Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:18:36 — 63.7MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS | More
Do you want to make your books available to readers in every format, in every online store and library, in every country? If yes, it's time to go wide for the win! In today's episode with Erin Wright, we discuss what ‘going wide' means, why libraries are so important, and tips for publishing wide wherever you are on the author journey.
In the introduction, International insights into Amazon's global reach [ALLi blog]; Futures Thinking mini-course [Coursera]; GPT-3 generated and human-edited article [The Guardian]; How to edit writing by a robot [The Guardian]; GPT-3 generated article on productivity reaches the top of Hacker News [The Verge]; Writing with the Machine [Robin Sloan]; GPT-3 as an idea machine [Matt Webb, Interconnected]; Lessons learned from 9 years as a full-time author entrepreneur;
Today's show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn
Erin Wright is the USA Today best-selling author of 14 romance novels and also co-runs the Wide for the Win Facebook group, the largest gathering of authors who publish wide.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.
- What does publishing wide really mean?
- How going wide includes libraries as well — and we all love libraries!
- The different readers that Kindle Unlimited and wider stores attract
- The marketing principles used when publishing wide
- The benefits of multi-author box sets
- Wide for the Win Facebook group
You can find Erin Wright at ErinWright.net.
Transcript of Interview with Erin Wright
Joanna: Erin Wright is the USA Today best-selling author of 14 romance novels and also set up the Wide for the Win Facebook group, the largest gathering of authors who publish wide. Welcome, Erin.
Erin: Hi. Good to be here.
Joanna: I'm very excited to talk to you today.
Tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Erin: I was actually born a military brat. My dad was in the Marine Corps for 20 years. And then when he retired, we moved to this tiny town of 300 people in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. And I promptly hated it with all of my being.
I was in junior high at that point and there were 15 other kids in my grade. Fifteen kids total in my grade. And all of them had been together since kindergarten and I was the outsider and I was miserable.
Anyway, life goes on and I ended up in the library world for seven years, including 18 months as the library director. And then I started teaching part-time, going to school full-time, and trying to make ends meet by doing side hustles like I would proofread for authors or do PA work, that sort of thing.
I got this really horrific manuscript one day. The author had bought it from a ghostwriter and wanted me to just clean it up a bit. I tried but I was like, ‘How about if I just rewrite this from the ground up? Oh, and how about if I just write books two and three also?'
And so I just, like, I took this and ran with it. It was only supposed to be a standalone but I ended up making it a trilogy for the guy. And so then he was begging me to continue writing stories for him after the trilogy was done.
But my husband is like, ‘You are being an idiot. You're spending lots of money to go to school so you can teach full-time and make very little money as a teacher. You're also writing good books for someone else, so they can make lots of money from your hard work. Why don't you quit teaching, quit school, quit ghostwriting, and write for yourself?'
And I have to say, my husband and I are both pretty blunt people. And so that's one of the reasons why we get along. And I was like, ‘All right, fine. You're right.' So, I started writing under my own name Accounting for Love in the fall of 2016.
And then I went full-time as an author, no more side hustles, no more being a PA or proofreading or whatever in the summer of '18. So, I'm the primary breadwinner of my family and this is how I make my money, by writing Western romance. I don't have another revenue stream or anything else.
And ironically enough, I am actually back in that tiny Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. My husband and I, we're traveling around the U.S. in an RV and exploring. And then the pandemic hit and we settled down at my parents' farm in Idaho. And we're hanging out here and my parents are religious and they actually have decided to go on a mission and then will be gone for 18 months and have asked us to watch the farm while they're gone.
So, I will actually be here until April of 2022. Not that I'm counting or anything but… But the good news is, is that as an adult I don't hate it here nearly as much as I did as a kid!
Joanna: You've got the internet so you can be out in the world. I love that your husband encouraged you like that and could see the business potential of writing. I have a very supportive husband, but back in 2008 when I was looking at this, it was not really a viable career, but things have obviously changed. It's fascinating that you've done it this way and so quickly.
I want to focus on publishing wide today.
Why don't you define what publishing wide is? And why do you care so much about it?
Erin: This is actually a debate in the author community. Most times when someone says, ‘I am wide,' they mean in reference to their ebooks.
There are really three main formats that you can have your books in: print, ebook, audiobook.
When you say, ‘I'm wide,' you're going to be confusing the person you're talking to, as you're usually referring to the ebook portion of that. And the reason why that's such a big deal is that Amazon has this incentive for you to be exclusive to them specifically in the ebook realm.
If you are exclusive to Amazon with your ebooks, then you're in a program called Kindle Unlimited and you get paid for page reads and you get extra visibility and all these other sorts of things.
