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WSJ Says Amazon Owns Book Publishing – What Does This Mean For Writers

amazon owns book publishingOfficially Amazon owns book publishing. How do I know?

Yesterday one of the Wall Street Journal‘s headlines was
‘They Own the System’: Amazon Rewrites Book Industry by Marching Into Publishing.

Although I’m not always a fan of the Journal, I’ll take that as proof; now Amazon owns book publishing.

Those of us in the writing and book business have been aware this moment was coming ever since Amazon got into the self-publishing end of the business through what is now called Create Space.  We’ve muttered among ourselves some how feeling less than celebratory about a world where Amazon owns book publishing.

The Journal‘s article opens with the story of how Mark Sullivan was able to sell his novel, Beneath a Scarlet Sky for “a low five figure advance” after it had been rejected by eight trade publishers.

That’s clout!
Amazon has clout

I hadn’t kept track, but currently Amazon owns at least 15 imprints in the U.S. alone. That begins to give them real marketing power. For example, the online bookstore has “Amazon First Reads and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s e-book subscription service.” According to the Journal, that means they can let 10 million potential customers know about a new book pretty darn close to instantly.

The day the article was published, some “…16 of the top 20 books on Amazon’s romance best-seller list were titles from its book-publishing arm or were self-published on Amazon’s platform,” it was reported.

Although Sullivan’s book undoubtedly has some appeal, Amazon’s ability to market their choices is a large part of how that book stayed on USA Today’s Top 100 Books for all of 2108. Serious clout.

Some see problems ahead

Not everyone thinks it’s a great idea to have such close to total control of the book publishing business in the hands of one company who is also a major player when it comes to selling books. That concern, which began when Amazon first entered the publishing business, has only grown.

After all, Amazon now commands some 72% of adult new book sales online, and 49% of all new book sales by units, according to book-industry research firm Codex Group LLC. Those are unprecedented numbers.  The newspaper notes that concern over Amazon’s control extends beyond books to include their own private label consumer goods. It’s an interesting conundrum.

As a writer…

If you’re already well established as a book writer, I suspect you need to be sure your agent it you have one and your publisher is paying close attention to exactly what Amazon is up to regarding publishing and marketing books. It truly is a brand new world.

Those without solid publishing contacts should probably consider selling their books to and/or with Amazon.

You can, of course, buck the current. It’s tempting, especially if you feel uneasy with one big corporation holding so much power in the book publishing arena.

Bucking the current is likely to go more easily if you already have a platform, preferably online and off. Solid and funded marketing plans are more apt to work than those on shakier ground.

Go inside and decide what you really want from your efforts. Ask a ton of questions. Stay honest with yourself and what’s right for you will get clear.

I’d love to hear what you decide.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Sue Chehrenegar

    I only hope that Amazon will encourage creation of more reading material that interests young boys. When my son struggled to learn to read, I had trouble finding anything that might interest him. I finally found one children’s book about trees.

    I felt inspired to try creating my own material.

    • Sue, write and tell Amazon that, then as you say, create some of your own or adapt what you’ve already created for Amazon and make some money on it as well.

  • Another Monopoly… At least WSJ wrote about it, maybe something can be done.

    • Maple Dude, not sure that anything can be done at this point… would take someone who understands what’s left of what, unfair trade practices? Unless you’ve got some ideas along these lines.

  • It’s HORRIBLE. These monopolies are horrible. We live in a corporate oligarchy. Writing is already so devalued now. Amazon treats writers terribly already, and it’s only going to get worse.

    • I’m soon going to do an article on the laws of attraction. It doesn’t have to get worse for you and/or me.

  • Good article. It is more than a little frightening when one corporation owns such a big chunk of an industry!

    Also worth noting: submitting to any of the Amazon imprints is by agent only.

    • Ah, I’d forgotten that, about agents and Amazon, or maybe didn’t know it. Thanks Charlotte.

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