Wide Versus Exclusive: What Does It Mean?

kindle ereader with glasses
Photo by Pavel Polívka on Unsplash

As my debut novel started rolling out to the different book retailers, I found myself explaining to my family and friends how it all works. During these explanations, I realized what had taken me a while to understand and sort through was actually pretty easy to explain once I got past a few key ideas.

There’s a ton of information out there for new authors to sift through, and it can be overwhelming trying to sort out terminology and fact from opinion. I thought I’d pay it forward by laying out those key ideas and summarizing what going wide versus exclusive means for those who are just beginning their self-publishing journey.

Print Versus Electronic Books (eBooks)

The first concept I had to wrap my head around was separating how I thought about eBooks versus print books. As a reader, I always thought of them as the same product, just in different wrapping.

But in the publishing business, it helps to treat them as different products. They have different file types, different covers, different retailers who handle one, but not the other, and even different distribution channels. So, of course, the rules and how we talk about them are different as well.

Wide Versus Exclusive

One of the first things you hear authors ask each other when they talk shop is whether they’re “wide or exclusive.” It took me a while to understand that this terminology refers to eBooks only.

Before we go any further, you need to know about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. Kindle Unlimited (often referred to as KU) is a program where readers pay a monthly subscription fee that gives them access to all the eBooks in the program. Basically, they can download and read as many books as they want for that one monthly subscription fee.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is where authors upload their books. To include their eBooks in Kindle Unlimited, authors join the KDP Select program. KDP Select requires authors to be exclusive and only upload their eBooks to Amazon. Under the agreement, authors cannot upload their eBooks to any other store, nor can they sell directly from their website if they are in KDP Select.

To summarize, saying you are “exclusive” means you sell your eBooks only on Amazon in the KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited program.

Therefore, “going wide” means that you sell your eBooks to all retailers, including Amazon—just not the KDP Select program. The big five retailers who sell eBooks around the world are: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and Kobo.

Many authors who are wide also use an aggregator like Draft2Digital or IngramSpark to sell their eBooks worldwide to retailers other than the big five. These services can reach foreign markets, smaller retailers, and library systems.

Note: Kobo also has a relationship with libraries, so you don’t have to use an aggregator to reach them.


When I first heard the term “hybrid,” I was confused as to its meaning. How could you be exclusive and mix-and-match as hybrid suggests? The answer is that the eBook is exclusive, not the author.

There are several ways an author can be hybrid. Here are a few I’ve heard of and some are quite creative:

  • Sell some eBooks/series exclusively to KDP Select, but sell others wide. Some genres do better in KU and some do better wide, so if you write multiple genres, this approach might make sense.
  • Sell your eBooks exclusively to KDP Select for a specified time, then remove them and take them wide.
  • Keep an eBook out of KDP Select to use as a reader magnet. You couldn’t do this with a series in KDP Select because it violates their terms of service.

I know one author who has her entire catalog in KDP Select except for a three-book series of novellas. She uses this series as a reader magnet to attract new readers. I thought it was quite clever.

Wrap Up

So that’s the scoop on “wide versus exclusive.”

Let me know in the comments below if you have questions or if you’ve encountered other hybrid strategies you thought were worth mentioning.

Happy Publishing!

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