One thing that is asked, I would say every day, probably, is, ‘Can I be exclusive with my ebooks but be wide with my paperbacks and my audio books?' And the answer is yes, Kindle Unlimited only affects ebooks. It does not affect paperbacks or print, or paperbacks or audiobooks.
So, to be wide means to be published on more than one storefront. So, you're covering a wide variety of storefronts, right? It makes sense. The big ones are Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble. But there are lots of other smaller storefronts.
[Note from Joanna. I also have a solo episode about this. Exclusivity vs Publishing Wide for Ebooks, Print and Audio.]
There's other reader subscription programs out there. Everybody knows about Kindle Unlimited, but there's also Scribd. And I know there's several other reading programs out there and they're just escaping my brain at the moment. Kobo Plus just started up in Canada now.
There's a lot more to the world than just Amazon. And there are a lot of readers outside of Amazon.
I personally really care about being wide because monopolies make me nervous. And I feel like if everybody is on Amazon, that pretty much makes it a monopoly. And only on Amazon. So, there's definitely the monopoly thing.
There's also the library part for me. Like I said, I was in the library world for seven years, and so having my books available in libraries is something that I genuinely care about a lot.
And if you are in Kindle Unlimited and exclusive to Amazon, you cannot distribute your ebooks anywhere else. You can't even give it away for free from your own website. They cannot be bought by libraries. They cannot be purchased, borrowed, bought, read for free in any way, shape or form except for through Amazon. Period, end of story. And I just really don't like being told what to do.
Joanna: I love that. For me, I also come back in the word ‘independent,' the independent author, and I had put this in the group the other day, when you were talking about what to call people in the group. And to me, like you said, you're the main breadwinner for your family.
If your only income was coming from one company, then potentially that is a risk and you're not independent. It could just be like having a day job and then getting laid off in the pandemic, which is, obviously, happening to a lot of people right now and it's a difficult time. It's also that protection against if one thing fails, then you have other things going on.
Erin: Yes. And that's actually one of the things that even in the wide world, I am a little bit more unusual, is that I actually make more of my income from wide storefronts than I do on Amazon.
I didn't start out that way. I originally made like 80% of my income from Amazon when I first went wide, and then it dropped to 60% and then it dropped to 50%, and then I just recalculated it maybe a month or so ago. And it changes from month to month. But, on average, my latest average figure was 42% of my income comes from Amazon, and all of the rest of my sales come from wide storefronts and libraries and such.
For me, putting my books into KU would be career suicide. I would be cutting out 60% of my income.
And I just don't have any desire to do that. And then there's also the fact that I actually don't buy ebooks from Amazon. That's my own thing. I refuse to buy ebooks from Amazon. I prefer Kobo, but I'll buy from Apple or Barnes & Noble or Google Play ebooks, but I don't buy from Amazon.
So, if the book is only available on Amazon, I just don't buy it. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are like me and I want to reach all the readers who would potentially want to read my books and that means going where they're at, not just where it's most easiest for me, because just publishing to one storefront, that's easier than publishing 10 or 15 or whatever.
Joanna: I like that. And we're not saying, ‘don't publish on Amazon.' We're saying, just to be clear, people who may not have done this before, it's just a checkbox that you can basically tick, and if you tick the checkbox, then you can't publish anywhere else. But you can still publish on Amazon even when you publish everywhere else.
Joanna: That's important to know. And you have your books on Amazon. It's just that you also have them elsewhere.
I hear you on the libraries because you came in in 2016 into this movement and we did not have that for many years. That was impossible for us. And I think Hoopla is one of the apps that you…you mentioned some apps.
I think you can get ebooks and audiobooks through Hoopla. Is that correct?
Erin: Yes. That's a library app, Hoopla, OverDrive. There's Bibliotheca, Biblio. There's a bunch of different library programs out there. OverDrive is the largest. There's Baker & Taylor, Access 360.
Every library can choose which vendor they want to buy their ebooks and audiobooks from. And some vendors or some libraries may choose multiple vendors if they have enough of a budget. And so it isn't just saying, ‘Well, there's a box out there somewhere that I checkmark libraries and all of my books go to all of the libraries in the world.' There are different companies that will get you to different libraries.
So, you do want to make sure that you're reaching all of the different libraries by going through different venues. D2D, Smashwords, PublishDrive, Streetlib are your four main distributors and they will all get you on to different platforms.
The majority of them you can get through two. You can get through the important ones just by picking two of those distributors. But yeah, there isn't one place. You cannot pick just one distributor and get to every single platform on the planet. There isn't a single distributor that does that.
