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Indie publishing powerhouses join forces

Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords later this year. Here’s what that means for their authors.

The shocking news heard ’round the world Tuesday might just be the start of an indie publishing revolution—that is, if Mark Coker and Kris Austin have anything to say about it. 

Early last week, the duo surprised authors and publishers alike with the announcement that Draft2Digital LLC, of which Austin is the CEO and co-founder, would acquire Smashwords Inc., the publishing platform founded by Coker. The deal is set to finalize March 1. The companies are already some of the largest independent distributors of self-published books, according to Publishers Weekly, and once the two unite under the Draft2Digital name, the company will serve more than 250,000 authors and publishers, according to the companies’ joint press release.

Austin revealed during a live-streamed Q&A session Wednesday that discussions between the companies began in late November 2021. “We want to do everything we can to represent indie authors and to help them succeed in their careers,” he said. “We know we can make better and more tools for authors working together versus trying to create the same systems in two places.”

“We’re stronger together,” Coker said during the livestream. “We can do more for indie authors working together than working as competitors.”

The news is especially big for authors who publish wide, many of whom use one or both of the platforms to distribute their books across several retailers, libraries, and subscription services. But it’s also raised many questions, particularly about what the shift will mean for authors and their businesses. Here’s what we know so far. 

Authors will get the best of both worlds. 

With the integration of the companies, Draft2Digital will aim to preserve the unique tools and services currently available on each platform. This includes the templating tools, payment options such as direct deposit and paper checks, and automated front and back matter currently available through Draft2Digital as well as the online store and coupon generator from Smashwords—and yes, the Smashwords Store will keep its name, according to an FAQ page on the Draft2Digital blog. Authors will also have access to D2D Print for print-on-demand paperbacks, which is now in beta testing.

In Wednesday’s Q&A session, Austin said he believes royalty conflicts for books published on both platforms will be rare, but the company will try to settle any such disputes to work in the author’s favor. “Because we only make money when the authors make money, our goal here is for authors to make more money,” he said. “So the goal here would be to pick the higher royalty option if that does occur.” 

Erotica authors will be able to publish through Draft2Digital. 

In September 2017, Smashwords developed the Smashwords Erotic Fiction Certification System to allow authors who write Erotica with certain niche and taboo themes to better classify their books for retailers. This certification system will be adopted by Draft2Digital following the acquisition, meaning Erotica authors will have the same ability to publish and distribute books with taboo topics they would have had with Smashwords.

Authors can continue to use either platform for the time being.

Authors can continue uploading their books for publication to either platform for the time being, and those who’ve used Smashwords previously won’t need to worry about transferring any of their titles over manually, Austin said in the Q&A. Once the acquisition is complete, the company will begin transitioning Smashwords titles and authors to the Draft2Digital platform, with hopes to keep the transition “as smooth and effortless as possible,” according to the FAQ page. However, those wishing to learn some of the formatting features ahead of time can make a free account on Draft2Digital and begin experimenting with the tools already available, Austin said. 

The Smashwords team will stick around. 

All current Smashwords and Draft2Digital employees are expected to be employed with the joined company following the acquisition. This includes Coker, who will be named chief strategy officer and a board member at Draft2Digital, according to the press release. Austin will remain the CEO of Draft2Digital, and the company will maintain its current headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Austin and Coker assure authors the acquisition won’t mean a lack of competition in the industry since much of the drive for innovation comes from the gaps identified by authors and publishers. As for the acquisition process, many details regarding the transition into one company are still being discussed. Authors can email additional questions to [email protected]

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