View Full Version : My Time "Going Wide"

10-28-2018, 08:18 AM
A few months ago I posted about how my sales were drastically down on Amazon, and how I contemplated going wide, that is, dropping kindle exclusivity and spreading to other markets. With nothing really to lose, I did just so and thought I'd share my experience, for what it's worth.

Rather than use books I had coming down the pipe, I used my existing Isaac Comett series. Now it has a small following currently, and is also geared towards a small teenage niche, but believed that going wide would help to boost awareness - and it did. I saw a modest jump in sales from barnes and noble and like 1 or 2 from smashwords...

...but then it ended quick.

During this time I did promote it on a few free promo platforms, but I dont attribute any sales to that as much of the fact that I simply released a new book. When I put book 2 of the series up, I saw a few more sales, but less than before. After doing more digging into my records, I now can appreciate this truth that has been echoing around me: books sell books.

Ive since gone back to Amazon and said goodbye to smashwords, b&n etc because I enjoy Amazons promo tools, and now feel that rather than going wide, my focus should just be on improving my craft, creating stories, and obtaining as many reviews from supporters as i can; not worrying about distribution. Not for nothing too, I just released my next book and I have page reads for my older books now, which have been lying dormant on Amazon for months. Did they buy the new book? Who knows. But some folks must have been driven to peek at what else I had.

My advice for anyone just starting out or with a small following is to simply keep practicing the craft of writing and put quality work out. We might not have the large email lists or fanbases like so many others, but with enough consistancy one can start to draw attention to their pieces. :)

Al X.
10-28-2018, 07:23 PM
I am assuming you have elected to return to exclusivity to Amazon so you could enroll in the Select program? Otherwise, it would make no sense.

10-28-2018, 09:39 PM
Yeah I did. Even though I don't like the idea if being restricted to one platform, from my experience the others do not offer the same quality promo options.

cool pop
10-29-2018, 06:52 AM
Hope it works out. To each's own. I am wide. I can't be exclusive to Amazon with the way they treat KU authors. They treat them worse than they do wide authors with the page stripping, and not paying for reads. Also, the KU payout is pathetic. You gotta get a lot of reads to make money. It's fine if an author is selling well enough to make those bonuses but most do not. The sales being down on Amazon is still going on from what I hear. But my sales there are doing fine and I'm not exclusive. September was my best month in a year.

Yes, going wide is hard but it just takes a certain mindset and to get comfortable with things moving slower. It's not like Amazon where you put a book up and might get instant gratification, etc. No. You gotta work hard wide and there are many ways to promote if you know how.

Many authors go wide without doing research. Not saying you did but a lot do and that's one reason they fail. Many also have high expectations and expect to sell at other stores like on Amazon but Amazon might always be your top seller (and it might not, for some it's not) but the thing is not who your top seller is, it's that you are getting money from different places. For example, even if one of the other stores doesn't match Amazon, you can still make decent money but it takes time to build. There are ebbs and flows on all retailers. Sales get bad and can completely stop on Amazon just like any retailer. The thing about wide is building for the longterm audience, wide readers are very loyal, even more loyal than some readers who only download KU books because a lot of those in KU shop by genre, not the author so it's harder to build an audience in KU. The trick on whether you know if you have built an audience in the program is if you go wide and those KU readers are still buying your work. Not all will follow you but if you built a brand in KU (a solid brand) many of your readers should follow you if you stop giving away books in KU. That's how you know if the KU readers are reading you because they enjoy your work or because you are free in KU. Authors move from KU to wide and it's a big wake-up call and probably disheartening if your KU readers no longer support but the point of wide is to also build fans elsewhere.

I know you've gone back to KU but I'd like to share a bit of advice for the wide authors who might check out this thread and don't know where to turn concerning promo.

1. Go Direct with all the large retailers and skip the aggregators. You'll need a Mac to go direct with Apple but going direct is your gateway to in-store promotions at these other sites. ALL of the other retailers offer promotion as well but many authors do not know this. Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Google Play ALL offer promotions just like Amazon but you have to be direct. With Apple, you can get promo codes through D2D but to benefit from promos, direct is the way to go.

2. Run Bookbub ads (not featured deals). I mean the CPC ads because you can tailor other retailers outside Amazon.

3. Promote Links to all stores. The biggest mistake I see are wide authors who only push Amazon. They don't link to other retailers, they don't promote books on the other retailers, and they expect to sale on the other retailers. You gotta put the same amount of time and effort into the other retailers as you do Amazon. In fact, more.

4. Make sure what you write has a big enough audience to go wide. Some genres aren't good for wide and will do better in KU. It's important to research what is selling at the other stores to see if you got an audience.

5. Bookbub Featured Deals can jump start sales wide and they prefer wide books over KU books so if you are in KU it will be an uphill battle trying to get a Bookbub. They seem to only accept KU books once every blue moon.

