Episode Summary

It’s the big announcement you probably never thought you’d hear! Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords, and becoming more Draft2Digital than ever before! Big growth, big plans, and more services and features for authors using both companies! Kris Austin (CEO & Co-Founder of Draft2Digital) and Mark Coker (CEO & Founder of Smashwords) sit down with Kevin Tumlinson to chat about the acquisition and what it means for authors.

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Episode Notes

It could be the biggest news in self-publishing to come our way in a decade… Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords! What will the merger of these two self-publishing giants mean for indie authors? In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, Kevin Tumlinson chats with Kris Austin and Mark Coker about how this started and where it’s going—and most importantly what it means for self-publishing!

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Kevin Tumlinson 00:02

Well, hello everyone out there in Facebook and YouTube land. Thank you for tuning in. This is a very special edition of Self-Publishing Insiders. Special because it’s happening on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday. That’s what the whole specialness is about. But in reality, I’m sure we’re going to have quite a few people tuning in, I see already 130 people tuning in. So welcome for whatever platform you’re on. But we’re going to be talking today about the big news of the past 24 hours, which is Draft2Digital is going to acquire Smashwords as of March 1, 2022. So if you’re listening to this, this broadcast has already been live. But you can feel free, everyone listening right now feel free to drop in and ask your questions live. If you’re listening to this from a podcast or elsewhere, you can ask questions probably in comments or email us, of course, at support@draft2digital.com. And we’re going to be giving you some resources throughout the program to make sure you are up to speed on everything that is happening with the new Draft2Digital. And for now, let’s jump in. I’m going to introduce our two prominent guests, two people I’ve never actually had on a podcast before, either singly or together. First up is Kris Austin, CEO of Draft2Digital. Hello, Chris.

Kris Austin 01:25

Hello, happy to be here.

Kevin Tumlinson 01:26

And we’re ecstatic. So Mark Coker, founder and current CEO of Smashwords, also joins us. Hi, Mark.

Mark Coker 01:39

Hi, everyone.

Kevin Tumlinson 01:40

And I want to assure everybody that there is no plague, no floods, no, Armageddon is happening. That is actually Mark Coker on a Draft2Digital podcast. They said it couldn’t happen. But here we are. So guys, we already know what the big exciting news is. Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords at the end of this month, first of March. So let’s start with the softest of softball questions. Why merge? What’s the goal of this? And either of you can feel free to answer.

Mark Coker 02:12

We’re stronger together. We can do more for indie authors working together than working as competitors.

Kevin Tumlinson 02:19

Chris, you want to add anything to that?

Kris Austin 02:21

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Exactly what Mark said. We want to do everything we can to represent indie authors and to help them succeed in their careers. And we know that we can make better and more tools for authors working together versus trying to create the same systems in two places. We want to, we know the knowledge and expertise of both teams is extensive. And getting it all together under one roof is going to be very powerful.

Kevin Tumlinson 02:57

Yes. And it’s one of these things that nobody was expecting, by the way. It feels like it’s coming out of the blue to the author community. But how long has this been in the works?

Kris Austin 03:14

Um, so I think I sent Mark an email at the end of November. So I think that was the first reach out. And Mark wrote me like within, it took me probably an hour or two to come up with the words of this email. And Mark wrote me back in like 10 minutes with like, five words. And I was just like, oh, wow, we might actually be moving forward on this.

Mark Coker 03:38

Well, Chris, your third sentence in that email got me immediately. And made me want to talk about this. Because your third sentence, I don’t remember the exact words. But it was something like, I continue to think about how we can work together to better the lives of indie authors. And, I mean, I’ve fielded dozens of inquiries from potential acquirers, investors, VCs. No one ever spoke to me like that. Because that’s what I care about. You know, we’ve always been very mission-focused. And, you know, I created this company to empower indie authors to become their own publishers, to bypass gatekeepers, to empower readers to read what they want rather than having publishers decide what readers could read. And so, you know, Chris’s first words there just spoke to exactly what I wanted to achieve. And then Kris did something else in that email that really impressed me. He came right out and said what Draft2Digital’s sales are. Now here we are, two private companies competing against one another. You know, authors have a choice. Work with Smashwords, work with Draft2Digital, or work with someone else. And often it’s a confusing choice for authors. So it was a really, you know, so we are competitors up until March 1, although my mindset is long past that.

Kevin Tumlinson 05:31

I mean, are we competitors, though? I mean, I think of us more as frenemies.

Mark Coker 05:36

Well, I would never use the word frenemy. You’ve never been our enemy. We’ve, you know, we run into each other at conferences all the time, we’ve sat on panels together. We’ve always liked everyone that we meet at Draft2Digital. You guys are good people. And we’ve always respected you. And as competitors, you know, it made us think well shoot, you know, that guy’s good. I wish he was on our team. You know. So there’s always been a respect there. But, you know, Kris came right out and said what their sales were. I mean, private companies don’t do that, you don’t share that information with your top competitor. But Kris did it is as a sign to show his good faith in these discussions. And that number told me something else. Draft2Digital was doing a lot better than I thought you were. You were serving your authors in a way that I would want to serve our authors. Because you basically have twice our sales with fewer titles. So something’s going on here. There’s a secret sauce. And you know, as I’ve told Kris before, whatever that secret sauce is, I mean, we both have ideas on what that is. But I want that secret sauce slathered over all of our authors and all of our books. And I’m confident that when we join our systems together, that working together, the Smashwords community is going to see big improvements, lots of opportunities to reach more readers, to improve their discoverability. And a lot of this is based on technology and approaches,and processes. And we’ve got stuff that you guys don’t have. So we’ve got stuff that can help your authors do better. And so it makes perfect sense that we join together. We have common missions. We are the most indie-friendly publishing platforms in the industry. When everyone else in the industry is trying to exploit authors and charge them for overpriced services of nebulous value, services that often empty the author’s wallet and put the author out of business before they even get started. We are completely different. We are here to empower authors, to help authors be successful. Our two companies are unique in that way. And we also chose the most difficult business model in the industry. And that’s basing our success on the success of our authors. It is the most difficult business model to succeed at. But both of our companies have grown and been profitable and are profitable and debt-free. We figured out how to do it, we both know how to do it. And by combining our companies together, we’re both going to become a much more powerful, much more effective, potent force for our authors and also for the entire indie community. And for anyone who loves books, and for the retail community. You know, we both are dedicated to maximizing the success of our retailers, helping our retailers be successful selling our authors’ books, it’s a win-win for them as well.

