Draft2Digital Acquires Smashwords. The Opportunities Ahead For Wide Publishing With Mark Coker And Kevin Tumlinson

Smashwords was the original distribution service for indie authors and Mark Coker has been an advocate for wide publishing for over 14 years. Draft2Digital has been a fantastic service for indies over the last decade, moving into new markets, providing great tools, and helping authors sell more books.

On Feb 8, 2022, Draft2Digital announced they were acquiring Smashwords. Mark Coker and his team would be joining Draft2Digital and the combined company would consolidate systems and processes, improving services for authors.

In this discussion, I ask Mark Coker and Kevin Tumlinson about the acquisition and how it will impact indie authors who publish with either service, as well as discuss the opportunities ahead.

Mark Coker is the founder and CEO of Smashwords, the original ebook publishing platform for Indies, established in 2008.

Kevin Tumlinson is Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Draft2Digital, established in 2012.

Both Mark and Kevin are also authors and they understand the author perspective when it comes to publishing. 

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.

Show Notes

  • What the acquisition of Smashwords means for authors who publish on Smashwords — and what it means for those who publish on Draft2Digital
  • Some of the concerns and how they will be addressed
  • The implications of a company serving over 250,000 authors and how it shifts the power imbalance in publishing
  • Why Mark was excited about the possibilities for authors when we met in 2010 (video here) and why things are even more exciting now
  • Opportunities ahead for the bigger Draft2Digital

You can contact Draft2Digital with any questions at support@Draft2Digital.com

Transcript of the discussion

Joanna: Mark Coker is the founder and CEO of Smashwords, the original ebook publishing platform for indies, established in 2008. Kevin Tumlinson is director of marketing and public relations at Draft2Digital, established in 2012. Both Mark and Kevin are also authors, and they understand the author perspective when it comes to publishing, and we’ve got some exciting things to talk about today. Welcome, Mark and Kevin.

Mark: Hi, Joanna.

Kevin: Hey, there.

Joanna: Hey. It’s good to have you both on the show. So, let’s start with the news.

Kevin, what has just happened or is happening?

Kevin: You may or may not have heard by this point, but Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords as of March 1st, 2022. So, very big, very exciting news.

We have been keeping our lips sealed for the past couple of months, but we are very excited to have that out there in the wild now.

Mark: I’m really excited about this. I think that our two companies coming together that sprouted from the same seed. Both of our companies were founded by authors, for authors. We are an author-first company.

We share common business models. Both of us chose the most difficult business model to pursue, and that’s only making money when the authors make money. And both of our companies have managed to build profitable companies with this difficult business model, and we really fit well together.

We both have the same attitude. We both believe that authors should be the center of the universe, that authors should have total control over their pricing, promotions, distribution. By joining together, we can do more together.

We want the same thing for authors. And if you look at the last decade that Draft2Digital has been in business, we’ve created duplicative systems, systems that do the same thing, systems that can easily be merged together, well, maybe not easily, but they will be merged together, and that frees up engineering and development resources for us to develop new next-generation tools. So this is all about doing more for authors.

Kevin: I have come to think of this: we’re the peanut butter and jelly of the self-publishing world now. Which of us is peanut butter? I think Smashwords is the peanut butter, actually, because they’re the foundation. They started it, delicious all on its own, and along came Draft2Digital just to sweeten the deal.

So that’s the way I perceive the whole thing. It’s just all around going to be something really spectacular for the indie author community, self-publishing community, just because each company on its own had its strengths, had their weaknesses too.

We’re puzzle pieces, and we fit each other very well. I know everyone always thought of us as rivals, and in some sense we were, but we were sort of that friendly competition thing, where we were always just making each other better anyway. So, really, when you look back on it, it’s sort of an inevitable journey to see this all come together.

Joanna Yes. So inevitable, in fact, that when I found out, I wasn’t surprised at all. And in fact, anyone I’ve talked to, everyone’s like, ‘Yeah. Well, of course. That’s kind of obvious.’ I don’t think anyone’s been surprised.

I do want to thank you both, and obviously, thank the company for that business model. I was there at the beginning as well, and I certainly appreciate the company, both companies, and now the same company, the approach to making money when authors make money.

