Amazon, Smashwords and Draft2Digital all have benefits
Publishing ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords or Draft2Digital is logical. All offer different distribution channels, which is ideal for getting your ebook onto as many ebook retailers as possible. If you publish with Amazon KDP, there is no restriction at all on publishing elsewhere.
For many self-published authors, having ebooks available on both Amazon and Smashwords or Draft2Digotal makes perfect sense, and this, which is often referred to as ‘open publishing’, is the best approach.
However, the fly in the ointment is when you would like to enrol your ebook in Amazon KDP Select to take advantage of the extra promotional tools that it offers. To do so, you need to make the difficult decision to grant Amazon exclusivity. This means that you cannot have your ebook available on both Amazon and Smashwords at the same time. Therefore, you will need to remove your ebook from Smashwords, which will also mean removing your ebook from Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and a number of other distribution channels.
There are benefits to KDP Select
Most self-published authors have probably tried Amazon KDP Select, and for many it is beneficial, as it can help boost both sales and ranking during the 90 days of enrolment. If you have more than a few ebook titles, a strategy of having one or two ebooks in KDP Select at any one time can be a good sales and marketing move.
This strategy though involves making absolutely sure that when you enrol an ebook in KDP Select that the title has been removed from not only Smashwords or Draft2Digital, but also from ALL their distribution channels. As many authors have discovered, un-publishing an ebook does not necessarily mean that down the line distributors react quickly. This can result in receiving a nasty email from Amazon stating that your ebook is not available exclusively on Amazon, and will result in your ebook being disqualified from KDP Select.
Famously, Smashwords ended their ebook distribution agreement with Flipkart due to the inability of Flipkart to remove titles in a timely manner. This tardiness by Flipkart resulted in many authors being notified by Amazon that their ebooks would be removed from KDP Select.
So how can you make sure that your ebooks will be removed in a timely manner from Smashwords and their distributors when you want to enrol in KDP Select?
There are many authors who wish to use KDP Select from time to time, but for some this can cause problems. The best way to ensure that an ebook will be totally exclusive Amazon, is to make a small adjustment to the ebook’s distribution settings on Smashwords or Draft2Digital well in advance.
From my own experience when I un-publish a title on Smashwords in readiness to enrol in KDP Select, I have had no problem at all with Smashwords’ three main retailers. Apple removes a title within 24 hours. Kobo in less than 48 hours. Barnes and Noble are a little slower at 3 to 4 days. The same goes for Draft2Digital. It is worth considering that these three retailers probably make up around 90% or more of sales, so my advice is to restrict aggregator distribution to these three retailers if your marketing plan involves going ‘in and out’ of Amazon KDP Select.
From your Smashwords Dashboard, go to ‘Channel Manager’, and change your distribution settings.
There is not enough room in the image above to show all of the distributors, but by opting out of all except for Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, you can be certain that when it comes time to remove your title, it will be done quickly and efficiently.
One other vital point to remember when enrolling in KDP Select is to deactivate automatic renewal. Once you have enrolled, make sure you un-tick the auto renewal option and click ‘Save’ if you only wish to enrol your ebook for one period of 90 days.
While ‘open publishing’ would be the number one preference of every self-published author, the reality of ebook sales at the moment is that Amazon, and especially KDP Select with its Kindle Unlimited option, are leading the market in ebook sales and now in subscription royalties. Whether you agree, disagree, like it or not, Amazon has the largest market share by a very long way.
This means that self-published authors cannot ignore the real and potential income that Amazon can generate for them. So this means balancing ebook distribution between Amazon and Smashwords and having to chop and change from time to time, by having titles going in and out of KDP Select.
By changing your distribution settings in Smashwords, it will make this process a lot more reliable when the next time comes to enrol an ebook title in KDP Select. Update: Read my review of Draft2Digital, which is another choice of ebook aggregator.