Friday 31 May 2019

Amazon Exclusivity (KDP Select) or Publishing 'Wide' ~ which works best? #SelfPublishing

Recently I've been talking to a couple of authors unsure whether to take books off Amazon KDP Select and go 'wide' (ie, publish across many retailers), or whether to move from 'wide' back to KDP Select.  

In the interests of research, I ran a poll on Twitter to see how other authors felt about the two options.  I also invited comments; see lower down for the results.

For new writers not in the know: one massive advantage of publishing exclusively to Amazon is that your books can be made available on Kindle Unlimited.  This works, for the reader, like a library; they pay £8/$10 a month to read any books on KU, free of charge.  The author gets paid per pages read; the royalties for a whole book are roughly equivalent to one sale.
  • Advantage for author: it's a great way for new readers to discover you, at almost no cost to them.
  • Disadvantage: if they don't like it, and abandon it early, you will earn little, or nothing (you get paid for any pages read after 10%).
The other advantage of KDP Select is that you can do 5 day free promotions once every 90 days, or Kindle Countdown promotions - you can price your book as cheaply as 99p for a whole 7 days, but still get the 70% royalty.

I couldn't vote as it's my poll, but I've always been Amazon KDP Select only.  I make more in royalties via Kindle Unlimited that I do with actual sales, and have had some very successful free promotions and Kindle Countdown offers.

The advantages of going 'wide' probably speak for themselves - i.e., reaching readers who don't use Amazon Kindle.  I don't know anything about this but I hear Draft2Digital is the best and easiest way to go.  Read FAQs about this HERE 

Writer Georgia Rose (see below), who has chosen and been most happy with this option, told me:  

'D2D is a distributor.  You load up your files to them and they can distribute to sites such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, Playster and Scribd, including libraries.  The will distribute to Amazon, though this is not recommended.  The advice from those in the know suggest you go DIY to Amazon, Kobo and Google (if you can get in there - it can be tricky), and let D2D cover the rest.  On their dashboard it is easy to deselect the platforms to which you don't want them to distribute.'

Well, not quite...

Poll results 

86 writers voted

Amazon KDP Select: 55%

'Wide': 33%

Tried both, not much difference: 12%


Here are comments from some who responded:

In favour of KDP Select

'Tried both (only with 1 book, so pretty limited) but have come down on the side of KDP - the KU promo side of it seems unbeatable at the moment.'

'Have got one on KDP and one wide, most of sales for both are on Amazon...have only recently moved onto KU, sales have dropped off, but pages read seem to be doing well. My first book was on lots of platforms, but the vast majority of sales were on Amazon. Made it a no-brainer to put next book on amazon only.'

'KDP. Kindle Unlimited makes me more than sales.  I think if you write bigger historicals like I do, it's a no-brainer. And so much easier to just push your marketing to one avenue than eight or ten.'

'Kindle Unlimited seems, at the moment, the best way for me to reach readers.

'I think Kindle Unlimited seems to work on my Indie books.'

'As to your question, I used to be wide but the tried KDP Select on one book and saw how much better that did with the page reads, so I’m off wide now completely. About half my income comes from page reads.'

'I have done much better by staying exclusively with Amazon in the past, with all of my books.'

..and a last comment'I didn't see this in time, but I'd have voted for KU too'


In favour of 'wide'

'I’m wide. Have been for a while. I don’t like exclusivity and can still do all sorts of promos, including free ones if I want to...I think a good idea is to keep a first book in Select then once you put the next one out make the first one wide, and so on.

'...what I do is distribute direct to Amazon, Kobo and Google then to all the others via the magnificent Draft2Digital, and PublishDrive (early days there!) D2D provide a universal link to all sites (incl. The Zon) so just the one link needed...I do very little promo as I don’t have time. But via distributors like Draft2Digital you load up your files once, they distribute for you.

'.... but you are totally beholden to Amazon. All your eggs in one basket as it were, when they could change anything at any time.'

'I tried KDP Select back in 2013 but it just failed - I gave up after 6 months. I broke out in 2015 on Kobo Canada' 

'I prefer wide. I sell more on ibooks, followed by Barnes & Noble and Overdrive.'

