amazon news

Books, Agents, Amazon, and Self-publishing

I thought this article was interesting for several reasons. It definitely shows that times are changing. The people at Amazon, like them or not, clearly know what they are doing.

It’s still too soon to tell how all this will turn out. I wouldn’t even begin to predict the future in this sense. But I do find it interesting that the very people who were laughing at e-books and self-publishing are now starting to embrace it…with the mindset that they are going to control the industry, continue to be the gatekeepers, and dictate what they think should be published instead of what the readers think should be published.

If I were a self-published author, I’d be forming a group of some kind and reminding everyone that I was one of the people who paved the way for Amazon, e-books, and digital publishing. I’d be looking for ways to empower myself through a larger organization. Because without these brave self-published writers none of this would be happening right now. The same goes for all the hard-working start up e-publishers who’ve been working their tails off, while large publishers and some (not all) literary agents have been sitting with their thumbs up their behinds waiting for e-books to disappear.

Here’s some copy from the article, below, and here’s a link. There’s also an interesting disclaimer at the bottom I didn’t publish in this post. It’s worth reading the entire piece.

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of DealBy DAVID STREITFELD

SEATTLE — Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.

Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times
Laurel Saville’s memoir about her mother was self-published at first. It is scheduled to be published by Amazon next month.

Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers.

It has set up a flagship line run by a publishing veteran, Laurence Kirshbaum, to bring out brand-name fiction and nonfiction. It signed its first deal with the self-help author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000, a person with direct knowledge of the deal said.

Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.

Several large publishers declined to speak on the record about Amazon’s efforts. “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do,” said Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House, who is known for speaking his mind.

“Everyone’s afraid of Amazon,” said Richard Curtis, a longtime agent who is also an e-book publisher. “If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out.

“It’s an old strategy: divide and conquer,” Mr. Curtis said.

Amazon executives, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here, declined to say how many editors the company employed, or how many books it had under contract. But they played down Amazon’s power and said publishers were in love with their own demise.

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

Publishers caught a glimpse of a future they fear has no role for them late last month when Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, a tablet for books and other media sold by Amazon. Jeffrey P. Bezos, the company’s chief executive, referred several times to Kindle as “an end-to-end service,” conjuring up a world in which Amazon develops, promotes and delivers the product.

For a sense of how rattled publishers are by Amazon’s foray into their business, consider the case of Kiana Davenport, a Hawaiian writer whose career abruptly derailed last month.

In 2010 Ms. Davenport signed with Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin, for “The Chinese Soldier’s Daughter,” a Civil War love story. She received a $20,000 advance for the book, which was supposed to come out next summer.

If writers have one message drilled into them these days, it is this: hustle yourself. So Ms. Davenport took off the shelf several award-winning short stories she had written 20 years ago and packaged them in an e-book, “Cannibal Nights,” available on Amazon.

When Penguin found out, it went “ballistic,” Ms. Davenport wrote on her blog, accusing her of breaking her contractual promise to avoid competing with it. It wanted “Cannibal Nights” removed from sale and all mentions of it deleted from the Internet.

Ms. Davenport refused, so Penguin canceled her novel and has said it will pursue legal action if she does not return the advance.

Amazon News…Expanding Into Publishing

The article below is from PW, and here’s the link. I heard about this on the down low a while ago and I’ve been waiting to see how long it would take for the buzz to begin.

At this point, all I can say is it sounds interesting. If nothing else, it marks yet another huge change in the publishing industry.

Montlake Romance Marks Tip of Amazon’s Expansion Into Publishing
By Rachel Deahl
May 04, 2011
| Reader Comments 1

With the news that Amazon is expanding its publishing arm, launching in the fall Montlake Romance (with plans to deepen its category-publishing to mystery, science fiction and thrillers), many in the publishing business have been talking about the company’s hiring strategies. And agents have been eyeing the unfolding process closely, trying to gauge whether the retailer will become as viable a place for their books as the legacy houses.

For weeks job openings at Amazon, in both editorial and publicity, have been posted online, offering positions in Seattle and New York. Rumors have surfaced that the company is opening a New York office and is on the hunt for a high-level executive to be publisher of its expanded publishing wing. Amazon did not return e-mails inquiring about the expansion Wednesday afternoon.

A number of sources inside the publishing houses said there was a sour feeling about the way Amazon has, to this point, gone about its employee search. The company sent a form letter to a number of senior executives, some within the same publisher, inquiring if they would be interested in working for Amazon. While some sources scoffed at the respect a suite of Amazon imprints could establish in the industry—one insider said Amazon will likely be left with a “proprietary bookseller-publisher pretty far down on the food chain of quality publishers”—agents were less inflammatory.

One agent noted that Amazon is uniqeuly positioned to promote authors and books in a way traditional houses are not—through content on its Web site well as by tapping into information about its customers’ book-buying habits. This agent said that, for this reason, there is a certain appeal to selling a book to them. He then noted though that “when any new publishing company or imprint is created I generally like to wait and see how they’re going to do before placing my authors’ intellectual property there.”

Questions also persist about what Amazon will do in the way of distribution. If it handles its own fulfillment, or hires a traditional distributor, it is unclear whether print books from Amazon would find their way into Barnes & Noble or the independents, since both see the company as their most significant competition. While one source said it would be presumptive to assume that B&N wouldn’t stock a book simply because Amazon published it, other sources added that, for the right title, having no distribution in B&N or the independents wouldn’t be prohibitively damaging for sales anyway.

Another insider said he thinks it was inevitable that Amazon expand its influence in the publishing sphere and that the company will likely start to “acquire big names in the editorial ranks as well as make runs at big authors.” He then added: “And I think agents would sell to them, especially since they’ll probably spend big money.”

Amazon has proven recently that, for the right author, it is willing to pay big money. After St. Martin’s Press closed a reported $4 million four-book deal with self-publishing sensation Amanda Hocking, word leaked that Amazon had put in a competitive bid in an an attempt to land the author.

“They probably know enough about the book business by now to do as well, or better, than the old school houses,” said another agent, acknowledging that he would probably sell a book to Amazon. Of course, as the previous insider guessed, it may come down to money on the table. Yet another agent said: “The big question is whether Amazon will pay advances, and at what level. And, of course, what will their tolerance of risk be as a publisher.”