Draft2Digital – A New Ebook Distributor in Town!

I know there are many different opinions about exclusive sales platforms like KDP Select, but personally, I don’t think it’s good for authors. An exclusive agreement means cutting out the competition, and while no competition will be good for the top dog, it’s not good for the little puppies at the bottom of the chain – us. It means that the exclusive publisher holds all the cards, and authors will just have to put up with whatever they decide to do and take the consequences. An example of this is Amazon reducing royalties for those people not enrolled in KDP Select for the Indian market. I think it’s incredibly worrying that exclusivity means Amazon could become a monopoly and force other publishers out of the market.

Whatever Amazon did around September 2012 had a massive effect on the book sales of many authors, with a lot of them reporting that their Amazon sales fell off a cliff. Another cliff dive occurred a couple of weeks ago when Amazon removed tags from people’s books. My sales with Amazon have taken a hefty beating from this time last year.

Personally, I think we need to have our books available to every outlet, so I was excited to hear about Draft2Digital’s new distribution service. They publish to KDP, iTunes, Kobo, B&N, and Createspace, you don’t need ISBNs, you can see almost real-time sales data, and they pay any royalties monthly. As a non-US author who can’t publish direct to B&N’s PubIt! or iTunes, this is great for me. Although they’re in Beta testing at the moment, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them. I’ve uploaded seven of my books through them so far and this is what I’ve found:

Instead of waiting weeks (or sometimes months) for your book to be published with other distributors, my books were on sale on B&N within 1 day and iTunes within 2.

  • When there was a problem with my file or with the seller, Draft2Digital emailed me straight away.
  • If I had a problem or query with anything and I sent them an email, I got a reply straight away.
  • I’m not restricted to a small book blurb on the description page.
  • Any price updates that I made to my books were updated on the respective sellers’ websites within 1 – 2 days (great for any promos you want to run).
  • I can see almost real-time sales data, which is brilliant.
  • I’m not the only one who’s been impressed with them. Check out the Kindleboards thread for more info.

Author Aaron Pogue, who is a representative of Draft2Digital, explains more about them…

“A New Alternative to Smashwords
For anyone who hasn’t heard about Draft2Digital yet, it’s a new digital publishing service that provides high-quality ebook conversion, easy distribution to all the major retailers (even for international users), some very handy library management tools (like auto-generated “About the Author” and “Other Books by This Author” pages), and nearly real-time sales reporting.

I know we’re all used to getting spammed with bad deals and scams and complicated new ways to waste our time, so I wanted to take a moment to provide my credentials. If you’re not interested, you can skip on down to the invitation below (or close the thread). But some of you will want to know why you should listen to me at all.

My Credentials
I’m a self-published author. I started back in 2010 with a sci-fi mystery called Gods Tomorrow, and then hit the big time in the summer of 2011 with a fantasy novel called Taming Fire. In the last two years, I’ve sold 170,000 copies across both series, most of them in the Dragonprince trilogy.

When I first got started, before I’d heard of Smashwords, I learned that I needed to convert my stories into ePub format. I had some programmer friends who are way too generous, and I talked them into making a program to convert my documents into ePubs for me. That’s what I’ve been using (and improving) for the last two years.

I did try Smashwords somewhere along the way, just to get the extra distribution channels, but I hated the quality of their output. My day job until last January was as a Technical Writer, so I knew enough about MS Word to follow the Smashwords style guide perfectly, and then I knew enough about professional formatting to recognize everything terrible about the output. I stopped using Smashwords a couple months later, and started looking into ways we could turn my custom formatting tool into a public service.

The week before Christmas, we launched the beta of that service at Draft2Digital.com. Draft2Digital is a free conversion service and a sales aggregrator. You can use your account to distribute to all the most popular retailers (and they’re working hard to get agreements with the ones they don’t have yet). Some of our first beta testers (from here at Kindleboards) complained at the lack of international support, and our CEO spent Christmas week implementing it. As of this morning, Draft2Digital supports international publishers (and gives them access to our US-only sales channels, such as B&N’s PubIt!).

The Invitation
Draft2Digital only makes money when you sell books through their sales channels. They’re worth the price (in my very biased opinion), especially when you factor in the aggregated sales reporting and some of the currently-experimental features, like author website integration. I can’t wait until that one’s fully implemented.

But there’s also a clause in the Terms of Service that explicitly grants you permission to use the generated files in any way you want. In other words, you can create an account with Draft2Digital, use the service to convert your Word doc into a professionally-formatted epub, and then upload that epub directly to PubIt! and keep all the royalties. You can download a mobi for KDP and keep all the money to yourself. The conversion service is free.

