Battle of the Distributors: Smashwords vs Draft2Digital

Since I started self-publishing in 2011, Smashwords has been the overwhelming favorite for savvy self-publishers who wanted or needed a distributor to reach non-Amazon e-bookstores. However, a new competitor called Draft2Digital launched a beta version of their service earlier this year and has been gaining popularity. In July, they hit 1,000 users, 10,000 titles, and 1,000,000 books sold.

I’ve been getting lots of questions about Draft2Digital, and experimenting with them myself, so I thought it was a good time for a side-by-side comparison as there are distinct pros and cons to each service. But before we get into that, let’s look at the question of whether you need to use a distributor at all.

The virtues of going direct

In my experience, it’s almost always advantageous to go direct where you can. Benefits include faster payments, up-to-date sales figures (crucial for measuring the effectiveness of any marketing), more direct control of which categories you appear in (important for both discoverability and visibility), and the ability to make changes to your metadata quickly (to change price for a temporary sale). In addition to all that, of course, distributors like Smashwords and Draft2Digital take a cut – typically 15% (it varies depending on the retail partner and the price you have set).

The only real drawback to going direct is that each retailer tends to have their own requirements in terms of the file they require (MOBI for Amazon, EPUB for everyone else), and has their own set of rules (e.g. Apple tends to freak out at any mention of Amazon or the Kindle), and each upload has to be handled separately. The extra steps this adds on the production side may seem trivial as you launch each book, but can become a major headache when you have a catalog of 20 titles and need to update the back-matter on everything to link to your latest release.

That aside, not everyone is in a position to go direct everywhere. Barnes & Noble only allows US self-publishers to use Nook Press – as was the case with its predecessor, PubIt! I’ve little confidence that this will change in the near future, given that opening up to international self-publishers was promised “soon” at the original launch of PubIt! in December 2010. Apple famously requires self-publishers to use a Mac to upload, and many (such as myself) would rather use a distributor than go through that expense of purchasing a Mac or the hassle of borrowing one (or using emulator software like MacinCloud).

There’s one further reason to use Smashwords in particular: perma-free. To my knowledge, Smashwords remains the only way through which you can set a book free on Barnes & Noble (if you know of alternatives, please share in the comments).

Finally, whatever your reasons for using a distributor, you should always go direct with Amazon’s KDP. It will likely be the overwhelming majority of your sales (for reasons I explained in detail in Let’s Get Visible, but also touch on in this post). As such, you really should go direct to get those near-live sales reports, to maximize royalty payments, to place your book in the right granular sub-categories, and to have the ability to change your price quickly.

Smashwords Pros

Smashwords offers a number of unique features. Most obviously, the distribution network is wider. With Draft2Digital, you can only reach Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, but Smashwords adds Sony, Diesel as well as a number of library services. This may or may not be important to you (I have one Sony reader, *waves*), but it’s worth mentioning.

On top of that Smashwords also has a retail store. This is a bone of contention for some who feel that it looks dated and should be improved. Personally, I would much rather Smashwords to focus their time, energy, and investment on other areas of the business (highlighted below). Smashwords is primarily a distributor, not a retailer, and I see the retail store (such as it is) as a bonus which enables me to serve customers in certain parts of the world who get hit by the Amazon Surcharge and allows me to do handy things like coupons. Smashwords also runs regular on-site promotions which can drive some sales.

As a more established player, Smashwords has growing clout with retailers. This has afforded Smashwords authors lucrative merchandizing opportunities at stores like Apple. This clout also means they are less likely to suffer outages (unlike my experience with Draft2Digital, detailed below). Perhaps most notably of all, Smashwords is now using this clout to roll out attractive new features, such as pre-orders (the reason why this is so cool is explained in this article and the comments underneath).

Finally, Smashwords’ CEO Mark Coker is very visible in the publishing community. He uses his platform to share his company’s data on important topics like pricing, to fight against scammers like Author Solutions, and has gone to the mat for indies on issues like the PayPal/erotica dispute. While you don’t necessarily have to be a Smashwords author to benefit from that, he regularly promotes Smashwords authors when speaking to the media.

Smashwords Cons

The two most frequent criticisms I hear about Smashwords are in relation to customer service and the sales reports. I’m actually not going to crucify them for either issue, because, to be frank, that’s an issue at almost all distributors and retailers. With regard to customer service (which has been patchy in my experience too), I’d rather focus on solving issues before they become a problem. More on that below.

While the Smashwords sales reports are particularly unintelligible, I’m more concerned with the speed with which those sales are reported. It’s not unusual to go two months without an update to, say, Barnes & Noble numbers – which is maddening and makes it difficult to measure the effect of any marketing.

Of even greater concern is the slowness with which books get published to partner sites, and the speed that price (and other metadata) changes get processed.

Some of the slowness in publishing speed is caused by the manual review system at Apple and can’t be avoided. But there should be no such issues with Barnes & Noble, and there can still be considerable lag in getting titles to appear there even when they have already passed the Premium Catalog review at Smashwords.

This latter issue caused me to switch to Draft2Digital for my last release. This was a new book, and it was live on Barnes & Noble and Apple within a few hours – quicker even than KDP. Smashwords has huge room for improvement here, and it’s really important for indies hitting their mailing lists that titles are live everywhere ASAP (because we really only want to hit that list once). I should note though that the ability to set up pre-orders may be a workaround, but I haven’t tried it yet so can’t confirm – if you have, please note in the comments.

Regarding price/metadata changes, Smashwords really needs to speed up here too. When I was last using Smashwords (around March this year), the connection to Apple was really good, and price changes seemed to be taking effect within hours. But the connection to Barnes & Noble was still very hit-and-miss. I know that Smashwords now claim they do daily shipments of price/metadata changes to Barnes & Noble, but I’ve also heard reports that it’s not quite working this way in practice (again, let me know your experience in the comments).

For authors using reader sites like BookBub to promote a limited-time 99c sale, it’s crucial that these price changes happen faster. Again, this slowness was the main reason I switched already-published titles over to Draft2Digital (where price changes on Apple and Barnes & Noble seem to happen in a couple of hours). With Smashwords, even if you push the price change through in advance to ensure it’s ready for your ad spot, you can get caught in price-matching hell on the other side after the promotion – which is the time you really make money, when you are back to full price and visible in the charts.

Finally, Smashwords needs to look at how books are being categorized on partner sites, and how blurbs are appearing. Most of my Smashwords titles seemed to end up in arbitrary categories on Barnes & Noble and Apple, and the blurbs were often either screwy or missing altogether. I don’t seem to have had any such issues with Draft2Digital to date.

Draft2Digital Pros

Draft2Digital is strong where Smashwords is weak. Sales reports are updated daily. The reports themselves aren’t great, but are a lot more intelligible than Smashwords. The reporting speed is key though. I can tell straight away if my marketing initiatives have made a dent.

Publishing speed has been very quick for me too. In March/April it was taking around a day to publish to Barnes & Noble and Kobo (I go direct with Kobo, but was testing the connection), and about a week for Apple (because of that manual review). By May, it was even faster: a few hours each for both Barnes & Noble and Apple. I don’t know what they did to speed up that review time at Apple, but it was really fast for me. However, other authors have had issues with the publishing speed at Apple (with one friend taking a couple of weeks to publish), so please note your own experience in the comments.

My experience with price/metadata changes is even faster. Changes can go live in a few hours tops, sometimes less than an hour. The speed of this makes it easy to include non-Amazon stores in any 99c promotions I run – something that was extremely problematic when I was reaching those stores via Smashwords.

One nifty feature Draft2Digital has – which Smashwords could (and should) replicate – is their system sends you an automated email when your book has published to each store (including when you just change the price). This is so handy, and means I don’t have to continually refresh my listings at, say, Barnes & Noble to see if a price has dropped or a book has gone live. It’s especially useful for Apple as finding your books via search can be problematic, and building direct HTML links to those titles is awkward.

Blurbs are in much better shape than via Smashwords. For some reason, on Barnes & Noble, Smashwords defaults to the truncated version of your blurb it asks you to input on publishing – and in my experience it often didn’t appear at all, or the formatting was all over the place (extra blank spaces etc.). With Draft2Digital, I have had no such issues and can make the blurb appear exactly how I like.

Finally, Draft2Digital appears to do a much better job in getting your book in the appropriate category on those partner sites – crucial for the reasons outlined above.

Draft2Digital Cons

As a smaller, newer company, Draft2Digital doesn’t have the same clout as Smashwords. This means that you probably won’t get those merchandizing opportunities with Apple that can be such a game-changer. That may change as the site grows, but growth itself will present its own challenges.

While Draft2Digital is superior right now in the areas of publishing speed, price/metadata changes, and categories, it very much remains to be seen whether it can keep up those service levels as it has to deal with more and more customers (i.e. whatever solution they have come up with to those problems may or may not be scalable).

The automated system for telling you when a book is published is cool, but it doesn’t tell you when a book has been rejected by Apple, or (and this is more likely) when your book is stuck in manual review limbo for whatever reason. Even when customer service is contacted, they don’t seem to know the reasons for the hold-up either. Some work could be done on their communication with Apple (and then to affected customers). Smashwords has a slight edge here in that their Premium Catalog review system often tends to flag such issues in advance.

As Draft2Digital is in beta, there is a question mark about reliability. Last month they suffered a serious outage when Barnes & Noble pulled all Draft2Digital titles, without warning or explanation.

Unfortunately for me, that was the day I was running a BookBub ad, and my books disappeared for several hours just as the BookBub email went out. Of course, the promo was pretty much a bust on Barnes & Noble that day, and screwed up any chance of getting traction there for several months.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the communications from Draft2Digital afterwards. I asked them if they had figured out what caused the problem, and put in place any steps to prevent it recurring but only really got a non-answer in response. Quite frankly, that’s not good enough. We need to know that our titles won’t be arbitrarily pulled from the partner sites. Aside from costing us lost sales for the period they are missing, it also costs us crucial momentum. It’s hard enough to get sales going outside Amazon as it is.

