Later this month, SCBWI’s brand-new guidebook, The Essential Guide to Self-Publishing a Children’s Book will be available to all SCBWI members to download for free. The guide is a comprehensive look at all aspects of self-publishing. It offers a nuts-and-bolts look at the seven stages of publishing; details the various self-publishing platforms; discusses marketing, promotion and sales; describes how indie authors sell subsidiary rights; and outlines models for making a living as an indie author.
As self-publishing takes off in the marketplace and more and more children’s book creators choose to publish independently, we’re happy to provide this valuable resource to our members. Below is brief excerpt to whet your appetite:
CHOOSING YOUR SELF-PUBLISHING PLATFORM
Once your manuscript is ready to be published, you’ll need to decide which of the many self-publishing platforms you want to use to create your book. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to keep your self-published book exclusive to Amazon—the world’s largest online retailer—or “go wide” and publish your book everywhere, including your own website.
Self-publishing experts recommend the latter.
Amazon’s biggest selling point is Kindle Unlimited (KU), a linked customer-facing program which is part of their KDP Select platform. This platform sells e-books only. Authors’ e-books are made available free to customers who sign up for a KU account, and authors are paid royalties based on the number of page-reads their book gets each month. KU can be lucrative, and many writers of YA e-books and e-books for adults make a living on their KU income alone. You only get access to this if you sign up to KDP Select exclusively. (NOTE: While you’re in KDP Select, customers who don’t sign up for KU can still buy your e-book; you receive the usual royalty on those sales alongside any page-read royalties.)
Another benefit of joining KDP Select is that you get access to promotional extras, such as countdown deals or the option to offer your e-book for free for five days in any ninety-day period. If used effectively, these extras can help boost flagging sales, raise the profile of a forgotten backlist title, or get your book off to a great start.
You can’t use these tools unless you go exclusive with Amazon, and you have the flexibility to pull your books in and out at any time, so why do experts recommend “going wide” and avoiding exclusivity?
First, many self-publishing experts believe the best way to have a sustainable author business is to develop income from multiple sources. That way, you’ll be insulated somewhat if one of them dries up. If you rely on Amazon for your income, and Amazon makes a change to KDP Select that negatively impacts your sales, you’ve just lost all your income.
The author who chooses exclusivity, whether through a traditional publishing contract or self-publishing through KDP Select or ACX exclusive, cuts off multiple territories and opportunities. While you may have good reasons for making that choice, do not make it without due consideration.
Using KDP Select discerningly, rather than having all your books there all the time, can make sense at the start. Being able to offer your e-book for free for a set number of days each quarter can be invaluable for raising your book’s profile on the largest online retailer in the world. It can also be useful for garnering early reviews for picture books if you’ve created an e-book version. Many picture book authors use this tactic by sharing information about their free days in parent groups on Facebook. As picture books are quick to read, the chances of getting reviews are greater than for books for older children.
If it’s your first book and you need income and reviews to help you get on your feet, it may be a good idea to go exclusive for a short time. Once your author platform is more established, it might be more beneficial to be nonexclusive and diversify your income. Moreover, if you want to get your children’s e-books into libraries or bookstores, you need to be wide, as Amazon doesn’t currently (as of the time of writing) distribute to libraries and bookstores prefer Ingram.
You will hear indie authors who swear that income from other retailers can’t match what you can make on Amazon, but evidence from many successful self-published authors indicates that’s not true for all. And while it may be true in the short term for some, it’s also true that it takes a long time to build an audience on every retailer, including Amazon. The longer you wait to go wide, the longer it’ll take to build those readerships.
Ultimately, only you can decide which route is right for you at this time. It’s definitely not recommended, for anyone, to pull books in and out of KDP Select repeatedly as it can destroy any audience that’s been built there or on other platforms. Use KDP Select at the beginning only, if you intend to go wide, or become an Amazon author and stay there, if you’re comfortable fully relying on a single platform.