Wide vs Select
Which Should You Choose?
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In this episode, I explore the choice for your ebooks between going wide and enrolling in Kindle Select (aka Kindle Unlimited). There are pros and cons for each decision. The one you ultimately decide to do needs to be the best for you, your books, and your business goals.
0:00 This week’s episode
0:53 Welcome to the Podcast
1:56 What do Wide and Select mean?
4:27 Why Select – the Pros
8:02 Select Cons
13:10 Wide Cons
18:32 Wide Pros
21:47 Which should you choose?
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Transcript – Episode 16
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Indie Author Biz Guide podcast. When you start publishing indie, you have a very vital and fundamental choice, and it is mutually exclusive. Do you choose to enroll your e-books in the Kindle Select program or also known as Kindle Unlimited, OR do you publish them Wide? They both have ramifications and they have pros and cons, and I explore those in this episode.
What do you ultimately decide needs to be based on what is best for you, your books, and your business? Hopefully this episode will give you some of the information you need to make that choice.
Welcome to the Podcast!
Welcome to the Indie Author Biz Guide podcast. I’m Tora Moon, genre bending fantasy and sci fi author, indie business author, and entrepreneur. Here we talk about the business of self-publishing, or as I prefer to call it, indie publishing. As an indie author, you have entered the wonderful world of entrepreneurship. On this show, I guide you through the rocky waters of the indie publishing industry.
I share business basics and principles you can apply to your author business, really, any business. Other indie authors share their experiences and expertise to give you insight into your career and build your business. You can download your free indie author business checklist, find additional resources, and the show notes at Indie Author Biz Guide dot com. And now, here’s today’s episode.
Definitions of Wide and Kindle Select
When you become an indie or self-published author, you have a basic fundamental choice to make on how you distribute your e-books.
Now, this discussion only applies to your e-books, not your print, not your audiobook, just your e-book.
The choice that you have is mutually exclusive. You can either enroll your books into the Kindle Select program, which puts them into the Kindle Unlimited subscription program, OR you can publish Wide, which would be putting it on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, but you would not be in the Kindle Unlimited program. You can’t do both. Amazon won’t let you.
Let’s clear up some definitions. So the definition of wide is everywhere. You are distributing your e-book in as many places as you desire, which can and does include Amazon. I’m wide. I publish my ebooks wide. I am on Amazon, but I am not on the Kindle Unlimited program. My books are on Apple and Kobo. They’re available in libraries and you can get them on my website. I have them just about everywhere you can go.
Kindle Select, on the other hand, is an exclusive program to Amazon and it only applies to ebooks. Amazon requires you to be exclusive and that’s why you can’t do both. Their exclusivity clause means you cannot place that book anywhere else besides Amazon. That includes your website. That includes giving it away for free.
Amazon guards their exclusivity very tightly. They may not catch you at the beginning, but they will catch you eventually. It’s a good idea not to violate that exclusivity clause because they can shut down your entire Amazon account.
So why would you choose the Kindle Select program?
For many new authors, the default is to enroll their books in Kindle Select. It’s easy to do. You upload your book to Amazon and click the little box that says enroll in Kindle Select. Now your books are in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program that readers can use. That for their monthly subscription fee, they can download your book without an additional charge.
Some of the pros, it’s easier to deal with just one platform, especially when you’re first beginning. Everyone who advocates going wide advises that you start with one platform and learn that and then learn the next platform and then the next platform and go from there. And many authors, because Amazon is the big gorilla, it’s easier to just start with Amazon.
You now have access to those readers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. And what this means is instead of getting paid 70% of the retail price for your book when somebody buys it from Amazon, Amazon pays you for every page read, and the amount for that varies over time. It depends on how much money is in the pot. For some authors, especially if you have large books or a large catalog, and that people are reading all the way through your books and onto the next book and continuing reading the series, this amount can be quite substantial. They can make quite a good living if their books do well on Kindle Unlimited.
You’ll see a lot of romance authors where readers are very voracious and they read a lot of books. It makes sense for those readers to join the Kindle Unlimited program, and they can read more books on their monthly subscription than they could buy. You’ll find a lot of young adult books, whether that’s young adult fantasy or contemporary books, because young people, teenagers, don’t have the funds to be buying books as often. And a lot of older people like reading Young Adult, and some of those are on fixed incomes, so the subscription model makes sense for them. So you can reach different readers.
When your book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon makes it easy to make your book free. If you’re wide, that is not an easy thing to do. In the select program, Amazon allows you to have up to five days per your 90-day enrollment period. And that’s one of the pros about the Select program is you are only obligated to be exclusive to Amazon for a 90-day period, and you can do such things as count down deals.
So some of the territories that you can only get 30% payment when you’re not in Kindle Select, you would be paid 70% for those sales.
So there are some perks and some benefits to going Select.
Now for the cons. What’s bad about being on Select?
For me, the biggest con and the problem with the Kindle Select program is it makes you be exclusive to Amazon and that takes away your control of your IP. You can’t control your IP because you’re now exclusive, so you can’t decide what you’re going to do with your ebooks.
