Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Draft2Digital to Acquire Smashwords

Dear Friends of Smashwords,

This letter isn't a goodbye; it's a new hello.

Today we announced that Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords. We're joining together to do more for authors, publishers, and readers.

Fourteen years ago when I created Smashwords, I set out on a crazy mission to change the way books were published, marketed, and sold.

I wanted to empower every writer in the world with free tools to self-publish ebooks with pride, professionalism, and success. I wanted to give readers the freedom to enjoy the wonderful diversity of indie-published titles that I knew our publishing platform could help unleash.

Thanks to your trust and partnership, today 150,000 authors and publishers around the world use Smashwords to publish almost 600,000 ebooks. Nearly $200 million worth of Smashwords ebooks have been purchased at retail, and over $110 million paid out to authors and publishers.  Many of our authors - authors who once couldn't get the time of day from agents and traditional publishers - became international bestsellers topping all the bestseller lists.  The books published by Smashwords authors enriched the lives of authors and readers and inspired a new generation of tomorrow's writers.

The impact of our little startup reached far beyond the numbers.  As a friend of Smashwords, you've been part of something really important.

Yet fourteen years later, I still feel like our mission is just getting started.

I'm super-excited about this combination with Draft2Digital, and I’m looking forward to broadening our mission in the service of authors, publishers, booksellers, readers, and books.

No, this acquisition doesn’t mean I’m running off to buy an island in the Caribbean. This will be an all-stock combination, meaning no money is changing hands. I’m investing our entire company into the new Draft2Digital, and together we’ll lead the next chapter of the indie publishing revolution.

Below you'll find our official press release and a detailed FAQ about the acquisition, which is expected to close on or about March 1.

If you have any questions about the acquisition, I invite you to attend a live online Q&A that I'm doing Wednesday with Kris Austin, Draft2Digital CEO.  The live event will be recorded in case you miss it.  You'll find details on how to attend in the press release below.

Thank you for your trust and partnership these last fourteen years. On behalf of the entire Smashwords team, we look forward to working with you in 2022 and beyond!

Best wishes,

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords

P.S. The press release and FAQ follow.


The Official Press Release

 

Draft2Digital to Acquire Smashwords, Creating
Self-Publishing Juggernaut

 

Combined Company will Publish and Distribute 800,000+ Titles from 250,000 Authors and Publishers

 

February 8, 2022—OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. and PACIFIC GROVE, Calif.—Draft2Digital, LLC and Smashwords, Inc., two pioneers in ebook self-publishing, today announced that Draft2Digital will acquire Smashwords. The acquisition unites the industry’s two most innovative and author-friendly publishing platforms into one, enabling the new Draft2Digital to drive even greater success for authors, publishers, and sales partners.

Draft2Digital and Smashwords are key catalysts behind the dramatic rise of self-publishing over the last fourteen years. Their publishing platforms enable 250,000 authors and publishers around the world to publish, distribute, market, and manage over 800,000 ebooks and 11,000 print on demand paperback books.

The combined company will operate under the Draft2Digital name and will be headquartered in Oklahoma City. All Smashwords and Draft2Digital employees are expected to join the combination.

Kris Austin, co-founder and CEO of Draft2Digital, will lead the combined company as CEO. Mark Coker, founder and former CEO of Smashwords, will join the Draft2Digital management team as Chief Strategy Officer and board member.

Both companies are entering the acquisition profitable and debt-free.

“I’m pleased to welcome Smashwords authors, publishers, employees and partners to the D2D family,” said Kris Austin. “Early in our discussions with Smashwords, we each immediately realized we can accomplish so much more for the indie author community by working together than working as competitors. The resources we once expended creating duplicative systems can now be redeployed to ramp up our R&D investments in next generation tools to empower authors and publishers.”

“I’m thrilled to join forces with Draft2Digital,” said Mark Coker. “Over the last decade, I’ve come to deeply admire Draft2Digital’s team, technology, and commitment to authors. Our shared business model is a key to our two companies’ success. We put authors first. By design, we only make money when our authors make money. This aligns our interests with the interests of our authors. Together we will lead the next chapter of the indie author revolution.”

The combination is expected to yield significant benefits for authors, publishers, retail and library partners, and readers.

