The Wide Indie Author Part 2: Choosing Distributors

My journey towards becoming a wide author continues.

To make my books wide, I’ve had to follow two steps:

  1. Take them out of KDP Select
  2. Make them available with wide distributors

This post details how I did that and how I chose who to use to distribute my books.

Taking My Books Out Of KDP Select

When I first published my books, I enrolled them all in KDP Select.

This is Amazon’s program that gives you various benefits in return for exclusivity. I’m not going to go into the benefits here (you can learn about them on Amazon’s website) but instead I’ll show you how easy it is to take your books out of KDP Select.

At first, I thought I might have to go wide on a staggered basis. After all, my books were originally published on different dates, and are all at different stages in their current KDP Select term.

The easiest way to unenroll a book from KDP Select is to uncheck the KDP Select checkbox in the KDP dashboard. That way, it won’t be re-enrolled when its current 90 day term is up.

But my books are in series, and I wanted to take them all wide at the same time.

So I sent an email to Amazon, giving them a list of the books with their ASINs (an ASIN is a unique identifier Amazon uses for products) and asking if they could be withdrawn from KDP Select.

Within 24 hours I got an email from Amazon saying they’d withdrawn the books. Simple!

So if you’re planning to go wide, don’t wait until your 90 days are up – send a politely worded email to Amazon and they’ll sort it for you.

On my author page on Amazon, none of the books are now listed as being available via Kindle Unlimited.

I am still getting some page reads, as anyone who borrowed my books before I took them out of Kindle Unlimited can still read them. But page reads have started to drop. Scary!

So my books are now non-exclusive and I can take them wide. Time for Step Two.

Choosing Book Distributors

When it comes to book distributors, there’s a LOT of choice.

Do you go direct to all the retailers, meaning you get an increased share of royalties but have to keep your books updated on multiple platforms?

Do you use an aggregator to distribute your books to all the retailers, and let them take a cut of all your sales?

Or do you adopt a hybrid approach, going direct to some of the retailers but using an aggregator for the others?

I chose the third option, for reasons I will explain.

I’ve decided to go direct with just two retailers:

1. Amazon

This is a no-brainer, as my books are already on the KDP platform. I currently get all of my sales via Amazon and don’t want an aggregator taking a slice of my royalties.

Also, being in KDP gives me access to Amazon Advertising. The ads platform used to be called AMS and it wasn’t very good, but there have been big improvements to it lately and I want to make sure I have access.

2. Kobo

Kobo’s platform for indie authors, Kobo Writing Life, has a reputation as one of the most author-friendly platforms out there. And Kobo themselves have a reputation as champions of indie authors.

I sell reasonably well in Canada (Kobo’s biggest market) so I want to promote my books there and hopefully reach Kobo readers. I anticipate Kobo being my second largest source of sales after Amazon and I don’t want to give a cut of my royalties to an aggregator.

And there’s also the Kobo Promotions feature, which you can only access if you’re on KWL. I plan to use that to promote my books to Kobo readers – which I will blog about!

So those are the two retailers I’m going direct with. For all the others, I’m choosing to use an aggregator, to save myself time and hassle.

I don’t want to be uploading amended book files to dozens of platforms every time I make a change. And I’m prepared to give up a slice of my royalties for the ease of using an aggregator, as I don’t anticipate selling so many books via the other retailers.

There’s also the fact that some retailers don’t even let indies publish directly to them. Apple’s iBooks used to make it possible but no longer do, and Google Play never have.

Barnes and Noble’s Nook is the remaining significant ebook retailer. Their platform has a promotions feature that’s ridiculously overpriced and to be honest, with the way Barnes and Noble’s fortunes have been going, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nook was swallowed up by one of the other players. So I don’t think it’s worth my time to go direct with them.

There are other retailers and distributors but they’re very small in the markets I sell in and difficult to reach directly. So I’m happy to access them all via an aggregator.

So the next question is – which aggregator to use? The three viable options are:

1. Smashwords

Smashwords used to be the biggest aggregator but have fallen in popularity.

Their interface isn’t particularly user-friendly and when I asked other authors, no one recommended them. So they were a no.

2. Draft2Digital

I’ve used D2D in the past and been happy with their interface and service. They’re probably the most popular aggregator right now, and are highly rated by many authors.

They’re definitely on my shortlist.

3. PublishDrive

PublishDrive are much newer, but they’re catching up fast.

I like the fact that they have slightly higher royalty rates than D2D, and that they have a flat rate option which works out cheaper than a percentage royalty once your sales exceed a certain amount. I’m nowhere near that amount right now (I’m on zero wide!), but hope to be in the future.

I also like the fact that PublishDrive are new and hungry, and working hard to overtake the other aggregators. I’ve listened to interviews with Kinga Jentetics, their CEO, and I like what she’s aiming to do.

So I decided to go with PublishDrive. It’s too early for that to be a recommendation – from what I’m told, D2D are just as good. But I’ll be watching how things go with PublishDrive and giving feedback right here on the blog.

If you’ve used any of the aggregators and want to share your experience, please do so in the comments.

So here’s the setup I now have:

  • Direct with Amazon KDP
  • Direct with Kobo’s KWL
  • Using PublishDrive to access all of the other retailers plus libraries via OverDrive.
Killing it on Kobo cover

I’ll blog about OverDrive and library distribution at some point as tbh I am torn between using PD and KWL for this. KWL and OverDrive are sister companies so it would make sense to use them, but from what I can tell, PD give higher royalty rates on library sales. I’m going to have to verify this as it seems counterintuitive!

Right now, I’ve made zero wide sales. So I need to start doing some marketing.

I’m going to kick things off with some promotion on Kobo, and I’ve bought Mark Leslie Levebre’s book Killing It On Kobo to give me some pointers. If I make progress, this will be the topic of next week’s blog post.

See you next week and in the meantime, happy publishing!

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