For a while now, the editors at New York publishing companies have been warning authors who are thinking of jumping ship to one of Amazon Publishing's imprints that not only won't their books be in brick-and-mortar stores, but they also won't make nearly as much money.
"You'll disappear," they say. "Your career will be over. Nobody will be able to find your books anymore."
While it's true that you won't see many Amazon-imprint books at your local Barnes & Noble or at airport bookstores….so what? Ebooks are outselling prints books today. And while your ego may take a hit not seeing your book on a store shelf, your wallet won't. Unless you're an A-lister like Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, or Michael Connelly, etc., you will sell a lot more books and make a lot more money with Amazon than with a "legacy" publisher.
I know many authors, formerly with NY publishers, who are now with one of Amazon's imprints…and earning more than they ever did before. I'm one of them. KING CITY has already made me more money in the last 90 days than my last two MONK novels combined.
But I am not alone. Today Amazon Publishing exec Jeff Belle sent a letter to agents telling them what we Amazon authors already knew…that the imprints are a huge success. He also punctured the big lie, which I have heard repeated many times, that Barry Eisler made a costly mistake walking away from a $500,000, two-book St. Martin's contract in favor of working with Amazon. Belle said, in part:
We are especially focused on increasing the audience for our authors. The Detachment, by Barry Eisler, published last September by Thomas & Mercer, has sold over three times the copies of any of Barry’s previous New York Times bestselling books. New York Times bestselling author Connie Brockway joined Montlake Romance as our launch author, and The Other Guy’s Bride has also gone on to sell more than three times the copies of her other recent titles. These authors, along with Amazon Publishing, are helping to redefine what it means to be a bestseller. We’re extremely proud of the results so far.
We are as determined as ever to make sure that Amazon Publishing authors reach a huge audience. In particular, we will continue to heavily market and promote them to our 180 million customers around the world, through online and offline advertising, our websites, through email, and on millions of Kindle and non-Kindle devices. Based in large part on our long experience as a bookseller, we are confident that this expansive marketing and promotional support will continue to yield strong sales results for our authors.
It's not just the sales that are attractive to authors… it's the talented, friendly and enthusiastic editors, who give authors an enormous say in how their books are packaged and marketed…it's the astonishing effectiveness of their promotional campaigns…and its the far more generous royalties, paid swiftly, and accompanied by clear, easy to understand royalty reports. Amazon Publishing treats authors like partners. And they publish great books.
Is it any wonder Amazon Publishing and their authors are doing so well?
10 thoughts on “Imprints for Success”
I have no such luck at Amazon, and suspect that very few authors do. But congratulations to all of you who aucceed.
Keep in mind, Richard, that this article is about Amazon Publishing (Thomas & Mercer, 47 North, Montlake, etc)…NOT self-publishing on KDP Select.
Having purchased a few of your books from Amazon Kindle, Lee, they have me on their email promotional list and when one of your books comes out I get an email, and when some new bestselling thriller/mystery comes out they also alert me.
What’s nice about their emails is the personal touch. They address me by name, the attitude is they are trying to give me a valuable service they feel I actually want, they provide information and refrain from trying to push any book on me. I’m glad to receive their updates.
And when it comes to price between Kindle books and printed books, there’s no comparison. Printed books can’t compete against ebooks. How it’s going to play out over the next few years is anybody’s guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon gets to start supplying book stores with the printed version of email bestsellers. If so, what advantage would print/legacy publishers have over Amazon, for authors?
IMHO the popularity of ebooks has pushed the boundary of good graphic design and good cover designs into the proverbial crapper.
Coming from the GD/illustration side, anyone with a photoshop program and access to fonts thinks they can design a good cover.
From what I’ve seen, even books doing well by stellar writers, look like crap. At the very least, with “legacy” publishing there was some amount of quality control.
But, this is about the words, so carry on…
I agree with Robert S.P.L. that the graphic design on some ebook covers could stand some improvement. To take the argument a step further, how could this come about for the benefit of everybody in the marketplace?
CBS Corp. is run by CEO Les Moonves. The company is doing very, very well, making lots of money. Except, that is, for their print/legacy publishing division, Simon & Shuster. They make a piddling amount of money, less than $10 million a year, last time I looked. Therefore, would Moonves be well-advised to sell the division? If so, who would like to buy S&S?