Joanna: I think this is important. I think that wide is a mindset, really.
There wasn't exclusivity when I started publishing, but initially, you could not publish to ebook stores unless you were American. That actually was in place for the first few years. I could go through Smashwords to get into the Kindle Store, but it was only for Americans for the first, I think, a year or so during the early phase, and then they started branching out to international markets.
But the truth is, it's still not available to every author in the world. A lot of authors can't get paid in their local currencies. Some readers obviously can't access Amazon.
So, this is the other thing, it's acknowledging that the world is much bigger than the USA. And everyone listening knows I love Americans, but I do find that sometimes people forget that there's a whole big world out there.
Erin: What? There's nothing beyond the borders of America! I refuse to believe it.
Joanna: Exactly. But I mean, even in America, like you're saying, there are readers like yourself who are like, ‘I buy on a different platform or I buy in a different format.' And so to serve a wide audience it's having this mindset.
How do people make that switch if they want to? Because you said, it didn't start that way in terms of your income wide, and there is a dip, isn't there? If people move from exclusive to wide, there can really be a dip in income.
What's your advice for people who feel like they might want to switch to publishing wide?
Erin: When I first started publishing, I published in KU because everybody around me who I knew as an author was in KU, literally 100%. And so the idea of going wide was like one of those weird things that people talked about but it was like, ‘Well, that isn't actually a real viable career option.'
But I didn't last very long in KU. I really don't like being locked down to one platform. And I started to discover things. I was so new back then. I didn't know that I couldn't get my books into libraries and I didn't know all these other things. I was like, ‘What?'
And so I thought, ‘Screw this. I'm going wide.' And I actually flip-flopped a little bit, something I tell people never to do, but I did. And it wasn't until the spring of 2017 I believe where…something like that. Anyway, where I stayed and I stuck being wide.
In the Wide for the Win group, obviously, my transferring to wide has happened a long time ago. And I only had a couple of books at that point, anyway. I was a nobody. I was making very little money before. I was making very little money afterwards. Not a big deal.
But for people who have built up quite the following on KU but are wanting to go wide so that all of their income isn't dependent upon one storefront and their page reads can't all be taken away one day, there's a lot of scary things about being exclusive.
One of the things to keep in mind is that you are starting over. There's this suggestion out there that I've heard that people say, ‘Well, when you're a brand-new author, you might as well just go into KU and get some exposure that way and then you can go wide later.' And I find that to be really horrific advice because the KU audience and the wide audience are two very different audiences.
You may get a few people who follow you and start buying your books instead of getting them for free through KU, but the majority of them are not going to. And if you start out in KU and then go wide, all you're doing is making yourself have to build up your audience twice. It's twice as much work. Why would you want to do that?
I relate it to when you're going to college. When you were coming right out of high school, all of your friends are in college. You're in college. Everybody is broke. It's all cool. You're sleeping on sofas. You're eating ramen noodle or whatever.
But if you decide later in life to go back to college and you have to be broke all over again, that's really difficult because now you have a family and you have a mortgage and you have three kids that you have to support. And all of a sudden you need to be living this broke college lifestyle and it really doesn't work very well. There's a real struggle there.
I say that when you are first starting writing, you should just be wide from the beginning. You're not going to be selling anything, but that's okay. You wouldn't be selling anything if you're in KU either, so you might as well just get that part out of the way and stick to being wide the whole time.
Barring that, if you are already in KU and you're now wanting to go wide, definitely have your expectations set correctly. There are a few authors who are able to take their whole catalog wide and make more money wide from the get-go. There are also people who win the lottery.
I don't think that that should be part of your retirement plan that, ‘Well, I'll just win the lottery and that's how I'll pay for all of my books or all of my expenses as an old person.' So, going wide, just expect that you're going to lose money. You're going to have a lot less visibility on Amazon. You're not only going to lose all of your page reads, but you're probably going to lose sales also because you're not as visible on Amazon as you were before.
So, if you are one of those people who can do it, I recommend putting aside a bit of savings to give yourself a cushion so that when you go wide, you cannot be struggling from day one. Because just like when you went into KU and you weren't making any money in the beginning, when you go wide, you're not going to be making any money in the beginning.
You can't expect to be making the same level from day one, from the first month forward as you were before. And if you do have that expectation, you're going to end up back in KU.
Joanna: Yes. And that tends to be what happens. I think people don't give it long enough and they don't change their marketing. We'll come back to marketing in a minute.
