If there was any remaining doubt of Amazon’s support for its Amazon Publishing arm, that was dispelled in early May when the company’s Montlake imprint signed bestselling author Sylvia Day to a seven-figure advance for Butterfly in Frost, a 203-page novella the company will publish in August. Mikyla Bruder, publisher of Amazon Publishing, said that the deal reflects her ability to spend the money on authors she believes will fit into Amazon Publishing’s ecosystem. “I have no problem going after big authors,” Bruder said, noting that late in 2018, the company’s Thomas & Mercer imprint bought world English rights to two thrillers by Patricia Cornwell, beginning with Quantum, which is set to publish in October.
Another step in the evolution of Amazon Publishing, which turned 10 this year, came in February, when the publishing group, in conjunction with Amazon Studios, signed a deal with Michelle Miller for world book, audiobook and all global media rights for a series of short stories titled the Fairer Sex. The Miller signing was the first joint deal between the two Amazon divisions, and though the two don’t have a formal first-look agreement, Bruder said the publishing group works closely with the studio when signing new authors. The Day, Cornwell, and Miller deals are all reflective of what Bruder said was one of the operating principles of Amazon Publishing: to work synergistically with other Amazon properties to create new and different types of opportunities for authors.
Amazon Publishing now consists of 16 imprints and has 200–300 employees, Bruder said. It typically publishes about 1,000 books per year, though that number can be higher in years when the company experiments in new areas. Amazon Publishing now has a backlist of more than 10,000 titles and has largely grown organically: it has bought just three properties, the most important of which is Brilliance Publishing, which not only serves as Amazon Publishing’s audiobook arm but also handles physical distribution of its print books. Distribution to retail stores has always been something of a sore spot for Amazon, since many bricks-and-mortar stores won’t carry Amazon titles. “We are very transparent with our authors about our model, which may not be for everyone,” Bruder acknowledged. “We want a stable of happy authors.”
Bruder believes that Amazon’s ability to reach millions of readers online offsets the loss of physical retail opportunities (though she pointed out that there are now 19 Amazon Books outlets). By tapping into Amazon’s various businesses, more than 40 authors have reached over a million readers each, a figure that includes print, audio, and digital sales as well as borrows through Kindle Unlimited.
Bruder said that another sign of Amazon Publishing’s success is its ability to continue to sign more authors. She noted that she believes authors appreciate what Amazon offers both domestically and overseas (of the publisher’s 10 offices, six are overseas). As part of the Day deal, Butterfly in Frost will be published by Amazon Publishing’s translation imprint, Amazon Crossing, which will release the book in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Amazon Crossing has become one of Amazon Publishing’s biggest success stories and now publishes more titles in translation in the U.S. than any other publisher. The company will add to that number with the July launch of Amazon Crossing Kids, which will publish children’s picture books in translation. “It is important that children are exposed to different cultural perspectives,” Bruder said.
Children’s books, which are published in Amazon Publishing’s Skyscape and Two Lions imprints, is a relatively small part of the company’s overall business. So too is adult nonfiction, which Bruder estimated represents about 10% of Amazon Publishing’s total output. (“We’re just getting started here,” Bruder said.) The company has had some noteworthy nonfiction successes, however: The Tenth Island by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Diana Marcum, for instance, has reached 380,000 readers since it was released last July by Amazon’s literary imprint, Little A. However, adult fiction is by far the publishers’s strength, and its three largest imprints are Lake Union (book club fiction), Montlake Romance, and Thomas & Mercer (mystery, thriller, and true crime).
Amazon Publishing will broaden its program next year when it releases the first titles from Topple Books, an imprint curated by Jill Soloway, creator of the Emmy-winning television series Transparent, which was produced by Amazon Studios. The imprint will focus on publishing women of color as well as gender-nonconforming, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer writers. Its first title, Raising Them by Kyl Myers, is set for release in June 2020.
Though Bruder wouldn’t disclose revenue for the publisher, she said that Amazon Publishing is a “strong and profitable business that continues to invest in new authors.” She added that one way she defines success is “growing the audience for our authors book by book.”
Amazon Publishing’s All-Time Bestselling Books
|1.||Beneath a Scarlet Sky||Mark Sullivan||Lake Union||May 2017|
|2.||My Sister’s Grave||Robert Dugoni||Thomas & Mercer||Nov. 2014|
|3.||War Brides||Helen Bryan||Lake Union||June 2012|
|4.||Pines||Blake Crouch||Thomas & Mercer||Aug. 2012|
|5.||Crazy Little Thing||Tracy Brogan||Montlake Romance||Oct. 2012|
|6.||Everything We Keep||Kerry Lonsdale||Lake Union||Aug. 2016|
|7.||Say You’re Sorry||Melinda Leigh||Montlake Romance||May 2017|
|8.||The Hangman’s Daughter||Oliver Pötzsch||Amazon Crossing||Dec. 2010|
|9.||Yellow Crocus||Laila Ibrahim||Lake Union||Aug. 2014|
|10.||Hidden||Kendra Elliot||Montlake Romance||July 2012|
Source: Amazon Publishing