Amazon Publishing

On Amazon Publishing

It’s big news that Larry Kirshbaum is leaving Amazon Publishing, it’s just not so big as it appears, especially as the retailing giant is going nowhere, and its Kindle project is as strong as ever. That also doesn’t mean that Amazon Publishing will have an easy ride in the years ahead. Laura Hazard Owen sums up some of it nicely:

Nonetheless, at least seventy percent of the books sold in the U.S. are still print, so Amazon’s inability to get its titles into bookstores was a huge strike against the vision that it would be able to compete directly against general trade publishers on big fiction and nonfiction titles. And just because many have argued that the traditional book publishing industry’s business model is outdated didn’t mean that Amazon would be able to completely upend the way the industry does business in New York in two years.

via Amazon Publishing reportedly retreating in NYC. Thank or blame Barnes & Noble — Tech News and Analysis.

This recalls to me one of the three things I identified a bricks and mortar bookshops’ advantages in their struggle against Amazon and online retail for a talk at a booksellers gathering last year:

Physicality: being a place is an underestimated thing as is its almost completely ignored sister point Proximity: the idea that a bookshop is often a local place that is NEAR the reader or the customer. Where is Amazon? I wonder how many Irish people know that the company has a customer service centre in Cork and an engineering office in Dublin? Or indeed how helpful either fact is when you want something nearby?

The other two points I figured went in bookshops favour are Knowledge and Sympathy, tools and advantages that Amazon itself possess to some extent, but which are greatly added to by the physicality and proximity of bookshops.

I would expect Amazon to respond in three ways to this set back:

  1. Push its niche imprints more aggressively than ever because those imprints have massive advantages in specific verticals and can deliver real benefits to authors and readers.
  2. Work to convert more readers to digital or online book purchases (booksellers have made themselves Amazon’s true enemies now whereas in the past they were simply the hapless victims of Amazon’s usage of new distribution and sales systems).
  3. Find a new way to market for its printed books. This might be seen as a slight contradiction of 2, because it might require working with bookshops, but it would be a sensible strategy for Amazon to find SOME way to get books in front of people in large numbers. Several avenues suggest themselves; somehow convincing a chain or a group of indies to take them, selling the retail print rights to the best market offer (I’m sure bidders would emerge), doing a deal with retailers of other products with good footfall and a desirable audience (this might work), or simply hiring out empty retail space on short leases for book big launches (expensive but interesting potential, especially around peak season releases).

It’s very clear that Amazon has taken a defeat of some kind, frustrated by its competitors and by circumstances. I don’t expect that will end the company’s drive into publishing, it has created a much too valuable commodity with its platform to retrench at this point, but it will clearly require a rethink and a retool before the company can move forward again against the big fish in New York.

That would not make me happy if I was an executive in those same houses though, it would make me even more nervous. This reversal does nothing to counteract Amazon Publishing’s attractiveness to niche authors and the KDP Platforms dominance of digital self-publishing. Publishers will need to think and act smart if they are to take advantage of this Amazon misstep.

Somehow I Missed This Incredibly Important detail of Kindle Worlds: MONEY

Five minutes ago I read a press release from Amazon about how it was expanding its Kindle Worlds project to incorporate new writers (and impressive ones at that). i was struck by how many of those new writers came from or were converts to the world of self-publishing and it reminded me once again how powerful and useful Amazon’s policy of accommodating self-publishers and small publishers has been in their development of a digital publishing platform (see my thoughts on this earlier in the week over on Medium).

And then I read these paragraphs and my brain exploded:

“Good storytelling for me starts with great characters, no matter the format,” said Kindle Worlds Archer & Armstrong author Scott Nicholson. “I’m thrilled that Amazon has been pushing the digital frontiers to open up even more sharing of ideas and building new communities around the most popular characters and stories.”

Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. Amazon Publishing will also pilot an experimental new program for particularly short works—between 5,000 and 10,000 words. For these short stories—typically priced under one dollar—Amazon will pay the royalties for the World’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.

Before I read those words, I thought Amazon Worlds was a clever piece of distraction from Amazon, a way to get more people on the Kindle platform, perhaps a mine for future talent and a stick to beat publishers with. After reading those two paragraphs I realised that Amazon Worlds is a whole new revenue stream for aspiring writers and established writers, it’s co-opting the edge and making it mainstream and crucially introducing a revenue model that work for everyone.  What’s more in this model, because they own the platform and delivery system they still keep a chunk of the revenue.

I’m annoyed at myself for missing the import of this earlier (I can only say in my defence that the original Kindle Worlds press release came to me while I was on holidays in spain and my mind was very far from business models and digital publishing.

Think  about this new model for a few seconds. Successful writers, who in genre fiction were already pretty supportive of fan-fiction anyway, now have an active reason to support and encourage fan-fiction that is licensed by Amazon. They have a reason to drive people onto the kindle platform because when they see stories based on their worlds and characters, they will profit from them.

Would be writers have a great reason to use the opportunities afforded to them by kindle Worlds to hone their skills, for one its free and legal, for another they might actually benefit by selling some copies of their work and finally they might get noticed by doing it. noticed by the original creator of the world they choose to writer in or about, or noticed by Amazon Publishing which can spot their talent (read sales data) and can snap it up before anyone else even notices that a new talent has emerged!

All round Kindle Worlds is a much bigger deal than I realised!

Eoin

Go Read This | Amazon Defied All My Expectations

Great piece by Will Wiles, exceptionally interesting throughout but the last paragraph is the winner by a mile:

Ascendant companies always seem most threatening at the moment when they’re becoming indispensable parts of the scenery of an industry. I suspect we may come to feel the same way about Amazon.

via Will Wiles: Amazon Defied All My Expectations.