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The Skinny on Expanded Distribution

If you’ve been following along, you already know that I’ve been providing input on various things – including pricing your novel, different tools of the trade, and how to multitask. In my previous post, I mentioned that I’d get a bit more into Expanded Distribution…and here we go.

Some of you might wonder what Expanded Distribution is. Putting it plainly, it’s slightly different from just uploading your novel to Amazon, Lulu, etc…, and I provided examples of distribution options in a previous post. When you decide to opt-in for Expanded Distribution, you are placing your novel for consideration to also be added to other stores and platforms.

For example, if you decided to publish through Amazon and neither selected nor qualified (more on that shortly) for Expanded Distribution, then your work would remain solely on Amazon. Opting in for Expanded Distribution makes your novel available in a catalog for possible purchase by Barnes & Noble, Apple, as well as other bookstores and even libraries. While all of that sounds absolutely amazing, there is a somewhat sober reality when Expanded Distribution is concerned.

I have published both my novels through Amazon, so I will only speak of my experience as an author under the Amazon “umbrella,” and their way of doing things and dealing with Expanded Distribution. Got it? Okay.

In order to even qualify for Expanded Distribution at Amazon, your novel has to meet two conditions. Both the trim size and the price of the novel must adhere to specific guidelines. For more explanations about trim size, you can either go back to read my Pricing Your Novel post, or you may research it on your own to know what I mean. In short, certain trim sizes for novels are considered to be more marketable than others. If your novel doesn’t meet that level of marketability, you can forget about having it considered for Expanded Distribution.

So, too, must you also forget about Expanded Distribution if your novel has a price tag of less than $10. There are two reasons for this…Amazon would make no money off of a novel with that price point, and neither would you. In fact, if it’s priced too low, you could actually end up owing money for each novel sold.

“That makes no sense! I have a deal with Amazon that entitles me to 60% royalties!”

No. No, you don’t. Not really. Not on every novel sold, at least. When Expanded Distribution comes into play, whatever other royalty “deal” you had with Amazon goes out of the window for anything not sold directly by and through Amazon. Expanded Distribution plays by different rules altogether. Check this out…

In the Pricing Your Novel post, I showed you a similar graphic that explained the $5.89 printing cost as shown above. I explained the printing cost of a 420-page novel with certain specifications, and that nearly six bucks are being deducted from YOUR end of every book sold and printed. Considering that your part of the profit is 60% and then $5.89 is deducted from whatever that 60% amounts to, how does that ultimately affect how much you can make? Of course, printing cost varies based upon page count, paper used, interior, etc…but, this is a general idea. A novel would have to be priced at $13+ to achieve any sort of profit, and $13 is cutting it very close. Any lower and there would be no profit at all.

The above example shows what would happen if you priced that same novel at $15.95. Now, when going directly through Amazon things look great. You could make a solid $3.68 in royalties from each novel sold. But, look underneath. Look at what happens when you participate in Expanded Distribution. Your royalty percentage changes – a lot. For every novel sold – to Barnes & Noble, other brick and mortar stores, or to libraries – you earn a whopping $0.49.

Side note: If you ever have the remarkable experience of chatting with a self-published or independent author, you should now realize why you should never consider asking them why their book is priced a certain way. I feel that I’ve given more than enough examples and proof as to why. Most of us are not trying to fleece you. We’re just trying to make a reasonable amount of money off of our work.

With that in mind, is Expanded Distribution even worth it? From my own personal standpoint – yes. It’s still a means of getting my name “out there,” for those who still love to browse the shelves of their favorite book store and might discover me that way rather than via some random Amazon search or by stumbling onto one of my Tweets.

Remember, though, that I did say that participating in Expanded Distribution puts your work in a catalog as something that is available to other entities. That doesn’t mean being granted immediate and automatic placement in anyone’s store. There is still work to be done – namely, pleading a case for inclusion. As for me, I’m starting locally. Considering that we’re enmeshed in a pandemic right now, there will be no traveling to neighborhood bookstores and libraries to ask them to buy a handful of my books in exchange for a local book signing.

However, it is on the calendar for when things return to some semblance of normal.

Stay safe and healthy!