10 Things Every Writer Should Know About Amazon Publishing

In 2012, right before my third novel, Forgotten was released, my agent let me know that my US publisher, William Morrow, would not be picking up my fourth novel, Hidden. I was, to put it gently, upset. My first (Spin) and second (Arranged) novels had published with them that year, had been well-reviewed, Target Emerging Author Picks and mid-list sellers. Also: no one ever talks about being rejected after getting a book deal!


catherine-mckenzie-credit-jason-trott-featuredcatherine-mckenzie-fractured-Amazon PublishingThis guest post is by Catherine McKenzie. McKenzie is a bestselling author of popular fiction. She has captivated readers all over the world with her absorbing characters, engrossing storytelling, and unflinching treatment of love, loss, forgiveness and redemption – universal themes that affect the human condition. Her five published novels, Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, Hidden, and Smoke are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Smoke was named one of the Best Books of 2015 by Amazon. Her sixth novel, FRACTURED, is published by Lake Union Publishing and is available now. Visit her online at www.catherinemckenzie.com, on Facebook and @cemckenzie1.


When I recovered, my agent and I decided to take the book out to new publishers in 2013 and to include Amazon’s new Lake Union imprint in the mix. A handful of enthusiastic rejections™ followed (I loved the writing, this was a compelling story, but…) and one offer: from Lake Union. I was, admittedly, torn. I had heard that bookstores were not carrying Amazon published books. What would this mean for my career going forward? Would a stigma attach to me in foreign markets because of my US publisher? My agent gave me some sage advice: if I could get over the no-bookstore thing, this could prove a great move for me. But if I did it, I had to do it fully; I had to embrace their model and go with it.

I agreed. When they approached us a few months later to be one of the first titles in Kindle First (where my book would be given away for free for a month), I agreed. Etc. And when all was said and done, Amazon knocked Hidden out of the park: Hidden was one of Amazon’s top 10 selling titles in 2014 among all publishers in Kindle format.

I’m now about to publish my third book with Lake Union, Fractured, which comes out October 4th. Lake Union has changed a lot since I signed with them three years ago, as has Amazon Publishing. But one thing is constant: they are constantly trying new things and I always say yes. So if you are looking for a (new) publishing home, here are the top 10 things I think every writer should know about Amazon Publishing:

1. With Amazon Publishing, your books will not be in bookstores.

I run an online group for LU authors and invariably the first question everyone asks is “I heard I won’t be in bookstores, is this really true?” Yes. Like every rule, this has an exception. First of all, Amazon is a bookstore—the largest in the world by far. It will be prominently displayed there and marketed through their many channels. Certain big box stores like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club might take your title. Ditto your local Indie if you have a good relationship with them, or B&N if you plan an event there. But you have to be okay with this being the exception and not the rule.

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2. Amazon Publishing is now one of the big six publishers.

You always used to hear about the ‘Big Six’ before the Random-Penguin merger. Now they call it the Big Five, but they are not counting Amazon. It is clearly in their leagues, from editorial to production to overall units sold. You are not self-publishing. Other than the marketing channels, everything about the Amazon experience can be found in a big publishing house. They just have some extra (awesome) stuff the others don’t.

3. Your book will not be on bestseller lists.

This is the second question I always get asked. And by that I mean the New York Times. Based on sales, Hidden should have been #2 on the e-book bestseller list for many weeks. It was not because the NYT doesn’t count Amazon reported sales if the book only sells in one channel, like Amazon Pub titles do. This is changing too. The Wall Street Journal now does include Amazon Pub titles, and maybe the others will change eventually. But right now, your book might be selling the most and you will see that on Amazons’ lists, but not others.

4. Amazon Publishing has user friendly royalty statements.

When I get my statements from my other publishers, I still often have to speak to my agent to understand them. Amazon’s monthly statements are straightforward and easy to understand. And yeah, they are monthly, not every six months. At the end of September I will receive the royalty statement for August. Real time reporting!

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5. Amazon Publishing provides daily sales data.

You read that right. If you are published through Amazon you can get daily sales data for most sales through their author central portal. That can be a good and a bad thing, of course, as it is easy to become obsessed.

6. Amazon Publishing has some amazing levers it can pull.

Amazon is a company that knows how to move units. It has developed and continues to develop various methods of promoting books like the Kindle First program, special offers for Kindle Fire owners, targeting emailing etc. From what I understand, every Amazon published book gets a basic marketing package that would cost most publishers thousands of dollars to replicate. That means actual advertising as opposed to just promotion which is the limit of what many authors get these days.

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Catherine McKenzie will be speaking at our
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7. Amazon Publishing will not necessarily pull all its levers for you.

Like all publishers, Amazon still has to make choices about which books they will give extra support to and when. They have lead titles and can choose to hit your book with what I call The Pretty Stick™ or not. That being said, if a book does well, they are quick to re-act and add additional promotion to keep it going. They will also adjust when their traditional methods are not working for a particular title.

8. Amazon Publishing marketing has a long tail.

Most publishers market a book for six weeks after publication. Amazon’s approach is different. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Hidden is still being included in promotions more than two years after it published.

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9. Amazon Publishing works best for writers with multiple books.

The positives of Amazon’s system are skewed, in my view, to authors with multiple titles. I do not mean by this that a debut author cannot do well. Several have done very well. But Amazon’s metrics and reader knowledge come into play more and more the more books you have out there. So if you are a book a year writer, or a writer who already has several titles published, you might see benefits to publishing with Amazon that writers who are on a longer time frame may not.

10. Amazon Publishing is still a Publisher.

Don’t get me wrong – I have had a fantastic experience with Amazon and will be eternally grateful for them reviving my career and taking my books to the next level. But as I mentioned above, they have to make choices. And they don’t always share their reasoning. Like any publisher, sometimes their authors can be disappointed with the results. This is life in publishing. If you want total control, self-publish.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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