Star Author and Amazon Deal Directly

Discussion
Dec 15, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It’s worked for musical artists. Make an exclusive deal
with a large retail chain or music download service and count the money as
the units move.

Book publishers have worried with the advent of electronic
publishing and the rise of high-volume outlets that popular authors might
cut them out and sign deals directly with the likes of Amazon.com.

Well,
as a New York Times
report points out, the day publishers has feared appears to have arrived with
a best-selling business author, Stephen Covey, giving
Amazon the exclusive e-book rights to two of his most popular titles, The
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
and Principle-Centered
Leadership
. Mr. Covey chose to move the e-book rights
for the titles from Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Covey’s decision to go with Amazon
was made easier by a royalty rate about double what he would normally receive
if going through a publisher.

“This is the first time these books have been available in a digital format,
and I’m happy to be able to offer them exclusively on Kindle,” said Mr. Covey
in a release put out by Amazon. “With so many readers using Kindle, this is
a very effective way to reach people who want to easily download the books
and begin reading them instantly.”

According to a release, “Kindle customers
can expect to see more books by Covey available for download exclusively in
the Kindle Store in the future, including the soon-to-be-released Great
Work, Great Career
.”

Discussion Questions: What does
Amazon.com’s deal with Stephen Covey mean for the future of book retailing?
Has the balance of power shifted between publishers and retailers as it has
in so many other product categories?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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16 Comments on "Star Author and Amazon Deal Directly"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

With Kindle dominating the e-book reader market, and offering double the royalty rate for e-books, it seems to be a no brainer for Mr. Covey. Remember, this deal is for e-books only, not hard or soft cover.

Does this signal a worrisome event for traditional publishers? Yes. As with music and film, content providers need to reexamine their business models to look for efficiencies and upend entrenched habits. Of course there will be resistance from some quarters, but if the publishers don’t change, the market will make the change for them and leave them in the dust.

Ian Percy
Guest
11 years 5 months ago
I’ve published books both through established Houses and through my own publishing company. Got to say that no other business category is as designed for failure as book publishing. The business model is so flawed and at times comes close to unethical. With a traditional publisher a writer can finish a book and not see it on a shelf for 18 to 24 months. For 99.7% of authors there is almost no promotional effort made by publishing houses and if the book doesn’t immediately ‘catch’ it’s pretty well discarded. There are many good distribution companies who can get books into stores so you don’t need publishing houses for that either. And let’s face it, book stores themselves are on shaky ground too. So why exactly do we need publishing houses? Self-publish a book and an author can have it in hand in a few weeks and into an online store. Then it’s up to the author to make the book into a ‘best-seller’ which is the case no matter what. Book publishing as we’ve always… Read more »
Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

I love it–cut out the middle men who have been ‘editing’ what we read for centuries. This will be a boon for consumers in the end as, like many things in the ‘long tail’, we’ll see more titles, new artists, better prices and yes, keep that promise of writing the Great American Novel alive for more than the pre-determined ‘gifted’. Hopefully, the same will happen soon with movies. That’s another category of art that needs to be opened.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

I am writing this from my Blackberry, having put down my Kindle to check messages as I wait for my car to be serviced. Do I care how the content for my Kindle is negotiated? Not exactly, as I selfishly just want what I want when I want it. It’s not a difficult stretch to recognize that the world of publishing has changed and will continue to evolve creating winning scenarios for readers and authors. It’s up to publishers and retailers to recognize their opportunities which fit this new context.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

I don’t like this so much. Authors have had the ability to self-publish for some time so I don’t really see a big advantage to the author OR the consumer. The advantage is to Amazon.

Of course, authors might create similar deals with B&N or Sony…and then we’ll need 2 different readers to get all the books we want. That’s why this is a bit untidier than music exclusives.

Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

Any content that CAN be put into a digital format will be sold that way. Of course.

Do traditional publishers have core competencies in selling and promoting digital content? If not, they better hurry. Amazon, Kindle, iTunes are eating their lunch…and it’ll only get worse. Imagine libraries renamed Book Museums.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 5 months ago
The good news for the traditional book publishers is that they can see the future in their business by looking at what has evolved in the music business. They may not like what they see, but it will happen. The real question is, will they be able to change their business model in a way to live with the electronic age? We can argue all we want about the comfort of having a book in hand versus on an electronic device. (Be assured, I would rather read from that book in hand.) But, the future is inevitable. In the not too distant future, the leading publishers of books will be electronic. The recent Susan Boyle phenomena highlights the demographic challenge. Normally, a top selling music album opens with 45% of its sales being digital. Susan Boyle opened with only 6% of the sales being digital. The Susan Boyle album is an exception driven by an older demographic that isn’t digitally oriented. But, the real and ongoing business and the demographic trend reads digital all over… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

Another antiquated distribution system is hitting the dust.

The big story is not that Covey went exclusively with Amazon, The bigger news is that this will change the way that books are published and priced.

Now we have 3 different types of books on the market. Hard copy, paper back and ebooks. The real change is going to happen when you can get a new release as an ebook on the same day the hard copy is released.