And obviously, some of the retailers do this too, when publishing direct, but there are a lot of companies that work things in a different business model, where you have to pay up front, or when you have to pay in different ways. So I think, to underscore that this business model is the hardest one, but equally is the one that benefits authors, and that underpins both companies.

Let’s talk about the ramifications for the authors who are currently in either system.

Mark, what are the ramifications for people who publish on Smashwords? What are they going to see differently, and how are things going to change for them?

Mark: I think it’s important to understand that both of our companies have developed really cool tools for authors, self-serve tools, and some of these tools are unique to our platforms. Draft2Digital has stuff that we don’t have. We have stuff that Draft2Digital doesn’t have.

Smashwords authors can look forward to new tools. They’ve got access now to D2D print, which I think is totally awesome and exciting. I think D2D print is going to be just as disruptive for print-on-demand as Smashwords was for ebook publishing 14 years ago.

Draft2Digital has automated end matter, which is super powerful, in terms of saving the author time, and also driving sales of your other titles. So those are just a couple of the things.

Split payments. If you participate in anthologies and box sets, it’s now easier than ever to split those payments, and relieve the author from all the complicated tax accounting that comes at the end of the year.

New payment options. Draft2Digital has a direct bank deposit option. That’s something that Smashwords only offers to a very small percentage of our authors, typically the best sellers. So that’s exciting.

There are just so many incredible synergies. You just put all those synergies into a room and throw a rock at it, and you’re going to hit something really cool.

Our big challenge that we have going forward is that we have so many great ideas, and we really need to bring those ideas together, merge our product roadmaps, and really identify what we want to focus on first. But it’s all about just delivering more to the authors.

I think Smashwords authors and publishers are going to be thrilled by this. They’re going to get access to simplified publishing tools.

Both of our companies have different approaches. We’ve always had different approaches for how to design and create an ebook. The Smashwords approach gives the author total control, line-by-line styling and control within Microsoft Word. It’s great for some authors, but it’s also more difficult for the vast majority of authors.

Draft2Digital’s approach, which is based on templates, reliably produces beautiful books, and it’s so much easier. For authors that prefer that method, great. For authors that prefer the Smashwords method, Draft2Digital wants to make that method available as well.

It’s all about giving authors choice, let them choose the tools that make the most sense for them, and it’s a win-win for everyone.

Joanna: Kevin, obviously, some people publish through Draft2Digital.

What are the benefits that Draft2Digital authors are going to see with the acquisition of Smashwords?

Kevin: Just off the top of my head, we’re adding at least 12 more sales partners to the Draft2Digital list, if you will. So, that’s all the bunch that Smashwords distributes to, that we didn’t have relationships with before. So, that’s coming in.

The Smashwords store is the biggest, I think, and the thing that I like the most. People have asked us for a storefront for years. I only started working with Draft2Digital in 2016, and I’ve been asked at least a billion times when we’re going to finally have our own retailer.

What I love is the synergy that’s happening between the two companies, because we have complementary products and offerings. And two of those, in particular, are Books2Read links, the universal book links that we provide, in conjunction with that Smashwords store.

We have the author pages and book tabs and those sorts of things. I’m seeing these are the puzzle pieces that I want to see come together. I don’t even have to look at the box to know what this is going to look like five years down the road. It’s going to be an opportunity for authors to have complete control over how they reach their readers.

We’ve got options now for direct sale. We’ve got options now for promotion, and those tools are growing. The combination of the two companies is just accelerating that. So, it’s very exciting. Exciting is a word that we use a lot, by the way. You’re going to hear us say that a lot.

Mark: Yes. We’re in search of new synonyms.

Joanna: It is exciting. But, of course, there are challenges. I’ve obviously been looking in the Facebook groups, and hearing what some authors are saying, and I would say 98% of people are pretty enthusiastic about this, and can see the benefits, but there are some concerns that authors have.

What are some of the concerns you’ve heard from authors, and how are you addressing those?

Mark: We’ve heard a lot of concerns, and we’re listening to those concerns. And all the concerns are valid. This is a big change for a lot of authors.