·         Draft2Digital authors will gain access to the Smashwords Store and its myriad exclusive book marketing tools, including Smashwords Coupons, self-serve merchandising, Author Interviews, and the patent pending Smashwords Presales tool for book launches. Sales at the Smashwords Store have grown consecutively each of the last five years, with December 2021 sales up 20% over December 2020. Draft2Digital’s erotica authors can look forward to expanded distribution enabled by Smashwords’ proprietary erotica certification system, which allows retailers to carry erotic romance and mainstream erotica with greater confidence.

·         Smashwords authors will gain access to new tools that simplify print and digital publishing and drive greater success. Among these tools are D2D Print, the company’s Print on Demand service for paperbacks (currently in beta, which authors can join at https://draft2digital.com/printbeta/); improved metadata management tools for better book discoverability at retailers; automated end-matter for series books; payment splitting for co-authors and collaborations; and more payment options, including direct bank deposits.

·         Retailers and libraries served by the companies can expect greater title selection and unmatched merchandising recommendations. The new, merged company will offer retailers, subscription services, and libraries unprecedented data-driven insights into the world’s largest dedicated catalog of independently published books. This represents a unique and first-of-its-kind offering that Draft2Digital believes will improve the publishing industry.

·         Customers of the Smashwords Store can look forward to an improved store experience and an increased selection of books from the many great authors and publishers distributed by Draft2Digital.

“This acquisition is great news for indie authors,” said Joanna Penn, host of the Creative Penn podcast and bestselling author who has followed each company since its founding. “Two of the industry’s strongest advocates for indie authors are combining their unique toolsets, technologies, and energy to do more for the indie community. There are exciting years ahead!”

What’s Coming Next

The acquisition is expected to close on March 1, 2022.

To minimize workflow disruption for authors, publishers, and sales partners, the two platforms will combine their systems in gradual and incremental steps.

Authors and publishers of both companies can continue utilizing their current platform of choice with the understanding that over time the authors and publishers of both companies will gain access to a common dashboard, common distribution outlets (including distribution to the Smashwords Store for current D2D authors), and an expanded suite of new and improved tools for book publishing, distribution, and marketing.

Draft2Digital will broadcast a live Q&A session (view the recording here on YouTube) for authors and publishers on Wednesday, February 9th, at Noon Central, with Kris Austin and Mark Coker, moderated by Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital’s VP of Marketing & PR. Kris and Mark will share additional insight about their plans to support the indie publishing community and welcome questions from the audience.

Visit https://D2DLive.com for links and launch time, and to attend live on either Facebook or YouTube. The live broadcast will be recorded for future inclusion in the Draft2Digital podcast, Self Publishing Insiders, and will be available as a blog post at Draft2Digital.com/blog.

Additional FAQs about the acquisition can be found at:

https://smashwords.com/united

https://draft2digital.com/united

About Draft2Digital

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, Draft2Digital is the world’s leading publishing platform for self-published authors and independent presses. The company offers a broad suite of free and powerful automated and self-serve tools that authors and publishers can use to build and grow their publishing businesses. This includes tools to simplify ebook and print publishing, distribution, metadata management, and marketing. Following its acquisition of Smashwords, Draft2Digital will serve more than 250,000 authors and publishers that collectively publish over 800,000 books worldwide. Visit Draft2Digital at https://draft2digital.com or follow on Twitter @Draft2Digital.

About Smashwords, Inc.

Founded in 2008 by Mark Coker, Smashwords was an early pioneer in ebook self-publishing. The company’s platform made it possible for writers to professionally produce, publish, and distribute ebooks at no cost. As a distributor, Smashwords was the first to open multiple major retailers and library ebook services to self-published authors, and worked in partnership with sales partners and payment processors to establish systems, standards, and professional best practices to foster a thriving ecosystem of indie-friendly booksellers and libraries. As of December 31, 2021, Smashwords was publishing 590,000 ebooks supplied by 150,000 authors, publishers and literary agents. The company was originally headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif, and most recently based in Pacific Grove, Calif. Visit Smashwords at https://smashwords.com, or follow the store at @Smashwords.

###

 

FAQ Regarding Draft2Digital Acquisition of Smashwords

 

Draft2Digital and Smashwords are Uniting! 