(You can do all the same things with Smashwords, but it’s a direct violation of their Terms of Service. Their clause is basically the opposite of Draft2Digital’s.)

Anyway! Our site is currently in a beta, and we need more test cases. We need more users, and we need more books to put through our conversion process. I’ve spoken with the development team, and they’ve agreed to open up the beta to anyone from Kindleboards who wants to sign up. Just go to the registration page, provide your email address, and you should hear back with an access code almost immediately.

Let me know how it goes. I’m their User Experience adviser, so I’d love to hear about your experience. Ask me if you have any questions or recommendations for future features. If you have any actual problems using the site, use the contact page to notify the developers, and chances are good they’ll get it fixed in a hurry. That’s what the beta is for.

Key Features
Here are some of my favorite features of the Draft2Digital conversion process:

  • Easy Management of Multiple Sales Channels – As of the beta launch, Draft2Digital supports
    • KDP
    • PubIt!
    • Kobo
    • iTunes
    • And CreateSpace (yes, really)

They’re rushing to add more (I know of ARe, Sony, and Diesel, specifically), but even managing just these for me means I don’t have to maintain author profiles, sales descriptions, book versions, and series titles on all those different accounts. I maintain the information in one place, and Draft2Digital makes all the updates for me.

  • Rapid Payment – Draft2Digital pays monthly. In my experience, they run just a few days slower than direct sales through any of the platforms. That means it’ll still take you most of two months to receive payment for your Kindle sales, but at least you don’t have to wait until the end of the fiscal quarter!
  • Epub Format – This should probably go without saying, but when I claim Draft2Digital provides “professionally-formatted ePubs,” the main thing I’m talking about is structural. Our conversion system does its best to recognize the chapter titles in your book and if it works, Draft2Digital will make sure your book gets a working Table of Contents and page breaks between chapters. We can also guarantee that anything we produce will pass Epubcheck, meaning it automatically qualifies for Smashwords’s “special” distribution channels.
  • Endmatter generation – Once you’ve set up the necessary account/profile information, Draft2Digital can generate some automated (but well-formatted) endmatter for you. The title page and copyright page are easy, but I’m most impressed with the About the Author, a teaser/ad for another book, and an Also By page showing all the other books available from the current book’s author. You don’t have to do any work to set that up; it’s all built out of information in the Draft2Digital database.
  • CreateSpace support – After producing all this beautifully-structured content, Draft2Digital can actually generate a print-ready trade paperback PDF (5.5″x8.5″) directly from your source text. Adding a paperback is as easy as selecting one extra sales channel, then providing a larger cover image. The CreateSpace support saves me so much time as a publisher!
  • Aggregate Sales Data – Draft2Digital collects all my sales data from all sales channels and compiles it into some extremely handy charts so I can track trends and compare my sales by title, by series, or by sales channel. Having all that information in one place (and in such a convenient format for analysis) is a huge improvement over the long spreadsheets everyone else provides.

As I said before, the site is still in beta, so not everything works perfectly yet. But I’m a huge fan of the service they provide, and I can’t wait to see how much better it will get. I would really appreciate your help improving it, and I think you’ll get some very handy benefits from participating.

If you’re at all interested, sign up for a beta account and see what you think. There’s no cost, no commitment, and the whole thing is really easy to use.”

****

Thanks, Aaron.It’s three cheers from me so far!

It’s your turn in WG2E Land – have you used Draft2Digital? Would you consider using them?

Happy Writing!

Sibel xx

Sibel Hodge has 8 cats and one husband. In her spare time, she’s Wonder Woman! When she’s not out saving the world from dastardly demons, she writes fiction and non fiction for adults and children. Her work has been shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize 2008, Highly Commended by the Yeovil Literary Prize 2009, Runner up in the Chapter One Promotions Novel Comp 2009, and nominated Best Novel with Romantic Elements in 2010 by The Romance Reviews. Her novella Trafficked has been listed as one of the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges.

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Comments

  1. mel comley says:

    I have to say I’m really impressed with the service and site so far too, Sibel. I was getting more and more fed up with Smashwords inability to carry out the simplest tasks. It takes weeks, sometimes even months for price changes to occur on SW, it’s days with D2D.

    Don’t even get me started on SW sales statement, you need to be Einstein to work that thing out! Then they sit on your money for 3 months plus an extra 4-6 weeks before paying what’s due to you. Hmmm… something seriously wrong about that.

    Great post Sibel, I’m glad someone is taking us Brit authors into consideration for a change. :-)

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Thanks, Mel! Yep, having monthly payments and being able to see sales in pretty much real time is fantastic, especially for us non US authors who can’t distribute direct to B&N and Apple.

