Amazon’s Jon Fine on Self-Publishing, Plans to Publish in Translation, and More

In News by Erin L. Cox

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By Erin L. Cox

On Monday, May 24th, Book Expo America hosted the DIY Authors Conference and Marketplace in association with Writer Magazine and The Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Jon Fine, Director of Author & Publisher Relations for Amazon.com, was one of the speakers with a talk entitled “Advance Your Career with DIY Publishing.”

Publishing Perspectives was able to speak with Fine prior to the conference to hear more about the future of Amazon and its relationships with writers and readers both in the United States and abroad.

PP:  How successful has the Amazon Encore program been since its inception? As it grows, do you see Amazon expanding the program and publishing more books?

JF: We’re very excited about the response we’ve gotten – from readers and from authors. And while we can’t talk about specific plans for the imprint, we do plan to publish more books. A big part of Encore’s mission is to draw upon feedback from our customers and other information to identify great books that, for any number of reasons, didn’t find the audience they deserved when they were first published. Plus we continue to identify great new works through our Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and a number of authors from that program are being published for the first time by Encore. So, bottom line, yes, we definitely plan on publishing more great books.

PP: What advice do you have for self-published authors who want to work with Amazon? Where should they begin? Are there any rules that they should be aware of?
JF: If you want to sell more books on amazon.com, there’s two things you want to make sure of. First, we know that our customers want their books immediately, if not sooner. So you want to make sure your books are in stock on the print side, and downloadable through the Kindle/DTP program.  Second, you want to make sure that folks can find your books – and that your books can find their audience through our many “virtual handselling” programs (all those recommendations you see when you shop on the site). And that means getting as much information as possible up on the site about your books, and about yourself. We give authors the ability to add a range of information – like blog postings, your biography and photo, videos, editorial reviews and cover images. Your readers will see much of this information on Author Pages – a page we’ve set up for each author to make it easier for people to find your works; and some of it will also appear on the detail page for your book. How do you add all this stuff? By joining Author Central. It’s a free service, still in beta, and open only to authors. Any author with a book for sale on the site can sign up at www.amazon.com/authors. Once you’re enrolled, you can add a range of information about your book, and also learn about some other terrific programs – like Search Inside the Book, and Createspace, and Kindle. Plus, there’s a dedicated “author” service team to answer your questions. Basically, Author Central is the one-stop service center for authors with books for sale on our site.

PP:  Are there any benefits for authors working solely with Amazon instead of making their work available on multiple online booksellers or publishing programs?
JF:  While we have a long standing tradition of not focusing on our competition, what I can say is this: books are in our DNA at Amazon, and we’re constantly working to not only innovate on behalf of our book-loving customers, but also help authors find the right audience for their book.

PP:  Beyond Amazon Encore, Create Space, and Kindle Self-Publishing, are there any future endeavors that Amazon has their eye on for helping writers publish their own work and find their audience?
JF: Well we don’t comment on future programs. But I can say that authors are key customers for us, as you can see from a range of programs and initiatives like AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Author Pages, Author Central and Kindle DTP to name a few. These programs help authors find their readers, and readers find their books. At the end of the day, we want to provide more books for more people in more ways, and we are constantly innovating to achieve those goals. It is a really exciting time for authors.

PP: How have large, trade publishers reacted to Amazon becoming a publisher in addition to being one of the largest online booksellers?
JF: You’d have to ask them. We think traditional publishing adds value; these efforts are really focused on areas that haven’t received as much attention.

PP: How will all of these programs work with international writers and readers? Are there plans to expand globally or including books in translation?
JF: We just announced AmazonCrossing, Encore’s sister imprint for works in translation. Like Encore, Crossing will draw on customer feedback from our foreign sites to identify books in other languages deserving of a broader audience. We’ll translate and publish in English and make them available to readers worldwide. There’s a wealth of great works and great authors that have never been translated into English, and voracious readers around the world to let us know what they like — so we’re really excited about that too.

About the Author

Erin L. Cox

Erin L. Cox is the Business Development Director for Publishing Perspectives and a Senior Associate at Rob Weisbach Creative Management, where she represents writers and handles publicity and advertising clients.