General questions:

Q:  Who is Draft2Digital?

Draft2Digital is known for being “self-publishing with support,” and since 2012, the company has established a positive, glowing reputation in the author community. D2D is known for building tools and resources that answer indie author and publisher needs, with beautiful and functional design and responsive customer service.

Draft2Digital and Smashwords are so similar, it’s almost as if we sprouted from the same seed. And in many ways, we did.

Both companies, from the start, have been dedicated to building tools and services that make publishing fast, easy, and best of all, free. We only make money when our authors make money—a business model that puts authors first. The best business model we know.

Like Smashwords, Draft2Digital is one of the world’s largest distributors serving self-published authors and independent presses, with a global reach for ebook distribution. But D2D is about more than just ebooks.

Draft2Digital has an exciting Print on Demand solution for indie authors that Smashwords founder Mark Coker thinks will prove to be just as disruptive to print publishing over the next few years as Smashwords was to ebook publishing 14 years ago.

By combining the two companies into one, the new Draft2Digital can invest more into research and development (R&D), aimed at innovating and inventing more next-generation tools services and offerings, and to meet more author needs.

The combination of Smashwords and Draft2Digital is a historic step toward our shared mission to drive greater success for self-published authors, independent publishers, and our distribution partners.

Q: What’s the name of the merged company?

A: The two companies will operate under the name of Draft2Digital. In the near term, Smashwords will continue to operate under its current name. Over time, Draft2Digital will become the name of the publishing platform, and Smashwords will remain as the brand for the Smashwords Store.

Q: When will the acquisition complete?

The close of the acquisition is expected to happen on March 1, 2022, after which the work of integrating the two companies begins.

Q: What will the combined company look like?

Following the acquisition, Draft2Digital will represent a combined 250,000 authors and publishers that use the company’s tools to publish, distribute, and manage over 880,000 ebooks and 11,000 print books (and growing). The combined company will employ over thirty people across the United States and Canada, and will maintain its corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Q: Why are the companies merging?

A: The decision to merge came down to a simple question: Can we drive greater success for our authors, publishers and sales channels by working together, or by working apart as competitors?

To answer this question, we considered: 

  • Both companies share common roots, missions, and values
  • Both companies were founded by writers to empower writers to become professional publishers
  • Both companies are expert at building free and powerful self-serve tools for authors
  • We’ve both built sophisticated distribution systems that help booksellers and libraries efficiently stock, merchandise and sell indie books
  • Both companies have built profitable businesses
  • We each built our successful businesses not by selling services to authors, but by helping authors and publishers publish, distribute, and market with greater efficiency and success

All of this led to our decision to merge both companies. The resources we once invested in building duplicative systems can now be redeployed to do more for all authors.

Q: What happens next for the authors and publishers of both companies?

A: As of March 1, 2022, if you’re an author or publisher with either Draft2Digital or Smashwords, there’s nothing you need to do; it will be business as usual. Over time, publishing and distribution systems for both Smashwords and Draft2Digital will be integrated onto the Draft2Digital website.

As a result, authors with both services will gain big benefits:

  • New sales partners will become available to authors
  • D2D authors and publishers will be able to list and sell their books in the Smashwords Store.
  • D2D authors will also gain access to exclusive book marketing tools from Smashwords, including Smashwords Coupons, the patent-pending Smashwords Presales tool, Smashwords Interviews, and self-serve merchandising in the Smashwords Store.
  • The Smashwords publishing platform operations and publisher Dashboard will be merged into Draft2Digital’s, with the goal of preserving the best capabilities of each.

At each stage of the integration, we’ll aim to make the transition as smooth and effortless as possible for our combined authors, publishers, store and library partners, and readers.

Q: What happens to the staff at both companies?

A: This is an acquisition of opportunity, not necessity. Because we are two successful companies coming together, all Smashwords employees, including founder Mark Coker, are joining the D2D team, and the D2D team will remain intact.

Kris Austin, co-founder of Draft2Digital, will serve as CEO of the combined company, and Mark Coker will join the senior management team as Chief Strategy Officer and board member.

Q: Is the new Draft2Digital Hiring?

