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Amazon Shares New Details on Their Crowd Sourced Publishing Program

Reminding us that Amazon always has multiple irons in the fire, the retailer launched a new writing community yesterday, and today they sent out a new email with an update on the crowd source publishing program which I first discovered last week.

Although it was easy to get them confused, the two programs are completely unrelated and represent two separate efforts to engage with authors.

The crowd sourced program, which Amazon still has not revealed the name, is much more focused on actual publishing and less on community.

According to the email Amazon sent, participating authors will have to have a valid US bank account and tax ID or SS number. When the program launches, writers will be able to submit a novella length manuscript (at least 50,000 words) with a cover image, description, one-liner, and other useful info. They’ll have to agree to the contract terms when they submit their work, which could be an issue.

From the way Amazon makes it sound, once a work is in this program Amazon has the sole option of choosing to accept it. Authors won’t be able to back out after they’ve submitted their story, which means that they’ll need to be positive that they want the deal Amazon is offering before they begin.

You can find this information, and more, in the email Amazon sent out yesterday. I haven’t gotten the email, but GigaOm did get their hands on a copy.

Dear Author,

Thanks for subscribing to receive updates on Amazon’s new publishing program! We’re excited to announce that we’ll be opening for submissions in a couple weeks. We’ll be welcoming submissions for English-language books in Romance, Mystery & Thriller, and Science Fiction & Fantasy genres.

Any adult with a valid U.S. bank account and U.S. social security number or tax identification number is eligible. It only takes 15 minutes to complete a submission.

Here are the things that you should prepare to successfully submit your book:

Complete, never-before-published manuscript & book cover image

We’re looking for 50,000 words or more in Word format and a book cover image that reflects the essence and uniqueness of your book. Make sure your work is ready for others to read. Only the first pages will be posted to the website (approx. 3,000 words).

Book one-liner – A very short pitch (no longer than 45 characters) for your book that will be used on the homepage and throughout the website. Think of examples like “Space opera meets the Middle Ages” or “How far will one woman go to save her family?”

Book description- Help readers understand the content and quality of your book. Keep the description to 500 characters or less.

Your bio & picture – Give readers a chance to learn more about you. You will also have a chance to answer relevant questions regarding your book and personal story in a short Q&A section.

We’ll also ask you to review and accept our submission and publishing agreement that grants us a 45-day exclusivity period to post your excerpt and tally nominations.

If chosen for publication, you will receive a $1,500 advance, 5-year renewable term, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions, and Amazon-featured marketing. If not, you automatically get all your rights back at the end of the 45-day exclusivity period.

We’ll send you an email as soon as we’re open for submissions. Looking forward to hearing from you! Have a book ready but still have questions? Email us at [email protected].

 image by ginnerobot

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Rebecca Allen October 2, 2014 um 4:33 pm

It looks designed to make authors eligible for author groups and writing competitions which require advances from publishers as part of the criteria (stuff that previously locked out self pubbers, even critically acclaimed and bestselling self pubbers).

Maria (BearMountainBooks) October 3, 2014 um 12:18 pm

This moves them a closer to trad publishing. And has most of the stuff I hated about trad publishing (Submit and be at our mercy. Wait. Wait, Wait some more). It’s nice they continue to innovate, but I can’t be bothered. Yeah, I know. It’s probably an attitude problem. :>)

Michael W. Perry October 3, 2014 um 2:41 pm

Submitting a book cover suggests that, while Amazon wants this scheme to give it many of the prerogatives of a traditional publisher—especially the 'we decide not you' part. But it also suggests that the company isn’t interested in taking on the traditional responsibilities of a publisher, one of which is a professionally done cover. You may have to come up with the cover and perhaps settle for a generic interior layout based on that Word document. Those are hints that Amazon isn’t going to invest much in you beyond that modest $1500 advance.

A 50% royalty rate is also nothing to call home about. I wonder if that only applies if you keep that book’s price within a certain range, probably Amazon’s usual $2.99 to $9.99. In comparison, Apple pays 70% at all price levels and B&N pays 65% over a wider range than Amazon.

The fact that Amazon is talking about a five-year contract but not mentioning any other period of exclusivity suggests that authors must be giving them a five-year exclusivity. Even in comparison to Kindle Select you’re giving up almost 20% of your royalties and getting stuck with a far longer exclusivity period. Not good.

And for what? I’m not sure. Perhaps Amazon will puff your book a bit more on its web pages. Is all you’re giving up worth that?

I think not, but perhaps that selection process will leave some Amazon fanboy authors with the feeling that Amazon has chosen them much like a traditional publisher might. This may end up being about ego more than anything else. Some authors will take anything in the way of an ego boost.

Never forget. Go over everything Amazon says with a fine-tooth comb. Keep asking yourself, "What about…." Their releases often display a lawyer’s knack for seeming to say a lot while leaving out critical details. In this case, that includes the specific contract terms about who does what and what sort of exclusivity Amazon gets.

I wouldn’t put much stock in: "easy rights reversions and Amazon-featured marketing." Both promises are so vague, they could mean anything.

Look before you leap. Then ask your friends to also take a look. And never assume that Amazon will let you wiggle out of contract terms, particularly if you book does well.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) October 3, 2014 um 2:50 pm

If Amazon came through with the marketing it would probably be worth it (easily). Of course, if trad publishers had come through with even half the marketing they promised authors, we might not even be having this discussion today.

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