Nonfiction Authors Podcast host Carla King interviews Kevin Tumlinson: The 2022 Draft2Digital and Smashwords Merger: What It Means to Authors Looking for Book Creation and Distribution Options

Nonfiction Authors Podcast | July 6, 2022 10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET

The whole point of Draft2Digital, and Smashwords, and now our combined might, is to remove friction for authors. If we see a problem for authors…we start chipping away at that wall, and then we let the authors run through. That’s what we exist for.
-Kevin Tumlinson
Kevin Tumlinson The 2022 Draft2Digital and Smashwords Merger: What it Means to Authors Looking for Book Creation and Distribution Options

Kevin Tumlinson is an award-winning bestselling author and he is also known as “the Voice of Indie Publishing” for his work in podcasting and public speaking worldwide. He is also Director of Marketing & Public Relations for Draft2Digital, a book creation and distribution company that merged with Smashwords in 2022 under the Draft2Digital brand. Find out more about Draft2Digital at and about Kevin at

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Show Notes


In this episode…

  • How to convert your manuscript into an eBook format
  • Get your book to various retailers around the world.
  • Draft2Digital’s interface vs Smashwords interface
  • How Draft2Digital is platform agnostic.
  • How aggregation/distribution works.
  • How to track sales via the Dashboard.
  • Draft2Digital tools that show the effectiveness of a campaign.
  • Perks of the acquisition of Smashwords.


Hello and welcome to the interview series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Kevin Tumlinson and we will be talking about the 2022 Draft2Digital and Smashwords Merger: what it means to authors looking for book creation and distribution options. I’m Carla King, your host, and I’m happy to have you with us today. This interview will last only 30 minutes and you can find the replay on our Nonfiction Authors Association website and social media platforms including YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

And now I’d like to introduce our guest.

Kevin Tumlinson is an award-winning bestselling author and he is also known as “the Voice of Indie Publishing” for his work in podcasting and public speaking worldwide. He is also Director of Marketing & Public Relations for Draft2Digital, a book creation and distribution company that merged with Smashwords in 2022 under the Draft2Digital brand. Find out more about Draft2Digital at and about Kevin at

Hi, Kevin, welcome to the podcast.

Kevin 1:57

Hi, thank you for having me. Here we are again.

Carla 2:01

Here we are again. We have talked together a lot on podcasts, panels, conferences, and on each other’s podcasts, and your podcast–about writing, and publishing, marketing, creative writing, travel, and all that. But today, we’re talking in your official capacity, Draft2Digital, and focusing on the 2022 Draft2Digital and Smashwords merger. To start, can you just quickly describe D2D for our nonfiction authors who don’t know about the company? And then we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of features in a few minutes.

Kevin 2:26

Draft2Digital is what’s known as a publishing aggregator. Which really just means that we have the ability to get your manuscript. We’ll help you convert your manuscript into an eBook format, and we’ll get that book to all the various retailers we can around the world. That’s all mostly digital, we have recently gotten into the print game. So we are expanding our relationships there. But in a nutshell, that’s what Draft2Digital is. We help you get your book into ebook format and out into the world, so that you can accomplish that writing dream that you have.

Carla 3:19

I know Draft2Digital had, and does have, a wonderful user interface. It’s known for its user interface, whereas Smashwords has you develop your manuscript in Microsoft Word, which is difficult for some people. So the ease of use of Draft2Digital paired with the features and functions of Smashwords is a wonderful thing. And I want to tell the nonfiction authors that it’s a great merger, and I’m so excited about it, really. Because you both have been Ebook-heavy in the past, and you’ve been tackling print for a while now. So I just want to ask you–regarding ebook creation first–you do have a tool that we can use..or you can bring your own design to the platform?

Kevin 4:20

Right, we can accept a variety of formats. If you just have your Word document, you’re really in luck. Because we have a free formatting tool that you can chose. With nonfiction writers, their choice of template is probably going to be limited to just some pretty basic stuff. But if you want to get fancy there’s all kinds of fancy templates.

