Going Wide vs. KDP Select: My Experience

Going Wide vs. KDP Select: My Experience

Going Wide

The publishing industry today has far more options for authors than were available even a few years ago. When choosing how to get your self-published book to market, there are a few questions that regularly pop up on blogs and forums (KBoards) alike. Chief among them: should I be going wide or exclusive through Amazon with KDP Select? Ugh…

Consensus eludes most forums. However, there are two main camps or points of view which persist. There are authors out there who refuse to go exclusive for any extended period of time, such as J.F. Penn at The Creative Penn. She is a huge proponent of ‘going wide’ and has dedicated a large chunk of her blog and web presence to teaching authors how to do it and how to do it well.

As a person with a business background who understands channels, widely distributing your works makes inherent sense to me. However, that tricky Amazon has created some powerful incentives to remain exclusive to the Kindle platform.

KDP Select

When you publish on the Kindle Direct Publishing website, you have the option to be exclusive with Amazon for a period of 90 days. After which, you’re automatically re-enrolled in KDP select unless you check the box and opt-out. Why do this?

KDP Select allows you access to the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library. This means you get paid for how many pages are read from a central fund at Amazon, the amount per page varying from month to month (typically between $.0048 and $.0051 per page read).

I know a ton of authors who make more than 50% of their overall writing income from this program. I myself saw my income rise by more than 58% year over year (from 2015 to 2016), much of it due to KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) reads. In addition to getting page reads, I saw absolute sales numbers increase year over year. This could be due to a number of factors. Kindle Unlimited ‘sales’ contribute to sales ranking, which puts my books up higher in the various categories it’s listed under. This helps.

Although there are benefits to KDP Select, going exclusive has limitations and risks associated with it. For instance, what happens if Amazon miscounts your page reads (as has been reported on the KBoards)? What happens if Amazon reduces the fund amount, thus reducing the amount you make per page read? Also, on more than one occasion, Kindle’s page count for my books has readjusted. This makes sales tracking difficult and changes my pay structure per book read.

What do I do?!?

There’s no perfect answer in this scenario, and likely many ways to rise to the top. However, after about seven years of doing this and coming up in the age of the Kindle, here’s my advice:

If you’re a new author, I suggest going exclusive with KDP Select until you have either several books under your belt or a complete (or near-complete) series of books. Once you have a number of books published, it is easier to make good use of your marketing dollars and one sale can often become many (when customers binge your series). This is where you want to be.

What if I Already Have a Series?

The Azure Key going wideIf you’re already an established author with a series in tow, I would consider going wide. However, dip your toe in first. What I did was make the first book in my series permafree by uploading it to Smashwords and getting Amazon to price match. I am currently in the process of going wide, but I anticipate it will take me a year or two to get there.

The goal with a permafree book is to get it into as many hands as possible. Your first-in-series is a call to action. A reader has no barrier to reading your book except for their time. If you don’t waste their time, you may be rewarded with reviews or with subsequent sales of later books in your series. The longer your series, the more impactful this can be.

It took a while for Amazon to price match Smashwords and the Barnes & Noble Nook edition, but once it did I got more than 500 downloads in a matter of days. Better, they keep coming.

Going Wide vs. KDP Select

The decision to go wide or join KDP select is a highly personal one. If you don’t go through KDP Select in the beginning, I found it hard to gain a following at first. As my career progresses, however, it’s becoming a lot easier to gain a following on other platforms. Still, sales are slower for my non-exclusive books than with my exclusive ones. In a year or two I’ll update this blog to let you know how this experiment goes!

If you have any questions as to how any of this works, feel free to leave a comment below!

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis 101: Know Your Place

Competitive Analysis, you say? I don’t have an MBA…

…You don’t need an advanced degree to do a competitive analysis and understand your competition. Use the steps I outline below and discover how to make your book stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Who are your rivals, and what do they do?

Competitive AnaTry to pinpoint the genre you want to apply your work. I know, I know, your writing can’t be categorized in a little box. That’s why Amazon lets you use up to seven keywords and two main categories. Use them all! However, don’t just make up a genre off the top of your head. If you want to be found in the categories Amazon actually uses, look up Kindle ebooks on their website. On the left sidebar (Shown at left for your convenience). Drill down into the various categories until you find several that have less than 5,000 or 10,000 books. This will make it easier to stand out and reach the top 100 lists (something critical for organic sales).

Once you’ve narrowed down the field, seek out books that are similar to your own. Research the authors, including their Kindle ranks in various categories, social media followings, website presence, number of reviews, and anything else you think might be appropriate. Do this for three to five competitors to get a good idea of the current market and what you’re up against. Based on these real-life numbers, set goals for yourself. If you want to stand out, you’ll need to best these other authors in at least one or two of the areas I just mentioned.

