Choosing Between Draft2Digital, Smashwords Or Amazon KDP Select

smashwords vs draft2digital and KDP

All self-publishing authors, publishers, and small press publishers face this decision. How do you choose between Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital and Amazon KDP Select?

Which ebook sales platform do you choose and why? There are no easy answers because all of them offer advantages and disadvantages.

The simple solution would be for Amazon to drop its demand for exclusivity when you enroll in KDP Select.

It seems that this will not happen any time soon. But the perks of KDP Select are not as attractive as they were a few years ago.

KDP Select

KDP Select gives self-publishers and small press the opportunity to make their ebooks available to Kindle Unlimited readers.

It also allows you to give away your ebooks for free for a limited time.

This might be a plus or a minus for some authors.

But exclusivity stands in the way of being able to sell your ebooks on other retail ebook stores.

So what are the pros and cons of the three publishing platforms?

 

Draft2Digital vs. Smashwords open publishing

 

Pros

Both Draft2Digital and Smashwords are ebook aggregators. Both offer authors access to a wide range of ebook retailers, libraries, and ebook subscription services.

These include Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, plus many more.

It means that you can try to find more potential readers and book buyers. Smashwords are perhaps marginally ahead in this regard.

There are no international barriers or scaled royalties. Unlike Amazon KDP, both Draft2Digital and Smashwords pay a set royalty rate for sales to customers in all countries and all points of sale.

You are free to choose your pricing – even free if you want to. You can also offer discounting for your book on individual retailers you select or by geographical zone.

Both aggregators are very open and clear about their royalty rates on your book’s list price.

Both pay monthly by Paypal, which is very easy to set up and is a convenient way to get paid. This is practical for authors outside the US.

There is also no minimum payment threshold.

Where Draft2Digital really shines is how easy it is to publish a beautifully formatted ebook with tailored end matter.

Smashwords has a little way to go yet to catch up in this regard.

But for those authors who are used to the Smashwords’ style guide recommendations by Mark Coker and the metagrinder and autovetter process, there is no pressing reason to change.

If you compare Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital, which one is better?

It’s a tie. Both companies have excellent customer service.

If you have a problem and need assistance, both reply promptly and are always extremely helpful in solving the problem as quickly as possible.

 

Cons

Book marketing is not easy when you have 5, 8, 12, or more ebook retailers selling your ebooks.

Promoting book links to each retailer is definitely not workable, so you have to choose where you place your marketing efforts.

For most authors, promoting the ebook version on Kindle is the easiest choice, which somewhat defeats the whole purpose of open publishing.

However, Draft2Digital offers a service called Universal Book Links, which is working to solve the problem. It can help a little in promoting ebooks on a lot of retailers with one simple link.

There is no bucking the truth. Amazon dominates the ebook market, and by some measures, generates nearly 70% of ebook sales.

This is a tough statistic to fight against. While open publishing might offer new channels, it will be, at best, 30% of the ebook market.

Sales ranking and traction are difficult to achieve when your sales are spread across many small ebook retailers.

It’s a fact that Kindle owners read a lot of ebooks, and then there’s the rest.

While ebook readers use many other devices, the ease of buying and downloading an ebook on a Kindle from Amazon is too easy for some readers to bother with other retailers.

Only Apple can compete to any degree with its iBooks. But this, of course, is restricted to Mac, iPhone, and iPad users.

 

Amazon KDP Select Exclusivity

 

Pros

Amazon is by far the biggest seller of ebooks, so you will definitely want to have your ebooks available on Amazon Kindle.

However, when you enroll your book in KDP Select, you are granting total exclusivity to Amazon.

The benefit is that it will hopefully increase an ebook’s sales potential by gaining access to millions of Kindle Unlimited readers.

Having your ebooks available on Amazon exclusively makes ebook marketing very easy.

You only need to use one link to your Amazon book page for all your online ebook promotions. You don’t need to worry about promoting your ebook anywhere else.

It is much easier to gain a reasonable sales rank on Amazon, either from reviews, free ebooks, or sales, than on other retailers. This is because your ebook sales are not diluted across a larger number of retailers.

Amazon demands exclusivity for ebooks, but it does not do so for paperback and hardcover versions. This means that cross-over sales are possible.

The enrollment period is quite short, at only 90 days.

