This week the announcement came, much to the surprise of some, that two major eBook aggregators, Smashwords and Draft2Digital were becoming one. While they have often been seen as rivals in this space, the rivalry was a friendly one at worst. This is a space with room for a lot of players, and there is never anything wrong with a little competition.
We’ve all seen the posts out there that repeat the news and press release put out by both companies. For now, we’ll set that aside, and look at what this means for indie authors specifically.
1. Expanded Distribution to Libraries and other Retailers in One Place
The one thing Smashwords has always had over Draft2Digital has been more outlets, some of them obscure to be sure, but they were still sources of income to authors. Part of that reason was simply age. Smashwords has been around since 2008 (I started using it in 2009) while Draft2Digital has been around since 2012, but many authors didn’t start using them until a little later, as the service matured.
This isn’t a huge difference, but these incremental changes will make a difference for those authors going “wide for the win.” Especially those interested in going ultra-wide and finding as many outlets for their books as possible.
2. Shared Tools
Smashwords has also had some really cool tools, including the ability to offer coupons, Smashwords presales tools, author interviews, and self-serve merchandising options. On the flip side, Smashwords users will gain access to the relatively new POD option on Draft2Digital.
The other pluses of D2D? Tools for creating universal end matter, universal book links (Through Books2Read), payment splitting for co-authors, and more payment options, including direct bank deposits (which can save authors fees).
3. What about Erotica Authors?
One big difference between Smashwords and Draft2Digital has been the availability of publishing erotica. This has been controversial in many ways. There are several authors I know who have left Smashwords because of the plethora of erotica, and the fact that erotica authors have cross-promoted their work into popular genres like mystery/thriller, sci-fi, horror, and others.
While this is understandable, erotica authors often face obstacles when it comes to advertising especially in super-niche markets. Smashwords offers some of the best marketing tools, and a platform where erotica will not be banned and books removed for reasons they might be on another app.
That ability will be preserved on Smashwords, but Draft2Digital policies likely won’t change, especially because many of the platforms they distribute to have their own rules that D2D must follow. But this is still good news for erotica authors.
4. What about Competition?
There are a lot of aggregates out there. I don’t think we are ‘losing” anything as authors when it comes to competition. Both companies shared the same goal: “Empower self-published, indie authors and publishers to build and grow their publishing careers.” I don’t see costs or royalty share going up at D2D or Smashwords: in fact, I would expect them to stabilize.
And likely more aggregates will emerge. There are new aggregate and distribution platforms for audiobooks, eBooks, and more, and the market is huge. There are enough authors and readers to go around for everyone.
As authors, specifically indie authors, I don’t think we should be worried. But there are some things to consider.
5. Are Aggregates like Draft2Digital the Right Choice?
Here’s the deal. You can publish directly to almost every single platform offered by aggregates, with a few exceptions. And there are some platforms where there are advantages to publishing directly. Kobo promotional programs are only available to those who publish directly with the platform. Apple has hinted that iBooks may soon have their own advertising platform, and the same is true with Google Books and Google Play.
But there are library systems that are not easily reachable by indie authors, and every one of them takes time, potentially lots of it, and there are few benefits to doing it all yourself. The good thing is that through both Draft2Digital and Smashwords, the author can choose where their work is distributed. So just because you can distribute to all the retailers doesn’t mean you should.
For most indie authors, this merger will be a good thing. It will be easier to go wide than ever before. There will be more channels available to you, and most importantly the standard will be set for other aggregators going forward.
And it’s important to remember that 85% of the book market is still controlled by Amazon, and we need big players with big muscle to make a difference in the publishing world. Amazon will not always be the giant gorilla in the room, and the more options we have as indie authors, the better.
The merger of Draft2Digital and Smashwords just gives us a really good one, and a quick way into markets that would not otherwise be open to us.