An important thing is to remember that unlike Amazon, actual humans work at the other retailers. LOL! Everything is curated at the other retailers. Promos, books, everything is accepted and looked over by actual people and not bots like Amazon. The bestseller lists are hard to get on at other places because unlike Amazon, they actually go on SALES for their lists like you should. They don't count everything under the sun as a sale. KU downloads should not be counted as a sale in Amazon's ranking but that's the carrot they dangle to get authors to stay in the program. Amazon's "bestseller" lists are a joke due to them counting borrows as sales AND clogging the charts with their own books.

So trying to navigate and learn how the charts at other stores go can be difficult and take some getting used to. Another issue is some expect the other retailers to be Amazon. No. They are their own stores. They're not going to have everything the way Amazon has it or offer the same stuff Amazon does because they are not Amazon. This is a big thing, remembering not to expect the others to be like Amazon.

Yes, wide is hard but I love a challenge and I would rather be wide than to be in Amazon's pocket. It's just too dangerous putting your entire career and income in the hands of one company. I suggest authors try writing some things for wide and others for KU if they don't wanna leave KU altogether. At least then if Amazon acts crazy with your money (which they do all the time) you won't lose all your income.

Anyway, wasn't trying to derail or anything but hope my post helps someone and with wide it's about the mind frame. Amazon has trained authors to want instant gratification but that's not how selling books actually work. Wide doesn't have all the bells and whistles like Amazon, but not Amazon's crap either. :tongue

Oh, one more thing, a few months wide is nothing. It can take a year to gain traction wide but there is no set time but don't expect a few months to be enough.

cool pop
10-29-2018, 06:59 AM
I went back and read your post and said you went through Smashwords. Many authors do good going through Smashwords, but you should've tried going direct. It makes a BIG difference. The retailers give their direct authors "special treatment" sort to speak by offering things you wouldn't get going through SW or D2D.

Also, when you publish on Kobo (direct or not) your books are available through Walmart now. Just saying that for those who might not be aware.:)

10-29-2018, 03:19 PM
Thank you so much for your input, cool pop! I remember us having this discussion a few months back and I found it very enlightening; same holds for this one.

I'll definitely reassess things down the line and if i do go wide to other retailers, I'll try directly marketing to them and give it more time. Smashwords was a learning experience, at least as far as formatting and trying some other means of promotion, but I'll definitely see what can be done with the other site's promo options should I choose to spread out.

I really hope readers can take something away from both of our experiences :D

Al X.
10-29-2018, 09:08 PM
I went back and read your post and said you went through Smashwords. Many authors do good going through Smashwords, but you should've tried going direct. It makes a BIG difference. The retailers give their direct authors "special treatment" sort to speak by offering things you wouldn't get going through SW or D2D.

Also, when you publish on Kobo (direct or not) your books are available through Walmart now. Just saying that for those who might not be aware.:)

I go through both D2D and Smashwords. So far I've sold three times as many books through D2D as I have through Smashwords. Both, however have their particular annoying quirks. The Smashwords uploader does not recognized a Word table of contents and you have to do a funky build with bookmarks and hyperlinks. D2D has some formatting issues, and you have to do a global search to replace double carriage returns with triple to preserve your section breaks, plus I've noticed cover issues on the retailers' previews. I do not know how the individual retailers accept submissions (EPUB format?)

I too share your disdain for Amazon and the KU program, however, as much as I hate to say it, they do offer a superior ebook platform. Regarding Smashwords and D2D, I just don't have the time to manage all kinds of different retailer accounts and tax forms, so aggregators are attractive to me. Still, the lion's share of sales for me is through the Zon so it's not really worth it (for me) to go direct to the retailers.

10-29-2018, 09:46 PM
From what I'm learning, it sounds like I left a lot of resources untapped in my experiment. I plan on another release either late this year or early next year.

I'm really curious now after reading your methods and experiences cool pop and AI X. I'll make this next release my Guinea Pig for going "direct wide" and leave it as such for a year (I promise no fiddling!) and report what I see over the months.

I hope a lot of AWer's find this thread since there is a lot of food for thought in it.

12-20-2018, 04:11 PM

I've taken some advice and manually set up my current book project on several ebook publishing sites, plus have arranged for a few ads to get some attention. I'll be sure to post any differences in launch/post launch results here ^^

Barbara R.
12-20-2018, 04:40 PM
I'm all in favor of improving one's craft. In fact, I think the main problem with self-publishing isn't that bad books are published, but that good ones are published prematurely.

But I'm wondering about your goal. Did you always want to be a tiny publisher, or was your goal to write? If the latter, maybe as you hone your craft you should consider seeking commercial publication.

12-21-2018, 10:43 PM
Wide or KU? It's the perennial topic of conversation among SPers.

This is what I've been able to glean from all the discussions.

In some ways, Amazon-exclusive authors have it easier. In the past, it was considered a discovery platform, although most posters I've read on other forums seem to agree that using KU for marketing is a ship that's already sailed, so this doesn't appear to be a consideration moving forward.

However, KU authors can prosper without a blog and without a lot of social media. BUT they have to write in a genre that's popular in KU, and they have to write frequently. Very frequently--as in pubbing four times a year is slacking off, dangerously so. Pubbing for KU page reads is where a lot of the MVP (minimal viable product) authors ended up. It's also the market the content mills aim for. (Other, more conscientious writers use that platform as well, however.)