Finally, Draft2Digital is missing some features unique to Smashwords: wider distribution, library sales, retail store, coupons, and, probably most important of all, the ability to set books free at Barnes & Noble. You can set books free via Draft2Digital, but that free price is only passed on to Apple and Kobo, and a price of 99c appears at Barnes & Noble instead.

The Verdict

As you can see from the above, there’s plenty of room for both services to improve. Each has motive too. Draft2Digital is the upstart, and will need to work on reliability if they want to keep growing, and make sure that service levels maintain as it get more popular (which is a real challenge and where it could potentially fall down). Smashwords finally has some serious competition, and that can only help spur it on. Having two real competitors both seeking to improve their services can only benefit self-publishers.

But who comes out on top right now? If you had asked me a month ago, I might have given an unqualified recommendation to Draft2Digital, but the Barnes & Noble outage hit me pretty hard. I suspect that Smashwords has too much clout at this point for Barnes & Noble to pull something like that with them.

Smashwords has also made some interesting improvements lately. Perhaps it’s in response to competition, perhaps it was in the pipeline anyway. Either way, adding pre-orders is a huge move. Aside from the considerable benefits of the facility itself, I’m interested what it signifies: that Smashwords is thinking outside the box and seeking to use their clout with retailers to carve out benefits for its clients. This bodes well for the future.

But Smashwords still has a lot of work to do. Reporting needs to be hugely improved – Draft2Digital wins hands down on that front right now. And even more important, they need to really focus on the speed of those metadata changes. The main reason I switched to Draft2Digital was because they could publish a book quickly, and change a price even faster. If Smashwords could match them on that front, I’d be back in a heartbeat.

In short, my ideal distributor would take elements of both services. From Draft2Digital, speedy publishing and price/metadata changes, along with their superior blurb formatting and categorization. From Smashwords, the clout, reliability, and merchandizing opportunities, as well as cool new features like pre-orders and existing ones like coupons.

Consider this before you switch

One wrinkle, which is relevant to people switching in either direction, or indeed those contemplating ditching distributors altogether: you will likely lose any (extremely) hard-won momentum you have built up on those non-Amazon retailers. You may also lose your reviews.

When I switched to go direct with Kobo, I lost all momentum on the one title that was actually selling there (which I never recovered), and the Kobo-specific reviews on all titles were wiped. When I switched from Smashwords to Draft2Digital, I seemed to keep my reviews at Barnes & Noble (but not Apple).

Keep this in mind, particularly if you are already selling well and/or have built up some nice reviews. If I had the non-Amazon sales of someone like Sarah Woodbury or Shayne Parkinson, there’s no way in hell I’d risk switching distributor (for existing titles at least).

What about you? Which distributor are you currently using? How do you rate their performance? What features are they not offering that you would like to see?

One final thing before I sign off:

If any Smashwords/Draft2Digital peeps are reading this, I hope you take the criticism in the spirit it’s intended. I genuinely want to see both services improve and hope that each can spur the other on to greater things. For my commenters, something about this topic can bring out the crazy. I definitely want to hear your frank opinions on each service, but please keep your comments respectful and constructive. Saying “X sucks” isn’t very useful, but saying “X needs to improve Y, and maybe this is how they could do it” benefits everyone.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

147 Replies to “Battle of the Distributors: Smashwords vs Draft2Digital”

  1. I have a problem with Amazon and would urge everyone to pull their books from them as I have done. They are selling my Audio book (ACX is owned by Amazon) for $19.95 and they only pay me $1.68. On top of that many of us authors are tired of seeing our books selling ‘USED” everywhere by the hundreds when we have not even been paid for them when they sold “NEW”.
    ALSO of great importance is the fact that when I told other authors how to find out how many books have been sold they removed my 5-STAR REVIEW as a retaliatory action. Last Christmas I had $98 coming to me according to their own records on my author page, and after talking to an employee on the phone they said they had not sent me the check yet because they are not allowed to mail them out until the total is $100.
    The employee told me that if I opened a bank account they could direct deposit the $98 in a couple of hours.
    When I went through all of the trouble of opening a bank account, they turned around and only paid me $9. They obviously have a book keeping skimming the books!

  2. Hi.

    I picked up this article just now but it is three years old so can I ask in short, have there been any major improvements on either Draft to Digital or Smashwords and which of the two would you consider taking the checkered flag?

    1. A couple of pluses for D2D, no requirement that you list them on the cover page like SM does. Also, D2D helps you generate author bio and “other books by” pages. They just added an option for your readers to opt in for announcements of upcoming titles. I’ve been very impressed with the writer friendly features.

  3. The issue I’m having with Draft2Digital is the file size limit. With several pages of historical photos, the word document is larger than the 50 MB D2D allows. Big problem for this book which is normally solved by converting to a pdf before upload.

  4. I guess my question is this. Is there a benefit to uploading a book to multiple aggregators, such as Smashwords & D2D, and then directing them both to aggregate your book to the same vendors?

    1. Kathy, after I asked my question I saw you had asked essentially the same one more than a month ago. I don’t know if we’ll get replies. However, in my response to another user’s question I mentioned that I’ve been using Smashwords, Lulu, Amazon, Createspace, and ACX for several years now without any overlapping issues. I’d never heard of D2D until yesterday, but I’m going to check it out and perhaps publish through them, too. Good luck with your writing and publishing!

  5. Is there any reason why an author couldn’t use both Smashwords *and* Draft2Digital? I’ve been using both Smashwords and Lulu for years without problems (well, except for Smashwords intricate formatting demands); I’d like to try Draft2Digital.

    1. Neil, anywhere I’ve self published (Smashwords, Lulu, Amazon, Createspace, ACX) you are responsible for your book cover. Check; there are some people there who can design an excellent cover *very* inexpensively.

  6. Are there any benefits to offering the same book to the same vendors via different distributors? To clarify – offering a book entitled, My Dilemma to BN using BOTH Smashwords & D2D?

  7. I last posted on 20th February. It seems my book, Excite is on a hit-list since. I was told I was owed $11.39. but I have a best-selling book. I saw Excite high up on the most downloaded list, priced at $99.99. I have to query $11.39. For emphasis, since I know Mark will be here shortly and he will answer all of my questions and solve the dashboard problem like Samsang promised. I saw Excite high up on the most downloaded list, priced at $99.99. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Jenni,

      If you think you have an issue with your Smashwords account, this is not the place to resolve it. I recommend you contact Smashwords. They have always been very responsive any time I needed to contact them.

      And, by the way, the idea that Smashwords doesn’t pay authors is just ridiculous. I’ve been using Smashwords since 2011 without any payment problems whatsoever. I’m very active in the self-publishing community and know hundreds of authors who have also used Smashwords without any payment problems whatsoever.

      Smashwords is a reputable provider with a good reputation.


  8. Have you considered updating this comparison–or do you have a more recent one? Draft2Digital is no longer brand new, and I have had nothing but excellent customer service from them.

  9. I am really late to this party, but gotta say that a couple commenters need to get out of their diapers and handle these issues more like an adult. Mr. Coker has been the consummate professional in his responses. Love/hate the situation, but handle it like an adult. You guys need a paddlin.

  10. Thank you for this insightful article. I am about to publish on Smashwords, and I find it very helpful to know the pros and cons. My question: could you use BOTH distributors on one title, since Smashwords is non-exclusive?

  11. Smashwords uploaded my work quickly, but three years later they have not a clue how many items have been sold. They reply with annoying remarks. I have told them dozens of times that I lost my original dashboard when I lost my original email address, but they are playing games because they well know that there has been no action on the original dashboard for years.
    What they do is feast on the fact that thousands of books get uploaded every day. Most books sell about ten copies, but with thousands flowing in daily, writers suffer whilst this publisher becomes a multi-billionaire. One needs to make a sale of I think over sixty dollars to get paid. They love keeping all of the money from authors who earned less than that sixty dollars according to their “terms and conditions”.

    1. Hi Jenni – I’ve used Smashwords for four years without any problems like that. Never one issue getting paid, or with sales going missing, and I’ve never heard any similar issues in all the time I’ve been self-publishing. Not sure what happened in your case, but Smashwords is a reputable operator – without question.

      With regard to payment minimums, virtually all retailers have those. As you pointed out, many titles don’t sell a lot so there has to be some minimum payment threshold or else Smashwords would generate huge transaction costs for those transfers, costs which would then have to be passed on to us in the form of lower royalties. I think the minimum on Smashwords is less than $60 though.

    2. Hi Jenni, no billionaires here except in our books. The payment threshold is $10 if you’re configured to be paid via PayPal, and $75 for paper check payments (available to US authors only). Our sales reports will capture all sales at all our retailers going back to day one. If you’re having difficulty logging into your account, click the “forgot password” link. I’m concerned about your comment regarding “annoying remarks.” If you need help on this, feel free to email me, or forward me your prior email thread with us. I see you’re owed $11.39 but your payment settings have not been completed (you have not specified the country you reside in and haven’t provided a paypal address – you can do this from the Account tab, then click to Payment Settings. My email is mc@ ….

      1. Wow,
        The truth reigns! Thousands of books uploaded each minute can only be seen for a few seconds, thus as I said, authors are lucky at SW to have sold a single copy and with the vast majority of those books being priced under $4.99, authors never get paid. Who gets the fat and furious keep, Mark?
        It took you three years to come up with a figure of $11.39. What superior accounting skills you have! It’s all annoying. Both Aaron and Kevin should be dragged to the screen showing that $11.39 because they both keep insisting that there were ‘no books published.’ Anyway, like someone else mentioned, they may well be your only employees!

