Amazon Unleashes Final Piece of the Puzzle and is Now the World's Biggest Publisher (And Everything Else)
Amazon has unveiled a new service called "AmazonEncore" which moves them right over the line from "world's biggest bookstore" to "world's biggest publisher." The only thing Amazon was missing to belong to this club was a marketing, publicity, and selection arm.

Now they've got it:

"Even great books can be overlooked. And authors with great potential often struggle to connect with the larger audience they deserve to reach. We're fortunate at to have customers who know a good book when they read one, so we've introduced AmazonEncore to help connect authors and their books with more readers.

"AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store,, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers."

Did you get that? They will use marketing and distribution support to get books they have "acquired" into national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers, at least as long as these "national and independent" bookstores exist. That's basically all a publisher does these days, outside of working with Amazon to get books sold online and formatted for the Kindle.

So here's how the Amazon publishing system works. First, you will send them your manuscript in the form of a CreateSpace upload that gets your book up and running in their print-on-demand and ebook databases. Your books will now be immediately available for purchase through Amazon, on the Kindle, and on the iPhone through Stanza, where Amazon will take a big bite of your profits for their efforts.

Your self-published books may suck. They probably will. At this point, however, you are entirely on your own as far as promotion, agitation, and exploitation of your own products. If your book sells and moves up the chain, Amazon will be hands off, because that money will be going to you, or maybe to you and your publisher, and you will be happy.

This is Amazon's equivalent of a "slush pile." They are still profiting from the slush pile, because to read one of their titles in consideration, you have to buy it.

The difference between Amazon's slush pile and the slush pile of every other publishing house is that while publishing houses make unpaid interns read their unlikely manuscripts, Amazon will be charging people to read them, and taking a cut. People's unsolicited reviews will somehow dictate which books get earmarked for the "Encore" program.

If there are enough glowing reviews of a book that is not selling, then Amazon will swoop down, pick the manuscript up, and move it along this new track where they will try and determine how to market it. They will talk it up and get it in people's faces. They will distribute it to third parties, and I bet they will even clean up the rough parts and get their bitches over at Penguin to give it an edit.

The one thing left -- THE ONE THING -- that Amazon doesn't have are editors.

Good editors are still the exclusive province of the New York publishing houses. You know why? Because good editors have to be paid.

Every other aspect of Amazon's business model relies on the strange and disturbing fact that people love to work for Amazon for free. Although, soon Amazon will be able to pick up editors for cheap if they keep getting fired from their jobs at Random House, HarperCollins, and Hachette.

The first title that Amazon will publish through their Encore model is some damn fantasy novel called "Legacy" written by a 14-year-old girl named Cayla Kluver. No lie! It's a very smart play: who wants to pick on a 14-year-old girl?

From Publisher's Weekly:

"Jeff Belle, v-p of books at Amazon, said the new publishing program, while focused on self-published books with promise, could also target out-of-print titles from major houses. Belle was vague about both the criteria used in the selection of Legacy and the terms of the deal with Kluver. (Kluver does have an agent, but Belle would not disclose any details about the nature of the deal Amazon struck with her.)

"In terms of the criteria used to select Kluver's title, and future AmazonEncore titles, Belle said the company is relying on a combination of sales data and customer feedback. When asked what feedback was used, in addition to the customer reviews on the site, Belle said "customers have many ways of interacting with us" and would not elaborate. And, when asked about the validity of the customer reviews, which in the past had come under question with certain customers (or authors) submitting multiple reviews, Belle said "certain controls are built into the process for customer reviews." (Kluver currently has 15 customer reviews for Legacy, 12 of which are five-star reviews.)"

The whole "reviews" thing is a smokescreen. They are going to publish whatever they think they can make money on. Hopefully, it will be from somebody they can push around, like, you know, a first-time, self-published teenager.

Keep giving Amazon money, publishers. Go ahead. I'll tell you what they are going to do next: next, they are going to announce an exclusive deal with the Internet Archive to make Brewster Kahle's scans available on the Kindle. And unless somebody gets there first, then they are going to buy up as many Espresso Book Machines as they can and start plunking them down wherever there is a Starbucks and a Gap so that you can print your books directly from your Kindle if you want a paper copy. You just watch.

So Google will have all of the literature from the past, and Amazon will have all of the literature from the present. They will give each other a high five where they meet in the middle, and lets hope that Lord Acton's old saying holds true and that absolute power makes you magically good.

Posted by miracle on Thu, 14 May 2009 11:16:48 -0400 -- permanent link

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