Guest Column: What We Should Learn From Amazon
AmazonEncore moves toward democratizing acquisitions, much like HarperCollins’ Authonomy, which lets enthusiastic readers do the legwork of finding the diamonds in the rough and gives aspiring writers a chance to have their work read and possibly published.
Amazon has access to market research that provides invaluable data on customer buying habits, trends and growing markets, and is best positioned to uncover hidden gems. The end result is the publication of books with strong demand indicators behind them. If Amazon can use its customer data to issue the books its customers want, not only through its site, but through traditional retail channels as well, why on Earth would we fight those sales? Do publishers really want to retain their position as the ultimate curators at the expense of overlooking what the reading (and buying) public has to say about what they want to see published?
More sales create a healthier industry and happy readers. And Amazon has the unique opportunity to create new potential readers by target marketing to the segment of its customer base made up of loyal, but non-voracious readers. There’s nothing we need more. Rather than fight it, you’ll see smart publishers following Amazon’s lead into genres and topics that otherwise might have been ignored.
The publishing industry is the first to admit that its business is broken. We should be learning from and supporting Amazon in its bid to shake things up a bit. Remember that Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” isn’t about being the smartest or the strongest; it’s about being the most adaptable to change. Amazon, unlike traditional publishers, has remained nimble and committed to meeting the needs of its customers. If it turns out that Amazon fails indie publishers and readers, the free market will run its course and alternatives will surface.
Right now—before we know Amazon’s terms, how many titles it plans to publish per year, or whether it will draw big-name authors away from traditional publishers—the industry’s time is best spent developing a long-term strategy for using new technological tools (whether it’s crowdsourcing, capitalizing on print-on-demand, or finding places to meaningfully interact with readers) and finding a way to adapt to the new user-centric paradigm.
Clint Greenleaf is the founder and CEO of Greenleaf Book Group (GreenleafBookGroup.com), an Inc. 500 company, and a leading publisher and distributor with several New York Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers. Greenleaf (a CPA) sits on the University of Texas Libraries Board, blogs for Inc.com, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine, Fox News, MSNBC and Entrepreneur. He speaks about publishing and entrepreneurship across the country at conferences, seminars and schools.