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Wide Distribution vs. Kindle Unlimited


Here at ScribeCount, we believe in making wide distribution easier for authors. However, we also believe that each individual author is best able to make their own decisions regarding distribution, and that sometimes, Kindle Unlimited might be a better choice for a certain author (or certain books in their catalog).

Below, we spell out many of the issues that could inform your choice. Don’t see your question here? Leave a comment or use the contact form on the website!

Issue 1: Administrative time and effort

We feel your pain. We absolutely do. Uploading to multiple sites can be a pain, and most authors have That One Platform that they just despise uploading to. Whatever the case, if you’re distributing wide, it can take considerable time to update blurbs, prices, or documents. And if you have a large backlist, well, the time just balloons.

Obviously, uploading only to Amazon is one way to fix this problem, but, if administrative time and effort is your main difficulty, but you would still like to distribute on multiple platforms, all is not lost. Options you have include…

  • You can use a distributor like Draft2Digital or SmashwordsIf you’re in the US and you’re using wide distribution, you’re likely familiar with Draft2Digital as your distribution channel to Tolino, but distributors can also send your books to all major distributors. I’m putting this in bold to make sure you see this: you can distribute books to Amazon through distributors, so if time and effort is the sticking point, a distributor could be just as easy as Amazon – and get your book everywhere you want it! The tradeoff with distributors is that they take a percentage of royalties. Only you can decide if this is worth it in your particular case – some authors would rather spend the time up front to avoid that extra royalty percentage, but others will gladly pay it simply not to have to deal with the mental load of juggling multiple sites!
  • You can hire a Virtual Assistant (or Author Assistant, as they are sometimes called). I know that for a lot of authors, this seems like an unjustifiable expense, and sometimes there truly is no space in the budget. However, here at ScribeCount, we want to help you build your best writing career, and that means that what you build must be a sustainable business. Some people prefer to wear all the hats in their business, and they thrive that way. For others (and I’m going to venture a guess that “others” is “most of us”), there are pieces of the business that take more time, energy, and mental load than they’re worth – or, that we simply aren’t good at. Whether or not you’re able to hire a VA right now, I want you to keep the idea in the back of your head. Even a few hours of VA time per month or quarter can free up an incredible amount of brain space on your end.

Issue 2: Promotions

Some authors find that promotion slots, particularly for the big names like Bookbub, are easier to secure if the book being submitted is on all major platforms. In addition, sales from promotions may have a larger effect on rankings at platforms other than Amazon, which can lead to greater visibility for an author.

These conditions can change over time, so we do recommend doing a brief search of author news before submitting for a big promotion: are there places that certain genres are doing well? Are big promo sites giving preference to wide-distributed books? Make sure you’re up to date!

Issue 3: Size and genres of catalog

This is related to Issue 1 (and Issue 4!), but it’s something that starts to take on a life of its own. You begin writing, you finish a series, you come up with a new world, and…

Before you know it, you have 3 pen names, 18 series, and a giant to-do list that is so complicated, it might just summon a demon if you do tasks in the wrong order.

Maybe some of the categories you want to publish in can’t be published on certain major platforms (some erotica writers have issues with this). Maybe some genres are just filled with voracious readers who love KU. Whatever the case, the sheer size of your catalog, as well as your genres, may inform where it is best to publish or not.

Issue 4: Current sales metrics

This is probably the biggest one – and, not to toot our own horn or anything, but it is now really easy to tell what percentage of your sales are coming from each platform.

Some books and series sell more on different platforms. Why? Who can say, but this is one of the places that it might make sense to split your catalog between wide distribution and Kindle Unlimited.

Now, for full disclosure, there are very smart and business savvy authors who advise against doing this. Susan Kaye Quinn describes her objections very eloquently here, and I would recommend reading that post so that you make an informed decision.

For my own part, I think it makes sense to monitor your sales and see which series are moving well on various platforms. Does one series seem to sell nowhere except Amazon, no matter what promos you run? Well, why not try putting it in KU? Is there a series you had in KU because it was getting huge amounts of page reads, but suddenly those have trailed off and the rest of your catalog is doing great on wide channels? Why not try setting it wide?

I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of wide distribution versus KU, and I think that your ideal distribution strategy may change over time, and may look different for different pen names or books.

Issue 5: Personal feelings about monopolistic practices

This is another big one, and it’s one I take seriously. There are people who either do not support monopolistic distribution as a concept, or who object to the business practices of certain companies. (Please note: I’m not being vague to avoid naming any specific company, but instead because different people have problems with different companies.)

So…what should you do if you can’t stomach distributing on a certain platform because you have moral qualms?

Luckily, the answer to this one is simple: don’t distribute there. You’re running your own business and you’ve done your research about the tradeoffs in play. You don’t have to justify your distribution decisions to us or to anyone.

Do you have questions about this post? Concerns we didn’t address! Let us know, as we’ll be addressing user feedback in later blog posts and podcast episode – this is not going to be a topic we tackle just once!

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