One of the meetings I had yesterday at BEA was with Courtney Miller, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Amazon Publishing. She is currently working on the Montlake Romance line, though she tells me that the editorial staff is still being built as they hire more people to develop the team.
Miller comes from “the Kindle side” of the company, and has worked at Amazon for about three years now. The goals of Amazon Publishing as she described them were to offer a unique experience for authors, while getting both digital and print books in as many places as possible. For example, last month Amazon’s Crossings and Encore imprints announced a partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to access some of their paperback channels. Right now the digital distribution is for Kindle only, but she says they are talking about what other options could be considered for readers who use other readers.
I asked her about library lending, based on the fact that many romance readers are active library patrons. While Miller couldn’t give a definitive answer (I should have tried bribery – sorry, folks) she did say that library lending for their titles was “on the radar” and that their intention for all there books is to make them available in as many places as possible. I mentioned that I thought that the decision to not make digital books available for lending in public libraries seems shortsighted and ignorant to me, and I hoped that Amazon Publishing would not follow that example. Romance readers love libraries, and we use them, both for paper and digital lending.
One interesting part of our conversation centered on how Amazon has long been focused on the customer experience, from the minute the customer lands on a page at Amazon. I asked what the advantage would be for an author to choose Amazon Publishing, and the answer was the strength of customer service at Amazon. From data analysis to logarithms to service, at Amazon there is a targeted and multi-level focus on the customer experience.
With Amazon Publishing, Miller said, the goal is to use that same customer experience focus and apply it to their authors. They plan to have an author support team which would focus like a liaison or a concierge. Each author would have access to a support team member who would work with them through the entire publishing process. So instead of, for example, an author having an editor to work with for the final editing of the book and then moving on to working with an in-house publicist, the author would have a person who would be their main contact through the entire publishing process so as to provide a high level of customer support. Amazon already has “Author Central” in place to share sales data with authors, whom I described as otherwise largely “data starved.”
Although she couldn’t divulge exact numbers, Miller said that they considered the royalties to be “competitive.” By this time, it was late afternoon and both of us were wired on caffeine and exhausted, so we discussed the probability of yachts being the currency, with accessorized bodies of water. Well, I did. She said no. Sorry, authors. I tried. I like yachts.
I asked what the advantage would be for readers who are shopping for things to read, and Miller said that they were aware that they would have to earn customer respect with the books they publish, particularly in the Montlake romance line. They have a lot of educating to do, that not only are they a publisher but they also have good books to read available for shoppers. Based on the amount of data they have, Amazon Publishing is aware of the strength of the digital romance market, and and they have a lot of ideas how to appeal to the romance reader. They’re still looking for more books to place into the digital line.
I asked if she was looking for any particular sub-genre in romance, and Miller told me they were open to every possible genre within romance.
Lastly I asked about the advantages of going with Amazon Publishing instead of Kindle Digital Self Publishing. Miller replied that with “KDP” there is no cost except to create the file for upload. But that also means that the author has no editor, no marketing, no publicity, no marketing on site. Digital self publishing through Kindle means that the author has to be her own advocate, and while some authors have done that very, very well, the process can be exhausting. Going with Amazon Publishing means a better experience and a higher level of support and attention.
I’m curious to see who Amazon Publishing hires for editorial positions for the Montlake imprint, and what other titles they announce. I know that most readers are not aware of publishing house brands or who publishes the books they read, but I also believe that digital readers are more aware of who publishes, partially because they may shop at that publisher’s store directly. I think digital readers are more brand aware (and this is total supposition on my part – you’re welcome to tell me how wrongly wrongwrong I am there) and Amazon Publishing has an interesting opportunity to brand themselves in Amazon.com, an already-strong marketplace of their own, one that they support and also control.
What I did find interesting was that Amazon is very much aware of the strength of the romance digital readership, how much we buy and how much we read. And, as we all know, they gotta lotta data. I’m curious to see what they do next.