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Interview with Victoria Griffith, Publisher, Amazon Publishing

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I asked to interview someone at Amazon Montlake and was invited to send in questions. These are the answers I received.  Some answers are vague corporate answers but others were more substantive.

How many releases does Amazon Montlake plan to publish in a month and how frequently? I.e., will it follow a traditional publishing schedule such as releasing so many a month or will it release titles on a weekly basis like some of the epublishers or even daily?

The first title we are publishing in our Montlake Romance imprint is Connie Brockway’s “The Other Guy’s Bride.” We will share information about additional titles in the coming months but it’s fair to say that we are more focused on publishing a wide range of engaging romantic novels we think readers will love than trying to hit a specific quota.

How is Amazon Montlake acquiring books? I.e., are you taking unsolicited submissions or just agented submissions? Are you watching the self-published ranks?

We review books that have both been independently published and are submitted to us by agents. Montlake Romance is not currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

Will Amazon Montlake titles be available to nook, kobo, sony readers? I.e. readers who use the epub format?

Montlake Romance digital books are available exclusively in the Kindle Store. Kindle books are available across all of the most popular devices that people use today, such as the Kindle, PC, Mac, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, iPhone, iPad and iPad touch.

Will Amazon Montlake titles be DRM free?

This decision is up to every author.

What types of subgenres will you be publishing. It looks like historical and contemporary so far.

Montlake Romance is dedicated to publishing across a wide range of romantic subgenres.

Amazon has had a spotty history with erotic content. Will you be publishing erotic romance? And if not, what type of heat level should we expect.

We do not have any erotic romance books to announce, and we can’t speculate on future plans.

What is the length of the Amazon novels you will be publishing? (Because Amazon doesn’t publish word count, readers often end up paying for really short works and ending up disappointed)

Our first book is a full-length novel; should we have any shorter length works we will aim to make this clear on the detail page so that customers know what to expect. Right now, both print and digital books have page count listed on their detail pages.

Will you be releasing more unedited work of authors? I was really disappointed with the quality of The Other Guy’s Bride and am worried about Amazon’s finished quality.

We occasionally make sample chapters available from works in-progress. Connie is still writing “The Other Guy’s Bride,” but we put up what we call a “teaser chapter” when we announced the Montlake imprint. We intend to continue to do this, and will edit the teasers – but of course, the final work may change considerably when it’s actually published. We’re heard from our customers that they’ve been very happy with the quality of our finished books.

With romance, readers have a specific idea of what the ending should be like. What is Amazon’s definition of a romance novel?

Romance fans have very clear expectations, and we will do our best to exceed them. There is a growing diversity among our customer base across many sub-genres. But in the end, all of these romantic stories need to be smart and emotionally satisfying.

Will you have review copies?

Yes.

Will the books have geographic restrictions or will anyone from anywhere in the world be able to buy them?

We intend to sell our works everywhere on our global platform that we have the rights to sell them.

There are authors who read Dear Author. I know they are interested in knowing what types of terms that Amazon will be offering such as royalties and advances. For most traditionally published houses, the ebook royalty and print royalty is the same from house to house and is non negotiable. Is there anything off the table for Amazon?

We look at each book and author independently, and will not discuss our business relationships with authors.

Do you have any plans to move the novels into film production as you have your own film production company within Amazon?

We do not speculate on future plans.

Will Montlake be run out of Seattle or under Larry Kirshbaum?

Montlake Romance is headquartered in Seattle.

What will the price points be for Amazon Montlake books?

Pricing will depend on a variety of different factors. The price for “The Other Guy’s Bride’s” is $8.13 in paperback and $4.99 in Kindle format.

What are you looking to publish in terms of romance? I.e., we hear a lot that certain stories won’t sell in traditional publishing. Courtney Milan, one former Harlequin author and now self published author (her Unlocked is selling quite well on Amazon) stated one of the reasons she left was to have more creative control.

We are dedicated to publishing engaging romance novels we think our customers will love. Stay tuned for future announcements.

See also Sarah Wendell’s interview with Courtney Miller, Sr. Acquisitions Editor for Amazon Montlake.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

32 Comments

  1. Shannon Stacey
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:16:32

    Montlake Romance digital books are available exclusively in the Kindle Store.

    It’s a shame they won’t discuss the money at all because I can’t imagine contract terms that would entice me to sign with a digital publisher whose books aren’t available as nookbooks from Barnes & Noble. BN sales are hot and I wouldn’t consider a digital publisher who doesn’t have distribution through both (and more, but at the very least those two).

  2. RJones
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:22:34

    That interview was so painful. Like whoever wrote it has never read a romance, but those answers worked great selling widgets at their last job.