If you’ve ever heard of the software called Vellum, we offer something very similar to Vellum, but for free, and it is what I call platform-agnostic. It is available–I’ve actually used this from my iPhone, standing in line at Disney World, by the way–and used it to format a book on the go. So you can have your manuscript uploaded in that format, and use our templates to do a layout and everything. It’s very simple, very automated. The formats we’ll accept are Word, you can upload an RTF file, or you can bring in your own ePub file if you’d like, you just don’t get to use our fancy tools at that point.

But we wanted to accommodate everybody. And all that stuff is automated. It includes things like automated in matter, and if you’re unaware of what that is, there are pages like an ‘Also By’ page–’These are books that are also by this author.’ Or we automate the copyright page, we automate the Table of Contents, the About the Author,  you can have all that stuff automated. And if you publish more than one book through us, we can actually update the ‘Also By’ page every time you upload a new book. So if you’re distributing through us, we can always make sure that every book–including your first book–has an up to date ‘Also By’ page whenever a customer buys it. Little things like that.

Carla 6:16

I love that, because I know you’ve written so many books, and we have nonfiction authors who write serial books. And they have ideas for all kinds of books. And it is that front matter and back matter that just drives us crazy when we’re doing it ourselves. So I want you to talk a little bit about ebook distribution–or aggregation, as we call it, just to make things more complicated. Okay, let’s stick with distribution. How does that happen? And like, what is your reach?

Kevin 6:47

Okay, so the aggregation part of that is just that we aggregate all those different sales platforms, right? So we make them all available to you from one location–that’s really what it comes down to. We’re continuously forming new relationships with different retailers worldwide. A lot of those retailers sometimes have lots of sub retailers or sub channels. So especially in Europe. In that region, we’re involved with Tolino, for example, and Tolino has got a whole bunch of relationships with other distribution platforms. We have library distribution…

Carla 7:25

And Tolino–just to clarify–is what?

Kevin 7:30

I believe that’s the–I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s German language.

So I mix these up all the time. Here’s the good news, though. You don’t have to take my diced-up word for any of this. On our website, at, we have a list of every single primary retailer. And you can see who they are, and find out who they distribute to.

Carla 7:57

Even if you’re publishing a book in English, you are reaching English-speaking markets worldwide, right?

Kevin 8:03

Yeah. And you can distribute foreign language through us as well. It’s just that– whatever the complications are for you in that, they’re going to carry over to us, and we don’t speak every language. We don’t monitor that. And so most of the marketplaces we distribute to are going to be primarily English speaking, but we reach all those different language marketplaces.

Carla 8:28

So if I have my book translated into Spanish, for instance, I can still use D2D to distribute the ebook everywhere.

Kevin 8:34

Yeah, we have people who do exactly that. They distribute German, Italian, we’ve got all kinds.

Carla 8:43

And so what is the royalty split between you as a distributor, and the cost of using you, instead of going to 100 different companies individually?

Kevin 8:56

That is a really important thing to talk about, because the question that gets asked all the time is, ‘How much is it gonna cost me?’ And the reality of it is, is that we don’t charge you anything, we don’t have any fees. But what we do is take a cut of royalties. So if you distribute your book through us, and it goes out there and gets purchased on say, Kobo, or you can use this to get to Amazon, or Apple, or whatever. And if someone buys it, it ends up being about a 15% cut from each sale. That’s the only money we make. And so I kind of consider it a convenience fee of having all that you’ve got in one place.

You know, you can upload your book one time and then distribute it everywhere, but also see all your sales everywhere. There are a few promotional tools you can use and there are all these things, and none of it costs anything. You don’t even have to distribute through us to use all of it. You could actually use us to generate your book, and then take it and go direct to all of these sales platforms if you want. Because you own that book, we don’t own anything.

Carla 10:06

I talk to authors about this all the time. I’m like, ‘Yes, these companies who distribute books take a cut, because they need to make their money somewhere.’ And it also is so worthwhile because my accountant costs a lot more than 15% of my ebook. And to centralize the payments and the tax forms, and all of that.

And I do want to talk a little bit about the dashboard, where you can track your sales.

