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.
I went wide, through Draft 2 Digital, which at that time did only e-books. For those people who stand on principle (which I respect) and will not do business with Amazon, their preferred format is available.
I will confess that I haven’t made any sales through D2D. However this site allows me to answer their objection and possibly land the sale.
My first two novellas were e-book only, so I set up the same books with Draft 2 Digital and with Amazon. For my third, I did want a print book, so I set up the e-books through D2D and Amazon, while the bound copies were from Create Space. When Amazon absorbed CreateSpace, it was fairly easy to transition over.
As of now, my process is to set it up on D2D and do all the fiddling there. Then I take that formatted ms over to Amazon and it goes up there as smooth as glass.
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Great insight. After working with Amazon, I can really see the objections pretty clearly. You work hard for reviews and they strip them out, then you advertise and it does nothing. Plus just the crushing size of the company. And in looking at it, there really seems to be a lot of great options.
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It does seem that Amazon, for all their success, is still woefully unprepared to deal with things like book stuffing and fake reviews. It seems like no one is watching
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Ugh! No one is watching how those things effect the customer experience.
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Wide . . . blows. I fully admit I didn’t give my books enough time. Two months is not enough, and I admit this with all my heart. But. Looking at wide . . . well, Nook. Okay. Maybe with Barnes and Noble’s sale, the new CEO can get Nook off the ground. I’ve heard big time indies say that their sales on Apple aren’t what they could be/should be considering the advantage of having a Books app on every single Apple product (built in customers? yeah, right), and sometimes you can’t even get into Google Play (I went wide with Draft2Digital, and they did not get me published there). Take out those three heavy hitters, and you’re giving up KU reads for . . . Kobo. I heard one person say that their after three years going wide, their Kobo sales were more than Kindle. Three years. Of course, that’s long-term planning, which is what you should be thinking about, sure. On the other hand, if you’re going to think long term, you’re thinking bigger backlist, and no one is telling you you can’t have older books in your backlist wide and newer books in KU to take advantage of them being “newer.”
As for a launch, don’t think like that anymore. Launches are for trad books that will be yanked from bookstores after three months. Your book will be available forever. Think slow burn and how you can market your book all the time. Just because you didn’t hit it with a strong first week doesn’t mean you can’t market and have a steady stream of sales. Just another way of thinking about it, I guess.
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Excellent insight, thank you!