An Alternative to Smashwords? Draft2Digital

I am not overly thrilled with Smashwords right now. After the big announcement about EPUB, the reality has been less than… well, let us just say, I am not impressed. One, the formatting requirements are the exact same ones they use with Word files–that means generic looking books–and there is STILL NO WAY to test or even preview the converted books before they are published. As much as I get frustrated with the Kindle Previewer, it’s still a valuable tool and its error reports make sense. (Smashwords’ error reports tend to make sense only in alternate universes). When I heard about Draft2Digital, I was quite interested.

While I’ve heard from some people who’ve had good results with D2D, I haven’t tried it myself.

Paul Salvette at BB ebooks has done the legwork for us. He and his crew of wonder-formatters took part in some beta testing and have written up a useful report. Here’s an excerpt:

First Impressions with Draft2Digital

Uploading your manuscript to the newly established website, Draft2Digital seems like a perfect solution for DIY eBook conversion. Thanks to Joanna’s tutorial how to use Calibre on TeleRead, automatic conversion has gained momentum in the business when indie authors are striving to publish as cost-effectively as possible. Although we have already discussed automatic conversion before (it’s not very good quality), many of our clients have urged us to try out the closed beta test on D2D. Fortunately, an email from Draft2Digital sent yesterday notified us of the open beta of which anybody can test the service without getting the beta code. We wasted no time this morning to get our hands on their hotly anticipated conversion service. Our initial doubt prevails: how much can you trust the fast quality of artificial intelligence, especially when it comes to formulating the immortality of your eBook?

(Big Plus)

Hooray, It’s Pay Day!

According to the latest email, customized payment methods have been very convenient for international authors who can receive payment directly into their bank accounts or via PayPal. Look under ‘Payment’ in the Draft2Digital FAQ, authors can sign a big relief to be paid by check, PayPal, or Direct Deposit. Please note for non-’Merican authors you will need to get an ITIN so that the IRS can tax you.

Paul and his crew went through the process with… results. BB ebooks is a pro outfit, and Paul is one of the best in the biz when it comes to producing ebooks. His standards are very high. He did find some problems.

Problems Ensue with Automatic Conversion to EPUB

We tried to one of Paul’s other books that was well formatted in Word, including with a hyperlinked Table of Contents. Unfortunately, it looks as though the formatting is completely blown out when their automated conversion is used. All paragraph styles are first-line indent—which is okay for body content, but not for front matter and back matter. Additionally all first paragraphs in Chapters are first-line indent, which screams Amateur Hour. Below is how it looked:

Pop over to the site and read the entire article. Lots of illustrations and good explanations for what is happening.

My takeaway from this and from what I’ve heard and from what little bopping around I’ve done on the D2D site is that they have a lot of potential. Their terms are good, their payout schedule is excellent, and they are responsive to customer complaints and concerns.

So go read BB ebook’s article, then check out D2D. It might be suitable for you.

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6 thoughts on “An Alternative to Smashwords? Draft2Digital

  1. I think I’m gonna sit this one out – until it’s debugged. Sounds like intentions are great and there will be a fix of minor issues. Seems like an excellent and much more responsive alternative to SW. Which, while it was groundbreaking in its day, is now disappointing.

    • SW is still the best option for many people. It’s so clunky and their focus is on One Size Fits All, and that’s frustrating. D2D offers some much needed competition.

  2. What really chaps my behind with Smashwords is that they do not accept eBooks with HTML tables. Granted, table hatred has been around a while in the web development community, but they are absolutely necessary for certain types of non-fiction eBooks that require tabular information. I’m glad there is a competitor to Smashwords.

    Although, like most automated conversion programs, D2D’s is sort of a bust unless you have a novel that has very shake-and-bake formatting with no bells and whistles. The direct EPUB option on D2D is nice though, as it helps indies who don’t want to submit to the rectal exam required to get a merch account on iTunes to sell through iBooks.

    Jaye, I’ll send you the .docx of my book we pushed through there just so you can see what the formatting looked like pre-conversion (as well as the output) if you’re interested.

  3. Jaye — thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    Paul — thanks for all the legwork and testing. Super-appreciated!

    • You’re welcome, Jon. One slight problem i did find with D2D, though, is that they do not offer an ISBN option. Either you provide one or go without. Not a big deal, EXCEPT with Kobo. To get into their prime catalog the ebook must have an ISBN. Something for writers to keep in mind.

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