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.