Comparing eBook Distributors

Comparing eBook Distributors

Comparing Largest eBook Distributors

This is a review and comparison for PublishDrive, Draft2Digital, Ingram, and SmashWords.

So, you’ve decided to hop off of Amazon’s wild ride (or at least, check out your other options) and you want to go wide. No more editing your manuscript to maximize KU pages read, no more obsessively refreshing Amazon to see the new KU rate, no more spikes and valleys in your legacy sales, just a pure, broad, bread and butter honest selling of books.

Please, take my advice – if you have more than, say, 10 books, you would be an absolute idiot to try to upload all your books separately to each separate bookseller. You might think the extra 10% on your income is worth it, but you’ll get more than an extra 10% from the sales of smaller book sellers you would of never individually uploaded to. Yes, distributors like PublishDrive take 10%, but they add absolutely enormous value, ease and reliability to the process, and being able to see all your sales data aggregated in one spot is almost worth it alone, even without the usual boost in income that comes from being on hundreds of book sellers at once. When I had my books uploaded to dozens of book sellers individually, I would literally find out what my payment was when it hit my account – it’s simply impossible to log in to every one regularly. Need to update a book? Good luck. With a distributor you only need to focus on and improve a single copy of each book, and it’s updated across hundreds of sellers.

So the question is then, which one is the best?

To avoid smothering you with my bias, I’m going to break down the actual metrics and give a (kinda) neutral assessment. If you are not interested in a long article, and simply want to know the best based on my research, go ahead and sign up with PublishDrive

Some distributors are so bad I’m not even including them here. One of them, Streetlib, is so bad I wrote an entire article about how bad it is – which is here. Never use Streetlib, which is composed of borderline criminals.

The main legitimate distributors are PublishDrive, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, and Ingram.

PublishDrive, Smashwords and Draft2Digital give you the greatest reach for E-Books, whereas Ingram is best for those who want to sell primarily paper copies, and who’s desire is to get into actual bookstores. I strongly recommend focusing on E-Book self publishing as around 70% of sales worldwide are E-Books now through E-Readers, but it’s whatever you want.

Now, there are a few factors to consider when selecting. One is reach – which one puts your books in front of the widest audience, for greatest potential sales? Another is royalty share – what slice of the pie do they take? Another very important and underrated factor is usability and sales reporting, since accurate and up to date sales data will give you the knowledge you need to maximize sales by spotting trends or fixing issues. Finally I would say support, because when your sales are your livelihood, it’s extremely important to have a responsive team that will help you deal with any issues.

Comparing eBook Distributor Payouts

eBook Royalty Share Comparison

First, let’s compare royalty share. All distributor’s value should be weighed against their payment, which is a percentage of your revenue. Below is a graph comparing the money you will get from a 0.99c, 2.99c, 6.99c and 9.99c book published through a distributor, from a sale on Amazon.

NOTE: This royalty share, to be a fair comparison, is not taking into account each actual book sellers cut. So for example, in real life, it would be 2.99 list price, then the book sellers cut (30% for books priced 2.99 or over for Amazon), then they would take their particular percentage from the 70% left over.

Draft2Digital takes 15% of your royalties, so 15% of the theoretical 70% of list price. Same with Smashwords, except Smashwords also has it’s own website it sells it’s books on, so you will get 85% of list price for books sold on the actual Smashwords website. PublishDrive takes a flat 10% of your income, but they also have a subscription service for $100 per month, so in essence you will not pay a dollar in extra royalties to them after you start making $1,000 or more per month. Clearly, PublishDrive is the best in terms of payment. The subscription even comes with $50 Amazon Advertising Credit and a free 1 month trial, so essentially the first 1 and 1/2 months are free.

For Ingram, you can enter your books information here to see what you will be paid from the physical book sales.

Here is the amount that actually ends up in your pocket for every sale you make at a given price point:

Comparing eBook Distributor Distribution

publishdrive smashwords draft2digital ingram comparison table

Next up is reach. All the best royalty pricing in the world won’t help you if your book is not in front of a wide audience. Would you rather keep 10% of a million sales or 100% of 4 sales? The choice isn’t that drastic, but you get the idea. Below is a graph of which major retailers are available through these distributors. You’ll notice Ingram is excluded from a lot of these graphs, because they are a relatively niche service that is only really amazing for people who are 100% into physical books and want their books in actual stores.

I know from experience that 90% of your sales from going wide will be Amazon, Apple Ibooks, Google Play, and to a smaller extent Barnes and Noble and Kobo. The rest will be miscellaneous sales from the hundred other book sellers.

At the time of writing this, Draft2Digital is trying to get on Google Play, and might eventually get on. I will update if that happens. In the meantime, the data is fairly clear. Smashwords is the worst choice in terms of distribution, unless you want to upload your books yourself to Amazon and Google Play, and use Smashwords for all other marketplaces and for access to the Smashwords marketplace. Draft2Digital is quite broad but requires you to have your own Google Publishers account which is actually quite hard to do and I don’t think it’s open for new accounts right now. PublishDrive is the clear winner here, as you can see. To be honest before I wrote this article I knew I preferred PublishDrive, but looking at the data it really seems PublishDrive is miles ahead, with Draft2Digital coming up in a close second. Only do Draft2Digital if you are going to do Google Play yourself, as they make up about 40% of my wide sales.


Usability & Sales Reporting

Now, onto usability and sales reporting. This is a bit subjective, but to summarize the common sentiment on author forums, Draft2Digital and PublishDrive both have amazing interfaces, whereas Smashwords is quite bad. Smashwords has miles to go in terms of easy formatting, and you will have to learn Smashword’s systems whereas with PublishDrive or Draft2Digital anyone can understand it straight away.

Now, for support. Support is subjective, but I can also vouch for PublishDrive with Draft2Digital a close second. PublishDrive goes to bat for the author much more – they have real humans on the other end who actually want your book to sell. This is very important for erotica, because imagine having to deal with your distributor’s rules and regulations on top of all the actual rules from the various book sellers. To my knowledge, PublishDrive has no additional regulations, and they are very good at noticing when your book is in violation of a book sellers regulations and letting you know to fix it. PublishDrive also lets you add a co-author and they pay out their percentage separately which is a godsend for anyone who does collaborations.

All in all, I have to recommend PublishDrive. When I started this article I had no idea it would be such an endorsement  for PublishDrive. I should remind readers that I am not being paid to post this, and I’ve had a majority of my books on PublishDrive for ages before this website was created. Here are the links to every distributor listed here, and whoever you pick, I hope you experience massive success. 

As part of a promotion, PublishDrive is giving a free $25 Amazon Advertising Credit to people who sign up using their promo link, which is the one used on this page in links to PublishDrive. We update it with their new links regularly.


Used one of these distributors? Share your experience below!

2 thoughts on “Comparing eBook Distributors”

  1. You don’t mention Author Republic but I’ve found their interface easiest to use. Slightly easier than PublishDrive. They have a lot of overlap in the stores they distribute to, but there are several significant differences. And while PublishDrive has a monthly cost associated with it, hopefully the royalty returned will make up for it; compared to Author Republic which has no fee but a lower royalty back to the author/publisher.


Leave a Comment