Kevin 10:37

Yea, among other things. So we have–I think it’s a fairly robust reporting system. Certainly, there are services out there you can pay a monthly fee for, and get a few more features than we currently offer. But, I use my D2D sales board all the time. I mean, I used to pay for services. And I decided I didn’t have to, because I can sort by storefront, by book, and I think even region or territory. I don’t do that very often. But you can get all these little reports, and you can download it as a spreadsheet if you want. But I like to see the little chart, I like to compare–’Here’s all my books and here’s everything that’s sold so far.’ And I can see the number of units sold. Or I can see dollar views.

Carla 11:29

That’s important. So you are a multi-book author, so perhaps you have a permanent lead magnet, for instance. And you’re doing a promotion on Amazon, or on Apple, or whatever. If you’re on the radio–maybe you’re on the radio in Chicago, or somewhere– you can see what the effectiveness of that marketing campaign was.

Kevin 11:56

Yeah, we actually have a couple of tools that I use, and I know others use, that can help with that a lot. One of those is our universal book links. Which, if I’m going to do a special promotion, or if I’m going to be speaking at a convention or something, or I’m going to be on the radio, I will often create a universal book link. And this is a single link that lets readers find your book in all the various retailers where it appears from one link, right? You can customize it, you can add affiliate codes to it. So if you have like an Amazon Associates account, it’s hidden inside of it–no one ever even sees it. But you can customize that URL. One of mine is because I have a series called Quake Runner, so it’s QR Shaken. So I can send that link out.

If I’m on the radio or something, I can mention that link, because it’s really easy to remember, right? And then people go buy that book. Well, I get to see the sales, I get to see how many clicks that’s gotten within a certain period of time. So I know, ‘I did this interview on June 16.’ And so I can see how many people clicked and went through on June 16. And what stores did they visit? How many clicks were there per store? And then I can look at my sales chart and see, from the 16th forward, how many sales I got on that book. And so I’ve got all this data I can use to determine how effective that appearance was.

Carla 13:26

I love that. And it’s at, right?

Kevin 13:31

That’s kind of our sister site. A lot of things are going to be happening with that as we move forward with the Smashwords deal. Because we’re getting the Smashwords store, for example, as one of the perks of the acquisition. That is officially going to be the biggest storefront there is for indie authors and independent publishers.

Carla 13:57

I’ve long sold my books directly through the Smashwords channel there, because it’s a direct sales channel. There are coupon codes. Are you keeping all of those?

Kevin 14:07

Yeah, all that stuff stays, and will probably be enhanced. We’re keeping coupon codes, we are keeping the discounts and things that you can do. Everything that you could do on Smashwords store is still gonna be there. It is the highest royalty that you’ll be able to get anywhere, as well.

Carla 14:39

So tell us what a normal royalty is. Like if I’m distributing to the stores, and online retailers, versus the royalty I get by selling directly through that store.

Kevin 14:51

On average–I mean a lot of times you can expect to get about a 60% royalty. After we take our cut as the retailer’s and all that stuff–after all that stuff happens. It’s going to be in the 60, maybe up to 70% royalty. Sometimes as low as 35%, just depends on the platform. So those things vary per platform.

Carla 15:15

So wait a minute. So that’s distributing to other stores? Or distributing in the Smashwords Draft2Digital store?

Kevin 15:23

That’s what I’m getting to. The average royalty you get for most stores can range from anywhere between 35% and up to 70%, right? But on the Smashwords store, it’s going to be more like 80 to 90%.

We’re finessing and massaging to see what the best possible royalty we can offer is. So, because of that, that is going to be–no other retailer is going to compete with that royalty. So that’s what we’re hoping for. The whole point is, we really love the fact that we will own this platform. And we have tools that authors can use to promote and get readers to that platform if they want. That’s going to make things just wide open for the author.

The whole point of Draft2Digital, and Smashwords, and now our combined might, is to remove friction for authors. If we see a problem for authors–where a lot of us are authors ourselves. I’m an author. We got guys like Mark Lafave, Nick Thacker, Mark Coker himself is an author–we got a ton of authors on staff. And so we built this thing to solve our problems. The whole point is to remove friction, so every time we come up against a wall, we start chipping away at that wall, and then we let the authors run through. That’s what we exist for. So it was inevitable that we would have to have some sort of sales platform. Some sort of ebook retailer built into our system.

