So where should I publish? Part 2: Using Aggregators

In our last post, we looked at the top five ebook retailers plus Malaysia’s own e-sentral. These retailers allow you to upload and publish your books directly with them—but this requires you to work out six different ways to format your ebook and enter the related information six times. To streamline this process, we use an aggregator—which distributes your ebooks to the selected retailers and online libraries.

Here are three aggregators we’ve personally used or know Malaysians who have used them:


Smashwords is one of the first indie publishing platforms which serves both as a retailer in its own right and as a distributor/aggregator. It distributes to a long list of retailers including Kobo, iBooks and Nook. Where it doesn’t distribute to is Google Play and Amazon. Amazon is technically on the list, but your books aren’t actually distributed via Smashwords unless you’ve sold more than $2k worth of books on Smashwords.


85% of net sales* on books sold in the Smashwords store, 60% of list price for books sold by other retailers.

*Net sales is the amount after transaction fees (if any) and affiliate cut (if any).

The good stuff:

  • Smashwords sells internationally, and since it’s been around for more than a decade, it’s pretty established in the market.
  • Books are sold in several formats, including epub, mobi (Kindle) and PDF, so it caters to readers on all major platforms/readers.
  • Payment is made via Paypal on a monthly basis so you’ll get paid every month! Even if you only earn like a dollar.
  • Uploading is via .doc file. Or you can upload via epub file if you’ve managed to make one somewhere else.
  • Smashwords has a coupon system so you can put individual books on sale or you can create a special coupon code for your readers instead of generally lowering your prices.
  • You can set your price to 0 (free) so it’s an easy way to give your books away for free.
  • Provides free ISBN
  • You can control pricing in other currencies

The bad stuff:

  • Uploading to Smashwords via .doc—which initially sounds easy enough—is often quite finicky due to their proprietary conversion software known as the Meatgrinder. It requires very stringent formatting and even experienced formatters sometimes face stupid, annoying problems with the upload so you have to be very patient. (Or hire us!)
  • Formatting is limited—the Meatgrinder doesn’t like too many pictures or lists or tabs or tables, so it’s really only good for fiction that doesn’t need any of that stuff.
  • The pre-order option isn’t exactly a pre-order: it creates the book page with all the relevant details but doesn’t allow orders until the on-sale date itself.
  • It’s still a US site, so you still need to fill up the US tax form (W8-BEN) and pay the 30% withholding tax.
  • Readers can only review books they bought from the site.

What does this mean for you?

Publishing on Smashwords is a steep investment in terms of time and the payoff may not be that great. We use it mainly because it’s a legacy platform at this point—we’re so used to having it there that it feels weird not to. 🙂


Draft2Digital (D2D) 

D2D is one of the most well-known aggregators out there. It doesn’t have its own sales platform but distributes to a long list of retailers including Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Nook. It doesn’t yet distribute to Google Play but they’re currently “in talks”.


D2D takes 10% of the retail price, or approx 15% of net royalties. Royalties depend on the individual retailers.

The good stuff:

  • It’s very easy to use and doesn’t require any special formatting skills, as long as your chapter markers are consistent.
  • Uploading is via any Word file (or Word readable file).
  • Also helps generate end matter.
  • Provides free ISBN.
  • Converts your book into epub, mobi (Kindle) and PDF, so it caters to readers on all major platforms/readers.
  • You can set your price to 0 (free) except on Amazon so it’s an easy way to give your books away for free.
  • You can control pricing in other currencies.

The bad stuff:

  • It’s still a US site, so you still need to fill up the US tax form (W8-BEN) and pay the 30% withholding tax.

What does this mean for you?

For a tech noob, D2D looks like the best replacement for Smashwords. There’s a lot of overlap between the sites they distribute to, so unless you really want to sell on Smashwords itself, D2D is a pretty good replacement.



Streetlib posits itself as “a one-stop solution for independent publishing”. It certainly offers a lot of options and has segregated its options into six overall categories: write, publish, print, sell, read and market. They have an impressive list of retailers that they distribute to, including all of the top five ebook retailers AND e-sentral.


StreetLib takes 10% of the list price. Royalties depend on the individual retailer. Using the wholesale model, you get 60% of your list price

The good stuff:

  • You can either upload as an epub or create an epub using their free “write” service.
  • The Write service lets you either upload an existing word document (slightly buggy) or cut and paste from your file into their system. It’s quite intuitive to use and offers several standard styles to choose from.
  • There is an option to create your own ebook store, which takes away the hassle of creating your own website.
  • Provides free ISBN.
  • Payment via Paypal is available. Set up for payment allows you to list Malaysia so there is a possibility that a W8-BEN is not required (we haven’t tested this yet).

The bad stuff:

  • The Write function is separate from the Publish function—and there is no automatic flow—so you need to download the epub file and then re-upload it to sell, which was frankly a little confusing.
  • The Help & FAQ section wasn’t exactly very helpful in figuring this out, so experimentation was needed.

What does this mean for you?

Our experience of using Streetlib was basically that the best part is the Write option. Everything else is slightly confusing and frankly a little annoying. However, the list of retailers they distribute to is impressive, so it might be worth the effort.


Additional reading:

There are a lot of things to think about when deciding how to publish your e-book. If you want to discuss the best options for your book, contact us for a one-on-one consult.

Let us know if you have any specific questions and we’ll try to answer them!

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *