You’ve probably heard the term expanded distribution if you’ve been exploring self-publishing for any length of time. What the heck are they talking about? That’s what we’re going to cover exhaustively in this article.
What is Expanded Distribution?
Directly from Amazon:
Expanded Distribution can help you reach more readers through bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions.
This is the additional distribution of your book off and away from Amazon.
It’s also worthy to note here that expanded distribution applies to paperbacks only.
Not every paperback is eligible. Honestly, it’s pretty complicated, so let’s break everything down so you are well informed, and I’m going to shoot you some tips and workarounds.
Make sure to read this page provided by Amazon so you understand everything expanded distribution means for you and your book.
Is Expanded Distribution Worth It?
Normally, you get 60% royalties from your print books. One of the first things you might notice with expanded distribution is there’s a cut in royalties by 20%.
That’s a healthy chunk!
So, it’s 40% and that’s minus the print fees.
The important thing to know here is that books sold via Amazon will still get you a 60% royalty. The 40% only applies to books sold on other platforms.
So, why is the royalty lower? Well, because Amazon is taking their cut for offering you expanded distribution in the first place.
You’re also going to see some delays in your reports if you opt into expanded distribution.
It can take you up to 30 days to see a sale on Amazon and 60 days to get paid. With expanded distribution, you’ll wait 90 days. You’ll normally see a lump sum of all the sales you made for a month at once.
To answer the question, is it worth it? Yes. If you want the expanded distribution without the fuss of additional platforms and you just want to check a box and call it done, then yes. Expanded distribution via Amazon KDP is worth it.
That being said, we’ll discuss a way to get higher royalties later as a workaround.
Where Does Expanded Distribution Get My Book?
You’re going to be hard-pressed to find any sort of list online as to where your book actually ends up. I know personally that you’ll find your book in places like Barnes & Noble online, Walmart.com, and Target.com.
I wish I could provide you with a list of every bookstore, online retailer, library and academic institution, but that’s just not something that Amazon provides.
Yes, we are actually just supposed to believe them and trust that this is happening on our behalf. After all, it doesn’t cost us anything to opt in.
Later on in this article, you’ll learn how Amazon KDP expanded distribution is related to IngramSpark. In fact, it’s the same distribution, and even IngramSpark doesn’t provide a list. They do say this:
Availability to more than 40,000 bookstores, libraries, and online retailers…
The Limitations of Expanded Distribution
Amazon gives you 16 options for trim size, 4 color options, and 2 paper types. Depending upon what you choose, your eligibility for expanded distribution can be affected.
Amazon has put everything in a nice, neat chart on their site. This breaks everything down for you.
For example, if you choose cream paper, you only have 4 trim sizes to choose from to remain eligible for expanded distribution.
So if this is something you are thinking about or may eventually want to do, keep this in mind and make choices about trim size that will allow you to move forward with that option in the future.
If you have a custom trim size, your book is not eligible.
Fortunately, the most popular trim size, 6×9, is safe across the board.
A Workaround for Getting Higher Royalties with Expanded Distribution
We already talked about the cut down to 40% from Amazon’s regular 60% for expanded distribution.
I interviewed the former director of IngramSpark, Robin Cutler, on my channel, and I found out the following juicy tidbits from her.
IngramSpark’s parent company, Ingram Content Group, also owns Lightning Source which fulfills print runs for KDP expanded distribution.
So, what does that mean?
It means expanded distribution for Amazon is exactly the same as IngramSpark.
Royalty rates directly through IngramSpark are higher because you cut out the middleman which would be Amazon.
You might want your cake and eat it too. You want ALL the royalties.
This workaround will cost you a little bit up front, but it will pay for itself if you publish 3 books and there are added benefits. Win-win!
Set up an account with IngramSpark. It’s free.
Oh, and you need your own ISBN. Fortunately, I just covered this in detail here on the blog. Save yourself some dough and buy these in bulk.
There’s a bit of a caveat here. IngramSpark does offer a free ISBN to U.S. account holders only, but you can’t use the workaround I’m about to cover. It’s an either/or situation. Honestly, buying a few ISBNs in bulk is a great investment. Read more in the linked article above.
While your IngramSpark account is free, they charge the following fees:
- Upload fee $49
- Update fee $25
That is per title per format, unless you’re uploading your print and eBook at the same time. In that scenario, you can upload both for just one $49 fee.
To date, I have not spent a single dime on IngramSpark fees.
There’s a way to get all of these fees waived, and that is by becoming a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
In this scenario, you spend a bit to become a member of ALLi, but you also get many added benefits and your IngramSpark fees waived for as long as you’re a member. Also, if you’re a service provider, having an ALLi badge on your website is a great sign that you’re legit and you’ll also get a listing in their directory.
Their most expensive membership is $149, and that’s probably way more than you need. So check out their options. This isn’t an affiliate link. They, in fact, don’t have an affiliate program – https://dalelinks.com/alli
Your Next Steps
If you decide you want to take advantage of IngramSpark’s expanded distribution directly, then there are some specific steps you need to take.
After you’ve created your IngramSpark account and signed up for ALLi if you’re going to:
Publish your book through Amazon KDP first.
That way you won’t have Amazon acting like a jealous girlfriend if you publish through someone else first.
Then, publish to IngramSpark next. If you’ve never uploaded to them before, the process is very similar to KDP, but they are a bit more detailed. They take a more granular approach to metadata. Give yourself a good hour to figure everything out.
The Results of Expanded Distribution
Ultimately, you want to know if it’s worth the hassle, and I completely understand that.
When I first started in self-publishing, I was lucky to clear a few sales a month through expanded distribution.
As time has gone on, I got to where I was getting about 10 to 20% of my overall print sales coming in through expanded distribution. Not bad at all.
These numbers continue to improve, so overall, it’s been worth it for me.