag to me. What if my whole account had been pulled? Amazon was my sole source of income at the time.
I had a few other issues with Amazon, and was concerned when Amazon cut audio royalties in March 2014. I hoped that wasn’t a foreshadowing of KDP royalties. After KENPS (pages read) were introduced in mid-2015, I decided to go wide. Barnes & Noble has never accepted Australian authors, so I went with an aggregator for all platforms.
My books did not perform well, and I soon regretted my decision. I went back to KDP Select. My books sold well for the first 30 days, but I spent the next 60 days waiting for my contract to expire.
When I went wide for the second time, I went direct to the retailers, apart from Barnes & Noble for whom I used a different aggregator. The difference was astounding. Many authors say that it’s too much effort to go direct to several retailers, but the difference in my sales when direct and through the original aggregator was chalk and cheese. It’s definitely worth the five extra minutes per book to gain the significant extra income.
These days, Amazon is rank-stripping, pulling reviews, is beset by click farms and scammers, and, until recently, pulled some books that had TOCs at the back of the book. Despite that, many authors continue to do well in KDP Select.
I’m in this business for the long term, so I’m always looking to the future and keeping an eye on the volatility of markets. The publishing industry can and does change on a dime, sometimes without notice. The way to keep our author business safe from external pressure is to build a closer relationship with our readers, and that is easier to do wide.
Some authors upload books wide and expect them to sell well overnight, and when they don’t, they pull their books. Not only does it take time to gain traction on the retailers, but the general marketing advice is geared to Amazon rather than the wide retailers. The Amazon mindset does not work with marketing wide.
Why should authors go wide? For a start, wide readers will pay more, whereas in my experience, many KDP Select readers are free and cheap seekers.
Box sets perform particularly well wide. Binge reading is on the increase, perhaps fuelled in part by Netflix releasing whole seasons of shows such as Stranger Things. I have a nine-book box set for $24.99. I do not have that box set on Amazon, because I would receive a mere 35% royalty there, yet on Kobo and iBooks I receive 70% royalty, do well on Google Play, and on Barnes & Noble—65% minus the aggregator’s 10%.
Preorders work well wide. A preorder book’s ranking is eaten away on Amazon; whereas on the other retailers the sales aggregate either in part or in full on the release date. This gives the release day ranking a huge boost, often pushing a book to #1 in its category.
There is a greater global reach wide. It’s easy to have blinkers on and think Amazon is the one and only giant retailer, but Kobo is, in fact, the market share leader in many worldwide territories. Kobo dominates in Canada. Tolino has 40% of the market in Germany. If you want to get your books into libraries, you need to go wide. Some countries do not have Amazon at all. And talking of territories, my funniest cozy mystery series is my bestseller in Canada, UK, and Australia, but the same series completely tanks on Amazon US.
Amazon’s 30-day cliff was the bane of my existence for years. There is no cliff on the other retailers, and sales are steadier and always gaining ground.
It’s always good to question assumptions. I’ve heard the advice that some genres can’t do well wide because they’re dominated by Kindle Unlimited. My own category, cozy mysteries, is dominated by Kindle Unlimited, but I make a six-figure income regardless. If a genre is dominated by Kindle Unlimited, then there are plenty of wide readers looking for books in that genre. It’s a golden opportunity.
Many opportunities are lost when going exclusive. Kobo now has the deal to sell Kobo e-Readers and digital content through Walmart. Territories expand all the time, and the longer an author has been on a platform, then clearly the more established they are to take advantages of these new territories. It takes time to build a loyal reader base.
Some other reasons to go wide? Going exclusive with Amazon precludes an author from selling directly from their own website. Now is a good opportunity to advertise wide, because there is less competition for your advertising dollar. Ranks wide stick much better and longer after a promo. You have the option of free at any time—you are not limited to a 5 day period out of 90 days. It’s far easier to get a BookBub when wide. The support wide is excellent.
One thing is certain; it’s a disaster to go wide and then pull your books, thinking you will put them back wide if Select does not work for you.
It’s easy to be seduced by KDP Select with the news of some big time authors raking in millions, and not notice the six- and seven-figure authors who are wide.
As authorpreneurs, we need to have a business mindset, and I for one rest easier knowing I am not wholly dependent on one retailer for my livelihood.
Australian author Morgana Best is an internationally bestselling cozy mystery author.
Morgana was a college professor with a Ph.D. in literature, and had early training for the busy pace of writing life by having two children while doing her undergrad degree. In fact, the examiners were terrified she would give birth in the middle of two different sets of exams.