A.  Yes! New growth means new opportunities!

Know any great software developers or customer support professionals who want to join our growing company? Visit https://draft2digital.com/careersto learn more. 

 

Authors & Publishers

Q: How will the acquisition affect my books in distribution?

A: We will work with our sales partners to minimize any impact on book listings, listing web addresses, and reviews.

Q: Each company distributes to sales outlets not reached by the other. Will I have access to all sales channels?


A:
Yes! Once our distribution systems are merged, authors will be able to opt-in to any and all sales and library partners currently offered by either Draft2Digital or Smashwords.

Q: Each company’s ebook publishing process is slightly different. How will the process change for me if I prefer one or the other?

A: We’re combining approaches to give you more options and flexibility!

Both companies allow authors and publishers to upload a professionally designed .epub file. However, the way each company handles conversion from Word or RTF files is a bit different.

We will be preserving both the granular flexibility of custom manuscript styling from Smashwords and the streamlined, automated professional layout and templates from Draft2Digital. This means that authors and publishers get the best of both worlds, with options to use either method.

Q: Can you summarize the unique tool sets of each company that you anticipate making available to all authors?

A: Yes! Both companies offer robust tools for: 

  • Distribution
  • Marketing
  • Sales reporting
  • Tax reporting
  • Metadata management

When these tools are integrated, Draft2Digital will seek to combine the best elements of each.

Both companies also offer unique tools not offered by the other: 

  • Simpler publishing tools; tools for automated end-matter
  • Books2Read Universal Book Links (UBLs), Author Pages, Book Tabs, and Reading Lists
  • D2D Print for POD paperbacks (Visit https://draft2digital.com/printbeta/ to be included in the beta)
  • D2D Payment Splitting for co-authors and collaborations
  • New payment options, including direct bank deposits
D2D authors and publishers can expect to gain access to: 
  • The Smashwords Store
  • Smashwords Coupons
  • Smashwords Presales
  • Self-serve merchandising
  • Author Interviews

D2D erotic romance and erotica authors will also gain access to the Smashwords erotica certification system (see next item).

Q: What are the erotic fiction policies of the new company?

A:  Each retailer, subscription service, or library platform has its own content policies. Draft2Digital will adopt the existing Smashwords erotic fiction policies for these platforms.

A few years ago, Smashwords introduced a certification system that allows erotic fiction publishers to self-certify the presence (or lack thereof) of various facets of erotica that are generally recognized as “taboo.” This accurate, more granular categorization provides retailers and libraries with the confidence they need to know that the erotic literature they’re selling doesn’t violate their policies.

The Smashwords Erotic Fiction Certification System will be made available to all Draft2Digital authors.

Q: Will the erotica policies change in the Smashwords Store?

A: Smashwords has a long history of supporting the erotic fiction community. No changes are anticipated to the policies documented at https://www.smashwords.com/about/tos, nor have there been any changes in the last four years.

The policies on permitted, discouraged, and forbidden erotica categories remain in effect. The Smashwords Store has a more permissive approach to taboo erotica than most ebook stores. The store gives customers unprecedented control over the types of erotica, if any, that appear in their search results.

Q: What does the acquisition mean for existing store and library partners?

As the leading distributors of independently published ebooks, both companies have always worked in close partnership with major ebook retailers and library platforms to help them list, promote, and profit from the amazing diversity of indie ebooks.. We help our authors succeed by helping our sales partners succeed!

Q: Is the new Draft2Digital looking to expand its distribution network to new sales partners?

Absolutely! As a distributor, we’re always looking to support promising new booksellers and bookselling models. Given the size of our catalog, we can give new sales channels the critical mass they need to build businesses around our authors’ books. Draft2Digital and Smashwords have rigorous qualification procedures to ensure that new sales partners meet our high standards and requirements.

Potential sales channels can ask to be connected to the Draft2Digital Operations team at support@draft2digital.com.

###

 


Friday, December 31, 2021

2022 Publishing Predictions – Indies Take Center Stage

Welcome to my annual publishing predictions where I reflect upon the state of the indie nation and make predictions for the year ahead.

Also, don't miss today's companion post, my annual Smashwords Year in Review and Preview for 2022.

