I normally distribute my eBooks through Smashwords, but since I’m trapped in Smashwords support hell right now, I decided to try another aggregator for my latest book The Deiform Fellowship One: The Atheist. After doing some research, I settled on eBookIt.
If you need eBookIt to convert your Word file into MOBI and ePub files, you’ll pay $149 ($249 when working from a PDF file). If you already have an ePub file, going with eBookIt won’t cost you a dime up front, but it means that a PDF version of the book won’t be distributed.
I read through eBookIt’s FAQ and then used the contact form to ask a couple of questions. I received an answer within an hour. Whoa! That definitely beats Smashwords. Encouraged by this, I decided to open an account and upload my book.
So how did it go?
I didn’t run into any problems opening the account. It’s a straightforward process that asks for the usual information. However, I experienced some confusion when entering the metadata for my book. The FAQ states that you can provide your own ISBN and publisher name, but there weren’t any fields for those two items.
I emailed support. Again, I received a swift reply explaining that I should enter the ISBN and the publisher name into the “Special Instructions” field. It would be better for the book metadata form to have fields for those two items. Not everyone will want to use them, but eBookIt’s slick UI has informative help bubbles for each field. The help for those two fields could explain what they’re for and that they’re optional.
Then I thought, “Hmm, I’m not in the US, and I forgot to ask about tax withholding.” I didn’t see anything in the account settings or FAQ that addresses whether eBookIt withholds tax for non-US authors and, if it does, how to submit a W-8BEN form. Once again, I used the handy contact form. The quick reply advised me to use the “Special Instructions” field to let eBookIt know that I’m a non-US author, and that it should hang onto any earnings until it receives my W-8BEN form.
Overall, it was a smooth experience. I don’t mind hitting snags if support is quick and on the ball, which was certainly the case here.
After completing all the required information and submitting the book, I received an email advising me that eBookIt had my ePub file. The email also contained a copy of the special instructions I’d entered.
A couple of days later, I logged into my account and discovered that my book was “awaiting approval/action.” The note indicated that they were waiting for a W-8BEN form. Huh? Based on the detailed response I’d received to my query about that, I’d been under the impression that only payments would be delayed. Once again, I emailed support (they were probably wondering about me at that point!). I was assured that nothing was holding up the processing and distribution of the book.
Later that day, I noticed that the “awaiting approval/action” status and note had been removed, so I suspect that someone made a mistake. Not a big deal, because it was quickly corrected.
I had asked that the book be distributed to eBookIt’s store, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Sony. Apple rejected the file for a technical reason that eBookIt provided to me. That was my fault, and I know how to fix it. Once I have, I just need to send eBookIt the updated file and they’ll submit it to Apple again. I really appreciate that they provided me with the exact message from Apple, rather than something generic that I can’t work with unless I nag support for more detail.
It took eBookIt under a week to process and submit my book. Even when you provide an ePub file, it converts to MOBI for you, and that conversion is free. My book’s eBookIt page was available almost immediately. The book showed up at Barnes & Noble within a couple of days, and it should be available at Sony within a couple of weeks.
So far, so good. I love the slick UI and the speedy support. I didn’t encounter any major problems.
I went with eBookIt over BookBaby, the other company I considered, because BookBaby charges $99 to distribute an ePub file. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a cut of any sales, so eBookIt could turn out to be more expensive over time for a book that’s selling well. My books are niche books, so no upfront cost is a better deal for me. I can always revisit that decision, if necessary.
Since eBookIt distributes through Ingram Digital, which in turn distributes to a long list of eBookstores, it also has a wider reach than BookBaby and Smashwords. eBookIt also distributes to Google.
Smashwords vs. eBookIt
Upfront cost: If you have an ePub file, it’s a tie. If you don’t, then Smashwords wins.
Book processing time: Smashwords has the edge when it comes to getting the book into its own storefront, since that happens right after meatgrinder has completed its magic. eBookIt has the edge for all the other venues.
Support: eBookIt wins, hands down.
Retail partners: eBookIt wins. Not only does it reliably distribute to Amazon, B&N, Sony, and Apple, it also distributes to Google and Ingram Digital (which distributes to Diesel and Page Foundry, in addition to tons of other venues).
Libraries: No clear winner. Smashwords has some library partners. eBookIt doesn’t have any. But not everyone believes that the terms at Smashwords are good for authors, so this is a “make up your own mind” item.
Payment Terms: Smashwords beats eBookIt when it comes to sales from its own storefront. At Smashwords, you get 85% of those sales (minus the transaction fee). At eBookIt, you get 75%. When it comes to retail partners, it’s hard to say because each store has its own terms. eBookIt gives you 85% of net (what it gets after the retailer has taken its cut). Smashwords generally pays you 60% of the retail price (there are some exceptions). Clear as mud, right? You’ll have to figure out which one is better for your book and price.
Affiliate program: Smashwords has a program for books. EBookIt has a program for formatting. Apples and oranges.
Tracking click origins: eBookIt wins. It gives you a nifty way of tracking where someone clicked to get to your book’s eBookIt page. For example, let’s say you write a guest post on a blog. You can include a unique URL to your book’s page and see how many people click on the link in the post. Smashwords doesn’t have anything comparable.
Should I use Smashwords or eBookIt?
If you don’t have an ePub file, Smashwords has the edge because it will convert your file for free. Even so, if other considerations are important to you, you might not mind paying $149 to eBookIt. Some people don’t like meatgrinder.
If you have an ePub file, you’ll have to decide what matters most to you.
Questions everyone should ask:
Do you want to distribute to the most venues? Then consider eBookIt. Keep in mind that you can still upload your book to Smashwords and sell it through the Smashwords storefront.
Do you want to squeeze out every royalty penny you can? Then you’ll need to do the math and figure out which aggregator will net you the most.
Do you want quick and helpful support? Go with eBookIt.
Creating an account and uploading my first book was a pretty painless experience. If you’re researching eBook aggregators and formatters, add eBookIt to the list.
Have you used eBookIt, BookBaby, or Smashwords? How about BookTango, the new kid on the block?