If you change your mind and want to open publish, you can do so after your enrollment period.

 

Cons

Exclusivity for ebooks is, of course, the big downside for many authors.

There can also be difficulty in changing from open publishing to Amazon exclusivity.

It can take a very long time to remove your ebooks from sale on other retailers completely. Amazon strictly enforces this rule.

In reverse, when changing from Amazon exclusivity to open publishing, it can take an awfully long time to gain any sales traction on all the new book retailers.

There is a much lower royalty return from Kindle Unlimited reads. Often as much as 50% lower than what you would earn from an ebook sale.

It also becomes difficult to calculate because Kindle Unlimited readers may only read part of an ebook.

You will sometimes see page reads for only one or two pages, which means making the calculation between an ebook sale and page read earnings almost impossible.

Having all your eggs in one basket. This is normally bad business 101.

But then again, the reality is that Amazon is so dominant in today’s ebook market you have to be there.

But the danger is always present of something going amiss, and then all your eggs are broken.

If you have a problem with any service or feature on Amazon KDP, be prepared for a long, frustrating wait. KDP help and customer service are not very good at all.

 

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong answer or best alternative. It’s a choice for each self-publishing author or small press to make, depending on their situation.

For new authors, I would always recommend using Amazon first and granting exclusivity.

It offers by far the best possibility of gaining some market traction for a new book and author.

For those with more than a couple of titles, a mix-and-match approach is always possible by moving titles in and out of exclusivity.

In the end, it’s about choosing what you believe is best for you and your ebook sales.

It is important to note that Amazon exclusivity only applies to ebooks.

 

Update to this article

Update Note. It came as a surprise to many authors, but Draft2digital is to acquire Smashwords. You can read more details in the announcement notice.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

22 thoughts on “Choosing Between Draft2Digital, Smashwords Or Amazon KDP Select

  • Avatar for Fred Allen
    December 18, 2021 at 2:37 pm
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    Derek, thanks for your advice. I am fighting the dilemma now whether to stay with Kindle Unlimited or go wide with an aggregator. As a new author, I am in the fortunate position of having a #1 Best Seller in various Amazon categories. The Kindle Unlimited pages read after 131 days is 913,632. The “Unlimited” royalties are 55.2% of my total royalties. The “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” guidance seems to come into play. All sales to date are from Amazon organic search. I utilized my SEO experience to give my book the best chance for success. So, I have a lot more tools available to boost Amazon earnings. I had a nightmare experience with IngramSpark in an attempt to increase paperback sales. To date, paperback only represents 3.7% of my Amazon royalties. There are 469 verified Amazon reviews averaging at 4.5 stars out of 5.0. Over forty reviewers left strong, emotional written reviews with all but one ranked at Five Stars. I would appreciate any comments or advice you could offer. The book title is “Stingers: Vietnam War-Helicopter Gunships”. It is a memoir of my tour in Vietnam as a crew chief / door gunner. Thank you for a great site.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      December 18, 2021 at 2:48 pm
      Permalink

      Well, Fred, I would say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. :) It sounds like your book is doing very well on Amazon. So my advice would be to stick with it while all is going well. If sales and page reads drop off in a few months, then going wide might make more sense.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Jay
    September 13, 2021 at 12:21 pm
    Permalink

    Any thoughts on Substack?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      September 13, 2021 at 12:45 pm
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      Substack is on my list to investigate. While it’s primarily an email newsletter service that makes money from subscriptions, there is possibly some potential for authors.

      Reply
      • Avatar for Jay
        September 14, 2021 at 3:54 pm
        Permalink

        I just read an article that Salman Rushdie was planning to use it for a novella. I imagine if you were already a famous writer, it would be better.

        Cheers.

        Reply
        • Avatar for Derek Haines
          September 14, 2021 at 4:19 pm
          Permalink

          That always helps on any platform, Jay. My impression is that Substack can only work if you are well-known. I doubt that it is an alternative to ebook self-publishing for most authors.

          Reply
  • Avatar for Jay
    September 13, 2021 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    Very useful when someone with knowledge actually recommends a course of action instead of just providing options.

    I’m a new author and have a book currently under consideration by literary agents but realize the difficulty of getting representation and getting published in the end.

    My long term plan has always been to get published, then start my own publishing company later to publish not only my books but others.

