With the recent acquisition by Draft2Digital (D2D) of Smashwords, we thought there was no better time to do a deep-dive Draft2Digital review! There are a lot of changes forthcoming to the D2D platform, all of which we'll look at, without skipping over all the things that they've been doing before the merger.
We've already done an article on Draft2Digital vs PublishDrive review, in case you’re wondering which is the best choice for you. But for this one, we'll just be focusing on Draft2Digital itself, and how it will be changing as the mechanics of the Smashwords acquisition progress.
So, let's get right to it!
- What Exactly is Draft2Digital?
- What Kind of Authors Should Use D2D?
- A Quick Overview
- How it Works
- Notable Features D2D Offers
- Coming Soon: D2D Acquires Smashwords
- D2D Pros and Cons
Table of contents
- What is Draft2Digital?
- What Authors Will Benefit From Using Draft2Digital?
- Draft2Digital Overview
- How Does it Work?
- How to Upload a Book to Draft2Digital
- How Much Does it Cost?
- The Best Draft2Digital Features
- Coming Soon to D2D
- D2D Pros
- D2D Cons
What is Draft2Digital?
If you're not familiar, Draft2Digital is an aggregator, handling distribution services for authors whose books aren't exclusive to Amazon. Instead of uploading your “wide” ebooks over and over again to sellers like Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, you only have to upload them once, and Draft2Digital takes care of the rest.
While this is their main function, they also offer other tools and services to authors. And by absorbing Smashwords into the fold, D2D will be offering even more to authors as the merger comes to fruition.
What Authors Will Benefit From Using Draft2Digital?
To avoid jumping too deep into the “wide vs exclusive” discussion, I'll just say here that you don't really need a service like Draft2Digital if you're exclusive with Amazon KDP through their KDP Select program.
The authors that will benefit from D2D are the ones that sell their books across a wide range of stores, not just Amazon. Of course, since most self-published authors these days have more than one book out, it's entirely possible to have some books exclusive with Amazon and others “wide.” That's really a choice each author has to make for him or herself.
That said, using a service like D2D will save you loads of time if you do go wide with some or all of your books. Just reading through the terms and services of each platform can take hours and hours. Luckily, the people at D2D have relationships with all their bookselling partners, so you don't have to deal with all the details.
Of course, there are some other services and tools that D2D offers that even exclusive authors can take advantage of. More on that a little later. First, a little more about D2D and the company's history.
Draft2Digital was founded in March of 2012. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, the aggregator was founded with a mission to make it easier to distribute ebooks to various online bookstores. And while this is still the backbone of their business model, they've also added more tools to help indie authors save time and money as well as give them a leg up on some aspects of book marketing.
For example, at the time of this writing, their print-on-demand feature, launched in 2018, is in beta. This allows participating authors to print their paperbacks through D2D instead of Amazon, IngramSpark, or some other POD options out there.
Besides assistance with wide publishing, D2D offers tools to help independent authors with formatting, promoting, and tracking sales. We'll get into the specifics of this below. But first, let's find out how exactly this works.
How Does it Work?
Draft2Digital makes things pretty easy. Since they don't charge a monthly fee, you can sign up in about two minutes and start exploring the platform without opening your wallet.
If you don't have an account (your Books2Read credentials will work here, if applicable), simply hit the sign-up button on the top right of their home page.
You'll enter the relevant information (i.e. name, email, optional pen name, and password). Then you'll see a pop-up like this:
You can check out their video tutorials, or you can simply exit out and explore on your own. Your main account page will give you the option to upload your book(s), which is where the fun begins.
How to Upload a Book to Draft2Digital
To get started with your first book, simply click on the prominent “Add New Book” button. Before you upload your manuscript, you’ll be prompted to add relevant information and a book cover if you have one made. If not, you can add one later.
This page prompts you to fill in things like book title, series information, categories, keywords, publisher, and author name(s). This is the information that D2D will use in the various stores, so make sure it’s all accurate and focused on categories/keywords that you’ve spent some time researching.
