Distribution: Exclusivity vs. Going Wide, Part One

Hey Folks,

I’ve had questions recently regarding whether writers should “go wide” with electronic publishing and distribution or go exclusively with Amazon. There’s also a great deal of talk about this topic on the Internet in various groups at at various websites.

Today I’ll add my two cents.

Ostensibly, when they talk about exclusivity, writers are talking about distributing only through Amazon’s KDP Select program.

Now, you CAN distribute only to Barnes & Noble or Kobo or Apple or any other distributor that will allow direct uploads.

But writers who advocate distributing exclusively to Amazon’s KDP Select program would never dream of distributing exclusively to any of the others. I’ve asked them, and they look at me as if I have two heads.

They would never consider distributing only to one of the other major e-tailers specifically because they don’t want to cut out the millions of readers who prefer reading on Amazon’s Kindle.

Well, and the money. The almighty buck. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money with your writing (your business).

But where do you draw the line?

Unlike any of the other e-tailers, Amazon’s KDP Select program REQUIRES exclusivity. And Amazon rewards writers who bow to that demand by giving them certain marketing perks that the rest of us don’t get.

One relatively well-known writer, in a comment on a post on this topic in another venue, wrote that he uses KDP Select because “This is my living, so I follow the money.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)

That’s all well and good. Completely understandable. Again, we’re in business to make money.

But let’s put things in perspective.

Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple et al are booksellers. As such, they are your first customers. They vie for your attention, and they queue up to offer your books for sale to the second tier of customers, the buying public.

But YOU are the source of your product. YOU are the one who chooses where and how to publish.

And if you’re an indy author, you also choose how to distribute your work. Distribution is solely your responsibility in this new world of publishing.

In many coffee shops in the 1950s, a similar thing happened.

Coffee shop owners made their living selling food and drink to customers. Like you, tThe owners were the source of their product. Like you they had to decide to whom they would sell.

Many of them refused to serve people of color. Why?

Well, some of them surely were narrow minded bigots. But many of them did so out of acquiescence to customer demands.

Many of their “white” customers made it plain that if the coffee shop owner served food and drink to people of color, the “whites” would stop coming in.

In other words, those customers demanded exclusivity.

Exactly like Amazon does today.

The owner of the coffee shop didsn’t want to cut off his main source of revenue, the “white” customers. So he made the conscious business decision to distribute food and drink exclusively to the “white” customers.

Today, many writers don’t want to cut out their main source of revenue either, which they receive from the elephant among booksellers: Amazon. So those writers bow to Amazon’s demands and distribute exclusively to Amazon.

All well and good, right?

After all, people of color in the 1950s still had the option of going to other coffee shops for their breakfast.

Just like readers today who choose to read some other eformat than .azw or .mobi can get their ebooks from booksellers other than Amazon.

Another writer commented on that same post that “Some writers erroneously make emotional decisions despite the fact they’re running a business” (again, paraphrasing from memory).

Yes. Exactly like the “emotional” decision that some coffee shop owners made back in the 1950s to go ahead and sell food and drink to all people regardless of skin color.

Only it wasn’t an emotional decision, folks. It was a rational, well-thought-out moral decision. And it still is.

When you choose to go exclusive with KDP Select, you’re telling those who might want to read your work on something other than the Kindle that you don’t care about them either way.

If they won’t fall into line and bow to Amazon’s demands too, then you’d rather not sell to them.

I’m sure a lot of writers will disagree with my take on this. That’s perfectly fine. Every writer is different, and how you choose to distribute your work is completely up to you.

If you choose to go exclusive with KDP Select, more power to you. You can even dress it up and convince yourself and maybe some others it’s only “good business.”

But don’t try to convince me.


Back in two weeks with some alternatives to exclusivity.

‘Til then, happy writing!


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2 thoughts on “Distribution: Exclusivity vs. Going Wide, Part One”

  1. I’m not sure I agree with all your arguments, but I do agree with your conclusion for other reasons. We’ve seen enough shenanigans with KDP Select re page reads and book stuffing and whatever else, I hate to put all my eggs in that basket. Oh, I forgot the canceling of legitimate authors’ accounts on the suspicion that they were guilty of breaking the rules. What do you do if one day Amazon decides you’re the one whose account gets canceled? Or even just suspended for a period of time?

    What if the 50% royalty they’re now offering on certain non-fiction books becomes the new standard rate for everyone?

    I’ve started to hear rumblings from other authors that Amazon is no longer price matching as easily as they once did.

    There are cracks in the Amazon armor and it’s nice to know that whatever happens with them, I’m still making money on Barnes & Noble (for now, anyway), iBooks, and Kobo.

    • Thanks for commenting, Elise. No need to “agree” with anything I post. It’s offered as one prolific writer’s opinion ona variety of topics in writing, publishing, and (to a lesser degree) marketing… for which my main advice is Write More Books. (grin) For what it’s worth, I DO agree with you et al regarding putting all your eggs in one basket, as proved over and over again by much more prolific and productive and successful authors than I.

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