Ebook Retailers Grade for Upload Process

report cardJust finished an update to stay current with the e-publishing industry (not an easy task), then went to the sales venues to submit ebooks and paperbacks. Here’s the graded list in order of most efficient and user-friendly IMO to the least:

1. Amazon KDP. A+, love the subtle changes to their preview mode, still with the ability to both download the converted document or to view the newly enhanced on-screen version with Kindle options and working hyperlinks–very nice and fast. Available in the Kindle store in about 6 hours. This company has always done the most to sell ebooks and help me do it.

2. CreateSpace. A , the interior digital proof and final proof including cover design are miles better than years past. I love this company for paperbacks. Proofs went through in about 12 hours online and a physical copy delivered to my door in 3 days at the slowest shipping speed (because I chose to order a copy). Used to take a week. Fine quality and price is fantastic, can’t be beat by LightningSource or Lulu. Only wish they did more to proof the cover design online before submitting and perhaps add interior template options.

3. Smashwords. A-, some of this is my familiarity and loyalty but they still do a great job and give LOADS of advice on self-publishing. I wish approval times were faster for Premium Status, but it has sped up to around 24-48 hours compared to several days in the past. Also it can be a grizzly bear passing meat-grinder for newbies, but indies should learn proper formatting. SW is doing everyone a service by keeping formatting standards high.

4. Kobo. B, they have a great way of handling uploads for cover, description and content, but their Previewer needs work to get past the B grade. Don’t like the required download to view on Calibre or some other method–Kobo, keep up with the others and create an online Previewer. Props to them for more monthly sales than B & N, a pleasant surprise.

5. NookPress. B-, my first time uploading since the change from Pubit. Definite improvements with the ability to edit within their system and working links in Preview mode and an improved online Previewer. Still not as sweet as the way Amazon handles TOC but getting better. Needs improvements with the Editorial Review department, couldn’t get that to work right or to just delete it altogether. Now if they could fix their Nook Store search engine and get sales going (a long story), which is still affecting their overall grade.

6. Draft2Digital C+ My first experience with them and mixed feelings. Love how they’re attempting to simplify approval for authors without formatting experience, but does it currently come at a cost to those of us with experience? Maybe, maybe not. I’m only distributing to Apple through them and have been watching my book in Publishing status for a week now, assuming it will be distributed to iTunes soon. Excited for the promise of “real time” sales reports. Jury still out on this company but since they’re new, that’s understandable. Wishing them the best.

Besides the biggies, I upload to my own websites for direct sales (pdf, epub, mobi) and give that an A+ at both Webs and Yola. So easy and nice to sell books via PayPal.

I may update the samples at Scribd and other venues but doubt to upload again to Google Ebooks-Partners-Play, not even sure what they’re calling it theses days.

Your thoughts?

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Draft2Digital Formatting Improvements

draft2digitalThe jury is still out (my own private jury) on this ebooks distributor, Draft2Digital. Their M.O. is noteworthy–trying to offer the best of what Smashwords does as in distribution to retailers while eliminating the worst of the Smashwords experience as in formatting hoops, delays and formatting hoops. Follow-up to a recent blog post on Draft2Digital–this email below just came on recent improvements:

As many of you are aware, we provide a free formatting and conversion service for your Word documents. Thanks to our beta testers, we have made many improvements to this system over the last several months. Most of these changes have been minor and released as they were completed, but starting today you’ll see this as well:

  • Preserve Scene Break Symbols – We now preserve the symbols you use for scene breaks while still recognizing that it is a scene break.
  • First Line Indent – We no longer indent the first line of a new chapter or scene in accordance with industry standards.
  • Whitespace Scene Breaks – Whitespace scene breaks are now smaller and can be used in places where a small amount of whitespace is desired.
  • User Provided Table of Contents – We can now use an embedded, linked table of contents to detect your chapters. We still do not require a ToC and will generate one for you, but some authors prefer their own.

Note: None of your existing projects will be updated to use this new styling unless you “Save & Continue” on the Acquisitions step of your book. As always, we strongly encourage that you preview any book that you make changes to before approving them for distribution.

We have also made some other changes you might be interested in:

  • CreateSpace Formatting – We have made major improvements to our CreateSpace formatting. Please take a look and tell us what you think!
  • User Provided Epub Repair – We now repair many more common user-provided ePub errors caused by many popular ePub creation programs.

We always welcome your feedback, criticism, and suggestions.

Sincerely,
Kris Austin
President and CEO
Draft2Digital, LLC

Makes me wonder how well those documents look after their conversion process. I actually haven’t checked, have you? Mine are probably fine because I learned proper formatting from Smashwords. Yours? Sounds like everyone might want to inspect that D2D ebook they sell on iTunes.

How has your experience with D2D been? Jury still out? Leave a comment.


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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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