Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery KU Wide Graphic

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about working with a professional editor. Once I had my manuscript edited and finalized, the next task on my To Do List was deciding whether to distribute the ebook version (we’ll talk about paperbacks another day) exclusively on Amazon through their KDP Select program or go wide and sell through other online retailers such as Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

There’s a huge amount of debate about of exclusive vs. wide, but, to be honest, it wasn’t a hard decision for me. More on what I decided later and why, but first off, let’s go through what exactly it means to be exclusive or go wide and what some of the pros and cons are.

KDP Select & Kindle Unlimited

Established in 2014, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon in certain countries. There are currently over one million titles available. For a flat fee (currently $9.99 a month in the States), users can borrow and read as many books as they want. For voracious readers, this can be real value for money.

When you publish on Amazon, you can opt to enroll in KDP Select and make your book available in Kindle Unlimited. It’s also added to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library where it can be borrowed by Amazon Prime members.

Each month, authors get a cut of the KDP Select Global Fund based upon the number of pages people read in their books. {For reference, in April 2018, the fund was US$21.2 million and the payout was US$0.0045 per page read.} Authors with the most page reads are also eligible for an All-Star bonus payment. Authors enrolled in KDP Select can also take advantage of promotional programs such as Kindle Countdown Deals.

It all sounds great, however, there is one big catch—you have to be exclusive to Amazon for a period of 90 days, which means that you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else. At the end of the 90 day period, you can opt to renew or remove your title from the program.

Going Wide

The other option is to not put all your eggs in one basket and “go wide” by distributing your books on other online sites, the big ones being Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Some Pros & Cons of Each Approach

KDP SELECT / KINDLE UNLIMITED

The Pros

1 – Amazon’s huge market share—Let’s face it, Amazon is enormous. It’s the biggest show in town. Enrolling in KDP Select and making your books available on Kindle Unlimited allows you to tap into a huge pool of potential readers.

2 – Better ranking and visibility—Amazon’s algorithms calculate book rankings based on both sales and page reads. You may have a better chance of ranking higher on Amazon if you’re in KDP Select, which in turn can increase your visibility.

3 – Promotional opportunities—Having a Countdown Deal or making your book free can be a great method for attracting new readers, increasing your rank on Amazon, and, if you have a series, hooking people into reading other books in the series. {Note: If you’re not in KDP Select, there are workarounds you can do with price-matching to get Amazon to make your book free.}

4 – Getting a 70% royalty on books priced less than $2.99—Many people price the first book in their series at 99 cents to draw readers in. If you’re not part of KDP Select, you’ll only get 35% royalty.

The Cons

1 – Getting kicked out—You’ll often hear horror stories about Amazon kicking authors out of Kindle Select, and in some cases off of Amazon altogether, for not abiding by the program terms and conditions. If your ebook is for sale elsewhere online, you’re in trouble. For many people, it isn’t something that they’ve deliberately done. They may have previously offered their book elsewhere and the listing didn’t get taken down or a pirated version may be out there. If you don’t get those listings taken down, you’re out. Amazon also tries to crack down on scammers who artificially inflate page reads. Unfortunately, some innocent authors have been getting caught in the cross-fire and kicked out.

2 – Losing potential income to scammers and cheats—While, on the whole, the indie author community is incredibly supportive of each other, there are some less than scrupulous people who are cheating the system. That means that they’re taking a share of the KDP Global Fund each month that they don’t really deserve. Essentially, they’re taking money out of your pocket.

3 – Cannibalizing sales—Because people can borrow your book, rather than buy it, you’re potentially losing out on sales. Hopefully, the borrows and page reads make up for it.

GOING WIDE

The Pros

1 – Multiple income streams—Because you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you have multiple income streams. If something goes wrong with one of them (maybe you’re kicked off of Amazon), then you haven’t lost everything. Granted, the income you receive from non-Amazon streams may be minuscule in comparison, but every little bit helps.

2 – Building readership in international and emerging markets around the world—As big as Amazon is, it hasn’t taken over everywhere. If you’re focused on the US and UK markets, Amazon is a great way to go, but for other markets, you may find readers more easily through other online retailers.

The Cons

1 – Missing out on promotional opportunities and potential readers—There’s a reason by Kindle Unlimited is popular with many authors. The potential benefits are huge and, by going wide, you’re missing out.