All this tends to result in a lot of subgenre hopping, as people struggle to jump onto the latest bandwagon. In 2016, I believe it was military sci-fi. In 2017--litRPG. And in 2018 it was reverse harem.

On the old kboards, I could always tell who the KU authors were by the books in their signatures. (You can't check this now--almost everyone has stripped their books from their sigs since September, with good cause.) At any rate, KU authors often ended up lacking a cohesive body of work. I couldn't really tell what kind of author they were from their book covers, which strikes me as dangerously shoddy branding.

KU readers, as a body, struck me more like the audiences of SFF mags back in the 80s. There seems to be less brand loyalty to particular authors, more to the particular subgenre. So, you'll get readers binging on vampire books. Any vampire books, not necessarily yours. And that's not exclusively the case, but it seemed to be true the majority of the time.

This was the first reason I never dipped my toe into KU. I'm not one of those speed-writing savants. KU rewards churn, and it would be competing in an area where I couldn't rely on my strengths, which are consistent branding and quality of writing, although admittedly, the last is somewhat subjective. Still, no one has ever suggested that I'm a less-than-competent wordsmith, at least not with my published work.

The point is, being a KU writer can result in a body of work that makes you less suited for pubbing anywhere else. If you're not careful, KU can become your only choice, unless you want to start over, building a brand from scratch.

Then there are the purges to take into account. From time to time, Amazon goes after KU black-hatters who engage in questionable practices, and always, there are innocents caught up in the net as well. I don't want to be exclusive to Amazon, but OTOH, I definitely don't want to be banned from using that platform at all. If you're in KU and Amazon bans you--that's it. You're starting over from scratch--and without access to the most widely used online bookseller. I don't want to live with that specter hanging over my head.

OTOH, wide plays to my strengths. Brand loyalty, a single subgenre, focus on quality of writing, and less frequent pubbing. I dislike the social media and promotional obligations, but the world is not a perfect place, so I deal with this. If you absolutely can't handle social media at all, I'd put your work in KU and run free promos on it every few months. Poof--you have a plan. It's simple, and it'll get your work read, at least more than it would be if you were wide and did the same thing.

On yet another hand, though, KU books are increasingly less likely to get BookBubs.

It's also worth noting that books in KU are more likely to benefit from Amazon ads, although those seem to be skyrocketing price-wise to unsustainable levels.

Wide or KU? Play to your strengths. :)

12-27-2018, 10:46 PM
Cathleen, do you also advocate going direct with the various platforms or do you use an aggregator? I’m trying to decide on this...

Al X.
12-28-2018, 01:01 AM
Cathleen, do you also advocate going direct with the various platforms or do you use an aggregator? I’m trying to decide on this...

I would advocate going with an aggregator for two reasons: The first is tax accounting. The aggregator does all that. Secondly, it's easier to link promotions and ads to an aggegator link, like D2D has. Plus you don't have to worry about format differences between the various retailers. Okay that's three I guess.

12-28-2018, 07:32 PM
So far I've used an aggregator, sandree, Smashwords in my case, because it takes a smaller cut, and it's also a retailer, although plenty of people like D2D. My sales are so low (most happen in the brief period before I make my books free, although that will change this year) that it really doesn't justify the extra effort of going direct. I keep telling myself that I'm going to go direct with Kobo, to get that promotions tab on my dashboard, but I haven't done it yet. My big goal for the coming year is to figure out how to get some results from whatever Instafreebie is now and BookFunnel, so it's not likely to happen in the near future, either, not unless I hear that someone has figured out how to get terrific wide results, and in my experience, that info isn't usually shared.

One of the exceptions to that, Patty Jansen, advocates going direct in her self-pubbing books, though, and she definitely has more results than I do, so it would probably be worth paying attention to what she's done, rather than me. If you haven't read her books yet, they're very reasonably priced (way better than a course), and I'd recommend picking them up. The one on going wide was only $.99 when I bought it last year.

M. H. Lee
12-28-2018, 08:24 PM
I think Patty's first book in that series is actually meant to be free, so maybe check the other platforms to see if you can get it free there. I seem to recall her mentioning that Amazon wouldn't price match it?

I started with D2D and then moved direct with Kobo and Nook. Both times I saw a substantial increase in sales when I went direct, so I'd say go direct if you can if you're going to be wide. Only reason I'm not direct with Apple is their obnoxious policy of displaying your real name on your book listing, but I've heard they're worth being direct with as well because of promo opportunities. (And I tried Smashwords early on and it was such a miserable experience I won't touch them at this point, but YMMV.) Using Vellum it's pretty simple to generate store-specific versions of your epub and if you want you can still provide the D2D links (through Books2Read) even if you don't use them for distribution.

12-29-2018, 04:08 AM
Thanks, everybody - very helpful!

12-29-2018, 08:56 PM
The Patty Jansen book on going wide is great - lots of detail on the different retailers so you can make an informed decision.