KU vs. Wide (Can you have your cake and eat it too?)

The answer is no.

I’ve ran into a couple of people on Twitter and in some Facebook author groups who are trying to use both KU and wide tactics, at the same time, to bring in readers. I love reading threads like this, not only because I’m curious what people are thinking and how they’re running their businesses, but sometimes I’ll chime in and try to help someone who seems to be genuinely floundering. I had a back and forth with this guy, and it made me think–can we play the Amazon KU vs. Wide game successfully, and if we can’t, who loses? The question the original tweeter asked is, Do you have your books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Splitting up your books is never going to work well because you’re going to alienate one set of readers somehow. Enrolling book one of a series in KU and publishing the rest of the books in that same series wide is a terrible idea, but they think:

a) the KU readers will buy the rest of the books in the series and
b) the wide readers will buy all the books anyway

Not only is this just plain old being a jerk and trying to game the system, but:

1) KU readers don’t buy. They already pay for a KU subscription–which is the whole point of paying the subscription fee, and
2) Not everyone reads on a Kindle or uses the Kindle app, which is the whole point of going wide, right? To reach the readers who read on a Nook or uses the Apple Books app. Or likes Kobo.

I wondered why these authors didn’t want to mark their first book at .99 or even free and ask Amazon to price match, but then I realized it’s because they would make more money on page reads (a 250 paged book brings in about $1.10 if a reader reads the whole thing) and more than what Amazon pays out for a .99 cent book. (KDP pays only a 35% royalty on a book priced that low.)

So they really are trying to game the system. The only thing is, it’s the readers they are trying to bring into their fanbase that are hurt. If you want to appeal to readers, you have to think like them. I have a KU subscription, and just the other day, I saw a Facebook ad from a wide author I was curious about who was giving away a first-in-series. I downloaded it and read it, and had I wanted to continue the series, I could have bought the others, but I didn’t. The book didn’t grab me enough that I wanted to continue. That’s another thing these authors don’t think about trying to game the system–your writing has to be TOP NOTCH to make a reader shell out money to keep reading. I mean, that’s a no-brainer anyway, but had her series been in KU, I would have read the next one even though the first book didn’t engage me all that much. But to buy them, there are three more in the series, each priced at $4.99, that would have been a costly stretch for me. Fifteen dollars to finish a series where the first book didn’t grab me… ah call me cheap like the guy in the tweet, but that’s just way too much. (And if I were to pay that for a book–I would go to Barnes and Noble and buy a beautiful hardcover by an author I know I’ll enjoy.)

You might be wondering where I’m going with this, and it’s this: I’m obviously not her reader. With her books having 1,500 reviews a piece, she knows who her readers are, and they are willing to pay for each book. True, giving away a free book can definitely bring in new readers, but you are taking the chance and if you don’t hit the mark, you’ll lose those new readers just as quickly as you brought them in.

When it comes to building a fanbase, you are much better off focusing your energy on doing things the right way than spending all your time scheming the best way to “pull one over on Amazon.” This could stem from a hatred of Amazon–no one likes having to be exclusive to gain the rewards of participating in KU. But while you think you’re being smart, what you’re doing is hurting readers who want to read your books. KU readers aren’t cheap–they just aren’t your readers.

What can you do if you’re wide? How can you reach the maximum number of readers? Well, if you’re going on the assumption that readers are, indeed, cheap, and don’t want to pay for books, yet you want those vile creatures as your readers (I’m kidding, kind of), Kobo does have a subscription service similar to KU, but your books do not have to be exclusive. The only problem with enrolling your books into that program is that to have access to it, you have to publish directly with Kobo, not let a distributor like Draft2Digital or Smashwords publish on your behalf. Kobo Plus is similar to KU in that readers pay $9.99 for access to a library of books and Kobo pays the author based time and pages read. (You can look at the full article about royalties here.) So while you may not like the idea of losing out on KU readers, nurture Kobo readers, enroll your book into Kobo Plus and use your marketing tactics to tell people that your book is enrolled there. Readers don’t need a Kobo device to read Kobo books, either. The Kobo app is free to download and will turn any tablet or phone into a reading device. (Although, if you like to read in the tub like I do, some Kobo Readers are waterproof, and you can find the list here.)

Instead of complaining because you think the grass is greener on the other side, pick a side and water that patch. It’s easy to let your Kobo readers know your books are available in the Kobo Plus library. For all the time I spend on Twitter, never ever have I seen a tweeted ad like this:

It took me longer to decide on the Kobo logo to use than it did to put that together. (I already had the fake cover mockup made–I’m assuming if you promote your books you’ll already have a few graphics made, too.)

I mean, I guess there’s no help for the people who think it’s funny to try to pull the wool over Amazon’s eyes enrolling their books in Kindle Select while their books are published on other platforms:

Truly lovely human being, there. (And I would love it if Amazon reached out to that author and asked to be reimbursed for all the KU royalties he earned while breaking their exclusivity policy.)

This Twitter thread showed the true colors of some indie authors, and I didn’t like what I saw. Most blamed Amazon for having to stoop to their underhanded ways or crappy attitudes, but, no one, not one person, ever said you have to sell on Amazon, exclusive or not. And then we wonder why indies have such a bad reputation as authors, business owners, and publishers. You know, I feel sorry for people who have to deal with us. I really do.

There are a ton of wide resources out there, and I’ve blogged about them before. Don’t like KU, don’t be in it. Want the page reads, enroll in it, and suck it up you can’t be anywhere else. Plenty of authors make a good living off of KU, and plenty of authors make a good living wide. I can list a number of things that enable them to do it, and if you can’t, it would help your business to figure it out. (I’m not making money yet because I’ve spent the past four years learning what’s on that list. I can only hope making changes to the way I run my own business will help.)

Stop trying to have your cake and eat it too. All it will do is give you a stomachache.

Good luck!

Resources:

Wide

Killing It on Kobo by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Wide for the Win by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Wide for the Win Facebook Group

Amazon

Amazon Ads Unleashed: Advanced Publishing and Marketing Strategies for Indie Authors by Robert J Ryan

Amazon Ads for Authors: Tips and Strategies to Sell Your Books by Deb Potter

Amazon Ads FREE course by Dave Chesson

And if you just want to get back to basics and start over, David Gaughran put together a free course on starting from day one:

David Gaughran, Starting from Zero

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