And as we introduce print-print is still in beta, and I can tell you why it’s still in beta. It’s a good reason. But, we’re going to be introducing print, and we’re evolving print, too, because right now, it’s paperbacks. And we’ve got this set of layout sizes or whatever–trim sizes. And we’re going to be adding some trim sizes to that offering. We’re going to be offering hardcover. I can’t say when. It’s something we’ll be working on over the next year or two. And the faster we can get it done, the better. Everybody’s really anticipating it.

But we also have an audiobook partner–with Findaway voices. We’re looking at–how do we integrate that into what we’re doing? We’re really leaning heavy on audiobooks. There’s all kinds of strategies happening behind the scenes for audio.

So D2D print–the reason it’s still in beta is because when we first introduced it, we had a print partner, IPG. Which is a company a lot of–if you’ve been in the publishing industry at all, you’ve heard of them. And they wanted to get into the self-publishing game. And they heard of us, which tends to happen. And so they came to us, they made a pitch, asked us to start working with them. And we did. And it turns out, they just could not handle the number of books, and authors, and changes, and all the things that we brought to them.

Carla 18:40

This is the lean and mean startup  Silicon Valley sort of thing that happened, versus the old publishing paradigm, which is a big heavy overhead.

Kevin 18:51

We were so surprised that authors would order a single copy of their book. That’s just shocking. Like, why would an author only order one copy? And so that caused all kinds of headaches, and problems, you know? Because they didn’t realize the nature of the indie author, and the indie publisher. It’s not their fault. It would be hard to realize this.  Because if all you’ve ever known is the ocean, then rivers seem strange to you, you know?

But we’ve switched partners, and we’re now working with Ingram as a partner. We get their expanded distribution network, which puts us able to put books all over the planet. Everywhere Ingram can distribute, we can get to. We’re working on some deals with–the hang up right now, the reason we’re still in beta–is remember I said, ‘Our job is to remove friction, solve a problem.’ There’s a problem. And it’s one that nobody else has managed to solve yet. And that is author copies outside of the Americas. And you can get them, but it’s going to cost you a fortune, because of shipping.

So what we’ve been working on is making relationships with printers all over the world, overseas from the United States. And getting those relationships set up so that we can get author copies to authors for less money. It doesn’t impact–for whatever reason, it has no impact on the price and availability of a book for a reader. The reader can go on any website that offers your book, buy it, get it in the usual timeline for whatever their price is. And there’s no problem. But when it comes to author copies, that’s something that nobody’s solved yet. And so we’re solving it.

Carla 20:55

Yeah. Well, the behind-the-scenes is a little bit crazy. And I think a lot of authors who are used to just going to Amazon don’t realize–if this is more than the one channel, and it’s worth going wide, I think. And getting the author copies can be tough, for sure. And we’re talking about advanced reader copies, ARC’s, so you can actually see your book in print format.

Kevin 21:20

Or if you’re looking to–some people still like to take a bunch of copies with them to a convention, or I sold a bunch of copies of my books in our community garage sale a month or two ago. If you’re in America or Canada, getting author copies isn’t such a big deal.They cost what they cost. You can buy them for wholesale price, print price, plus shipping–shipping is always expensive–but it all works out. But if you were in England or Australia, you’re gonna pay a lot more. So we’re working on solving that.

Carla 20:55

Okay, well, good. I look forward to that. Meantime, I really have always loved your ebook distribution, because it is very wide. And also, I want you to talk a little bit about the library market, and the library distribution. Because a lot of nonfiction authors have books that are of interest to libraries. So how does ebook distribution work with libraries?

Kevin 21:20

As with everything we do, whatever challenges you submit to is opt-in. So if you want to get to libraries, there is a checkbox when you get to that section, and it gives you all the different library options. And you can select the ones you want, and uncheck the ones you don’t. And you can set your library price separately from your retail price. We make that very easy and automated.

Carla 22:03

Oh my gosh, I know. And I know you have a lot, a lot, on your website of help. You have great customer service. You want to talk about your customer service for a minute?

Kevin 23:06

I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that it’s hands down the best customer service you’re gonna get for any market, any platform. You can actually call these folks on the phone. Try that anywhere else. You’ll get a real-life human. I used to say, ‘Real-life human in Oklahoma City.’ But now we are a remote-first company, and so you might be talking to somebody in a different city, or a different state. But they’re all American–well, I got some folks overseas–but they all speak English as their first language. They all are very knowledgeable about the industry. And they’re there to help. They may not always answer.

We answer during business hours, our business hours. But you can email. If you are desperate, you can sometimes just send a tweet. And we’ve got people monitoring all these things in funneling you where you need to go.

Carla 23:59

I want all authors to get a Twitter account just for customer support, because so many companies do use Twitter for that. But yes, really and truly, this is not a call back in a few days. Really, you do have wonderful customer support and I know that people really want to talk to someone on the phone when they’re confused.

Hey, you know, we could talk so long. And we will talk again soon, I hope, when you start rolling in new features and you have more–especially for interest to the nonfiction authors who are looking for various printing options, and definitely the ebook distribution. So I just want to be clear that you can use Draft2Digital ebook distribution, and then go elsewhere for print, or mix and match. Can you pick and choose where you distribute?

Kevin 24:56

Yes in fact, a very common one is people will uncheck say Amazon, or Kobo, and go direct to those platforms, and use us for everyone else. And in fact, I do that. I use us for everyone but Amazon. Like I said, everything is opt-in. We’re never going to force you to use a retailer, we don’t have rules on that. You won’t even be forced to use the Smashwords store. You can choose to opt out of that as well. The idea is to give authors all the options and none of the limitations. That’s our hope. That’s our plan.

Carla 25:35

I love that Kevin. And even though you’re a fiction author, I do send people to your website a lot. It’s pretty fancy, but I love how you handle the giveaways. And also your anthologies in marketing that you do with other authors in your genre. And you’re just a great role model with your email marketing and all of that. I do want people to go to, because you’re just a fun guy, Kevin. You’ve got a podcast and all of that. So I put that pitch in for you. Why don’t you tell us what there is on the Draft2Digital website for authors to explore now.

Kevin 26:25

Among other things, we’re right now getting all the pieces together to get our authors into the Smashwords store, use those tools. But we have all these promotional tools that are growing. We have someone who actually does the promotions for authors. She goes and talks to retailers, and if there’s an opportunity, you can get on a list and get into those. It’s sort of a first come first serve, or lottery kind of situation sometimes, but they’re there.

And we have a lot of price changes. You can schedule price changes if you’re going to do a promotion. Very handy for BookBub deals, if you get a BookBub deal. So yeah, we’re building out all that stuff. All that stuff is growing, and we’re getting really good at it. I mean, it’s been a long time. I’ve been there six years, and some of that stuff only came to exist within the past year or so. But it’s already better than you can find somewhere else.

Carla 27:27

I mean, we’re all evolving, for sure. And it’s very cool to watch. So even if I’m not a Draft2Digital author, what can I sign up to use on the Draft2Digital site? The Books2Read is one –for that URL.

Kevin 27:43

Everything I’ve talked about is available to you for free. You can format your book. If you’ve got a Word document or something, you can upload that, choose a template, format it, spit it out as an ebook, a print-ready PDF, even MOBI,  even though that’s not supported by anybody anymore. You can still produce a MOBI. All of that automation, everything is built in for you. You do not have to just do it through us to use it.

My recommendation is that people should just go sign up, and play with those tools, and see if it’s something that they think they could use. You can always distribute and undistribute–you can de-list anytime. You do not ever have to stay with us. Never any obligations, no contracts, no costs. We’re legitimately just trying to get you some book sales. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Carla 28:35

Yeah, go play. I always encourage authors to go play with the tools.  You don’t even have to start distributing, you can just see what it looks like and get used to the process.

Well, thanks so much, Kevin, for being our guest today,

Kevin 28:49

Of course, anytime.

Carla 28:51

And thank you to our listeners for joining us today and every week. For a list of guests and topics just check our schedule on the site, use your favorite search engine, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list at

Quotes from our guest

And now our combined might is to remove friction for authors. Like if we see a problem for authors. A lot of us are authors ourselves. I’m an author. And so we built this thing to solve our problems.

We want the ideas to give authors all the options and none of the limitations. That’s our hope. That’s our plan.

My recommendation is that people should just go sign up and play with those tools and see if it’s something that they think they could use. You can always distribute and undistribute.

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