  12. I really loved your article above. My head hurts from all the contradictions and new, valuable info. I just completed my book. Being a standup comic I realized a few comics published on Penguine. When I googled Penguine what also came up was Authorhouse/solutions. Random House and Penguine and Authorhouse/solutions is the same company. I loved that.
    They are reputable c
    ompamies. I called them, was told my book would go thru content read, and I paid a discounted price of $400. for everything (content read for legal issues, production, marketing, my bio and publishing). BUT Authorhouse/solutions has so many complaints I contacted the Better Business Bureau who told me they have an A Rating. I AM SOOOO
    confused. Everything I read about any company is contradicted by everything I read. Amazon are called Nazi’s, and compared to Chinese water torture. You indicate so much valuable info, but I feel like giving up fearing no matter whom I choose, I will make a serious mistake. I will cancel with Authorhouse/solutions before we get into production. Which is now.
    AH just read for content legal issues so I believe i might get my money back since it didnt go in production. I need help. I love your writing. People recommend smashwords, createspace, Bookbaby, Amazon (but geez remember Stephen Colpert blasted Amazon re his book?), or Draft2digital, or formatting on each. It’s taking me months to decide what to do when I cancel with Authorhouse/solutions. When you wrote about Mark (or you) call them “scammers” there isnt much to say except for me to leave them. Please help me. I am terrific at research, or so I thought. Now I am more confused than when I first started research, but with your help my head will, finally, stop hurting. (Note: Sorry for any mistakes or sentences cut off since I wrote this only on my cell.)

    1. Hi Gayle, I’ll try and make this as simple as possible for you.

      1. Absolutely stay away from AuthorHouse, Author Solutions, or any other self-publishing company linked to Penguin (or any other traditional publisher). They are all crooked. You can read more on that here:

      2. Don’t believe the hype about Amazon. A lot of it is BS fed to reporters from companies competing with Amazon (like Hachette). There’s more on that here:

      3. It’s easier than you think to self-publish. I have a post on the basics here:

  13. I had the same issues with Smashwords. Meatgrinder is an abortion. However, Smashwords added the EPUB download capability and it works like a charm (avoiding meathead’s Meatgrinder). It will take longer for them to recognize that you have complied with their arcane rules, because their autovetter doesn’t work with EPUB and it must be done manually, which adds about a week to accepting your book. But, eventually it works.

  14. I tried Draft2Digital in 2013. Poor quality on the conversion process. No matter the advice from so-called customer service reps, the software would not format my books in the correct manner. I left the site, never to return.

  15. Is there anywhere that I go to and learn how to do it direct? I am finishing up a book now, and was looking into smashwords, but after reading a lot of comments here am not sure what to do. I think I would prefer to go direct with as many places as possible. What all places are you able to go direct and what ones can you not? Is there links to places that show how to go direct? For those that you can not go direct, would D2D or SW be better?

  16. A very informative post, and since I use both services I can definitely agree with the positives and negatives of both places. I have some of my titles on Smashwords to get the hard to reach places but I focus most of my attention on d2d.
    In my opinion, d2d may have some way to go before it’s a real power in the business but they’ve started off well, they seem to care more about their clients, and they definitely pay attention.
    On the occasions when B&N and then Kobo recently removed books I was informed by d2d (I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise) and they contacted me several times to keep me updated with the current state of the issue.
    They report sales quicker, distribute quicker, pay quicker and respond quicker if you contact that with an issue, all of which are major plus factors in my opinion. They have also done some work on upgrading the reports pages to give more flexibility.
    I have also been told that they are actively pursuing distribution deals with a range of sites and companies, with the intention of providing authors with the biggest reach possible.

    From past experience it seems to me that Mark Coker is more interested in knocking Amazon than he is improving his own site, I can only hope that changes or he may well lose out to d2d very soon.

  17. You can use Lulu to publish a freebie to B&N instead of Smashwords. They both take about the same amount of time to approve and publish. I used them both for the same book last year to see who would appear at B&N first – it was Lulu, by a few days. Also, Lulu publishes to Apple. They report sales daily.

  18. Regarding pre-orders (which Draft2Digital now also does) — I just put my KDP Select title up for pre-order at iTunes and got an email from Amazon warning me that I was violating their exclusivity requirements. Has anyone faced this yet?

    1. Hi Naima,

      KDP Select requires your title be exclusive to Amazon for the duration of your 90-day contract with the program. That means you are not allowed to sell the e-book anywhere else until your title is no longer in the KDP Select program.

    2. Now having said that, if you set the title to release AFTER the title is no longer in KDP Select, I suspect it’s part of Amazon’s automated system and it’s not taking the release date into account. Having never used KDP Select, I can’t say how one removes the title from the program and if it could possibly know when the term will end until it has. If it were coded intelligently, it could at least know when it is no longer in Select, but I don’t see how it could (short to parsing the product page) pull the release date of the pre-order title.

      1. Hi Ryan,
        I did set the iTunes release date to AFTER my KDP Select period ends. You’re probably right about that Amazon email being an auto. I received a reply to my explanation from Amazon; they said they’d look into the iTunes issue and get back with me.

      2. Ok, the 5th day deadline Amazon gave me to resolve this is tomorrow. They said they’d look into the fact that my book is only available for PRE-ORDER on iTunes and I just got this email from them:

        “I’ve consulted with our KDP Select compliance team, and they’ve advised that, if your book is marketed in a way that indicates it is available for distribution, for sale or for free, then it is not eligible for KDP Select. For example, one of the possible indicators that the book is available for distribution may be the presence of instructions on another website or sales channel for downloading or obtaining the book, including by way of pre-order.”

        I’ll probably take my book off of pre-order at iTunes because I’ve already advertised my KDP free days 😐

  19. Terrific stuff here — fair and exhaustive. This newbie really appreciates it.

    I think I’m going with D2D, and I have to say the main reason is the Smashwords Style Guide, which just seems excessive to me.

  20. Hi. I’m a smashie of two years with about 55 titles out there. My big beef is lack of communication. We, the authors, kind of important for ebook retailers I used to think, are an afterthought. Example. On, I have three books suddenly doing things. One Man’s Dream (OMD) is hovering between #33 and #50 in romance. That’s out of 60,000 books.
    Dusty Miller three sits at #2 ghosts, #15 horror. (E A Poe is #1 and #3 in ghosts)
    My point. Kobo have a kiwi (new zealand) section. OMD has a Kiwi setting. If I can get in that as well as the regular categories, this book can fly.
    WE writers can’t get even an email to kobo. I asked smash to do it on my behalf, zilch, nothing, nada. Very frustrating. I have asked D2D how they would handle this, or even if they could. Depending on D2D’s reply, I will consider putting future books with them. Watch this space.

  21. I’ve self-published with Smashwords since March 2010, so I was already in the catalog when Apple launched the iBookstore. Ah, for the days before manual review. Apple used to add books in 3-7 days! Reliably! They got slower when they added their Direct option, and slower still with the manual review. Updates to books happen quickly, but I’m not sure what Smashwords could do to speed up the process of the book actually showing up on Apple. Even with the added pre-order feature, Apple is still taking at least 9 days to show the book and recently more than 15.

    B&N’s website service got a whole lot worse with Hurricane Sandy, but it’s never been right. But at least this isn’t 2010, when books took 8 weeks to show up sometimes. (Yes, 2 whole months.)

    For those that haven’t seen Kobo sales through Smashwords – wait. It can take months (or even years) but all of a sudden a small audience finds you. But you can’t underestimate the importance of including Buy links on your site for all locations for each book. Whatever internet presence you have, include those links there.

    Since my man has worked in computers/tech support for 15 years, I’m very hesitant to use a program still in beta or a company that’s only around a year old, so I don’t see enough benefit in D2D to test my money with them at this time.

  22. They are slow and inept in whatever they do. I have uploaded three EPUBs to them. Each one complied with their “Smashwords Edition” copyright requirement. Every one was flagged by the Autoveter as not meeting their unique (word selected because others would be censored) copyright mandate. Each took a week–yes seven days–before they admitted it to their “Premium” catalog.

    They admitted them to their premium catalog because, yes–surprise–it did have Smashwords Edition on the copyright page. Now I feel bad about castigating Amazon for taking 12 hours to review changes (one fourteenth or seven percent of the Smashwords review duration).

    I get the impression that Smashwords consists of three to six employees and they aspire to efficiency through automation. Unfortunately their automation is defective and they can’t keep up with the repairs needed. Reporting is one obvious problem.

    Even the vaunted “Meatgrinder” has significant defects, but Mark Coker continues in denial. Several others have joined me in examining the HTML code in documents that were rejected by “Meatgrinder” and concluded as I did that MG is defective. When pointed out to Coker, he examined the MSWord document submitted and laid blame on its Normal Style instead of looking at the HTML. He ignored the fact that I don’t use Normal Style. I use a set of custom styles (as recommended by his chatty “Style Guide”. The “Style Guide” reminds me of my grandmother with a spoon of castor oil in hand–and I paraphrase–“It’s all for your own good, honey”.

    One line in the whole MSWord document that Coker examined used Normal Style–and it was a picture at the beginning. I invited him to examine the output of MG in comparison to the input to see the problem instead of making a faulty examination of the input, but never heard back. Apparently he can’t fathom his code being defective,

    It’s no wonder they have defective automation tools when their powers of analysis are so poor.

    1. Hey CM Lance,

      I think at this point you and Mark have both said your piece, and this issue is probably best resolved privately between the two of you, rather than here.

      FWIW I don’t think Smashwords ever claimed the Meatgrinder is perfect. While I have had my share of frustrations with it at times, I must also say that I understand where they are coming from with the use of such a system.

      For starters, not all self-publisers are as tech savvy as yourself, and aren’t comfortable wrestling with HTML on their own. I guess Smashwords wanted to bring in a system which would enable them to publish their books without having to do that (or shell out for it to be done).

