In the self-publishing world, there are many different platforms on which you can sell your books. Most know about the uber-popular Amazon KDP, but what about the others?
As it turns out, there are over 55+ book retailers out there that sell self-published books like iTunes, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, and a whole lot more.
But formatting a book and submitting it to all the different platforms can be tedious work.
Thankfully, this is where book distribution services like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and PublishDrive step in. These platforms will take your book and distribute it to a list of publishing retailers, control the analytics, collect royalties, and pay you in one lump sum.
This is incredibly efficient and helps to get your book out to more readers with little to no extra work.
Given that the three services are very similar, how do they stack up against each other? Which is the right option for you as an author?
In this article, you will learn:
- When to use these services
- Side-by-side comparison of Smashwords VS Draft2Digital VS PublishDrive
- How I personally use distribution services for my books
- My final verdict on the best distribution service
Table of contents
PS: If you'd like to skip the details and see who is the winner and who I WILL be using, click here to jump right to that section.
When to Use These Services
Let me be frank.
These services are for those of you who do NOT want to format and upload their book to each individual publishing retailer out there. They are for those who want to quickly and efficiently get your book on LOTS of different markets and just receive one royalty check a month (rather than a handful of checks from each platform every month).
For a small slice of the income you make through their services, the guys at Smashwords, Draft2Digital, or PublishDrive, will handle the distribution and admin side for you. This allows you to focus on the things that matter more to you as an author.
This is A-Okay with me because, remember, each publishing retailer has its own guidelines and required formats. Honestly, it can be a little confusing. Case-in-point: iTunes is way more strict on what you can say in the summary, while Kobo has different requirements for formatting.
And heaven forbid you are doing your own accounting…oy!The Smashwords vs Draft2Digital Showdown: Which one is better?Click To Tweet
Can you make more money by not using these services? Yes.
But is it really worth all the time it would take to individually list your book on every platform? That depends on you, your budget, and your goals.
For me, I like the ease of these services and how many extra sales they have brought me by listing my books on all the other platforms.
But which one is the best?
In order to write this article, I submitted my books to all three and even went so far as to contact the CEOs of two of the companies. Many thanks to both Mark Coker of Smashwords and Aaron Pogue of Draft 2 Digital for your time. You guys are both super classy; your hard work and effort are thoroughly appreciated.
Draft2Digital vs. Smashwords vs. PublishDrive: The Showdown
Essentially, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and PublishDrive offer very similar services. Originally, Smashwords was the major player before Draft2Digital entered the market to provide some competition. Now, PublishDrive is taking on the established names.
Let’s check out some of the basic differences between the three companies:
|Upfront Cost||$0||$0||Free Trial, then $9.99/month|
|Accepted Book Formats||doc, epub||doc, docx, epub||.docx and epub|
|Their Commission*||15% on Smashwords|
10% Other Platforms
|10% All Platforms||No Commission|
|Who Does Formatting||You||They Do!||You|
Barnes & Noble
Baker & Taylor
Mobile Phone Apps
Barnes & Noble
|Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Scrib, Overdrive.com, Dangdang, CNPeReading, Playster, Odilo.es, Bookmate.com, Gardners.com, Mackin.com, Perlego, Ciando.com, 24symbols.com, bibliotheca, e-sentral.com, ekonyv.hu, ultimediaplaza.com bookshout! Tolino, e-letoltes tookbook.com elefant.ro|
-Splits with Distributors
|-Universal Book Links|
-Preorder Setup with Most Vendors
|Advanced Marketing Features Amazon Advertising Credit|
|Website||See It Now!||See It Now!||See It Now!|
*Remember that their commission is on top of whatever the platform's commission will be. So, if you sold a book on iBook for $10, iBook would take $3 (their 30% commission) and D2D/Smashwords would take $1 (10% of their commission) leaving you with 60% or $6.
Pros and Cons of Smashwords
Truth be told, Smashwords is the original ebook publishing platform for indie authors and the world's largest distributor of self-published ebooks. Currently, they distribute over 450,000 books from over 130,000 indie authors. That's pretty jaw-dropping when you think about it.
Besides being a fountain of knowledge, their website also houses an ebook store that allows Smashwords self-publishers to create coupons and even give their books away for free–no kindle select style contracts required either.
One of the strongest arguments for Smashwords is that they have a larger number of publishing platforms that they distribute to. Most interpret this as “more sales.” However, as you will see later in this article when I analyze a case study of mine, that might not be the case.
Smashwords has finally responded to the pressure of their competition and pays authors monthly now, instead of quarterly. So that's no longer a drawback.
However, to submit your book to Smashwords, you'll need to format your book as per their instructions–and the requirements for formatting are extensive.
How extensive, you ask?