How has the pandemic changed the publishing landscape?  What does a post pandemic world look like for indie authors and publishers?  How has the pandemic changed readers’ relationship with books?  I’ll explore these and other questions as we look ahead to 2022.

As I prepare to press publish on the last day of 2021, Covid infections are hitting record levels.  A New York Times headline from yesterday screams, “Meltdown!” as Omicron infections surge to record levels, causing temporary staffing shortages across multiple sectors of the economy.

Equally concerning, deep rifts have formed during the pandemic over the nature of reality.  These disagreements have strained relationships with friends and family, and amplified social and political divides.  It seems everyone is feeling some measure of anger, fear, hurt and resentment.  

Yet amid this chaos and conflict, I see reasons for optimism.  Evidence is mounting that the Omicron variant causes less severe infection.  And early research out of South Africa this week found that the antibodies created by the body’s immune response to Omicron may confer partial protection against prior, more deadly variants.  If further data confirms these findings, it means we’re much closer to the end of this pandemic than the beginning.

The State of the Indie Nation

It’s impossible to separate the state of the indie nation from the state of humanity.

Unless you’re a maker of vaccines, respirators, or caskets, it’s difficult to find a silver lining in the biologic, psychologic and economic trauma that has been Covid.  

You’re an author and publisher, but you’re a human first.  This experience has affected you, too.

Those of us who survived this pandemic will live out the rest of our lives in the shadow of its memory.  All of us will carry some level of anger, anxiety, resentment, and sorrow we’ll need to overcome before we can feel normal again.  Any one of these distinct emotions can be debilitating all by itself.  In combination, the path to emotional recovery is even steeper.

Herein lies the opportunity for indie authors.

One common quality I observe in fellow authors is the ability to feel deeply.  Authors and publishers are an extension of humanity’s nervous system.  We help humanity see, feel, and understand.  Many of you are empaths.  Empathic sensitivity is a superpower for writers.  It can also be your kryptonite when you take on others’ pain as your own.  Now you will tap into both.

Millions of readers turned to books to help them cope with this pandemic.  Your books provided readers comfort when they needed comfort, companionship when they were lonely, distraction when they needed distraction, and a smile when they needed a smile.

Your work has always been important.  In the year ahead, your work becomes even more important.

Between now and the time this pandemic finally sputters to a close, humanity will re-emerge from its collective bunkers, eager to reconnect with the world but feeling wounded and disoriented from their experience.  

Humanity is in need of healing. People will look to books to assist their spiritual and emotional recovery.  They will need books that give them hope and inspiration.  They will need books that help make sense of the world.  Books that help them feel normal again.

You are the creator of books.  You have a critically important role to play in the healing to come.

Now on to the predictions.


Mark Coker's 2022 Publishing Predictions

Book consumption remains robust – As we enter the third year of the pandemic, millions of readers have become re-habituated to the joys of reading.  Habits are difficult to break.  After two years of spending more time reading and less time outside the home engaged in other activities, the habit of reading will stick as life returns to a new normal.  Both print and digital (ebooks and audiobooks) formats will see solid sales in 2022.

Books become more important than ever – During the pandemic, readers found much-needed comfort, distraction, recreation, and value in books.  Books are a healthy salve to numb the feelings of isolation and anxiety during pandemic life.  Your readers after the pandemic might be the same readers as before the pandemic, but what they need from your books may change in subtle but important ways.

Books that heal will sell well in 2022 - Healing will be a major underlying theme of 2022.  After two-plus years of pandemic living, every human with a pulse will be working through some form of post-traumatic stress.  Books that bolster emotional well-being will be in higher demand.  I’m not just talking about non-fiction self-help about overcoming grief, or books on spirituality.  Fiction is a powerful vehicle for healing too, and it doesn’t matter if you write sci-fi, thrillers, romance, or erotica.  Put yourself in the shoes of the emotionally wounded.  Imagine the stories that will inspire or give hope and understanding to those who’ve suffered through the emotional trauma of the pandemic.  Give your characters these same challenges, and light the path for them to overcome these challenges (or not!).  Make it real.  For ideas to incorporate into your stories, you can burrow into your readers’ psyches by studying the science behind grieving and PTSD, and the recovery options for each.