      On the other hand, I also must say that I found it frustrating to have to use the Meatgrinder when I had perfectly formatted EPUBS that I spent time learning how to assemble. Although kudos to Smashwords for allowing direct uploads for EPUBs. It was probably only a small percentage of their customer base demanding it (and I’m sure it wasn’t simple to code), but they did it.

      There’s another important base issue here which we should all consider – something that affects Smashwords and its customers equally. Aggregators/distributors like Smashwords will get penalized if they send stuff to, say, Apple which contravenes their guidelines. Keeping those quality standards high gets books approved quicker and keeps the relationship good all round – important for all sorts of reasons.

      As such, companies like Smashwords (and Draft2Digital) have to have some kind of system in place to make sure that quality level is reached almost all of the time. No system is going to be perfect, and there has to be at least some level of automation happening – otherwise costs are going to go through the roof (which would have to be passed on to the customer, i.e. us).

      So yeah. It’s a pain when your book gets held up in quality checks at Smashwords. But it would be a far bigger pain if they didn’t have that step to weed out most of the errors, and then Apple started putting in lengthier manual checks of all self-published work.

      Consider it a necessary evil.


      1. David,
        I asked Coker to take it offline in a comment long ago. I saw that Meatgrinder was defective and wanted to share the evidence with him. It seemed best not to air his dirty laundry in front of everyone.
        He never responded.

        Instead he made false claims about my ebook formatting. That seems to be his MO with his quaintly named “nuclear option.” I wouldn’t mind hearing nuclear option if it wasn’t always preceded by blaming the author for poor formatting, when what it is really doing is making up for Meatgrinder’s defects. As you point out, it isn’t perfect.

        However, I acknowledge your request. I won’t use your blog anymore to point out Smashwords’ problems. I see that others are still lining up to do that. I hope comments continue to flow like this on other topics you blog about. It seems to generate a lot of traffic.

        Smashwords as a necessary evil? I thought that was my line.
        Mike Lance

  23. I was a huge fan of smashwords and still use them, i don’t want to change as it means I would have to move my publisher catalog over to someone else.

    BUT – I am starting to HATE smashwords for the simple agonizing way in which I hardly ever get updates. This is how bad smashwords updated are…:

    I sold a book on B&N via smashwords back on JUNE 1ST – it is now SEPTEMBER 19th and it is still showing as my account has not been updated with that sale – disgusting!!!

  24. Wouldn’t it make sense to publish with Draft2Digital instead of Kindle KDP? Because with Draft2Digial, you can offer your book for free with Amazon instead of having do choose the Select program with KDP and making it exclusive. Seems you’d get the best of both worlds by not being exclusive AND offering your book for free on Amazon for a time. Yes? Or am I overlooking something that would make me still want to publish direct with Kindle KDP? Any insights?

    1. Let’s look @ some numbers. Draft2Digital takes 15% of the royalty Amazon will pay to you, which they say is 10% of the book price, leaving you with 60% instead of 70%. (Slightly inaccurate, but close). If you sell 1000 books at $2.99 at KDP, you will be giving D2D about $300 of your KDP royalties. There are lots of people (including me) who will format your book for KDP for much less than that.

  25. I have used Smashwords with two books and have sold practically nothing through them. I’ve since taken one of them off to put it in KDP Select and probably won’t be putting it back on SW.

    My main issue with them is that their formatting requirements are crazy-making (or were in late 2011-early 2012). Recently I used D2D to make some changes in a book and distribute it to Apple and Kobo. What I liked best was the ability to upload a simple, clean Word doc and have it converted to all the necessary formats. Since I am not a computer geek and would rather stick pins in my eyes than format myself, that is a big, big plus for me.

  26. There’s just got to be a way that Smashwords can get those prices adjusted for people doing paid marketing. They should have some kind of hotline or express checkout for them that gets their prices changed quickly. I also agree that their sales reports are rather draconian.

  27. Reblogged this on Writer's Nook and commented:
    Most people who have self-published or are thinking about self-publishing have heard about Smashwords but this is my first time hearing about Draft2Digital. David, you do a great job of comparing the two distributors in this insightful post on weighing the pros can cons of each.

  28. In August publishing to Apple via D2D takes 10 days. I have uploaded my latest title (a short story!) on Aug.23 and it’s still pending at Apple… The previous one took 6 days…
    I am considering to try the pre-order thingy on Smashwords this month… Also, the new feature “Smashwords interviews” might be a great marketing tool – pity it doesn’t work on publishers’ accounts and Mark Coker hasn’t addressed this issue yet.
    One final thing on SW – since they boasted an Indian distributor. My friend in India says: India is a big market to exploit if you are into the business of illegally printing the bestsellers and selling them for less than a Dollar. We do have a sprinkling of book lovers, but not in my city…the city that eats and dresses up but seldom reads.
    So… India is a brand new market – maybe! 🙂
    Thanks for the post – I subscribe to all of it (I haven’t switched all my titles from SW since I have 50+, but I totally agrees with the stated pros and cons)

  29. Recently, I received an email from Smashwords letting me know that they’ve worked out a distribution agreement with Flipkart, “the Amazon of India.”

    I think this is an amazing opportunity, and one reason why I’m loyal to Smashwords.

    To me, Mark Coker is a passionate innovator who not only goes to bat on behalf of indie authors, but who’s also constantly looking for ways to improve Smashwords. The agreement with Flipkart–in addition to the new pre-order feature–is yet another shining example of this.

    Moving on, though, this article gives indie authors something better than the inside scoop on Smashwords and D2D…and that’s your attitude after the Bookbub and B&N debacle. It’s the kind of thing which could crush the spirit of an indie author, especially if he/she only had one book in the marketplace and had really pinned their hopes of breaking out via the Bookbub promotion.

    It’s so easy to get dispirited when things don’t go exactly as planned. You, David, just dusted yourself off and resolved to make sure this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again. I love that attitude!

    Thanks for being such an inspiration and for sharing your journey with us, making the self-publishing path easier all-around.

  30. This is a very useful post!

    I would like to mention that in terms of promotions, even the mighty Amazon let me down once. I had a KDP Select book scheduled to be free on a specific date, and the price didn’t drop until 5:00 pm Eastern time that day. I had notified KDP customer service at about 8:00 am, so that wasn’t fantastic response time. They did give me an extra free day, but I had posted and tweeted and otherwise advertised the book as free on the original date, so I looked bad. Luckily, I had not paid for a promotion. With Smashwords, it can take a while for the price change to filter over but once it does, I haven’t had any problem with it staying there. And I will say that if the book is free on Barnes & Noble, Amazon is much more likely to price match that than if it’s free pretty much anywhere else, so being able to do that via Smashwords is great. My first novel has been free on Kindle for a whole year because of price matching, which has helped sales of the sequel tremendously.

  31. Reblogged this on Here she goes again… and commented:
    Smashwords Vs. Draft2Digital- A Comparison by Author David Gaughran

  32. Something to be aware of if you do switch, is the length of time it might take to remove the original books. I was using another distributor altogether – when I cancelled my contract to go back to smashwords, it took me the best part of 4 *months* to get all my books delisted from showing the original distributor. I was resorting to strongly-worded emails to the legal department of B&N before I finally got the books taken down so I could re-publish with smashwords. That’s 4 months of lost sales. Not much in my case, but I could have lost a *lot* of money.

  33. Smashwords has put me off for a few reasons:

    Mainly, I really dislike the ‘Smashwords edition’ requirement. Kdp doesn’t require it, D2D doesn’t require it, and neither does Xinii (a similar distributor to Smashwords and D2D w/international reach). Smashwords didn’t have a thing to do with the writing or design of the book – the meatgrinder is mandatory (many of us would gladly use something else before uploading), They don’t have a real right to having their brand in my brand’s ‘editions.’ It’s the reason I refuse to ever go premium there while that’s a distribution requirement.
    Customer service also has some snark issues when they ‘communicate,’ and Mark Coker has shown a similar less-than-professional way of communicating on author boards when there are criticism of his platform. It’s a huge turn-off.

    On the flip, I’m not extremely impressed with D2D customer service, either. D2D is, however, far more professional. That alone wins them my vote. Files usually fly through processing with ease. The upload process is a dream. Changes made to blurbs, files, etc are usually completed same day for Amazon and B&N (I have a few titles on Amazon with them for branding separation), and they may get distribution through outlets like ARe (fingers-crossed), DriveThruFiction, Google, and other retailers. Sales reports are available at least daily, and you can check your status screen to see when Apple rejects a title (there’s no email about it, but you can check pretty easily for the reason Apple cited on that page rather than having to scratch your head and guess like other authors have had to at Smashwords). They’ve also gone to bat for authors when Apple was being errantly ridiculous for one reason or another.
    They’re new, but D2D has been professional from the door, and I have confidence in them because of it. I’d love to see D2D coupon codes (Xinxii has them, too, though if you don’t want to use Smashwords for that) and a mini storefront (even if titles are only accessible through direct links; it would be nice to have). And while pre-orders would be cool, I would much rather have the ability to customize a file for each retailer, so we don’t have to use the same file with each one. For the reasons listed in the blog post, it can be a real pain using the same file and blurb for Apple (they are finicky as hell – you can’t even mention that a title is temporarily discounted… whereas Amazon and B&N are totally fine with discount mentions).
    It’s the little things.
    Regardless of changes, if D2D continues to be as reliable and concerned as they’ve been, there’s not much Smashwords could do to lure me over there for premium distribution (I only use their storefront, and it would probably even leave that if D2D set up their own store, too).

  34. I used D2D for my first book, and was very happy with the speed with which it went live on B&N (4 hours – faster than KDP). I’m also very happy with the formatting of my description on both retailers.

    BUT, not being able to go free to B&N was a non-starter for my second manuscript, a prequel novella that I want to be free everywhere. So I went with D2D for iTunes, and tried out Smashwords for the first time, primarily to get to B&N, but I’ve been thrilled with using it directly as a retail option, particularly for international readers. Very happy with the number of direct downloads so far. (And those, at least, are reported instantly)

    On my to-do list for this weekend? Upload the first book to SW, and let them distribute it everywhere other than B&N/iTunes, and hopefully, get some sales on SW itself.

