WHY I LEFT SMASHWORDS FOR DRAFT2DIGITAL (D2D)
24 July 2016
I wanted to try it. Some people I trust say good things about D2D. Okay, the title is misleading. I haven’t entirely given up on Smashwords. But…
I like Smashwords. I like the quaint, homey feel of the website, and it seems not to be all about getting me to the cash register (I’m looking at you, World’s Longest River AKA Walmart 2.0). Historically, Mark Coker was the guy who stood up to Amazon, and I appreciate everything he’s done. I remember who’s in my corner (and it ain’t Zon, dude).
I still upload my books there because, well, availability. Mark Coker’s blog posts are great and he’s a very smart guy. I have a couple of Facebook friends who work for Smashwords. They’re good, hardworking humans who I’ve actually met and talked with. But when it comes to ease of uploading, Smashwords just kinda sucks.
‘Cause, the rules, dude!
1. Trying to figure out the copyright page/notice for Smashwords takes forever and formatting is a punch in the groin. They have the Smashwords Style Guide, but it’s 27,000 words long.
27,000 words? Really? The U.S. Constitution is only 4560 words, including the signatures. And here’s a laugh – the Style guide won’t pass the Auto-vetter. No chit, Chico. When I pointed this out to SW “help,” the response was “we ignore that.”
2. There’re only two ways to get a book into Smashwords’ library; either pre-formatted in ePub or formatted in .doc (AKA Micro$oft Word). I don’t use Microsoft products. I don’t like their philosophy and MS Word doesn’t help me accomplish what I want to do. For more on that, go here. I typically save/send attachments in .rtf format. Sure, I can reformat using Open Office or Libre Office, but why should I? Rtf format is the worldwide standard for computers and frankly, Mark’s seemingly slavish devotion to Redmond’s bloated dinosaur is, in my opinion, sad and counterproductive.
3. There’s a two-step dance to get a book into Smashwords’ Premium Catalogue. First it goes through an ePub auto-vetter (A program from the International Digital Publishing Forum – in beta since 2012, BTW). The ePub conversion is pretty easy with Calibre, but it doesn’t accept .doc-formatted text, only .rtf or .odt (Open Document Text – the open source standard in most civilized countries outside the U.S.) format. Once the manuscript is uploaded and jumps through the auto-vetter hoop, real people look at the manuscript to be sure it’s “correct.” In this case, correct means you didn’t do something like accidentally add a link to or mention some other distributor or not include a table of contents, even for a short story. Do that, and it’s back to square one, do not pass go, do not get your book published.
I recently made some typo corrections to a book that had already been in the Premium Catalogue for over a year. I opened the file in Open Office, made my changes, saved in .doc, uploaded the file, and guess what – it failed the auto-vetter. What I got was a “Sorry, you’re screwed” email from Smashwords with a list of gobbledygook. I made the mistake of sending a question to Smashwords Help, which leads me to my other gripe with Smashwords:
4. Snarky responses to requests for help.
My response went something like, “We don’t know what the error messages mean. Either figure it out for yourself or go read the Smashwords Style Guide” (I paraphrase here, but still). I thought “help” was supposed to actually have useful suggestions or at least additional useful information. What a quaint, antiquated concept. I finally figured it out… on my own, six uploads and a week of urinating up a rope later.
That was fun – not.
Okay, moving on.
5. Some of my books literally take weeks to distribute and I never know when it happens, so I have to constantly check all the ebook sites. While I know that this is occasionally the fault of the other retailers, the fact that it happens with every book is discouraging. Three weeks to get into Kobo?
Really? I upload to Kobo directly because I like having access to their world wide marketing and distribution, and their dashboard is cool.
Enter Draft2Digital (D2D) and Kris Austin, the new kid
D2D doesn’t have any extra formatting requirements (and certainly not a 27k word manual full of hoops to jump through). They do ebook conversion from an .rtf file too, which flat blew me away. All I had to do was upload my .rtf file without tweaking. Okay, I did have to make all my chapter headings bold, so D2D’s software would automatically make a linked Table Of Contents for me. Let me say that again, it made the linked TOC for me, not the other way around.
The conversion process took less that thirty seconds. Pretty damn quick. About the same as through Smashwords. But…
D2D sends me an email when my book has uploaded to a retail site so I don’t have to go hunt it down. And it publishes within 24 hours to places like Scribd, Tolino, and Apple. If I make changes to my ebook, it takes me less than 5 minutes to upload a fresh version book.
D2D uploads those changes hourly. HOURLY.
Oh, remember that linked TOC D2D made for me four paragraphs ago? when I downloaded the finished ePub sixty seconds later, I turned around and uploaded it to Smashwords. It passed the auto-vetter and dropped into the Premium Catalogue without so much as a raised eyebrow.
And if I hadn’t made a Copyright page, an About the Author page, a Dedication page, or an Other Books By page, D2D would’ve done those for me, too. Imagine, software that actually helps get things done instead of providing a bigger To Do list. Fuck me.
A Few Comparisons.
– Both SW and D2D allow preorders with iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.
– D2D offers FREE ebook conversion, SW does not.
– You can make coupons on SW, D2D doesn’t have that option (yet).
– You can call D2D for human interaction with any issues or questions you may have.
– Both offer daily sales reporting.
In all my research between these two companies, one of the biggest complaints against D2D was that they didn’t have the distribution list that Smashwords has. Fair enough. Mark Coker has been at this a while longer. But I’m happy to say things seem to be changing rapidly.
Barnes and Noble
Baker and Taylor
and other various platforms, such as Textr, Yuzu, and Odilo, that are so far down the list, I’m not even sure they’re real.
Barnes and Noble
Createspace (yeah, Kris Austin and the D2D kids figured we might want to throw out a print version, and they’ll do that for us, too)
Clearly Smashwords has the upper hand on distribution, but D2D is gaining ground quickly.
When it comes to distribution of my books, I do a hybrid. D2D has become my go-to website to all the above retailers except Kobo, Amazon, and Createspace (which I do directly), and then I do the rest through whichever distributes to which. I flip a coin for B&N, mostly because I figure they’re about four bad management decisions away from joining Books-A-Million in the bone yard, anyway. FYI, B&N sold their UK distribution to a supermarket chain a few months ago. Yeah, a supermarket chain. In my opinion, their management team couldn’t make worse decisions if they secretly worked for the government.
I still distribute through Smashwords ‘cause I remember who kept Zon’s giant boot heel off my royalties on day one. But I can’t ignore the ease of use and access that D2D affords. I just wish Mark Coker and the folks at Smashwords would wake the fuck up.