There are a lot of authors who just feel like Smashwords is their store, it’s their company. They feel like they have ownership in it. They supported it, they created it, and so there’s that initial sense of fear of loss, that maybe what they love is going to go away. So there are concerns about that.

There are a lot of authors who chose Smashwords for a certain reason. They looked at Draft2Digital, and Smashwords met their needs. And same thing with Draft2Digital. A lot of authors at Draft2Digital looked at Smashwords, we didn’t meet their needs. So, that first group, just that dramatic change, the potential sense of loss.

We’ve been in communication with everyone, to address those concerns. Probably some of the strongest concerns have come from the erotica community. Erotica has always been important to Smashwords. It’s always been my view that if you want to support the entire indie community, you have to support the erotica community too.

They’re writing in an important category, that needs to be supported. It’s a community that has faced years of persecution. It’s a community where they try to publish by the rules, and then retailers just pull the rug out from underneath them, and eliminate their livelihoods.

We’ve always stood by the erotica community, and worked to bring them into the mainstream, so that they have the respect and opportunities that they deserve.

There’s a lot of fear in the erotica community. And I’ve always been engaged with the community, and I reengaged with them as part of this, to listen to their concerns, and address their concerns, and I think Draft2Digital has done a great job of addressing their concerns.

Kris Austin has been very clear that he views this community as important to the indie community, he views this category as important to readers, and it’s a community that Draft2Digital wants to support. It’s a community that Draft2Digital really couldn’t support as we did in the past, because they didn’t have the tools to do it.

One of those really important tools is our erotica certification system that we created. Because, within the BISAC categorization scheme, which is what most retailers use, erotica is not clearly defined. There aren’t granular categorizations for erotica, so you can’t really identify what’s in that erotica book.

What taboo themes are in there? Because every single retailer, almost every single retailer, has a different policy on erotica. And they’ll accept some taboo categories, but not others.

And because there was that uncertainty among retailers of what was inside that book, it made it difficult for retailers to accept that content without knowing for sure what was in there. So we built a system that’s based on trust.

Authors tell us what’s in their book. They certify that the different themes that are in either their erotica or their erotic romance, and then we trust the authors and the publishers that they’re giving us accurate information, and then we use that information to determine what can go out to different retailers, so we can the retailers’ policies.

This gives the retailers the trust that they need to accept more of this content. Tor example, we distribute erotica into Scribd, which is one of the fastest-growing subscription outlets out there.

I’m excited about the opportunity to make this certification system available to all Draft2Digital authors and publishers, so that they can gain increased distribution as well.

Joanna: That’s great. Kevin, from Draft2Digital’s perspective, maybe you’d comment on that because… And I’m playing devil’s advocate here. We are talking about 14 years, Mark, where you’ve controlled the company and controlled the things.

Kevin, what does Draft2Digital see as a way that you’re going to scale a lot of these programs that might have been more personal with Smashwords? How is this going to work going forward?

How can you put people’s mind at ease that Draft2Digital won’t go hard on shutting down some of these other categories?

Kevin: You probably know better than just about anyone that Draft2Digital is a technology company first. That’s basically the roots of who we are. We are authors first, is the real way to put that, but we are a technology company at heart, and so is Smashwords.

What this has done, by combining our two pools of talent, is give us an opportunity to step back from trying to create things that would be competitive with each other, and, as Mark put it very well, the duplicative effort of developing things that in parallel, we can turn that energy towards other technological and software developments that allow us to deal with problems like this.

So, I think that the ‘trust the authors’ perspective is still going to be valid for a very long time. The sort of self-regulating system is going to be valid for a long time.

And, yes, we’ll have some growing pains there, but that gives us the opportunity to dive in and say, ‘How are we going to solve that problem?’ Which is what Draft2Digital has done all along.

Every time someone comes to us with a major issue, we start thinking about it. We may not get a solution right away, but we do work on all this stuff in the background. I see that continuing, and I see it just improving, now that we have access to the stuff that Smashwords has managed to pioneer for us. I don’t really see it as a challenge, honestly.