I did want to come back on the new author experience and I have given people that advice before because of how many things you have to learn when you start out as an author, as an indie author. So, at the same time that people are learning about editing and everything that goes into the craft, they're also trying to learn about hiring the right cover designer. They're trying to learn about metadata. They're trying to learn about positioning. They're trying to learn who they are as a writer. They're trying to network. All of these things that they're trying to do.
And then when it comes to publishing, it is easier to publish on one store. Now, of course, they don't need to select KDP Select. But if you go from zero to having two, as I do at this point, I publish on, goodness, a lot of stores because as new ones have arrived I've added them in.
If I want to change something in my backlist, I have to publish a lot of times. I feel like if someone is starting out brand new, then just being on Amazon with an ebook can be the simplest way to start.
But what I tend to say is, if you have three books in a series or you have three books under one name, that can be a good start. Why? Because at least you have something that you can do promotions with. So, I just wanted to come back on that one thing because I know some people listening are probably just starting out.
If you have three books in a series or you have three books under one name, that can be a good start.
Erin: Yes. And I do say, though, and it was Adam Croft I believe who said it. At least he was the one who I heard it from originally, of like if you are overwhelmed by publishing everywhere, just publish on Amazon. You don't have to be exclusive, though.
[Check out the interview with Adam Croft here]
You can publish on Amazon, take a month, feel, get your sea legs under you, be setting up storefront accounts elsewhere, and take your time and publish slowly on other storefronts. It isn't a race. It isn't like you get in trouble for being on Kobo but not Barnes & Noble. So, you can slowly add storefronts as you feel comfortable.
The other option is that you can use a distributor. And so you could use Amazon and then Draft2Digital or Amazon and Smashwords or whatever. And so then you're just publishing two places, which is twice as many as one, but it's still not unbearable.
But I always feel it's easier if you start out going the direction that you want to end up as opposed to trying to change directions midstream.
Joanna: It definitely is easier. It's just sometimes after years and years, having been doing this for 12 years now, you often end up changing direction because something else comes along or things change. I had them on the show saying the same thing. So, I do think that is a great thing to consider.
And the other thing is to say to people is, if you are an independent author, you do get to make the choice and you get to change your mind, so that's not a problem either.
I do want to come back to what you said, which you said you make more income wide. So, clearly, you can do this. And some months I do as well.
Are there principles of book marketing wide that are different to exclusivity?
Erin: I think I got sidetracked previously when you were asking about wide being a mindset because there are some major differences when you are wide that you really do need to flip a switch in your brain.
So, for example, I don't give away Kindles as prizes. I give away Nooks or I give away Kobo readers, e-readers. And I let the prize winner choose which one they want because Nook only works in the U.S., Kobo is international, but in the U.S., Nook is more popular. So, yeah, I let them choose which one, but I don't give away a Kindle.
When I'm giving away gift cards, I let the reader choose which storefront they want the gift card for so they can choose Apple, Kobo, Amazon, Google Play or Barnes & Noble. I don't just give away Amazon gift cards.
I don't do promo swaps with KU authors. If I'm cross-promoting with another author, that author is always wide. When I'm linking to storefronts in social media and in my newsletters, I'm linking to all storefronts, not just Amazon. To be with my ARC team, in order to be added to it, you have to review on at least two storefronts. And Goodreads and BookBub are not a storefront.
So, they have to review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble or Amazon and Google Play, or heck, they can review on Kobo and Apple, I don't care. But they have to do two. It's free to set up a review or set up an account on all of the other storefronts. It's only Amazon that has the $50 minimum spend requirement. All the other storefronts don't have that.
When readers say, ‘I don't review anywhere else,' I'm like, ‘You can set up an account and you can review. I promise you, it's possible. You need an email address and a password. Go forth into it.'
So, that's one of the requirements I have just to be on my ARC team. I guess what I do is when I'm putting together anything for my readers, I'm looking at it from wanting to include all of them. Because if I say to my readers, ‘Here's a $25 Amazon gift card, let's have a prize drawing for it,' then I'm telling my readers from all the other storefronts, ‘You don't matter.'
I'm not okay with doing that. If I were to cross-promo with somebody who's only in KU, I'd be telling my wide readers, ‘You don't matter. I'm not providing a book to you that is wide. I'm providing a book to you that is only on Amazon.'
And so it really is just thinking about all storefronts not as one being more important than another, but as all of them being equally important. And we are so used to giving Amazon so much deference and so much emphasis that just the idea of caring about all of the storefronts equally is a little bit radical.
Joanna: Totally radical. But then what about moving the needle on actual book sales? So, you've talked there about, obviously, the readers.
What kind of advertising are you doing or do you use permafree? What are some of the things that work well when wide?