2 – Managing multiple retailers—If you’re only on Amazon, then you only have to deal with Amazon, which makes things easier. If you’re going to distribute your ebook on multiple retailers, then you increase the number of details that you have to manage (e.g.,  pricing, ebook format, sales reporting, book listings and descriptions), especially if you go direct rather than via a publishing aggregator, which we’ll talk about in a future post.

3 – Harder to gain traction—It can be hard to attract readers outside of Amazon. If you’re going to go wide, then you need to play a long game and realize that it may take time to get your ebook discovered.

My Choice: Going Wide

Like I said above, for me the decision was easy—I chose to go wide. There’s something about putting all my eggs in one basket that makes me uneasy. Plus, I’m unnerved by the fact that there’s one dominant player in the ebook market. I kind of like to think that I’m helping to shore up other online retailers, albeit in a incredibly small way, by making my book available on Kobo, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and Barne’s & Noble Nook. In addition, I know that there are people out there who refuse to shop on Amazon or prefer non-Kindle devices and I want to be able to reach them as well.

However, I’m very aware that this might be a bad decision on my part. Cozy mysteries are a very popular genre in Kindle Unlimited. There are lots of cozy readers out there who I may not reach because they do all their reading in Kindle Unlimited and are unlikely to fork out money to buy my book. I’m also missing out on promotional opportunities which could help hook people into future books in my series.

With hindsight, perhaps what I should have done was launched Murder at the Marina in Kindle Unlimited for a period of 90 days to attract readers and get a better Amazon ranking, then removed it and gone wide after that. Maybe that’s the approach that I’ll take with my next series.

Want to know more?

Derek Murphy talks about how he was kicked out of Kindle Unlimited and lost $50,000 overnight.

Reedsy takes you through the two options in their Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution.

David Gaughran talks about the different marketing systems each choice involves—the “KU Hare” who takes a big monthly blast approach vs. the “Wide Tortoise” who adopts a slow and steady drip approach. He also shares stories about what can go wrong on Amazon here, here, and here.

It’s interesting to look back at some indie authors’ thoughts on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited back when it was established including this post by Hugh Howey and this one by Lindsay Buroker.

If you like videos and podcasts, check out Michael La Ronn’s take on whether KDP Select Is Worth It? on Author Level Up, The SciFi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast’s interview with David Gaughran about the Marketing Wide vs. Kindle Unlimited debate, Chris Fox’s Launch to Market video series and why he enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, and the Alliance of Independent Authors’ session on the pros and cons of going wide vs. exclusive.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

Editing—Different types of editing and my experience working with a professional editor.

What do you think of the Kindle Unlimited vs. Going Wide debate? Where do you buy ebooks?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Editing | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Publishing Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to self-publish, rather than go the traditional publishing route. While some people who self-publish choose not to use a professional editor, I felt it was an important part of the process for me and something I was willing to invest in. In this post, I’ll go over the different types of editing, what I did in terms of editing, and how it worked.

Types of Editing

I’m one of those people who likes to put people and things into nice, neat boxes. I even got paid to do that back when I worked in corporate la-la land. Not actual boxes—that would be weird, even for me. And cruel—unless you put air holes in the boxes. No, these were Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator boxes. {You can read more of my musings on MBTI and writing here.}

But I digress. One of the things I found a wee bit frustrating when I started researching what was involved in hiring a professional editor was that everyone was all over the place with the terminology they used for different types of editing. What one person meant by one term was completely different than how someone else used it. Where were the neat, orderly boxes that my soul craved?

Based on what I gleaned in my research and talking to people, this is how I’ve categorized the different types of editing.

EDITORIAL ASSESSMENT

This is what I like to think of as the “Help! I’m not sure I’m on the right track!” type of editing. Early on in the process, writers may choose to have an editorial assessment. Their editor provides them with a letter which identifies their manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as in-depth feedback about things such as plot, characterization, structure, style etc. As a result of this assessment, they may make extensive revisions to their manuscript.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING (aka substantive or structural editing)

When a writer is further along in the process and has probably churned through a few drafts, then developmental editing might be appropriate. Like an editorial assessment, this type of editing also focuses on big-picture issues. The editor will usually provide you with an editorial letter along with margin comments on your manuscript.

