Amazon Encore and midlist writers


Recently, midlist mystery writer JA K*nr*th, announced proudly that he was going to publish the latest installment of his mystery series with Amazon Encore, the first “big name” (as he put it) author to switch to’s inhouse publisher.

Of course, many writers have been self-publishing on’s Kindle format, some with terrific success. K*nr*th himself feels his new contract is going to be a big deal, and that he’s going to get a strong marketing push from Amazon.

Me, I’m not so sure. For one thing, it seems as though his series was dropped by Hyperion because of flagging sales. The author himself states that his agent tried and failed to place it with a large NY publisher. So is this just a case of talking up a Plan C as though it’s been the winning strategy all along, or of finding a new, wonderful path only after exhausting the traditional choices?

It also raises questions about writerly self-promotion. From the time his first book came out, K*nr*th has been a proponent of promoting the hell out of your work, even when more experienced writers told him it was mostly a waste of time. So what does it mean that he’s… well… retreating from NY publishers to

* That promotion helped drive sales of his early work, but readers weren’t enthusiastic about the books and it wasn’t sustainable.
* That promotion has very little effect and is mostly a waste of time.
* The downturn in his sales is mainly (rather than partly) to blame on the economy.
* The downturn in his sales is mainly (rather than partly) to blame on a genre slump.

Or none of those things. Or a mix of them. Whatever the cause, it makes me more dubious about hustling for readers than I ever was before. Once upon a time, reading this author’s blog made me feel like a dilettante. Now I’m thinking that I should keep doing the things I’m interested in and skip the rest.

NB: I’m using the asterisks in his name to thwart Google Alerts, because I’m not really interested in having him here. I wish him all the success in the world, but the way he talks online puts me off.

5 thoughts on “Amazon Encore and midlist writers

  1. That’s really generous of Lee Goldberg to put his info out there like that.

    One thing I wonder is if the expanding e-book market will make short stories and novellas reasonable time investments for writers.

    It’d be nice to see writers get some flexibility in that.

    In RPG ebooks a real market evolved for very short game pdfs that’d sell for a buck or two.

  2. I think short stories will be less interesting, quite frankly. Ebook buyers are demanding full novels be sold at cut-rate prices. What price tag would they be willing to pay for a short story that would make it worth the bother?

  3. You’re probably right about short stories.

    Though I’m not sure if it’s the price that’ll be the problem. I’m typically seeing 99 cents as the going price for a short story on Kindle. Which would be great if you could get a decent number of sales at that. Even 49 cents would be a good price for a 10 to 30 page short story.

    I think the bigger problem is how do you advertise a short story? What would entice someone to buy a 15 page stand-alone?

    Probably the best bet is if you establish a popular character in a novel (or even just a setting) then have some little chapter or small story that stands on its own and sell that.

    Actually, one cool approach might be using short stories to flesh out popular secondary characters or explore segments of the world. Zelazny did that with a few Amber short stories that are scattered around in magazines. Being able to sell stuff like that directly would be nice.

    Though I do think novellas will be the more exciting opportunity. There are some stories that just fit better as novellas — especially in series fiction — but haven’t been viable due to the economics of publishing.

  4. One last thing — regardless, unless you’re Stephen King, ebooks are probably the first real chance of writers actually getting paid in something other than ‘zine copies for a short story!

    And I’d sure as hell buy a Twenty Palaces short story to tide me over until the next novel comes out.

  5. Jim Butcher has written short fiction in the POV of supporting characters in the Dresden Files. It’s an interesting idea that I’ve toyed with, but so much of the backstory and setting in those books are meant to be mysterious that I’d hate to lay out redundant or previously-priviledged exposition.

    This setting is sort of a pain in the butt.

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