RIP books v RIP publishers

Bang! Straight through the paperback. Bang! Publishers bite the dust too.

Originally I was kicking myself up the backside to get my book published while books still exist – the corporeal paper kind that is.

Now it seems as though “terrified” publishers may pre-decease their products – if this alarming/alarmist article by Guy Adams in the Independent newspaper is correct.

As celebrities choose Amazon, is this the end for publishers?

Who needs publishers? Not James Franco, the artsy Hollywood star, who has just signed a deal to write his first novel; and not Amazon, the vast online retailer which beat the traditional giants of the industry to secure the high-profile author.

Franco, 33, has become the latest in a string of big names to join the increasingly glamorous stable of authors now on the payroll of Amazon. According to reports, his book, which has the working title Actors Anonymous, will be loosely based on his career in the film industry.

The deal, which was reported yesterday the other day(my alteration – ed), but has yet to be formally confirmed by either side, represents an ominous development for the industry, which in recent months has seen similar deals signed by the likes of New Age “guru” Deepak Chopra, self-help writer Timothy Ferriss, and the actor and director Penny Marshall.

For years, the rise of Amazon, which heavily discounts books, has been eating into the once luxurious profit margins enjoyed by mainstream publishers. There are therefore growing fears that the online giant could soon send their industry the way of the high street bookstore.

Since it was unveiled last year, Amazon’s publishing arm has launched an array of imprints majoring on genres from science fiction to romance, and has already released more than 100 new titles, in hardback, paper back and electronic formats. It has also shown itself willing to pay huge sums to secure the services of what it considers to be the stars of the writing profession, using aggressive charm to woo them from the clutches of their former houses.

Chopra’s deal, for the rights to a memoir co-authored by his sibling Sanjiv – and called Brotherhood: A Tale of Faith, Big Dreams and the Power of Persistence – was reportedly for more than $500,000 when it was unveiled in November.

At the time, Robert Gottlieb, the literary agent who negotiated the contract, described it as a “game-changer for the publishing industry”. It came at the expense of Crown, the mainstream publisher which has for years looked after Chopra’s hugely-lucrative literary interests.

Marshall’s deal, for a reported $800,000, prompted Dennis Loy Johnson, a high-profile figure at the upscale firm Melville House, to tell the New York Times: “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do.”

Richard Curtis, a prominent agent, added that Amazon’s growing dominance of its field was upending the status quo in almost every corner of the traditional book industry. “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon,” he said. “If you’re a bookstore, Amazon has been in competition with you for some time. If you’re a publisher, one day you wake up and Amazon is competing with you too. And if you’re an agent, Amazon may be stealing your lunch because it is offering authors the opportunity to publish directly and cut you out. It’s an old strategy: divide and conquer.”

Franco’s deal first reported by the New York Observer on Tuesday, separates the actor from Scribner, which published a book of his short stories called Palo Alto only last year.

Yikes! But never fear. I’ve had an idea. I’m writing a play instead. Of which more anon. Clearly cannot fail.



Filed under media

23 responses to “RIP books v RIP publishers

  1. Simple Paul! Send your book synopsis and first few chapters to them and we may be friends with a world famous best selling author! What say you.

  2. It doesn’t matter who puts the book out, authors still have to “sell” it. That’s why I’m in favor of POD.

    Blessings – Maxi

  3. I agree with Padmum; times are changing and one either changes with them, or is left in the dust. Embrace the beast, and contact Amazon.

  4. I refuse to believe that hard copy publishing will disappear. You will publish your book and I will but it and read it and even write a review about it. The end of the rainbow is within your reach.

  5. Send your work to amazon, Amazon, AMAZON!

  6. Worth a try to do as Padmini says, the worst they can say is No.
    Fingers crossed and double crossed!

  7. I am getting ready to put 100 cartoon book on kindle/amazon. It will cost me nothing and I get 70% royalty. I think it is same for them to do a print on demand hard copy. I think regular publishing houses give 10% royalty as there are so many middlemen in the process of producing the book and marketing. It is a trend to use amazon that seems to benefit the writer.

  8. I think amazon is a boon to authors and readers. I’ve even read of people who self-published on amazon and then got picked up by publishing companies when their books became popular.

  9. Cassie

    This is just plain depressing. I’m going to be sad if I can’t peruse the shelves of bookshops for the rest of my life and pick up a book based on something ridiculous like cover, or back blurb, or what authors wrote short nice things about it on the back, or what the author photo looks like. And what about kids? Bookshops are perfect places to take them for read-a-longs or anything with books. I’m devastated. Your child wants you to turn a page – not press a button.

    • blackwatertown

      Completely agree with the delight provided by bookshops. The Christmas present that has brought the most pleasure to the most people was a children’s book we stumbled across in a bookshop we just happened to wander into. We weren’t looking for it. Pure serendipity.
      (It was Snuggle Bunny by the way – which I highly recommend.)

  10. I hope they don’t get rid of nice, solid books. I like to look at them, feel the weight, turn the pages. I like to have something solid in my hands. I will really miss books if they go away. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of some. I must hold on to the ones I have left. (sniff) I’ll miss bookstores, too. I love bookstores. It’s nice to just walk around and look at the covers and everything. (goes and hugs some books)

    • blackwatertown

      But you may have just offended a tree hugger – all those poor trees turned into lovely books.
      Still it could be worse – they could have been destined to be toilet paper. (Then again – so might some books…)
      BUT NOT MINE!!!!

  11. I don’t think it really matters who publishes it. Just don’t ‘self publish’ there’s a load of self published crap out there because it’s so easy. If Amazon are your pub lishers and resellers, and their royalties are worth it (have no idea), I guess it’s the way of the future. Although I still know loads of people who just like the ‘feel’ of paper between index and thumb.

  12. Got a nice big gift card for Amazon for christmas…thought about putting it towards a Kindle…lol 😉 🙂

  13. Hello Blackwatertown,
    Maybe a little off topic, however, I recently wrote an article called:
    Welcome to the lesson in the Publishing & Promoting Your Own
    Book crash course.
    In this lesson let’s talk a little about self�publishing and how you can
    use it to publish, print and sell your own book without hiring a literary
    agent, submitting your book to a publishing house, waiting to be
    accepted, negotiating the purchase of intellectual property rights,
    agreeing on royalty rates and finally after everything of that seeing your book on
    the shelves. The process can take years!
    Did you know that self�publishing is the way that multifarious writers today are
    choosing to get their book out to the public? Self publishing isn’t the
    same as it was years ago when you had to spend very many of dollars
    to publish your book. You can publish your own book for as little as
    $500 when you choose a good self publishing service.

    Self�publishing just means that the author (in this reason you)
    undertakes the entire cost of publication themselves. You will handle everything
    of the editing, layout, formatting, registration, ISBN, art, photography,
    printing, marketing, distribution and storage of your own book.

    You can read the rest of this article at:

    Kind Regards
    Renata Rimkute

  14. I am all for Amazon. I just self published my book through them (Lessons from Madame Chic) after having been rejected by over a dozen literary agents. The book is doing great and the royalties are in favor of the author. Yes I have to hire an editor and promote my book but if I am getting a higher royalty these things are achievable. Great article.

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