    I’m thinking maybe I should start publishing on my own with my first book instead. It seems self publishing has come along way. If I fail to get any agent, I plan to do as you suggest:

    Do KDP first,, get some traction.

    I do have one question. Does Amazon’s exclusivity only applies to titles , not authors? So let’s say I publish under “Stardust Imprints.'” Can I have a website of same name, and publish other ebooks there? Or does KDP expect exclusivity over any and all ebooks or books I currently have written or may later under my name or under my company’ s name? Thanks. Best.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      September 13, 2021 at 12:14 pm
      Permalink

      Yes, KDP Select exclusivity only applies to individual ebook titles and not to the publisher in general.

      So you are free to sell your ebooks that are not enrolled in KDP Select in any way you wish.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Robert Matthews
    February 21, 2021 at 5:45 pm
    Permalink

    I have read that Draft2digital has excellent customer service. I have attempted to publish one of my books and I have been waiting 3 days for a response to several questions and I have not had any response. They do not have a chat service. They accept phone calls only on the weekdays, not weekends.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Max T. Furr
    January 3, 2021 at 7:00 pm
    Permalink

    While I can see that these aggregators distribute in many listed languages, I’m still not clear that Smashwords, for example, will convert a manuscript in English to one or two other languages (for a price, of course). Do they?

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      January 3, 2021 at 7:04 pm
      Permalink

      No, Max. Aggregators like Smashwords or Draft2Digital don’t offer translation services. You will need to arrange for translation before you upload and publish your book.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Britton vd
    November 12, 2020 at 2:02 am
    Permalink

    Thank you very much indeed for this article. I’ve a question: can I really publish both in the KDP and D2D at the same time? Because, D2D doesn’t provide print version, but KDP does.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      November 12, 2020 at 8:15 am
      Permalink

      Yes, you can publish your ebook with D2D and your print book with KDP.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Irene Kittrell
    January 19, 2020 at 10:45 pm
    Permalink

    I don’t care about selling books because I’m not writing for the general public. I just want to print a few copies to give to friends and family. Which would be the best option to save the labor of doing it myself while achieving a professional-looking result?

    Reply
  • Avatar for Joe Sloan
    August 5, 2019 at 5:57 pm
    Permalink

    Why not use D2D for all eBooks which includes Amazon and use KDP for paperback?

    Reply
  • Avatar for Kelsey Browning
    July 19, 2019 at 4:08 pm
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    Your statement about Apple Books only on Apple devices is incorrect. You can install the Kindle app on other devices, like an Android phone.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      July 19, 2019 at 4:14 pm
      Permalink

      Yes, you can install the Kindle app on almost any device. But as far as I am aware, you cannot install the Apple iBooks app on an Android phone.

      Reply
  • Avatar for Derek Haines
    February 4, 2018 at 3:19 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for your comment. I know from first-hand experience about the problems non-US self-publishers have to endure.

    However, I have taken the view that there is little that can be done other than to make the most of what opportunities there are. Being able to access the US market so easily is a big benefit, despite some annoying handicaps.

    With regard to payment options, I much prefer direct bank deposit, which both Amazon and Google offer.

    However, I have never had a problem with Paypal over the years, other than that I don’t like 3% of my payments being lost to Paypal fees. But I never let my balance get too high before transferring my Paypal balance to my bank account. So my trust does have limits.

    For other non-US authors reading this, we have another article on the topic offering some solutions to common problems. https://justpublishingadvice.com/international-self-publishing-hurdles/

    Reply
  • Avatar for mjonathanjones
    February 4, 2018 at 2:29 pm
    Permalink

    Nice summary, thanks.
    For non-US residents like me, Amazon (and alas now Goodreads) don’t do enough to tap into US-external markets. Granted, the US is the biggest e-book market, but I can’t send out free Kindle copies because I don’t have a .com account, and even if I could, I can’t send Kindle copies outside the US. Which stinks. Oddly, I can run freebie giveaways for print books without a .com account, but again also in the US. Goodreads has also recently changed its giveaways to be US-recipients only. Which stinks some more. I won’t use PayPal (poor privacy policy, sitting on money transfers – do a search for the many evils of PayPal), so Smashwords is also not an option.
    Any start-ups out there want to do us non-US indies a favour and offer us a really decent deal?

    Reply

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