Indies will publish tomorrow’s post-pandemic classics – With over 150,000 writers in the Smashwords stable, I’m confident many of you have the talent to pull this off.  You’re a first person witness to a once-in-a-century calamity.  You have a unique perspective.  When tragedies strike, writers rise to the occasion to help us make sense of it all, or at the minimum, to record for posterity what life was like during this time.  From this trove of writing fodder will emerge new classics that future historians will label as the definitive accounts of this period of the Great Covid Pandemic.  You’re living history, now take the challenge to write it.  Write that classic in your genre and you’ll be the writer readers read long after we’re all gone.  How’s that for immortality?

More book buying shifts online – During the pandemic, the shift to ecommerce accelerated.  More consumers shifted more of their consumption from physical retail to online across multiple categories of products, ranging from groceries to automobiles to books.  Many of those customers will continue transitioning more purchasing to online.  This bodes well for indie authors, since your books have democratized access to the virtual shelves of online retailers and library ebook platforms.  This then will further level the playing field between indie publishers and traditional publishers by negating the brick and mortar retail advantage that is now the primary domain of large publishers.  

More authors embrace print on demand – With print on demand (POD), your book is printed after the customer orders it.  POD offers myriad advantages to authors, publishers and readers.  For authors and publishers, single-copy prints and small print runs are economical.  POD eliminates the need to pay for and carry unsold inventory, and your book never goes out of print.  By offering your book in print as well as digital, you increase the accessibility and desirability of your book to readers who prefer print, or who want to purchase both.  Indie authors have historically made print publishing a secondary priority to ebooks.  POD’s setup expenses, which for most indies involves additional investment in graphic design and interior book design, do make the current state of the art in POD more costly than the low-cost and simplicity of ebook publishing, but this is changing as the technology improves.  With more book buying shifting online, POD makes more sense for indies than ever, especially considering that 75% of book sales by dollar volume go to print.  

Auto-narrated audiobooks – At Smashwords, we’re big fans of audiobooks, which is why we formed our partnership with Findaway three years ago to handle audiobook production and distribution for our authors.  Yet the cost of professional audiobook production is still out of reach for most indies.  Even bestselling indies find it cost-prohibitive to invest the thousands of dollars it takes to produce a professional audiobook.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could click a button to convert your ebook into an audiobook?  That day is not far away.  Auto-narrated books have been around for a while.  The Daisy Consortium, which oversees the epub standard, has done a lot of great work over the years on what they call “talking books,” drawing upon Daisy’s roots as an organization committed to making books more accessible for the vision impaired.  Yet their synthetic voices are still first-generation, not much better than Stephen Hawking’s synthetic voice.  Now the second generation is coming.  Thanks to artificial intelligence advancements in text-to-speech technology, it’s now possible to create more natural sounding audiobook experiences for customers at a fraction of the cost – for free, actually.  In December 2020, Google previewed what they call, “Auto-narrated audiobooks,” a free solution that allows ebook authors to convert their ebook into an audiobook.  Authors can select from a range of different narration voices and styles.  It’ll be interesting to see if other major ebook retailers follow Google’s lead.  While Google’s technology isn’t perfect, it’s still quite impressive (listen to samples here).  And because it’s all based on rapidly-improving technology, we can expect the quality you hear now will improve dramatically in the next few years.  

By the end of 2022, most writers conferences resume – Writers conferences provide an essential service to authors.  Conferences are where writers learn essential best practices, make industry connections, and find community with fellow members of their author tribe.  With most conferences canceled or on hiatus the last two years, it’s created a knowledge void, especially among newer indies who are still learning the ropes.  It created a void of community as well.  Writers need other writers.  By the latter half of 2022, more writers will feel safe enough to mix and mingle in large crowds, thereby allowing more conferences to resume normal operation.

Scribd goes public in 2022 – In July 2021, Bloomberg News broke a story claiming Scribd was planning a billion-dollar initial public offering for as early as late 2021.  That didn’t happen, and I have no inside knowledge as to the timing of a potential IPO.  However, I do have insight into Scribd’s historical sales volume for Smashwords’ books.  For years here on the blog and elsewhere I have celebrated their impressive growth.  I’m excited about this potential IPO, not just for what it means for our well-deserving friends at Scribd, but also for what it means for our authors.  By going public, Scribd will amass a war chest of cash to invest in their business to the benefit of indie authors.  Readers who’ve read my prior analysis on Scribd’s subscription model vs. others know that Scribd’s model is more author-friendly.  Good luck, Scribd!