You can only sell them on Amazon, and that includes giving it away and on your website. And when you’re exclusive, you are putting up all your eggs, as they say, in one basket. You’re in the exclusive program, you’re in Select, and something happens to your Amazon account. They shut you down for some violation, which they’re prone to do.
What has now happened to your business?
If all you have are e-books and all they are are in Kindle Select? You’ve lost your entire business. Personally, I don’t want to take that risk.
The penalty for violating that exclusivity agreement is severe. Amazon can, and they have, completely shut down your Amazon account. They don’t just remove your books from the Select program. They will remove your entire Amazon account because they want to maintain a monopoly and control of the e-book market. And one of the ways that they can do that is by you enrolling your books in the Kindle Select program and giving them more books to sell than what is on the other retailers.
Another con is Kindle Select is not a good fit for every book or every genre. When I first started, I enrolled my Legends of Lairheim, in fact, I enrolled Ancient Enemies into Kindle Select. I hardly got any page reads. Part of it was Kindle Select was new. This was clear back in 2016. The other part is I write epic science fantasy. They’re big books and epic fantasy readers tend to like to reread their books. They like to pick them up again and enjoy that journey again. Whereas romance readers rarely will re-read a book. They want that new story. They want that new couple.
This is where knowing your audience is a really good thing to know, because if you know your audience, you know whether your book will do well or not. Some of that you have to test.
If you’re new, put your book in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days and see how it does. If it doesn’t do well, you can pull it out. If it does well, you can leave it in.
And one of the things that I did when I had my books in Kindle Unlimited, I did a survey of my readers. I had about 200 readers respond. So I had a good response to my survey. And one of the questions I asked is if they were in the Kindle Unlimited program. 80% of my readers said no, they weren’t. When I saw that, that just solidified it that Kindle Unlimited wasn’t right for my books, or at least that series.
You can choose to do one series in Kindle Unlimited and another not. That is a choice. It is not a good idea, however, to have your first book in this series wide and all the rest of the series in Kindle Unlimited. That just pisses up your readers on the other platforms. Now they can’t get your book from the source and the platform or read it on the readers that they like. They have to go to Amazon and a lot of readers don’t like Amazon, so just don’t split up your series.
The only time that you would do that is if you’re moving your series out of Kindle Unlimited and you have to wait for that 90 day period to expire before you can move all of them. Even then, you could contact Amazon and ask them to release all the books in that series from the enrollment, and it’s a toss of the dice whether Amazon will allow it or not. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.
So now you know some of the pros and cons for Kindle Select.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of being Wide. Let’s start with the cons first.
One of the biggest cons is it’s harder to make your book free on Amazon. They make it very difficult to make your book free. The other platforms, they don’t care if it’s free or not. They’ll allow you to put it on free for as long as you want. You can do the perma-free pricing strategy for your first book in the series on all the wide platforms.
However, on Amazon, you cannot go into your dashboard and enter $0. It won’t allow you to. The lowest you can go is $0.99. The way that you make your book free on Amazon if you’re wide, is there’s a little thing that you can enter that says, “Match my book price. This book is priced lower somewhere else,” and Amazon wants to be the lowest price. And then you give them the links to the other platforms.
It’s really good to give them the links of their biggest competitors, like Apple, and Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. If you give them those three, they are most likely to make your book free. I said, most likely because Amazon reserves the right to price your book at whatever price they want, even though you’ve asked them to make it free. They can decide not to.
And when they have made it free, and especially if you’ve got a promo like BookBub coming up, you want to watch that free like a hawk. Because Amazon is quite known to have a “glitch” that will switch your book back to paid. Quite often happens right as your free promo with BookBub is ready to go. So that is a Con.
In certain territories, your pay out rate on Amazon is only going to be 35% rather than 70%, even if your books priced at that to $0.99 to $2.99 price that Amazon allows you to price for that 70% payout. I think Japan is one of those Brazil there’s a few other territories that they will only pay 35% no matter what, unless you’re on the Kindle Select program.
Another con is that you have to upload your book to multiple places and keep track of those sales. And if you have links to your books in the back of your book, then you have to update all of those links all the time. And be aware that none of the platforms like links to their competitors. To get around this, a lot of authors will have two different versions of their e-book, one for Amazon, one for Apple.
Apple is one of those that’s really strict about this as well as Amazon. Or authors will use a universal link like books to read. Then it’s just one link and then the reader can choose which store to purchase from, and then you’re not violating putting in a competitor’s link.
And this putting in competitor’s link even applies to resources in the appendix.
In my Business and Accounting for Authors book, I have helpful links in the back of the book. In the e-book, those are live links you can click on. Some of those helpful links are the Amazon link, another one is Apple link, where you go to join their author program. I had to make those two links and any other similar links as non clickable hyperlinks when I loaded them up because the book didn’t pass the checks that they were including a link to another platform. So if you’re writing nonfiction, you might want to be careful of that, too.
A con that some people may consider is that it takes a long time for your books to gain traction on the wide platforms. The wide platforms reward longevity, whereas Amazon rewards newness. It’s easier to get traction on your new book on Amazon than it is on some of these other platforms.