Kevin Tumlinson 09:07

So I want to go ahead and start popping up some questions here. And I think we’ll start with the one that we’re getting the most, if you guys don’t mind. We’re being asked quite a bit about Draft2Digital and our policies surrounding erotica and whether or not we’re going to continue to keep the Smashwords model on erotic materials. I think this question probably sums that up best, so William from YouTube asked, “D2D and Smashwords have different standards for erotic materials. How will that be handled handled in the merger?”

Kris Austin 09:45

Yeah, excellent question. Um, the simplest answer is Smashwords is better and more experienced with erotica than Draft2Digital has historically been. Smashwords has a great tool, the Erotica Certification System, that has worked really well for them with well-defined standards that they’ve worked out with the retailers and for their own storefront, that I think is an excellent model for what we want to adopt at Draft2Digital so that we can serve all indie authors, including this very important category of books. That’s always been our goal, it has always been to serve all indie authors, and erotica is definitely an important part of that.

Kevin Tumlinson 10:37

Mark, can you tell us a little bit about that that system that you guys developed for erotica?

Mark Coker 10:44

Sure. So we launched this about four years ago. And this was really in response to a limitation in the bisat categorization system. It doesn’t offer very much granularity about erotica. You can say that a title is erotica. But you can’t really, it doesn’t give you an opportunity to attach other metadata to that, such as, you know, what kind of erotica is it? Does it have taboo content? If it does have taboo content, what are the categories of taboo? Because when you look at all the different retailers, they all have different policies on erotica. All of them want mainstream erotica. Some of them want dubious consent and some don’t. So you’ve got all these different policies, all these different retailers that that want to carry erotica, but they can’t carry erotica unless they have confidence that the erotica that we’re sending them meets their specific guidelines. So we created a system. And it’s where the people who know that book best, you know, the author or publisher has an opportunity when they publish at Smashwords to identify if their erotica has certain facets. And if it does, they just click boxes and certify that, you know, this is what my book is. And then we trust the authors that what they’re giving us is accurate information. And that gives us the confidence to distribute a title to one retailer that another retailer won’t accept. And so the system has worked out really well. And the system was designed in collaboration with the retailers. So there was a lot of question about, well, what’s the definition of dubious consent? Or what’s the definition of age play? And so we worked with all the different retailers on the definitions, we came to a common definition that we could then share with the community. And, you know, by sharing these common definitions with the community, authors could accurately categorize their books in a way that wasn’t really possible before. Because even within the community, there were some different definitions for some of these things. And you know, what’s acceptable, what’s not? What’s dubious consent, what’s not? And so, the system has been working out really well. It’s allowed us to distribute our books into places that Draft2Digital currently can’t, such as Scribd. About two years ago, Scribd started taking our erotica because of the trust that system brings,. You know, a lot of people may not realize this, but the entire distribution ecosystem is based on trust. A retailer needs to trust that the distributor is sending what they say they’re sending, and the distributor needs to trust the author or the publisher that this book is what the author or publisher says it is. And so our certification system addressed all of those concerns.

Kevin Tumlinson 13:51

Excellent. We got tons of questions here. So I’m gonna start going through these and they’re gonna occur in no particular order, guys, so I apologize, they’re not organizable. So we may hit a couple of themes more than once. “Will the payments and the way the payments are done to authors remain the same?” And I don’t know which company they’re referring to, but you can both address that question.

Kris Austin 14:15

No problem. That is an excellent question. It’s stuff like this that really shows the benefits of the acquisition, the merging of the two companies here. Because our goals, as a theme, should just be remembered. We’re gonna take the best parts of both companies and put that into one great system. And this is a great example. Draft2Digital has always had an extremely wide range of payment options. So there’s a whole lot of ways you can be paid. From PayPal, which is the same as what Smashwords has, and then but you can do direct deposit and do international wires. We work with Payoneer, and for some people, they still want paper checks. And the new solution, basically, the whole goal will be to make it so that everybody gets to keep doing what they’re currently doing. But I would expect that a lot of the Smashwords authors, after we can integrate these systems, which will take some patience and take some time. But I would expect a lot of Smashwords authors would want to expand and move to maybe a direct deposit instead of PayPal, or wire transfers for their own convenience. But if you want to stick with PayPal, you can stick with PayPal. But if you want to have other options, that’ll be available to you.

Kevin Tumlinson 15:36

Excellent. Mark, did you want to add anything to that before we move to the next?

Mark Coker 15:40

No, I just, I’m excited that our authors are going to have ubiquitous access to direct bank deposits. I think that’s a really great improvement.

Kevin Tumlinson 15:50

Yeah, I agree. Yeah, very exciting. Okay, next up, we got a question. Another question from YouTube. Tracy asks, “Will you challenge Amazon in publishing from non-entities, but are cut and paste creations plagiarized from legitimate authors’ work?” So I’m going to summarize this as, are we going to stand up for these authors who may be getting plagiarized on Amazon from other authors?

