In its most significant foray into publishing, Amazon has acquired world English rights to a self-published novel by a midwestern teenager called Legacy. The acquisition is the first for the e-tailer's newly launched publishing banner, AmazonEncore. Amazon is re-releasing the fantasy title, in hardcover, in August. The book, by Cayla Kluver, is part of a planned a trilogy--it was published under the banner Forsooth Books, founded by Kluver and her mother--and, according to Amazon, is the first in a currently unknown number of titles from AmazonEncore.

Jeff Belle, v-p of books at Amazon, said the new publishing program, while focused on self-published books with promise, could also target out-of-print titles from major houses. Belle was vague about both the criteria used in the selection of Legacy and the terms of the deal with Kluver. (Kluver does have an agent, but Belle would not disclose any details about the nature of the deal Amazon struck with her.)

In terms of the criteria used to select Kulver's title, and future AmazonEncore titles, Belle said the company is relying on a combination of sales data and customer feedback. When asked what feedback was used in addition to the customer reviews on the site, Belle would only say that "customers have many ways of interacting with us." On the subject of the validity of customer reviews--in the past the reviews have come under fire, since it's possible for one person to submit multiple critiques under a variety of names--Belle said "certain controls are built into the process." (Kluver currently has 15 customer reviews for Legacy, 12 of which are five-star reviews.)

Belle said that Legacy was one title on a lengthy list of potential AmazonEncore books, although he declined to say how many books Amazon may release annually, noting the list will be decided by "how many great books we can identify." As for the editorial process used by AmazonEncore, Belle said a "team of editors" read a number of manuscripts on the list and their literary judgement were taken into consideration along with "what they think the incremental sales opportunity might be."

In addition to the hardcover, Amazon will release Legacy as an audiobook (through Audible) and as Kindle edition. Belle said the company will make a decision about a first printing--using an offset printer--based on pre-order information and other data. Moving forward, print runs will be made on a title-by-title basis. Amazon will also work with wholesalers to get the title into bookstores.

When asked if he thought publishers might be leery of the industry's most dominant online retailer moving into what looks like traditional publishing, Belle said he doesn't see why AmazonEncore would make anyone fearful. "I wouldn't say this is a new model; there are other examples in the marketplace of retailers who've done similar things," he said. He then added that a number of publishers he spoke to about the program gave positive feedback, noting that "publishers want to see how we could work together on this model," returning to the example of AmazonEncore bringing back into print a publisher's oop title.