Mark: Yeah, trust is a foundational element of this business. The entire industry is based on trust. Authors need to trust that we’re going to look out for their intellectual property, that we’re only going to partner with retailers that are able to respect their intellectual property, and respect their instructions. If they want the book taken down, that book goes down.

The retailers need to trust that the distributors are supplying what we say we are, and we need to trust the authors that what they’re giving us is what they say it is. I believe in trust first, but also verify. If any author or publisher squanders that trust, then we come down on them like a ton of bricks. Zero tolerance for that.

Kevin: Right. You should also consider, as we move forward, Smashwords has their team, and that trust element is there, and that’s how they’ve handled this more personal.

We actually have a very large support team, and growing. In fact, we’re hiring, by the way, if anybody listening would like to work for Draft2Digital, draft2digital.com/careers. We are hiring more customer support folks. We’re continuing to grow, but we’ve been able to offer that kind of personable and personal service to the authors in the form of support already.

We’re already scaling up what’s necessary here. We are already upgrading that just by default. So, there may take a moment for us to get everybody up to speed, and figure each other out and that sort of thing, but I absolutely have confidence that we’re going to be able to continue what Mark and team have built over at Smashwords.

Joanna: Fantastic. Right, so, both companies, or, now, the same company, have been very focused on wide publishing. I totally agree with you that the combined company, as Draft2Digital, will offer a lot more potential competition, let’s face it, to the biggest company out there, which has asked authors to be exclusive a lot of the time.

Now, Mark, you’ve been very focused on wide since day one, and well-known for being anti-exclusivity.

What do you see as the growing potential of publishing wide, and why are authors still choosing exclusivity?

Mark: I think the primary reason authors choose exclusivity is because Amazon is the dominant player in ebooks. They control access to the world’s greatest, largest collection of readers. And authors publish to reach readers.

So I totally understand the draw of Amazon exclusivity, because when you go exclusive, they give you special tools. They give you preferential discoverability. And that’s difficult to say no to.

But as I look ahead to the future, I think eventually that Amazon exclusivity is going to come into check. Government authorities here in the U.S. are investigating, not just Amazon, but all of big tech. Big tech is under scrutiny for some of the darker side of big tech, and everyone wants fair competition.

That’s all we want. All we’ve ever wanted is a level playing field. And I think that playing field is going to become more level as it becomes more obvious to government authorities and regulators that the current system’s not working very well.

When you have a monopolistic and monopsonistic control over a market, it does not allow other bright entrepreneurs to build businesses around the business of books.

From day one at Smashwords, we’ve wanted to foster a diverse ecosystem of multiple booksellers.

The more booksellers in the world, the more people who are spending their every waking hour thinking about, ‘How do I connect books with my customers? How do I connect books with readers?’ That’s what we want. That’s how you promote greater opportunity for indie authors, and greater opportunity for readers to discover books that match their desires.

Although we’ve seen a lot of unfair competition in the market over the last 14 years, I think that’s going to change in the future, and that gives me great hope for optimism in what’s possible, that I think we will see a broader, more diverse ecosystem.

I look forward to Draft2Digital supporting new models for reaching readers. I look forward to that changing. When we were talking about merging, when Kris and I first started having conversations, Amazon didn’t come into my mind at all. This wasn’t about Amazon.

I know a lot of authors are excited that suddenly there might be a counterbalance to Amazon. I don’t really see it so much that way. I think what happens with Amazon is going to happen with Amazon. It’s going to be between Amazon and regulators. And all we can do, joining together, is to show what an author-first publishing service looks like.

It’s the business that Smashwords has always pursued, Draft2Digital has always pursued. Joining together, we’re going to do a better job of it, and it’s just going to be all about authors, and I think, over time, authors are going to recognize that this is a publishing partner that’s essential to your future as an author, a publishing partner that’s looking out for you, and that has your best interests at heart.

We’re not looking to commoditize books. We’re not looking to strip you of your profits. We’re here to put profits in your pocket, because that’s the only way we’re going to make money. That’s the only way we stay in business, is if our authors are successful using our service.

