Since its launch in 2009, Amazon Publishing has steadily ramped up its program to the point where it is the largest publisher in the PNW. Through 14 imprints and offices around the world, Amazon will publish about 1,000 titles in 2016. Jeff Belle, v-p of Amazon Publishing, says, “In a few short years, we’ve created a business that is on par with the Big Five publishing houses in terms of quality, service, and sales.”
There are several highlights from the company this year, including Serious Sweet by A.L. Kennedy (Little A), which was longlisted for the Man Booker prize, and Marcia Clark’s Blood Defense (Thomas & Mercer), which was a #1 Kindle bestseller with a starred review in PW. And Amazon’s children’s imprint, Two Lions, published Pulitzer Prize–winner Jane Smiley’s first picture book, Twenty Yawns, illustrated by Caldecott Honor–artist Lauren Castillo.
The majority of Amazon Publishing’s sales are digital, including downloadable audio, which has been a significant growth area for the company. “We’re now the second-ranked publisher in the U.S. Kindle store in terms of sales,” Belle says. Amazon Publishing takes advantage of Amazon’s Kindle First program, which allows readers access to releases a month ahead of official publication and which now has more than five million subscribers. Among the Amazon authors who have benefitted from Kindle First is Emily Bleeker, whose two novels, Wreckage and When I’m Gone, have sold a combined one million copies across print and digital.
While most of Amazon Publishing’s sales are digital, Belle says that the company is seeing growth in print sales. “As we have published more nonfiction and general trade, we have seen our print sales on Amazon significantly increase,” he explains.
One of Amazon Publishing’s biggest investments has been in translations. Through the AmazonCrossing imprint, the company committed $10 million over a five-year period, starting in 2015, to publishing works in translation. Belle says Amazon “decided to double down on translations, because it’s a hugely underserved area, the opportunity is significant, and we feel like we’re particularly well positioned to do it.” Belle says that though Amazon Publishing is best known for its commercial fiction, it remains committed to literary fiction as well. “I don’t see our success with commercial fiction casting a shadow on the literary fiction we’ve published—not at all,” he notes. “I’ve been very happy with our literary list, and we’re going to make even greater strides here next year.”
Amazon’s books come from “three primary sources,” Belle says. “Agents submit books to us every day, just as they do other publishers. We also look at books that have been published around the world for opportunities to translate them and help them reach a larger, global audience through AmazonCrossing. And we work with authors who have published through Kindle Direct Publishing to help break them out to a larger readership. We’re going to continue sourcing from all three areas. Two of those areas are hugely underserved. But it’s a big world.” Belle concludes with a sentiment perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the PNW: “There’s plenty of room for everyone.”
Correction: Emily Bleeker's two novels sold a combined one million copies, not just her second book.