They created a 27,000-word document to tell you all about it. Yup…27K. That’s basically a complete ebook on how to prepare your ebook.
Now, that being said, I will say that it really isn’t that difficult. But it is something to consider if you haven’t done it before…especially if you aren't very tech savvy.
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Pros and Cons of Draft2Digital
Draft2Digital was the new kid on the block. Adopting a new age platform, the Draft2Digital website is pretty sweet and the dashboard is very easy to use. Honestly, comparing the two, Smashwords looks and operates like an early 2000's website, while D2D is modern, sleek and much more clear.
Oh, and did I mention the website and the author reports are a lot easier to navigate and understand? Plus, D2D pays you monthly, and they always have.
But my favorite part is that they do the formatting for you for both ebook and print copies. Just send them your .doc or .docx and they will make it compliant for all of their platforms. As they say on their front page:
“Your style guide is our style guide. And if you don’t have a style guide, that’s okay too. Just get us your manuscript and we’ll do all the technical stuff for you. It’s really that simple.”
Another thing I like about Draft2Digital is that they will email you each time a book goes live on a platform and keep you updated on the status of your book at the other retailers. That's what I call instant notification!
Finally, Draft2Digital helps authors sell more books by giving authors access to Universal Book Links (UBL). While Amazon is the most popular site for buying books, there are many people who buy from non-Amazon sites. If you don't have links to each customer's preferred book retailer, you're missing out on sales.
And instead of having to create and manage a link for every retailer, you easily make your book more discoverable by using one universal book link. Read more about how to take advantage of this savvy marketing tool here.Ever heard of the phrase: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” Well, the same goes with publishingClick To Tweet
In the past, one of my major cons for Draft2Digital was that they didn't distribute to as many markets as Smashwords. That's no longer the case. They do and more. So, yay to their team for improving and growing.
Draft2Digital now offers a print option as well making it a solid choice for any author.
Pros and Cons of PublishDrive
Out of the three, PublishDrive is the latest to join the party of book distribution.
And I’m pleased to see that PublishDrive took the trend of D2D's sleek interface and experience and really ran with it.
The user interface is easy to navigate. The dashboard is really clear to use and the most important information, such as your copies sold and money made, is presented quickly and simply.
The user-friendly feel of PublishDrive is established from the get-go. When you first sign up for the service, you are lead through a checklist which establishes where you are at as an author, and what your goals are from using the PublishDrive service. This is a great landing point as it truly feels like they’ve got your back, and you don’t have to handle things alone.
Another advantage of using PublishDrive is the marketing services they provide. You can quickly and easily access functions such as Amazon Advertising and review copy generation from within the service. Something you CAN'T do with the others.
Also, PublishDrive handles physical books now like D2D, while Smashwords does not.
A major downside to PublishDrive in comparison to Draft2Digital is the requirement to do your own book formatting. Many authors will be OK with having to format their books, but it’s nice that Draft2Digital offer this as a way of saving you time and effort.
Furthermore, I'm not a fan of PublishDrive's cost. The other markets only cost 5% of sales, while PublishDrive will probably cost you $19.99 per month to us.
Overall, I feel PublishDrive has everything you’d look for in a book distribution service. I have a good feeling about the company and the people running it. I expect them to expand their marketing services over time, and I’ll update this comparison guide when they do.
How I Use Book Distribution Services
Before I get into which one is the best, let me explain how I use book distribution services and why I think you should consider doing it the same.
When I publish my books, I personally upload them to Amazon, iTunes, B&N Press, and Kobo. I do this because all four of them account for 99% of my sales. Plus, when I personally do it, I get more options with each one and can make sure my books look their best on those platforms (which equates to more sales). You don't have to put them on all four of those (it's actually a painful process), but I'd ABSOLUTELY recommend you at least put it on Amazon yourself.
Then, for the other 55+ book markets out there, use a book distribution service. If you book happens to make a sale on those platforms, then awesome. You just made a sale that you wouldn't have. To me, that's when the book distribution services earn their money.
The Winner is…
I'm not a fan of Smashwords. It's old and out-of-date.
While PublishDrive offers way more, like being able to do Amazon ads, and Abacus…I really don' t like their monthly payment plan. Using the system above, I'd lose a LOT more money using them. Over the past 5 years, I've made $7000 from those other markets. Draft2Digital has earned $350 for their work of getting me those extra sales. If I had used PublishDrive to do that, it would have cost me $1,200. Plus, using it the way I do, all of PublishDrive's benefits wouldn't help me to sell better.
Perhaps with the physical book distribution it could be good. But if I did that, it would cost me even more per month.
So, in the end, Draft2Digital is the winner and I'll continue to use them. They are extremely well put together and have a track record of always improving. Plus, I know they are currently working to include audiobooks in the future as well.