Ask KJ, Self Publishing

Smashwords vs BookBaby vs Draft2Digital

Converting a manuscript for eBook publication is more complex than simply uploading it to various digital sales channels. This makes choosing a conversion/distribution service an important decision for many self-published authors. At this point, I have narrowed the options down to three: Smashwords, BookBaby and Draft2Digital.

Before I get into comparing the three platforms, I should disclose that my books are currently enrolled in KDP Select, which makes them exclusive to Amazon. For now, this makes sense to me because I’m a newer, relatively unknown author. But in the future, say after I publish my next two books, I plan to branch out into other markets. It never hurts to do your homework early, right?

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One advantage to being enrolled in KDP Select is that it makes my books available to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime subscribers. Without the exposure, a lot of Amazon customers would never come across my books or my name. Furthermore, when a subscriber borrows one of my books, I get paid per page read based on the size of the KDP Select Global Fund which varies from month to month. Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no. While I currently make more on borrows than on sales, there is definitely a downside. KDP Select books can be sold only on Amazon. So, readers who purchase eBooks from Barnes & Noble, Kobo or Apple (to name just a few other eBook retailers), don’t have immediate access to the e-versions of my books. Sure, they could download a Kindle app, but some readers simply prefer other platforms and some may not have access to the Kindle store period. This is why I plan to opt out of KDP Select in the future.

Now, back to comparing Smashwords, BookBaby and Draft2Digital.

Smashwords

Upfront Cost: $0

Royalty per sale: 15%

Input formats accepted: Word .doc, professionally designed epub

Formatting: Must be done by author (unless a fee is paid)

Distributes to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Scribd, Oyster, Baker & Taylor (operates Blio, a popular e-reading app, and also operates Axis360 which distributes ebooks to public libraries), txtr, mobile phone app vendors (Aldiko on Android; Kobo on all mobile platforms) and other online venues (must upload to KDP yourself)

Extras: Coupon generator, adjustable royalty splits with distributors

What I’ve heard: easy-to-use formatting guide, classy output, excellent dashboard interface

BookBaby

Upfront Cost: $299

Royalty per sale: 0%

Input formats accepted: Word, PDF

Formatting: Included

Distributes to: KDP, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Copia, Gardners Books, Baker & Taylor, eSentral, Scribd, Flipkart, Oyster, Ciando, EBSCO, ePubDirect,

Extras: Print-on-demand services available, converts up to 50 graphic elements, premium listings on Goodreads, Noisetrade, BookDaily, and Bublish, step-by-step guide to choosing keywords, free social media guide, free reviews

What I’ve heard: good cover illustrators

Draft2Digital

Upfront Cost: $0

Royalty per sale: 10%

Input formats accepted: Word .doc or .docx, RTF

Formatting: Included

Distributes to: Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, Page Foundry (must upload to KDP yourself)

Extras: Can set up a preorder with most vendors, free ISBNs

What I’ve heard: very user friendly, excellent (human) customer service

At this point, I’ve ruled out Bookbaby due to the upfront cost. Between Smashwords and D2D, I’m leaning toward SW because of the wider distribution and the coupon generator, which allows authors to offer books at discounted rates, or even for free, without changing prices on sales channels.

Do you currently use one of these services? If so, what are your thoughts?