This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain discuss what why they’ve chosen to go wide or opt in to KU (Amazon exclusive) for different projects or different phases of their career.
Question of the week: Are you leaning Wide or KU for your next project?
Crys: Hello, and welcome to The Author Life podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my co-host J Thorn. And this week we have talked before about why versus KU, but what I wanna dig into this week is why we have chosen wider KU for ourselves. And it’s been different for different projects for both of us. I think.
J: Yeah, it absolutely has. I’d love to hear how you wanna frame it. How you wanna frame the conversation. Cause I there’s a few different ways I think we can go, but I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are.
Crys: For me, it’s kind of been a timeline thing, a shifting of priorities. So that could be a focus. I know that you have had different choices, whether it was nonfiction or fiction but as far as like how we dig into it… what are your thoughts?
J: I think my sort of my overarching thought to this and, I think this is something we may have touched upon before, but I wanna stress that you don’t have to choose a career path one way or the other. I think that is that’s often a misconception of folks who maybe don’t know the industry or who are pushing an agenda on one side or the other. It is literally a book by book basis.
And although there’s some caveats there, if you’re writing in a series, it’s hard to split a series between KU and Wide, but for the most part, every project you approach, you can design that project toward a specific distribution method and neither is right or wrong. It’s really depending on what your goals are and what you wanna accomplish.
And there’s pros and cons from each side. And I think the most important thing authors can do is in the very beginning, like when you’re sketching out your MC or when you’re coming up with your clever premise, also be thinking about the distribution. What am I gonna do with this?
Am I gonna try and take this to an agent? Am I gonna go into KU with this? Am I gonna publish it wide? And thinking about the reasons behind that. And I think that’s the most important thing an author can do in that situation.
Crys: So with your first series when you started publishing, I don’t think KU was a thing, was it?
J: It wasn’t, no.
Crys: But it was still only Amazon at that point or was there also Smashwords?
J: There was Smashwords, but it was mostly Amazon.
Crys: Yeah. There was no choices there. So then when KU came out how did that change your thoughts?
J: Honestly, I know other people may have had different thoughts, but when it first came out, it was like a godsend. I can remember people being like, oh my goodness, we’re gonna get paid when people read the book? And that sounds like it should happen, but it never happens that way.
If someone buys your book, you have no idea if they’ve read it or not. Like a paperback book can be handed off four times and resold never opened. Or how many eBooks do people buy? And they just sit on Kindles? Like, the idea that we would get some sort of indicator as to the quality of the book or the or the engagement of the story through page reads was amazing.
And I can remember, the first couple months just being in awe, like hitting the refresh button on the KDP dashboard and seeing the page reads changed. And I’m like, oh my god, this is like happening in real time. As these devices are syncing up, the pages are changing.
Fast forward a few years when Zach and I did The Final Awakening and it was such validation to know that, like I said, if someone bought the book, you don’t know what they do with it, but if you’re in KU, you know if they’re turning pages or not. And if you have a story or a character or a premise that is engaging the reader.
And that’s still crazy. It’s, that’s still amazing when you think about it. I think they’re, we’ve seen the dark side now of KU and we understand what some of the pitfalls were, but like when it first came out, it was incredibly exciting. And it was revolutionary.
Crys: If I just feel really targeted by my unread number on my Kindle right now, J, just saying.
J: I didn’t mean to call you out
Crys: You know what annoys me is– a little aside. Any books you read in KU don’t count toward your read number, like of what’s on your Kindle, cause it removes and…
Crys: so it’s like you haven’t read half of the books on your K on your Kindle. And I’m like, yeah, but I read so many KU books.
Yeah, when I published my first series, it wasn’t really even a consideration at that point because it was romance that I would go wide as a new author at that time. So this is five years ago. At that time wide, unless you were writing really kinky things that Amazon didn’t allow, wide was a non-starter unless you were trying to gun for your letters, your USA Today, or at the time, I think you could get on the New York Times and now it’s basically impossible for indies.
But for new authors, it was basically KU was almost the only viable option if you wanted to make money. That has definitely changed as ereading has spread out beyond the English speaking world or the, first world countries or just beyond the US and Canada. Which is great because I do like the stability that wide offers.
I took my first series wide one that had been in KU for quite a while. I think I took it wide in 2018. So after about a year of publishing, I’d already stopped publishing on that pen name. So it wasn’t really making anything. So there was no reason not to.
And then after a while I had this mental number in my head where when the earnings of my KU exclusive series dropped below, I think it was like $600 in a month, then I would take it wide and earnings definitely dropped, but they became really consistent. So I have not been upset about that at all.
My general intention, though this can always change, cause as you said, like it’s not a career path. My general intention is for anything that is not within the co-written series going forward, that I will start wide and stay wide.
A lot of that’s because there’s so many opportunities that I want to play with that you are excluded from if you are not wide and that’s become a growing factor in the last couple of years, especially for me.
J: Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. I can say I have the The same approach for non-fiction. I, at this point I see no benefit in taking any non-fiction into KU. That just doesn’t seem to be the type of reader. So any non-fiction I book will write will, will start wide and stay wide.
Crys: Yeah. I’m always astonished when I see, particularly craft books, writing craft books, in KU because… I don’t know, my mind just explodes because to me, I’m with you, like there makes no sense to put a wide book or a nonfiction book, which people will pay more for, because it answers problems, into KU and only be making a dollar or two off of it versus $4. If you priced it at $5.99 or whatever.
Would you put any other future stuff into KU where your brain is right now?
J: Yeah, definitely. I think if I were going to, if I were going to treat fiction writing as a day job… What I’m saying is if I took the, like the artistic integrity out and not gonna be the writer in the woods, like I just wanna earn money from my words?
And if I was looking for the most direct way to do that, I would I’d get a K-lytics report in the basic genre that I’m in. I would start going through that research. I would then get into Publisher Rocket and start finding out who are the, highest earning books, I’d start reading those books. And the KU money is what is where, that’s where that is because the behavior is so different, right?
The people who are in KU, they are… they’re actively trying to read as many books as possible. Whereas if you buy one, you can just leave it on your Kindle until you’re ready to read it. You’re not compelled to finish that book and start the next one.
So yeah, I think in that scenario, if you’re, like I said, if you’re not trying to be like super artistic and make a statement and you’re like, no, I just kinda wanna write and earn some money, identifying that that genre, that where there’s a lot of readers and let’s be honest, it’s romance and then like below that it’s thrill. And then like further below that it’s a little sci-fi and then there’s kind everything else.
So it’s like romance or thrillers. Like those are the genres and those are the genres that you’d wanna go KU in if you were take in that approach.
Crys: Yeah, I think we’ll have a bit more to expound on that for next week’s topic. So I don’t wanna go much further, but my question for our listeners are what are the reasons why you are leaning wider KU for your next project or the projects you’ve already done? I’d love to see like where everybody lays in that landscape.
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