Amazon to Book Publishers: Welcome to the Jungle, Baby

This article, by Mathew Ingram, originally appeared on gigaom on 10/10/11.

Amazon isn’t happy just disrupting the book-publishing world by promoting self-publishing via the Kindle platform or launching a rumored “Netflix for books,”  it seems. The giant online retailer — which recently unveiled its iPad competitor, the Kindle Fire, and also dropped the price of its lowest-priced Kindle, bringing it even closer to being free — is also busy signing up popular authors for its own Amazon publishing imprint. And those it’s signing up are becoming evangelists for the company as an alternative to the “legacy publishing” industry, including the latest addition: thriller writer Barry Eisler. Publishers are now in direct competition not just with the Kindle, but with Amazon itself.


Eisler, a former CIA operative turned author, has been one of the most prominent examples of self-publishing, along with fellow writers J.A. Konrath and young-adult author Amanda Hocking — who made more than two million dollars by publishing her own books via the Kindle marketplace (often charging as little as 99 cents for them) before signing a $2-million deal with a traditional publisher earlier this year. Eisler also got the publishing industry’s attention in a big way when he turned down a $500,000 advance for two books with St. Martin’s Press in March, and said that he was going to self-publish his new novel instead.

Amazon deal offered “best of both worlds”

Instead of doing that, however, Eisler has signed a deal with Amazon’s in-house Thomas and Mercer imprint. In an interview with National Public Radio, the author said that after he announced his intention to turn down the St. Martin’s deal and self-publish – a decision he discussed at the time in a conversation with fellow writer J.A. Konrath — Amazon approached him with an offer of what he calls a “hybrid deal, the best of both worlds.” The online giant agreed to publish an e-book version of the novel as soon as it was completed, and then follow that up with a paperback edition.

In the NPR interview, Eisler — several of whose books have become New York Times  bestsellers after being marketed and published by traditional agencies — says he has come to the conclusion that mainstream publishers simply aren’t as efficient or as useful to authors as they used to be, now that there are other options:

To say that publishers really care passionately about books as though they are concerned about what’s better for the world … I’m sure when they look in the mirror they feel that way. But in fact, what they care about is preserving their own position, perks and profit — that’s just what establishment players come to do over time.


Read the rest of the article on gigaom.