Kindle Unlimited vs. Wide Book Launch Strategies

There are many pieces that go into a successful book launch strategy, and frankly, every successful author has a strategy that is unique to them. I’m not in the business of talking about unique one-off ways to find success, though. I’m all about finding the common threads between hundreds of authors and putting them together in something cogent and relevant to your life.

Luckily, some of the strategies used by authors overlap enough that we can create a likely path for success when it comes to your book launch. Authors disagree, and this might not work for everybody. However, when you talk to enough authors, you get a sweeping view of the landscape, and herein I will talk about what is successful for most authors most of the time. Your results will vary.

Mainly, the goal of this article is to suss out the answer to an age-old question: Do I launch your book on Kindle Unlimited or wide on all platforms?

This is the quintessential problem authors face with every book launch, and while there is no right answer, there are specific strategies that will guide your book launch that can help answer this question for you.

Before you read this article, I highly recommend you read this article about the secret to making a living as a self-published author.

What is a book launch?

What is a book launch?

Very simply, a book launch is when you publish your book and make it available for the public. This is a very fancy way of saying that you hit the launch button on the project in your KDP, or other, dashboard. In reality, this is an overly simplistic view of the process, even though it is technically correct (possibly the best kind of correct).

The reason we say book launch instead of just using the word publish is that launching a book is so much more in-depth than hitting the publish button. It involved many aspects of marketing, which when harnessed properly make your book launch more successful. Book launch strategies can, and should, start months before a book is published in order for them to maximize effectiveness.

That is what the majority of this post will be about, the launch strategies that differ between Kindle Unlimited and publishing your book wide to all platforms.

What is Kindle Unlimited?

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What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is the customer-facing name for the KDP Select program. When you publish a book with Kindle, they ask if you would like to enroll in KDP Select, and that program is the same as Kindle Unlimited – KDP Select=Kindle Unlimited.

By enrolling in KDP Select, you are granted certain luxuries which are not available to authors who opt out of the program. For instance, when you enroll in KDP Select, you are allowed one “countdown deal” every 90-days which is where you can drop the price of your book and still claim your higher royalty percentage of 70%, instead of the 35% which is usually offered to Amazon books priced below $2.99.

The biggest advantage of KDP Select, however, is that your book is placed in the Kindle Unlimited program, where readers pay a flat fee to read as many books as they would like that are enrolled in the program. It’s like the Netflix of reading.

In return, authors make money every time a Kindle Unlimited subscriber reads a page of your book. That amount earned is incredibly low on a per page basis (and changes every month), but over the course of a month and many thousands of page reads, it can add up to a very nice sum. I know people who make upwards of $60,000-$90,000+ per month on Kindle Unlimited page reads alone.

Why do so many authors enroll in KDP Select

Authors enroll in KDP Select because it allows them to make money without the reader purchasing their book. Since the subscriber pays a single monthly fee, anything they read which is available in the program is absolutely free…and getting somebody to try a free thing is way easier than getting somebody to pay for something.

Since the entry cost for a Kindle Unlimited book is nothing for the subscriber, and since Kindle Unlimited readers are generally voracious readers, the odds that they will try any book offered to them in their genre is very high. As a quick note, longer books tend to do better in KDP Select because people have to read many more pages to complete them. If you write short novels, the benefits of KDP select will reduce considerably, but they may still make sense for you.

What does "going wide" with a book launch mean?

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What does “going wide” with a book launch mean?

The other option for authors when planning their book launch is to “go wide”. What does going wide mean? It means that instead of enrolling in KDP Select, an author chooses to place their book on all platforms, including but not limited to iBooks, Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, among many others. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of places an author can choose to distribute their books.

Uploading your book to so many places might sound daunting, but there are services like Smashwords and Draft2Digital which can upload your books to most major platforms for you so that you only have to upload your book once. However, there are caveats to this which we will discuss below.

Notice that when you “go wide” you will also be uploading your book to Amazon. You will just not be enrolling it into the KDP Select program. It is a common misnomer that going wide precludes you from publishing your book on Amazon, but that is not the case. It means you are publishing on other platforms in addition to Amazon.

Why would anybody go wide with their book launch?

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Why would anybody go wide with their book launch?

If Kindle Unlimited is so amazing and can pay you for letting people read your book for free, why would anybody do anything else? Well, the reasons are varied, but the main one deals with exclusivity. When you enroll in Kindle Unlimited, you agree that your book will not be available for purchase ANYWHERE else, including your own website. Enrollment periods last for 90 days, which means you are tied to the Amazon platform exclusively for three months.

That means your book will only be available on Amazon, and only available on Kindle Unlimited in the USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and Australia.

Since Amazon is over 80% of the ebook market, that doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Maybe, except that Amazon is only 80% of the USA based market. In many other countries, it is not the most popular, and in some countries, it’s not even second place. This is a problem if you want to have a global footprint with your books, since people in many other countries often don’t even register Amazon as a viable option.

Additionally, some readers simply hate Amazon and won’t deal with them, even in the USA, so you are alienating yourself from those readers by not giving them the option to purchase your books.

Are there other reasons not to choose Kindle Unlimited for your book launch?

Yes. Kindle Unlimited is a problem if you want to diversify your sources of income. Being overly reliant on one source of revenue can be disastrous if that source dries up. For a company to be truly resilient, they need to have many streams of income, and to never be overly reliant on any revenue source for the majority of their revenue. That way, when that income stream changes, and they will assuredly change, you won’t face a catastrophe in your own business and risk everything you have built.

Think about it. What happens if Kindle Unlimited goes away tomorrow? Everybody who relies on it as their only source of income will take a massive hit, and have to build up their businesses on other sites from scratch. Most of them will not be able to do so, and risk having to abandon their careers altogether.

Of course, that’s not very likely.

What is likely is to have Amazon flag your KDP Select account for “suspicious page reads” and refuse to pay you for page reads you accumulated. Yes, this happens to authors all the time, even ones who are running a legitimate business. When it does, they are not paid the money they were relying on to survive, often with tragic results.

Are there problems with going wide for your book launch?

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Are there problems with going wide for your book launch?

Going wide is not without its problems. The first of them is that they have to directly compete with KDP Select authors. The biggest e-reader platform in the world, by a wide margin, is the Kindle, and the American market is still the biggest consumer of ebooks in the world. In 2018, 26% of Kindle users used Kindle Unlimited, and it is almost impossible to compete with free books. By not being enrolling in KDP Select, authors are alienating themselves from a fourth of the Amazon book market, which is a huge decline in your potential reach.

Depending on the week, 90-98% of indie books in the top 100 of most categories will be in Kindle Unlimited, which means you will likely never rank on Kindle if you do not enroll in KDP Select. Luckily, this is less of an issue when going wide, which we’ll discuss later.

Additionally, placing your books on multiple platforms adds complexity to your life. Even if you use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or Smashwords which can place your book on dozens of platforms at once, you will still want to manually add your book to at least Amazon, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo in order to maximize the platform’s author tools. For instance, you can only apply for Kobo deals if you upload your book directly to Kobo. If you use an aggregator platform, you are not taking advantage of a big part of the tools Kobo has set up to help authors be found by readers.

Which strategy do you choose for your book launch?

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Which strategy do you choose for your book launch?

So, which should you choose? Well, that option comes down to personal taste. For people who are at the beginning of their careers, or who don’t want to deal with the muss and fuss of many platforms, perhaps Kindle Unlimited is the right choice. However, if an author wants to have more than one revenue stream, is willing to become an expert at marketing, and wants a global reach, then they will likely want to go wide with their book launch.

Either way, you can expect that Kindle will account for 30-50% of all sales, with either Kindle Unlimited or wide sales accounting for the remainder. I know many people who make 70% of their income from Kindle Unlimited page reads, and many who make 70% from sales on platforms that are not Amazon.

This why there are two divergent book launch strategies, which we will talk about now. One is designed to maximize Amazon page reads. The other is to maximize sales on all platforms. They are polar opposite strategies, and the biggest mistake people make is using the wrong strategy for the book launch strategy they chose.

The Kindle Unlimited Book Launch Strategy

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The Kindle Unlimited Book Launch Strategy

The Kindle Unlimited book launch strategy is all about getting your books ranked as high as possible when they first launch, so they appear in the top 100 of Amazon for your particular category. Kindle Unlimited subscribers love to scour the top 100 books in their favorite category and grab anything they haven’t read yet, so the rank of your book is incredibly important if you choose the enroll in the KDP Select program.

In order to utilize this strategy effectively, you need to spend the vast majority of your marketing budget during the first week your book releases, so you can try to push your book up the charts as high as it can go, and hope that it will remain at the top for a while. This is something authors call “stickiness”. If your book can remain in the top 100 without much additional marketing budget after launch, it is said to “be sticky”.

Kindle Unlimited readers are voracious in their literary appetite and are always looking for new books. They scour the top of the charts often and download anything new that catches their eye. Even if they don’t read it immediately, they are highly likely to download it to their device so they can read it in the near future. It is because of the voracious nature of Kindle Unlimited readers that ranking high at launch is so important. Your goal is to get as many people to download your book into their device as possible so that they will read your book quickly, and your best shot for that to happen is during your book launch.

Why is reading your book quickly so important to a successful book launch?

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-Why is reading your book quickly so important to a successful book launch?

While page reads are always important, the reason you need to maximize your page reads quickly is because of All-Star bonuses. Amazon rewards the top authors in their Kindle Unlimited program with cash bonuses. Here is a list of KDP Select All-Star bonuses by marketplace.

Author ranking Bonus amount
1-10 $25,000
11-20 $10,000
21-30 $5,000
31-50 $2,500
51-100 $1,000
Title ranking Bonus amount
1-10 $2,500
11-50 $1,000
51-100 $500

Author ranking Bonus amount
1-10 £2,000
11-20 £1,500
21-30 £750
31-100 £500
Title ranking Bonus amount
1-10 £500
11-50 £250
51-100 £100

Author ranking Bonus amount
1-10 €7,500
11-20 €5,000
21-30 €3,500
31-50 €2,500
51-100 €1,500
101-150 €500
Title ranking Bonus amount
1-10 €750
11-50 €500
51-100 €250

As you can see, the All-Star bonuses for American are substantially higher than any other marketplace, which is why authors focus their attention so heavily on the Amazon US store. The size of the cash prize is why spending your marketing budget so quickly is critically important for your success. Launch month is the best time to make your bonus, because so few people have read your book already. Once your book has been out for a few months, many people will have already read your book, making your chance to bonus much lower.

Going wide comes with no bonus, so it is less important to spend your money quickly, and while you should still focus your ad spend on release week, you do not have to do so to the extent that it needs to happen as a KDP Select author.

Doing a rapid-release book launch can help you get your Amazon All-Star bonus

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-Doing a rapid-release book launch can help you get your Amazon All-Star bonus

One of the most successful strategies when it comes to an author’s career is the concept of the rapid release. This is the idea of building up a back catalog of 3-5 books in a series and releasing each new installment 3-5 weeks after the last one. This strategy is tweaked on Amazon, because of the all-star bonus. Instead of releasing books every 3-5 weeks, KDP Select authors often release their entire series in a single week.


As you can see from the above charts, you receive a bonus based on your title ranking and your author ranking. While rapidly releasing multiple books in a single month won’t help your title ranking, it can vastly increase your author ranking. If you have three books that release within a single calendar month, then the pages read from all three of those book releases will count toward your author rank.

This, in turn, gives you a much better chance of receiving an All-Star bonus from Amazon. This is why many KDP Select authors launch a three book series in a single week, at the beginning of their month, to maximize their ability to get page reads and receive their All-Star bonus. Releasing books at the beginning of the month is important because it gives you the most time to collect page reads. For this reason, it is also the most competitive time to launch as well.

Unfortunately, many authors not using Kindle Unlimited use this same strategy, which is less effective in garnering sales than releasing every 3-5 weeks. Why? Because people are not likely to buy a book they are not going to read immediately. Instead, they will wait until they have finished the previous book. This is not true with Kindle Unlimited, where people can add books to their library immediately even if they are not going to read it right away.

Additionally, wide authors who release in this manner face increased competition from KDP Select authors when they launch early in the month for absolutely no reason. Moving their book launch to the middle of the month wouldn’t hurt them since they aren’t after page reads, and they would face much less competition.

Focus on Amazon followers before your book launch

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-Focus on Amazon followers before your book launch

If you are releasing on Kindle Unlimited, you should focus on getting readers to follow you on Amazon. You can do this by running Amazon giveaways centered around the products that readers are most likely to buy. In order to set up an Amazon giveaway, go to the product you would like to giveaway and scroll to the bottom of the page, or follow theinstructions given here.

Most authors who run giveaways end up giving away ebooks, but the true value of giveaways is to have Amazon feature your giveaway in their newsletters. If you pick the right product and Amazon features it, you could get tens of thousands of followers instead of a few hundred. Amazon does not feature ebook giveaways in their newsletters. However, they do feature their own products frequently.

My recommendation is to choose a giveaway from the Amazon line of tablets or e-readers. I never go with the cheapest option, because it has the least number of slots on the newsletter and most people choose that option for their giveaway. I personally choose either the most expensive e-reader or Fire tablet option available and offer to give away up to two instead of one, to maximize subscribers. The more subscribers you have, the more readers Amazon will push your product to during your book launch.

A word of warning, though, don’t run giveaways too often, as the same people subscribe to every giveaway. People only have to follow you once before they are able to enter ALL your giveaways, forever. If you run your giveaways too often, you will keep accumulating the same subscribers. Because of this, I recommend running only Amazon giveaways every three months to six months and focusing on big prizes when you do run them.

-AMS Ads are crucial to have book launch success on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon ads are more effective for a Kindle Unlimited author than for a wide author because 1) KDP Select authors get paid on both page reads and people who buy and 2) using the word Unlimited as your keyword gives you a huge advantage as it’s by far the most popular search term on the Kindle. Wide authors should also learn Amazon ads, but for the Kindle Unlimited author, it’s essential.

-The takeaways from the Kindle Unlimited book launch strategy

The focus of the KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited book launch strategy is to get people reading your books FAST. This is so you can maximize your page read during your book launch month and push your author rank as high as possible to receive the coveted All-Star bonus. However, even if you don’t receive the All-Star bonus, hitting the top of the ranking will allow you to be found by more Kindle Unlimited subscribers who will add your book to their devices immediately, thus boosting your page reads for the first months of launch.

This strategy is all about hitting fast with the most marketing muscle over a short period of time. Because of that, this strategy sees big sales spikes in sales and then rapid drops as your advertising budget is exhausted after the first week, but it should lead to a tapering of page reads that continue until your next launch, as long as it is within the next 90-days.

The "Going Wide" Book Launch Strategy

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The “Going Wide” Book Launch Strategy

If the Kindle Unlimited book launch strategy is all about hitting quick and making a splash in the rankings, then the “Going Wide” Book Launch Strategy is about a slow burn that keeps sales consistently trickling in throughout the month. Instead of spending all your marketing budget on the launch week, with the wide strategy you spread your money out across different platforms and countries, making sure to target each one to maximize the most popular bookseller in that country.

People who go wide don’t have the ability to take advantage of the rabid reader pool that exists among Kindle Unlimited authors. Their readers are generally more casual, and more likely to sit back and wait for something worthy of their money. This is not to say that authors who go wide don’t have rabid readers, but those readers are not likely to buy everything that launches since every book costs them money. The going wide strategy is all about creating a decent living by accumulating many pockets of readers from all around the world.

Spread out your marketing budget throughout the month in order to maximize your wide book launch

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-Spread out your marketing budget throughout the month in order to maximize your wide book launch

Instead of launching quickly and burning through your entire budget on launch week, it’s much more important for the wide author to keep a maintain a consistent marketing budget throughout the month. Unlike Kindle Unlimited readers who are often on their device daily, or even hourly, you never know when your perfect reader will pick up their device. You can’t expect them to pick it up the week of your launch, so you need to catch them when they are ready to read.

Additionally, you will need to become an expert on more than one platform, and the best way to entice readers to buy on each one. While KDP Select authors can focus much of their energy on AMS ads, you will need to become an expert in Facebook ads, and possibly Bookbub ads as well, though it is very easy to make expensive mistakes with Bookbub ads. You can add other advertising platforms as well, but you can’t rely solely on Amazon, because your audience is not solely on Amazon.

Find the right platform for the right country if you want to have book launch success

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-Find the right platform for the right country if you want to have book launch success

Every country has its own dominant platform, and they differ wildly. It’s important to find those platforms for each country you target. In Canada, for instance, you should focus more of your attention to Kobo than Amazon. Luckily, companies like Books2Read make it easy to create one line that directs readers to many platforms.

-Native uploading to each platform

As we talked about above, companies like Smashwords and Draft2Digital will upload your files to many sites for you, but you still want to make sure to natively upload your books to at least Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo, if nowhere else.

Once you have done that, you can enroll in any special deals, or reach out to account reps at each company to try to be involved in their promotions. Don’t worry about uploading to every platform, just the most popular ones, and then let your aggregator do the rest. A note: only upload to iBooks from a Mac. It’s impossible from any other type of computer.

Bookbub is your best friend when doing a wide book launch

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-Bookbub is your best friend when doing a wide book launch

While Bookbub is important for the KDP Select author, it can make or break the success of a wide author’s career. If you don’t know what Bookbub is, it’s the biggest newsletter in the world for book fans. They have millions of book fans segmented into tons of different categories.

Best of all, when you release a new book, Bookbub sends an email to all of your followers, for free. They’ll even send preorder notices to your followers once you have over 1,000 fans. It’s very hard to get a Bookbub featured deal, but everybody can create a Bookbub account and start collecting followers. The best thing about Bookbub followers is that you know they love books. The trick is getting them to like your books.

Free series starters give readers a way into your world with no cost during a book launch

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-Free series starters give readers a way into your world with no cost

Just because you don’t have the advantage of Kindle Unlimited doesn’t mean you can’t give new readers free books to read. The free series starter has been denounced in many circles, but there is still a good reason why it will work for you. Especially as a new author, a free series starter gives readers a no-cost way to enter your world and try it out. It’s a great way to promote your series, and if done correctly it will propel readers to buy the rest of your series at full price.

Don’t put out a free series starter until you have at least two other books in the series. If you release a free book too early, then there is nothing to monetize when they finish that first book, and nowhere for them to go.

Readers are wary to try new authors, especially when they can’t read your books for free through Kindle Unlimited, so you need to meet them where they are and give them a free, or at most $.99 series starter to allow them an easy way to love your work. If you want to learn more about sell-though, you can check out this article about it.

A big mailing list is critical to have successful book launch success as a wide author

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-A big mailing list is critical to have successful book launch success as a wide author

Kindle Unlimited gives authors many structural advantages over authors who choose not to enroll in KDP Select. One of those advantages is that they don’t have to worry as much about a mailing list because all of their readers are pooled in one place. On top of that. Amazon helps push their book to readers, and even brand new readers are much more likely to try books for free, even the first time they find an author.

I still think having a mailing list is critical for every author because it gives YOU control over you own the data instead of a big corporation. However, for a wide author, it’s even more important because you can’t rely on Amazon to push your information out for you to all your readers. You have to be in control of your own destiny in that respect. I personally do book marketing for authors to help them build their mailing list. However, I don’t promote mailing lists because I help build them for people. Instead. Instead, I help build them for people because I believe in lists. If you want more information on how I can help you build your list, you can click here.

I am not usually the first stop on anybody’s list building journey though. In order to build your list at first, I highly recommend Instafreebie and Bookfunnel. They are low cost ways to join group promos and build a list of engaged readers. However, their effectiveness drops considerable after a few months, because each platform only has a finite amount of readers. I wrote about five low cost, yet effective, marketing strategies that won’t break the bank in this post.

-Takeaways for the “go wide” book launch strategy

The “go wide” strategy is all about cherry-picking the best readers from around the world and amalgamating them into a sustainable source of income. No one country or platform is going to be as powerful as Amazon, but combining them together you can create a profitable revenue model.

In order to be successful as a wide author, you need to be better at marketing than if you’re focused on KDP Select. You need to be able to master Facebook Ads, AMS ads, and more, build your mailing list, and get involved in many more promotions than somebody who is exclusive to Amazon, where people can read books for free. This means it takes a lot more time, but if you can learn it, the foundation is much more stable than relying on one platform.

Using this strategy, you won’t be spending your entire marketing budget in one week (unless you’re doing something special like a USA Today bestseller run). However, you will still spend the same amount of money as a Kindle Unlimited Author, just in a very different way. While the KDP Select author spends their money quickly to maximize readthrough, you are trying to make sure to be available to your readers when they are ready to find you.

Takeaways for the "go wide" book launch strategy

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This post was written because authors have asked me a thousand times whether they should go wide or be exclusive to Kindle. I made this post because I was sick of answering “I don’t know”, because the truth was that there is no right answer. There is only a right answer for you. But whichever way you choose, you need to make sure to utilize the book launch strategy that is right for you.

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