This topic is maybe a little controversial, but we’re going to talk about it anyways.
In this post, we’re tackling the decision many indie and self-published authors are faced with: should you enroll your ebook in Kindle Unlimited, or take it “wide” and make it available on all ebook platforms?
KDP Select, and by extension Kindle Unlimited, only applies to ebooks, so this post will be exclusively discussing ebooks. While I will mention physical books in passing in some areas, please know that this decision only applies to your ebook.
Okay, now, let’s get into it.
Once again, this post is not going to tell you what I think you should do. This post will present the pros and cons of both decisions, as well as the details and considerations for both along with my sources so you can do your own research.
Before we get into pros and cons and considerations, let’s take a minute to understand what is meant by KDP Select.
From Amazon, the KDP Select Program “is a free 90-day program for Kindle eBook only. It gives you the opportunity to reach more readers through Amazon and Kindle promotions. All authors regardless of where they live, are eligible. When you enroll your Kindle eBook in KDP Select, it is automatically included in Kindle Unlimited (KU). Your Kindle eBook will also be eligible for Free Book Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals (KCD).”
The big stipulation of KDP Select is that by enrolling in KDP Select, you are agreeing that your ebook will be available exclusively through Amazon. In exchange, your ebook will be enrolled in its Kindle Unlimited program, and eligible for free book promotions and Kindle Countdown deal promotions.
If you’ve not heard of it, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription model where readers pay a monthly fee to access a collection of Kindle Unlimited titles. It functions as a library, where readers can borrow and a book in Kindle Unlimited, return it, and borrow another.
Now, let’s get into the pros and cons of being enrolled in the KDP Select program.
- There is no cost to be enrolled in the program
- All authors with a KDP account are eligible for participation (unless you’ve been told otherwise by Amazon previously)
- You can reach millions of KU subscribers, many of whom will use the program to take a risk on newer authors with a minimal financial commitment
- Potential to be invited to the Kindle All Star bonus program to earn bonuses based on performance
- Enrolling will enable you to be eligible for a higher royalty earnings (70%) across several global markets, including Brazil, Japan, India and Mexico. If you’re not enrolled in KDP Select you can only earn 35% royalties in those markets
- Your payout is based on page reads, so even if people don’t finish your entire book, you’ll still get paid for the portion they did read
- Since payout is based on page reads, longer books tend to make more money on a KU borrow than they would make on a sale
- Amazon is very strict about their exclusivity, meaning that piracy of your ebook could threaten your enrollment in the program
- This means you will have to take regular action to get pirated copies removed, and document your attempts. See this post for more information on that process
- Kindle Unlimited is not available worldwide (only in 12 countries) and Amazon is also not available worldwide (only in 22 countries), so readers outside those countries will not be able to access your ebook easily
- The payout pool is based on the revenue earned from KU subscribers, and the payout amount per page varies month to month, making it sometimes difficult to estimate your expected income
- The average payout amount per page read is less than $0.01 per page, meaning that shorter books often don’t make as much on a KU borrow as they would make on a sale
- *Note as of June 2023 – the KU pool payout rate has been steadily declining over the past several months
First, let’s all get on the same page for what “wide” means. For the purposes of this blog post, it means making your ebook available everywhere ebooks are sold. These platforms are typically Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, among other smaller platforms typically reached via aggregators.
To reach these platforms, authors typically will either publish “direct” to the sites, or through an aggregator like Draft2Digital. Check out my Self-Publishing Platforms post for more details about each of these platforms and their features.