  3. MinnChica
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:22:47

    Wow, kinda hard to inspire anyone to be impressed with your new imprint when you can’t even find someone to answer interview questions with a little enthusiasm. Although I’m a nook user, I have to say this doesn’t inspire me to pick up any Montlake books anytime soon…

  4. library addict
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:28:34

    So the fact I read ePub on my Sony 650 means I’m not in with the “popular” crowd. Oh dear.

  5. Pamela {Spaz}
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:28:35

    EEEEGads. What MinnChica said. Oy vay.

  6. Brie
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:31:03

    @RJones: Maybe that’s because the answers were written by a robot… It was like asking questions to the terminator. This is a very bad first impression.

  7. Ridley
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:39:19

    Jaysus. This may be more of a shitshow than any of us ever imagined.

  8. Courtney
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 20:40:07

    If this is the face of Amazon’s publisher, yikes. Cold, boring, and corporate, I’d say. That said, given Amazon’s market muscle, my guess is a lot of authors will be tempted to publish with them.

  9. DS
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:02:23

    It sounded like the answers had been written by a committee.

  10. Honeywell
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:18:51

    Blech, what a terrible response. I was actually pretty excited about Amazon’s romance line…definitely less enthused after reading this that’s for sure.

    One nice thing is they’re not forcing DRM on the books. If I were an author I’d be sure to sell that point to readers so they know they can buy MOBI and convert to Epub rather easily. Honestly not having the books available in epub seems almost like an open invitation to pirate–there’s no doubt the pirates will have the books available in epub and every other format.

  11. Mandi
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:19:49

    Ditto MinnChica – where is the enthusiasm?

  12. Allie
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 21:50:26

    Wow. Does that person even like romance? They didn’t even know to say “they will all have a happy ever after.” A book is going to need at least 20 4-star reviews before I buy it from this outfit.

    “We intend to continue to do this, and will edit the teasers but of course, the final work may change considerably when it’s actually published.”

    It may change considerably? Are they going to update the preview chapter after the book has changed considerably? How considerably would it change? Is this going to be where someone writes a first draft and that’s where they get the preview chapter? How does something like that represent the final book?

    Will they have cover art? I hope it is not awful. I just can’t bring myself to even read a blurb for a book with cover art that is unappealing.

  13. Courtney Milan
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 22:05:37

    @Shannon Stacey:

    It’s a shame they won’t discuss the money at all because I can’t imagine contract terms that would entice me to sign with a digital publisher whose books aren’t available as nookbooks from Barnes & Noble.

    Ditto on this.

  14. Ridley
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 22:08:57

    Does this woman have publishing experience? I’m getting a “It’s just [genre]. How hard could it be?” vibe from these answers.

  15. LG
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 01:47:52

    @library addict: Ditto. Even if the book is DRM free, readers who don’t have one of the “most popular devices that people use today” will have to take the extra step of converting the file to EPUB or whatever else themselves. Well, not that I’m really enthused about the idea of getting any of these books at the moment…this interview was really sad. Like others have said, it was like a corporate robot was responding. And saying that the stories will be “smart and emotionally satisfying” isn’t saying much. Apparently this person (or robot) did not realize that what was being asked was “will this be ‘romance’ in the vein of, say, Nicholas Sparks, or will these all be romance novels with, at minimum, the expected HEA, or even HFN?”

  16. Edie
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 06:10:23

    Oh that was just painful.

    Though I am kinda glad I won’t be tempted to lift my “buying anything amazon ban”

    And is it seriously only going to be in kindle format??
    That seems a bit silly, and limiting

  17. Christine M.
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 07:48:59

    I can’t access SBTB from work but I expect the interview Sarah got from the Acquisition Editor is some sort of similar corporate rehash?

  18. Jackie Barbosa
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 08:38:09

    @Courtney Milan: My personal suspicion is that they won’t talk money because what they are willing to offer varies so wildly from author to author that they don’t have “standard” terms.

    What alarms me most about accepting an offer from Amazon isn’t what the money would or wouldn’t be, or even the digital exclusivity (although I have real issues with that), but the fact that if I was ultimately unhappy with the outcome or felt they bent me over a barrel, I’d probably never feel comfortable or safe in warning other authors of my experience. Amazon has the power to destroy an author financially (at least for the time being), and although some might say it wouldn’t be worth it to them as a “big corporate machine” to go after little fish, I’d still be very, very wary.

    @Christine M.: The person Sarah spoke to sounded a little more human, IIRC.

  19. Suzannah
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:05:21

    I didn’t understand “We intend to sell our works everywhere on our global platform that we have the rights to sell them.”

    Surely if they’re the publisher, they put in the publishing agreement where the books will be sold? Shouldn’t they already know where they’re planning to sell them? It reads like every book could be different.

    I also wish they’d said something like “And of course they’ll be available in every territory on the same day”, because otherwise we will once again see US-only releases while the rest of the world waits and waits. And then gives up and spends its money on something else. If I were an author, I’d be hopping mad at the huge markets that publishers just seem to ignore.

