As a self-publishing author in the modern era, you’re kind of spoiled for choice. Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple: plenty of retailers will let you sell your book with little-to-no upfront cost. But who are we kidding? Amazon still seemingly holds a large swath of the market. So, when you’re setting out on your indie publishing adventure, should you explore every possible (revenue) stream or stick closely to the mighty Amazon river?
That’s the big dilemma that indie authors face. If Amazon is where most readers are, why bother with other retailers? Maybe you shouldn’t. In this post, we’ll look at reasons why you might just want to stick with Amazon.
So, if you’re eager to get the ball rolling and are value ease-of-use, Amazon is your one-stop shop. Setting up your book on Kindle Direct Publishing takes as little as a few minutes (if you’re prepared) and your book will be in the Kindle Store within 72 hours. KDP also makes it fairly easy for self-publishers to promote their book with options like Kindle Matchbook (discounting ebooks for those who bought a print copy) and KDP Select (more on that later).
Publish exclusively on Amazon if: You don’t have the time or interest for anything more than the simplest publishing option.
Amazon’s KDP Select program offers indie authors a variety of promotional tools and the chance to earn higher royalties. The catch? You have to commit to a long-term (okay, 90-day) relationship with Amazon, during which you can’t sell your ebook with any other retailer. The service has great perks but it’s not for everyone. For example: writers of certain genres.
What do we mean? One of the biggest draws of KDP Select is enrolment in Kindle Unlimited, which lets subscribers read as many ebooks as they like for a monthly fee. If your genre is popular on KU, there’s a good chance that your book will benefit from KDP Select. If few KU readers are 18th Century French literature nerds, your book on Voltaire will probably not ‘go viral’ on that platform.
To find out how much appetite there is for your genre, go to Amazon’s bestseller list. Narrow it down to your categories and scan the titles. How many of those top-ranking books are in KU? For example, science fiction has a good percentage in the top 20, but photography has far fewer. If there is a large percentage of books in your genre on that list, it’s not a bad idea to try out KDP Select.
Publish exclusively on Amazon if: The bestsellers in your genre include a large selection of Kindle Unlimited titles.
If you think that publishing exclusively through Amazon limits the reach of your book, you’d be correct. Although Amazon holds over 80% of the ebook market in the US and the UK, it’s less dominant elsewhere. To illustrate, Kobo controls over 25% of the ebook market in Canada, while Apple Books has a 30% slice of the pie in Australia. So to access the international market, going wide might be better for you.
Bestseller lists are another important consideration. If you’re exclusive with Amazon, you can’t make a splash outside of Amazon’s own bestseller list. USA Today and The New York Times both require you to sell your book on at least one retailer besides Amazon. The NYT bestseller list might be a stretch, but there are other, more attainable lists that could prove equally fruitful for an indie writer’s career.
Publish exclusively on Amazon if: You only really want to target digital readers in the US and the UK, and you don’t need validation from a broadsheet bestseller list.
If we were to think of marketing strategies as characters — because we’re writers and why not — ‘going wide’ (i.e. publish your book on retailers other than Amazon) is the tortoise, and KDP Select, the hare.
KDP Select gets its mile-a-minute legs from its Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Book Promotion programs, where you can discount your book or set it to free for a certain period of time. When you use these options, you have the chance to get your book in front of more readers in that period. Both options allow books to appear on the Kindle Store Deals page — another great opportunity to boost visibility and drive sales.
The tortoise, or ‘going wide,’ is a slow and steady alternative. Integral parts of the ‘going wide’ marketing strategy are: a current author website, a healthy mailing list, targeted ad campaigns, and heavily discounted books or series. Going wide relies on building your readership, and communicating with your audience. This can be a great strategy if you are looking for steady sales which can span across multiple retailers.
Publish exclusively on Amazon if: You want results faster.
Don’t worry: the commitment is only 90 days. If you want to transmogrify your tortoise into a hare (or vice-versa), that’s always an option.
Remember that the first 90 days of a book’s release are crucial, so plan ahead of time to make sure your book rolls out smoothly. Don’t overthink whether you should be going exclusive with Amazon – instead, invest time in perfecting your blurb, keywords, book promotion plan, and book cover. If this is your first book and you’re not 100% sure, then probably stick with Amazon for your launch. Once you get the lay of the land you can look to broaden your horizons.
(c) Tess Patalano
Tess Patalano is a writer at Reedsy, a marketplace giving authors and publishers access to talented professionals and free educational content. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, taking pictures, and scuba diving.