We’ve been talking for several weeks about tips for going wide, but someone pointed out to me that all the posts have been very into the weeds. They asked “How do I get started going wide with my books? What are the first things I need to know and do?” I’ve also seen several Kindle Unlimited authors deciding to pull their books from KU and are asking how to take their backlist wide.
Given those two recurring questions, let’s go back to basics.
Today, we’re building a starter guide for how to go wide! We’ll cover the first big decisions you need to make, what to do next, and where to go to learn more as you grow.
We’ll focus mostly on ebooks, as that’s got the most options and complexity, but there is a section about print at the end. Until that section, assume everything you’re reading is about eBooks only.
If you want more in depth thoughts about going wide with print, check out this post.
FIRST Key DECISION
Going wide, especially if you’re coming from Kindle Unlimited, can be daunting. There’s a lot of information out there, and a lot of decisions to make. But you don’t have to make all of them at once. That said, here’s my opinion of what you should focus on deciding first:
DO YOU VALUE MAKING MORE money, OR HAVING MORE time?
This decision’s answer will influence what ebook channels you likely publish through. Let’s discuss both.
MORE MONEY PLEASE!
If you value more money and don’t mind if things take a lot of time and effort, then you’ll likely want to go direct to as many places as possible and use distributors like Draft2Digital to reach the remaining markets.
This approach gets the most royalties into your pocket, and you don’t have to give distributors, like D2D, a cut. But it can be time consuming and complex to manage your efforts across 5 or 6 or more platforms, so being organized and patient is key here.
Starting out, it will (generally) look something like this:
- Direct to Amazon KDP
- Direct to Kobo/Kobo Plus (and Overdrive through Kobo)
- Direct to B&N Press
- Direct to Google Play
- Optional: Direct to Apple (read my opinion on this here)
- Draft2Digital for remaining markets/retailers and libraries
- Optional: Selling direct on your own storefront
As you get more experience under your belt with wide, and after you’re feeling good and comfortable with all your current retailers, you can expand to other retailers or distributing channels to reach even more small markets and retailers. Some of these include: PublishDrive, Radish, etc.
My advice is to learn one new platform at a time before adding on others. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with the next strategy and slowly add back in direct channels as you are able.
I NEED MORE TIME
If you value your time above all, and don’t mind losing a little money to make things easier for you, my recommendation would be to:
- Direct to Amazon KDP
- Direct to Google Play
- Draft2Digital to reach Kobo, B&N Press, Apple, and remaining retailers/libraries
However, if you can add one more direct channel in, I recommend Kobo. They value their authors, are very supportive and responsive, and going direct gives you more access to their promotions.
I also want to add that you can change your mind AT ANY TIME and pivot to another strategy. That’s the beauty (and the curse) of wide. I recommend sticking things out for at least 6 months before making any major changes, as wide readers and wide retailers are slower to react to the market than Kindle Unlimited readers.
If you decide later that you now have more time and want to go direct to channels you’ve been reaching via D2D, you can. The process is to create your accounts on those platforms, once your accounts are approved (B&N takes a longish time), then remove the books from distribution from D2D (uncheck their boxes), wait until they show unlisted, and then re-publish them direct. Customers who previously bought your eBook will still have it, and new customers will buy your new listing.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO GO WIDE?
Now, let’s talk about some of the other decisions you’ll need to make, or at least ponder, early on in your wide game. I’ll break it down into the general considerations, and then we’ll discuss them all and how they may differ if you’re taking the more money versus the more time approach.
Will you offer preorders? It’s not a requirement for wide, or for anything, but it does help you get sales while you build up awareness and marketing for your book!
How far in advance will you list your preorder? Most widelings shoot for 6-8 months, but this is an extremely personal decision, and there really is no best practice. I try to put mine up at least 4 months in advance, and if it’s part of a series, I put up the next book’s preorder to go live on the release date of the current book (so I can link the next book’s preorder page in the backmatter).
Google Play & Kobo (for now) require you to upload your ePUB file before your preorder can go live. Will you use a placeholder file and risk it? Or will you just wait until your book is finished to put up preorders and work on a more trad publishing timeline? There’s no right answer, it’s up to you. You can see what I do for placeholder files here.
Will your preorders be exclusive anywhere? Out of the gate, the answer to this should probably be no, but I know some widelings who have gotten an in at Apple and have their preorder exclusive there for a month or two before putting the preorder up on other sites. For my upcoming release Hollowed, I did that with my own store. eBook preorders were available there for a month before they were available anywhere else.
This is adjacent to preorders in that you need to consider how far in advance you write. Are you confident in your ability to set and stick to a release date before your book is substantially finished? I define substantially finished as developmental editing is done, but you need to define it for yourself.
This one is more organizational. Do you know how you plan to keep track of all your prices, in all currencies, across all stores, so that you’re not breaking any Terms of Service that say you cannot have your eBook available for a lesser price anywhere else?
I recommend a spreadsheet, something like this. This sheet includes all the territorial prices that are covered by any combination of the Big 5 + D2D, and has space for you to track your print and audiobook prices too if/when you get there.
Your two options for formatting your ebook are to: pay someone or to do it yourself.
I know this seems like a “well duh, if I want more money I’ll do it myself and if I want more time I’ll hire someone.” But it’s a little more complex.
