The final topic I would like to speak a little about is third party distribution.
THIRD PARTY PUBLISHERS/DISTRIBUTORS
When discussing third party distributors, I’m just going to look at two, Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords. There are others out there, but I have decided to only look at these two because they are the main players. Also, even though D2D offers a distribution channel via Createspace to allow for POD, I’m only looking at these two platforms for ebook distribution. This goes back to what I said when discussing Kobo, if you can deal directly with a seller rather than use a third party, it is better for your return. Since I plan on using a POD platform directly, I won’t be using a third party distributor for printed books.
You may be asking yourself, why do I even need to use a third party if I am already planning on publishing directly with Kobo and Amazon (Kindle). Just using those two platforms does cover a large chunk of the market. But there are still a couple more possible sales avenues that I can’t get to without a third party distributor: Apple and Barnes & Noble.
B&N only allows Americans to use their NookPress (the direct method of self-publishing with them) and Apple requires files to be uploaded from a Mac (I’m a PC). Both D2D and Smashwords also offer access to other sales markets, but I think that they will be negligible for sales for me so I don’t feel it makes a difference if one has more channels than the other (as long as they both offer the same access to the big ones).
Smashwords has long been the goto for self-publishing for non-Amazon (i.e. epub) ebooks and offers the widest distribution. They also have a great set of guides that you can download for free to help with editing and formatting your ebook. On average, they offer about 60% of list for your royalty.
One thing Smashwords has that D2D does not offer is a retail store that lets you sell your book directly on your own website, allowing you to earn a larger royalty (80% of list price). It’s dated though and if you ever peruse the titles available, you’ll see that Smashwords is also a haven for massive amounts of erotica/porn so if seeing your book on the new release list sandwiched between My Uncle’s Barn (a book that contains non-consent and MMF) and something called Taboo Wet Peach (I don’t even want to know), then this might not be a big selling feature.
Smashwords has both positives and negatives. On the positive side, Smashwords is free (there are some third party platforms that have set up fees and other upfront costs, although the two I’m discussing here don’t) and seems to be easy to use. Just format your manuscript following their guide (available for download for free) and then submit it to the ‘meatgrinder’, what they call their epub conversion process. This is supposed to generate your epub for you.
On the negative side, I have read comments from users that it is not as easy as it sounds and that the meatgrinder sometimes lives up to its name, grinding out a less than pleasing format for your ebook, especially if you haven’t followed their formatting guidelines to the letter. Smashwords also slaps ‘Smashwords Edition’ onto your copyright page. Not a big deal, but it does automatically identify your book as self-published and some people prefer to avoid self-published books because of a prejudice towards them. In addition, many users complain about the poor sales reporting they get from Smashwords and that Smashwords only pays out quarterly on royalties. Finally, there have also been concerns about the speed (or lack thereof) at which books get published to partner sites. One hindrance to getting full distribution of your book with Smashwords’s partners is that it must make it to their Premium Catalogue, if it doesn’t it will not be distributed beyond Smashwords own ebook store.
D2D is a relative newcomer on the market, founded in 2012 and based in Oklahoma. Although it does not offer as many distribution channels as Smashwords, it does offer the top ones (B&N, Apple, Kobo and supposedly in talks with Google). It is also a free to use platform, with no upfront costs. One big positive they have over Smashwords is that they offer epub conversion from several different file types (.doc, .docx, .rtf) and they have no strict formatting requirements. They will even put together your front-end matter like your title and copyright pages. If you are like me and want to generate your own .epub, you can upload that instead as well.
D2D appears to have better sales reporting and pays royalties monthly. Like Smashwords, you get paid 60% of the list price, although they don’t have an online store for you to sell directly from your own website.
They also have great customer service. I know this for a fact because I have used it twice already, emailing questions and getting a reply often on the same business day or the next (which probably was more a result of me sending my query later in the day than a lack of service).
So there you go, self-publishing in a nutshell. This is by no means an exhaustive list. As I said, there are more platforms out there, but these are the ones I’m considering.