Kevin: That, by the way, is exactly why the two companies were such a good fit, is because that is the underlying principle of both companies, is to make the authors as much money as possible. We like that business model so much that we bet the farm on it.

We are entirely invested in the author. And we’re going to continue to be, even more so now.

And here’s where Mark and I are different. Amazon came into my head instantly when we talked about the acquisition and merger because Amazon does have this stranglehold on the indie author community.

For those of you who have podcasts and YouTube channels and things, and you’re talking about this, I’ve seen them and heard them all by now. Everybody is very excited about that particular aspect of this, is that this is the first crack in the armor of Amazon, that we might actually be able to insert ourselves, and wedge that open, and finally get out from under the weight of this 900-pound gorilla that can’t be avoided in this industry.

I see this as an absolute win for all authors across board, not just indie authors. This is an also an opportunity for the small presses out there, for even major publishers.

If they want to use us, we’re here for you, folks.

Mark: Yes.

Kevin: Bring your stuff our way, and we will help you. I absolutely see this as the first shot over the bow of Amazon, really. Maybe that’s dangerous talk. And I will accept responsibility for that, but I don’t want to see Amazon go down. I don’t want to see authors lose that as a venue.

We all want to see the playing field leveled out, so that everybody stands a much better chance. Competition is good for everybody, right? We are in competition with Amazon as much as anyone else, but they also are one of our sales partners. So we want to support them.

We just want to get through to them. ‘Hey, look, if you work with us, we all can make more money, be a better industry. But we know that you don’t care as much about certain aspects of the business as we do, but we can all work together in that whole rising tide lifts all boats. That’s perfect applicable to everything we’re doing.’

Mark: That’s a really great point, Kevin. When we first became an ebook distributor, starting in 2009, my attitude was I want every retailer to be successful with our books. I want to help Amazon make more money. I want Barnes & Noble to make more money, Kobo, everybody.

I want to work with every retailer, to help them make money off of indie ebooks, because that’s how indies make money. This is all one big, positive, synergistic relationship. Let’s work together as a community to grow the business of books.

Joanna: I think, in terms of pushing wide publishing, it is difficult. It is easier to publish on one retailer, but the fact is that Draft2Digital also now makes it easy to publish on a lot of retailers and library systems and all of this type of stuff, and that’s what we need as wide publishers, is we need easier access to that wider market.

I’m totally with you. I think anything that makes it easier for authors to choose to go wide is a good thing, because it just takes down those barriers. And I’m, obviously, because I’ve been doing this so long, I upload to tons of different systems myself.

Mark: I’m right there with you.

Joanna: I’ve got about nearly 40 books now, and it just becomes more and more complicated over time. I’m personally looking forward to the simplified systems and tools and workflow that we can put in, because I only see this as possible as we have easier workflows.

And also, the collective size of the number of authors that you now represent.

Mark: It’s 250,000 authors, a quarter-million authors, and 880,000 books.

Joanna: Right. Several hundred thousand authors. The fact is, me, I’m, as an indie author, on my own, I have no power whatsoever. And then, of course, there are organizations like the Alliance of Independent Authors and things like that, who are trying to bring some power into the situation.

Now Draft2Digital, by representing that many authors, and presumably, you guys advocate obviously for, well, author rights and author revenue and all of those things.

I see some really good synergy, since we’re using that word, in trying to redress the power imbalance with a lot of these relationships too. And you can only do that with numbers. It’s just impossible any other way.

What you now have brought together, it’s another weight in that power balance, right?

Kevin: Yes. I am interested in how do we work with ALLi and any other organizations that are for the authors’ interests, to leverage all this?

We did a live Q&A with Mark and Kris Austin, D2D’s CEO. One of the things that came up was data. Data frightens some of us, but data is how we are going to change the tide. That’s how we’re going to shift everything in favor of the indie author.

These two companies coming together, we now, as Mark put it, we have unprecedented access to data. No one else in the self-publishing world can possibly see as far as we can now.

We’re looking at ways to utilize that going forward. Now, there’s some things we can never share publicly because of NDAs and things like that, but there’s a great deal of information that can be publicly shared, can be used to help shape the general direction of what we’re doing, where we’re going.

