Amazon Publishing turns 10

This week, Amazon Publishing celebrates a decade in existence.

I remember when Amazon starts this endeavor, and how Big Publishing simultaneously looked down their collective nose and quaked in their collective boots. At that time, Amazon already controlled the lion’s share of the market. The company released the Kindle in 2007. After owning the marketshare, starting to own the medium on which books would be read, the company logically went after the third leg of the tripod — content.

The first book published by Amazon’s imprint was was Cayla Kluver’s Legacy, released in August 2009. That book did not go on to be a big blockbuster for the company, but several others did, including Mark Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky and Blake Crouch’s Pines

Amazon figured out — far ahead of other publishers — that controlling the data of book buyers was the key to generation repeat sales.. If you know what people like to read, and you can tailor what books they see when they log onto your site, you can make suggestions that your readers might like. If they do like those suggestions, they keep coming back for more. Even to this day, this is not a model that Big Publishing is capable of matching. 

In the world of books, Amazon is king.

The company has so much data that when they now release a book, they can throw a couple of Wizard Behind the Curtain levers and boom, that book sells thousands — if not hundreds — of copies. 

Amazon’s dominance of the publishing world has not peaked. Far from it. They will continue to grow. As they gobble up big name writers — they just gave Sylvia Day a seven-figure advance for a novella, a 203-page book — they will further marginalize small publishers and even the Big Five. Amazon has deep coffers that the company has barely begun to tap.

Sorry, publishing world, it’s all over but the crying. By Amazon Publishing’s 20th anniversary, they might be the only Big left standing.

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A (very) small step toward Hollywood

One of our long-term goals is to write for movies and TV. One of the big hurdles in getting there is building a resume — people don’t want to hire you until you’ve written a film that gets made, and you can’t write a film that gets made until someone hires you. The Catch-22 is the bane of many aspiring screenwriters, even ones with a publishing track record like Scott Sigler, one of our company co-founders (the other being me).

So when an opportunity comes up to write for an established indie director who has a track record of actually getting things made, you jump at it — even if the movie is only three minutes long.

Scott wrote the screenplay THE PRESENT for director Adrian Picardi. Adrian is entering the picture in the Moment Invitational Film Festival — a festival featuring three-minute films that were shot exclusively on cell phones. This dark noir mini-movie stars Steven Ogg (THE WALKING DEAD, GRAND THEFT AUTO V), Kelly Thiebaud (GENERAL HOSPITAL) and Jordan Matlock (ROT).

Let me tell you this — three minutes is not much time to tell a compelling story. Scott and Adrian took on the challenge, combining to make this dark, surprising tale.

FUN FACT: To share the pain, Scott wrote the script on an iPhone, using Final Draft.

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Stan Lee, 1922 – 2018

Stan Lee died today.

Stan Lee was a remarkable creator and a dedicated advocate of his chosen genre. He spent his life being an ambassador for the work he loved, which is loved in turn by millions around the world. It’s easy to recognize what a gift that was to the rest of us, but I have little doubt it was just as fulfilling for him.

I was not a big comic book reader as a kid. Of course, I knew about the Marvel superheroes, and the Incredible Hulk was on the television once a week, suffering through his tortured existence and scaring the bejeezus out of wee little me. So I knew about comic book heroes, even if I wasn’t much into the comics themselves.

Of course, these days I bet there are folks who don’t even realize the Fantastic Four or Spidey were ever part of a physical comic book, but just know them from their many origin-story movies. Same with the Incredible Hulk. Stan Lee created characters that people discovered on television, in movies, reading graphic novels, comic books or cartoons. Even live-action entertainment … Marvel Universe Live anyone? Once discovered, Stan Lee’s creations are loved and admired for years and years.

That is undeniably a mark of a stellar and varied career, remarkable by itself. Once you add some metrics around how loved and admired Stan Lee’s cast of characters really are, it’s humbling and awe-inspiring. It’s a helluva thing to have added “with great power comes great responsibility” to the nerd lexicon, and even moreso to have had a decades long involvement with it, and so much love and acknowledgement for these creations. As a partner at a very small entertainment company, it’s also motivating and inspirational.

At Empty Set, we see our job as “making cool things for cool people” and we take our work very seriously. Even when that work is silly, or funny, or obviously not real here on Earth. Entertaining is essential work, I have no doubt. As Stan Lee said himself, “entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain, you’re doing a good thing.”

Farewell, Stan Lee. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Excelsior!

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This is why we can’t have nice Kindle Unlimited things.

According to Amazon, “Kindle Unlimited is a subscription that allows you to access a large selection of titles from the Kindle Store. You can keep up to ten titles to read on any Amazon device or Kindle reading app and there are no due dates.” It’s meant to give readers incentive to try new things, […]

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Should more authors go “audio only”?

Last month, this BBC article was all over my social media, talking about authors moving to an audio-only model.

I get it. I do. Seems super appealing for several reasons:

  1. Goodness is it a lot of work to make an audiobook.
  2. Audiobooks are enjoying a surge in popularity.
  3. Streamlining your formats makes more time for more writing.
  4. More writing makes more product for the now-self-streamlined marketplace.

And, ultimately, choosing an audio-only release format also has less competition than the ebook-only marketplace AND you have more control with less gatekeepers.

Audiobooks are far and away the biggest revenue generator for Empty Set, so much so that we are already discussing options for Scott’s next contract with Big Publishing — will we be allowed to keep the audio rights? Who knows, but as the marketshare grows, that likelihood diminishes.

Here’s the thing, though: I can’t understand why you’d limit yourself unless you had to do so. In the article I mentioned above, several authors participated in what was specifically an audio-only project. That makes sense to me as an interesting undertaking for the writer and a format-exploring treat. I could see writers flexing their minds differently given an audio-only format and it sure seems like it would be fun for everyone, writers and readers alike.

But only audio when the world’s readers love to endlessly debate the best format for consumption?  When we still have legions of folks who consider the treeware option to be the only true option?  When so many folks have smart phones and could read your work anywhere, even if it’s too loud to listen to the audiobook?  Just doesn’t make sense for a small business, which is just what a self-published author is at the end of the day.

I talk all the time about how Empty Set is a small business. A very small business. We work very hard to be successful at our job of making cool things for cool people. And I can’t think of a single reason to take away avenues to get those cool things to the aforementioned cool people. More is more. Simple as that.

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Achievement unlocked: EARTHCORE is put to bed!

I talk all the time on this blog about the ins-and-outs of running our small business. And how small our small business actually is — we’re a two-person shop. Granted, we’re lucky to have great contractors who we count on to help us bring things out into the world, but when it comes to choosing […]

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2017 Year In Review

As 2017 comes to a close, as happens every year, I can’t help but look back on what we accomplished this year. Since my job as the Creative Adjacent is to manage logistics of our work, I tend to think in numbers: miles flown, projects accomplished, words written, books & t-shirts sold.

It’s always a moment when I’m partially surprised, a little exhausted, and certainly very proud.  This year we finally added a European Tour to the Sigler Map, and it was a delightful time. You European Junkies sure know how to make a tiny bridge publishing house feel super welcome!

Our goal at Empty Set is simple: make cool things for cool people. If that’s several books and three new t-shirts, plus a handful of “hanging out with Scott Sigler” memories — as it was in 2017 — we’re happy with that. It’s good work, and it puts good things out into this increasingly fraught universe.

That said, if in 2018 we can add “TV pilot” or “sold screenplay” or something a little more visual to the list of things we accomplished, that’s surely good too, right?  So we’ll add that to our 2018 list.

What’s on your list of things you’d like to accomplish in 2018?

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Happy holidays!

Today I stopped on my way into the office to drop off mail. This time of year the post office is always crowded and the staff probably do without all the free time and breaks that they are afforded during other times of the year. Other times that are not the holidays.

This particular post office is quite close to the office, and this time of year I am there pretty much every workday, dropping off goods purchased in our online store. That’s how the month of December works for my small business where I sell things, and it’s the way the giant business of the post office works too.

Here’s my favorite part — today everyone was happy to be there, happy to have a big ol’ line first thing in the morning, and happy to chat with people sending out holiday greetings and presents. To be honest, the staff at this post office are lovely folks all the time. They know my dogs by sight and by name, and they are always pleasant and happy to chat a bit while we’re transacting. But this time of the year some of them are doing it in Santa hats, or wearing Christmas light necklaces. Since Hanukkah starts tomorrow, someone was giving out little chocolate gelt.

It was a great reminder that life offline is often lovely and fun and unexpected and graceful. I know life online can be that way too, but it’s nice to see folks being congenial and friendly in one of the very places things are supposed to be hectic and angry this time of year.

Here’s your gentle reminder: if you’re a gift giver, gift giving starts tomorrow for Hanukkah, and pretty much keeps up until the new year. Still time to get a few last minute items for the folks you love! And when you head to your local post office to send them off to points else, be sure to enjoy the holiday cheer (and maybe spread some of your own!)

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Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday. The ideas is that you shop small businesses like ours and support small, local folk who will put money and heart back into your community. We are a pretty small business, and we always appreciate folks who support us. This year we’re not doing a Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sale, and I’ll be honest, it’s a nice break and a little weird.

We’ve done big things and small things in years past. This year we’re sitting back and letting some of our retail partners do the heavy lifting, with Amazon and Audible putting our titles on sale today and over the weekend.

The holidays are always an interesting time for us at Empty Set, because we already price our merchandise fairly competitively, so it’s hard to make a big splash with a “50% Sale! One Day Only!” or something like without losing money on the merchandise. But sometimes that’s just fine to do. Car dealerships use loss leaders to great effect, and we’ve done the same in the past. We bundled the first four GFL books in paperback a couple of years ago and that went gangbusters.

I love shopping the sales this weekend, as a consumer. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber — I’ll take them all! I know some deals are barely deals, but I still love it for trying new things. That said, when I want or need something, I rarely wait for a potential upcoming sale. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I love to take a risk on something. Two years ago I bought my beloved Instant Pot, and last year I tried coconut oil. Both were wins.

How do you shop at this time of year? It is different than the rest of the year?



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