Mark Coker 16:20

Well, I’m not sure if I understand the question completely. But, you know, both of our companies have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, for copyright violations. You know, copyright is our business, protecting the intellectual property of our authors and publishers. So, you know, whenever we’ve been notified of any kind of intellectual property theft, we do everything we can to try to help the author.

Kris Austin 16:54

Yep, same here. We take it extremely seriously. Even the really complicated ones where clearly people have gone through and just replaced nouns and verbs and used the exact same sentence structure. Those are hard and challenging to catch, but it tends to be the readers who have read, they like, “Oh, I know this,” and they’ll let us know. And we jump fast on these things. This is not something we play around with.

Kevin Tumlinson 17:20

Yep. Here’s a question from Facebook. I’m just gonna summarize this one, too. It’s asking about libraries. So how do we handle library distribution?

Mark Coker 17:33

So we have been into libraries from the very beginning. We were the first publishing platform to open up Overdrive and some of the other library platforms. So, you know, both of our companies are very pro-library. I see libraries as engines of book discovery. You know, if your book’s in a library, you’re going to sell more books at retail.

Kris Austin 17:58

Yeah. And we do we do Overdrive as well, like Smashwords does. And there’s Biblioteka and the Hoopla ecosystem. We’ve recently released BorrowBox, which might be familiar to those in Australia. Big library system there. So libraries are essential. So basically, the answer is yes, Joe, we can help you get into libraries.

Mark Coker 18:23

Yeah. And, you know, for Smashwords authors, Hoopla and BorrowBox are not current distribution options. So Smashwords authors are going to gain new opportunities to reach more readers through libraries.

Kevin Tumlinson 18:34

And that brings up a good question. This is not one from the comments, but I did have a note to ask about this. You know, can we talk a bit about what each set of authors will gain in the merger, D2D authors and Smashwords authors?

Mark Coker 18:54

So sure, talking about some of the tools that we each offer that the other doesn’t?

Kevin Tumlinson 18:58

Right, exactly, yeah.

Mark Coker 19:01

Well, you know, from what I’m hearing, what authors are most excited about, on the D2D side seems to be, you know, access to the Smashwords store. So I’m excited about that. And with access to the Smashwords store comes access to a lot of really exciting marketing tools. So you’ve got the Smashwords coupon system, which we first launched maybe 13 years ago, and we’ve continually updated it with new capabilities. So we’ve got the widest range of coupon capabilities that you could ever imagine. Nobody’s got anything like it. And it gives authors the power and flexibility to market their books their way and create really creative marketing campaigns. Authors are going to gain access to Smashwords presales. So Smashwords presales is our patent pending invention. We’ve had it out now and available to Smashwords authors for a couple years. So you can run private and public exclusive presales in the Smashwords store, and use those presales to capture your readers’, your customers’ email addresses, and it’s all permission-based. So I’m really excited about that. In fact, just today, I got some positive news from our patent attorney. You know, we’ve been working with the US Patent and Trademark Office now for the last year and a half battling to get our patent approved. And it’s a tough battle for anyone who’s ever been through something like this, because the first response you get from the patent office is a complete rejection of all your claims. And it can be really soul-crushing to see them just not understand your invention. But we’ve been working with them constructively back and forth. Our patent application has gotten stronger as a result of that. And I just got news today that things are starting to look pretty good. So I’m cautiously optimistic that that might be approved. Because there’s a lot that we can do with this.

Kris Austin 21:01

So along with what Draft2Digital authors get from the Smashwords store, which is one of the biggest reasons we wanted to do this, because we know that’s a great platform to sell titles and reach readers. But the Smashwords authors are going to get access to not just the more retail channels we already talked about and the payment system we talked about. But our formatting and tools and our templating tools for laying out documents, those of those of you that have Word documents will likely find our tool set better for converting your documents, giving you a much more professional layout that we think does help sell more titles in retail. And we have automated in-matter, which is a really neat tool for keeping your front and back matter updated and embedded in your books. Because the best way to sell your next book is by is catching a reader at the end of the one they’re reading. And so we have tools that throw in pages automatically for you in the back of your book based on your direction. And a big thing that we think is gonna be huge for a while is print on demand, which is getting your title out into print. So when your reader wants to buy a copy of your book in print, it gets printed right then and mailed straight to them. And this is, we have a whole tool set now that can convert your ebook straight into full print-ready layout. We can make a cover based on your ebook cover. This is all automated. The print system, we call it D2D Print. It’s still in a beta because print is complicated. It’s a whole complicated beast. But we solved a lot of problems and we’re in a beta. If you’re interested, you can go to our website, I think that that’s draft2digital.com/printbeta.

Kevin Tumlinson 22:58

I think it’s print dash beta and I’m checking before I put it on the screen.

Kris Austin 23:02

So you can definitely get into the print beta on the waitlist, basically. And we’re inviting people, like just last week, we added 500 more people into the beta. So we’re trying to get through the backlog as quick as we can. And we’ve been seeing some great movement of titles in in the print beta system. So and there’s just, we can go on forever with a list of features of combining the two companies. But the fact that we’ve already released is really helpful and definitely interested in specific questions. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 23:31

Okay, so that that URL is Draft2Digital.com/PrintBeta, all one word, so you don’t have to put the dash in there. Sorry for the confusion. But you can see that on screen if you are in the live stream, and otherwise, Draft2Digital.com/PrintBeta. So I’m going to go and take that down. And let’s get back to some of the questions here. We’ve got one from YouTube. “How will the royalty differential be handled between the two companies? How conflicts in royalties be handled for the same book published on multiple platforms?”

Kris Austin 24:06

Yeah, there are very few of these, like very few. And as far as how we determine and resolve each one, obviously our goal will be to give the best royalty rate to the authors of the two options. But some of this is undetermined. We have to work with retailers on some of this. But you can rest assured, because we only make money when the authors make money, our goal here is for authors to make more money. So the goal would be to pick the higher royalty option if that does occur.

