I read something interesting today in the New York Times. Amazon.com has entered the publishing game. Not only does the company now provide aspiring authors with the ability to self-publish POD and e-books--and to read them on a Kindle e-book reader and on the new Kindle Fire--but it is now taking on the role of traditional publishers. It has started offering publishing contracts and advances to authors.
That's right, Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in a variety of genres and in both physical and e-book formats. As the company grows its publishing program it becomes competition for the New York publishing houses that supply the on-line book store.
Amazon's flagship line of books will be headed up by publishing veteran, Laurence Kirshbaum, and, according to the NYT, is set to "bring out brand-name fiction and nonfiction." The first contract went to already successful self-help author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced that it would publish a memoir by actress and director Penny Marshall, and, the NYT reported that a person with direct knowledge of the deal said Amazon offered Marshall an $800,000 advance.
Hmmm. This could make an aspiring or established author reconsider approaching New York houses. Although at the moment Amazon supposedly is "aggressively wooing some of their top authors," it is also picking up a few lesser known writers. Here's one such story, which was included in the Times article:
"If some writers are suffering collateral damage, others are benefiting from this new setup. Laurel Saville was locked out by the old system, when New York publishers were the gatekeepers. “I got lots and lots of praise but no takers,” said Ms. Saville, 48, a business writer who lives in Little Falls, N.Y.
"Two years ago she decided to pay for the publication of her memoir about her mother’s descent from California beauty queen to street person to murder victim. She spent about $2,200, which yielded sales of 600 copies. Not horrible but far from earth-shaking.
"Last fall, Ms. Saville paid $100 to be included in a Publishers Weekly list of self-published writers. The magazine ended up reviewing her memoir, giving it a mixed notice that nevertheless caught the attention of Amazon editors. They sent Ms. Saville an e-mail offering to republish the book. It got an editorial once-over, a new cover and a new title: “Unraveling Anne.” It will be published next month.
"Ms. Saville did not get any money upfront, as she would have if a traditional publisher had picked up her memoir. In essence, Amazon has become her partner."
It might be time to look into publishing with Amazon or at least publishing with Create Space, Amazon's self-publishing arm, and then pursuing a deal with Amazon's publishing arm when you can show good sales. It's something to think about anyway.
Do consider the fact that this is not great news for publishing houses, and Amazon's actions do threaten agents as well. Amazon is, to some extent, taking advantage of its position in the marketplace. However, that does not mean writers should not take advantage of the opportunity.
To read the whole Times article, click here.