Amazon’s Vision for the Future of Self-Publishing

Related: Understanding authors — three Digital Book World reports on authors

The term “self-publishing” may have outlived its usefulness, according to Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon, speaking at the Publishing for Digital Minds conference this week in London.

When asked at a recent past conference what “self-publishing” looked like in ten years, Fine, who is intimately involved in that business at Amazon, said that it probably won’t be called that anymore. In the future, authors will publish in a number of ways.

“If you’re an author in ten years, you’re going to have an array of options,” said Fine. “What we’ve done is provide the tools that make it possible to take a story and make it available to hundreds of millions of people around the world…and do it in multiple formats.”

Best-selling hybrid author Hugh Howey shared the stage with Fine. Howey could be an author from Fine’s future. He has self-published ebooks and audiobooks, traditionally published print books and translations, and has no definite plans in the future as to how he will publish his next title.

“Do you want to be a small business owner or work for a corporation?” asked Howey, referring to the difference between self-publishing, where authors are also entrepreneurs (the former) and traditional publishing, adding, “and there are advantages and disadvantages for both.”

In a typical example of the flexibility afforded authors today, Orna Ross, a hybrid author and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, who was also on the conference panel mentioned that she is publishing nine short books this year, about one every month, “and that’s not something a publisher would ever do.”

According to Fine, the next challenge facing authors, publishers and distributors like Amazon is how readers will discover the right books for them.

“We’ve created this tsunami of content,” said Fine. “It’s a high class problem to have too many stories. We, as tech companies, publishers, authors, service providers, have to find ways to help stories find the right audience. This discoverability problem is the next big challenge.”

Related: Understanding authors — three Digital Book World reports on authors


9 thoughts on “Amazon’s Vision for the Future of Self-Publishing

  1. Elvenrunelord

    I’m not having any trouble finding what I want to read on Amazon. The app has features that break it down into the genres I enjoy. I assume that more genres would help some but I’m happy at the moment.

    I will say that I only read material that is either free or 99 cent at the maximum and I have found a reasonable amount of material to keep me entertained and some that are better than nearly everything I have ever read in my particular genres.

    The interface is clunky and could use some shoring up and I’d love it if the AI was able to recommend me my next perfect book, but that is probably never going to happen in my life time

  2. Michael J Sullivan

    I agree with everything being said here, and as a hybrid author myself, I know the advantages and disadvantages that Hugh speaks of. The truth of the matter, is I would rather traditionally publish if given the choice, but with the publishers being inflexible about ebook royalty rates they are driving people to self-publish. I turned down a five-figure advance for my Hollow World novel because they wanted, print/audio/ebook. I took a much smaller four-figure advance for print-only. My most recent sales distribution shows 30% print, 45% – 55% ebook and the rest audio (15% – 25%). I have three audio publishers courting me for my next book so the likelihood of bundling audio with any future contracts (where the publisher takes 50% off the top) is a deal breaker. When print was 70% – 90% of sales traditional publishes had a lot to offer. But now that they are only 30% – they are going to have to start to sweeten the ebook pot or find authors walking away.

  3. Robert Gottlieb

    Jon suggesting exciting changes for authors at Amazon but no real details. It would be helpful in future presentations for details.

    Robert Gottlieb
    Trident Media Group, LLC
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  4. Perry Brass

    Self publishing has come a long way since when I first started putting out books through Belhue Press in 1991—we have currently sold 100,000 copies of Belhue Press books. When I first started, you had to be virtually “in the closet” as a SP writer; now the closet door is opening up a lot, but still not too much. The National Book Awards are completely closed to SP writers, and so are the PEN Awards, even for members of PEN who self publish. The Pulitzer Prize though is open to us, very graciously. Libraries are often closed to us, although some libraries get around that. I don’t consider myself an “entrepreneur,” or a “small business owner.” Both ideas are repugnant to me. It means that your work has to come behind your marketing, instead of being at the center of your life. Instead, I’ve always thought of myself like a dancer who started his own dance company in order to present his ideas and work. Dancers who do that are honored, but not writers. Certainly not enough.

  5. Brooke Warner

    While I agree with Fine that the term has outlived its usefulness (already), it’s actually going to be very difficult to replace. Self-published authors can call themselves anything they want to, but at the end of the day self-publishing is being used as a catch-all term to embrace any author who has paid for some or all of their book’s production and printing costs. I run a partnership press (some refer to it as a hybrid press), and we cannot get away from the self-published label, and so I’ve decided to just embrace it. Fine is right that there are a number of labels that authors can choose from. What’s changing is the many many roads that lead to the label that matters the most: published author.

  6. James W. Lewis

    I think sites like BookBub help with the discoverability issue, but it’s the only one with a powerful reach that always yields dividends. We definitely need more BookBub-ish type sites. I know of a few, but they’re not nearly as effective.

  7. Logan Crowe

    Amazon, in my opinion has never truly developed an efficient ranking/review system. The next stage of the evolution will be a model whereby computers will rank/evaluate manuscripts, perhaps using key word algorithms or even a Netflix search type model. This has to alleviate the struggle and frustration many readers encounter when searching for a new title to peruse.

    Compensation systems will also change to a system that many other industries have developed, that is a floating rate of advance based on actual sales projected by line of distribution.

    At the moment traditional publishers are behind the eight ball, high overhead and smart suppliers no longer willing to subsidize inefficiency.

    New wave publishers are growing in numbers, competition intense. This will result in the two branches of publishing meeting in the middle with the new wave being offering money in advance and future bonuses as each production target is met by demand.

    The day of authors receiving royalties by month will soon disappear, competition will demand it. Competition is coming to compensation…..



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