'I'm wide because the opportunities for promotions with Kobo means I make about 25% of my money from there each month, sometimes more. It's my 2nd most successful site after Amazon. Also, I don't like the idea of being tied to Amazon in case anything goes wrong with KDP.'

'Personally, I’m wide. From my point of view it’s not possible to be an independent author while being entirely dependent on the whims of Amazon. My first year off self-publishing, 99% of my sales came from Amazon. Today, almost a third of my sales come from other platforms.'

'I think it's better to go wide, so you can reach more readers. Ku didn't work for me.'

 'You can also go wide by using Ingramspark publication and distribution service'

A bit of both

'I have an e-book publisher who does the work of getting my books out wide, they do print and audiobook as well so I like them. Still, most of my sales are Amazon. & I have a few indies that are KDP. Don’t want to do the going wide work myself'

'..personally I would recommend: KDP exclusive for 3 months for exposure and then go wide'

 'I’ve tried wide and it’s hard to make a dent. Even with KU pages read fluctuate a lot.'

(About doing audio books) 'My audiobooks are a 3-way contract with me, publisher & Amazon. Voice actors get same royalties as author. It’s a way for Amazon to fill their Audible catalog for the freebies. Maybe pitch to Amazon/Audible?'

And finally.... 

'There's so much to learn in this business, it really helps if others share their own experiences so you can try and avoid them and keep moving forward instead of encountering setbacks.'

Which is why I write these posts!

If you are new to the game and are looking for a bit of mentoring/support from the wise, you might like to take a look at Shelley Wilson's Writer Mentoring ProgrammeShelley is one of the most approachable people I've ever met, and is so easy to get on with, positive and practical.  


I can also recommend Georgia Rose's Three Shires Publishing - self-publishing support services that may be of use to anyone wary of going it alone.  Georgia is very helpful and really knows her stuff!

Shelley and Georgia are two of the most generous people I've met during my writer and Twitter years.  😀

I hope this has been of help to anyone not sure which way to go - as you can see, there is no 'right' way, and it seems to depend on so many issues like genre, how much work you are prepared to do where marketing is concerned, if you are willing to spend out on advertising, how many books you have, etc.  Comments welcome, of course :)


  1. An excellent, and most useful, post, T, and thank you for the kind words. There are so many opportunities available now for authors it really makes you realise how lucky we are to be able to get our work out there in front of readers, however we choose to do it. And if one way doesn't work we can simply change to a different business model.

    1. That's how I see it, too, G. When writers moan about Amazon, I always want to say to them, 'do you realise how terrific this whole thing is?' When I started writing, all you could do was pitch to agents to submit to big publishers. Or vanity publish!

  2. Nice to have so many opinions - thanks, Terry. I tried D2D and made a few sales, but decided I liked KDP too much to give up the benefits. And, it's easy. I need lots of time for other things, not just writing, and certainly not promo hunting. Guess I'm just not a go-getter!

    1. Yes - it's easy! I'm far too lazy about the whole thing to explore other methods, but now we have Kindle Unlimited I wouldn't anyway.

  3. Excellent post, TT! It's so interesting to read others' experiences. I'm with Bev, though. I've got too many other things to do, so KDP is just the best and simplest for me and the page reads are such a boon. I know things might go wrong with KDP at some point, but for now, I'm happy to go with their flow :)

    1. Yes, exactly - I'll worry about it if it happens!!

  4. It's always a gamble, isn't it ~ I'm on KDP, but can't make a value judgement as I haven't tried any other system.

    1. No, I can't either, but I wouldn't give up those Kindle Unlimited page reads for anything, anyway!

  5. Thanks for following your poll up with a post, Terry. This has thrown up two things for me. Firstly, I need to remember to use the free promotions KDP/Amazon offers. However, more importantly, what are advantages of the two royalties KDP/Amazon offers. I currently have both my books at 35% royalty. What I am getting for doing that rather than selecting the 70% option?