Many authors just blast through this phase without much forethought, but this can hamstring their sales before they even get started!
By the way, if you're looking to pick the perfect keywords and categories for this step, I recommend Publisher Rocket which will save you a ton of time and easily make back your investment. Learn more here.
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If you’re unsure about one of the required fields, just hover over the helpful question mark for an explanation!
Once you’re happy with what you have, click the “Start Ebook” button.
Next, you’ll have the details page. This is where you’ll upload your edited manuscript and enter your book description (also known as your book blurb). You’ll also be able to get a free ISBN from D2D or select to use your own.
Once done here, click Save & Continue.
Next up is the layout page. This is where you’ll be able to check boxes to add things like a dedication, copyright page, and promotional pages. You’ll also want to make sure the chapter layout looks correct.
Notice that, since I haven’t uploaded a cover yet, D2D keeps reminding me about it. You won’t be able to publish your book without a cover! (Unless you’re setting up a preorder with a release date more than 10 days away.)
Once done here, hit the Save & Continue button again.
The next page is all about formatting and finalizing. On the right, you’ll see the choices you have under “Template Style Options.” You can flip through your book by using the little dots-and-dashes symbols in the top left of the preview page, as you’ll see by the red arrow I added to the screenshot below.
You can (and should) also download different versions of your finished product to see how they look on apps of your choice. Once you’re happy, having checked the finished product over, you’ll need to check the box verifying that you approve of the manuscript and are ready to pick stores for its distribution.
The next and final page is where you can set your price and pick your distributors. You’ll be able to see how much your projected royalties are for each store. You can also opt for making your book available to library services as well. Once you’re done here and you hit submit, the process is done! D2D will email you as your book goes live in the stores. How long this takes varies from store to store.
Now that we’ve covered how to upload your book, you'll probably want to know how much D2D costs, and how you'll pay those costs.
How Much Does it Cost?
Unlike D2D's main competitor, PublishDrive, you won't be paying a monthly (or yearly) fee to use their services. Instead, Draft2Digital takes a 10% fee of the retail price of any book you sell.
This is an important distinction to make, as some authors think in terms of their royalty. Of course, 10% of the retail price is a larger number than 10% of your royalty.
So, let's take a simple round number as an example. Say your ebook sells for $5.00 on [insert ebook retailer here]. The retailer takes 30% of that $5, or $1.50. D2D takes 10%, or $0.50. So you're looking at 40% off the top before your royalties.
That means you'll be making $3 for every sale of that $5 book, instead of the $3.50 you'd be making without D2D.
This means D2D doesn’t charge you separately for using any of their other tools. It's all paid for by that 10% from books you sell through them.
(Note: This example doesn’t account for any delivery charge retailers might take off the top. Just FYI!)
What About Print Books?
For print books through D2D, you'll be making approximately 45% of the list price, minus the printing fees. The thing is that D2D deals with a wide range of retailers, each of which has its own way of doing things, including royalty pricing. So when you're choosing which stores your books will go to, you'll be able to see the pricing and estimated royalties for those stores.
What About Permafree Books?
A permanently free (permafree) series lead is a tried-and-true method to get readers into your series. You set the ebook free on retailers, and make money when readers go on to the other books in the series.
Fortunately, Draft2Digital has no problem with you doing this. However, there is the caveat that Amazon KDP reserves the right to price your book however they want. Granted, they also price match with other stores, but D2D has no control over what Amazon will price your book. Luckily, an email to Amazon with links to your free books in other stores will usually get them to price match at $0.00.
So if permafree is a tactic you're hoping to use, you can definitely do it through D2D.
Of course, you can't do this with print books because you must at least cover the costs of printing that book. But for ebooks, it's a strategy that many authors have used with great success.
The Best Draft2Digital Features
So far, we've talked a bit about a few of Draft2Digital's features. In this section, we'll dive a little deeper at what they have on offer at the time of this writing, and what's in the works.
We can't forget about this! You choose which stores to sell your book in. Their major partners currently include:
- Apple Books
- Barnes & Noble
- Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
- Baker & Taylor
If you don't have my awesome all-in-one writing and formatting software Atticus (hint, hint), then you may find that formatting your manuscript into a beautiful ebook or print book is a big pain in the behind. Luckily, D2D can help. They offer a wide range of pre-made formatting options you can choose to turn your manuscript into the professional work of art that it is!
Once you find one that looks good, you can download a MOBI, EPUB, and/or PDF version of it to see how it looks in action. Pretty convenient, especially if you've been paying someone a pretty penny to format your books.
Although D2D's print-on-demand service has been around since 2018, it's still technically in beta. But that shouldn't worry you. It's fully functional and you shouldn't have any problem getting your book printed through this service.
They currently distribute the POD books to Amazon and through Ingram, which is a huge book distributor. You obviously have to pay for the printing costs, and you can expect to make around 45% of your list price, minus the printing fees, which vary from book to book for a variety of reasons.
If you need to make changes to your print manuscript within 90 days after you upload it, you'll have to pay for it. Like the fee for printing, this price varies from book to book. That said, you can just wait 90 days and then update the print book for free.
D2D's POD program also includes some helpful tools, such as:
- A cover converter to turn your ebook cover into a print book cover.
- A way to ensure your custom print cover is the exact right size.
- A way to make sure there are no widows or orphans in your finished product. (Check out this article on typesetting if you don't know what widows and orphans in formatting are.)
- Offering all the standard trim sizes that other POD services offer.
- Offering standard options when it comes to glossy or matte covers and cream or white paper.
- Free ISBN generator if you need one!
Universal Book Links (UBLs)
One of the things wide authors struggle with is sending readers to the store at which they prefer to shop. Sure, you can copy all the long, unsightly book links from all the different platforms. Or you can create a universal book link through D2D. This way, you only have one link that you can give to all your readers, which will allow them to pick the store of their choice.
D2D also allows you to add links to the audio versions of your book! Plus, for your UBL dashboard, you can see how many clicks each UBL has received. Pretty nifty!
As an indie author, the less you have to juggle, the better, which makes this a very useful tool indeed.
Books2Read Author Pages
Once you create a UBL, D2D will automatically generate an author page. This is a landing page that showcases your work and makes it easy for readers to find your books at whatever store they prefer — provided you have generated a UBL for each of those books.
Some authors use their Books2Read author page instead of a website. Others use it in addition to their website.
You can customize your author page, adding social media links, an author photo, a bio, and links to your author newsletter. You can also choose which book is showcased above the fold and adjust the copy to your liking.
Once again, this tool is a time and money saver if you want to use it instead of an author website.
Books2Read Book Tabs
If you think of your author page as a place to showcase all your books, then a book tab is a page focused on showcasing one specific book. You can send readers directly to a book tab with a link, or they can get to it from your author page by clicking on the book thumbnail.
Like your author page, you can also do some limited customizing of your book tabs. You're able to add a tag, which will tell readers if the book is on sale, free, or a series starter, to name just a few options.
Any book for which you create a Universal Book Link will automatically have a book tab generated. Then, you can go in and change certain elements to your liking!
Of course, any aggregator worth its while has got to have an easy way for you to view sales data. After all, if you're an indie author, you run a self publishing company. And you need to be able to see if you're making a profit from your efforts. Luckily, D2D makes this easy with their sales reports and royalty payment tracking.
From the D2D dashboard, all you have to do is click on the “Reports” link and you'll be taken to a high-level view of your sales and royalties. If you have more than one sales channel (which most authors using D2D will), this dashboard will combine all the sales from those channels to give you a broad view. The dashboard also shows the “Verified Royalties Due,” telling you how much you'll be paid for your sales, minus D2D's 10% and the cut that the various retailers take.
But you can also dig down deeper into your sales by clicking into your charts from the left-hand menu in your reports dashboard. On the charts page, you have all sorts of options to really drill down into your sales, seeing what's working and what's not.
Automated End-Matter and New Release Notifications
D2D also offers an automated end-matter (sometimes called back-matter) feature. This means that you only have to update your information in one place, and D2D adds it to the applicable books. This includes things like other books you've written, your author bio, teasers, and publisher information.
You can also opt to have D2D collect reader emails and send them notifications every time you release a new book.
Coming Soon to D2D
Now that we've covered the major current features offered by D2D, it's time to look into the future. The indie publishing world is likely to change drastically thanks to Draft2Digital’s acquisition of Smashwords. To avoid interruptions, the effects of this merging will be gradually rolling out over time.
This is pretty exciting, and most authors seem happy about this. Some erotica authors are worried, having had issues getting their books published through D2D in the past, but no issues with publishing through Smashwords. However, D2D says there's no need to worry; erotica authors won't be left behind in the merger.
Kris Austin, CEO of Draft2Digital, and Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, are both excited about this all-stock acquisition. Some are even saying that this team-up could actually challenge Amazon, creating some healthy competition in the market.
So what's going to change? Here's a quick rundown of the plans for D2D.
- D2D authors will get access to the Smashwords store, and the Smashwords marketing tools, such as coupons, author interviews, merchandising, and tools for book launches.
- D2D erotica authors will get expanded distribution using the Smashwords’s erotica certification system.
- The combination will provide retailers, libraries, and subscriptions services with more titles and more options, which should increase exposure for indie authors.
- Smashwords authors will get access to D2D’s marketing, distribution, and sales tools outlined above.
Since, at the time of this writing, the acquisition is in its infancy, there will no doubt be more news as the two companies combine under the Draft2Digital name.
There are plenty of pros when it comes to Draft2Digital. And while we've covered most of them in detail above, here's a quick rundown:
- Formatting is Very Easy – Upload your manuscript, click a few buttons, and you've got a beautiful book!
- UBLs, Author Pages, and Book Tabs, Oh My! – These features go together well, and make things easy for both authors and readers. You don't necessarily even need a website if you use these features! (To be clear, your own author website is a good idea, but not everyone has the means or time to set one up immediately.)
- Simple Print-On-Demand – Offer print books on Amazon and through Ingram!
- Distribution List – Their distribution was good even before acquiring Smashwords — it's about to get better!
- Sales Tracking Tools – Super easy to navigate, offering you sales information at a glance while also allowing you to dig down deep, which you'll definitely need to do sooner or later.
- Free ISBNs – Saves you money! ISBNs are fairly expensive.
- Pricing – They make money only when you sell books!
- Notifications – D2D will let you know whenever your book goes live in a new store!
- Pricing – The flip side of the percentage pricing model is the more you sell, the more you pay out. If you're sure you'll be selling a lot of books, you may want to look into using a fee-only distributor like PublishDrive. But if you're unsure how this wide experiment is going to go, you could save money by using D2D.
- POD Fees – D2Ds POD services seem pretty standard. However, the fact that you’ll have to pay a little to make changes to your print manuscript within 90 days is a con. As a comparison, you can make as many changes as you want using Amazon’s POD services. But if you get it right the first time, this won’t be a concern for you.
- New Release Notifications – While this feature seems good at a glance, it's better for authors to collect email addresses themselves. If you're trying to get readers onto your mailing list and D2D's new release mailing list, you're going to have a tough go of it. Instead, opt out of this feature and set up your own email list collector — your future self with thank you.
There are a lot of things that indie authors have to juggle. From social media and marketing to writing and planning new releases, there never seems to be enough time in the day. And when you have to deal with each publishing retailer separately, your time is even more limited.
Saving you time is where Draft2Digital excels. They offer book distribution services to many major platforms. They also make it easy for you to do formatting, update your back-matter, see your book sales, and set up sales pages for each of your books. When combined, you can save time and money, prevent headaches, and work on writing your next book! And thanks to their recent acquisition of Smashwords, they'll be rolling out even more features in the coming months.