Choosing between Draft2Digital and Smashwords, and KDP Select

Choosing between Draft2Digital and Smashwords open publishing, and KDP Select exclusivity.

Every self-publishing author or small press faces this dilemma. Which sales platform do you choose and why? There are no easy answers as both offer advantages and disadvantages.

The simple solution, of course, would be for Amazon to drop its demand for exclusivity for KDP Select enrollment, but it seems that this will not eventuate in the near term, even though the perks if you wish, are not as attractive as they were a few years ago. Basically now, KDP Select gives self-publishers and small press the avenue to have their ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited.

While this might be a plus or a minus for some, it still stands in the way as an impediment to being in control of the number of retail ebook stores on which ebooks can be made available for sale.

So what are the pros and cons?

Draft2Digital or Smashwords open publishing

Pros

Both offer a wide range of ebook retailers, libraries and ebook subscription services, which means access to more potential readers and book buyers. Smashwords are a little ahead in this regard.

No international barriers or scaled royalties. Unlike Amazon KDP, both Draft2Digital and Smashwords pay a set royalty rate for all countries and all points of sale. Both aggregators are very open and clear about their royalty rates.

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

Draft2Digital really shines in 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, but for those authors who are used to Smashwords’ metagrinder and autovetter, there is no pressing reason to change.

Cons

Book marketing is not so easy when you have 5, 8 or 12 ebook retailers selling your ebook. Promoting book links to each retailer is definitely not workable, so one has to choose. For most, promoting the ebook version on Kindle is the best choice, which somewhat defeats the whole purpose of open publishing. Draft2Digital do however have a service called Universal Links, which can help a little in promoting ebooks on a number of retailers.

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 at best will be to 30% of the ebook market.

Sales ranking and traction is difficult to achieve when your sales are spread across a number of small retailers.

Kindle owners read ebooks and then there’s the rest. While lots of 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, it is restricted to Mac, iPhone and iPad users.

Amazon KDP Select Exclusivity

Pros

Amazon is by far the biggest seller of ebooks, so it’s a no-brainer to have your ebooks available on Amazon Kindle. However, granting exclusivity to Amazon will 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 promotion.

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

While Amazon demands exclusivity for ebooks, it does not do so for paperback and hardcover versions, which means that cross-over sales are possible. Only Barnes & Noble offer a similar possibility, but B&N are not by any means as powerful in the online ebook or book market.

Cons

Exclusivity for ebooks, of course.

Difficulty in changing from open publishing to Amazon exclusivity, as it can take a very long time to remove ebooks from sale on other retailers. In reverse, changing from exclusivity to open publishing can take an awfully long time to gain any sales traction.

Much lower royalty returns from Kindle Unlimited reads. Often as much as 50% lower than what would be earned from an ebook sale for a full read. 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.

All your eggs are in one basket. This is bad business 101, but then again, there is the reality to check in today’s ebook market. However, the danger is always present of something going amiss, and then all your eggs are broken.

Conclusion

There is no right or wrong answer, nor the 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, as it offers by far the best possibility to gain 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 a possibility, as is 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.

This page was last updated on September 6th, 2017

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