Draft2Digital vs Smashwords Self-Publishing Options

draft2digitalDraft2Digital is an attractive newcomer to publishing for indie authors. Open for about a year and based in Oklahoma City, it’s similar to Smashwords, which since 2008 has been the main venue for getting ebooks uploaded to retailers who otherwise don’t or didn’t have a self-service option. I’ve been a loyal SW user since 2009 and love what Mark Coker has done for the entire industry.  My books will definitely remain on the SW shelves though I also appreciate what some users are reporting on the benefits of Draft2Digital. (Notice that D2D is still in beta mode and may not be fully functional for awhile. You may need to sign up for an activation code, which arrived for me in about 2 minutes. Shout out to author friend, Cheri Lasota for telling me.)

Benefits authors say about D2D:

  • No formatting hoops to jump through (a biggie for non-tech types). Unlike the strict rules for passing the Smashwords Style Guide and meat-grinder for proper ebook formatting and conversion, Draft2Digital simply asks you to upload your MS Word doc as it is and they will figure out your formatting needs. Yes, it sounds too good to be true and makes me wonder if human eyes are required to get the job done. Turns out it’s all automated, with a computer system that does its best to figure out your formatting needs. Is the computer pretty accurate? Probably, but still a machine in beta stage. On the site they do mention, fancy page formatting doesn’t always convert well. The recommendation is to be as consistent as possible through the document, and their computer will have an easier time figuring out your formatting needs.  (My advice is to learn some basic formatting for MS Word doc even if you do upload there.)

The easiest and most popular format is a Word document. Upload your story in Word .doc or .docx format, and we’ll convert it into an ebook. RTF, HTML, and Open Office’s .odt should work fine, too. Anything Word can read, we can read.

More pros:

  • They automatically convert a CreateSpace file for making paperbacks. Wow, that is cool because I’ve had more headaches getting Word formatted for CreateSpace than I did for Smashwords. Again, I hope the formatting is really intuitive because it sounds too good to be true. At least they have a preview mode for checking first.
  • They let you sell their conversion from your own site, without having any Edition stamped upon like the Smashwords Edition. (Some authors feel the self-publishing stigma comes into play here.)
  • The time is reduced by huge amounts. Unlike Smashwords, where it can take a week to be approved for premium status and then another week to have distribution go to all of their partners, D2D apparently has extremely fast conversion and nearly immediate distribution to retailers. For example, make a change to your document and have the Apple version updated in very little time. That’s a nice feature.
  • Updated sales data in nearly real time. Instead of having to wait several weeks to find out how sales are doing, D2D users get sales results throughout the day. Nice.
  • They upload to Amazon while SW never seemed to get that contract ironed out. (I would not use D2D for this of course; I’d upload to Amazon KDP directly, but it’s nice they offer. They also offer uploading to Kobo and Barnes & Noble, but I’d go direct with them too.)
  • Can also pay with checks and electronic bank deposits (international), not just PayPal like SW. Good news for many authors especially those in other countries.
  • Payments are monthly instead of quarterly.

Cons:

  • D2D doesn’t have a bookstore on the site like Smashwords does. I do sell some, not a lot but some, books directly from Smashwords and that’s important to me. My books are searchable in their system and SW does have a large reader base. Also, in the brief period of time after uploading when an author’s book is on the front page of  Smashwords, hundreds to thousands of people might consider buying your book. That can help get the ball rolling.
  • Since there’s no bookstore, you can’t create coupons like you can at SW for a marketing campaign or to give certain readers a special deal. Coupons can be effective for boosting sales/readers/reviews.
  • They don’t currently offer some of the retail partners that SW does (Sony, Diesel, Baker Taylor, Page Foundry), but that could change soon. IMHO those channels aren’t nearly as important as Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, which is supported by D2D.
  • They don’t currently sell ISBN’s in case you wanted one. Again, not an issue because even SW recommends not buying an ISBN but they do offer them for sale and some authors prefer that.

Royalty amounts are the same. I might wait to publish a new book title to know more, so hopefully in a few months I can report my personal results. However, some constants should remain in place. Everyone should sell directly through KDP Amazon. If you go with either Smashwords or D2D for the other options, it still makes sense to have a properly formatted MS Word document before uploading. The simplest way to do that is to read Building Your Book for Kindle or the harder and more thorough way is the Smashwords Style Guide or you can read the Formatting chapter in How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, which is the really the best of both worlds and so much more to sell ebooks. Everyone should probably also upload to Smashwords, even if you do prefer D2D, because Smashwords has a bookstore and currently some distribution partners not covered by D2D.

Have an experience with D2D or SW to share? Please comment.


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12 Responses to “Draft2Digital vs Smashwords Self-Publishing Options”

  1. Greta van der Rol Says:

    I’ve gone with D2D. I’ve found the process easy and response to questions quick and personal. I take the point about no book store, but that doesn’t bother me. I prefer to gift review copies, anyway, rather than create coupons which can too easily be abused. Also, the transfer of books to Apple, B&N and Kobo has been very quick – much quicker than Smashwords (so far, anyway). I particularly like being able to use my Word file, complete with styles. Sure, the software still needs some tweaking but I like the results.

  2. Cliff Ball - Author (@cliff_ball) Says:

    I went with D2D three months ago because Smashwords was really starting to tick me off with the random formatting issues when I did it the exact same way all the time. While I still have my novels on Smashwords, my newer releases won’t and aren’t on there, since I rarely get sales from Sony or Diesel. I also don’t care about the storefront because I hardly ever sell anything on Smashwords itself and I can offer my own novels for free through my own site now if I want to. I love the fact that I can download an epub, kindle, and pdf files that I can use for Kobo, Kindle, and BN, since I stink at formatting well enough for my epubs to look right. While I rarely ever complain to customer service, I did enjoy working with D2D’s go to person for this stuff, she was pleasant, and answered every question.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Great to know. Thank you, Cliff. Can’t believe I didn’t know about D2D sooner.

      • Cliff Ball - Author (@cliff_ball) Says:

        You’re welcome, Jason. I saw it on Kindleboards, I believe it was around January. They were still beta testing at the time, but they worked with me on my document because they were still working out the kinks to their software. Now, I uploaded something the other day, and it went through just fine. Good luck with your books.

  3. Joleene Naylor Says:

    Think I am gonna stick with Smashwords – I prefer to do my own formatting as opposed to hoping their “smart” formatting will figure it out for me. But then I like to do everything myself, usually 😉 SW has gotten faster at sending out to the premium places. Not to say this doesn’t sound like a good thing for others, though. I do wish SW sales reporting was faster, but I admit I prefer the paypal payments they offer to the bank account ones elsewhere.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      I’m also sticking with SW, Joleene. At least for now. They’ve done so much for me over time, not just going to jump ship over one or two time-frame issues, and I like knowing my ebooks are properly formatted by me before being uploaded. Thank you for the comment 🙂

  4. Debbie Says:

    I’ll give them 12 months or so to prove themselves before I even consider jumping ship. Smashwords may not be perfect but it works and it’s reliable.

  5. Katherine Says:

    I’m trying D2D for Kobo, Apple and Nook since I’m in the UK and don’t use Paypal (otherwise I would have considered Smashwords). I’ve put some of my books through them and am happy to report that the conversion to epub is smooth and easy. A few titles seem to be stuck on their way into Kobo, but they all went into Barnes and Noble and Apple very swiftly. They are still in beta so I imagine they might take a while to match Smashwords for features and community feel… can’t comment on customer service yet.


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