  2. yup. I have found nothing but pleasure at this point with D2D: quick uploads, loads of info, and fast customer service. Amazon doesn’t just keep the royalty rate at 35 for India with the KDP exclusivity– there are others too. I think brazil is one. makes me a little antsy that they’ll suddenly swoop the others into the 35 seat unless we’re enrolled in select.

  3. I am thrilled that you’re sharing Draft2Digital with everyone today! I’ve been using them since the very beginning and have published three books with them so far. D2D is everything you said: timely, efficient, kind and helpful. I will add that their website design is clean- cut and easy to understand. Smash words drives me crazy with their antiquated layout! Also, the sales charts are incredible and recently I asked D2D support if they could add a specific report chart in the future. He responded promptly to say that they have a list of new charts and graphs coming soon. When I hosted a sale, I was able to see immediately what was working and wasn’t. Having a twitter party? Find out NOW if its working instead of trying to dd other reports three months from now. I could go on, but I won’t. They’re fabulous!

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Great, Heather, so glad it’s working for you. Instant sales numbers (pretty much) are a must for promos so it’s a great feature they’ve got! :)

  4. Angela Brown says:

    Learning about different alternatives to self-publishing is always wonderful to have new ways to get our stories out to readers and tools to better manage them as well.

  5. L.C. Giroux says:

    Argh! why didn’t someone publish this before last night when I spent the better part of several hours loading my latest (Where’s My Cowboy?) on to the various platforms. I do my own formatting but a better way to load to iTunes (and ARe et al.) would be much appreciated. Smashwords insists on the copyright stuff being in the front but for an e-book with a sample that means that one of the sample pages is junk, at least as far as the reader is concerned. The other reason I use Smashwords is the library access, hopefully these guys will address that too.

  6. Sibel, this is great! With a new book set to be released in the next 5 days, I am going to register, and plan to use Draft2Digital in lieu of Smashwords. Thank you so much! :-)

  7. Monica Davis says:

    Sibel, terrific news…thanks for sharing!

  8. Julie Day says:

    So am I right in thinking that you can’t use both SW and D2D to distribute your ebooks at the same time, only one or the other? I do like the idea of having my ebooks out there all over the place and not just one place.

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      You can use both for the same publishers, Julie, but I doubt you’d want to for any length of time. I had some overlapping time as I cancelled the distribution with SW and waited for it to filter through to B&N and iTunes. You can also use SW to distribute to places that Draft2Digital don’t, like Sony, at the same time :)

      • Julie Day says:

        This sounds all good to me. If they distribute for Createspace too, then I am a happy bunny as I was thinking of doing a print version of my first collection in a month or two. Yay.

  9. PJ Sharon says:

    This almost sounds too good to be true, but I’m willing to hedge my bets and give it a try. I have such problems getting expanded distribution through Smashwords. They invariably find some little issue with the TOC and it keeps me spinning for weeks trying to figure it out. I’ve actually given up on trying to get one of my books into their ED channels.

    This sounds like a fabulous alternative. Thanks for passing it on.

  10. The thing is, they make it so EASY! I didn’t even know what formatting is when I started out. My first manuscript was a complete mess, but I uploaded it and their programming sorts it out. Smashwords “style guide” was intimidating, but D2D does it all for you. You can even have them add the TOC, cover page, even teasers at the end for your other books – With links! They make it all simple for us. LOVE them!

  11. Sara Rosett says:

    I uploaded my second book (Secretive) with D2D to itunes two days ago. Fast. Easy. Painless.

    I’m a big fan!

    I’m surprised no one else has come out with this type of website. There are so many authors who need to convert their mss, and I’d rather spend my time writing instead of stripping code and formatting.

    I do plan to keep using SW for certain sites. I’ll continue to go direct with Amazon, Pubit, and Kobo, but I hope D2D continues to expand to libraries, etc. I’d love to move more stuff to them. I heard via the kindleboards that they’re looking into Overdrive, too.

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      I agree, the whole thing was very painless! I’d be very happy to hear they snagged an Overdrive distribution. The more exposure, the better, unless you’re a flasher! :)

  12. D.D. Scott says:

    This is fabulous scoop, Sibel!

    I’m looking for a distributor for Sony and especially for Apple as Smashwords is really, really dropping the ball with Apple for me lately. I’ve still got 8 books waiting to get to Apple (some from clear back in August) via Smashwords! And I’ve emailed them about it twice now and received no response.

    I’ll definitely be checking out Draft2Digital! :-)

  13. Christina says:

    I’ve been struggling with one of my non-fiction formats and trying to get it ready for CreateSpace. I think I’ll use Draft2Digital and see what happens instead. Thanks for letting me know about this. It will definitely save me some time.

  14. I’m enjoying D2D as well, especially for the ability to change pricing and offer freebies with the changes going live within a day. Plus, the level of responsiveness can’t be beat. I’m currently going direct to Pubit and Kobo, but seriously considering going through D2D for all future titles, especially if they provide access to more channels.

  15. Glynis Smy says:

    I am very tempted. It sounds a great place to be, and looks as if they are fair to the author. Thanks for the info. :)

  16. Aaron Pogue says:

    Thanks for the post, Sibel! I appreciate all the comments, too; it’s exciting to see so many other authors enjoying the benefits of this service.

    I’m so impressed with the developers and customer support. I’ll be happy to field any questions your readers have, but all the praise belongs to the D2D staff. Those guys are incredible.

  17. Well, I have a lot to learn! And I have questions, but the most important one is – how do I switch from SW to D2D? It sounds so much better and I’m an impatient person who hates waiting for SW to update sales data from the various channels.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Switching is easy. Sign up for an account at Draft2Digital, click the big “Add New Book” button, and just copy your sales information over.

      Several people have chosen to leave their books listed at SW while they waited for them to finish publishing through D2D, and then request a delisting at SW. That means two copies of your book will be available on those vendors for a little while, but it’s probably better than disappearing for a few days!

  18. Lily silver says:

    thanks for the great news. I have heard of this recently and was wondering and waiting to see how it works before jumping in. I have spent hours and hours trying to create the TOC via smashwords style guide dircetions on my most recent release, only to upload it and have it nixed for an error, then rework it, another couple of hours, and so on. That is time taken away from my writing, serious time, and smashwords is no help when you do have a problem. (seee style guide section 20c). Having a place to upload that is easier and more responsive can only be good. My only concern is if this new place will stick around, as its beta. Smash has been around for some time.

    And, yes, I have had horrible experiences with things not getting updated for months on some channels with Smashwords. I recently discovered that at Sony I had a an old cover on a title that should have been updated last october….Its february and they still have the old one? Also, a book that I had on sale for 1.99 two months ago and since had updated on smashwords six weeks ago was still listed as the sale price on Sony. This can cause serious damage to an author’s income, as Amazon’s bot will find this glitch before you do, and then lower the price on the Amazon site…..need I say more? This in a world where I updated a price directly on amazon and pubit and the change is reflected within hours! I think if smash doesn’t address some of these issues seriously. it is only a matter of time before a similar distributor that can provide faster, easier service overtakes them. Maybe D2D is that competition?

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Obviously I’m a little biased here, but I think I can offer some good reasons to expect Draft2Digital to stick around:

      The service is built around software tools I’ve been using to publish my books since 2010. For several years now it’s been funded off the success of my Dragonprince series, and that same success means I’ll keep writing (and self-publishing) for a long time, and I’ll keep needing this service.

      We’ve seen enormous interest in the service since we launched the beta six weeks ago, and the developers have managed the flood of users (and backlist books) with ease. They’ve build a remarkably scalable system, so more users just means more revenue.

      I can’t see any reason for them to go away. Things are only going to get better.

      • Lily Silver says:

        Thanks Aaron,
        I appreciate the update. No offense was intended in my comment. I’m excited to find a new distributor that can overcome some of the problems authors have encountered with SW.
        I’ll be trying you out, make no mistake! :)

        Lily

        • Aaron Pogue says:

          Thanks, Lily! Definitely no offense was taken, and I hope I didn’t sound defensive.

          Just like Doug’s below, your concern was a perfectly legitimate one given D2D’s (complete lack of a) public track record. I just wanted to share some reassuring perspective from my personal experience.

  19. This is wonderful news! Watch out, Smashwords.

  20. Thank you for this information! I, too, hate the idea of exclusivity. Customers should be able to choose where to buy their books! I’ve been looking at eBookIt, but now I know if that doesn’t work out, there is another good, viable option!

  21. This sounds like a wonderful new service. I adore Mark Coker, but some things about Smashwords are pretty clunky. This sounds a lot more user-friendly. Thanks for the great rundown of their services.

