Publishing your e-book with Smashwords or Draft2Digital

This post is the forty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I discussed publishing your e-book on Amazon, which makes sense since it is the largest e-book retailer out there. But it also makes sense to have your book available at as many e-book retailers as possible. You could go through the process of submitting your book at each of these retailers – all who have different requirements, or you can use an e-book distribution platform like Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

Both e-book distribution platforms are very similar. You upload your e-book to them, and they distribute it to other e-book retailers such as iTunes, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo Store and more. There are no upfront costs to use this service. Yes, it is free to upload your e-book to these sites. The way they get paid is to take a percentage (typically 10 or 15 percent) of your royalties from those e-book retailers. But this is a small price to pay for the service they provide, which allows you to spend your time focusing on something else.

Now let’s talk about some differences between the two programs.

Smashwords

With Smashwords, you follow their step-by-step style guide to format your book before you upload it. They then run your book through what they call their “meat-grinder” which formats it correctly for each e-book retailer. The complaint some authors have is that the step-by-step guide is long and can be complicated if you aren’t tech-savvy.

Smashwords has more e-book retailers than Draft2Digital, and they also sell your book on their own website, which allows readers to download e-books in ten different formats. You have the ability to create coupons to offer discounts for your books on their site.

Smashwords takes a 10% royalty on sells from other book retailer sites and 15% from their own site.

Draft2Digital

Now, with Draft2Digital, the biggest plus for many authors is that you do NOT have to format your book. Draft2Digital does it for you. You don’t even have to have your front or back matter done. They do it all. And one cool feature is that you can update the back (end) matter for all your books at one time.

Another great feature on this site is they will set up universal book links. This allows you to offer each customer a link to their preferred book retailer.

Draft2Digital takes 15% commission on every e-book sold.

Conclusion

Both e-book distributors will help you reach a bigger market. For no matter how large Amazon is, it only reaches 14 countries. iBooks is in 51 while Kobo reaches 160, and the Smashword store reaches almost 200 countries.

Which company you use is totally up to you. I have not tried Draft2Digital as they were not available when I first started self-publishing. I have always used Smashwords and have had no issues with them. But there are some features from Draft2Digital that I will say intrigue me and have me considering using them on my next book.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

#48 – Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

Pre-Orders: Are they worth it?

When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders.

This means up to three months before your release, you can already start selling books. Now for established authors, this might be a big advantage. The success for small-scale authors is typically not as good.

Smashwords

Smashword offers you the pre-order option which means your pre-order will be on their affiliates – Kobo Store, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

There are several benefits to this. Because you determine the pre-order time period and launch date in advance, you are certain your book will be available on the release date rather than waiting for your book to go up at the respective retailers whenever it filters through Smashwords’ approval process.

This will help you in marketing as you will already have your purchase links available for blogs featuring your new release or to post on your own website.

But one of the biggest benefits is that all pre-orders get credited all at once on your launch date. This can pop your novel into the bestseller list for those respective stores. This of course adds to your exposure to potential readers. You can read more about this on Smashwords’ blog.

Amazon

preorder amazonUnlike the method used by Smashwords, Amazon counts any pre-order sales immediately. This will affect your books ranking during the course of the pre-order and not have as big of an impact on launch day. For this reason, some authors feel it dilutes their sales during launch week and adversely affects chart position during what some consider a crucial period.

Another plus for doing pre-orders through either company is that reviewers can star leaving reviews (although not as verified purchases) before your book is released.

Now remember that if you are doing a pre-order, your book must be ready to upload to the respective sites. You can always upload a different version before launch day but remember that the first 10% to 20% of your book will be offered as a sample so you will want to make sure your work is well edited prior to uploading.

Are pre-orders worth it for new, unknown authors?

It makes sense that established authors would have the best possibility to sell their books as a pre-order. The Smashword blog suggests that with the appropriate marketing, a less established author can do well with pre-orders and see their book crack the top 10 or top 20 of their genre list if they can steadily collect some pre-orders.

While this may be true, I am not sure how many pre-orders (beyond friends and family) most newbie authors can accumulate. I know that I never pre-order a book, and if I did, it would probably be for an author in which I know what I am getting. (In other words, an established, popular author.)

So, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released next week. I did not offer it as a pre-order. I don’t feel I have the fan following needed to make pre-orders worth it with only three other full-length novels to my name. (I have read numerous places that authors need three to five books under their belts before they really begin to get traction.) Now perhaps after this, with the next book, I might give it a try.

If you want to read some more of the pros and cons of pre-orders, check out this blog.

Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

CIMG1036You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

Well, that really depends on how computer savvy you are. I have done the formatting for all my books with no problems. I know of other authors who would never want the headache of formatting their book and hire someone to do it.

Option 1 – Do it yourself

You can follow the step-by-step instructions offered by Smashwords to prepare your manuscript.

Amazon too offers a simplified formatting guide.

Advantage – It is free. If you are relatively proficient at MS Word, it is not difficult to follow the Smashwords guide. Amazon’s is a little more complex.

Disadvantage – if you aren’t proficient in MS Word, or you don’t own/use MS Word you could produce an improperly formatted book that will prevent or delay the publishing of your book. Also depending on your level of proficiency, it can take a while to follow all the formatting steps.

Option 2 – Hire someone

As I said, some authors would rather leave the formatting to the professionals. Just remember that when you hire someone to format your book that is all they are doing. They are not proofing the content.