For eBooks, I would highly recommend formatting yourself no matter what approach you’re taking. Paying someone to format your eBook for you could wind up costing you more money later on.
If you ever find typos, want to update backmatter, or anything else, you may have to pay that formatter to update your files. If you do it yourself (Vellum, D2D’s free formatting tool, Reedsy’s free formatting tool, Atticus, etc.) you have control over your files and can update them at any time.
Print formatting is a bit different, and we’ll talk about that at the end.
GOING WIDE: LEAVING KINDLE UNLIMITED
If you’re reading this post because you’re considering leaving Kindle Unlimited, for the love of all that’s holy, just SLOW DOWN for a second.
If you’re in KU, and you’re successful (or even if you’re not), pulling out and going wide is a big step. Wide readers and KU readers generally do not overlap. If you’ve built up a huge career for yourself in KU, or even just have a really steady following, you’re going to be starting from scratch wide.
Now that your eyes are all big and wide, let’s talk more.
WHEN TO PULL OUT
If you have multiple books, multiple series in KU, your best bet will not be to yank everything out and go running as fast as you can to go wide. Especially if you want to try to keep some of your KU reader-base.
Start slow, pulling out one backlist book or series at a time. Educate your readers on why you’re pulling out of KU (without attacking those who choose to stay in), where they can find you now, and how they can keep up with your books.
By going slow, you can give your readers time to acclimate to new retailers and new normals when it comes to finding you and your books.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Inevitably, you will see two things:
- Readers will be sad and/or upset and tell you that KU was the only way they could read or access your books.
- Your income from those books you’ve just moved will take a hit as you find your readers on the wide retailers.
These are both things to consider, and a reason to go slow. It is very highly unlikely that KU is the ONLY way someone can access your book, so you might need to (depending on your audience size and how many of those comments you get), help them find a new way to read your books that they CAN access.
No matter what, you’re going to lose some readers. But you’re going to gain some too, some who never would have been able to read your books because they don’t have access to KU or Amazon. And isn’t that neat?
Going wide is a slow process. Even more so when leaving KU and starting over with building your reader base. Don’t rush it.
GOING WIDE: PRINT CONSIDERATIONS
I’ve gone through a lot of this, in a lot more detail, over here in this post, but we’ll hit the high notes so this post can be as comprehensive as possible.
- Amazon KDP (do NOT check expanded distribution if you’re going to use other platforms)
- IngramSpark – OR – Draft2Digital Print*
- B&N Press Print
*D2D uses Ingram’s network to print and distribute books. If you put your print book up on both, it will be duplicated, and will confuse everyone and their grandma, including you. Pick one or the other.
BN Press uses IngramSpark printers. If you want to get to Barnes & Noble, just use IngramSpark instead of BN Press (see why in this post).
BookVault is trying to build itself as a competitor to IngramSpark, but it’s not quite there yet. It has nowhere near the distribution network of IS, and it is still working out kinks in their printing process and their new US printer. Bookvault, for now, is more focused on integrating with author’s direct stores to allow them to offer POD drop-shipping style books on their own storefront.
The only way to offer print preorders on retailers (at this moment in time) is through IngramSpark. You must have your final files uploaded when you enable distribution, because IngramSpark can (and has, ask me how I know) start printing your preorders as soon as you enable distribution. Don’t use a placeholder file.
KDP has been toying with a print preorder beta for a while now, but it’s not currently available for KDP authors. Hopefully soon!
If you sell direct, obviously you can offer preorders for whatever you want, and you don’t need any files. If you do sell direct, I recommend offering print preorders as soon as you can (because you’ll be the only place they can get it for now).
PRICING, RETURNS & DISCOUNTS
When you sell print books to retailers, they expect a wholesale discount and to be able to return the book if it doesn’t sell. As indie authors that can mean taking a huge financial hit if you aren’t selling a lot of print books. It also has an influence. on how you price your books.
IngramSpark requires a minimum 40% wholesale discount (max 55%). It allows you to choose a percentage anywhere between that 40-55% range. D2D & BN Press (both of which use IngramSpark) do not allow you to control the discount. If your goal is to get bookstores to buy your books, you should set your discount 53-55%. Otherwise, set it at 40%.
IngramSpark. is also the only printer that allows you to choose if you will allow returns or not. You can set your books to “Return – Destroy,” “Return – Deliver,” or “No Return.” If your goal is to get bookstores to buy your books, you should have returns on. I recommend Return – Destroy (see why in this post).
Your wholesale discount percentage and if your printer uses IngramSpark to print all has an impact on your pricing. The higher the discount, the lower compensation you get per book, and the higher you need to price your books to make a profit. Use each printer’s printing cost calculators to see what you would make.
Pricing is a personal decision, but go into it knowing all the facts.
As with everything about self-publishing, this is your business, and your situation is unique no matter what others might imply. There is no one size fits all approach.
I encourage you to take this post, my other posts, and any other information you can find and come up with YOUR approach and strategy for going wide.
Some resources to get you started:
- Wide for the Win Facebook Group
- Wide for the Win book by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
- Book a consult or take a class from Erin Wright (Affiliate code JESS will save you on your first consultation or course)
- Book a consult with Skye Mackinnon
- Alliance of Independent Authors: The Ultimate Guide to Publishing Wide