  20. Jane
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:18:32

    @Suzannah – the publisher only has as many rights as the author gives them. So if the author says, I’ll sell you my North American rights but not my UK rights or my British Commonwealth rights, then Amazon only can distribute in North America.

    I would think that Amazon would push to buy all the rights it can but who knows.

    I thought the interview was very illuminating about the direction of Montlake and their knowledge of the genre. I would have that that given their immense amount of data that they would be better able to glean the saleable books from the unsaleable ones but I think that they just don’t have any one that is a true romance reader yet. And nothing from Montlake encourages us dedicated romance readers that Montlake understands us or speaks our language. That may change.

    Amazon can clearly move the needle for books through promotions and pricing but romance readers are a peculiar bunch of readers and my guess is that the first couple of times that Amazon tries to push a non romance book under its untried romance brand, readers will soon come to dismiss the Montlake books out of hand.

    For me the interview was more valuable for what was not said than for what was said.

    Montlake could prove us all wrong though.

  21. Suzannah
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:30:52

    @Jane: I just would have assumed that amazon would want all the rights, though, or couldn’t an author sell them, say, the US rights for Kindle, and then sell to someone in, say, the UK, who would publish in ePub, thereby undermining amazon’s attempt to have everything in Kindle?

    (On a slightly tangential hobby-horse now) I still don’t understand why certain ebooks aren’t available here (UK) when the market isn’t that different from the US (language-wise, at least). Many of the big US romance authors are just as popular here, so either the publisher owns the rights and isn’t exploiting them, which must drive authors crazy, or the authors haven’t sold the rights, in which case what are they doing?!! Maybe they can’t get enough money for them, but I would have thought any money is better than the zero they’re currently making…

  22. Christine Rimmer
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:35:12

    Thanks so much for this, Jane. Amazon kind of makes other publishers look downright transparent.

  23. Darlynne
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:49:16

    @Ridley: I’m with you. The initial interest I had quickly evaporated with every robot-like response. The impression I’m left with is they’ll take whatever anyone sends in and don’t have a clue what goes into good romantic fiction. What a waste.

  24. Jackie Barbosa
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 10:53:39

    @Darlynne: The impression I’m left with is they’ll take whatever anyone sends in and don’t have a clue what goes into good romantic fiction.

    Since I heard through the grapevine that one of the executive/director types from Montlake was in the bar at RWA, proudly declaring that he knew nothing about what went into making a good romance novel but that Amazon cared deeply about the “author’s experience,” I tend to agree with your assessment that they don’t have a clue about romance.

  25. Christine M.
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 11:09:45

    @Jackie Barbosa: *facepalm* Oh wow.

  26. Sheryl Nantus
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 11:50:14

    “Author experience” = make as much money any way they can.

    I can’t wait.

  27. Courtney
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 13:28:32

    To play devil’s advocate, though, isn’t the acquisitions person for Montlake (who Sarah at SB interviewed) a romance editor? I wonder if the person Jackie Barbosa is referring to is more the “business” guy and the woman is more the creative end? Time will tell if the Montlake brand is one that produces (1) quality products; and (2) attracts talented authors.

  28. elaine mueller
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 13:40:34

    this whole interview reminded me of years and years and years ago there was an article in an RWA newsletter about how Randall Toye, then one of the big honchos at harlequin, basically said he wouldn’t be caught dead reading a romance. every time i read something now all these years later about how harlequin or any other publisher — including montlake/amazon — still seems to have less than a lot of respect for their authors (other than as producers of corporate profits) or readers (except as contributors to corporate profits) i think of that comment.

    i especially noticed how the montlake ‘editor’ glossed over the poor quality of a certain highly-promoted ‘teaser’. . . . i guess they think readers won’t notice or care. . . .

  29. MaryK
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 15:42:36

    We’re heard from our customers that they’ve been very happy with the quality of our finished books.

    Uh … Montlake hasn’t sold any books yet, right? So, what, the very happy customers are customers of their POD branch? That question clearly addresses the quality of the actual words not a finished paper book. The take away from the answer is that the teaser chapter was edited and editing is solely about storyline changes anyway.

    This was some guy they pulled in from packing to plug in responses from a list of canned answers.

  30. Jane
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 15:46:55

    @MaryK: They have Amazon Encore and Kindle Singles.

  31. Jody W.
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 10:20:47

    I’m kind of picturing the blonde female Terminator from T-3 providing these answers…very corporatized. Might have been worried her hand would turn into a machine gun if I asked the wrong q’s!

  32. Courtney Milan
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 11:05:25

    @Jane: I don’t think Kindle Singles are published by Amazon. I got the impression they’re more just hand-picked things where the author/publisher trades exclusivity at Amazon for greater exposure.

    David Baldacci’s Kindle Single for instance is published by Grand Central.

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