How Amazon is Trying to Rescue Literary Fiction

literaryfictionheroWho’s going to save literary fiction?

Prominent agents have said that big publishers these days are just focused on pushing out blockbuster titles. You know, things that will sell millions.

That leaves self-proclaimed “literary authors” that write “literary fiction” biting their nails.

But never fear, literary authors… Amazon is here.

That’s right – the online retailer has just launched a literary fiction imprint known as “Little A.”

Amazon the publishing house

Did you know Amazon has a “traditional” publishing division?

That’s right. Amazon Publishing has been around since 2009. There are all sorts of creative, Amazon-branded imprints within it: AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Montlake Romance, etc.

“Little A,” along with “Day One,” a digital series for short stories from debut authors, joins all nine of Amazon’s other imprints.

When people typically think of Amazon, I really don’t think beyond eBooks and KDP Select.

But it’s inevitable that the company will want to expand into the publishing business as much as possible. Amazon has a big advantage over all traditional publishing houses, too: it can find the self-published talent first.

In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if self-publishing success instantly granted you a contract with one of Amazon’s publishing houses. This forces us all to do the dirty work for a while, but, like a band shooting for those defunct record labels, it also shows there could be a light of revenue at the end of the self-publishing tunnel.

This is really important for literary fiction

Love them or hate them, the people at Amazon clearly have a big plan. Anyone who writes fiction that doesn’t fit into a particular genre should pay attention.

Right now, it’s hard to tell if the new world of everyone-can-publish-anything-anytime is going to last, but it makes people who spend three, five or ten years on one novel very nervous.

Commodity publishing has become the norm for self-publishing, because when you publish your own book, there are no hefty advances. You have to invest in a lot of promotion up-front and still acknowledge the painful, razor-like uncertainty about whether anyone will buy the book.

At the end of the day, literary authors have it harder than most because their stuff is weird. You can promote a science fiction novel or a romance novel to a certain audience in a certain way… but literary fiction is different.

The future of the literary author

I don’t know what the future of books is when it comes to literary fiction, but I’m filled with more optimism than pessimism.

Why? Because authors have more control over their work. There’s a lot of proof that publishers are just focusing on publishing books that they know will sell.

Sloan Harris, from literary agency ICM, and award-winning author / playwright David Mamet said as much to The New York Times:

“Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Mamet said that the big publishers focused mostly on blockbuster books and fell short on other titles — by publishing too few copies, for instance, or limiting advertising to only a short period after a book was released.”

One glaring problem: most authors aren’t Pulitzer Prize winners like David Mamet. That makes it imperative to start getting some fame, some traction, right now.

Start a blog. Say things. Publish things. Get a following. Repeat.

If you’re interested in getting started with building an author platform, check out my free guide on blogging!

Photo Credit: Hsin Ho via Compfight cc

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