Kevin Tumlinson 24:38

Yeah. Okay. Next question. So I’m concerned about, this is this is one I’ve actually heard quite a bit so it’s good we’re talking about this, but, “I’m concerned authors will lose their reviews on Apple. If E.L. James couldn’t keep her thousands of reviews, how can we make sure we won’t lose ours?”

Kris Austin 24:57

Actually, I have an excellent answer to this. We’ve already been talking with Apple on this particular thing. Keeping both accounts won’t be a problem. So we won’t be looking to try to move titles between accounts. So you’re not going to lose reviews. We know reviews are essential the lifeblood of a lot of titles. And we don’t anticipate anything that would cause you to lose those reviews.

Kevin Tumlinson 25:21

Excellent. So we got one from Jason on Facebook, he’s got two questions. I’m gonna ask this one first. “Is this a good time to sign up to the paperback beta? Or should I wait until the dust from the merger settles?”

Mark Coker 25:37

Sign up now.

Kris Austin 25:38

Right. Yeah, there’s no harm, no risk. It’s a product that works and functions already. The only reason we have it as a as a beta, right, we need a control. In development in software, it’s very easy to collapse your whole system by just bringing in too many people too fast. And something that work well, you can actually just lose it and destroy it by being careful on how on how you scale it up. And so we’re in the scale up phase. Which is good, that means it’s a very operational product, but we need to make sure we can handle thousands of books, thousands of authors tens of thousands of books coming in. And that’s why it’s in a beta, that way we can control the speed that we ramp up.

Mark Coker 26:26

I gotta say, I’m really excited about the print option. You know, I think this is going to be just as disruptive to print on demand as Smashwords was disruptive to ebook publishing 14 years ago. You know, Kris and team, you’ve taken a really hard look at all the challenges that an author faces, all the complexity and expense involved in producing a professional quality print book. And you guys have automated so much of it to help authors create beautiful books, simply and easily and at less cost. So I’m really excited about where we can take this, working together on this.

Kevin Tumlinson 27:12

And speaking as an author, this is hands down the easiest publish on demand experience that I’ve ever used personally. So you can take that for what you will, as biased as I may be, but I’ve used all the services. And this hands has always been the easiest. So.

Kris Austin 27:29

Well, when you make the goal to be the easiest, it tends to happen when you have great developers.

Kevin Tumlinson 27:35

So it makes you wonder why others did not have that same goal. But that’s a topic for another podcast.

Mark Coker 27:43

Actually, it’s worth addressing. Because one thing that I’ve really come to appreciate in our discussions, since I first started speaking with Chris, is that both of our companies have very similar attitudes about difficult problems that authors face. Because there are a lot of people out there who will just say, oh, that’s too difficult, we can’t do that. But both of us tend to look at difficult problems and tackle those difficult problems, because they are difficult. And because we know we can tackle them, we know we can make an improvement there and make it easier and more accessible to the folks that we’re serving. So I’m excited about that.

Kevin Tumlinson 28:27

This is Jason’s second question, “Which publisher interface will you be using?” So he uses both sites. He finds Smashwords’ interface to be more user-friendly. But which interface are we going with?

Kris Austin 28:43

So the current plan over time will be to move into the Draft2Digital interface, but we’ll be looking at the Smashwords interface and finding the things that we think are a good user experience and finding where we can integrate them in. So this is going to be a process over time. And Jason, I’m glad you like the Smashwords interface. But our current goal is to move toward the Draft2Digital one. Because that is more universally convenient because of the formatting system that we talked about earlier. That interface is different because we have a pretty advanced formatting system.

Mark Coker 29:20

Yeah, I would encourage, you know, authors of both platforms to reach out to us and tell us what you love, what you want to see improved, what you’d like to see kept. And that’ll be useful feedback for us as we make these decisions about, you know, how to merge the best of the best into one that’s even better.

Kevin Tumlinson 29:42

Yeah, yeah. Very much so. Okay. So, here’s an interesting question from YouTube. “Without the element of direct competition, how will this merger drive innovation and improvements in the future?”

Mark Coker 29:57

That’s an excellent question. So thank you, Alianne.

Kevin Tumlinson 30:03

Alianne I think, yeah.

Mark Coker 30:05

Yeah. So, you know, right now, both of our companies, you look at, you know, we’ve been in business 14 years, D2D ten. Both of our companies have invested millions of dollars to create super sophisticated distribution systems that give authors unprecedented control over their books and their book listings at multiple retailers and library platforms. I think each of our systems are easily scalable, to probably more books than even exist on the planet today. So we have way, way too much capacity for these massive distribution systems that are very expensive to maintain, and keep going. And so by combining our distribution systems together, that’s going to free up a lot of money that we can then plow into other R&D investments to create new next-generation tools. And so that’s just one example.

Kris Austin 31:05

Yeah. And I think it’s also a fantastic question Alianne. The way I would look at that, I think that might help, is that we are competing with a bigger and wider industry than just the self-publishing platform that these two platforms are combining. You know, authors can go direct. They there are other self-publishing platforms out there. But our goal, I think this might be what helps you understand our frame of mind, our goal is to create tools so that authors can spend more time doing what they love. And for many authors, my experience has been, they want to write more books, they want to connect with their readers, they want to spend time doing those parts of running their own business. And our goal is to make that happen. If you can write more titles and spend more time with your readers, then you can succeed more, which helps us succeed. And that’s why we built a business model around author success.

