Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital: My Choice and Why
December 27, 2013 | 2:10 pm
By Juli Monroe
I admit I’ve been lazy. I’d been meaning to sign up for an eBook distribution service for a while now, but something else always came up that seemed more important. I finally got around to it, and I thought some of you might be interested in what I found as I researched my decision of Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital.
There’s lively debate on various indie publishing communities about the advantages and disadvantages of each, but I wanted to do my own research, based on my main criteria, which was maximum distribution. eBook formatting options were less important since I’d already hired someone to format my books.
It was interesting that I researched this after the great ebook porn purge of 2013. Based on what I’d seen, Draft2Digital authors had been affected more than Smashwords authors. Was that in the back of my mind as I researched the two options? Yes, it was, although I’m not sure how much of a difference it made.
Royalty structures for books distributed to retail outlets were similar enough. I liked the royalty structure for sales direct from Smashwords, but I didn’t expect many sales from the site, based on what I’d read from other authors, so I rated the two sites equally on that criteria.
If an author doesn’t want to hire an ebook conversion service, Draft2Digital is an attractive option. I like that they can take a Word document and do a conversion to ePub, and the author then has the ePub document to do with what he or she will. If I hadn’t already had my books converted, that might have been a significant selling point.
As I said earlier, however, maximum distribution, was my most important criteria, and Smashwords impressed me. Here’s the Smashwords list:
Barnes & Noble
Baker & Taylor Blio
Compare that to Draft2Digital
Barnes & Noble
There’s my reason for selecting Smashwords. Oyster was the big decider for me. I like the payment structure for authors, and I love the idea of eBook subscription services. To get paid, a reader only has to read 10% of the book. As a subscriber to Scribd, I know my own habits so far. I’ll try books I would never consider buying, and I don’t think I’ve read less than 10% yet. I’m guessing I’m not unusual in my habits, and I suspect I’m going to see some good income from Oyster. The catalog is still much smaller than, say, Amazon, which I’m hoping will give me a boosted visibility. I only signed up a couple of weeks ago, so it’s too soon to measure anything, but I figure, even if I’m wrong, no harm done.
Note: Not only did I delay writing this, I also delayed finishing it. I wrote the original draft before the Scribd/Smashwords announcement. I was hoping Scribd would be included when I decided to go with Smashwords.
I also like being in library catalogs. I’m a supporter of digital public libraries, and I’d be tickled to stumble across my book in my local library system. Draft2Digital doesn’t yet have any library distribution channels.
I suspect the choice will be less clear-cut in another year or so. Smashwords has been around longer and has had more time to negotiate distribution channels. I’m sure Draft2Digital is busy negotiating more now, and I expect to see announcements from them in the next year. For now, however, Smashwords was the obvious choice.
One thing I did notice was other authors noting that Draft2Digital shipped books to their channels faster than Smashwords. While that was discouraging, it wasn’t enough to sway me. I’m in this for a long haul, so a short delay up front doesn’t matter if I’m distributed more widely.
So how easy was getting set up and uploading my books? It was easy, but I did have some issues with the workflow. I already had Smashwords-ready ePubs, and I was disappointed to see that to take full advantage of features like free samples and additional formats, I had to upload a Word Doc to go through the “Meatgrinder.” I had my conversion company create those Word Docs, and they, and the previously produced ePubs passed all the checks, but I would have preferred only needing to upload the ePub.
Another small gripe. I’m using Smashwords for everything except Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Unless I missed something, it looked like I could only deselect certain channels after my book was Premium catalog certified. That meant I had to remember to go back later and deselect channels. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me, but I will say the process could be more intuitive.
So, any sales so far? Actually, yes. I missed the option to turn of/off notification emails when someone purchased my book direct from Smashwords. I was as pleased as could be when that first sale email popped into my Inbox. I could see where they could get annoying, but they haven’t yet. Ironically, yesterday was kind of a crappy day for me. I was fired by a writing client via a very upsetting email. To offset that, I sold three books. That was cheery!
My sales through Smashwords (in my first few weeks) have blown away my early B&N sales, so I can’t complain. And the direct royalty rate is sweet. All in all, I’m a satisfied customer so far.