    Only disappointment with my recent upload is that there is no description at B&N. Fine for a free novella that otherwise wouldn’t be there at all. Not acceptable for anything I’d want to sell.

    1. B&N sets up the page for each book before they finish adding all the details, so if you look ‘too early’, you won’t see the description yet. If it’s not there the next day, e-mail.

  35. Great post, David! I’ve recently tried D2D myself in order to do perma-free on Apple at a reasonable amount of time. It just took way too long to publish on Smashwords.
    I really love Smashwords, and I hope that they will continue to improve things and make the publishing and distribution processes go much faster and smoother.

  36. Hey David-
    You’ve laid out the issues well and since you mentioned me in the article, I thought I’d chime in with my experience … Yes, switching from Smashwords to D2D for me is a non-starter because of losing my reviews and rankings. I could have uploaded my new book that releases on September 24th to D2D, but I like the library channels at Smashwords, and I wanted to see how the new pre-order feature worked. It isn’t the 24th yet, but because I uploaded to Smashwords 6 weeks in advance of the release date, I don’t have to worry about how long it took to get the book into the premium catalog, or for it to appear at Apple, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble. As it was, it was a few days only. The book isn’t yet complete, but I uploaded what I had, and as long as I leave a window (I’m making it 10 days), for the finished product to populate to the retailers, everything looks like it should work and the book should be downloadable on its release day. That’s a huge step forward for Smashwords.

    I do remain frustrated by the length of time it can take to get a book approved and then sent off. For example, I uploaded a new version of one of my books in mid-August and it took 3 days to be approved for the premium catalog and then 8 more days to be sent to Barnes and Noble. The current update to my new release is sitting unapproved 4 days on. That is unacceptable, but at the moment appears to be the cost of doing business with Smashwords. That said, for 2 1/2 years, they have always paid me what I am owed, and once the book appears at the retailers, I have never had a problem. On of my books also was chosen as a ‘breakout book’ by Apple as part of a joint Smashwords/Apple promotion last February. Sales more than doubled there, and have continued at that level since then.

  37. Yay, waiting for “Visible” in print. I consider you the ‘Guru’ of self publishing. Just finished reading ‘Let’s Get Digital”. OMG. After reading tons of books and finding my way through this soon to be publishing path, NOBODY explains this biz better than you!!!!!!! I am a forever faithful follower and happy to help others with praising you! Now if I could just sort out this ‘who to download my book with’ business, so much info to compute. Thanks!

  38. Thanks for the thoughtful article. When people ask me about Smashwords, I usually say “I hate Smashwords, but they are a necessary evil.” I’m pleased to see that there is an alternative and I’ll check them out.

    Other problems I find with Smashwords you didn’t mention are slavish adherence to the “Style Guide” and an inordinate pride in the fading technology of their Meatgrinder app. Both I think can be attributed to Coker’s ego. Generally, the “Style Guide” has good points, but like they say “all generalizations are incorrect, including this one.” Mindlessly following every little detail can negatively affect the quality of the books published through them. I’ve published several books for myself and others on Smashwords and by the end of each process I’m ready to lash out at something. Luckily my dog is quite quick.

    1. CMLANCE, if you follow the Style Guide it’ll show you step by step how to create a professionally designed ebook using Microsoft Word. It gives you a lot of flexibility to incorporate custom paragraph styling, linked ToCs, indexes, images and more. We also give authors the ability to bypass our free Meatgrinder conversion by uploading their own professionally designed .epub files. It’s your choice. If you choose the route of uploading a Word .doc, we’ll produce the book in multiple ebook formats so readers can download it for any device.

      1. Following the style guide will certain keep your e-books clean and simple, but in my experience the Meatgrinder doesn’t permit a truly professional look (please let me know if anything has changed with regard to that, as the first and last time I tried proper design on a Smashwords book was 2011).

        Giving the best example I know, following the proximity principle, one should keep related things proximate to each other. You’d normally add paragraph spacing before a heading and a little bit (usually half) after, for example, to separate the heading (and what falls under the heading) from what came before (even if it’s a new chapter heading, it’s still nice to have some space above it–it looks better balanced) but still offset it from the text that falls under that heading. It just looks cleaner and less cramped that way.

        If you use first-line indentation but also have headings with paragraph spacing before/after, the autovetter rejects it (or did back in 2011), requesting we use either first-line indents or block paragraph style but not both. Since it was just the headings that had paragraph spacing and nothing else, I found the error message rather confounding and gave up on good formatting. Please let me know it’s been changed to recognize headings with paragraph spacing (and if they need to have a particular name) so I can adjust my software as necessary. =)

        Of course, one might also want to offset a block of text (letters, text messages, etc.) beyond simple indentation, just to keep it clean against the flow of the book. That’s another place where paragraph spacing comes in handy. Right now, I have to emulate it with line breaks, which really doesn’t suit me and has resulted in numerous hacks to my e-book-generating scripts (which is covered by the book’s style sheet for the epub and mobi versions). It would be nice to be able to do these things. Custom paragraph styles mean very little when you can’t use half their functionality.

      2. Excuse me for differing, but your slavish adherence to the “Style Guide” prevents producing good quality ebooks. By the way, I have also published an EPUB file on Smashwords. “Style Guide” doesn’t cover EPUB publishing or the vagaries introduced to the standard procedure by EPUB publishing. There also isn’t a link to anywhere covering EPUB publishing on your web site. Sure a page exists, but there isn’t a link to it on the website. I had to send a message to your issues desk to find the page.

        Back to slavish adherence to the “Style Guide”. It says only one type of paragraph style allowed: either indent or block. There are instances when block paragraph needs to be mixed with indented. In particular, when the author wants something centered on the page. if you can’t use block paragraphs, centering results in the text being centered between the indent and the right margin for the first line in the paragraph, not centered on the page. There are numerous reasons for centering text on the page, some of which are: Chapter Headings, images, reproducing News headlines, reproducing song lyrics, etc.

        Unquestioning devotion to the “Style Guide” means that when text should be centered, it looks worse on Smashwords than on Kindle or Nook.

        I won’t take up more space the other problems I have with “Style Guide”.

      3. @Ryan, what you describe shouldn’t be the case today. Maybe you can try again? You can code your heading with before and after space, center or make it flush left, code it for a different font or font size, and have the first paragraph of each chapter with no indent with subsequent paragraphs first-line indented. You can play and tweak with it until you get it to your satisfaction. Or, you’re welcome to upload an .epub too.

      4. @CM, the Style Guide provides recommendations, but in no way should it limit the sensible flexibility you require. Yes, you’re right, the Style Guide doesn’t adequately document the Smashwords Direct feature yet. An updated version of the Style Guide is nearly complete and should be up within a month. In the meantime, we have Smashwords Direct links prominently displayed in at least four places in the FAQ at and on our distribution information page at and on our “How to Publish at Smashwords” page at Here’s a shortcut for anyone interested:

      5. Thanks for the info, Mark. I will see if it works the next time I need to upload something. Hopefully the system also allows for the occasional block paragraph when I offset something from the text. It looks better with space above and below than it does squashed in with the rest. It will be nice to finally get rid of the line breaks and unify my e-book production scripts.

      6. Thank you for finally putting links to a discussion of Direct on your website. That had to have been done within the last two weeks. The links you note weren’t in the FAQs before that. I thoroughly searched (both visually and electronically) before contacting the Smashwords Service Team.
        It would be nice if someday you addressed the other point I mentioned which is your slavish adherence to the “Style Guide” in spite of it producing inferior quality ebooks. Your note to Ryan says “have the first paragraph of each chapter with no indent with subsequent paragraphs first-line indented.” Yet, yesterday I received a note from the Smashwords Service Team that stated
        “Hi, CM.
        Unfortunately, we can’t accept both. Per our Style Guide, you may only use the Block Method or First Line Indent, but not elements of both. The headlines can be centered with the body text in one or the other method.”
        The headlines reference is to the only block method paragraphs in the story text—four lines.
        How do you justify the inconsistency between what you said here and what your team enforces?

      7. CMLANCE, I’m curious just what effects you are going for that you think are part of a normal professional book layout. I use block formatting on my copyright page, indented prose for the body, and hanging indents for the index and various centered text here and there. So far the only complaint was that I prefer to list it as published at Smashwords rather than Smashwords Edition. Once I pointed out that the Style Guide said either was acceptable (and I hope that holds true for the new edition), they approved it. The only problems I have had with the meatgrinder have been spacing above the chapter headings not being consistent. I find that it is quite easy to create a professional looking novel using the Word to Meatgrinder to epub process. To be fair, I think Word is the flaw in the whole process. I actually use a clone called TextMaker that is 10 times better than Word and I haven’t had to use the nuclear option once.

      8. Cmlance, those links have been there since a day or two after we announced the feature eight months ago. I’m the one who adds those links when we announce a new feature. I did the same the other day for our new Smashwords Interviews feature. Possibly you missed them. No worries. That’s why we have a support team. If you missed the links, maybe we need to make them more obvious.

        I disagree with your characterization of “slavish.” If that’s your opinion, so be it. The recommendations are there so that if you follow them, you’ll get predictable, quality results. If you stray from the recommendations, you’ll get the results you got.

