Note: since the publication of this post, a lot has changed in the publishing landscape. I still use Draft2Digital to get my books into Apple and Barnes & Noble, but I also use Smashwords for the other channels. So yes — Smashwords has improved. Lots.
I love Smashwords and I’ve got nothing but respect for the service. Enabling authors to upload our books to the likes of Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble all from the comfort of one portal is very handy, particularly to those of us based in the UK who can’t upload directly through those stores.
However, Smashwords is also a bit of a nightmare.
The user interface isn’t the most attractive, the epub creator leaves much to be desired, and although the best of intentions are in place with the ‘meatgrinder’, it often causes more headaches than it’s worth.
And after the majority of those headaches, it can still take weeks before your book is distributed to another store.
Enter Draft2Digital: a new platform for creating and publishing eBooks.
What is Draft2Digital?
Draft2Digital acts in a very similar way to Smashwords: it enables you to upload your books for publication in four of the biggest eRetailers (Amazon, Apple, Kobo and B&N). It’s designed by self-published authors for self-published authors, and it’s my new favourite publishing website, to the point that I’m pulling my short stories from Smashwords and going all in with Draft2Digital.
Why is it so different to Smashwords?
1. Better user interface
The user interface is gorgeous and easy to use. The uploading process was an absolute breeze and I was all up and ready to publish in a matter of moments. After publication, you can easily keep tabs on your books and which platforms they’ve sold any copies via. There’s plenty of white-space and the place simply looks pretty professional.
Part of the professionalism is probably down to the fact that Draft2Digital is not a ‘store’ like Smashwords but a tool for conversion and uploading. That said, I don’t see much of a problem (personally) there — I barely sell any copies on Smashwords, so I’m hardly missing out.
2. Effective epub creator
One of the major downsides with Smashwords is its reliance on the .doc format. I know, I know — they accept epub now — but it’s still a frustrating process that results in hundreds of rejections even though you’re absolutely certain your epub file is as perfect as it can be.
Draft2Digital is .doc uploading done right.
I was a little underwhelmed initially when I saw that the recommended format was .doc. However, I decided to go down that route, and the options and ease-of-upload is fantastic.
Firstly, there’s no style guide. You simply put your chapter headings in bold, make sure everything is as you want it, and upload.
Even more impressively, there’s no need whatsoever to format the table of contents of your book. If you put your chapter headings in bold, Draft2Digital does the hard work for you.
You don’t even need to create your own copyright page, title page or ‘about’ page if you don’t want to. I prefer to format my own ‘about’ pages, but with a simple click of a button, Draft2Digital does all that for you too if you want it to. Afterwards, they send you a nice, well-formatted ePub/mobi copy of the book (which you can use elsewhere). Not only a great, easy publishing process but a great book formatting tool all in one.
Smashwords: I love you, but it’s time to up your game on the ease-of-use front.
3. Faster publication
Little anecdote: I withdrew my short stories from KDP Select back in February.
Through Smashwords, Silhouette became available on Apple’s iBookstore a few weeks later. Something in the Cellar, on the other hand, was never shipped.
The formatting was fine. In fact, everything was fine, but for some reason it was just never sent out to Apple. I waited for months and resubmitted several times but to no avail.
Ten hours after uploading Something in the Cellar via Draft2Digital, the book is now available in Apple’s notoriously difficult to break iBookstore.
Frankly, I’m stunned. I don’t know why this is the case, and I’m well aware that Apple can vary the length of time it takes to publish, but the fact is, the book’s there now. I can finally, FINALLY forget about having to publish it and just let it do its thing (hopefully sell!) whilst focusing on future projects.
4. Real-time reports
I’ve obviously not seen this first hand but apparently, Draft2Digital offer close-to-real-time sales reporting, which is something Smashwords also lack.
Any fellow obsessive indie author will be well aware of what a big deal this is. We don’t want to have to wait for weeks to see if we’ve sold any — we want it now! Draft2Digital offers this through its sleek, clean interface.
5. CreateSpace options
Finally, I should mention a lesser-noticed feature in the form of a CreateSpace option. That’s right: Draft2Digital will take your book and turn it into a paperback without any of the formatting hassle (I can vouch for it being a real hassle) found if you do it yourself.
I’ve yet to experiment but I’m sorely tempted to do so with my next novel. I know it means slightly reduced royalties, but if it’s that vs. paying hundreds for professional print formatting, then it’s worth it, right?
Competition is healthy
On a whole, I can’t see the rise of Draft2Digital being anything but good news for Smashwords. Ideally, Barnes & Noble and Apple would enable easy distribution from the UK, but until that point, it’s nice to have a stress-free way to get our books out to the remaining major stores.
And for US-based citizens, sometimes it’s nice to just have everything under one dashboard. Right now, I believe that Draft2Digital offer the best dashboard, and I’m certainly not alone in that sentiment.
What do you make of Draft2Digital? Do you use Smashwords? How is it for you? Direct upload vs. one dashboard?
PS: I know I promised a summary of my writing diary today but I’ve been kinda busy (read: eating) so I’ll be sure to post one either tomorrow or Friday. I also need to do part 2 of my eBook marketing summary. Ah, blogging — I wait weeks for inspiration to creep along and before I know it…