Social Media:

As I said before, research the author’s platform (their website, social media presences, and more). Find out if they have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, or Pinterest accounts. If so, how much do they post? What do they post? How many followers do they have? How long have they had the account? These are all good things to know.


Something else you’ll want to look at is your competition’s covers. Do they use real photos or illustrations? Stock photography (Istock Photo) or a professional designer? What kind of fonts do they use? What kind of color schemes? I hate to say that the cover is the most important thing you can do to stand out in a crowded market, but the reality is that statement isn’t far off. I made a mockup of a nonfiction cover for my recent book Your Time and the initial design was way off base. I did more research and found that using illustrations with cartoony people for Time Management books was far more common. I redesigned the cover and now it looks like the book really belongs in the same field. Whatever genre you’re writing has similar standards that will help guide you to a more successful cover. If you have already published a book and aren’t receiving many sales, compare your cover to your competition’s and see if you need to make a change.

Know Yourself

Competitive Analysis
Your competition may be hiding in the most unlikely of places. Take this mythical Beer Dragon for example.

Sometimes doing a competitive analysis of the current marketplace can give you a better idea of yourself and where you want to go. In between novels or stories, it’s good to reevaluate where you’re at see if you need to make a change. I hope this blog helps you discover your place in a crowded market.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. What else do you do when conducting a competitive analysis?

Book Pricing 101: Pricing your Book for Success

Book Pricing 101: Pricing your Book for Success

Pricing your book can be a tricky subject…

…if you don’t do your research, you could wind up not selling any books, or you could sell a ton and not make any real money from the sales. Self-Publishing means all of the work is on you, and that includes pricing your books. Luckily, the research has already been done for you.

Pricing Fiction:

For the sake of argument, let’s say we’re talking about pricing a book on Amazon. As most of you probably know, Kindle gives authors a 35% share of royalties for books priced from $0.99 to $2.98. From $2.99 to $9.99, Kindle gives authors a 70% share. Anything above $9.99 goes back to a 35% royalty structure. I assume this is to keep eBook prices low while not cutting into paperback sales. Traditional publishers will tend to price their eBooks between $7.99 and $9.99, which is consistent with a mass market paperback cost. In fact, the publisher is probably making more money in Kindle form because they have less overhead.
Self-Published authors usually charge near the low end of the spectrum for a number of reasons. Readers are more likely to take a chance on a new author if the price is $3.99 or less. Self
Published authors also make more from each sale than if a publisher published their book. You know, fewer mouths to feed and so on. So you should just price your book at $0.99 and sell a million of them, right? Not exactly. For most full-length novels, $2.99 to $3.99 is the better way to go. At $2.99, you’ll sell more than at $3.99, but at $3.99 you’ll make slightly more money. At that point, it depends on what you’re going for, sales numbers or money. If you’re just starting out, gaining new readers might be more important than the money.

For the first book in a series, I usually like to price it at $0.99. You won’t make as much money, but it’s critical that you sell as many of the first book as possible. Some people even opt to make it free. If you want to make a Kindle book free, there’s a method to do so, which I’ll get to in a later blog post.

Pricing Short Fiction:

For short stories and novelettes I like to price them at $0.99. It seems like readers won’t pay much more than that for short works. Exceptions would include works from very prominent authors. Some people can get away with selling short stories for $1.99 or $2.99 and still get good sales. I envy them. It helps to think of short stories and the like as promotional materials, works that will get people into your other books, especially a series.

Your TimePricing Nonfiction:

With nonfiction works, you can definitely get away with charging a bit more even if the work is short. I’ve seen 50 to 150 page nonfiction eBooks selling for $2.99 to $3.99 and people are willing to pay that amount. Even Self-Published authors are charging $4.99 and up for full-length nonfiction books. I think with this one it will depend more on what kind of following you already have. Try a price of $2.99 or $3.99 to start and if you think you can increase it, do so, and keep track of your sales. If they decrease too much, lower the price again. Play with it.

What do I do?

Pricing Books
Finding the Right Pricing Technique Can Be A Lengthy Journey

No matter what you publish, find three to five authors writing similar books and see what they charge. This isn’t something you should only do one time. I would check back once or twice a year and keep track of trends in the industry. For a while, selling books at $0.99 was THE thing to do. It worked for a lot of people I know. Now, however, selling for just a few dollars more s
ends a signal that your work isn’t “cheap.” It sends a signal that you are more professional. With that in mind, you should always strive to be worth the money your readers pay.

For more info, check out two more great sources for book pricing here and here.

In the comments below, tell me what you write and what you charge. What pricing models have you had success with?