— Mark Paxson
Last year, I put up a few posts about my efforts to get an agent for a novel I published last year. None of those efforts were successful and I tired of the process rather quickly and went with self-publishing. I used the KDP platform for the e-book and paperback, like I’ve done with everything I published (except for one book I’ll discuss more below).
Chalk me up as one of those writers who isn’t happy with the Amazon monopoly. While it’s great that Amazon provides such access to indie authors, it comes at a price. Almost complete exclusivity. Whatever it is that their expanded distribution network does, it’s never produced any sales for me. And their exclusivity doesn’t do much for my bottom line.
Yes, I’ve had some page reads through the Kindle Unlimited program, which I believe you can only access as a writer if you commit to Amazon’s exclusivity. But it’s never been enough to make a huge difference.
I recently finished a novella and I’m also putting together a collection of short stories that will be published shortly after the novella. The platforms I’ve considered using to break out of the Amazon rut were Smashwords, Draft2Digital (which is merging with Smashwords in a few months), and IngramSpark.
I know writers who use Smashwords exclusively. I tried it once with one of my early books and found the process of formatting a manuscript to be able to feed it into their program that produces an e-book in all the different e-book variations to be mind-numbing and complicated. I didn’t really want to go through that again. But … I did think about it.
Audrey Driscoll recommended Draft2Digital, or at least suggested looking into it. So, I did. I liked what I saw. No charge to setup and they produce both e-books and paperbacks and even have an audiobook option (sort of). Added bonus — they take less than Amazon does for e-books.
Smashwords promises wide distribution of e-books across the various platforms. So, too does Draft2Digital. And IngramSpark. Here are the platforms Draft2Digital can send an e-book to:
BorrowBox, Vivlio, Baker & Taylor, Tolino, Scribd, Apple Books, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Hoopla, Bibliotheca, and OverDrive.
You can select whichever of these you want your e-book to be marketed on. I selected all of them. Preparing the manuscript and uploading it along with the cover was remarkably easy. Even easier than KDP, which is ridiculously easy when it comes to an e-book. And 1000% easier than Smashwords (unless they’ve improved their process since I tried it around ten years ago).
Within a few hours, the book became available for pre-order on half of those platforms. The interesting thing is that Amazon requires documentation and information that none of the other platforms do. I hade to answer several questions, describe my previous publishing experience on Amazon (in terms of publishing there) and indicate that this book was not already available on Amazon. And then, eventually send an email to Draft2Digital that confirms everything I said in response to the questions asked on their website.
Once I submitted all of that, the approval from Amazon came pretty quickly, but the book still doesn’t show up there. So … we will see.
The easy part was over. I switched to the paperback and … learned that Draft2Digital’s paperback publishing is still in beta and you had to send an email asking to be let in to the beta. I sent the email, but then decided I wasn’t sure I wanted to publish during the beta.
I switched over to IngramSpark to publish the paperback. They have an equally wide distribution for paperbacks and one advantage to both Draft2Digital and IngramSpark is that bookstores are more willing to take paperbacks from them. Some bookstores refuse to take paperbacks from Amazon. So … I started the process.
I went through all the account set up and got to the page where the site confirmed my account set up was 100% complete and I could go to My Dashboard and start working on the book. I did that, went through a couple of screens that are similar to KDP’s and Draft2Digital’s and just before I got to the point where I could upload the manuscript and cover, I got a popup. “Thou shalt go no further until you complete Account Setup.” Okay, it wasn’t quite that biblical, but it was close. I clicked on the link to complete setup and it took me to the page that says my account setup is 100% complete.
And that’s where my paperback resides at the moment. I got a response back from Draft2Digital that I can enter the hallowed halls of their paperback beta and I have communicated to IngramSpark’s customer service to find out what’s going on over there. The first response asked me if the Account Setup page really told me that it was 100% complete. I went back and looked and said, “yes!” The next response was that this would require a higher level of customer care than he could reply. That was 24 hours ago. Here I wait.
I may start the Draft2Digital Beta and see how that works for me.
I’ll provide an update as things progress, but for now, even with the complication over the paperback, I’m cautiously optimistic about this path I’ve opted for with this book. Wider distribution (hard as it may be to believe, not everybody has a Kindle), ease of publication.