If you’re looking for other ways to sell books online other than Amazon, go global. Indies usually get to a point deciding whether to sell exclusively on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or “go wide”. We share the pros and cons of both routes along with market data and trends. Ultimately, we advise you to go where there is most growth in the global book market. (Spoiler: an aggregator is a great solution that combines the best of both worlds.)
Amazon is a major player in the book market, but not the only one. By going wide, you do the most with your sales potential by reaching international markets and other channels. In fact, users that sell globally on PublishDrive saw 85% growth in digital book sales in 2020 (despite the pandemic!)
As a team of publishing experts helping indies distribute books easily and internationally (including Amazon), we go over what to know.
Before we get into it, here are the main terms to know:
- Amazon-exclusive means to enroll Kindle books in Amazon’s KDP Select and have the access to also enroll in Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU). If enrolled in KDP, books must be sold only on Amazon for the first 90 days.
- Going wide means to publish books on more than one platform instead of just KDP. Some published authors sell directly to Amazon, then use an aggregator to sell to other major stores.
- Aggregator means a company (like PublishDrive) that handles book distribution for more stores under one roof. Other services range from cover design support, printed books on demand, book marketing, and more.
Why Amazon KDP?
We’ve covered the pros and cons of selling on Amazon before, and the benefits still stand. Besides being a widely recognized platform and market leader in various sectors, KDP benefits include:
- Kindle Unlimited where you get paid per page based on Amazon’s system (around $.004 to $.005 per page). For some indies, page-reads through KU make up a huge percentage of their income.
- Kindle Owners’ Lending Library where you earn the same royalties for books borrowed through KU.
- Marketing perks like the Kindle Countdown feature for discounted price promotions.
But, there are pretty significant cons with selling exclusively. If you’re publishing on Amazon ONLY, you miss out on billions of potential readers elsewhere:
- Limited reach means limited income. Especially for those making this their full-time gig, relying on one source of income is risky. Set up multiple ways to collect your royalties instead. Publish to more stores or add alternate and lucrative book formats like audiobook or print-on-demand.
- Plus, limited distribution means limited promotion options. And right now, it’s time to hustle. By widening your reach, take advantage of all the other cool perks for promoting your work. Regarding Amazon, we have a built-in Amazon Ads tool to help with your Amazon ad performance (and save on costs).
- Amazon’s 90-day exclusivity period means you cannot distribute your digital copy outside of Amazon during the first 90 days. This includes free book copies and samples.
- You would have to meet Amazon’s content limitations. For example, you can’t post more than 10% of your content anywhere else online including your personal website or blog.
- Also, KDP payouts are getting smaller as competition grows.
Selling via KDP can be a great choice for newbie authors looking to get familiar with digital publishing. However, we recommend going wide after the 90 days of exclusivity is up.
If you have more than one book, offering them all on Amazon can result in lower royalties. Try offering your first book of a series, then the rest with wide distribution to see what happens.
In a nutshell, Amazon’s market share of Kindle ebooks is impressive. But remaining exclusive prevents you from reaching fast-growing markets, like China. Without further ado, let’s talk about the pros and cons when you sell internationally.
Why publish internationally to more stores?
To build a long-term, sustainable publishing business, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Here are the major pros of going wide with international book publishing:
- Get the discoverability your content deserves, especially in Google searches. When we say you miss out on billions of potential readers, we are not kidding. If you look at just Android devices, that is already 2.5 billion potential readers you miss by selling only on Amazon. Also, listing your content in multiple places enhances your Google search ranking.
- Access plenty of marketing perks with other stores. For example, you can send free review copies on Apple and Google (and exclusively on Amazon as a paid bump) with PublishDrive. See all other promo options here.
- There’s less risk by setting up more streams of income. It can help keep your business afloat especially during unpredictable times. Like we mentioned, maximize your selling potential by selling on different channels. Don’t be shy and venture into audiobook or print-on-demand versions to add your business.
- With digital book sales on the rise almost everywhere, international markets want English-language content.
Cons? A few:
- It can take time to learn how to use more than one platform.
- You may have to invest a bit more into your own promotion efforts. This is opposed to getting (some) marketing support from Amazon when enrolled in KDP.
Going wide may mean more work, but good work is no surprise if you’re an independent worker. As billions of potential readers (or audio listeners) have yet to meet your content, we suggest using an aggregator company for help.
An aggregator like PublishDrive helps you manage all stores in one place. You can see pretty much everything related to your indie business on one dashboard and collect all your earnings from the same place. You also get additional administrative, marketing, sales reporting, and more publishing support.
Furthermore, we recommend you sell in more markets where growth and demand are obvious. Luckily for publishers, online book sales are booming almost everywhere as the world shifts to digital norms.
Let’s take a look at the highest growth areas via PublishDrive in April and March 2020 below. The biggest winners were subscription services and stores with apps. People are preferring online means to get their books:
Six of these stores performed better than Amazon KDP in terms of growth. This is significant because on PublishDrive 47% of book sales come from stores other than Amazon:
(For an in-depth analysis of Amazon’s ebook market share in 2019, read our report here. We go over data by stores and countries, share emerging markets, and more.)
Another thing is, other stores have been stepping up their digital game. In recent years, major retailers have invested in online areas like subscription services, reader experience, advertising, and more. For example, Apple released a new reader experience in 2019. Barnes & Noble introduced a new advertising platform following the success of Amazon ads.
With rising subscription services, online solutions, and demands for English-language content, now is the time to sell digital books globally.
Maximize your selling potential, reach far and wide
Keep in mind that there are plenty of flourishing channels besides Amazon. In a time where many of us are feeling the effects of a drastically changing world, keep your chin up! We’re here to tell you that your books are wanted, so continue writing and publishing.
With PublishDrive, easily distribute ebook, audiobook, and print-on-demand titles to over 400 online stores and 240K digital libraries. AND, keep 100% of your royalties.