I’ve seen a lot of people talking about doing a wide distribution of ebooks (i.e., not just Amazon) lately, and, as someone who has never done Amazon exclusively, I thought it might be helpful to some people to do a quick rundown of the two major ebook distributors.
(As a quick aside, there’s two general ways to do ebook distribution, assuming you are doing it yourself and your publisher isn’t doing it for you. One is to upload your book individually at each ebook service. The other is to use an ebook distributor, which is what we’ll talk about today.)
Everybody knows Smashwords–it’s probably the biggest name in ebook publishing after KDP. I use Smashwords for the distribution of both Hidden Worlds and Shards. But there’s a new kid in town, which is Draft2Digital (or D2D, as I will refer to it moving forward). After some research, Siri and I decided to use D2D for distribution of City of Hope and Ruin.
Why did we forsake Smashwords? Well, let’s look at each service individually.
Smashwords is the big kahuna. You upload a document, which goes through Smashwords’ meat grinder and gets turned into a variety of formats, which you can then have distributed to the channels of your choice, assuming your manuscript passes muster to get into the Premium catalog. Additionally, you have a page on Smashwords itself where people can buy your book and leave reviews.
Smashwords distributes to a number of retailers, such as the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. They also work with libraries so that libraries could potentially download your book into their systems. You can set a specific library price which is different from your sales price.
Occasionally Smashwords has site-wide sales that you can enter your book into rather easily (normally just by indicating how much on sale you’d like the book to be).
Draft2Digital is smaller and newer. It also distributes to the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc. It doesn’t have a library option as of yet, however. D2D does not have a sale page for your book on their site, but does give you a universal link that lists all available retailers (you can see the one for CoHaR here). It’s a leaner service than Smashwords, and distributes to fewer retailers.
Okay, pros and cons.
Smashwords is massive and has a huge reach. Most of the books I have sold on the site have been during sales, so I appreciate being able to jump into those with a minimum amount of effort. The sale pages are nice, though I’m not sure how many people use Smashwords as the main way they buy ebooks. The meat grinder is a pain in the butt. It’s gotten slightly less picky over the years, but essentially you have to strip all formatting out of your manuscript to get it to take it. So the version of your book that goes out to the retailers is pretty plain. Additionally, it can take a long time for your books to show up at said retailers, to get payments from the retailers, or to update changes. Every time you change something, you have to go through re-approval for the Premium catalog as well, which is a bit of a pain.
D2D is smaller, as I said above, and doesn’t distribute as widely. They also don’t convert to as many formats, only epub, mobi, and PDF, though one could argue that you don’t need much more. (Smashwords does have an online reader that you can open on their website, which is arguably nice.) What is nice about D2D, and is a major reason we went with them, is that they update fast. Changes go up in less than a day, which is good for, say, price changes at the end of a sale and whatnot. Sales and payment go through a lot faster as well. This may be purely coincidental, but I’ve sold a lot more copies of CoHaR through the retailers than any of the books uploaded at Smashwords.
So I guess it depends on your end goals and what is more important to you. And I know some people upload to both, so they can have the sale page on Smashwords and the potential library distribution, but still make use of D2D’s faster distribution and payment.
Have one service you prefer? Used one or both? Have horror stories? Inquiring minds want to know, Squiders.