LINE EDITING (aka stylistic editing or paragraph-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “copy editing”)

Line editing is less intense than developmental editing and more intense than copy editing. The editor looks at each line in your manuscript in detail. For example, entire sentences may be rewritten or reordered, word choice may be addressed, and some sections may be consolidated while others are expanded. I’ve seen this type of editing described as “making your prose sing.”

COPY EDITING (aka sentence-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “line editing”)

This level of editing is about providing a professional polish to your manuscript. Your editor will address things such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetitive vocabulary, usage, and consistency. He or she may do fact-checking. In my case, my editor pointed out that “Fruit Loops” are really “Froot Loops” and that it’s “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in Disneyland, not “Cinderella Castle.”

PROOFREADING

This is the final step before publication and involves one last pass to look for spelling, grammar, typos etc. that may have slipped through.

My Editing Process

Once I figured out what level of editing I wanted—namely, copy editing—I made my first mistake. I googled “copy editors” and was quickly overwhelmed. There were so many potential editors out there, all offering different types of services with dramatically different rates and processes. How was a confused writer supposed to choose the best way forward?

Well, in my case, after scarfing down a few soothing Oreo cookies, I turned to some of my trusted writing groups and buddies for advice and recommendations. I then made a shortlist of potential editors and contacted them to request details about their approach, rates, process, how many passes they did, and availability.

Chatting with them via email gave me an idea of their style and whether we might work well together, but the most important thing I did was to ask for a sample edit. I was amazed at the differences between the samples I got back. If an editor responded with an overly effusive email telling me what a great writer I was and that there were hardly any suggested edits on my sample, I crossed them off my list. An editor who didn’t try to flatter me, had extensive suggested edits and provided rationale/explanation for the suggestions made the cut. Cause, when you’re looking to publish something, having someone who makes you feel good is way down the priority list. Having someone who can help make your manuscript the best it can be is what’s important.

The other key thing I did was look at books that editors had worked on. If they looked polished and well-edited, then that was a good sign.

After I found someone who I thought was a good fit, whose rates I could afford, and who could work within my time frames, I hit the go button, sent him my manuscript, and forked over some money (half up front).

I also pointed out particular areas of concern I wanted him to keep an eye out for. For example, although I write in American English, having been an expat in Scotland and New Zealand for twelve years means British and Kiwi expressions sneak into my writing. And, I sent him a detailed timeline (because I write cozy mysteries, it’s really important to map out the murder, alibis etc. and make sure the timing is right) and a draft style sheet with character names, descriptions, locations etc.

My editor did two passes, each of which took two weeks. I thought this was a really good approach. It’s so much easier to catch things if you have two rounds of edits. The whole process took about seven weeks, which included time in-between each pass for my changes.

My Editor

My editor, Chris Brogden of EnglishGeek Editing, was awesome. He was easy to work with, delivered on time, and provided explanations behind his suggested changes. I really appreciated his keen eye and thoughtful edits. Most importantly, he respected my voice and style, making my words even better.

Chris handles the copy editing side of things, while his colleague, J.H. Moncreiff, focuses on developmental editing. I haven’t worked with J.H. in her editorial capacity, but I can tell you that she is an amazing writer.

If you touch base EnglishGeek Editing, be sure to tell them I said hi.

Want to know more?

Writer’s Digest talks about 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You, But Should.

Jane Friedman is always a great go-to place for writing resources, including this post on How to Find an Editor as a Self-Published Author.

Reedsy has helpful tips How to Work with a Fiction Editor, as well as an e-mail course on How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript Like a Pro

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a helpful guide to Editorial Rates. You can find more information about how much you should expect to pay over at The Write Life’s post on Looking for a Book Editor?

If you like videos, check out Chris Fox’s How to Edit Your Novel series, How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor on The Creative Penn, and Jenna Moreci’s Different Types of Editors and How to Choose an Editor {Note: Jenna uses strong language at times, these may be NSFW.}

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design—Determining what kind of cover fits your genre, preparing a design brief, and DIY cover design.

Draft #743—How I went from a blank sheet of paper to finalizing a draft to send to my beta readers, as well as how long the whole process took. {Spoiler alert: It took quite a while.}

Beta Readers—What beta readers are, how I found mine, what kind of feedback I asked them for, and processing their feedback and making changes to my manuscript.

Going Indie—Difference between traditional and self-publishing, pros/cons of each approach, and why I chose to go indie.

What are your experiences with editing?

Murder at the Marina - Pre-Order Banner (All ERetailers)

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.