There’s enough of that there that we, I believe, can make a very big difference, and it’s going to benefit the authors directly and indirectly. We’re already talking about doing some recurring state of the industry stuff.

Mark Lefebvre is… I’ve talked to him already about us doing some content around that on a regular basis. So, going forward, I mean, it’s not all going to happen at once. I wish it could, but going forward, I think authors are going to be very impressed by what we’re able to do together, that we were only dreaming about when we were individual organizations.

Mark: And one great way that we’re going to be able to leverage this data is to help our retailers be more successful selling indie ebooks.

Kevin: I tend to forget the retailers, Mark, and I’m glad you bring that up, because I’m always focused on the authors, but that is a very, very good point, is that we are also here for those retailers.

Everyone wants to think of it as a big move to rise above that sort of thing. We need those retailers, of course, and we want them to succeed. I personally think we could single-handedly save Nook, personally. I would love for Barnes & Noble to reach out to us.

Joanna: Go talk to James Daunt!

Kevin: Yes. Exactly.

Mark: To borrow Kevin’s words, challenge accepted.

Kevin: Challenge accepted.

Mark: We want Barnes & Noble to be super successful. We want every retailer to be super successful, because that is in the indie author’s best interest. That’s in publishers’ best interest. That’s in readers’ best interest, that we have this diverse ecosystem.

Yes, we do have the power to help foster that in a way that we didn’t before. It’s possible now for a bright entrepreneur to come to us with a really compelling business model, and we can give them the critical mass to launch their business around our books. That’s the critical mass that we have now.

This isn’t just hype. In the past, we’ve done that. We helped put Scribd on the map. When they signed their deal with Smashwords, overnight, they doubled the content that was available.

I’m excited about the subscription model. And the subscription model does not work without indie content. So this is great. This is great for everyone.

Joanna: For sure. Right. Well, we’re almost out of time. I have one more question.

Mark: We need three more hours!

Joanna: I know. There’s lots to talk about.

Kevin: Thank you for tuning in for this first of a four-part series on the ‘Creative Penn’ podcast!

Joanna: I want to take us back first.

Mark, you and I met in person in Brisbane, Australia, in 2010, when the indie world was new, and we were fresh-faced, and I’m going to link to the YouTube video in the show notes, but I’m also going to play a short clip now.

“I think it’s really important for authors to recognize that we’re on the cusp of some really dramatic, wonderful change, and thanks to ebooks, and thanks to the internet, the opportunities for authors to reach readers has never been greater before.” (Mark Coker, 2010)

Mark, you said that back in 2010. Let’s look forward another decade. What are you excited about in the years ahead?

Because you’re staying with Draft2Digital, aren’t you? You’re not riding off into the sunset to the beach. You’re staying. What are you excited about?

Mark: I started the business with a mission, and I’m really proud of what we did do to execute on that mission. But the mission’s not over.

What I see now is an opportunity for me to continue to prosecute this same mission, because it’s a mission that Draft2Digital shares. It’s not like I’m trying to get Draft2Digital to do something that they don’t want to do. It’s something that both of our companies have always been committed to, and together, we can accomplish more.

As we talked about, this is a really tough business to stay in business in, and by joining together, we will be stronger. We will have greater flexibility to invest in projects that maybe neither one of us could justify in the past. Rather than wasting millions of dollars building duplicative systems, we can put that money into new things.

Also, since we’re spreading out our investments over a larger base of authors, it means we can potentially do things that weren’t justifiable for either one of our companies previously, but are now justifiable now.

I’m really excited about how we can continue to prosecute the mission on behalf of indie authors, to place indie authors at the center of the universe, to make it possible for any reader anywhere in the world to access this wonderful, diverse content, indie content, so that what readers read is not determined by what publishers allow you to read.

What you can read is only limited by the imagination of indie authors. And so, I’m just really excited about that.

Joanna: Fantastic. Kevin, give us a glimpse. Obviously, there’s a roadmap for the merger of the systems and the new tools and all of that. What do you see coming in the years ahead?

Kevin: As our collective resources and tools start to combine, what I see is just spinoff innovation.