The saying that a lot of wide authors use is, “Distributing wide is a marathon, not a sprint.” Amazon is a sprint. Apple, Kobo, Tolino, all those others are a marathon. It may take some time to get traction on your books, but when they do, they can do as well or better than on Amazon.
And that is also a pro for being wide.
Your books are now not subject to that 30 day cliff that is on Amazon. You can have your books on these other platforms and the longer they’re there, the more that you will get seen rather than the opposite on Amazon. The longer your books are on Amazon, the less they get seen.
Part of this is because the other platforms use people to curate their lists, whereas Amazon uses algorithms (and I can’t say that word right). This is one of those pros. Your books are not subject to the constantly changing whims of the Amazon algorithm.
Another pro is these other stores are more international than Amazon is. You can get more international readers from Kobo, for instance. Kobo works very hard in these international markets with booksellers to get your e-books into their stores. If you’ve listened to Joanna Penn’s podcast, she’s been on Kobo for a long time, and she sells her books in like 130 different countries. That is awesome!
That’s what’s possible with being wide. You can reach more readers than those just in the main countries like the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
One of the other pros of going wide, especially when you use a distributor like Draft to Digital, you can get your books into bookstores and libraries that you can’t as an individual author. Libraries do not order books from Amazon. Bookstores do not order books from Amazon.
If your book is in Kindle Select, a library cannot order it for their patrons because it is exclusive to Amazon, and that includes libraries. I’ve had a few of my books ordered from libraries, which is awesome. I’d like more.
One of the biggest benefits and positives for me is you maintain complete control of your intellectual property.
You are the one who makes the choices of how and where you sell your books. If you decide to give your book away for free, okay, you can do that. If you decide to sell it on your website, you can do that. You want to have it in libraries. You can do that. You can make it available, put it on the Overdrive catalog through Draft to Digital or through Kobo. Only want to give away part of the book as a teaser? You can do that.
Which Should You Choose?
So which should you choose: to enroll in the Kindle Select program or go Wide? I’ve given you some pros and cons of each one to think about.
Something else to consider is that when you enroll your books in the Kindle Select program, it’s only for a 90-day period. This allows you to test your book on Kindle Unlimited to see if there are readers who like your book there. If it does well, fine. If it doesn’t do well, you can simply unenroll it.
And when you do unenroll it, watch that because there is an Amazon “glitch” that re-ticks the box. Take a screenshot of you having un-ticked it. That way if it re-ticks, you can contact Amazon, and with proof that you unenrolled your book and there was this glitch, and usually they will go ahead and unenroll your book for that next rollover period. The rollover is automatic. You have to go in and unenrolled and deselect the box.
Once you go wide, stay wide. Don’t bounce back and forth between wide and Kindle Unlimited, Wide, and Kindle Unlimited.
Like I said before, the other platforms have human curators. They notice the authors that are jumping back and forth. When you jump out of and take your books off of the other platforms you now have lost all of the momentum that you’ve started to gain. And if you put your books back on too wide, you’re going to have to regenerate all that momentum. It isn’t going to pick up right where you left off at. If you had reviews of those books on these other platforms, when you take them out, you’ve lost all of those reviews. They don’t come back when you redistribute your books again. Usually.
Also, you’re starting to build a relationship and a readership with the readers on those platforms, and if you take your books off of those platforms, now those readers can’t buy your book.
You’ve lost readership. Many times, most times, those readers aren’t going to follow you onto Amazon. They are reading you on this other platform for a reason.
And to be clear, you can be on Amazon and not on the Kindle Select program or the Kindle Unlimited program. My books are on Amazon and Apple. This gives me options of what I can do with my book.
If you’re new, you might want to start with Kindle Unlimited, in the Kindle Select program, and test how your book does and just get a feel for distributing your book and uploading it. Once you’ve uploaded your book to one place, the other places are usually fairly easy because they use the same information, the same metadata, same keywords, same BISAC codes and such.
So when you uploaded to one, it’s easier to load up to the others, and now you’ve got your feet wet.
This applies whether you write fiction or nonfiction. There are some nonfiction books in Kindle Unlimited. The same thing. You’ll have to test your book to see if Kindle Unlimited is right for your nonfiction book genre or not. Some are, some aren’t. You won’t know until you test.
So which one will you choose? Will you choose Wide or the Kindle Select Program? For those of you who are interested in publishing wide, I highly suggest the book, Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebre, and the Facebook group by the same name, Wide for the Win, and that’s run by Erin Wright. She has some great classes and information about distributing and publishing your e-books wide.
If you need help choosing, you’re not sure, you can book a Micro Coaching session with me. Receive 10 minutes of asynchronous coaching for $10. Good bargain! You can learn more about that at Indie Author Biz Guide dot com slash micro.
For more in-depth assistance with your author business, my author business coaching program may be for you. You can find information about that on Indie Author Biz Guide dot com slash ABC.
I hope this has been helpful in giving you some more information on whether to choose to enter your e-books into the Kindle Select program or to distribute and publish them wide. What’s good for my books may not be best for yours. Each author needs to make this choice and this decision for themselves. And hopefully this episode has given you some good information to consider when making your choice. Hope to see you on the next episode and that you have an amazing day!
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