        There is no inconsistency. I took a look at your book’s file at Smashwords by inspecting the .epub, as we recommend in the email confirmations you received after the file conversion completed. When you inspect the .epub, our vetting team’s recommendation to you, which was, “Please choose either block style or first-line indents (but not both) for your paragraph formatting, per Step 7a of the Smashwords Style Guide” makes sense. I uploaded a temporary screen shot for you here: of how your .epub file looks, and why we can’t distribute it in its current form. Next, I looked at your source .doc file. In a nutshell, the underlying paragraph styling of your paragraphs utilizes a mishmash of multiple inconsistent styles. Your Normal style defines Calibri 11pt with a trailing 10pt space after each paragraph, and your custom styles define something different with Times New Roman 11.5 pt, and you’ve got multiple inconsistent custom styles for the same body text. So you’ve got multiple competing paragraph styles sending conflicting instructions to our conversion system, and then on top of that you’ve added direct formatting (by highlighting text and changing font sizes, styling and indentation). I hate to say it, but none of this would have happened if you took the time to follow the Style Guide, which would have showed you how to unify your paragraph styling under Normal, how to customize Normal to reflect your desires, and how to create additional custom styles as needed.

        I see you posted a blog post about why you hate Smashwords. Is it really fair to castigate Smashwords for your refusal to follow the manual? I totally appreciate that Microsoft Word is a frustrating hairy beast. The Guide will help you tame the beast if you give it a chance.

        Can we improve on our system? Yes, certainly we can. We will. I think your experience shows that we haven’t made it easy enough yet.

      9. I have to stand up here and applaud Mark Coker (I’m a disinterested bystander, with only one long-ago attempt at posting on SW when I was a complete newbie) for patiently weighing in, responding directly to criticism, and putting his own time into determining what’s really going on. This is rare and valuable. You have made me rethink my slightly negative impression of Smashwords by your handling of this very public thrashing.

        I respect that. And I imagine this kind of mature professionalism and dedication to making things better bodes well for your company. Kudos to Mr. Coker.

      10. Mr. Coker I’d like to understand why your Meatgrinder randomly assigns indented and block paragraph styles throughout a document to paragraphs that all have the same MSWord Style assigned? Since I no longer had the file that I originally uploaded, I re-uploaded a file that I had been editing to incorporate the changes my editors and readers identified.
        I made sure that every paragraph in the body of the story had the same MSWord style—all 1691 of them. After that file ran through Meatgrinder (MG) it appears that your software randomly assigned indented and block paragraphs to paragraphs that all had the same indented MSWord style. I unzipped the Epub file that MG generated to determine this.
        To check it I saved the same file I uploaded to filtered HTML in MSWord and looked at that HTML code. The MSWord code had the same paragraph tags for every paragraph, since it was generated from a document in which all paragraphs had the same MSWord style.
        I’d like to understand why Meatgrinder generates seemingly random paragraph styles. I’m sure that others and I would like to prevent it from happening.
        You can look at my blog to view more detail—including side-by-side comparison of the HTML code.

      11. CM, I took another look at your latest source Word .doc and you haven’t fixed the formatting issues. If you feed Meatgrinder a corrupt or poorly formatted file, you’re going to get inconsistent and poor-quality conversions. I’m afraid you’re causing yourself unnecessary frustration and grief due to your refusal to follow the Guide. The Guide has information in there on the Nuclear Method. That will clear out all your corrupt and conflicting formatting and allow you to start with a fresh clean document. Then, simply follow the Guide’s step by step instructions, and don’t skip steps. Step 7 will show you how to manage your Normal paragraph style, and how to create and manage custom paragraph styles. Step 7b-a has a tip there that explains how Kindle apps auto-insert first line indents if you don’t define one yourself. Please follow the Guide and it’ll work. Otherwise, you’ll just frustrate yourself.

        As I write in the first page of the Style Guide, “All you need to publish at Smashwords is a finished manuscript, a computer, an Internet connection, Microsoft Word or similar word processor, an ebook cover image, and the time and patience to follow this Guide. Patience is key. If you try to take short cuts and skip over the sections that follow, you’ll only frustrate yourself and delay distribution.”

      12. Mark, obviously you didn’t check out my blog site that clearly outlines that Meatgrinder is messing up documents. If Meatgrinder is messing up, no amount of platitudes about patience, etc. is going to fix your faulty software. Take a look at my blog and you will see how Meatgrinder is mauling the HTML.

        I know it must be frustrating for you to find out that MSWord has cleaner HTML than you do, but the evidence is there.

        You haven’t given any specifics about how mine is a “corrupt or poorly formatted file”. In particular, you haven’t addressed the specifics in my Chapter 2 where I laid out clear examples of the Meatgrinder problem.

        Your “proof” was to show an example of my document AFTER Meatgrinder finished messing it up. Those block paragraphs intermixed with indented paragraphs are caused by Meatgrinder, not my formatting.

        My document has 1691 paragraphs which all use the same style (Font: (Default) Times New Roman, 11.5 pt, Indent:First line: 0.3″, Justified, Line spacing: Multiple 1.1 li, Space After: 0 pt, Based on Normal.) None are manually altered. They are all the same. Meatgrinder seems to be randomly assigning block paragraph styles to some of those paragraphs, while leaving others indented as submitted.

        If you don’t want to investigate why Meatgrinder is messing up, that’s OK. I will submit Epub, just like I did for other authors I have helped recently. Those books are now in your “premium” catalog. I don’t need your cleverly named ‘nuclear’ option. I do fine with Epub formatting. I figured I’d need to do it anyway now that I have my book re-edited in order to have a single set of files to upload to various book distributors, but decided to run an experiment to see if I could see why my format is turning out so differently than it should. My experiment succeeded in demonstrating to me and anyone who would care to look at it that Meatgrinder is defective and it’s not the fault of the authors or Microsoft who you keep blaming.

        It’s your potential customers that are going to be frustrated and walk away because of your defective Meatgrinder and refusal to investigate it. I’ve laid out the issue for you the best way I know and I can’t figure out how else to help you identify your problem.

  39. Hi David, I appreciate the balanced critique and the kudos. As you noted, just the other week we initiated daily shipments to B&N, five days a week. Previously we were twice-weekly. I think the greater frequency is already leading to faster listings and metadata updates. This followed shortly after our announcement of preorder distribution to B&N. This means we’re distributing daily to Apple, Kobo and B&N. We’ve increased the frequency of our sales reporting in recent months, but we still have more progress to make there in terms of frequency, consistency and accessibility. We also now report free downloads from Apple, a piece that was sorely missing at Smashwords until just the other month. Over the last six months, we’ve made a number of enhancements to our distribution systems, working closely with our retail partners, and I think we’ve yielded some big improvements in delivery speed and reliability. There’s always more we can do. I don’t know if you saw it, but check out our new Smashwords Interviews feature. We’re really excited about the opportunity to help readers learn the fascinating stories behind their favorite authors. More cool stuff on the way. We have a massive roadmap. The fun challenge is to prioritize. We’re constantly asking ourselves what can we do today that will yield our authors the greatest aggregate benefit.

    1. I find that really interesting. I have a .mobi copy that I downloaded today from Smashwords and all of the paragraphs that you have shown as block paragraphs on .epub are indented on the .mobi version. I guess Meatgrinder has inconsistencies publishing one version in block and another as indented. I always assumed that the Smashwords versions that came out of the Meatgrinder were identical, so I just looked at the .mobi version.

      Now this raises a real concern that your Meatgrinder is grinding out inconsistent versions. The inconsistent Meatgrinder output can be viewed here

      1. Mark,
        Why don’t we take this offline? I’ll be happy to unpost. I only have a blog because I was helping a friend set hers up and I wanted to try it out. I really don’t blog (until today) and don’t have any followers.
        Mike (

  40. Reblogged on
    I have sold about 38 books via Smashwords since May 2012. I have sold over 2000 on Amazon kindle. I have 9 books on Smashwords. I have sold about 100 books on Smashwords channels. My only beef with Smashwords was when I elected to try KDP select via Amazon on one of my titles — two weeks after my promo days were over, my title suddenly went free on the B&N UK site (via Smashwords), which means then Amazon switched it back to free on their UK site. Three weeks later and countless unauthorized downloads, I was pulling my hair out having gotten nowhere. One Customer service guy at Smashwords basically said he contacted B&N via email and if they ignored his email there was nothing else he could do. I asked him if he had a phone number?! I love Smashwords! but this annoyed me. I spoke to another Smashwords customer service person who said they would check into it. Finally, at the three week mark, I contacted Mark Coker and the next day the B&N UK book was the correct price.

    And by the way, I had removed my title from all Smashwords channels over two months before but for some reason B&N UK held onto it.

    I will stick with Smashwords but I’m leery of B&N channels because of this issue. I had also tried contacting B&N directly but they said go through Smashwords.

    I will try the pre-order though for my upcoming trilogy.

  41. @davidgaughran said: >>It’s especially useful for Apple as finding your books via search can be problematic, and building direct HTML links to those titles is awkward.<<

    I'm not sure why the Smashwords FAQ lists that cumbersome ISBN-dependent way of finding the direct links to books on Apple. Here's an easier way:

    1. Launch iTunes application ( PC or Mac).
    2. Click on BOOKS in the menu bar at the top.
    3. Type author name or book title in the search box.
    4. Click on the book.
    5. The buy button where you see the price (below the book cover on the left) is a drop-down menu, with one of the options being COPY LINK. Click on that and then paste the URL to your book wherever you want (browser, website, email, as a link in your backlist in a book, etc.) To change it to one of the other country-specific stores, just replace the /us/ with /uk/ etc.

    No need to know the ISBN.

  42. Have you tried installing OSX on an external hard drive and direct publishing that way? I have some friends who have recently gone the external route for apple OS and have yet to report a problem. I have no idea how it would handle publishing though. Just a thought, might help might not.

    How to do it.

    There are lots of DIY pages out there for it, and also for the most compatible HDs.

    I love this blog, I am currently just writing, but looking into self publishing I found this. You do other self publishers a great service, keep up the good work.

  43. Thank you for this article. It’s a lot to have the discipline to actually write, then learn what the heck to do with it too! Your expertise and willingness to share is very much appreciated. Thank you!