Kevin Tumlinson 32:16

Exactly. Alright. So I’ve had a couple of questions regarding Google Play. I’m just gonna go ahead and pop this one up. “Is there still the option to publish to some companies on your own, like Google, etc? Can you pull your books at any time?” Well, that was not specifically about the Google Play. But it is asking basically, there’s no like lock-in or exclusivity or anything like that with either of our companies. But you guys want to address that?

Kris Austin 32:45

Yeah, it’s as simple as that.

Kevin Tumlinson 32:47

I stole your thunder.

Kris Austin 32:48

It’s one of the ways we want to make sure we treat authors with the dignity and respect that they deserve. They should have full control over their works. And that’s a very big part of our two companies.

Mark Coker 32:59

Yeah, our perspective is that authors deserve to be at the center of the publishing universe. That’s what I’ve always preached. That’s the world that I want to realize. I want to see authors in total control. Authors should have the freedom to decide where they publish, how they publish, how they price, how they promote. And they shouldn’t have some company telling them where they can and cannot distribute.

Kevin Tumlinson 33:29

Agreed. So this was the Google Play question. “Does this change anything for getting into Google Play?”

Mark Coker 33:45

Not yet.

Kris Austin 33:38

Maybe being larger, possibly. But currently, Google Play’s system is a challenge for our model on how we work with authors and get to retailers. And, you know, Google will do what Google does. But at the moment, no, nothing directly is going to change with the Google Play situation. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 34:07

CJ asks, “Will existing books on either platform be formatted automatically to suit both? How should we add new books while the merger is pending?”

Kris Austin 34:18

The simple answer here is first, keep doing what you’re doing. As you currently like doing it. If you want to use Draft2Digital, do that. If you want to use Smashwords, do that. Over time, we will definitely be notifying the authors of changes to this. But the goal, the high level goal is to allow formatting through what’s familiar to all the authors. So the Draft2Digital formatting system will be the primary system, but we’re going to be adding, for now we can call it a Smashwords mode or something like that. For authors that have been formatting to the Smashwords style guide, we’ll make something that can interpret that same book that you would send to Smashwords. And hopefully you won’t have to change your workflow too much. We think you might want to try the new formatting system if you’re on the Draft2Digital side and you’re not familiar with it. But in the end, as far as what ends up on the Smashwords storefront, it’s our tool set that handles that for you. You don’t have to format individually for the Smashwords storefront versus Apple, versus Barnes & Noble or Kobo, we actually, that’s the beauty of our platforms in general is we handle all that sort of stuff for you. So you’re going to give us your one file, and we’ll make sure it looks good on all the platforms, including the Smashwords store.

Kevin Tumlinson 35:42

That’s what we do. Here’s a question I think is pretty interesting from Gabriella on YouTube. “I like the Smashwords daily sales tool. Will we have, basically asking, will we have the same sort of thing at Draft2Digital? A daily sales tool?”

Kris Austin 36:00

Yeah. So these sort of questions are all definitely up in the air. We have to analyze what people like about both systems and try to make sure people don’t lose things they love. And, as has been mentioned multiple times, the current framework is moving mostly to Draft2Digital, but I did see the daily sales tool a couple months ago, I was poking around on the Smashwords website, and I did like it. So we kind of have in a medium term roadmap to redo the Draft2Digital report system. So I’m hoping we can incorporate, you know, upgrades and changes. But that can take a while, it may not be near term. But we definitely are aware of that tool.

Kevin Tumlinson 36:43

Excellent. So many great questions. “How will D2D authors get their hands on the Smashwords coupon system?”

Kris Austin 36:54

Also another great question. So you know, these implementation questions, these are when we get down into the nitty gritty details of development and software. And it’s really easy to get down deep into the weeds on how these things work. And we don’t know the answer to this question yet. But we can tell you the goal. And the goal is to get D2D authors access to the Smashwords coupon system. And so we will find an intuitive way to make that work. Draft2Digital prides itself on its user interface and user experience design. So I’m confident we’ll come up with a convenient and easily understood solution to this problem.

Mark Coker 37:36

Yeah, and just speaking of interface, it would be a huge improvement to the Smashwords coupon tools to have an improved interface. That makes the tools more effective for everyone. So you know, that’s another thing that I’m excited about.

Kevin Tumlinson 37:56

Yeah. Let’s see. Well, let’s show this one. I think this got answered in the comments, actually. But, “Mark Coker, does this mean Meatgrinder is going away?”

Mark Coker 38:08

Well, you know, when we first entered these discussions, you know, I already had tremendous respect for D2D’s approach to producing books. And, you know, I’m very attached to our approach too, because it’s what we created. But I assumed that Meatgrinder would go away. It was Chris, very early in the discussions, who said no. I see a use for that. The Meatgrinder approach, or the Smashwords approach, gives authors super granular line-by-line styling control in their book. And so for some authors, that is a much better approach than the template approach. Yet I also see a lot of our authors who are currently using our approach, once they try the D2D approach are going to fall in love with that, too. So you know, it doesn’t matter to me which option the authors use. I love that they have another choice now to improve their book and get the book out there.

Kevin Tumlinson 39:23

So it’s only fair Chris. We asked Mark a question, so this one’s for you. “What kind of things does Draft2Digital want to do to upgrade discovery options on the Smashwords store? I actually sell a lot on the Smashwords store. So if you have a way to help readers discover us there, let us know.”

Kris Austin 39:39

Yeah. I mean, these are great questions. Discovery’s kind of the sky’s the limit. I know Smashwords is already working on this, but one of the big ones is going to be preorders. Getting some sort of preorder support so authors so readers can buy books early. And that means you can start, we can start spotlighting preorders in certain ways. Maybe you have banners or … But I would say the biggest thing really is over time, I think we can probably make the interface a bit more modern and allow a lot more options for spotlighting books, allowing authors to say they want their books to be spotlighted. And making all kinds of cool incentive systems. I mean, I think that’s the beauty. We could go on forever on ideas, because I don’t know what we’ll implement first, but I think having our own place to show off all this indie content is just huge. And I have a whole team of people that just keep throwing me ideas. I have sheets of paper over here from people, because everyone’s excited about having the Smashwords store. So.

