Smashwords vs Dash 2 Digital

First of all, if you’re new to self-publishing then you are probably wondering what the hell are Smashwords and Dash 2 Digital. That’s okay. Until a few days ago I didn’t have much idea either. I’ve heard of Smashwords before but didn’t realise exactly what it is.

Both of these companies are essentially ebook distributors. By using these companies you only have to worry about uploading one written document and one book cover, and they will see that your book gets to as many markets as possible in the right format for that market. Considering how many different types of ebook readers are available and how many different markets there are, this service is a big help to self-published authors… especially those newbies like me who are still figuring the whole industry out.

Both companies look very similar when you look at their features. They’ll both format your book for you depending on the market, they both submit your books to each marketplace on your behalf, and they both charge a 15% fee for their service. The only differences I could find at first in my research was that Smashwords had their own store that also pushed some books, Smashwords had been around longer and were the bigger name, and Smashwords submitted to more markets.

So you would think that the right choice to go with would be Smashwords, right? Wrong… well at least for me.

Why I chose Draft 2 Digital

1. The Website

As a graphic designer and web developer in my day job, design is important to me. It’s not like I’m pretentious enough to say that you need a good website or I won’t use your services, but I do think a website can say a lot about a company and make be the final factor in a decision about whether or not I will use a particular service.

Draft 2 Digital has a rather nice looking website. It’s clear, simple, got some nice visuals, and looks like it was made recently following recent web trends. It is also 100% focused on selling their service. They are dedicated to the process of distributing your ebook and their whole website shows that dedication.

Draft 2 Digital Home Page

Smashwords, on the other hand, is almost a polar opposite. It is not a good looking website. Nor is it clear, simple or focused. It instead is a bit of a mess. The home looks like a rudimentary storefront that was designed in the early 2000’s. It is cluttered, lacks any kind of focal point, and it isn’t clear at a glance what they even do. Had I not stumbled on this site in my research and been recommended it by a friend, I would never have given it the time of day.

Smashwords Home Page

The conclusion to this is that from one company I got the message that they will be distributing my book in a way that puts me as the author first (it says that right on their website), while from the other I got the message that someone created a product/system in the early 2000’s and haven’t been bothered to update it since. I know which type of company I would rather use… but amazingly Draft 2 Digital didn’t win out in my decision yet.

You see, I had a friends recommendation working for Smashwords at this point, not to mention the fact that they’re the big name in this business as far as I could tell. I decided not to judge a site by the cover (like what I did there?) and go with Smashwords. I signed up and had a look at the service which leads me to my next point…


2. The Style Guide

The Smashwords style guide is a document telling you how to format a Microsoft Word file that contains your novel so that it can read it and turn it into various ebooks.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I am a graphic designer. I have worked with style guides before. Normally the ones I work with are from companies (some quite big ones at times) and the guides are a list of rules about how to work with their branding. These are often dull documents with a list of ‘dos and do nots’ that feel like their custom designed to make my life harder. Now, as I have said, I’ve worked with some fairly big companies and it feels like an unwritten rule that the larger the company, the stricter the style guide. So you’d think I would be used to it by now…

I can tell you, I was not prepared for this. The Smashwords style guide is an ebook that is… wait for it… 117 pages long. That’s 117 pages telling you how to format a Microsoft Word document. That’s insane.

Now, I understand why this document is there. It’s so that when you upload your file, their system can recognise things like chapter headings, page breaks, and things like that. But 117 pages. How hard can it be to say things like, “Set chapter headings to XX font at YY size”?

I downloaded it and skimmed through, but quickly decided it wasn’t for me. So I headed over to Draft 2 Digital to see what their process was. You’d never guess the size of their style guide… 0 pages. They don’t have a style guide.

All you have to do is upload your manuscript and cover, edit your metadata and choose the style of your ebook, and you’re good to go. That’s not to say that there weren’t some teething problems along the way. I had a title page, a copyright page and a prologue which their system didn’t like at all, but these were really easy fixes. In under half an hour I had completed the entire process and my book was on its way to being published in multiple markets.


The Verdict

One of the golden rules I have always been taught to adhere to when designing is the K.I.S.S rule. This stand for ‘Keep it simple stupid’. In other words, the simple solution is usually the best solution.

Simple isn’t always easy. I’m sure a lot of work went into the back end of Draft 2 Digital in order to make it easy to upload my book. However, when you are designing a website, app or service (either the visuals or the user experience), then making it easy for your users to use is one of the key elements to success and what was my reason for choosing Draft 2 Digital for my eventual choice.

The fact that they have taken the effort to design such a good website and make it as easy as it was to get my book to market made them seem like they were the right people to entrust my book too.

So what do you think? Did I make the right choice? Which of these two do you use? Or do you use a different option not mentioned above? Whatever the case, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.