Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Big Buzz at BEA

Well it's early here in New York and Michael is still sleeping so I thought I would sneak in a blog post. I have A LOT to write about the BEA but I thought I would chime in on the thing no one here can stop talking about.

Amazon hired publishing veteran Larry Kirshbaum to run their new trade imprint. For those who are not "plugged in" Larry Kirshbaum is a huge name in publishing. He was the CEO of Time Warner Publishing (later bought by big-six giant Hachette Book Group). This shows just how serious Amazon is in becoming a major player in the publishing arena.

I know there are Amazon detractors out there (something btw I've never understood). But there are few companies I can think of who have so consistently performed well with the decisions they have made. Just a few examples:
  • Kindle continues to dominate the device world
  • Amazon continues to dominate the online book buying world
  • AmazonEncore - more in a minute
When AmazonEncore started up I thought..."Wow, that's smart....really smart". For those that don't know AmazonEncore was doing EXACTLY what I was doing with little Ridan Publishing. Looking for authors who had already proven themselves through self-publishing sales and giving them a "leg up". Now of course Amazon has a lot more to offer than I do, in regards to a marketing engine and email list of readers that any publisher would kill for.

Still, even with that I didn't see anything mind blowing in the sales figures put out by people signed with them. Karen McQuestion and Joe Konrath have had some success but nowhere near where I think they should have been.

I attribute a lot of this to the fact that they weren't fully committed (i.e. taking publishing seriously) through Encore. In many ways I look at Encore as them testing the waters and dipping their toes. By hiring Kirshenbaum they are putting the publishing world on notice that they are coming, and their bringing some big guns.

Even more telling, is what they plan on publishing. So far Amazon has announced:
  • Montlake (May 04) - for Romance Titles
  • Thomas and Mercer (May 18) - for Mystery and Thriller
  • Unamed - Scifi (and presumably Fantasy)
All genre fiction, which simplifies their marketing considerably. One of the problems I saw with their Encore line was the fact that the titles were "all over the map". They seemed to pick randomly and that made it difficult to really establish a brand.

For those who missed my other post on this it was actually Amazon who put out the winning bid on Hocking's series (reports say they bested the $2 million offer by at least 500,000 but Amanda and her agent didn't like the restrictive terms of the deal so they went with St. Martin's Press). But this shows their willingness to shell out some considerable bucks and with Kirsenbaum at the helm I expect to see them going after big fish authors.

Speaking of authors, one of the first in the new Amazon offerings will be Stirred a collaborative novel by Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch which will be the final installment to both of their long running series. Anyone who reads Joe's Newbies Guide to Publishing knows that he's smart when it comes to his career and he's critical about traditional publishing in general. The fact that these two have signed make me suspect that Thomas and Mercer have a more "author friendly" contract than most of the other ones floating around out there.

So let's see what we have....
  • A publisher who has access to readers emails and buying habits (and knows how to leverage those assets)
  • A publisher who is focusing on the most successful markets (romance, thrillers, sci-fi & fantasy)
  • A publisher who can write a contract that publishing's biggest critic is willing to put pen to paper on
So once again I'm left with...."Smart...really smart". Yeah, I'd say there's reason for this to be big buzz. If Amazon can revolutionize traditional publishing like it revolutionized e-books and on-line buying...that's going to be some major boons for writers everywhere and just one more reason why there's never been a better time than now to be an author.


Nicholas Kotar said...

All this is really exciting, and particularly considering something else that I've heard a lot about concerning self-publishing - that the best way to make it is to have an existing body of work that can drum up enthusiasm quickly. In other words, it's best for unpublished authors to just continue writing and continue writing and continue writing. When they have a series of novels ready (this is of course assuming they're good :), it can mean more sustainable success, and better word of mouth from people who have read your work and want to continue reading your work. But here's my question. Is this going to continue to be the trend? Should new authors with only one novel spend all their energy trying to get that novel noticed, or should they focus more on writing more novels?

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I write non-fiction, but if I did want to become a novelist I'd go ebooks all the way. And I'd write at least half a dozen good full-length novels (80,000+ words)--not counting the early efforts, which would stay in my drawer forever--before I published any of them.

They'd all be in the same series, because if readers like a book the first thing they want is more of the same series. I'd price the first one in the series at $0.99 and the others at $2.99, and then I'd keep adding titles every four months or so.

That'd probably be about a year's work before I published anything, and would involve an initial outlay of maybe $6,000 to $9,000 for professional covers, editing, and formatting. In my option it's a major mistake to try to get by with amateur covers and no editing.

Wazi said...

Hi Robin, this is Wazi, we met at the BEA. Just wanna thank you for your wonderful advice regarding publishing thru e-medium:your recommendations are very professional, practical & down to earth. Guys, she is goood!

Robin, I would ask you to put your blog - "How to eBook for less $$" for those who need some help in publishing !



Lyle Blake Smythers said...

You said, "I know there are Amazon detractors out there (something btw I've never understood)."

For the potential downside of dealing with Amazon, which controls Kindle and has developed an unfortunate recent history of trying to control what people read, you might want to look here:

I'd be curious to hear your comments on this topic.

Lyle Blake Smythers

SlingWords aka Joan Reeves said...

I can only speak for myself, but I think if you have a body of work then you may have an edge. You can get content out as soon as you get it formatted and converted.

IMHO, Nicholas Kotar and Robert Bruce Thompson are both correct in their respective opinions.

I published my first ebook 2 months ago. Just One Look was previously print pubbed. I loved being able to give it the cover it deserved. I think the cover helped get it moving.

Two weeks later, I pubbed the second ebook The Trouble With Love, to which I'd sold serial rights for a website that used it as a hook to pull in visitors. Hugely successful in that. Never print pubbed because NY editors said it didn't have a strong marketing hook. That doesn't seem to be holding it back. It too is on Kindle Bestseller list.

So is 3rd ebook Still The One (previously print pubbed). Again, great cover. Selling very well. When first ebook had been out 2 months, I pubbed the 4th just last week. Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones took off faster than the previous 3.

With each succeeding book, sales started faster and the existing books showed an uptick also.

The more books you make available; the more your books seem to sell. I'm using my backlist and original fiction that NY turned down. You see, all those years when I couldn't sell anything because it didn't fit what "they" thought readers wanted, I just kept writing.

That's the advice I always gave writers. Never stop writing, and you'll create a heck of an inventory. I just didn't have a clue as to what to do with my inventory.

Then the Kindle came along. Thank you, Amazon.