Going Wide: Eight key learnings when distributing an e-Book to the Big Five

PS: I know that post scripts are meant to come at the end, but hopefully putting the PS at the front of this blog will save someone some time. As you’ll see, reading down the page, I decided to take my book wide. However, three and a half months later, and I think just one sale, I’ve decided to go back to Kindle Unlimited. Without any advertising, I doubt it will have many more sales there, but I think it’s a better move, considering that all of my sales have been through KDP/Amazon.

Also, reading a thread on Twitter today, I’m delighted with the sales I have achieved through self-publishing Shoot The Moon. The recent US court trial between PRH and SS revealed the staggering fact that ‘out of 58,000 trade titles published per year, half of those titles sell fewer than one dozen books. LESS THAN ONE DOZEN.’

Something to think about, indeed.


And yet more technical stuff I’ve learn along the way.

  1. Price Rises

I was advised by the lovely Joanna Penn not to put a price on the back of my book. I should have listened, but I wanted my book to look like a ‘real book’, so I went ahead and put a price on it anyway. Queue, Ingram Spark raising their prices and my book going into negative (meaning I’d have to pay 10p to them any time a book was ordered!)

In the end I gave up, had my cover re-done without a price and put the book at £10.49 on Ingram Spark – because even at £9.99 I couldn’t then do the recommended 55% sales discount. And that combination (of £10.49 and 55%) gives me the grand total of…. .12p profit a copy! But who is going to buy a romance novel priced any higher than that?

I do think that IS is ludicrously expensive, if you compare them to KDP. And I’ve also found the quality of the latter to be better.

I think that the best advice I got was from ALLi, who gently told me that bookshops really aren’t the place for POD/indie books and I should give up that dream and concentrate on going wide with my e-book instead. ‘What is your goal?’ asked Orna Ross at the London Book Fair. ‘To have as many people read the book as possible,’ I said, ‘and hopefully leave good reviews.’

‘Then you need to go wide with your e-book,’ she said.

And this time, I listened. (And yes, Joanna was right: don’t put the price on the back of your book, however much you want to. But if you do need to change the cover because there’s a price on it, you don’t need a new ISBN to do so – I checked with IS.)

2. What does ‘going wide’ mean?

It means, according to Alli, that you should put your e-book with the big five: KDP, Barnes&Noble’s Nook, Apple Books, Google Play and Kobo Writing Life. They advise that you do these five yourself, then you also put it with Draft 2 Digital, who’ll distribute it elsewhere too. (They also advise that you do ACX or Findlay Voices for audio, but I simply don’t have the strength to go there.)

Since publishing Shoot the Moon last September I’ve had it in KDP Select, meaning that it’s been available to Kindle Unlimited readers and I was able to do one 99p promotion every three months. I think that’s served me well, but I could see the logic in extending my reach further.

NB: Having done all of the work I’m about to outline, in the end I decided to just go with Draft2Digital for three out of the four wide sites: Kobo, Apple and B&N. Google doesn’t choose to use an aggregator. My stand alone book had zilch impact on the other sites and also D2D are far more active in terms of telling me about promotions. Also, if I do a reduced price fortnight, it automatically adjusts the prices for all of the sites. Kobo and B&N are simple to delist. For Apple you have to go through each country and take it off sale – which takes a while.

3. Apple iConnect wouldn’t allow me to make an account

I couldn’t create an Apple Books iConnect account, and it turns out it was because I had PayPal as my payment method and I needed to put in a credit card. No-one at Apple itself could work out what was going on, so that’s a nugget of info well worth knowing as I needed to go to the Developers to find that one out.

4. W8-BEN Tax Withholding Form

You will need to do this form for each of the US sites, so that you avoid them taking 30% tax off you. It’s actually really simple to fill in – but only once you know how. Here’s what you need to do:

W-8BEN Form

I would do the Barnes & Noble one first, so that you’ve got all the information you need. When you move on to Google Play, you get to this point by going into Payment Centre/Settings/Manage Settings and then ticking the second tax information box, called Tax Information Info (not the previous one called United States Tax Exemption Info). This doesn’t ask you to send in a completed form but you’ll do the form on-line within the system.

When you’re filling in the form, if you tick the motion picture and TV royalties box it will generate the Article 12.1 that you put on the B&N form.

5. Vellum won’t keep your files forever!

Possibly my biggest technical hitch to date – and I thank the heavens I only have one published book on there. I hadn’t realised that Vellum is just an app, not a holding box that will store your books/projects permanently. So I hadn’t saved them off the app – and after an update they all… disappeared! Here’s a great post about how to save your work as you go. Apparently I’m not the first rookie to make this mistake, someone on the Facebook Vellum chat said she sees it happening every couple of months. Which makes you wonder why Vellum don’t make this vital fact clearer when you sign up.

Make sure you save your file somewhere else via this option

6. To include tax or not in your book price?

On the Google Play it asked me whether to include tax in my book price. I said yes (after asking on Wide for the Win) – and then this is automatically excluded from the US and Canada when the prices are added below.

7. Do yourself a link list

That looks something like this. Because you’ll end up needing to go back to it again and again.

8. Barnes & Noble Print and E-Book

I’m not sure if I did something wrong, but on the B&N site the book’s now listed as both an ebook and a print book. Perhaps it’s linking through from Ingram Spark? I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t have the will to find out. This has all been quite hard…

Published by Jess Morency

Feature writer, teacher and brand consultant

2 thoughts on “Going Wide: Eight key learnings when distributing an e-Book to the Big Five

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