As you’re probably aware, I’m busy with my first ever author event to promote Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. However, thanks to the magic of WordPress, I’ve scheduled this to keep the series going, because it’s helpful to think through what I did, and why, and why it was all not very well thought out, in spite of great advice telling me how to do it properly.
When I first made the decision to self publish, platforms didn’t even occur to me. I mean, they did. Hell, I even did a series of interviews on the topic, but I didn’t ask the truly relevant questions until I was pretty far down the road and I didn’t ask enough of the relevant questions. Initially, however, I didn’t put a lot of thought to it. I can’t say why I didn’t think of this. It should have been the very first question I was asking myself. It really started to roll around in my brain after speaking with a cover designer. Then, I started reaching out to other writers and artists and that’s when I realized just the magnitude of the oversight. You can get to that series here – there are some really great authors and perspectives. The short story is that there seem to be two basic approaches (among loads of other publishing options, which I’m not going to cover in any detail just now). These are Amazon or “go wide.”
If you’re publishing on Amazon, it looks like this: eBook, paperback, Kindle Unlimited. That’s it. That’s all you’re going to do. A lot of people going this route don’t even bother making a paperback available. The key benefit of Amazon is that it’s super easy. It used to be that Amazon had Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which have their own history. I came into the game after Create Space. Based on what I read, lots of people liked Create Space a lot better. In my experience, KDP makes it so easy that nobody should have an excuse for not being able to get a book up there. I mean, I do have complaints, and there are quirks, but on the whole, this is super easy.
Going wide means a lot more, and I’m not even going to pretend I understand the full scope of it. What I can give you is what I learned so far. To start, you have to answer the following questions
- Who is going to print my book? Amazon, Lulu, Blurb, BookBaby, Ingram Spark, The Book Patch, someone else?
- What are the ramifications of Amazon sales if I print my book through IngramSpark?
- Do I even want to attempt trying to get my book listed in local book stores (this is possible, but not always – small towns seem to be the best options.)
- What platforms will I distribute to? Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Others…?
- What aggregation service should I use (I don’t even know where to start on this one here, I gave it one google search groaned in pain and closed my browser – If anyone reading this wants to guest blog on this one, I’d love to do that.)
At face-value, going wide seems like the absolute best option to get your book in front of the largest number of possible readers. I think this is true. However, for a debut author, I’m not convinced this is actually a benefit. However, I don’t really know for sure – for the millionth time, this is my first experience in the publishing universe. What I do know is that the overwhelming majority of books sold are sold on Amazon.
When I first started, I figured I’d “go wide.” Then as I started going through the process, I realized this wasn’t necessarily a good idea. In part, because there is too much to learn that you won’t learn until you actually do it. The other part is that the expense starts to become a factor. Amazon aside, other platforms charge. If I were to start over again, here is what I would do – this may not be for you:
- Pick a date to release, and spend at least 1-month marketing. I don’t know how frequently or how much, but this is something that I should have done.
- Plan a launch event – this should be something you do in person if a local bookstore is willing to host, all the better. If not, maybe something creative? I really don’t know
- Start out with Amazon only, and give yourself at least 5 weeks to get author copies AFTER you’ve taken a look at the proof and made changes.
- Launch an e-book, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited (KU) all on the same day or within days of your launch event.
- While you advertise and promote yourself, Prep for a ‘wide’ release –spend time researching etc… whatever that looks like for your genre.
- Release more books, using Amazon’s extended advertising options for KU, I’m thinking of countdown discounts and free book offerings.
- Use Amazon’s add words and reports to figure out what sorts of things gets your book sold
- Remove your ebooks from KU (you’re enrolled for 3-month periods, this will probably be after a significant amount of time, maybe as much as 2 years!)
- From what you’ve learned in step 2 (I don’t have advice on this yet), launch wide. This is effectively a re-release, and you can use that as a marketing tool. I don’t know that this will actually DO anything for you, especially if you find that KU is making you money.
Part of the reason for taking this approach before even considering going wide is two-fold. First off, lots of people make real money on KU. If that’s happening for you, then you don’t want to let that revenue stream go. It’s going to fund future books and in time could lead to real income. The other is that other platforms, such as IngramSpark, are difficult to use and more expensive. By going exclusive with Amazon, you can get your book out there and correct issues after publication – FOR FREE – before making it available elsewhere.
All that said, I’m not claiming that this is the way to go, what I am saying is that if I had done better planning to debut as an author, this is the route I would’ve taken. In the end, this is where I am anyhow, except that I’m only planning 2-3 books over the next year and a half. My result was a very sloppy release, which didn’t do me any favors. When you first hit Amazon and let people know your book is out there, you’ll have more interest in a narrow period than you’re likely to get at any other time. It’s essential to capitalize on that. I didn’t, and I absolutely regret it.
What do you think? For a debut indie author, go wide right out of the gate or hit hard with Amazon first, then re-launch wide after about a year? Leave a comment below.
Interested in the rest of the series? Click here.