  44. Thanks for the article, David. It more or less echoes my sentiments about both Smashwords and Draft2Digital. They both have room for improvement, and I look forward to competition between them, healthy competition tending to improve service and whatnot. Hopefully they will take a few pages from each other’s books and we’ll end up with two great e-book distribution services with their own stores and coupons. =)

  45. Go direct if you can.

    I know two authors who had zero sales via smashwords to iBookstore. When they started going direct, their sales skyrocketed. Now, for one author, this channel makes up about 1/3 of his income.

    I am not accusing smashwords of stealing or anything. But I am starting to go direct as well, and we’ll see what my sales do.

    1. There are more plausible explanations for a sales increase: better categorization, neater blurbs, ability to change price quickly, ability to go free when you actually want to, etc. etc.

  46. This is so timely for me. I recently started a thread on Kboards, because I have a Bookbub ad on Sept 19. The general feeling on Kboards seemed to be that price changes take weeks to make, so I lowered the price on Smashwords on Sunday night. It showed up on Apple within a day, (B&N hasn’t moved yet). Now I’m worried about Amazon price-matching my book *before* my sale. Grrrr. I’m Canadian, so I can’t go direct with B&N. I suppose I could go direct with Apple, but then I’d have to go through all the associated Mac/EIN shenanigans. And, of course, I’m still concerned about the post-sale price change issue.

    I’ll most likely go to D2D for my next book, which is coming out in Dec, for many of the reasons you’ve noted here, and try them out for myself.

    Thanks for the article, David!

  47. I’ve had the same experience with Smashwords: free titles on Barnes and Noble and free coupons are golden. Another downside to Smashwords distribution is that you can’t upload 3D covers. A small consideration, but for boxed sets I had to make all new covers. I also found that the pricing roulette game got old quick, Sony was by far the worse. Getting changes to Sony titles was troublesome whether it was cover changes or prices, sometimes changes never happened, others took over a month, and finally I even had to notify smashwords to send notices to Sony. .
    Thank you, great blog..

  48. David, I just published my debut novel, and I went directly with Draft2Digital.
    My main reason is that right now I don’t have the time (and quite frankly, I’m daunted by the thought) for learning to format, especially as you need to do different things for the various publishers. D2D took all that out of the equation for me, as I just uploaded my Word document, and it was automatically formatted into mobi and epub files. No hassle, no time, and it seems to have worked fine.
    In the future, I plan to figure out formatting at least for Amazon (where the vast majority of my sales are), and use D2D for the rest, but for a first timer, it has made the process quite painless.
    I did make the heinous mistake of leaving the ‘please leave a review on Amazon’ comment in my endmatter before uploading to Apple, but I had an automated notification quite quickly about it, fixed it and re-uploaded a file tailored just to Apple, and it went live in about 3 days.
    The others have been really fast. What bad luck you had with the timing of the B&N issue – I went through that but frankly it was over and sorted before I’d noticed it happen, so no problem to me.
    I like the daily sales reports, and I’m happy to pay the small percent on my royalty for the smooth ride I’m getting.
    I’ve been buried in ‘Let’s Get Visible’, and it has thrown up a few things I struggle to figure out how to handle with D2D, namely free days (B&N being the problem), although I think I’ll just settle for 99c sales instead, but the biggest annoyance is not being in direct control of my sales categories – I thought I’d be able to do that through Author Central, but apparently not.
    If you can shed light on how I can get control of that one aspect, I’d be delighted 🙂

  49. As a long-time,loyal Smashwords author I think I’ll stick with them. By using Smashwords and KDP, I have only two files to upload and I’m back to doing my favorite activity, namely writing. I get maximum distribution and a consolidated sales report (even though not very timely.)
    Since I don’t obsess over sales figures and marketing, it’s not a problem. I’ve found that writing a good book is the best marketing tool you can ever use.
    It’s good to have competition between Smashwords and D2D. Both distributors represent the best bargain a potential author’s likely to get on the whole of the internet. It will only make both distributors prone to improve their services and benefit authors.
    Knowing Mark Coker and his drive to improve Smashwords that’s likely to be impressive.

  50. Great article David! Having had one or two ‘issues’ lately with Smashwords, I was trying to find out more about alternatives. This helps a lot! Thanks 🙂

  51. One thing I noticed was that Smashwords was a lot quicker and more responsive with customer service when they first started out. I’m wondering if D2D will be able to handle demand any better as their service becomes more popular. My first book with Smashwords, way back in the dark ages, actually went to the bookstores rather quickly as I remember it.

  52. I’ve just hitched my cart to the D2D pony. Although I’m currently planning a perma-free, so I might have to go over to Smashwords if price matching at Kobo and Apple won’t trigger the book going free on Amazon. When I uploaded my epubs to D2D they warned me of a problem with the files, and promptly corrected that problem for me. I got an email from D2D telling me Apple had rejected me and why (mentioning of sale price in the blurb) and I was able to quickly correct and resubmit.

    Customer services were also helpful when it came to submitting my D2D. It’s a thumbs up from me for D2D.

    The thing that REALLY puts me off Smashwords is the ‘Published by Smashwords’ message they force you to put on the copyright page. They are just the distributor, after all.

    Great piece!

  53. I definitely prefer to go direct, and I do so with Amazon, B&N, and Kobo. I have found Smashwords to be far less than user friendly when it comes to uploading a book and getting it accepted. My epub files will work everywhere else, but then Smashwords rejects the file. Or they have an issue with my copyright page. Or some other hitch comes up.

    I heard so many horror stories about Apple that I ignored them for a while, not wanting to deal with Smashwords. I gave D2D a try and found the upload process to be simple. My first two titles went live on Apple in a couple of weeks. The third title took about a week. The fourth one would have been less than a week, but I forgot to take out some Amazon links at the end, and I did get an email from D2D when Apple rejected it. I’m waiting for it to publish again.

    I have a book coming soon that I want to make perma free, so I’m going to have to use Smashwords to get it free on B&N. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a headache. I’ve heard other authors say that they let their permafrees sit at 99c on B&N just to avoid dealing with Smashwords.

    1. I just wanted to point out a technical point about submitting epubs to smashwords. I haven’t checked in the last 2 weeks, but when I last checked, they were using a 2 year old version of epubcheck which wrongly gave errors. Everybody else uses the most current version of epubcheck (except for maybe Kobo). IN my case, the ebook validated perfectly on the latest epubcheck, but not on Smashwords’ version. I learned recently that it is possible to request a manual processing when these issues arise.

  54. David,

    This was very timely for me. When I published my first book I went direct to KDP and used Smashwords for every other bookstore, and while the publishing process went smoothly with SW, I got very frustrated with the reporting. With the next book I went direct for Kobo and Barnes/Noble, but this time I was very frustrated with not being able to get my books into the right categories (simply no response from B/N and limited categories for Kobo)

    Just recently I tried again (after being on KDP Select and taking the books down everywhere else), and I finally got confirmation from both Kobo and the Nook Press people that certain categories that existed, that had books in them by indies, were not available to books that had been published directly through them. So, for example, by publishing through Kobo’s Writing Life, my books could not be placed in the historical mystery category. Same thing for Nook Press, the American cozy category is not available to my books if I publish through Nook Press.

    As a result I was just trying to decide whether or not to go with SW or Draft2Digital (which do seem able to get their books in these categories)-and after reading your comparison I have decided that, since I am not planning on doing perm-free, I think I will try Draft2Digital and see if they can get my books in the right categories. So thanks! Will let you know how this works out.

  55. Excellent as usual, David. I haven’t much to add to the discussion except that yes, fierce competition is going to make BOTH services much better. Thank you for the excellent reporting. Now I have a place to point clients when they are sorting through distribution options.

  56. Thanks for this post. Besides being able to have a book perma-free, what I also like about Smashwords is you can see if anyone is at least downloading a sample of your book. What I don’t like is the absence of real-time reporting from B&N and Apple, and trying to get my books in the correct category in both stores. Months of emails going back and forth and my short story is still listed in “Theatre” at Apple. Huh?

  57. Why does Bookbaby get left out of these discussions? I think they’re kind of interesting. Pay a bit up front, keep a higher percentage of sales…no perma-free option last I checked, but do you folks know something I don’t that makes them a bad choice?

    1. I’ll let someone with direct experience chime in, but I’ve heard that making any changes at all (like price etc.) is a real hassle and can’t be done in any reasonable timeframe (thus ruling them out for anyone who wants to run sales etc., which is most people I know).

    2. Here’s why, David:

      If you read through this, you’ll see that not only do you pay for your service package (ranging from $99 – $349), but you also pay BookBaby an annual $19 fee for each book (unless you go with their Premium package at $349). But that’s not all: Every time you make changes to the book itself, you pay a minimum of $50 (see the FAQ), and worst of all, you can make only one pricing or metadata change a year for free (after that, you pay $50 per change — see the FAQ). Because you will frequently want to change your price, tweak your product descriptions and/or change your categories or keywords, you can very quickly rack up a hefty bill for pricing or metadata changes alone.

      I also think the Basic $99 service is very expensive, since they do nothing other than upload the book. Anyone can handle the uploads. It takes longer the first time since you need to review the terms of service for each site, but after that? It’s a piece of cake, no more than an hour or two’s work. The Standard service at $199 is at least giving you some real value for your money, but it still seems rather expensive to me, especially once you factor in the annual fee and the fees for changes.

      Note that sales are reported 45-60 days *after* they occur. They do provide a dashboard that rolls up all your sales (I haven’t seen it), and this could prove very neat and useful instead of having to manually gather up and compile that date yourself.

