Mastodon The Writing Desk: My publishing history - a nostalgic look back following news of Smashwords and Draft2Digital Merger

9 February 2022

My publishing history - a nostalgic look back following news of Smashwords and Draft2Digital Merger

The announcement that Draft2Digital is acquiring Smashwords took me back to 2008, when I first considered the idea of making a living from writing,. The emergence of Smashwords fourteen years ago was a turning point in my own publishing history.

It seems hard to believe now, but there were no reliable e-readers, Amazon KDP would not emerge for another year, and the only way to produce an eBook was to code the whole thing in HTML. Fortunately (or not) I had a programming background, so I used to spend days making the table of contents work. 

I'm particularly grateful to Smashwords founder Mark Coker for the invaluable advice and guidance he provided when I was starting out on my publishing journey. Smashwords can take a Word document to produce perfect eBooks for every platform. I was encouraged to have a few hundred pounds paid into PayPal, but it wasn't enough to write full time.

CreateSpace (now absorbed into KDP) became my 'print on  demand' provider for paperback editoins, but they were very different times.  When Amazon KDP emerged, the first book of my Tudor trilogy sold over 8000 copies in one month. There were hardly any direct competitors in my historical fiction niche (and I bought a yacht).

I was delighted to be picked up by a commercial publisher, only to find I shared more than half my royalties, sacrificed control over cover design, book description and updates, for very little in return. I still had to do all the marketing and promotion, but with only a quarterly sales report as feedback on success.

I then discovered ACX and produced audiobook editions of eight of my books, which continues to generate a welcome additional income each month, as well as helping partially sighted readers, and those who like to listen to books on long journeys.

I've finally managed to extricate the rights to all but one of my books, and set up my own publishing company, based on Vellum, which generates perfectly formatted books with a single click. I now work as a full time author, writing a book a year, with 70% royalties, complete control and immediate feedback on results. 

My latest ventures have been to produce hardback copies of my books, and translated editions. I also established my popular podcast series, Stories of the Tudors. It will be interesting to see what the future of publishing holds.

Tony Riches

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