Spotify enters ebook market – File this under long-shots.  In November, Spotify entered the audiobook market in a big way by acquiring Smashwords partner Findaway, citing, among other things, the work they do with indie authors.  One of Findaway’s missions is to offer a more author-friendly alternative to Amazon’s Audible, which has come under fire in recent years for their treatment of indie authors. With Spotify making a commitment to bring audiobooks to their nearly 200 million paid subscribers, they’re one simple step away from entering ebooks too, if they choose.  Spotify’s current focus is audio.  If they do enter the ebook market (they’d be smart to acquire Scribd, which would make them an overnight force in ebooks), it will reconfigure the power balance in the market.  Such an entry would make the book content of indie authors more valuable than ever, since lower cost indie ebooks are what make the subscription model viable.  As an indie author, you want your work to be recognized as valuable, because your value gives you leverage to grow and protect your publishing business.  

Subscription takes more market share from single-copy sales – File this one under things that are already happening, but will pick up steam in 2022.  Just as print, audio, and ebook are three great consumption formats for books, subscription is a great consumption method alongside single-copy purchases.  In the long run, I think subscription will become the most popular consumption method among power-readers, much in the same way streaming media services such as Netflix have supplanted DVD purchases and rentals.

Indie content is king in 2022 – Any retailer or subscription service that wants to be competitive in the ebook market faces the same challenge:  how to lower the cost they pay for ebooks so they can offer more reading pleasure to their customers at less cost.  Since indie ebooks are priced much lower than traditionally published ebooks, it means indie ebooks will continue to be of high strategic value to every retailer, especially to the subscription services.  Every major retailer or subscription service has strong incentive to forge closer relationships with indie authors.


That’s it for my 2022 predictions.  I hope these predictions stir your imagination and give you productive ideas for your publishing business in 2022.  What are your predictions?  Please share in the comments below.

On behalf of the entire team at Smashwords, we wish you, your family, and everyone in our indie community the best of health, happiness, and prosperity in the year ahead.  

Summary of Prior Publishing Prediction Posts by Mark Coker

2021 Publishing Predictions (Published December 31, 2020)
2020 Publishing Predictions
(Published December 31, 2019)
2019 Publishing Predictions
(Published December 31, 2018)
2018 Publishing Predictions (Published December 31, 2017)
2017 Publishing Predictions (Published December 31, 2016)
2016 Publishing Predictions (Published December 31, 2015)
2015 Publishing Predictions (Published December 31, 2014)
2014 Publishing Predictions (Published December 30, 2013)
and Huffington Post (Published January 7, 2014)
2013 Publishing Predictions (Published Dec 21, 2012)
2011 Predictions at GalleyCat (Published Dec 28, 2010)
10-Year Predictions at GalleyCat (Published Jan 4, 2010)




Smashwords 2021 End of Year Review and 2022 Preview

Welcome to my 2021 Smashwords year in review and 2022 preview.  

Wow.  Our 14th year of business operation.  Thank you Smashwords authors, publishers, readers, and channel partners!

Don't miss my annual companion post, 2022 Publishing Predictions – Indies Take Center Stage.

As I mentioned in my predictions post today, 2021 was another good year to be an indie publisher, due in part to pandemic-inspired changes to reading habits.  The higher sales levels many authors experienced in 2020 continued into 2021, and will likely continue into 2022 for the reasons I outline in the other post. 

What have we been up to at Smashwords in 2021?  Here are some highlights, as well as some broad stroke hints of where we’re focused for 2022.

Smashwords 2021 Milestones

Books published – We now publish 590,200 books; up 6.0% from 556,800 books at the end of 2020.

Words published – We now publish 20.8 billion words, up 1.1 billion from 19.7 billion a year ago; representing a 5.5% increase.

Authors served – We’re now serving 160,568 authors and publishers; up 4.2% from 154,100 a year ago.