- You are able to reach more readers worldwide, in areas that Amazon doesn’t serve or isn’t the prominent book retailer
- Kobo is a big up and coming disruptor to Amazon’s dominance in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK
- Google Play is the primary retailer of choice in most Asian and Middle Eastern countries
- You are able to control where your book goes, and you aren’t beholden to Amazon deciding that your book has violated some of their terms
- Multiple income streams provide stability and predictability
- You can sell your ebook directly on your own website, raising the profit margin you make from sales
- You can put out books at a slower pace, because unlike KU and Amazon, wide retailers do not reward rapid releases with algorithm prominence
- Because readers are typically hesitant to take financial risks on new readers, having the first book in a series either free or very low priced is a common practice for wide books
- Uploading/publishing your book takes more time, as you are uploading to multiple platforms (updating books also takes more time)
- Advertising and marketing takes more time and effort, as well as more consistent commitment
- Visibility may decrease on Amazon due to the Amazon algorithm favoring KU books
Going wide is typically a much bigger commitment, and usually part of a long term career plan. If you’d like more information on succeeding being wide, I encourage you to join the facebook group Wide for the Win, or check out the book of the same name by Mark Leslie Lefebvre.
As I’m personally going wide, I’ll also likely be sharing posts in the future about my marketing experiences and lessons learned with going wide.
Since I’m assuming you’re here because you’re considering going wide, I will say that it takes patience and dedication, but it is objectively much more stable of a career path than relying on a changing subscription pool payout. I will say the biggest deciding factor in me going wide was the growing piracy rates and how Amazon handles it. I’m not here to debate piracy, but authors shouldn’t be punished for the actions of others, and that’s how Amazon handles it. So, do with that what you will.
DECIDING Your PATH
I know I told you I wasn’t going to advise you on which one you should pick. And I’m still not. But I am going to tell you what I think you should consider when making the decision.
Personal Preference/Morals/Values – If you have personal or moral problems with Amazon’s business model, or you have anxiety like me and the idea of having all your ebook income reliant on one site makes you physically itchy….or if you know that you don’t have the time to manage all those publishing sites, or you don’t plan to advertise your book globally…those are all valid reasons to choose one over the other.
Genre Trends – Check what other authors in your genre are doing. Are they mostly in KU, or are they mostly wide? While it might be smart to follow the trends, if the majority of your genre is in KU, it might also be an opportunity, as readers who don’t have access to Amazon are often itching for more books in that genre, meaning your book might take off wide on other retailers. You can just browse in your genre, or use sites like Publisher Rocket to check analytics for you.
The KDP Select term is only 90 days, so if you decide to enroll and don’t like it, you can always remove your books at the end of the term. It’s important to also understand the Kindle Unlimited audience, which leans heavily towards fiction, specifically romance.
Understanding your goals as an author will be vital to understand if KDP Select will benefit you or not. If your goal is to get readers, enrolling in KDP Select might be the best bet. If your goal is to make money, you might be better off elsewhere.
It’s also important to understand that no matter which path you choose, they are very different. The audience and readers have very different demographics and traits and don’t tend to overlap. So you need to know that going in and plan accordingly.
I do not recommend hopping the same book in and out of KDP Select. Pick a path and stick to it as much as possible, because the audience you cultivate likely won’t follow you if you switch.
I also want to call out that you don’t have to have ALL your books be wide or in KDP Select. You can have some books wide and some books in KDP Select. That’s allowed. In the end, the decisions you make need to align to your personal goals as an author, and the vision you see for your career. And ultimately, no one but you can decide that.
You can also do your preorders wide, and then put the book into KDP Select upon release. However, a word of warning about this tactic is that some retailers that you may reach through aggregators are notorious for being very slow to update or remove books once you delist them. This could result in Amazon’s exclusivity bots finding you in violation of your KDP Select terms if a wide retailer has not removed your book in time.
And the final consideration is that this decision has absolutely ZERO influence on your decisions of where to sell your print book. You can have your ebook in KDP Select and still distribute your print book to all the places. Or you can have both formats be exclusive to Amazon. That is important to note, that your print books are a totally separate beast.
We’ll talk about all the various places to take your physical books in a future post!
I’ll say it again though, there’s no wrong answer. This is a personal decision, and it’s up to you. Do your research and understand your options!
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out!