    • Sibel Hodge says:

      Like you, Anne, I adore Mark. I think he’s got his heart and head in the right place, and I don’t want this to turn into a Smashwords-bashing post, because I think he’s done wonders for epublishing and distribution. :)

  22. Doug Welch says:

    I’d urge caution until some aspects of this are ironed out. For a first-time self publisher, this may be the more attractive option, but for those of us who have had books on a site for an extended period of time, (via Smashwords) you might lose sales rank, ratings and reviews with a new distributor. You’d have to start all over at ground zero.
    Also while I agree with some of the complaints about Smashwords, I’m a great fan of competition. A start up with a few titles to offer is a far cry from a site that has to manage 60,000 writers.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      You make a good point with regard to already-published titles. B&N will actually preserve customer reviews for most books if you transfer them to D2D, but everyone else resets your sales rank and reviews.

      • D.D. Scott says:

        Great points on the issue of what you lose when you switch!

        What I’ve been doing as each new service becomes available (for example, when Kobo Writing Life started, I no longer used Smashwords for them) is begin with the new service on my next release. That way I don’t lose all the huge ground I’ve made on each platform.

        That said though, whenever I can go direct to the platform (like Amazon KDP, B&N Nook, Kobo, etc.), I do. All others I can’t go directly to, I’d be very interested in using D2D!!! :-) So, for me, right now, that would be both Apple and Sony.

        How ’bout libraries? Is D2D working with libraries too and outlets like Baker & Taylor which feed libraries?

        • Aaron Pogue says:

          One way or another, they definitely want to get into libraries. It’s a huge priority for Kris (the CEO). They’re investigating Overdrive right now, and I know a lot of us have high hopes that will work out.

          I know they’re also looking into both Baker & Taylor and Ingram, since either venue would provide dozens of additional sales channels in a single stroke. As I understand it, though, both of those services have pretty unfavorable terms, so D2D might have to wait on those until they have more negotiating power.

  23. Thanks for this post, Sibel! Sounds great.

    I do have some questions –
    I use a formatter who takes my regular Word doc and makes a Smashwords-proof style doc, an epub and a mobi. Are you saying I could just put my pre-Smashwords-prepped doc into this, or do I still need to have the doc formatted?

    Also – does D2D handle illustrated books that are mostly jpgs with embedded text?

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      You could definitely upload the Smashwords-prepped doc into D2D, although the epub might work even better.

      Most users can skip the formatter altogether and get good results from just uploading the raw manuscript document. D2D’s automated conversion process and output is surprisingly good.

      As far as your illustrated books, it’s definitely worth trying them. We’ve definitely seen some illustrated books come through looking great.

  24. If I already upload to all the places that D2D does and prefer to keep it that way, can I use them just for formatting? If so, does that cost anything upfront? Is there a reason why I’d want to switch to distribute through them -vs- direct upload myself?

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      You certainly can use Draft2Digital for free (professional-quality) formatting and no distribution. It’s right in the Terms of Service:

      “10. e. You are the owner of the Ebook files that we create.”

      The reasons to distribute through them have to do with convenience, service, and aggregated reporting.

      If you prefer to do all that work yourself, then using D2D as a free conversion service is probably the right move for you. Tell your friends!

  25. This is such good news for me! I’m planning to release my first self-published book in early March and have been seriously anxious over formatting and distribution. I’m sold and ready to give D2D a try!

  26. Deborah Jay says:

    I think I’m in love!
    This is the answer I’ve been looking for – I just couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t out there, and now you’ve shown me that it is – thank you SO much :)
    I’m not quite ready – cover is underway as is final edit – so I might miss out on the beta testing, but I’ll be ready to give it a go soon.
    Happy, happy, happy :D

  27. Steve K Smy says:

    Thanks for the info’ Sibel :) Can never have enough outlets!

    Steve

  28. Aaron Pogue says:

    Thanks again for all the kind comments! If anyone would like to provide additional feedback or ask other questions, you can always contact D2D’s customer support, but I’m also monitoring the thread at Kindleboards:

    http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,137808.0.html

  29. carl east says:

    I would very much like to use your software on my own site Aaron, as I’m thinking of selling directly to the readers. My site deals exclusively with erotic stories and I have been looking for ways for authors to upload their books directly. The website developers that I use are http://www.Bluetone.com and I’m sure they’d be interested in your software. I’d love to be a beta tester of your new software. I’m already uploading my own books through D2D so I know how good the service is.

    Carl East

  30. Caroline from Canada says:

    I just wanted to correct a statement made above. You don’t have to be resident in the US to sell on iTunes but you do have to have a US tax number, which is pretty easy to get. You fill out a form, get a copy of your passport notarized at a US consulate, and send the forms in to the IRS. Took six weeks to get my ITIN number and as soon as I had it, I could set up an account with iTunes. Grand total of $52 invested, $50 for the consular service and $2 postage.