Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting Your Best Royalty On A 99cent Title

Sometimes, just when I think I have it all figured out... I learn something that rocks how I view things.

I sell a 99cent ebook on Nook (direct upload to Nook Press) - royalty $0.40
I sell a 99cent ebook on Nook (distributed by Draft 2 Digital) - royalty $0.59

Now, I actually knew this fact already, way back in the distant, hazy days of 2011 when I first started self-publishing. Smashwords has a similar high-royalty for low-priced works, but Smash was unreliable. (Note: Apple direct uploads pay 60% on 99cent works. It's only Nook Press, Kobo, and Amazon which have that 99cent ghetto.)

What Changed
I started writing serials with 99cent episodes. And short fiction with 99cent price tags. And then Draft 2 Digital came along and presented a more reliable distributor system.

I Finally Put 2 and 2 Together
Using a distributor didn't make sense to me, with the exception of getting a free book onto Nook (the sole advantage that I could see, and worth tolerating the unreliable nature of Smash). I certainly couldn't imagine using a distributor for my fast-paced output of serial episodes. I knew D2D was more reliable, but I hadn't bothered to experiment with them. When I finally did, I re-discovered this royalty issue! And more - D2D allows vendor links, whereas Smash forbids it (see how to manage your backmatter). Smashwords has more vendor agreements, but I've found these to be largely useless - and problematic if you have a title whose price you ever plan to change. (Example: I pulled Mind Games off Smashwords in 2012. In 2014, I sold a copy through Diesel, a small vendor that Smashwords had distributed to... two years prior!)

Ways D2D and Smash Are The Same

*can upload your pre-formatted EPUB
*can distribute free books to all their vendors
*will do pre-orders on Nook

Advantages of D2D Over Smashwords

*allows vendor-specific links in your backmatter
*general reliability
*checks your EPUB as you upload, to let you know if there is an issue with it, rather than waiting for it to pass an EPUB check some indeterminate time later... or worse, letting it through then getting it held up at the vendor
*gives you a vendor specific link to the book you just distributed so you can instantly check to see if it's live yet
*paid monthly, not quarterly

Advantage of D2D Over Direct Upload to Nook Press

*higher royalty on 99cent titles (60% vs. 40%)

The Main Disadvantage of All Distributors

*inflexibility and speed - if you want to change your price, they are not responsive enough to get that price updated in a timely way. In fact, they are slow all around, taking up to a week (or sometimes much, much longer) to upload books and update information. D2D is better than Smashwords, however. I recently uploaded a book to all three (Nook Press, D2D, and Smash) as a test - Nook went live in about 2 days, D2D within a week, and Smash still hasn't distributed it (2 weeks later).

The Lightbulb for Me
I will be using D2D to distribute my 99cent serial episodes and shorts to Nook, as well as for pre-orders and free books on Nook. I don't sell as much on Nook as I do on Amazon, but that's all the more reason to go for the higher royalty on those lower priced titles. For titles $2.99 and above, I'll be going direct to Nook Press for ease-of-use and timeliness.


  1. Another plus -- D2D has FABULOUS, nearly-immediate customer service. I've never waited more than 24 hours for a reply to an issue, and often 1-2 hours for help.

    Also, D2D pays monthly.

  2. Argggg! There seem to be too many options when self-publishing. Although I'm still a ways from publishing my story, I'm stil woefully ignorant of options like D2D. Thanks for the info.

  3. I, too, decided to use D2D instead of Smashwords for non-Amazon distribution, for similar reasons; however, I'm currently in KDP Select because of KU, and because I wasn't selling much anywhere else anyway. Since I don't have an extensive catalog yet, I figured the KU exposure would be good for me (and I've been right so far); but when I have more books out there, I'll probably rethink that.

  4. I switched to D2D from SW for my 2nd book and the experience was awesome. Up on all retailers in about 3 days, and they emailed me each time to say that the book was live, instead of me checking every 5 minutes. :) In comparison, SW once took 2 months to get my book on Kobo! Love D2D. Thanks for this extra info, Susan!

  5. Great post. I am just about done with Smashwords. They have so many crazy hoops to jump through that don't even make sense! Also, I have a few free books distributed through them to BN and the series don't get linked correctly. That makes it look like I only have books 2-5 available when a reader clicks on the series information. So frustrating!

    I am currently waiting for my free books through D2D to go live to see if it's an issue there as well. Fingers crossed this solves the problem. If it does, I'm saying goodbye to any Smashwords distribution in the future.

    1. Just as a follow-up to anyone wondering: I published my "free" books to BN through D2D on Friday night and they went live in the store today, Monday 9/8. Customer service at D2D told me it is usually within 3 business days but that BN doesn't update on weekends. I was shocked to see them go live so quickly. And happy!

      Also, the issue with the series not linking correctly is totally fixed right out the gate with D2D's epub. Plus, vendor-specific links. Win/win/win.

  6. I'm a long time follower and though I'm not a self-publisher, I had to tell you I learn so much from your blog on the subject. As always, best wishes on lots and lots of sales :)

  7. D2D score on having a high level of customer service. They don't fob you off with half-truths as Amazon is inclined to do. Answers come from real people and are not computer generated. Smashwords is slow on customer response and often don't grasp what the problem is.

    Distribution is better with D2D than Smash. It's faster and error-free. Smashwords' problems are its Meatgrinder (the very word says a lot about how they approach a writer's work), its cumbersome instructions, its confusing website. There are some good points in its style guide but it needs to have a clearer re-write. The biggest plus for Smashwords is its free voucher system.

    I use D2D for all Createspace, Apple, Kobo B&n etc. I use Smash only for those that D2D do not have an agreement with.

    What's very clear in my view is that the people at D2D look at their business from the writer's angle.

  8. I did not know about D2D, so thank you for this!

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  10. Intriguing statistics:) Thanks for opening my eyes to the ever-shifting world of online publishing prices:)

  11. I hadn't heard of D2D yet - guess I've been under a rock! good to know things are evolving and getting better. For now, having price changes be difficult made me pull back to the only distributor where I have any sales, which I don't like.

  12. Great post. Kobo seems to be the same - higher royalties through D2D than going direct.

  13. Great information. I'm studying your book for Indie Authors too. I've learned so much! Thank you!