Draft after draft. It took me months. I finished my manuscript at last, along with a polished cover and a working blurb. All the key components of my book, set. Ready to publish. But where?
With little to no knowledge of book marketplaces I dived in headfirst. Terms came up such as: ‘narrow and wide’, ‘KDP’, ‘KU’, and aggregate publishing. I didn't know what all of that meant. I wrote this article to help with understanding which marketplaces are the right choice and to answer the question:
Go narrow, or go wide?
Know your terms
First of all, let's tackle what these terms mean.
Narrow: Selling your book on one marketplace.
Wide: Selling your book on more than one marketplace. Anywhere from two to as many as you want.
KDP: Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon's main avenue of allowing authors to self-publish.
KU: Kindle Unlimited. A service Amazon provides to readers for a monthly fee.
Aggregate Publishing: Selling your book through a single dashboard to one, or multiple marketplaces.
Now we know what the major terms mean, let's get into the pros and cons.
Pros of going narrow:
- Focus advertising in one place, which is less time consuming to manage and easier to budget for
- Your book available for any exclusivity / special promotions
- Don't need to deal with multiple marketplaces
Cons of going narrow:
- You may be unable to reach to readers who don’t routinely use your chosen platform
- Your book won’t be available for library lending
- Conditional to the marketplace you pick, brick and mortar stores won't stock your book
Pros of going wide:
- Your book is available for library lending
- Wider reach to readers on many marketplaces
- Sell your book in brick and mortar stores
Cons of going wide:
- Having to deal with multiple marketplaces can be time intensive
- You’re unlikely to have access to exclusivity / special promotions
- Wider marketing campaigns can be more complicated to manage and your marketing budget may end up being less focused
There's a lot to consider for both approaches but to make a truly informed decision you also need to understand the selling platforms themselves. Next, we look at marketplaces.
Amazon & Kindle Direct Publishing
The big kahuna.
All the great indie authors make it big there. It's considered the Holy Grail of book marketplaces. Why? It has a customer base of over 100 million. That's a big reach. Amazon also has a major exclusivity promotion, which makes it enticing to concentrate solely on Amazon, KDP Select.
Putting your title into KDP Select and making it exclusively sold on Amazon (which is a requirement for KDP Select) will make your title available for Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Kindle Unlimited is a service Amazon offers readers for a monthly fee; after which they can read as many eligible books as they want for free. So where does this leave you, the author?
Rather than get paid every time someone buys your book, you get paid per page read from the KDP Select global fund. However, this isn't for each reader. This is for every new first-time reader of your book.
Having your title enrolled in KDP Select also grants you access to a set of promotional tools including a Kindle Countdown Deal and Free Book Promotion. With this in mind, KDP Select is an enticing offer for new authors and established authors alike.
There is a major caveat to enrolling your book in KDP Select and that is that it has to remain exclusive with Amazon for periods of 90 days at a time. This caveat is for e-books only. Physical copies can continue to be sold on other marketplaces.
Despite Amazon being a great enticer for authors, it doesn't have a monopoly on the self-publishing sphere. There are more marketplaces out there.
Apple iBooks places your book onto the MacOS marketplace. Every Mac user in the world gets to see and buy your book. With roughly 1 billion devices worldwide and around 800 million Mac users, it's a massive marketplace and a massive opportunity for indie authors.
However, to publish your book on Apple iBooks it must have an ISBN. This means you'll have to purchase your own ISBN from your regional ISBN provider.
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble have the largest US market for books. They specialise in physical book sales so you'll want to make sure there's a physical copy of your book available. They also sell e-books through their NOOK brand marketplace.
Rakuten kobo has a massive market reach of retailers in over 190 countries. A great thing about working with Rakuten kobo is your royalties go straight into your bank account after a period of 45 days, provided you acquire the minimum of $50.
Tolino provides access to the German marketplace. It also produces a brand of e-readers and tablets. It was purchased by Kobo in 2017 and its reach includes Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy.
Another part of the Kobo family, Overdrive provides access to libraries and schools. An excellent choice for anyone specialising in middle grade and YA fiction. Publishing to Overdrive requires going through an aggregate publisher.
24symbols is a service similar to Kindle Unlimited. Readers are charged a monthly fee of $7.99 p/m and they can access as many titles as they like. Royalties are paid at 70% every quarter depending on page reads of your books. Currently they do not allow direct self-publishing. To access 24symbols you will need to go through a publishing house or an aggregate publisher.
Scribd is another monthly service, charging end-users charged $9.99 p/m. Once a reader reaches a pre-set milestone in your book, you are paid royalties as if the reader had purchased the book outright.
Scribd has a major reach in the United States. To self-publish your work on Scribd you need to go through an aggregate publisher. There is an option to publish directly through Scribd, however your work would be offered to readers for free with no royalty payments.
Barker & Taylor
Baker & Taylor are no longer in the retail market and instead focus solely on the library marketplace. They specialise in physical and digital media for libraries both in the US and internationally. Self-publishers should go through aggregate publishers to access this market.
Like Baker & Taylor, Bibliotheca focuses exclusively on library marketplaces. Get access to this marketplace through aggregate publishers.
Another library marketplace, Hoopla provides its services to North America and specialises in entertainment products/services including DVDs, CDs and audiobooks to public libraries. For the self-publishing author, making an audiobook for this marketplace is a must. To access it, it's best to go through an aggregate publisher.
That's a lot of information on individual marketplaces. It can be a lot to handle individually which is why aggregate publishers are available to shoulder the burden of working with multiple markets.
Draft2Digital is an aggregate publisher and provides plenty of information on the self-publishing process through their blog. They also have publishing partners that provide services they don't. D2D currently publishes your book to:
- Barnes & Noble
- Kobo Plus
It's free to set up an account and publish through D2D. In return for using their services, D2D takes 15% of your royalties, meaning they don't get paid until you do. You get to choose which markets you publish to and it's all done through one dashboard.
Smashwords, like D2D, has a large reach of marketplaces to publish to, currently including:
- Barnes & Noble
- Walmart (via Kobo)
- Baker & Taylor
Publishing your book through Smashwords is free and you will get 60% royalties from major retailers and up to 80% through the Smashwords marketplace. Along with a whole host of other goodies which I recommend you check out, Smashwords also pays its authors every month and the payout limit is one penny. Even if you make a little, you'll get paid.
XinXii is a European aggregate publisher and, like Smashwords and D2D, it's free to publish your title through them. Your royalties are based on the net sales of your title, excluding VAT. Your sales are not reduced by payment processing fees/retailer discounts or costs due to erroneous and/or fraudulent transactions or credit card charge backs. Authors also get to choose which currency they are paid in. However, a minimum amount of €20 is needed before payout through PayPal or bank transfer.
Are you ready to self-publish?
There is a plethora of options for getting your book in front of readers.
Going narrow, you get to focus on one marketplace. If you choose to go narrow, in my opinion, Amazon would be your best bet with its KDP Select program.
If you want to go wide, publishing on individual marketplaces will net you the most royalties. However, if you don't want the hassle of multiple dashboards, use an aggregate publisher or all of them. Just make sure you don't publish the same title multiple times.
Personally, I chose to go wide because I want my book in as many hands as possible.
What's your choice, go narrow or go wide?
Did you enjoy this article or have questions? Why not hop over to Discord and say hi to Roger (@Sol) in person? Roger lives and works in the North of England and his debut science-fantasy novel Transient is now available on Amazon.
Cover image: Background by Pexels from Pixabay. Signpost blank by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay