Amazon seems to be doing an especially solid job lately of keeping itself in the news and on the collective radars of digital publishing trend-watchers.

Today, another potentially important e-publishing story began making the rounds after Paid Content got its hands on an email from Amazon Publishing VP Jeff Belle, which was sent to an undisclosed number of literary agents. In the email, Belle (in photo at right) shares select sales numbers from a few of the company’s imprints—and the numbers are impressive.

The following comes from the International Herald-Tribune, which also covered the story today:

“We’ve been energized by the early results across all of our imprints,” Belle wrote, citing the success of new titles like “The Book of Sith,” “The Dark Monk,” and authors like Karen McQuestion who had all sold over 500,000 copies through the new service alone. Other imprints like Thomas & Mercer sold upward of 250,000 on individual titles, while Helen Bryan’s “War Brides” reached a spot on the Kindle Top 10 downloaded for “most of July and August,” Belle claimed.

Interestingly, both Paid Content and the IHT pointed out what Belle’s email did not: The specific number of Amazon Publishing titles sold in print format versus digital. The author of the Paid Content piece, Laura Hazard Owen, seems to be of the opinion that the various imprints’ best-selling titles are moving much quicker in their digital (Kindle) formats. “A little under a year ago,” Owen writes, “I took a closer look at Amazon Publishing and discovered mediocre print sales on most titles.”

Scroll down to the comments section underneath Owen’s post, however, and you’ll see a significantly different take on the matter. The first reader to comment, in fact, was Karen McQuestion—one of the Amazon Publishing authors whose impressive sales numbers were touted in Belle’s email. Lee Goldberg is another Amazon Publishing author who joined the conversation; he had some impressively positive things to say about his professional relationship with the company.

No matter how you dice the imprints’ various sales numbers, though, the fact remains that Amazon Publishing has only been in business for about three-and-a-half years now—and the majority of its imprints are even younger. In the traditional print publishing landscape, that’s a very modest stretch of time. And even if it is true that the majority of AP’s sales are made by way of the Kindle and not the cash register, it’s nevertheless clear that AP’s business model has them moving in the right direction, and quickly.

If we’re lucky, maybe one or two of the literary agents who received Belle’s email will respond publicly next week by way of an op-ed or a blog post. One thing’s for sure: This would definitely be a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall of a Big Six publishing house.


  1. Print and screen book sales are not tethered to each other and neither are their average unit retail prices. There does appear to be a blank stare print unit revenue advantage of 1/3. It is also worth a passing consideration that the publishers’ e-book infrastructure has been built with print revenues.

    Going forward publishers will not care to abandon print and that is apparent even in genres of high screen book adoption where the vast majority of titles are released to both formats. Over all genres a future could be imagined where print and screen unit sales are equivalent although the higher print revenue could hold on to a 1/3 advantage. That trend would not establish a print/screen tether, but it would begin to suggest a print/screen interdependence; that neither will flourish without the other.

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