Mark Coker 41:05

Yeah, and I have a million ideas as well and really excited by this. But here’s a really simple example of how we can improve the store experience. Right now, you know, just as background, when I first founded Smashwords, I never imagined becoming an e ook distributor. The idea was to create a publishing platform so that authors could sell their books directly to readers. And so we created the store for that reason. But you come to the Smashwords website and it’s kind of a Frankensteinian experience, because if you’re a reader, you’re overwhelmed with all this publishing-related content. You’ve got a dashboard. You don’t need a dashboard, if you’re a reader. If you’re a publisher, you don’t need so much all the bookstore stuff. And by merging our distribution systems together, the store can become more store-like overnight. So when you visit the Smashwords store, it’s going to be all store. It’s going to be all about books, celebrating authors’ books, and improving the discoverability of all those books. So I think just removing all the publishing-related stuff from our store is going to dramatically improve the experience. And that’s just like the easiest thing to do.

Kris Austin 42:28

Sarah, it’s actually hard to answer the question because there’s so many possible paths. And our first goal is to free up development resources so we can focus a lot on that. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 42:42

Here’s a question from Kris on YouTube. “The D2D royalty split has been a game changer for me. How will that work with a merger?” They love it.

Kris Austin 42:51

Yeah, just another feature everyone’s gonna have access to. I mean, we love the payment splitting system. It’s just phenomenal. It works great for anthologies. When people get 10 authors together and make a really neat short story anthology, now they can all be paid without somebody being in charge of all the ridiculous paperwork required for tax reporting and writing checks to each other, and however they choose to pay. This just takes all of that out of there. And yeah, whenever the full integration finally happens, everybody will have access to that.

Kevin Tumlinson 43:26

Which kind of brings up this question, I think we’ve answered this more or less, but just for people just tuning in, “Do I need a D2D account now? Or will my Smashwords login open access to the D2D platform?”

Kris Austin 43:36

Another technical detail to be determined. Our goal will be the path of least resistance, lowest friction. You know, we recommend just do what you want to do at this point. Because every scenario already exists in the system, there’s already people who have accounts in both systems. There’s people who have accounts in both systems under different email addresses. There’s people that only have an account at one place and only an account at the other place. All these scenarios already exist. So there’s literally nothing you could do to make our lives worse in this scenario, because we have to solve all these problems, and we’re going to solve them all. And it’ll be interesting to figure out the full experience that we create for authors to be able to migrate from Smashwords into D2D. These are the sorts things are kind of exciting. This is like a process problem and a systems issue. So as far as recommendations on what to do, I’d say just really, I would recommend not delisting your titles from Smashwords and then listing them on Draft2Digital. You’d just be wasting your time. And killing all your reviews. So if there’s anything you take away, don’t do that. Don’t go manually moving your books, that’s just not going to be worth anybody’s trouble. We’re gonna take care of all that for you at some point.

Kevin Tumlinson 44:56

I’d like to request that people not take Kris up on his challenge to make our lives worse. So this is an interesting question, “How about the possibility to exclude Amazon?” Chris, I think you can answer that one really quickly.

Kris Austin 45:14

Yes. Yeah. Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital always allowed you to choose which retailers you want us to distribute to. And so you could choose to go to Amazon through us or not. We’re agnostic to your choices in that respect.

Kevin Tumlinson 45:31

Here’s a good one. “When will the Smashwords book page URLs change? Will the old URLs redirect?”

Kris Austin 45:39

I can confidently say that we won’t have old URLs break. They’re marketing URLs. If you have a link to your book at Smashwords, we have no incentive to break those links. So even if we change the URL structure, we would have a redirect or something in place to make sure you don’t have dead links. Dead links would kill your sales. Why would we ever let that happen?

Mark Coker 46:03

Yeah, I mean, we’ve got over a half million books that are tightly integrated within the Google Search ecosystem. So we want to preserve that. That’s an asset for the author.

Kevin Tumlinson 46:17

Mark, people are worried about losing you. “Mark’s helped me countless times. My concern is that Mark will fade out of the picture as time passes.” Mark, will you stay around? For how long?

Mark Coker 46:31

I’m sticking around. I have a vested interest in this being successful. And it’s very important to me that this merger become a huge success for our authors. And not just our authors, but D2D authors as well. I’m concerned about the broader indie community. I want this to be the best thing that ever happened to the broader indie community and to the culture of books. And, you know, I’m planning to stick around.

Kris Austin 47:08

Yeah, I didn’t want Mark leaving. I would needed Mark as part of the new team. And so he’s going to be Chief Strategy Officer. He’s gonna be heavily involved and helping plan strategy direction and advise me. So yeah, I don’t want Mark going anywhere. And I know he doesn’t want to go anywhere. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:30

We have a special question here from Jim on YouTube asked, “Does the Smashwords store submit sales data to any bestseller lists at publications? Asking for a friend.” Thanks, Jim.

Mark Coker 47:45

Jim, that’s a plant.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:48

That is a plant. We got a ringer in the audience folks.

Mark Coker 47:51

Yeah. Jim’s the marketing director of Smashwords.

Kevin Tumlinson 47:57

So yes, the question is a good one, though. Do we have, are we contributing to any bestseller lists out there?

Mark Coker 48:07

When you sell a book in the Smashwords store, that sale is reported to the New York Times. So if you are an author that regularly hits the New York Times, or dreams of hitting the New York Times, you can rest assured that every sale at Smashwords is going to help you do that. We don’t report to USA Today.