The ebook has almost no waste and no cost to print. Sell for less and make more profit.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 5 months ago
The only one that wins here, at least temporarily, is Amazon. There is a huge difference between this and music exclusivity. Music exclusivity sells on a common media for use on an open device. Not so in this case. Not by a long shot. While Kindle may hold the market at this point, this technology will at some point become just as open as all other electronic media has been forced to do. Readers remember, just as music fans remember. The Eagles lost a sale from me on exclusivity, and will likely continue to lose sales. Maybe one source is enough at this point for Mr. Covey’s wallet. As he cashes in now, he may well have made his final sales for many that choose another direction. It may work for now, however, likely even within a year, this will be a completely different market. When you’ve made yourself exclusive, you’ve limited that for now and for the future. I think the ‘Boss’ even recognized that mistake. I realize that I am in the minority… Read more »
Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 5 months ago
I have to echo the sentiments of most of my colleagues here. The writing, so-to-speak, has been on the wall for a long time for the publishing industry. It’s amazing to me they didn’t draw more lessons from the music industry and begin to change their model a long time ago. I think this marks the beginning of two really important changes. And while neither of these are implicit in the Covey decision, I think they can be inferred. 1. The virtual elimination of the publishing industry (as we currently know it.): As a couple of commentators alluded to, publishers aren’t adding value to the process anymore. They have simply become an added cost. Self-publishing has allowed authors to regain control of their work and their revenue. 2. The migration of the majority of books to digital-only format: I project that within 10-15 years, all newly published titles will be in e-format only. Paper books will become the realm of specialty book stores only. Special print versions of exclusive books will become cherished gifts. And… Read more »
Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 5 months ago
The fact that Covey has made a deal to offer his books directly through e-readers is only part of the story, in my opinion. The real story comes from the fact that this is an indication of the power of Amazon. Amazon has been building their customer database, and their customer profile information, to the point that they know what their customers read, when they read it, and the type of books they might be willing to purchase in the future. Amazon will be able to take Steven Covey’s new books, offer them for distribution to people who have read other Covey books in the past, as well as consumers who have read similar books in the past, and target directly to these consumers. In this case, Amazon is acting as the publisher. They are “printing,” distributing, and marketing the book to the potential reader. So the story is not that authors can bypass publishers. I believe the story is that Amazon is becoming the publisher / distributor / hardware producer / platform owner. Sure… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
11 years 5 months ago

Marshal McLuhan must be smiling down on us from up in Gutenberg’s Galaxy, as we witness yet another example of new media (digital readers) displacing old media (paper books).

Paper books will not go away, but they will increasingly take on the status of “art form” rather than commercial communications product. First to fade into electrons will be pulp paperbacks and old public-domain titles, which will be easier, cheaper and much lighter as downloads.

Adam Drake
Guest
Adam Drake
11 years 5 months ago
If the publishers’ spot in the value chain loses its value, then they should go away and I will not feel bad for them. Things get more efficient over time and that generally means someone gets squeezed out. When that happens, other companies, and often consumers, win. What concerns me is that I think the consumer loses on this one. I believe there is a negative trend going on. While I respect companies for trying to grab more of the market, the battle over hardware + content dominance causes more harm than good. Sony and Toshiba arguably both lost the hi-def DVD war. Consumers (and retailers) certainly lost. Apple has clearly won the digital music battle (was it ever a battle?) but I would argue there is not a competitive market for content OR players; very bad for consumers. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for this. I certainly don’t disparage companies for trying to lock up both hardware and content markets. I just hope their competitors innovate quicker, develop better solutions, and break the… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 5 months ago

This is great if it helps increase literacy among yoots (youths). There are those of us who don’t give a fig about book retailing but care deeply about literacy. I buy and read at least three books weekly. Ask Amazon, they like me. But I’ll never use a Kindle or any other electronic book reader. However, if they help youngsters read more, I’m for them. I prefer real books because of their sensory benefits, the ability to write notes in margins and mark passages, and for passing along. I still have books my psychology professor dad gave me in the early 50s. Treasures to be sure.

But back to youth literacy. While I’m definitely not a Covey fan, if this move by him and Amazon.com marks an increased readership of well-written sources, bring it on. I’m especially a fan of coherent, well-thought-out, expletive-free, grammatically-correct written communication. If this bidness arrangement can increase kids’ exposure to good writing while decreasing their exposure to blog-speak, I’m solidly behind it.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I know that everything and everybody is going digital. But like purists long for 12″ vinyl to listen to their favorite tunes, does anybody miss the pleasure of being the first to open the pages, or read with imagination and awe the words of a favorite author? Do we have to always be plugged in or batteries charged to enjoy the written word? BTW, I listen to audio books to help my understanding of the subject, but mostly because I enjoy the spoken word talents of the narrator.

What I fear most in the concept of ‘exclusivity’ of people’s work, controlled by one delivery system. Particularly when the message intended to be communicated is wise and worth listening to by everybody. Isn’t Mr. Covey interested in spreading his word to the widest audience anymore?

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

This is just publishing from a different perspective. In today’s world, this is where the traditional print media is moving, so why not the authors who write for it? By moving to an electronic format, even it wasn’t just for an exclusive device like the Kindle, the authors are more updatable, can provide a stronger perspective, and allow for a more dynamic publishing of their works (including correcting errors, in a dynamic environment). This is good for everyone involved except for the publishers who have not made the switch!

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