Smashwords offers a list of formatters (as well as cover designers).

Advantages – Hiring someone who knows what they are doing can take less time and relieve you of having to worry about the formatting being done correctly.

Disadvantage – It cost money. The average rate can vary from $30 to $100 depending on the complexity or condition of your current file. It also can take longer depending on the turnaround time of the person doing the formatting.

In most cases, you will need to do several versions of your book. You will not want to use the same formatted version for all the publishers, especially as Smashwords requires a specific notice as part of the front matter that you will want to remove for submission to Amazon and other providers.

The most important thing is that you follow the guidelines provided by Amazon, Smashwords, or whatever other e-book publishers you are using so that your book not only meets their requirements but looks professional.

Gifting a copy of your ebook

gift a copyWhether it is for a prize, or because you are sending it to someone for review, you may need to send your e-book to someone else. Now you may have a mobi file, a PDF of your book or even an ePub version but there are benefits to gifting your reviewer a copy, especially if it is on Amazon.

For those of you unsure how to gift a copy of your book, here is how to do it on both Amazon and Smashwords. For both methods, you will need the recipient’s e-mail address.

Amazon

To send a copy of your e-book on Amazon, go to your book’s page and click “Give as a Gift” button near the buy button. amazon giftEnter the email address of the person to whom you want to send the book, or you can enter your email address and then forward it to the recipient. (I use this method since my Amazon account is under my real name, and I want to send the book using my pen name.)

The recipient will receive an email that they have reviewed the book as a gift. When they accept it, the e-book will be delivered to their Kindle device or app.

If you are sending this to a reviewer, I have heard that recipients can decline the book and elect to receive a gift certificate instead so make sure you only gift books to people who have expressed a willingness to receive, read and review your book.

Of course by gifting a book, you have to pay full price for the book. But you do receive the royalty from the sale so basically your cost is your sales price less your royalty. If your e-book sells for $2.99 with a 70% royalty, your cost will be just over $.90 (Amazon’s 30% plus a small download charge, usually a few cents). That is a small price to pay, especially when you compare it to the cost of printing and mailing a paper book.

Now you may be wondering why you want to send your book this way instead of just sending them the mobi file. In the case of a reviewer, when they post their review on Amazon, it will note “Amazon Verified Purchase.” Showing this can add credibility to the reviewer.

Smashwords

Now with Smashwords you have two options for giving someone a copy of your book. You can gift them a copy similar to the method above or your can create a coupon making the book free. The good thing about Smashwords is that the reviewer can pick which e-book format they need.

To gift a copy, go to your book page and select “Give as a gift.” smashwords giftYou will enter the recipient’s name and email address, or you can enter your own information if want the notification sent to you. Once you have completed the gift purchase, your recipient will receive an email with instructions on how to redeem their gift. They will need to have a Smashword account to access the book. If they don’t have one, they will be promoted to set up a free account.

If you choose to create a coupon to do a giveaway or to offer review copies, you just have to ensure that the expiration date on your coupon is far enough away that the recipient has time to use it. In other words, don’t make it a few days after you give them the coupon. You will need the expiration date a few weeks away.

Publishing your e-book through Smashwords

Often the first place new authors think of publishing their e-books is Amazon. And this makes sense since Amazon is the largest e-book retailer out there. But not everyone has a Kindle. Some people have Barnes and Noble’s Nook or Sony’s Kobo or choose to read off their smart phones or computer. To reach these readers, you need to have your book in iTunes, Barnes and Noble, the Kobo store and various other e-book retailers.

smashwords-logoOne of the easiest ways to get your book into multiple e-book retailers is to publish it through Smashwords, a free self-publishing website. Once you format your book to their standards and submit it, Smashwords will distribute your e-book to other retailers such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Baker & Taylor as well as Amazon. (See the complete distribution list here.) They also will offer your book on their own site, which allows readers to download e-books in ten different formats.

The good thing about publishing through Smashwords is that you only have to format your e-book once, and they provide a step-by-step style guide for you to follow. After that they take your book and run it through what they call their “meat-grinder” which then formats it correctly for whichever e-book retailer it is being sent to. This means they will create files that are compatible with a variety of e-reader formats such as EPUB, LRF, HTML and Mobi.

Now to have your e-book distributed to the other retailers, you need to be included in what Smashwords calls their Premier catalog. In order to be included, you must have a cover image and must correct any formatting errors that occur from going through their “meat-grinder”. (Be sure to go back and check your dashboard because they do not send an email with errors that need fixing.)

Now Smashwords can publish your books through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but some authors like to decline these options and use Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) and PubIt (Barnes and Noble) to publish on those retailers.  The reason for this is that you will get paid quicker going directly through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and possibly earn a higher royalty rate.

Publishing on Smashwords costs you nothing. They do take a 15% commission off of each sale on their site. If your book is purchased through one of the major online retailers, you earn 60% of the suggested list price. In comparison, Amazon offers 35% to 70% royalties (based on the price you sell your e-book) and charges a delivery fee if you are getting the higher royalty rate.  So by using Smashwords to distribute to Amazon, you will lose a portion of your royalties to pay for the middle man (assuming you priced your book $2.99 or higher to get the higher royalty rate).

I highly recommend using Smashwords to get your e-book out to the various e-book retailers. One of the other nice things about using Smashwords is that they make it very easy to offer discounts on your books through their coupon system. And they also offer free guides on marketing  and publishing to help you succeed in your self-publishing endeavor.