Erin: I have several different legs for my stool that help prop up my sales. I do have two permafrees. I have two series right now that I am able to put a permafree at the beginning. And so I have two-book ones that I can advertise.
I do paid newsletters, so Freebooksy, Fussy Librarian. My husband runs a company called Full Hearts Romance, so I use him. Places like that I advertise my permafrees on. I only ever advertise permafrees.
I don't run 99 cent sales very often. I think I've done like two, maybe three my whole career. And I was underwhelmed by it because the royalties are just so small. You have to sell so many more copies that it's really difficult to make money with the 99-cent price point, and yet there's still a price associated with it.
And so there's still that hesitation from people of, ‘Do I actually want to buy it or not?' So, you have that hesitation and you're not making very much money. It kind of seem like the worst of all worlds to me. So, I much prefer to do permafrees because there isn't that hesitation there.
My ROI comes from read through to the rest of my series. And I get BookBubs on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, that's super useful. I used to release fairly often, maybe once every two or three months and then I kind of hit a burnout period and it will be 13 months between my last book and my next book, which I don't recommend.
But faster releases then every 13 months is recommended. I use long pre-orders to gather up lots of pre-orders for my books. So, at the end of, let's just do it easy, at the end of book one, book two pre-order link will always be there. I put up the next book in the series as a pre-order before I release the current book in the series that I can put a link in the back.
Ranking really doesn't matter to a wide author. We have a saying in the Wide for the Win group, it's ‘bank over rank.' And that just means, like, we don't really care about ranking. We care about how much money we're actually making.
Joanna: I love that. I just love it. Brilliant. We should get a t-shirt.
Erin: Yes. I have this dream that we're going to have a wide conference and that is going to be on our t-shirts. So, that's my dream. We'll see. Some day.
Joanna: That's great. Carry on. More tips. I find that I sell more box sets. With Kobo, you can get quite good promos on box sets, for example.
What about box sets?
Erin: There are some people who say don't publish box sets because it steals your thunder, whatever, from your individual books. I have box sets. They stay up year-round. And I calculated it within the last couple of weeks and I made $600 from box sets each month over the past six months. That's across all storefronts combined together.
And it's like, okay, that's $600. That's nice. But it's $3,600 in the last six months that I've made from box sets. I don't think that's something to turn down.
I personally, when I put a new box set together, I email my readers and I say, ‘Hey, look, there's this new box set that's available. If you buy the books, you save X percentage over buying the books individually. This allows me to still make some income from these books and it allows you to get a good deal on those books. So, if you've been holding off buying my books for whatever reason, go ahead and check out this box set.'
And I got a huge spike in my box set sales when I did that. My box sets are four books long, each one them, and they're all $9.99 U.S. I've done a couple of the Kobo promos. I'll probably do some more in the future, but I don't do them regularly.
I feel like if I do them too often, then I'll just keep reaching the same readers over and over again. So, I kind of like to space that out. But I see box sets as a way to offer discounts to my readers while still getting a decent, healthy royalty rate from it. And so it's a win-win in my world.
Joanna: Me too. I think the readers for box sets are completely different. Like me, as a reader personally, I do not want a box set. I do not shop for box sets. I'm not interested. I like individual books.
And there are some people who, you'll see it on Amazon anyway, you'll see ‘also boughts' other box sets because I think people who like binge-reading that much do that.
The other thing I just want to say to people, like, I sell a nine-book box set direct just from Payhip, which is another benefit of being wide. You can sell from your own website. And that's like $20 and it sells quite often.
And that's like 20 bucks per sale, which is one of the biggest sales you can get for an ebook, really. And again, you can't do that within the Amazon ecosystem because it's too expensive for the 70%. So, you can do these bigger ones for bigger chunks of money. And so I think that's good.
All right. So, we've covered permafree, pre-orders, box sets, and you've talked a bit about BookBub and some other newsletters. Even something like libraries. People don't know how to reach people, I guess.
Anything else you do for these wide marketing?
Erin: That's actually an excellent question. As a former librarian, I don't really know how to reach libraries. I wish I could tell you there's some, like, super-secret thing that you just hadn't heard about yet, but, honestly, if there is, I don't know about it.
The other thing I do that I haven't mentioned yet is multi-author box sets. And it might have even been you. It was somebody I was listening to several years ago, so that's why I can't remember.
But if it sounds familiar, you can be like, ‘Yeah, I totally own that.' If you are a newer author and you don't have a lot of sales and you don't have a big following, a big fan base, one of the best things that you can do for your career is to put together a multi-author box set and say to other authors in your genre, ‘I'm willing to do all the work for this. I will provide the cover. I will do all of the compiling of the ebook. I will do all the marketing other than…' Each person needs to market to their own newsletter.