      Note also that BookBaby’s delivery times to the various sites aren’t all that fast, and certainly don’t beat Smashwords. However, they do have some different distribution partners, which could prove useful. Here’s the timing they currently list:

      Amazon Kindle: approximately 2-4 business days from when we deliver to them.
      iBookstore: approximately 3-6 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Barnes & Noble: approximately 2-4 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Sony: approximately 3-4 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Kobo: approximately 2-3 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Copia: We do not currently have an estimate for eBooks going live at Copia. We are delivering eBooks to them but there is a delay in their process for making a delivered ebook available for purchase on their site.
      Gardners: approximately 3-4 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Baker & Taylor: approximately 2-3 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      eBookPie: 2-3 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      eSentral: 3-4 weeks from when we deliver to them.
      Scribd: 2-3 weeks from when we deliver to them.

      If you’re a complete technophobe and really, really, really don’t want to do anything other than write and promo your book, then yes, BookBaby will take care of you. I’m sure it’s a good option for some people (I can see it being quite useful for established, big-name authors who want to self-publish), and as far as I know, it’s a reputable company that provides a good service. Just be aware that you can end up paying a significant amount for that service, so you definitely have to weigh the convenience factor against the cost. At $2.99, you have to sell about 25 books to pay for a price change alone. And if you decide to drop your price to .99 for a sale, you’ll have to sell 143 books just to break even.

      1. Hmm. The pricing stuff doesn’t look so bad to me. It’s just an alternative approach, and calls for some basic math–if I’ll make more money by paying their fees up front instead of paying a percentage of each sale, that works out in their favor. Otherwise, not. Also the quicker payments are a nice feature.

        It’s not about convenience vs. cost at all. Or at least I don’t see that as a factor. I’m a software guy, and I do a lot of things myself that others farm out. Technophobia isn’t an issue. I think you’re reading more into my question than I meant to ask.

        The delays are more of a fundamental problem. I didn’t know about ’em. Might still go with BB for books if I don’t intend to vary the price too often, though. Seems to me they fill a niche nicely–but I haven’t tried them at all.


  58. When I first self-pubbed, I listed my stuff at Amazon and Smashwords. After waiting several months, my titles had still not shown up at any of the retailers Smashwords lists with. I’m not kidding! NONE. It’s like all my titles fell into a black hole. I was so incensed, I pulled all my titles. I’m more than willing to give D2D a shot at this point. They can hardly do worse for me.

    1. That seems fairly similar to my first experience. Back in December 2011 (the 23rd, I think), I published a novella through Smashwords. It was approved for premium distribution fairly quickly (shortly after Christmas). It was distributed to B&N, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Diesel. Diesel was the first to appear in late January. Kobo and Barnes & Noble appeared a few weeks later. Sony in April. Apple in July. Yes, a whole 7 months to appear on Apple.

      Since then, I’ve had repeated issues with distribution to Apple (as in 6-12 week average to get it up) to the point I stopped using them for Apple and switched to D2D (not that I get any sales through Apple, but I’ve not yet had to wait more than 9 days to get my books on Apple). I also switched to D2D for Barnes & Noble (if I lived in the US or UK, I’d go direct), since they usually have it up there before Amazon has it up, and I upload to Amazon first in my 15-minute publishing sequence. The longest I’ve waited for B&N through D2D was 19 hours. They definitely win on speed. They have some other issues they could work on, but they seem to be on the right track.

  59. First off, I don’t want to throw any rocks Mark Coker’s way, because I have tremendous respect for what he’s accomplished and the service he provides to indie writers. That said, I’ve published on both platforms and think D2D is winning that race. FYI, I always went direct to KDP and B&N, but used Smashwords to reach all other platforms with my first book. My main complaints were (as you described so well) the speed with which changes occur (or fail to occur) and especially the post promotion ‘price match hell.’ When Kobo Writing LIfe was launched, I pulled my first book from Kobo distribution via Smashwords and went direct. I didn’t lose any reviews on Kobo since they use Goodreads input, but I did take a hit on my Kobo sales rank for that book that’s never really recovered. Because of that, and the fact that I didn’t want to lose my rank and reviews on Apple, I’ve left the first book in Smashwords distribution.

    For the second book, I went direct everywhere I could and to Apple via D2D, because I don’t own a Mac. D2D does have the all the limitations you’ve highlighted, but for my purposes they have served me well, and I especially like the simple, real time sales reporting.

    One correction to what you wrote regarding D2D:

    “The automated system for telling you when a book is published is cool, but it doesn’t tell you when a book has been rejected by Apple …”

    When I first published through D2D, I did have a minor error that caused the book to be rejected by Apple and I did get an automated email advising me of same promptly. At least it looked like an automated email. Anyway, however it was generated, I was advised and was able to correct the problem easily.

    Secondly, with regard to the outage with B&N pulling D2D titles, it seems to me that who did what to whom is a bit of an unknown. Having previously dealt with what B&N laughingly refers to as ‘customer support,’ I think it at least possible that the D2D folks couldn’t give you a straight answer because they couldn’t get one themselves. Admittedly, that’s speculation on my part, but based on my own experience with both organizations, I’m willing to give D2D the benefit of the doubt.

    Thank you for a well balanced post which highlights the pros and cons of each distributor well. Like you, I would like to see both services prosper and improve, and think spirited competition is key to that development.

  60. I may be doing something wrong, but my book has been on the Premium catalog on Smashwords for months and I’ve gotten nothing–maybe 5 sales. On Amazon it’s doing MUCH better. For my next book, I’m thinking of ditching Smashwords completely. It’s not worth the time or effort for me. Am I wrong?

    1. Really, it’s different for every author and title (and month…). I have one dark fantasy novelette that sells a few copies per month—but those few copies might be on Drive Thru Fiction, All Romance E-books, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, but no Smashwords-related sales, so far.

      I have another penname with related short stories that rarely sells anything on Amazon but is currently selling a few copies per month at various Smashwords vendors—including Sony. (Due to the price point, I’m having Smashwords distribute everywhere but Amazon, for that penname.)

      Neither penname has a website or anything like that.

      That said, I have considered switching to D2D, but even if I did, I’d still use Smashwords for the other vendors and for its own store—which is actually my first choice store when I’m shopping for things to read, for various reasons. (The “one price, multiple file formats” thing is a major one—I like PDF for the computer and EPUB for the Nook.) The delayed reporting doesn’t bother me; it’s still faster than publishers in general, and it helps keep me from obsessing over, “Oh, what have I sold today?”

      To be fair, I am biased against exclusivity. Relying on a single place for a paycheck makes me antsy…and I did try Select a few times for new releases, and even though I once got nice free download numbers, the long-term effects have been poor.

    2. It’s definitely different for each author. My own experience is a 40/60 split between Smashwords and Amazon, 2 sales through Apple (1 through Smashwords, 1 through D2D), and no sales via Kobo (my other direct channel). No other premium distribution sales, but dozens directly through Smashwords and Amazon.

  61. A really detailed, insightful post, David, as usual! Very timely for me as I am moving out of KDP select soon with my most successful series, and will be distributing more widely. I was unaware that some of these entities charged a percentage…. And if one wants to make a book permafree, the only option is SW? Great information!

    1. Yes, I think the books were only pulled for a few hours – but they were the few hours directly after BookBub hit their mailing list with my 99c book (that they couldn’t purchase). Obviously, B&N sales were way, way below what I expected and I won’t get to readvertise that book for quite some time. A real missed opportunity. Frustrating, but that’s the way it goes.

      1. As Draft2Digital is in beta, there is a question mark about reliability. Last month they suffered a serious outage when Barnes & Noble pulled all Draft2Digital titles, without warning or explanation.


        There haven been several recent posts on The Passive Voice about B&N which are not encouraging:

        I have a feeling that your BookBub pricing problem with B&N may well be at B&N’s end, not Draft2Digital’s end.

      2. Hey, I probably wasn’t clear above. It wasn’t a pricing problem, my book was removed from sale altogether. And not just my book, but all Draft2Digital books (which is around 1,000 titles).

  62. I’m currently using for distribution to all non-Amazon channels. So far it’s been great, and I love that they charge a flat fee for uploading rather than taking a cut of my royalties. However, their reporting is slow and I’m not thrilled about that.

  63. I’m a huge fan of going direct, after being unable to get my price changes and uploads in anything like a timely manner through Smashwords. I still use Smash to distribute free to B&N, but that’s it. I know direct upload to Apple can seem expensive or troublesome, but I made the switch last year because a cost/benefit analysis showed I would make my money back in 6 months (and I did). Now I have all the control and faster upload (and direct access to Apple help when something goes wrong). I’ve heard good things about D2D (and I wouldn’t say Smash would be immune to outages from B&N, clout or no), and if I had a need for a distributor, I would go there. But direct works best for me.

      1. You need to have an Apple computer to upload, which can be a significant expense if you don’t have one already. There are no fees.

  64. Thanks for drawing my attention to Draft2Digital, David. I never could be bothered with Smashwords after hearing reports from fellow writers, so I’ve signed on with Draft2Digital just so that I will have access to Nook readers. The iBookstore didn’t like my ePub file as it has been customised. I may try to upload directly with them. What I like about Draft2Digital so far is that they make the process of uploading user-friendly and simple. Alison LN

    1. Draft2Digital allows direct upload of EPUB files (as does Smashwords now, for anyone that hasn’t used them in a while). In both cases however, the file will need to pass EPUBCHECK before they submit it to Apple.

      Alternatively, you can use their automated tool (somewhat similar to the Meatgrinder at Smashwords). I haven’t tried that as I format everything myself, but perhaps others can chime in with their experiences.

  65. Thanks for that, David. I’ve been thinking of launching one of my titles on Smashwords when the 90 day KDP agreement finishes with Amazon (end of October). This will be subjective for me, but it’s helpful to read the kind of information you’ve laid out here.

  66. Thanks for a really excellent post, David. On another topic, maybe I’ve missed something lately, but will Visible be coming out in print anytime soon?

      1. The only way you will truly ever know if someone has paid you the correct amount is if you go to the considerable time and expense of conducting a full-on audit – and that goes for the likes of Amazon and Apple as well as any third-party distributor.

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