When Amazon hired the novelist Ed Park as a senior editor in its New York publishing office in 2011, it seemed an unlikely match. Mr. Park — a member of New York’s literary elite who had worked for the Poetry Foundation, co-founded a literary magazine and edited The Village Voice’s literary supplement — seemed ill suited to Amazon’s algorithm-driven business.
But now, in the latest setback for Amazon’s publishing aspirations, Mr. Park is leaving the imprint to join Penguin Press as an executive editor. His departure reflects the challenges that Amazon faces in a publishing ecosystem that largely views the online retailer as a rapacious competitor. Most bookstores — having been undercut by the giant retailer — refuse to carry books published by Amazon, a major hurdle as the company courts authors and agents.
As the sole editor at Little A, the imprint will be left in considerable disarray until Amazon finds a replacement.
No, wait, Little A employs at least one other editor, besides Park. According to the Deals section of Publisher's Marketplace, Carmen Johnson has been signing deals for Little A since September. The NYTimes says that she will be taking over his role, but it looks like she did that a couple months ago.
Speaking of book deals, guess how long it has been since Ed Park was credited with signing a new book deal for Little A?
Sixteen months. Park was last credited with signing a new book in June 2013.
Could someone tell me how the loss of a single editor who had stopped bringing in new books long before he quit could be a setback?
If anything, I think the lack of book deals would mean that he is saving Amazon money on books which would never sell well (a gross generalization of literary publishing, but still mostly true).
The NY Times described it thusly:
Jane Dystel, an agent who has done more than two dozen publishing deals with Amazon, said offers from the company — once generous, including even some six-figure deals — have largely fallen to the $10,000 to $20,000 range, and sometimes lower. Some of the writers she represents have returned to self-publishing. “It’s discouraging to those clients,” she said.
Funny, that would seem to be an accurate description of just about every major publisher, and not just Amazon. Advances are shrinking for many authors, and a significant number are going indie.
The NYTimes went on to describe the frustrations Park experienced:
In another victory, one of Mr. Park’s acquisitions, a short-story collection by Shawn Vestal, recently won the prestigious Pen/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.
But his bids often fell flat. Some agents would agree to meet with him, then never send him anything, he said. Benjamin Anastas, who published his memoir “Too Good to Be True,” with Little A, said that while his memoir sold better than his previous books, he wonders how it might have been received if a traditional publisher had released it.
Given that Johnson has signed two books in the past couple months, can you really say that agents are refusing to work with Amazon Publishing?
Maybe, but I think you would need more evidence than a single departing editor.
h/t to The Passive Voice