But if you're willing to do all of that for someone else and all they have to do is send you their ebook and send it out to their newsletter at one time, you're going to get a lot of authors who say, ‘Yes.' And so you will be able to cross-promote using a multi-author box set, cross-promote with authors who are bigger than you in your genre, and get more exposure for your catalog than you would ever be able to otherwise.
The costs are pretty minimal. It's mostly time of reaching out to authors, pitching the idea to them, putting the box set together, publishing it.
You can publish free. That's the easiest because then you don't have to split royalties. PublishDrive there for a while had a free program that you could publish, all the authors could publish through PublishDrive and split the royalties and there was no extra charge other than the normal 10%. It now costs money for that.
D2D is putting something together right now that will allow you to do multi-author box sets and split royalties and it will be free, other than the 10% royalties.
Joanna: You can also do that on BundleRabbit. You've been able to do that for a while now. So, bundlerabbit.com. I've had Chuck on here and a lot of people doing that through BundleRabbit. So, that is available.
Erin: That's true. I actually haven't done BundleRabbit but I've heard a lot about it and I keep thinking, I've got it at the back of my mind, that I need to do more work on that and learn more.
That's actually been one of the things that I've done personally to grow my career is I reached out to New York Times bestselling authors in the western romance genre and said, ‘Hey, here's the book cover. You can see it. You can see it's gorgeous. Here are the other people who have already agreed to be in this promo. Will you be in this promo also, or in this box set?' I was able to work with people who are, like, way above my pay grade. And they were like, ‘Yeah, sure. I'll do that because it's easy for me to do.'
Everybody wins in that situation. People sometimes don't want to approach other authors because they don't want to bug them. And I just say, ‘You know what? The worst they can do is not respond or they can respond and say, ‘I'm not interested.'
I've approached a lot of authors at this point. I've never had anybody tell me to go screw myself. They're just not going to, right? They're just going to ignore you. And that's okay. It's all right. They got their own life going on. And don't take it personally. And don't let that hold you back.
Joanna: I think that's really interesting. I've done a few but I've never organized them. I think, as you say, it's something that you can offer other people in terms of help. But in terms of meeting other people and making online friends and finding like-minded people, let's talk about Wide for the Win on Facebook.
You emailed me, I don't know how I've missed this, but you emailed me and said, ‘Hey, just letting you know, there's this group and…' I'm just not really a Facebook person. And I was like, ‘This is great.'
You have all the vendors in there. You have people who are wide share… I have learned more wide tips in this group in the last month that I've been in there than I have for years because, basically, I've been doing this for so long. It's hard to find tips on wide. I think this is the thing. There's so many tips on Amazon and so many books on it and everything, but what you've got there in the Facebook group is incredible.
Tell people what they can expect in Wide for the Win.
Erin: My co-moderator, Susan O'Connell, and she's also a western romance author who I met when I approached to join me in a multi-author box set. So, here you go. And we are now super close friends. So, hi, Susie. Anyway. So, we moderate this group together.
We were talking about how there's this real need for a place for wide authors to talk because I had been part of a really large indie group on Facebook, and everybody knows this group. And somebody posted in the group and said, ‘I'm a wide author. I would like to know XYZ.' I don't remember what her question was.
And so I was in there and I'm answering questions and helping however I can because I love to help people. And somebody comes along in the comments and is like, ‘Well, I'm in KU and I make $100,000 a year, but I guess you don't want to hear about my point of view, do you? Because you only want to hear about wide.'
And I responded and I said, ‘That's right. Thank you for understanding.' He was kind of pissed. And I thought, ‘You know what?' Even when you're blunt with people and say, ‘I really am not interested,' they just can't help themselves.
And so I thought, ‘We need a place just for wide authors.' And I love alliterations, so I was like, ‘Wide for the win. Why not?' And so I started this group. Susie and I started this group about 18 months ago.
I know Mark Leslie Lefebvre pretty well and so I invited him to join us and then we started to get a couple of more vendors. We got Robin from Eden Books, and I thought having vendors, having company reps in the group is so helpful.
Joanna: Really helpful. Yeah.
Erin: Oh my gosh. Yeah. If you have a question, if you have a problem, if you don't understand something, you aren't reaching out to some faceless, nameless email address and hoping that somebody who actually knows something is responding to you.
You can build a relationship with these reps. And outside of author conferences, that's not been a thing that I'm aware of online. And so I thought, ‘Well, if I'm really going to break all the rules and have a wide-only group, let's break all of the rules and have reps in this group, too.' And so I started making a concerted effort to invite reps.