    1. I just looked at your latest book and it's 2.99, so you should be getting 70% - maybe you filled in the price thing wrong? I don't know - I would email Amazon if I were you.

      Whatever the royalty, Kindle Countdown is always worth doing, as is a free promotion. But you do have to get it 'out there' a bit - i.e., spend some time during the promotion to tweet and RT more, and do whatever you do more on social media.

    2. ..... and RT people you don't normally RT, to widen the circle of people who will see it.

    3. Thanks so much, Terry. I'll check it all out. I'll get on to that Kindle countdown, too.

  6. I tried KDP exclusively (there were similar things before Select as such) and never did anything. Then I went wide and have tried everything. To be honest, nothing has ever worked too well for me. The only thing I can find some traction from is getting the first book in a series perma-free, and to do that you have to go wide. Draft2Digital is very easy to use (easier than KDP, in fact, although they are trying to catch up). I've tried other options as well but other than on giving away the free books, I didn't see a great result. But yes, I'll try everything once, and because I also publish all my books in Spanish, I like the option to use wider distribution that reaches other places. My only conclusion, after all these years and many books, is that no two authors and two books are the same, and what works for one person doesn't for another, so keep trying (or not)!

    1. I found that just making the first book in the series (ie Tipping Point) just 99p permanently worked well, Olga - and of course now people can download on Kindle Unlimited, so it's all good! I can see, though, that as your books are in Spanish too, you HAVE to publish on other platforms.

      You're so right about it being different for everyone. It's dependent on the genre, too; I think the readers of, for instance, post apocalyptic series, romance books and horror, tend to be avid Kindle readers, and subscrible to Kindle Unlimited. That's been like gold for me; it's made all the difference.

  7. Hi Terry thanks for your advice as always. I initially thought i would use Amazon KDP and Ingram spark but after reading this i think i may just use KDP only. Do you advise this. Its my first book and im not sure what to do. I just want to get it right first time. Any help would be appriciated.

    1. Sorry, I've only got experience of KDP only - I don't even know what Ingram Spark is. All I can say is that, as explained in this post, a lot of writers including me earn as much money from Kindle Unlimited pages read as they do from sales, and you can't have your book on Kindle Unlimited if you sell at any other outlets. As it's your first book you're unlikely to sell many paperbacks except to people you know, or if you do literary fairs or try to get it into independent bookshops. You probably won't get it right first time, few people do - it's a matter of trial and error, mostly. A lot of new writers do KDP Select for six months to give it a go and then look at it again, but it's not something that I can say 'do this, it's the best way' about. All you can do is see what others say and make a decision. Good luck!

  8. Also. If i go solely on amazon KDP and KDP select should i take advantage of their free isbn or would i be putting myself at risk if i wanted to expand later on?

  9. As Terry has pointed out there is no one way, or right way to do this, only the way that is right for you at this moment. Some authors choose to remain exclusive with Amazon and take advantage of KDP Select, others choose to put their books wide across all platforms. Certainly if you use the KDP free ISBN's for paperbacks this does limit you putting them elsewhere in the future. But you can buy some ISBN's and use those on KDP instead now and then you'll have the option to have them elsewhere in the future. It would seem sensible to me that if you are putting out your first book you initially put it up as an ebook on KDP then add the paperback if you want to and with your own ISBN if you want the flexibility in the future. Once you've got through that you can try that out for size and then decide if you're happy staying there or if you want to spread your wings further. Simply take one step at a time...

  10. My (former) publisher 'went wide' and posted my books across every possible platform. Sales were minimal at best everywhere but Kindle. So when I started self-publishing, I decided it was easier to just go with KDP. I was *astonished* at how well it did and how my returns really jumped. I suppose there is some alignment of stars and future success that would have me rethinking this strategy, but for now I'm relatively happy with KDP Select.

    1. I thank my lucky stars for KDP and Kindle Unlimited, the free promotion and Kindle Countdown facilities, Barb! Also, KU is an indication of how effective your marketing is, and how good the books themselves are - if people don't like what they read, they'll abandon and won't download another >> few KU pages read.