Adventures in Publishing

Amazon and Konrath – Threat or Yawn?

About two weeks ago J.A. Konrath and Amazon announced, with great fanfare, a deal for Amazon to publish Konrath’s latest book. The “news” was that no traditional publisher would be involved in the process. Supposedly, this would be the wave of the future.

But is it?

What does it mean when Amazon “publishes” a book? Obviously, Amazon takes care of the distribution. But there are many other pieces that go into publishing a book. Who provides the cover art? Who provides the editorial guidance? What about foreign rights? Who protects the author if no agent is involved? Is this model only viable for an author who has had at least some success publishing the traditional way?

The middleman is clearly cut out. Konrath’s agent was involved in his deal with Amazon, but I’m not sure we’ll be seeing most agents peddling their clients’ books directly to Amazon. Does Amazon have a gatekeeper? In theory, publishers and agents exist to winnow the great mass of hopeful novels into the much smaller number of those which will be agreeable to the public (though one may debate how successful they winnow).

Also, no one is disclosing the financial terms of this relationship. Who is getting that middleman’s share? Possibly the buyer, as the book is selling for a very low price.

But maybe that low price is all it’s worth? It turns out none of the New York publishers wanted to publish this book. Further, it turns out, according to Publishers Weekly on May 24, 2010, that Konrath’s less than stellar sales may have been a factor in the “big” publishers refusal to take on his next book. If so, this move may have been less a rejection of the New York model than an attempt to move up the ladder of self-publishing.

Let’s not forget that Amazon is peeved with the big guys because they challenged Amazon on the price point of $9.99 for blockbuster best sellers. Amazon tried to strong-arm the publishers, but was forced to yield when the iPad appeared.

So, when looking at these facts, it’s not a total surprise that Konrath and Amazon would join forces in a “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of way. However, this view doesn’t mean they are wrong. It may be that New York publishers are dinosaurs who don’t yet know they are extinct.

What do you think?

Does anyone have experience publishing with Amazon?

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