I'm continually inviting new reps into the group of companies that I feel like are useful for wide authors. One of the groups or one of the companies that I'm most excited about, of course, is we just got BookBub online in the group and I did quite a bit of work behind the scenes and I was so thrilled when we got BookBub to join.
And we have everybody. We have IngramSpark and we have Kobo and D2D and Smashwords and PublishDrive and Streetlib and, oh man, I can't even tell you, Book Rank, BookFunnel. The list goes on. Every major company out there pretty much I've been able to talk into joining the group. Freebooksy.
Joanna: Well, there you go then. I'm going to challenge you around the libraries is to get someone from some librarian organization who likes indies and loves that kind of thing, because I'm also passionate about libraries and how I market to libraries is I say, ‘Hey, everyone listening, can you go and request your library? Please request your favorite indie book at your library.' That is your action point.
And it would be great if this is something we could figure out. I don't mean to put it on you the spot like this, but since you're so passionate about libraries too, maybe that's something we can think about. But you do. Well done on how much work you've done. It's incredible.
Erin: No. It hadn't occurred to me to invite librarians. Sometimes I sit down and I think, ‘Why did I not think of that?' But that is really a great idea. I'll see what I can do there.
Joanna: Well, someone from like Hoopla or one of the places where they are…not necessarily the librarians themselves but someone who runs an organization or a company that works with librarians, who has a bigger access in a way than just one library. But just something to think about.
Or if anyone listening knows what we're talking about or knows exactly the right thing, then definitely reach out to Erin.
Tell people about your Wide for the Win book.
Erin: That's a great story. I thought, ‘All right. You know what? I love to write. I love to help people. I was a teacher before. I can totally write a book called Wide for the Win. Why not?'
I decided to write this book and publish it and tell people all the different tips and tricks of how to be wide and wide mindset and long pre-orders and the whole kit and caboodle. And I worked on it for over a year. And I ended up with about 150,000 words of mess.
Chapters were started but not finished. There were repeats. There were chapters that were never even started. There was old information and something got changed and it only got updated at the end part of the book.
I am in awe of you and all the other people who can write nonfiction books about being an author because they're changing so quickly. The publishing world is barreling down the tracks and I just could not keep up. And so I finally said, ‘You know what? I need to give it up. I need to just say, ‘This isn't something that I'm cable of doing.'
I had actually started avoiding Wide for the Wind group. I feel really guilty even saying that. But I had felt so much guilt because I told everybody in the group, ‘I'm writing this book. This is going to be this great book and you guys are all going to love it.' And it was so many people who were way excited about this book.
And then I started really struggling with it. I didn't want to go look anybody in the group in the eye because I was a failure and I didn't want to admit that. And so I started avoiding the group. I didn't log in for a couple of months and it was all on Susie's shoulders. She just took it all. She's a champ.
I finally decided, ‘This isn't going to work. This isn't happening.' I went into the group and I said, ‘This is my mea culpa. I'm sorry. I promise I will be more active from here on forward, but you are not getting a book.' And Mark Leslie Lefebvre a couple of weeks later sends me a message on Facebook and he's like, ‘Hey. What do you think if I were to write that book?'
And I literally let out a war whoop. I was so happy because I want the book to be written. I just didn't want to have to write it. And so he's writing the book. He is sharing a small percentage of the royalties with both Susie and I for our work with the Facebook group, which is pretty cool. I will be writing the foreword for the book. It comes out in February of 2021. And he is using the amazing title Wide for the Win because we stick with our branding, damn it.
Joanna: That is on pre-order right now. People can go to their favorite wide store and pre-order Wide for the Win.
Erin: Absolutely. I don't believe it's actually up on Amazon yet, but it will be soon. You can go to your favorite storefront and you'll be able to get it. Like I said, it's coming out February 2021, so it'll be a little bit.
But in the meanwhile, you should definitely join Wide for the Win group if you have not yet, and learn because there's so much to learn. I'm learning every day. And like you, I've been in this for a while. But I think if you stop learning, you need to just quit because you're going to get so far behind. There's so much change that happens that you need to be learning every day.
Joanna: Absolutely. I think the problem up until Wide for the Win has been the information has been so skewed towards the biggest river, as Mark has always said. So, having a source of information to learn from is great.
We should say this is a free Facebook group. And you have some great rules, which are really important and people will have to read them when they join. I look forward to jumping back in that. I'm actually, at the moment, I'm in that group everyday looking, just hanging out.