Kris Austin 48:36

Maybe one day.

Mark Coker 48:38

Yeah, maybe one day. And then I’ll also add, you know, we also report our bestsellers to Publishers Weekly every month. So every month, the Smashwords bestsellers are printed in there, full page or usually a full page. So that’s free advertising, great marketing, and platform-building and brand-building for the authors who make that list. And that list is going to continue. We already spoke with Publishers Weekly about it the other day. And they’re excited about it, because that list is now going to become the definitive list in the industry for the best-selling indie titles. And there’s so much more we can do with these lists. Now, we haven’t talked about it yet. But another really exciting thing about this boils down to data. You know, we’ve got the two largest indie distributors joining together. We have access to data that no one else has access to. Each of us is distributing to multiple retailers. So we’ve got this unique perspective on how titles are performing. Nobody has that view. And we can use this data to help each of our retailers and library platforms identify the most reader-pleasing books, down to minute categories and subcategories. And with more data, the data becomes higher quality. So that’s just great. You know, I realize I’ve been saying “excited” a lot during this call. I should find a synonym for that. But I am excited about everything we’re talking about here.

Kevin Tumlinson 50:18

It’s hard to express how excited we are. This isn’t a question, but I still want to pop it up and read it, coming in from YouTube. “Kindly make D2D so strong that it can replace Amazon KDP.” And to that we say, challenge accepted. We will absolutely aim to do just that. This is a question about D2D Print. We talked briefly about print already. But just to clarify for people, so what’s the difference between D2D Print versus KDP Print? And when can UK authors get to use it?

Kris Austin 50:55

Yeah, so KDP Print is a program that Amazon has for people that use their KDP, which is the Kindle Direct Publishing system. And so you can, that’s where you put your ebooks usually for sale at Amazon. And you can choose their print program and go through their print process. And that allows Amazon to print your book on demand and mail it to readers. Amazon also has the ability for you to turn on something called expanded distribution, which sends those titles into the broader wholesale distribution network. And KDP Print’s a pretty good system. Their expanded distribution system isn’t as wide as ours. So the D2D print system, we basically send it into the wholesale distribution system. And Amazon can pick up that book from that system if they choose to. But Barnes & Noble can buy the book, so if you go to BarnesandNoble.com, someone can buy D2D Print books, and really just anywhere that buys books from the wholesale distribution system will have access to these books. And so really, in the end, D2D Print is a full featured solution to get your book into print with a goal of as little work as possible for you. We want to make it as seamless as possible. And I think we have a much better interface than the KDP Print by quite a bit. And but yeah, I mean, they serve a lot of similar things. But KDP Print, I’ll honestly tell you, is the cheapest way. You’ll make the most money at Amazon sales using KDP Print. They give themselves the best deal, that shouldn’t be surprising to anybody. But you don’t have to use their expanded distribution. Our expanded distribution, you’ll actually make a bit more money and actually get a bit wider reach through our D2D Print system. Oh, and I do not want to leave out the second part of the question. So currently, you can use our system. No matter where you reside in the world, you can use D2D print. But what we don’t currently offer, but it’s really, really close to done, is you can’t order your own author copies. We call them author copies. So if you want to purchase your own copies of your book yourself, maybe you want to take them to signings, take them to conferences, give them to family and friends, whatever purpose you want, we sell those to you at the unit cost. And currently, that’s US and Canada only. We’ve been testing, we’ve been sending manual copies to some Australia and UK locations. And that’s been working great. So now we need to update our interface a bit to allow people to purchase these when they reside in those areas. And over time, we expect to have that expand worldwide, so you can print author copies and send them anywhere. But so anyway, yeah, I hope that answers your question.

Kevin Tumlinson 54:02

So if you happen to own a book printer in Europe, give us a ring. So here’s a good one. “Does D2D have a series manager like Smashwords?” I’d say we do now. But you want to talk a little bit about that, Mark?

Mark Coker 54:23

Well, yeah, so series manager is a tool at Smashwords that gives you a lot of control over how your series is merchandised and displayed. You have control over how your series books are displayed, how the series numbering is done, just a lot of flexibility there. In the Smashwords store we create a dedicated series page for you. You can even upload a dedicated image to represent your series. So, you know, we think it’s a great tool.

Kris Austin 55:04

Yeah, it’s a great tool for merchandising stuff at the Smashwords store and those Smashwords store-specific tools, our goal would be to have all of those available, because they’re very valuable discoverability tools. But we haven’t needed anything like that on the Draft2Digital side at this point, because our retailers don’t support series-specific images, or one book being in multiple series. Those things aren’t supported through traditional retail stores. Another wonderful benefit of the Smashwords store is, we can make cool stuff like that. And so Draft2Digital hasn’t really needed that interface. So right now you just attach your individual books to series and number them. And then we send that data to the retail channels, the library, and other channels.

Mark Coker 56:01

Just gonna have just, you know, a challenge or a request for everyone who’s listening. We really want to hear your ideas. You know, I want you to imagine this Smashwords store as your personal bookstore. So how can we make this your personal bookstore? How can we make our store your personal bookstore and make it more effective for you?

Kevin Tumlinson 56:25

So we are, we’re starting to come up on time but I do want to get at least a couple more questions. But this is probably a really good one. “How can we test the new formatting system if we are currently with Smashwords?”

