Amazon signs authors to bypass publishers

First, Amazon killed, or seriously wounded, the bookstores. Now they're trying to do the same to publishers. Will publishers handle the threat of digital distribution better than the music business?

Amazon Kindleflickr/goXunuReviews

The New York Times called this, “Writing Publishers Out of the Deal,” and since New York is the hub of the traditional publishing business, this story should sound the alarm bell for the publishers still burying their corporate heads in the sand. While the book biz never treated writers as badly as the music biz treated musicians, Amazon has a powerful pitch: authors who publish directly with them keep 70 percent of the money from the book, compared to 10 or 15 percent from traditional publishers.

Publishing hasn't learned from some of the music industry's mistakes since they've threatened to sue authors who have gone digital. Can unknown authors make serious money at Amazon? Yes, as John Locke has shown. But when it's hard enough to make your book stand out from the other 300,000 books printed each year, how will people find your book in the millions of other books on Amazon?

Burn, publishers, burn

Hey, I've sold exactly one copy of my novel The Fashions of the Times for Kindle, but I'm a happy camper anyway. The sooner the demise of traditional publishing the better, as far as I'm concerned. Viva la revolución!

JDinman on

Publishers have only themselves to blame. They cut their responsibilities until they became replaceable. Gone is the editing, developing an author, marketing that author.

A. Greenberg on

im glad you brought up the music industry comparison. old business models must adapt to the new digital reality of the world and stop living in the past.

Jay Hartigan on

I've always been amazed that all the publishers never got together and said "let's build our own web store". I understand that it's not simple, but the alternative is to have Amazon disintermediate you at some point.

richardw on

Access for the people

As a musician, I can't tell you how happy I was a few years back when I could publish my music though a service without having to play the game the record companies play. I could put my music on iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon for an annual service fee of about $60 per album. No A&R clown telling me what would work and what wouldn't. No CD's to produce (landfill fodder), no waste. No geographic borders. No inventory. Awesome.

Erik Whitewater on

More and more, the middlemen in every industry are starting to realize just how irrelevant they are.

timjahn on

Train wreck ahead

The people do who do the work Amazon won't do? Publishers.

epo on

Amazon works best as a seller of goods. Most of the goods sold are not in the posession of Amazon and are sold via drop ship, affiliates, and other vendors using Amazon as a portal. I find it hard to believe that Amazon becoming the single source for publishing will really benefit the authors and books as a whole.

Russ on

The downside to me of Amazon as a publisher is that I want the ebooks to be available in an open format that can be read on multiple readers rather than tied to a closed, vendor controlled format.

rick on

I suspect that the people who say publishers are dead have themselves never picked up a random indie author's book from Amazon. If they had, they'd realize that not every author is Amanda Hocking or Scott Sigler. In fact they'd probably realize that what they just read was filled with typos, had shitty cover art, maybe had greater structural problems like weak characterization, and likely was priced just about right at 99 cents.

acabal on

So how does Amazon keep getting books at great pricing from publishers while undercutting their suppliers on the same Web page?

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