Despite Some Setbacks, Amazon Publishing Marches On

Amazon Publishing

Amazon Publishing may have scaled back its plans to have a major New York City trade publishing presence since the departure of Larry Kirshbaum in early 2014, but the company still continues to expand its overall operation. The division is now composed of 14 imprints, based in six cities, and it’s set to publish about 1,200 titles in 2015. Though it was largely focused on commercial fiction when it launched in 2009, Amazon Publishing is now increasing its investments in such nonfiction areas as narrative nonfiction, memoir, and biography, according to Jeff Belle, v-p of Amazon Publishing, who responded to questions via email.

The greater involvement in nonfiction could mean an expansion of its New York office, which is currently home to its literary fiction imprint, Little A, and Two Lions, its children’s imprint, as well as the Day One literary journal app and the Kindle Singles program. Belle said he expects to add more editorial positions in New York (where Dave Blum is publisher and editor-in-chief), in part to support the increase of nonfiction titles to Little A. Belle also expects to add more nonfiction to lists developed in the offices in Seattle and Grand Haven, Mich.

Grand Haven is the site of Brilliance Publishing, which was known as Brilliance Audio when Amazon acquired the company in 2007. Since the acquisition, Amazon has built Brilliance into a full-service publisher of print, digital, and audiobooks. Brilliance also includes the Grand Harbor imprint, which is devoted to spirituality and self-help books, and Amazon’s newest imprint, Waterfall Press, which is aimed at the Christian market, and published its first titles in February 2014.

In addition to its own publishing program, Brilliance now handles all print distribution for Amazon Publishing imprints with the exception of titles that Amazon sublicenses to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which releases them under the New Harvest imprint. The New Harvest lineup is not as robust as it was when it began in fall 2012, but it will release print editions of new titles, including James Atlas’s Icons series of short biographies, through the end of the year.

It was the creation of the New Harvest imprint in 2012 that drew the attention of retailers who have generally avoided carrying titles from the imprint. Belle acknowledged that not all booksellers carry Amazon titles, but noted that he has been “pleasantly surprised by the progress we’re seeing.” Still, he said, “authors that work with us understand that the majority of their readers will likely find them on Amazon.” And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Belle said that Amazon Publishing is now the second-largest publisher on the Kindle platform in the U.S. With its strong Kindle presence, it is not surprising that Amazon Publishing sales skew more heavily toward digital than the larger trade houses do (e-books make up 30% of total revenue at a number of these houses). Despite the heavier reliance on e-book sales, however, Amazon Publishing remains committed to publishing print books, according to Belle. “We’re encouraged by the strong growth in the business,” he said.

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SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
Jim Milliot, with Rachel Deahl

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