Amazon Enters the Book Publishing Game

publishingFor years, authors have struggled with declining print runs and shrinking advances, all the while trying to meet publishers’ expectations of what is commercially viable. “There was a huge frustration in writing within a very constricted parameter,” says romance author Connie Brockway, whose readers kept requesting sequels to two of her novels and whose publisher remained unconvinced. Those frustrations prompted Brockway to leave the traditional publishing world, a decision she announced in a Q & A with All About Romance earlier this year.

Brockway had planned to publish ebooks, but instead, after a conversation with Amazon’s new publishing division, she became the launch author for Montlake Romance, Amazon’s romance imprint. So far, the online retailer has announced seven publishing imprints for various book genres including science fiction, romance, and mystery. Its first imprint, AmazonEncore, was created in 2009 to re-issue promising books to a wider audience.

Although Brockway says the process of writing and editing her novel was identical to working with a traditional publisher, Amazon has worked faster and given her more creative freedom than a traditional publisher. “As an author or writer, can you imagine someone saying to you ‘write the story you’re most interested in’?” says Brockway. Her first collaboration with Montlake Romance is The Other Guy’s Bride, one of the sequels Brockway wanted to share with readers. The novel will be released on November 22 as a print book and Kindle ebook.

“The advance is not nearly what you’d expect from a traditional publisher, but then again the royalty rate is far greater,” Brockway says, adding that Amazon has also asked for her input on marketing strategies. “That has been much more of a collaborative effort. They’ve asked for ideas I’ve had, and amazingly enough, followed them through on some of them.”

Clearly, this publishing model could offer new opportunities for authors and content writers to satisfy readers’ literary desires. But will Amazon alienate the traditional publishing world in the process? Will big publishing houses look elsewhere for distribution?

Andrew Chavez, Director of Digital Media at TCU’s Schieffer School of Journalism, doesn’t think so. “Amazon is a force to be reckoned with,” he says. “They still are one of the largest online marketplaces out there and that’s always going to give them an advantage. For someone to really start a feud with them, one would lose access to a giant potential customer base.”

Instead, he predicts that it may force publishers to innovate in order to survive. “Traditional publishing is notoriously inefficient as far as the inventory that’s required,” adds Chavez. “If this does anything it may do what the web has done for so many other industries.”

It’s still too early to tell how Amazon’s new publishing imprints like Montlake Romance may impact the industry as a whole, but Brockway is confident it could fill a void left by the major publishers.

“Amazon is offering something to readers who have been left behind over the years,” she adds. “As New York tried to chase the bestsellers, a lot of those people got marginalized. As an author, I really look forward to those books that aren’t being written anymore: the westerns, Americana romances, the books in Russia and France and Medieval periods. Amazon’s biggest challenge is going to be making sure they find their audience.”

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in Bankrate.com, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, MediaBistro.com, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.

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