BREAKING NEWS: Booktrope announces a new business relationship beginning with a mutual licensing deal that deepens ties with Amazon.com to a much more significant degree.Booktrope is a Seattle startup that says it’s reinventing publishing by providing efficient, online services to creative teams – authors, editors, designers and others involved in producing books — in order to produce high quality titles for readers at reasonable prices. By all outward appearances, Amazon and Booktrope share a strong commitment to keeping ebook prices substantially lower than print, allowing consumers to benefit from new technology, while still affording authors deserved compensation.
The relationship kicks off with a licensing agreement which includes fifteen titles to be reissued under Amazon Publishing as e-books and audio books. Booktrope will continue to publish print versions of these titles and to manage development and publication of future books by the authors.
I sat down (virtually) with Katherine Sears, CMO and co-founder of Booktrope to get the nitty-gritty on the deal.
Help me understand this, did Amazon just take over Booktrope’s digital book business?
No – not at all! Initially this agreement covers ebooks and some audio books for only fifteen of our nearly 300 titles. However, this is the beginning of what is intended to be a longer term business arrangement, so we hope to announce many more titles being licensed in this same way over the coming months. And, of course, we are always exploring other ways for our two companies to work together.
What led you to this relationship with Amazon?
Booktrope was founded with the fundamental idea that there had to be a better system for authors and other book professionals (editors, designers, marketers, etc). One that would allow a business (Booktrope) to make a profit, but still funnel more profit back to the folks responsible for creating the actual books! This is something we remain committed to. Amazon sells more books, to more readers, than any other vendor. As a result, it only makes sense to partner as deeply as we can to expand our reach. We want to do what is best for our community (currently more than 400 people), and we believe in many cases, that means Amazon.
Did the situation in the news now (Hachette/Amazon) factor in at all?
Short answer – no. Longer answer, I think what is happening is truly an indication of how rapidly and dramatically the entire industry is changing. Anytime there is change, there is disruption. Disruption is never comfortable for the incumbent in any industry or market. But as an entrepreneur, that is often where we shine – in that disruptive space. So the only real impact it had on our decision was to solidify our view that we were innovating in a space that needs to change, and are working with a giant in the space committed to the same type of change.
I can also say that the negotiation and process we went through to arrive at the completed agreement, was one of the most amicable and pleasant I have ever been through. From my perspective, they were interested in a fair and equitable business deal for both companies as well as the authors, and that is what we got. In truth, I kept waiting for things to “get ugly” and they just never did!
What would you say to people who worry about Amazon taking over the entire publishing business?
Well, I guess that sounds a lot like the worry that Google or Facebook will take over the entire internet. I just don’t think it could happen, even if that were the desire of Amazon. I obviously can’t speak for them, but I know they are primarily concerned with customer satisfaction, and historically, customers prefer variety and choice. That is clearly going to be a challenge if there is only one vendor on the block, so I doubt that is the end- goal at all.
But do you agree they are putting bookstores out of business?
I honestly don’t know. I know that I love bookstores, but I also adore the convenience of my Kindle. I know that “video killed the radio star” and I grew up spending afternoons at Tower Records with my friends. I think that is just the way our consumer world progresses, something is pushed aside or forced to change when a newer idea comes along. It makes me sad and nostalgic for all the hours I have spent in small, amazing bookstores, but I don’t intend to throw my Kindle away anytime soon. And it is important to note that this agreement is for the digital version of the books, not the print versions. Meaning, the print versions will continue to be available via Ingram to bookstores and other retailers as they have been, should they wish to carry them. Bottom line, I feel like we are making the best business decision we can at this point in Booktrope’s growth and the state of the industry.
Do you think all of your authors are supportive, or worried about this new development?
All of the authors specifically included in the first wave of books being represented were thrilled to have been chosen, and are very excited about what this means for their futures. I am not sure whether there are others in the broader community who are concerned, but they needn’t be. We did not force anyone to accept inclusion, and don’t intend to ever do so. We have always been about allowing authors choices in their career, and that isn’t going to change.
How were the titles selected?
My understanding is that Amazon editors chose the titles based on their fit within the broader Amazon Publishing catalog and the related promotional plans for the next few months. We accepted most, but not all, of their suggested selections – and as I said, the author also had to agree. It was very much a discussion versus a “take it or leave” it situation. All in this first group of authors we approached were happy to be part of the program, but they can choose to accept or refuse if they are again selected.
How will titles be considered for future inclusion?
We will continue to work with Amazon editors for each group of books that are selected. The genre and history of the book can and will vary, as in the previous answer, it is as much about other titles in the Amazon Publishing program as it is those we have available. As a result, at this time, we do not have a specific set of criteria being used for inclusion.
Where do you see this expanding to in the future?
We expect this to be the start of a long term relationship that will allow us to include more books as we grow and explore other potential business opportunities. We are very excited for the future of Booktrope and couldn’t be happier that Amazon will be a bigger part of it.
Please join us in congratulating the first group of titles:
- “Touched”, A.J. Aalto
- “Spirit Warriors: The Concealing”, D.E.L. Connor
- “Grace Unexpected”, Gale Martin
- “Next Year I’ll be Perfect”, Laura Kilmartin
- “Pulled Beneath”, Marni Mann
- “A State of Jane”, Meredith Schorr
- “Blogger Girl”, Meredith Schorr
- “GOTU”, Mike McNeff
- “Necessary Retribution”, Mike McNeff
- “A Tainted Mind”, Tamsen Schultz
- “The Puppeteer”, Tamsen Schultz
- “Caramel and Magnolias”, Tess Thompson
- “Tea and Primroses”, Tess Thompson
- “Water, Stone, Heart”, Will North
- “The Long Walk Home”, Will North
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