Why not Amazon? First, the price would be about as bargain-basement as it gets, S&S is really struggling to earn a profit. However, second, S&S has got a first-class book print-and-distribution system in place, which Amazon needs if it is to go into print publishing ebook bestsellers and getting them into bricks and morter bookstores. If Amazon has won the publishing game with ebooks, it only makes sense for it to takeover the legacy infrastructure and run all aspects of the publishing business.
I saw data recently that indicate that print publication is still dominant. Depending on how the numbers are defined and calculated, print still accounts for either 86 percent or 90 percent of all publishing. I doubt that Amazon will scale that mountain.
Are you sure, Richard? The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported in Feb 2012 that U.S. publishers sold more ebooks than they did books in any other format, including paperbacks and hardcovers.
In Jan 2012, Amazon announced that for every 100 paperbacks sold in 2010, it sold 115 Kindle ebooks—and that was 2010!
In terms of numbers of books sold, ebooks should outpace printed books within, say, a decade or so. The reason is price. It costs $3.25 or so to print, ship and warehouse a printed book. That’s the total cost for many ebooks, as I’m sure you know.
However, it was the financial health of publisher Simon & Schuster that was my point. Let’s say S&S has assets totalling $500 million. To make 10 percent return, they need to earn $50 million. To make even 5%, they need to earn $25 million. According the CBS Corp earnings report for the first six months of 2012, S&S earned a net $7 million. So if you were CEO Les Moonves, would you rather keep $500 million locked up in S&S infrastructure or sell the unit and invest the money elsewhere? Selling it makes sense.
Anyway, the cost to produce a printed book is the main driver in the rise of ebooks. Print/legacy publishers have a huge overhead which goes into the pricing whereas Amazon does without it. Some reports say it costs $150,000 in total costs to produce a printed book. Then there’s the 50% markup the bookstore gets. So the changeover to ebooks eliminates both costs, the publishers overhead, the retailers percentage. It’s only a matter of time, right, before ebooks are the mainstream. And the great thing about it is, it’s a much better deal for authors!
True. But if you’ve published an ebook, you still have to get out there and do publicity – by going on book blogs and so on…..
Thank you for correcting me.
It’s come to my attention that the figures I used to illustrate S&S’s lack of profitability could have suited the job better if I had used the actual figures, so here goes!
The actual figure for S&S assets is, rounding up, $1.1 billion. The actual figure for earnings in the first six months of 2012 is $15 million, not $7 million. They earned $7 million in the second quarter of 2012. However, the ratios still hold, which is why I went with illustrative figures. Earning $15 million on assets of $1.1 billion represents a return of 1.5% over six months, and 3%, if doubled, over one year. So is it worthwhile for CBS Corp to keep $1.1 billion in assets that return, say, 3% to 5% a year? And this return may decline as print books do.
However, it is true that S&S had a better year in 2011, where they earned $90 million, a 9% return, which would probably be acceptable in this market.
Still, there is a complicating factor. That is an accounting category known as “Goodwill.” Goodwill accounts for the “intangible” assets the company possesses, such as the value in the marketplace of the name, “Simon & Schuster.” Celebrities and personalities and athletes, for instance, might publish their memoirs with S&S due to its standing in the marketplace, which, I would agree, is worth something. So the question is, how much is S&S worth in the marketplace on the basis of its reputation?
Would you believe $407 million?
So if CBS Corp sold S&S, they would want $1.5 billion: assets + goodwill – and maybe there’s some other factors in it, too.
Would you pay $1.5 billion for a company that earns in 2012, say, $30 million? The rate of return would be .02%?
Basically, CBS Corp would have to write-off the $407 million in Goodwill if they wanted to sell S&S, which would mean a $407 million charge against quarterly earnings, and they very likely won’t do that until the next recession, if at all, it’s too big of a charge to absorb unless you have to. Makes you look bad to investors.
Therefore, maybe Amazon should NOT buy S&S or any existing publishing house but instead just invest in the printing, distribution and warehousing equipment they would need if they went into printing eBook bestsellers and getting them into bricks and mortar bookstores.
As each week passes, maybe the value of print/legacy publishers is declining in a rising eBook world! Their Goodwill value certainly
Sorry for any unintended confusion!