There’s so many things that we have, over the years, at Draft2Digital said, ‘It would be great if we could do this. We just need the development time,’ and that sort of thing.

A lot of that stuff is coming to us sort of wholly-formed because of Mark and his team. What I see now is the opportunity for us to build on those foundations, and create new stuff that people probably didn’t even know they needed. There are certain needs that we have identified in the business, in the industry, that I think we’re going to be able to address now.

Over the next five years, tops, we’re going to see some pretty impressive stuff come out of the works there.

I want to add one quick thing, by the way. And it’s kind of a zeitgeist thing, but Mark founded Smashwords back in 2008, which happens to coincide with when I released my first self-published book, which did go out via Smashwords, and whatever CreateSpace was back then, and Amazon’s early version of KDP. All that stuff happened for me around that same time.

At the first conference I ever met Mark, I actually thanked him for building the industry that was part of my journey, that was making me successful as an author. He scoffs and laughs, but I am…

Joanna: He’s the indie godfather!

Kevin: I’m incredibly grateful to this guy for what he built here. And everything you see on this landscape started with Mark and Smashwords.

Draft2Digital have worked hard to build something that is aimed at empowering authors, and helping them to reach whatever heights that they want to reach, but it all started back with Smashwords.

So this merger is bigger than just the resources and tools we bring in.

It’s coming back around full circle to what the vision and dream that all of us had. I’m more excited about it than I can really express. You ask about the future, but the past is just as important in this. I do see us accelerating, and growing, and innovating going forward. I can’t wait. There’s more ideas than we have time and developers to put into effect.

Mark: I appreciate that, Kevin. And I’d like to give a shout out to my old friend, Dan Poynter.

Joanna: Oh, bless. I met Dan back in the day.

Joanna Penn with Day Poynter, National Speakers Association Australia Convention, Gold Coast, Australia, 2010

Mark: I would like to think that what I’ve done with Smashwords was really a continuation of his mission. Dan was the first one out there popularizing self-publishing, and teaching writers how to think and act like a professional publisher. And he did that almost 40 years ago now.

Dan was never able to realize his full vision because of some of the challenges involved in distribution. And the rise of ebooks, combined with self-publishing, helped realize Dan’s vision, that every writer had the power to become a professional publisher.

In many ways, this is all a continuation of Dan Poynter’s vision. I’m really sad that he’s gone. But from a very early time, he took me under his wing. He was a mentor to me, a supporter to what we were doing at Smashwords, and I think he saw that what we were trying to do was a continuation of what he started. So, kudos to Dan and his memory, because none of this would’ve been possible without Dan Poynter.

Joanna: For those listening, Dan died in 2015. I met him in those early days, actually, at a speakers conference in Australia, and also thanked him for encouraging us all.

What’s so funny is now I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, I hope people talk about us like this one day when we’re dead and gone.’ But I hope that’ll be a while until any of us get talked about as sort of founders.

Mark: Yeah. Knock on wood, it will be a long time.

Kevin: What I want is, ‘Remember Kevin Tumlinson when he died in, like, 2095? That guy was great.’

Mark: Yes.

Joanna: That guy was good. Brilliant. Well, we have to wrap it up now.

If people want to reach out to you guys or the team, or they have some concerns about the acquisition and their place in things, where should they find out more information, and who should they contact?

Kevin: As with all things, if you have questions about Draft2Digital, reach out to our support team at support@draft2digital.com. You can also find that link on the contact page at draft2digital.com.

That is going to be your easiest and most straightforward way. And we have real-life humans waiting to answer all these questions.

Mark: I’m happy for any writer in the world to contact me directly. My email today is mc@smashwords.com. Just please don’t count on me as your personal technical support department, but I’m always happy to hear from indie authors, hear your concerns, and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks to you both, and look forward to another decade ahead of Draft2Digital. Thanks, guys.

Mark: Let’s do it.

Kevin: Thank you.

Mark: Thank you, Joanna.

The post Draft2Digital Acquires Smashwords. The Opportunities Ahead For Wide Publishing With Mark Coker And Kevin Tumlinson first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • February 20, 2022