Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The New Amazon Market

Amazon is publishing 122 books (electronic and print) this fall, and 'aggressively wooing' some top authors, reports The New York Times. The New Republic says “writers should embrace Amazon’s takeover of the publishing industry.”

While playing down Amazon’s market power in its newly assumed role as publisher in addition to retailer, one Amazon executive noted that “the only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and the reader.” And Amazon?

Amazon Publishing is a new market opportunity for writers, and can be seen as a force for necessary change in the industry. Amazon’s willingness to share the Nielsen Bookscan sales data with authors has other publishers following suit.

On the other hand, concerns have arisen: will Amazon Publishing add editorial value or will it be a glorified vanity publisher, loosing an avalanche of slush pile dross? What about those ‘unnecessary’ people like agents and editors? What of books from traditional publishers sold through Amazon: could they be quietly buried on the site if they compete with Amazon's own titles?

To manage its group of six imprints Amazon has hired ‘well-regarded’ professionals including former agent and former CEO of Time Warner Book Group, Laurence Kirshbaum, and Ed Park, author of the ‘acclaimed novel’ Personal Days, and previously editor of The Believer and The Village Voice.

Several well-known authors are signing on, including self-help author Tim Ferriss and reportedly, actress and director Penny Marshall. Businessweek notes that thriller writer Barry Eisler, who turned down a $500,000 two-book deal with a traditional publisher earlier this year, later signed with Amazon. Eisler was swayed, at least in part, by Amazon’s ability to publish an e-book version and a paperback within a matter of days, both at cheaper prices than the traditional house’s practice of charging print prices for e-books. “What I care about is readers, because without readers I can’t make a living… If I can find a way to get readers books that cost less and are delivered better and faster, I want that.”

Sounds good, but what about less recognized authors? Will worthy authors, and in turn readers, get lost in a wave of low quality text? Will Amazon ensure the same credibility as traditional publishing houses?

What effect will Amazon's increasing dominance have on our industry?


  1. I had the same questions when I read about this. My husband's response was, "How could this not be a great thing?"

    One more way to sell books doesn't necessarily mean it's a better way. But I am very curious to see what publishing professionals think about this.

    If anyone knows a twitter thread or blog posts by editors or agents on this subject, please share!

    I'm off to do a little searching myself....

  2. Yes, Judy, I look forward to hearing what editors and agent make of it.

  3. I've had two experiences with digital publishing and in one case a vigilant editor would have caught an error before publication.

    Makes me wonder about eliminating the oversight built into the process of traditional publishing.

  4. Ugh, I don't like the sound of this. I'm also concerned that without good editing and quality control, it could turn into a vanity press. I'm becoming increasingly confused in e-book land over what's worth reading and what isn't.

  5. I have to admit I'm concerned that the slush pile is simply being passed to readers. I know I have students who are putting their work up on amazon or smashwords prematurely.

  6. Yes, the technology these days makes it so easy. The question will be the market reaction. Will people buy, or will they discern some way to identify quality (such as the publishing house)?