Smashwords Presales - Our patent-pending Smashwords Presales feature, which we launched in December 2019, continues to gain traction with early adopters.  The number of presale events we hosted increased 25% in 2021 compared to the full year of 2020, and dollar sales volume increased 49%.  This growth is off of a relatively small base, but I like the direction things are headed and look forward to growing this further in 2022.  Thank you Smashwords authors for your feedback on those automated surveys we send you each time you set up and complete your presale event.  Your feedback will guide future development.

Smashwords Store – Even though it’s a small portion of our business, our store recorded its fifth consecutive year of increased sales.  Thank you authors and customers!

Smashwords Highlights for 2021

Series promotion – In February, we added a new email alert that allows customers of the Smashwords Store to be notified when a new book is published into a series they’ve previously expressed interest in (purchasing an earlier book of the series, or by adding one or more books in that series to their Wishlist in their Smashwords Library).

Sales reporting – In March, we introduced weekly email alerts to inform authors and publishers about new sales reports from the retailers.  In October, based on author feedback, we updated the emails to link to a pre-sorted version of our Sales & Payments Report page, making it easy to identify the recent sales.  Also in October, we updated the sales reports to display the country location (anonymized to protect customer privacy, of course!) of Smashwords Store customers, when known.

More book categories – Throughout the year, we added many more book subcategory options for romance and erotica authors.  The new subcategories increase discoverability.

Faster deliveries to OverDrive – At Smashwords, we often deliver you book updates to retailers and library partners within minutes of you making an update, assuming the channel partner is able to accept updates at such frequency.  In March, following OverDrive’s green light, we moved from a once-weekly delivery schedule to one per day.

New tutorial videos – In the last quarter of this year, we began rolling out new tutorial videos to make the tools and capabilities of the Smashwords Store and publishing platform more accessible to authors and customers.  For an example, check out the tutorial you'll find within your Dashboard's Series Manager tool (labeled “tutorial” over to the right).  More tutorials are planned for 2022.

More control over series pages – One of the neat things about publishing a series at Smashwords is that we create a dedicated sales page for your series in the Smashwords Store.  In October, we updated the series pages so authors and publishers can control the default sort order of how their titles are displayed to customers.  For example, if the series books can be read in any order, some authors may choose to list their newest book first.  This feature was suggested by a Smashwords author.  Keep those suggestions coming!

New upload interface – After almost 14 years with the same single-page upload form for publishing ebooks, in October we began beta testing an all-new upload interface.  It adopts a more modern, multi-step approach.  It’s more intuitive, and it integrates ISBN assignment into the publishing process so you don’t need to do that as a second step after you publish.  Most exciting to us is what’s beneath the surface.  The new publishing interface’s back end is completely redesigned, and sets the foundation for us to add additional cool features in the future.  The new interface is now live and available to everyone.  We will maintain access to the original classic interface for a period of time so Smashwords authors and publishers have time to  transition their customary workflow to the new interface.

What’s Coming in 2022

Preorders coming to the Smashwords Store – This is big news for us, and this here is my first public disclosure of it.  As most Smashwords authors and publishers know, we’ve been huge advocates of preorders as an essential best practice ever since we introduced the option back in 2013.  Books that are listed first as preorders sell significantly more copies!  Yet we never had the ability to accept preorder orders from customers at the Smashwords Store.  That will change in 2022.  We’re aiming for a Q2 launch.  If we complete the project earlier we’ll certainly try to get it to you sooner.

eBook Publishing - On the ebook publishing side of things, we’ll continue to direct our energy toward initiatives we believe will yield our authors and publishers the greatest gains in terms of sales opportunity, time-savings, and ease of use. 

Distribution - On the distribution side of our business, we’re always looking for opportunities to help our retail and library partners sell more of your books.  We’re also always looking for opportunities to expand your distribution.

Smashwords Store - We're planning to make the store more store-like.  Right now the Smashwords website serves as the front end to both a publishing platform and a store.  We know this is confusing to customers of the store – the people who buy books – so we’re planning to streamline the experience in 2022.  

Surprises - Surprises are fun, so we'll have a big surprise or two planned for 2022.

 

Thank you Smashwords authors, publishers, readers, retailers, libraries, and industry friends for your continued trust, support, and partnership.  It’s our sincere honor to work with you.

Happy New Year!