I do say something occasionally but I'm learning a lot too, and so I really appreciate it. A big thank you for doing this because it's something I've thought about over the years and just gone, ‘No, I cannot commit to that.'
So, I'm thrilled that you've done it.
Tell us, where can people find you and your books and everything you do online?
Erin: If they're into contemporary western romance, then you're certainly free to check out erinwright.net. And it's the female spelling, so E-R-I-N, Wright with a W, W-R-I-G-H-T. So, erinwright.net is my website but that doesn't have anything to do with being an author. That's just what I personally write.
If you were interested in the author part of it, definitely just go to Facebook and do a search for Wide for the Win. You'll find our group. You do have to answer three questions before you can be added into the group. And then just join us over there because, man, we are learning and growing and we have a great time in the group. We really do.
It's a very fun and friendly, personable group with lots of useful information. I'm not a big fan of Facebook at all. Like I said, I really thought setting this up. But my bookmark for Facebook is the Wide for the Win Facebook group so that I don't have to go to my main feed. I don't go to the main feed. I don't read it. I don't care about it. So, I promise you can just be a part of Wide for the Win and not have anything to do with the rest of Facebook and it's going to be okay.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thank you so much, Erin. I've really enjoyed talking to you and I'll see you in Wide for the Win.
Erin: Yay. Thank you so much.
S. J. Pajonas says
I love the Wide FTW Facebook group! I’m in there often and I’ve learned a lot of areas I’ve neglected as a wide author for the past 4-5 years. Erin has lots of good advice for people!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, SJ 🙂 Glad you’re also finding it useful!
Sharon Hague says
Hi, I am a new novelist and not making any money! However, I went wide pretty quickly. It’s a lot of learning, but I am glad to be on a variety of platforms. I personally think Amazon has peaked. It’s also a monopoly. Maybe not, but things are changing rapidly.
The other morning a young tween/teen sat across from me on the bus with a book. Not a phone – a book! And there is a new generation that is turning its back on social media and buying records and books. Yay! Anyway, thank you for the podcast.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Sharon, and yes, book marketing is the biggest challenge for authors once the book is in the world 🙂 Wide marketing is different for every platform so definitely check out the Wide for the Win group to make sure you’re getting good tips!
Many thanks to Joanna Penn and Erin Wright for this excellent podcast and article.
It just goes to show that writing the book is only the tip of the iceberg for independent authors.
It’s a big wide world out there, and Amazon is no longer the only game in town.
2 Digital sounds like a good option for helping authors go wide.
Joanna also wrote another thought-provoking article back in March 2020 – How To Sell Your Books Directly To Readers And Get Paid Immediately and it’s well worth a read.
I think the biggest problems for any authors selling their books through Amazon and other online stores are as follows:
1) The Two-month delay, in getting paid by Amazon etc.
2)Lack of information about who bought your book and the location of their town and country.
3)The growth of subscription models. In my opinion, subscription models such as Kindle Unlimited are bad news for most authors.
4)The piracy issues that rob many authors of what little money that they could earn.
I believe that the best way forward for writers long-term will be to sell directly from their websites and through the blockchain.
Two companies, Publica Books Blockchain and Bookchain Books Blockchain, currently allow authors to sell direct via blockchain. Unfortunately, neither of them appears to have set the world alight.
In the meantime – Draft 2 Digital is probably the best way to go.
Many thanks to Joanna for these great interviews and the fantastic information that she posts on her site.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Patrick, and I definitely love selling direct, and I met the Bookchain guys at Frankfurt last year so I have hopes that they will expand that offering as blockchain options take off.
In the meantime, I use every single possible way to market that I can 🙂
I use D2D and everyone else, so there is no barrier to entry for anyone to buy them.
Patrick Duggan says
Bookchain looks the most interesting of the two blockchain options.
I share your hope that blockchain for authors takes off soon.
Deborah Makarios says
“the world is much bigger than the USA.” Preach it!
Amazon is definitely working on being a monopoly, and it’s disturbing how tightly Amazon-focussed a lot of readers are. I’ve had people contact me and ask why my books don’t exist in ebook format. They do – available through Kobo, B&N, Apple, Smashwords, OverDrive (to libraries), etc, etc… just not on Amazon, because Amazon won’t accept Creative Commons-licensed books. Not ebooks, anyway. They sell my paperbacks.
Needless to say, I’ve been wide from the word go. 🙂
Angela Gorczany says
Thanks to Joanna Penn and Erin Wright for this excellent article every time. It’s a lot of learning, but I am glad to be on a variety of platforms.
I would recommend also considering some of the writing competitions for more exposure: https://sourceful.co.uk/doc/336/betas–bludgers-writing-competitions-list