‘Going Wide’ is a hot topic among self-published authors. Some put all of their book eggs in the Amazon basket and hope sales and page reads through Kindle Unlimited (KU) keep on coming. Others spread their work around, trying to find an audience and sell books wherever they can.
There are benefits to staying safe and staying exclusive to Amazon, for sure. I contend that for an author with only one or two books out – that have been out for a while – and for authors with a reasonable backlist of titles, going wide and capturing a little piece of the nearly 60% of online book buyers in the world who don’t turn to Amazon automatically (or can’t because it’s not an option where they live), going wide is the better option.
Lots of self-published authors will tell you they tried going wide and it didn’t work out for them. Dig deeper and you’ll find they tried it with one or two books for a month or so, saw few to no sales and so they scurried back to the safety of Amazon.
“Going Wide” as a practice and making it work takes time to build – 4-6 months time, I’m finding (without funding major ad campaigns). I don’t rely on my writing as my only source of income so I can afford to be a little patient. If you can’t afford to take some eggs out of Amazon’s basket and wait on them to ‘hatch’, so to speak, the rest of what I’m going to say probably isn’t for you.
So, how did I begin going wide?
I started with my now freebie book, Relic, the first book in what is an 8-book (soon to be 9-book) mystery/romance series and one romance, Broken Women, from my backlist that didn’t do so well in 6 months on Amazon. It had a few dozen sales, 20,000 or so page reads and then nothing. I priced both books at $2.99 when I took them wide. Relic, I later made permafree. I also created a couple of boxed sets that aren’t available on Amazon. One was of the first 4 books in the mystery series with a special 5th book not available anywhere but in that set and the other set I made more recently. It includes the last 4 books in the mystery/romance series.
I listed those first two single titles at Barnes & Noble for the Nook and at Kobo directly and then I listed them and the first set with Smashwords (after much gnashing of teeth and fighting my way through the ‘meat grinder’ – their word for their formatting checker)
The first couple of months, I sold a couple dozen books/sets directly off Smashwords, a few at Barnes and Noble and one at Kobo…only a thin trickle in a revenue sense. Now, several months in, having listed everything in my catalog that was at least 6 months old and using multiple aggregators, I’m gaining traction. (I still have a couple things direct with B&N and Kobo but I have lots of stuff at those two retailers and at others through aggregators Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords. Sure, I gave up a little of my royalties by not listing directly but it was much less of a headache at both listing time and tax time.
Adding on New Players:
Three to four months ago I added the aggregator Streetlib (which covers GooglePlay and Overdrive for me and much of Western Europe) and a few weeks ago I added the aggregator PublishDrive (to cover Eastern Europe and Asia).
The thin trickle of sales I started with is now running a lot more steadily from D2D and Smashwords. I’m starting to see sales from Streetlib too. It’s early yet on PublishDrive but lots of authors love them too.
My strategy going forward is to put most of my new books into Amazon’s Kindle Select for one 90 day period to take advantage of KU and then to take them wide.
My Process Now to Go Wide:
Feel free to use any or all of this. A lot of trial and error led me to this process that I can now perform well inside of an hour and cover hundreds of reseller sites.
Please note: Signing up at U.S. based aggregators D2D and Smashwords is simple; no harder than signing up for the Amazon KDP program. It’s only slightly more involved to sign up for the other two unless you’re actually in Europe, then it’s a bit more difficult because you have to answer to VAT issues.
- First, I scrub my MS Word document of any links to Amazon or references to them. That’s a no-no with most other sites, especially for Apple iBooks. You can link to book pages on your own site.
- I start my ‘wide’ listings with D2D because they have the easiest formatting process. You can upload your MS Word file to their site and, in a minute or so, it converts it and then you can download and view your book as an ePub, Mobi and a PDF file. the PDF is easy to look at and figure out what you need to fix to make it look exactly like you want it. You can upload and download the proofs until everything is the way you want it.
Once everything looks good, I download and save all three of the proof files. The PDF comes in handy for CreateSpace (paperback) publication/corrections and the ePub has multiple uses, as you’ll see. I select all of the vendors D2D offers (except Amazon, of course) and have them upload to them. This includes Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, Page Foundry, 24 Symbols, Scribd and more.
I leave D2D open when I load to Smashwords, Streetlib and PublishDrive so I’ve got the same descriptions, keywords and so forth to use across all vendors.
- I take the ePub D2D generated for me and I load that to Smashwords (bypassing their meatgrinder entirely). Once Smashwords approves the ePub for their premium catalog (making it available to libraries), I upload my Word file to get all of the other formats there like text, Mobi, PDF, etc. I unselect Amazon and every other vendor at Smashwords that I chose from D2D and I also unselect OverDrive there because they can’t get it into the same part of the OverDrive subscription catalogs that two other aggregators, Streetlib and PublishDrive can.
Once yo have those two nailed down, you’re half way there in terms of aggregators and you’ve covered most of the biggest/most active markets. You could stop there but you’d be missing out on GooglePlay, Overdrive and some long term plays for other English language readers.
The Other Two Aggregators You Need if You’re Really Serious About Going Wide:
- Streetlib is a company based in Italy. Don’t worry, they now have a U.S. office, they have team members who speak fluent English and their customer service is top notch. They also pay correctly and on time, every time.
You can upload your Mobi or ePub file from D2D with them. They convert it to all of the formats they need but most of their vendors use one of those two. I make sure that I unselect Amazon and any other vendors there that were already covered by the previous two aggregators (only 10-12). I do make sure I’m covered at Streetlib for GooglePlay and OverDrive. They cover lots of small, western Europe vendors that D2D and Smashwords don’t touch.
There’s one little thing with Streetlib; you have to put their logo on your cover. It doesn’t have to be big but it has to be there. That takes me seconds to add to a cover now in Canva or PicMonkey. I skip out to one of those two sites and do that before I even try and load it to Streetlib and then I just save it in my ‘Covers’ picture file as ‘Book Title Cover SL’.
- At PublishDrive, you simply upload an ePub and your cover. They find your metadata from the ePub so some of the rest of your work is done for you. You just have to fill in a few things and it’s all on one simple page. If you’ve still got D2D open, you’ll breeze through it.
The nice thing about PublishDrive is that you only ever pick your vendors once. You don’t have to do it for every book with them like you do with Smashwords and Streetlib. You can just take out the ones you’ve already got covered. They’re based in Budapest, Hungary and they offer a wide range of eastern European online resellers. They also have some Asian ties to include a recently inked deal with a major reseller in China.
I’ve had to be patient but I’ve now replaced what I’ve lost taking my books out of Kindle Select. Frankly, most were no longer selling more than a copy or two a month. They were just getting borrows/page reads and not at a rate of a few books a month. Now they generate sales that pay significantly better than the KU page reads did. With a little more time (especially for Streetlib and PublishDrive) and a little advertising effort on my part, that will improve.
Amazon is the biggest player in the U.S. for eBook sales at 71% of the market (AuthorEarnings Report) but worldwide they account for less than 40% of all eBook sales to English speaking buyers and buyers who buy eBooks in English as a 2nd language. Why would you not want to try going wide and tap more than half of the eBook market? Publishing houses – from the smallest to the largest – don’t neglect 60+% of the market, why should we?