Morgana was introduced to the world of publishing when a (then) Big Six publisher solicited a manuscript and held onto it for months before finally knocking it back. She ended up buying out her agent and turning indie.
Morgana used to live in the Aussie bush, and was bitten by a redback spider, a wolf spider, and a tiger snake. Now Morgana lives at the sunny Gold Coast, Australia, with a chocolate Labrador and a rescue dingo, as well as an irritating cat. Morgana enjoys putting people she doesn’t like into her books and killing them in clever ways.
Great story. I’m also committed to staying wide. I’m not at six figures yet, but I’m getting closer! I’m now at the point where my income from non-Amazon sources could almost keep my business ticking over, and I’m aiming at getting that number up to where it could provide a decent income even if a disaster happened with Amazon. Kobo in particular is helping me build audiences in Canada and Australasia, along with a sprinkling of sales in quite a variety of countries, library sales through Overdrive, and the Kobo Plus subscription service. These small trickles of income do add up, and I’ve also noticed that Kobo readers, in percentage terms, are much more likely to leave a review or rating than Amazon readers. I would really hate to be dependent on one company to grow my business.
Yes, Kobo is great for Canadian and Australian audiences, too. I agree with you – I would not like to be wholly dependent on one company to grow my business. It makes good business sense to be wide, doesn’t it. I’m keen on building the library sales through Overdrive. Very best of luck with reaching six figures and soon!
You make a lot of great points for those of us hammering out our own strategy. Thanks for sharing your experiences and congrats on your success!
Thanks so much! It’s fun to talk strategies.
Thanks for all this good information, Morgana.
Wow..I always thought the hardest part about being an author was issues with a publisher. I don’t understand why/how Amazon can pull books like that. I know as a reviewer,you must put the disclaimer about if you got the book free from the author,that you had to mention that the review was voluntarily in the review itself. I recently heard they were pulling off the reviews that were not verified purchases. The only way it could be verified is to be purchased from them !! This is so unfair to the author as well as the reader,because of the time put in to writing the review. I could go on about this unfair practice from such a big company but it angers me too much. I am however glad your books are there so I can get them…I love all of them.
I’m so glad you love my books, Rosemary!
Very interesting! Thanks Morgana!
So glad you found it interesting, Sherry!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Morgana! I’m with you on going wide and not relying solely on one retailer, and your insights really help to give me some ideas on how to build my non-Amazon readership.
I’m so glad about that, Maria, and I agree – wide is the way to go!
Terrific information, Morgana, thanks so much for offering up this great information. And thank you, Kobo Writing Life, for posting this. Really appreciate reading stories like this one.
Happy to hear you enjoyed it, Ritter! Kobo Writing Life’s blog is so informative.
What a great article, and…now I know what you look like!!! Brava Morgana!
Lol Thanks so much, Maria!
Is there a checklist you use to make sure you’ve included all the distributors?
Hi Gayle, I have a table in a word doc with a list of my books down the left column, and the retailers across the top. That way, I write the date when I have uploaded (or reuploaded) a book, and I can print more sheets at any time. I don’t lose track of any books, which is easy to do otherwise. I use Kobo, iBooks, Nook (via D2D – since I’m Aussie and can’t go direct to Nook), Overdrive via Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, my own website, and Amazon.
Thank you so much, Morgana!
Great information and very reassuring as I’m planning to make an upcoming series wide, right from the start.
Best of luck with your new series wide, Autumn!
Huge congratulations on your success, Morgana, and thanks for the solid advice in this article.
I’m one of those who took a look at going direct when I first started out but gave up and took the easy route with D2D. Having read this, though, I’m rethinking.
Good stuff – thanks again.
I’m convinced direct is the way to go! Thanks, Sherri.
Great article! Thank you Morgana for sharing your experience, and Kobo Writing Life for featuring this information. Very valuable!
This was very informative. I’ve recently been struggling with this question of KDP or staying wide. Thanks for the insight.
Hi Rebecca, best of luck going wide, if you chose to do so!
Inspiring information, Morgana. Surviving all those critters definitely makes you Wonder Woman in my book!
Thanks for this article. Great information. I have a hard time finding advertising venues for venues other than Amazon. A few offer promotions for ibooks and/or Barnes and Noble, but I’ve found very few who promote on Kobo. (Other than BookBub, of course.) Have you found good venues for wide promotion?