Kris Austin 56:40

So really, you’d create an account in Draft2Digital and go through the first couple steps, and you’ll see it. Basically just don’t submit the publish page, and it won’t go live, it won’t be sent, it won’t go live anywhere. And so all the way until you get to the page where you choose your pricing and where you want us to send it, you can do that as much as you want. I mean, and it won’t affect our system, our team won’t even see it, we won’t even know it’s there. And that allows you to play with the formatting system, because it’s all automated, you get an immediate preview. So you upload your book, we analyze it in about 10, 20 seconds. And then we let you choose in-matter if you want to deal with automated in-matter. If you don’t, you just move on. And then we’ll show you a full preview of your ebook and how we laid it out automatically for you. And then then you can, there’s customization, you can choose different themes and templates. And really you get a live interaction of that. So it’s kind of fun to play around with. And there’s no risk to you doing so. And just don’t submit the publish page unless you actually want us to distribute, because we will do it and we will do it very fast. So if you don’t catch it, like your book might start going live in a couple hours, in all kinds of places. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 58:01

Yes, okay. And I think this is going to be our final question. Sarah on Facebook asks, “My Draft2Digital dashboard is full of old unpublished titles, some of which are still on Smashwords. Is there a way for me to clean up my Draft2Digital dashboard before the merger? My D2D dashboard is a real mess, y’all.” So can we help Sarah?

Kris Austin 58:22

So our system does support the ability to, we call it deleting a title. So as long as it’s completely unpublished, you can go to the View book page on a particular title. And you can press the Delete Book button. And that hides it from your dashboard. I don’t think there’s currently a way for you to see the deleted titles. But that’ll hide them. And to recover them, though, requires a customer support request. So only do that if you really want to make it disappear. But we’ll still keep all the all the reports and sales data and everything linked to that deleted title. It just, it’ll kind of hide it for you. So.

Mark Coker 59:02

Well, that might be a capability that we have in our dashboard that you might want to adopt. So we have a, we don’t have a delete button, but we have an archive button. So you can unpublish your book, and you can also archive it and stick it in this vault. And then bring it back.

Kris Austin 59:19

And we have a ticket for that Mark. So I think it’ll be, we like the idea of that. It’s just one of those things we never got around to.

Kevin Tumlinson 59:27

Yeah. And that is probably one of the most exciting things about this. It’s just, it’s like getting a gift card to go shop somewhere and you just have your run of the place. We get to pick and choose all the stuff we want to see. So I think we’re gonna …

Kris Austin 59:44

Sorry, Kevin, I want to mention that we were hiring. And I think it’s very important that we point that out. Because these two companies, we’re not doing this to downsize or consolidate or shrink down. Our whole goal is to grow and serve more and more authors, serve readers, serve retailers. We want to make a bigger and better company. And so the website there, Draft2Digital.com/careers, lists a couple of open positions. So if you’re in the industry, or you’re interested in books, or you know people who are good at these sort of jobs, please send them our way. Right now we have two open customer support positions. And we have a senior developer position and a more mid-level developer position. And we want to fill these as fast as we can. We need developers and customer support people because we have grand plans. So.

Kevin Tumlinson 1:00:44

Yeah, so hopefully, someone from the D2D team has shared that link in the comments on both YouTube and Facebook, hint hint. And otherwise, for the listeners, Draft2Digital.com/careers will get you to our careers page. And in that same vein, if you’d like to learn more about how the acquisition went, who’s gaining what and what we’re going to be doing going forward, you can find a really detailed FAQ on Draft2Digital.com/united, that’s going to give you a breakdown there. And if you go to Smashwords.com/united, you’ll also get a FAQ there. So whatever, you pick your poison. But go ahead, pop over to that and take a read. We’ve also got a blog post and the official press release available on the blog at Draft2Digital.com/blog. And that’ll be top of page for probably at least next week. So it’s a good time to pop over there. If you’re coming in later, you could just search for Smashwords at the Draft2Digital blog, and that’s gonna pop it right up. Beyond that, I think we are ready to wrap up guys. Does anybody want to throw in anything else right here at the end?

Mark Coker 1:02:00

Well, I want to thank everybody for coming here. I want to thank everybody for their comments and support and encouragement, and just want to keep hearing from you. So tell us what you’re excited about. Tell us what you’re concerned about. You know, help us shape this company to serve you.

Kevin Tumlinson 1:02:20

Very good. Chris, did you want to rally the troops?

Kris Austin 1:02:22

Definitely. Thanks. I mean, this is gonna be an incredible year for indie authors. And we’re all very excited. It’s hard to contain our excitement, like, we just want to do it all right now. Of course, we have to realize it takes time to make all these things happen. But this is gonna be just a great upcoming year or two, we’re gonna see a lot of action in this space. And I’m very excited for the authors that that this worked out.

Kevin Tumlinson 1:02:54

And for those of you playing at home, the drinking game word is excitement. So take a drink every time. Thank you so much for tuning in everybody. Be sure to bookmark us at D2Dlive.com. You’ll see a countdown for every one of these live streams. This was a special one, it was on a different day than usual. We typically have these kind of things on a Thursday. So tune in, we’re trying to do these every week. There won’t be one tomorrow, because we handled it today. But go bookmark that site so you can see what’s coming up and get links to each new show. And of course, make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube. Youtube.com/ Draft2Digital, Facebook.com/Draft2Digital. All the “/Draft2Digital”s you can think of. We’re available almost everywhere. And Mark, I don’t have a thing for Smashwords. But I’m sure you guys have Twitter and etc, right?

Mark Coker 1:03:49

Yep, we’re on Twitter at Smashwords.

Kevin Tumlinson 1:03:53

Okay, very good. All right, you can follow us everywhere, folks. And over time, we’re going to have a whole lot more information about this stuff. But thank you so much for tuning into this live stream, asking us these great questions. If you have further questions, do not hesitate. Just go straight over to Draft2Digital.com. There’s a contact form there. You can ask us anything you like. And until then, we will see you all next time. Thank you again.

Kris Austin 1:04:20

Sounds good. Bye.

Kris Austin 1:04:22

Thanks, Kevin.